Sean kicks off his "journey" by changing up the rose rules and displaying a shockingly snappy sense of humor, proving he's more than just a delicious slab of man beef
Credit: ABC
4. Season 5 (Jesse Palmer)

Happy 2013, rose lovers! It’s a new year! There’s a new Bachelor! We have a new opportunity to collectively examine our codependent relationship with this morally barren TV franchise! God, as they say, is good.

And a big welcome back to you, Sean Lowe! You’re looking as buff and rosy-hued as ever. I suppose a few months relaxing at home in Dallas — or, even better, in your niece’s giant pink princess playhouse emporium — would soothe anyone’s broken heart. (And of course, never underestimate the healing power of schadenfreude.) Though Sean’s pecs, lats, delts, and biceps have clearly lost the will to cover themselves after getting dumped by Emily, the newly-minted Bachelor refuses to let this slow down his pre-“journey” training regimen. “I know it’s going to be physically exhausting,” says Shirted Confessional Sean, while Sweaty Shirtless Sean towels off after a set of bicep curls. “I might go through that same heartache that I experienced with Emily.”

Orrrr… you might end up like that couple behind you Sean, taking wedding photos on the beach as the surf crashes around them! “I want to protect my woman, I want to love my woman,” declares Shirted Confessional Sean, as Sweaty Shirtless Sean scales a sun-baked rock. “I can’t wait to find her.” Whoa, slow down there, pal! Do you really think you’re ready to hand out the roses? Clearly, Team Bachelor doesn’t think so, because they’re sending their first choice over to give you a few pointers. Knock knock knock — it’s a Speed Racer at the door! “I don’t know the reason for the visit, but it will be good to see him,” muses Sean, who stops slicing strawberries long enough to let Arie in.

The “good friends” haven’t seen each other since Sean got dumped in Curacao, so of course they need to spend a few minutes reminiscing about their televised love triangle. “I thought I had it in the bag,” admits Sean, as he pours Arie a beer. (Strawberries and beer: Breakfast of champions.) “Then she called Jef’s name, and then my first thought was, ‘Dude, Arie’s going home — that sucks!'” Arie laughs politely and pounds his beer. He’s not here to have a human exchange – he’s got a script and he’s sticking to it. “Tonight you’re going to obviously to be delivering a lot of roses,” he informs Sean. “Have you thought about how you’re going to deliver them? How are you going to say it?” Sean plays along — Will you accept this ROSE? WILL you accept this rose? Will you accept THIS rose? WILL YOU ACCEPT THIS ROSE? — until it’s time for Arie to move on to the next comedy bit: breakup techniques. Sean muses, “I can’t use ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ because it’s obviously going to be them.” Zing!

Like Sean, I’m not really sure what the purpose of Arie’s visit was — and I rapid-cycled through many reactions during this segment: Disbelief (are the “ladies” really so boring that Team Bachelor had to fill five minutes of the premiere with this fabricated bromance?), confusion (was Arie’s hair always that gray?), and existential dread (if a recapper mocks a show that has pretty much transformed into a mockery of itself, does her sarcasm make a sound?). But then Arie starts teaching Sean how to kiss and I got distracted — and, I’ll admit it, a little turned on — by their latent sexual chemistry. This show is messing with my head. Let’s get to the “ladies,” shall we?

NEXT: Is every girl here named Ashley?

Desiree, 26: Something about this bridal stylist’s sly laugh tells me that when she says, “You’re seeing all these girls so happy and you’re like, ‘How did they meet their guy?'”, what she means is “I’m tired of helping all these fatties and uggos choose a dress — when will it be my turn?” She appears to get revenge on brides-to-be by encouraging them to buy gowns like this.

Tierra, 24: This brunette beauty seems too standard-issue and dull to get her own profile segment (“I want to have a family because I’m very family oriented” etc. etc.)… until the producer tells her that the Bachelor is Sean. Then she begins squealing like Ned Beatty in Deliverance. “Aaiiiiiiieeeeeee! No way! The Bachelor is Sean! Oh my god I’m so excited!” She then giddily cavorts around with her fluffy little terrier and changes the wallpaper on her iPhone to a photo of the Bachelor. Healthy!

