The season premiere finds Ali looking for love in all the weird places

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated May 25, 2010 at 04:00 PM EDT
Rick Rowell/ABC
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Here we are again, Bachelorette Watchers, back for another romantic ”journey”/Ali’s tour of penance for choosing mean and evil and soulless work over Love, The Most Important Thing in the World/salsa dancing lessons. And before we get started, I’ll note that I am, unfortunately, not your regular beloved Bachelor/Bachelorette guide Kristen Baldwin, who is out this season tending to new life on maternity leave. I shall do my best to live up to her legacy, though I know that’s a tall order.

So. Back to that other lady who has her priorities straight, dammit, our Bachelorette, Ali Fedotowsky. In case you avoided all news of the last Bachelor season and/or have somehow just decided to jump on the Bachelor/Bachelorette train now, in its 20th (!) season, a quick review: Ali made it to Jake Pavelka’s Final Four only to be forced to go back to work — or lose her job forever. She chose her job and gave up Jake, who went on to propose to her nemesis, Vienna. However, when offered the chance to return as this summer’s Bachelorette, she came to her senses and left her job to find love. In other words, she chose correctly, the show really, really wants you to know. ”The biggest mistake I made that night was choosing a desk and a computer and a keyboard over someone who could be the love of my life,” Ali told us while wearing an amazing grey off-the-shoulder sweater and staring contemplatively into the distance. ”It’s been very difficult for me to put love and relationships first. I let my insecurities and fear dictate my life, and I’m not going to be a victim to that anymore.” While she inexplicably tried on various adorable ensembles, she reiterated for us, ”I’m ready to open up and get that guy I should’ve had before.” In case we were unclear, she then strolled down the beach looking fetching in a bikini top and gauzy shirt while voice-overing, ”I’ve reprioritized my life.”

Just to be clear, what we’ve learned so far is that she has learned her lesson that LOVE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING AND SHE WAS WRONG AND THE BACHELOR WAS RIGHT AND SHE’LL NEVER EVER DOUBT IT AND ITS MAGICAL POWERS AGAIN. And also The Bachelorette has a great stylist.

Now, onto the men who will do their best to decimate the faith she has put in this process. Through a smattering of lengthy background video packages, their individual limo arrivals, and their sit-downs with Ali during the first-night cocktail party, we met her 25 suitors, who would be whittled down to 15 by episode’s end. Here, a run-down of some of the standouts:

NEXT: To be fair to Craig M., we’re happy it’s not Vienna, too…

Frank: Frank feels exactly like the kind of guy you’d meet through online dating. (Or at least I would.) The details never quite add up. He’s officially ID’d on screen as a ”retail manager” from Geneva, Illinois, and yet he tells the camera he’s an ”aspiring screenwriter” ”from Chicago” who quit a fancy mergers and acquisitions job to follow his passion. To his credit, he slips in there that he moved back home with his parents to facilitate this life change. Though later, while chatting with Ali, he plays it like he lived as a writer in Paris. I’m guessing all of these bits contain elements of truth. The story is more in the ”retail manager of what exactly?” and the ”will he and Ali move in with his parents if he proposes?” than it is in the screenplays and Parisian jaunts. He instantly lit up at the revelation that the bachelorette would be Ali: ”We’re getting married. That’s what’s going to happen.” But somehow all the jumping around and doing push-ups in a hotel room made me think he’d have acted the same at the mention of just about anyone. And I would mention the climbing-on-the-roof bit he did when getting out of the limo to meet Ali, but that would be giving him exactly what he wants. And I do not wish to feed this attention-starved beast.

Craig M.: I’m not going to lie: The hair is impressive. I’m a hair connoisseur, and that’s some McDreamy action there. When I stare at his hair and he doesn’t talk, I can almost forget that he said, ”Watch out, Toronto,” to kick off his night on the town. But it turns out he’s on a mission to obliterate all good will his hair engenders, from his opening line to Ali: ”Wow, I’m so happy you’re not Vienna.” Wow, guys, don’t ever bring up a girl’s romantic nemesis to curry her favor.

Kyle: Ah, yes, the ”outdoorsman” — seriously, his official job title — from Colorado. ”I need a woman,” he explained to us while drilling a hole in ice so he could fish. Not a terribly auspicious beginning, though not as scary as when he showed us the stuffed bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions that he’d killed. ”I’m going to bring someone home to take care of both of us,” he told his dog. ”Her name is Ali.” Did anyone else imagine him dragging her to his cabin (across the ice, natch) by her hair? Because he got close to it by doing that weird fishing pantomime and trying to ”reel her in” at the limo. Then, of course, saying, ”I know there’s a lot of fish in the sea. And I really hope I’m the one for you.” Clever.

