Brad meets the "ladies" and struggles to prove he's no longer the World's Worst Bachelor Ever of All Time.

By Kristen Baldwin
Updated March 13, 2015 at 09:40 PM EDT

Hello again, dearest rose-lovers! How I’ve missed our time together. While my inconveniently-timed maternity leave forced me to sit out Ali and Roberto’s storybook showmance, thankfully I’m back now, just in time to recap the most CONTROVERSIAL and SHOCKING season yet — The Bachelor: Contractually Obligated to Find Love Again!

The night begins with Chris Harrison welcoming us back to Casa Bachelor, where three years ago one Brad Womack walked in the door and began his ill-fated “journey,” which ended with him sending two women — DeAnna and Jenni — home in the reject limo, sobbing and tragically single. Brad’s horrifying decision — the decision not to marry or propose to two women he barely knew and did not have any discernible feelings for — sent the Bachelor into a sad, self-imposed exile back home in Austin. “I watched the finale, and I felt like a jerk,” laments Brad. “And then I’m starting to think, what’s wrong with me? Not what’s wrong with the girls — what’s wrong with me?” Haunted by panic attacks, Brad locked his door and holed up in his apartment, reading scathing blog entries about himself and steeping in his own shame juices.

After four months of spectacular self-loathing, Brad tells us he found “an incredible therapist” who helped him dig deep into his “phobia of commitment” and “trust issues” (short answer: it’s Daddy’s fault). Then we are shown images of Brad cavorting paternally with his nieces and nephew, to further prove that he is no longer the Toxic Bachelor he once was. (His nephew’s “Who is this man and why am I on his lap?” expression is priceless.) Good Lord, now even his MOM is getting into the Brad-bashing act. “I see a change in Brad. I can tell that he’s ready to settle down,” says Mama Womack. “That commitment just wasn’t there before.” For the love of all that’s holy, what kind of Dostoyevskian family intervention happened in that household?

Mom: Brad, we’ve called you here because we can no longer be silent about your problem. You… you exercised good judgment and free will. We didn’t raise you that way, son! [Sobs]

Dad: Look what you’re doing to your mother! You’re tearing this family apart!

Twin Brother: It’s always all about you! You’re so selfish! Stop NOT marrying people!! God!

Housekeeper: Now go back on that show and pick a damn wife already! You’ve done enough to disgrace the Womack family name!

Can we discuss the fundamental flaw in this whole Brad is a Changed Man premise Team Bachelor is so desperately trying to shove down our throats? It is this: BRAD DID NOTHING WRONG THE FIRST TIME AROUND! In fact, if he wanted to go to therapy, perhaps he should have found a counselor who’d help him work through the deep-seated emotional issues that drove him to look for a wife on TV not once, but twice. Oh crap, there I go again, questioning the entire existence of The Bachelor. Come on, self — you know no good can come of this. You will never stop watching this show. Just accept it and move on. After all, it’s time to meet the “ladies”!

NEXT: A mouth artist, a manscaper, and a woman who sees dead people

Ashley is a dentist (oh, how I miss Tooth Nazi) who considers herself a mouth artist. Shawntel fills dead people with formaldehyde for a living. (Question: What unfortunate soul suffered the indignity of appearing in Shawntel’s b-roll as a body under a sheet? I hope to God it was a PA and not a real corpse. Or a dead PA, at the very least.) I can’t decide what’s more annoying about Raichel: The fact that she calls herself a “manscaper” (she waxes men’s body hair) or that she spells her name “Raichel.” I am certain, however, that the most annoying thing about Madison is that she claims to be a model. For what? Unremarkable Blond Girls Weekly? As for the fangs, I just find them kind of sad. (News flash, sweetie: Edward likes brunettes.) Speaking of sad, Ashley 2 is a Southern girl who lost her dad to a brain hemorrhage, and Emily lost her high school sweetheart, a race car driver named Ricky, in a plane crash. Plus, she was pregnant with Ricky’s baby girl when he died! Plus plus, she has a really sad job: children’s hospital event planner! That is one quality sob story.