Robyn, 24: This one seems altogether too smart and motivated to be on this show. She works in “sales and engineering” and is teaching herself Spanish via sticky notes, for God’s sake! But she is on this show, so something must be wrong with her, even if she does do a mean back flip. (Also: She joins Leslie, Ashley H. and Brooke, who we’ll meet later, as the first African-American contestants since, I don’t know, Matt’s season in 2008, right?)

Diana, 31: A single mother of two girls who runs a hair salon and has a problem achieving “that mad, deep, passionate love,” hence the single mom part.

Sarah, 26: A graphic designer for an ad agency? It looks like Team Bachelor just might be upping the IQ ante this season. I just wish Sarah wasn’t another blonde from LA. Bor-ring… OH. Okay, she has one arm. Must… tread… carefully… Well, can I say that she’s making great strides for the differently-abled community by proving that they, too, can humiliate themselves on national TV just as women with all of their limbs have been doing for years? No? I can’t? Then forget I said anything. Let’s move on.

Ashley, 28: “I have no idea why I’m still single!” brays this Midwestern hairdresser, who goes on to say that even though she’s “actively searched” for a boyfriend, “it’s just me and my cat now.” Well, her cat does have a little competition: 50 Shades of Grey, which has apparently, to quote a classic film, given her shower nozzle masturbation material for weeks: “I totally hope Sean rips my clothes off and spanks me!”

Lesley, 25: This “modern-day Southern belle” works in D.C., a city filled with (in her words) nerds and politicians — but all she wants is a nice Southern boy. Team Bachelor has her print out the world’s saddest campaign poster, reading “Lesley Sean 2016” — and I guess the joke is that their relationship would actually last three years, should Lesley get the final rose?

Kristy, 25: Hmmm, a gimlet-eyed brunette who brags about being a model and insists that “girls will be jealous of me”? Nope, doesn’t remind me of anyone at all.

AshLee, 32: Gah! I really wish she didn’t spell her name like that, because everything else (her amazing job as a professional organizer, and her uplifting overcoming-a-foster-home-upbringing backstory) makes me want to root for her.

NEXT: Say a prayer, Sean – the limos are on their way

Limo time! As he stands in the driveway waiting for the first woman to emerge, Sean closes his eyes, perhaps to say a silent prayer: Dear Lord, I know you appeared in my backyard as a burning bush to warn me about the danger reality TV poses to my soul, but if you’ll forgive me and make sure that all the girls who come out of those limos are an 8 or higher, I promise I won’t do ‘Bachelor Pad.’

AshLee’s out first, and after she says her hellos we meet Jackie, a cosmetics consultant who nonetheless chooses to brand Sean by applying a cheap-hooker shade of red lipstick to her kisser and planting one on the Bachelor’s cheek. (The producers make sure that the next “lady” out of the limo, a sultry brunette named Selma, has some tissue tucked in her bosom so she can wipe the offending smooch mark off of Sean’s cheek.) Bottle blonde Daniella engages Sean in an awkward “handshake” that is really just a series of high and low fives, while Kelly the cruise ship entertainer, who seems to be brimming with liquid courage, wobbles over to the Bachelor and belts out a little song: “I really hope love grows/but we won’t find out unless you give me a rose.”

Sean handles all of this unpleasantness with aplomb, telling Kelly her song was “amazing,” and gamely letting Katie the yoga instructor lead him in a cleansing breath. The poor guy is stymied, though, when Ashley arrives and pulls a blue necktie out from under her décolletage and asks, “Maybe you can teach me how to use this later?” He stares at it helplessly for a few seconds before politely responding, “I’m guessing I know the symbolism behind this…” Fortunately Ashley makes a quick exit, and things seem to be going smoothly until Robyn arrives and collapses halfway through her second backwards handspring. Graduate Student Barbie (that is, Lacey) gives Sean a lace doily to remember her by, and when Paige tells the Bachelor that she was on Bachelor Pad 3, I seriously thought she was joking — and the look on Sean’s face said he clearly hoped she was joking — but a quick Google search reminded me that she was the one who had a brief flirtation with Reid. (RIP, team Reid the Paige.)

Tierra’s up next, and after she shows Sean the heart tattoo on her finger — it’s an open heart, perhaps inspired by Jane Seymour’s collection at Kay Jewelers — he takes an unusually long pause and then excuses himself for a minute. “Wait right here, okay?” The Bachelor hustles inside to find our fearless host Chris Harrison, who just happens to be standing in the living room next to a silver tray of long-stemmed roses. Tierra, explains Sean, has impressed him with her “positive vibes” and he wants to give her a rose. Sure, why the hell not? “I’m hoping that it doesn’t create any tension among the girls,” muses the Bachelor, as Tierra strides into the house to create tension among the girls. The “ladies” are still sober enough to pretend they’re excited for Tierra, but obviously they all just want to hold her head under the swirling waters of the hot tub until she stops kicking. Groans Catherine, “Tierra walked in with a rose, and it was literally, like, an animal attack on the eyeballs.”

NEXT: This season, the role of Shawntel will be played by…

Back in the driveway, Amanda proposes to Sean that they share a preemptive awkward pause, which is kinda cute; Keriann tells him that she drove 2,775 miles to be on the show (does ABC no longer provide airfare or something?); and Desiree gives Sean some a penny to toss in Casa Bachelor’s fountain. And now it’s Sarah’s turn. If Sean is surprised by her appearance, he doesn’t show it. “You’re beautiful!” he gushes. He seems equally charmed by Lesley M., who tries the old “hike me this football” trick so she can admire his butt. Unfortunately for Lindsay, though, showing up in a wedding dress and kissing Sean on the lips as a greeting comes across as more crazy than cute. Poor Lindz doesn’t make things better when she gives herself props for the prank. “I’ve got balls!” she boasts to the Bachelor, who deadpans, “Well, I hope not.” I don’t know, Sean… that would make for some amazing TV.

Sadly, though, the twist Team Bachelor has in store for us is far tamer: Looks like Kacie B. From Ben’s Season has returned to get a second chance at love and/or be the spark that ignites the wine-soaked “ladies” inside into a raging ball of hate flame. Predictably, the women greet Kacie’s arrival with resentment – “She had her chance with Ben,” grouses Desiree, “so what makes her think that something will work with Sean?” — but seriously, what are they worried about? What possible advantage does Kacie really have? Basically, she already knows where the bathrooms are. Let’s just simmer down, “ladies.”

Woooooooooooooh, Sean’s here, y’all! Somebody beer him so he can give y’all a pep talk! “If you’re feeling nervous at all, ultimately, I want you guys to relax, and I want you to be yourselves,” Sean tells the assembled bachelorettes. “I would love to find my wife in this group of ladies.” Hell to the yeah! To kick things off, Sean leads a group of “ladies” in a primal scream, which seems to diffuse a bit of tension… at least until Kacie B. gets the first one-on-one with Sean. Ever the gentleman, the Bachelor drapes his jacket over Kacie as they chat about their last meeting, which was presumably at one of those Bachelor Nation booze cruises or something, when they had “a blast,” though Sean admits to the camera later that it’s “kinda weird” to find out that Ben’s castoff now has a crush on him. Still, Kacie thinks things went well: “If I didn’t get a rose tonight, I’d be a little shocked.”

You may want to work on your surprised face, honey, because Sean seems to be handing out roses left and right to women who aren’t you. As he and Desiree have their one-on-one, a Production Ninja scampers past in the background… and when the camera pulls back, we see a rose resting on the table next to the couch. “I want to learn a lot more about you,” says Sean. “So, Desiree, will you accept this rose?” And the other women HATE it. “[Gasp] She has a rose!” whispers Paige urgently. “Are there two first impression roses?” Then — horror of horrors — another woman walks in clutching a rose. “Isn’t this exciting?” coos AshLee, as the women give her flower the stink eye. What in the name of all that’s holy is going on? If Paige could broadcast the mood of the room on her jumbotron right now, it would read: WE ARE SCREWED.

NEXT: Rules? Sean doesn’t need no stinkin’ rules!

AsheLee wastes no time finding Tierra to twist the knife a little bit. “So, is yours really the first impression?… I mean, you’re stunning, but it’s definitely not the first impression rose — it’s just the first rose.” Tiny T appears horrified at this suggestion, but she should really just relax, because it looks like on this night, all the roses are created equal — Sean’s just handing them out as goes along. It’s a potentially risky strategy — giving out roses before he meets all the “ladies” could lead to second-guessing later — but on the other hand, is any Bachelor’s judgment really better at the rose ceremony, which inevitably happens in the middle of the night when everyone’s delirious from exhaustion and booze? Anyhow, these buds are coming fast and furious: soon Selma, Robyn, Katie, Catherine, Jackie, and Leslie are beflowered. “The girls I’m giving roses to during the cocktail party are really girls that just have great energy and that I feel that initial connection with,” says Sean, who admits his actions “are probably adding to the tension that already exists.”