But before any of these lucky “ladies” can get their claws into the Bachelor, it’s time for Brad to confront his own Tragic Past. After an awkwardly long drive up the Casa Bachelor driveway, Brad emerges from the limo and heads inside for a debriefing/therapy session with Harrison. Changed man, my daddy messed up my head, yada yada yada. If only he could face the two women he rejected and apologize to them in person! Oh wait, of course he can. Jenni, DeAnna, come on out! Just in case we all didn’t get the message before, Brad lets the women know how “profoundly” sorry he is: “I failed, miserably.” (Another way to look at it, though, would be to say that he is failing at this very moment — after succeeding in making a decision with actual logic and good sense the first time around. But I’ve just GOT to move on. If Jenni and DeAnna can do it, so can I.)

At long last, it’s time for the “journey” to begin. Armed with some encouraging words from Harrison — “Don’t screw this up!” — sad Brad steels himself for the limo dump. The first group of women, none of whom knew for sure who the Bachelor was up until this point, react with gasps and shocked cries of “Womack!” Chantal, an “executive assistant” from Washington, is the first girl out of the limo, and I’m guessing she may have heard some of the rumors floating around about Brad’s return, because she greets him with what seems to be very well-rehearsed schtick. In case you haven’t seen the 4,000 promos, she slaps him. But what’s really interesting about this exchange is sad Brad’s masochistic response: “One, I deserved that,” he tells her. “Two, I like you better already!” Perhaps we should call this season The Bachelor: Self-Hate Crime Edition.

NEXT: Brad headlines the No Longer a Bastard 2010 tour

While some of the other “ladies” continue on Chantal’s you’ve been a bad bad boy theme by mocking, chastising, and otherwise de-balling Brad (see Alli’s “I know America hates you, but I am more than willing to give you a second chance” introduction, and Sarah’s forced proposal walk-through), a surprising number of the bachelorettes seem willing to give Brad another shot at “love.” (And some are just blissfully ignorant of his past as a romantic war criminal.) Ashley 2 stays true to her “sweet Southern girl” demeanor by giving “tall drink of water” Brad a comforting kiss on the cheek; Marissa delivers some much-needed good news by telling Brad that her life “revolves around sports;” Raichel turns on the flattery fire hose, telling Brad that he’s “the perfect guy” for her; while Melissa the waitress from Connecticut literally leaps into his arms. Meghan, meanwhile, confirms my suspicion that she just may be the worst-dressed “fashion marketer” in the business by emerging from the limo in what can best be described as the type of red platform heels a hooker would wear when attending a fancy dinner at the White House. (Speaking of hooker-wear, Raichel’s blue minidress is coated in such a thick layer of sequins it actually makes a crunching noise when Brad hugs her.) The fashion atrocities keep coming, first with Britnee, who beckons Brad from the limo, perhaps because she wanted to get a good look at his face the first time he saw her dress, the kind of frock that you’d get if a bubble skirt and a negligee had a baby after a drunken one-night-stand. Then dear, simple Lisa arrives in red ruby Mary-Janes, because she is from Kansas. (Somewhere, Kansas rolls its eyes and snorts.)

Once all 30 “ladies” have left the limo (side note: did you notice how Team Bachelor has completely abandoned the diversity facade? There’s not one Token Minority in the bachelorette bunch!), Brad makes his way inside, where the more the women drink, the more doubtful and suspicious they seem to get. “If it didn’t work last time, why would it work this time?” gripes one bachelorette, while Keltie sums up the sentiment in Casa Bachelor thusly: “If he doesn’t get a wife this time, he’s going to have to go in a cave.” Sad Brad spends his first several one-on-ones headlining the No Longer a Bastard 2010 Tour — “I feel like he’s going to have to have the same conversation, like, over and over and over,” drones Lauren, a dead-eyed high school teacher — and the subsequent montage of contrition is a delight to behold. “I feel pretty beat up right now,” moans the Bachelor. Don’t worry — here comes Ashley 2, y’all! “I’m not gonna give you any hard questions,” she drawls. Too bad he goes straight from the womb-like comforts of Ashley 2’s sweet Southern charm directly into Raichel the manscaper’s boiling cauldron of wax. Quick poll, rose-lovers: Is using hot wax to rip a conspicuously large patch of arm-hair off of the Bachelor’s wrist a better or worse move than drunkenly removing your thong and handing it to the Bachelor the first night you meet? Post your answer in the comments below!