Exactly! cackles Team Bachelor as poor Ashley H. glances wistfully at the rose on the table before being led away from her one-on-one empty-handed by Sean. The same fate awaits Lindsay, who’s spent the evening alternately worrying that Sean didn’t get her wedding dress “joke” and pounding drinks. “Honestly, I wish I was more sober right now,” she laments before heading into her alone time with Sean. Unfortunately, her plan to show the Bachelor that she’s just a “goofball” and doesn’t really expect him to marry her on night one involves drunkenly begging for kisses and then insisting in a baby voice that she’s a “good girl” and that she and Sean have “the same morals.”

Miss Lindsay is not the only one who’s fallen prey to demon alcohol tonight: Ashley P. is 50 shades of wasted, as evidenced by the booty cha-cha she performs in Sean’s eyeline as he’s trying to have a conversation with Paige. Eventually the Bachelor Pad refugee gives up and yields her spot on the couch to Ashley. “I have not forgotten about the tie,” says the Bachelor tentatively. “I also brought a rape whistle in case I’m in trouble.” (What’s this? A sense of humor? Any Bachelor who can work the phrase “rape whistle” into an episode officially has my vote.) Pucker up, pal, because Ashley is about to inform you that her mom already refers to you as “my son-in-law.” The Bachelor manages to disengage himself from the situation politely, and the good news for Ashley is that he doesn’t appear to see it when she falls down the stairs.

As sloppy as Ashley P. is, at the very least she was trying to make herself stand out, which is something a few of the other “ladies” are loath to do. Taryn, for one, is driven to tears by the idea that she’s going to have to compete with other women for Sean’s affections (again: what show did you think you were joining?), while Sarah’s insecurities are keeping her glued to the couch. Just as all of us have, at one time, thought we were unlucky in love because of some perceived flaw — being too short/tall/fat/thin/flat-chested/curvy — Sarah sometimes feels the only reason she’s still single “is because I only have one arm.”

NEXT: A blessedly short rose ceremony

Eventually, though, Sarah musters up the courage to pull Sean aside and give him her 60-second bio (her dog is her life, but she doesn’t want to marry him), as well as a frank, well-spoken ice breaker: “Obviously I was born with one arm,” she begins. “I don’t want to be perceived as disabled – I might be a little different or a little unique, but at the end of the day I have the same heart. I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” To Sean’s credit, he gives her the rose, and he actually seems pretty genuine about it.

Clink clink clink! Harrison and his Champagne Flute of Fate are in da house! Are there even any roses left to give out? Seven, actually, which means the whole ritual flies by, relatively speaking: Amanda, Leslie M., Kacie (and the crowd goes grrrrrrrrr!), Kristy, Daniella, Taryn, and Lindsay — wait, seriously? Hope you kept your rape whistle handy, sir. At some point during the night, Brooke and Diana must have gotten roses as well, since they’re still hanging around when Sean does his champagne toast to the “crazy journey” ahead.

So tonight we say farewell to Lauren, KerriAnn, Lacey, Paige (sorry, honey, but telling someone “I was on Bachelor Pad 3” is akin to confessing “I have genital herpes” on your first date), Kelly the cruise ship entertainer, Ashley H., and of course 50 Shades of Loaded, who admits it’s a “bit of a bumski,” and then hikes up her dress to display her tattooed haunch: “That Ken doll missed out on 100 percent of this Barbie ass!” And with that, dear rose lovers, we’re off and running. So, are you satisfied with your new Bachelor? It seems to me this season is going to be relatively low on drama (despite the producers’ best efforts to make us believe that someone threw Tierra down the stairs). And you know what? I might be okay with that. You? Be sure to check out Chris Harrison’s exclusive blog over on PopWatch, and for more on the bachelorette’s fashion choices, click over to Keep the chardonnay on ice, folks — it’s gonna be a long nine weeks.

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