Only slightly less embarrassing is Jackie’s one-on-one, which is notable for the weakly sung a cappella ditty she performs. But the night’s Shame Spiral Award goes to Alli, who reveals to the room that she was dumped for having too much junk in her trunk. “So,” she asks the Bachelor, standing and turning to present her behind to his face, “can you handle this?” This appalls nanny Renee, who steals Brad from Alli, only to have him stolen back by the bootylicious Bachelorette. Renee then tries to steal Brad back one more time, only to be cockblocked by Texas girl Jill. And just when it looks like she might get a true one-on-one, a “wicked sorry” Stacey from Boston all but drags the man away by the (now-naked) wrist. Denied! “I’m aggravated,” fumes Renee. “I’m better than all these a–holes here.” That’s the spirit, honey!

NEXT: Can you guess which bachelorette has a hair growing out of her face mole?

Speaking of a–holes, it’s time for Madison’s chat with the Bachelor. She tries her Hot Topic darndest to present a “mysterious” and “dark” aura, licking her sharpened canines and coyly refusing to answer whether they’re real, but all it does is leave sad Brad flummoxed. “There’s something that I really like about this girl. She has a very sexy, unique look, but on the same hand, the girl has fangs, okay? Okay? If that’s her deal, great. If it’s a joke, then get rid of it. I’m not here to play games.” But as soon as the Bachelor asks her “Do you want to be here or no?” point blank, Count Chickula drops the act and admits, in a somewhat chastened tone, that she’s not there to “mess around.” The total lack of game-playing pays off for Ashley 2, who lands the first impression rose. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, “ladies”! Remember that next time you forcibly wax a man’s wrist, mmmmk?

The rose ceremony begins, and I am thrilled to report that Michelle, the single mom whose dress looks like it was patched together from the fabric-scraps pile in a Frederick’s of Hollywood factory, gets the second bud of the evening. (In case you missed it, she is a woman. She is not a little girl.) Why does Michelle’s rose make me so happy? Because now I have an excuse to share this fun factoid about her: When asked on her ABC bio page what three items she would bring to a desert island, Michelle answers:

Tweezers – I have hair that grows out of a mole on my face that totally bugs me!

My iPod – I love music!

Bobbi Brown Hydrating face cream – I can’t live without it!

Brilliant on so many levels. Not only does she neglect to list HER CHILD as one of the three things she can’t live without, she’s also provided me with a perfect nickname: Mole Hair. Okay, moving on. Other rose receivers include Madison, Emily (a.k.a. Tragic Single Mom©), crunchy-dress Raichel, Keltie the Rockette, Ashley 1, Meghan and her hooker shoes, Lisa from Kansas, Alli and her ass, Marissa “Sporty Spice,” Britt the food writer, Stacey from Boston, Shawntel, Jackie, Melissa the leaping waitress, Chantal the slapper, and then a trio of “ladies” who made absolutely no impression on me at all: Lindsay, Sarah P., and Kimberly. To be honest, the only ones I was sorry to see go were Lauren the dead-eyed school teacher — I was looking forward to more of her endearingly blank stares and monotonic declarations about her “fantastic personality” — and bubble-skirted Britnee, who no doubt would have unleashed even more style horrors in the weeks to come.

And with the emotion-soaked “This season on The Bachelor” preview, dear rose lovers, the first step of our “journey” is complete. So, are you convinced? Is Brad a “changed” “man”? Who are your early favorites? (Yes, I’ve read the spoilers. No, I will not be commenting on them here.) And while it is refreshing for the Bachelor himself to have the lowest self-esteem in the group, am I alone in wishing that the remaining “ladies” were just a teensy bit more psychotic? As always, don’t forget to check out Chris Harrison’s exclusive Bachelor blog on PopWatch. Now, pop in your fangs, and let’s talk Bachelor!