The weirdness continued at the party, when he first threatened to take the first impression rose off the table and, um, eat it. ”If I eat it I can take it into my soul forever and no one else can have it.” That did seem like a sound strategy. But just in case, he also gave her a fishhook to remember him by. I can think of no gift I would want less, but, hey, at least Ali did say she liked fishing.

NEXT: Wrestle, mania

Justin: If this guy wasn’t made to be on The Bachelorette, I don’t know who was. He’s a pro wrestler… with a heart of gold! His ring persona is a villain named ”Rated R”… but he was raised by an adorable little mom and grandma whom he clearly loves! Also, he broke his ankle! Studies in contrasts are so compelling!

I was actually really glad when he told her about the wrestling right away — I was dreading a drawn-out ”when should I tell her” process. Though as soon as he revealed his ”Rated R” t-shirt underneath his shirt and tie, Clark Kent-style, the other guys were gunning for him, armed with terrible wordplay. Jason: ”I don’t know about this cat. Back home we call that Rated Bad, not Rated R.” Craig R.: ”I just don’t think he’s here for the right reasons. I think he’s Rated Dishonest.”

Jonathan: I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone so impressed with himself for being a weatherman. Then again, I don’t know any weathermen. ”I’ll use my humor,” he pledged, though I’m not sure we saw any actual evidence of such. ”If she laughs, I’ll use it. If she doesn’t, I’ll stop I guess.” A fine plan indeed.

Ty: Our token inappropriately-recently-divorced contestant. ”I only got divorced a few months back,” our Tennessean-with-a-guitar explained. So naturally, he went and signed up to find his transitional woman on national television. Good idea! What’s the over/under on how long it takes him to start mentioning his ex every five minutes? Any chance it will involve him dancing the dance that’s in his heart? No?

Chris L.: Let’s get this out there right now: Chris L. is my crush of the season. He is a landscaper who lives in Cape Cod and has dreamy blue eyes, and a rich, deep voice I could listen to for days. (Not usually my type, actually, but should so totally be Ali’s type if she liked Jake, no?) On top of which he was a high school math teacher. In New York public schools, no less! And then he moved back home to be with his dying mother. Somehow by the time he gets to his requisite platitude — ”Love is the only reality” — I am choked up and devoid of cynicism. I am in love …

Though I can’t decide if I’m turned off or even more turned on when he later displays rather thorough knowledge of Ali’s Bachelor backstory: ”I was psyched when she left because she was the only one I wanted. When she was crying in the hallway, she looked like she just needed a hug. Jake didn’t do anything. And I was like, You moron.” I am telling myself this is just because he is a thorough researcher with a working knowledge of Hulu, and not because he is an avid Bachelor fan. If he starts dropping detailed analyses of Trista and Ryan’s wedding or comparing his love for Ali to Ian’s love for Meredith, we’re going to have to revisit this.

NEXT: Grab us another glass of wine, please, Kasey

He was adorable during his time with Ali at the cocktail party, opening with a ”you look wicked awesome.” But then he made the puzzling decision to avoid telling Ali that his mother had just died and he had left his teaching job in New York to care for her — even when Ali specifically asked about his mom. ”Ali asked me if my parents were still together, and I kind of glazed over it,” he explained to the camera. ”My mom passed away a year and a half ago. Obviously talking about my mom and my family is something that’s really important to me. I didn’t want to bring that up yet, that’s not a first impression thing.” I certainly admire his not wanting to exploit such a situation for sympathy points, but come on, man. Keeping the most compelling thing about yourself a secret — actively lying about it even — is no way to make it on The Bachelorette. ”Opening up” is very big around these parts.

Jesse: The tall, dark general contractor from Peculiar, Missouri, is cute and all, but: ”How do you feel about dating a Peculiar man?” Really? He redeemed himself, however, by giving her the only good gift she got among the many trinkets these guys unloaded on her: a wooden heart necklace that he made himself, ”with a jigsaw.”

Kasey: Totally the guy you want to like, because he’s trying — but trying waaay too much. ”I want you to know I will always be there to protect and guard your heart,” he told Ali. Within seconds of meeting her. I just met you, sir, please step away from my heart. But, no, he said it again during the party: ”More than anything I want to be the guy who guards and protects your heart.” I feel for him about his parents getting divorced when he was 12, and finding out his dad cheated on his mom. I like that he’s into ”opening doors” and ”grabbing glasses of wine” for the woman he loves. In fact, I like that a lot better than doing any guarding and protecting.

Roberto: Dude knows how to do this. Every guy should watch footage of Roberto during this episode to see how it’s done. Step 1: Upon meeting Ali, he said something beautiful to her in Spanish, then promised to teach her salsa. As Ali said after he went inside, ”Cute. I like him. Sexy.”

Step 2: Asks her what she wants out of life, then tell her you wish to emulate your parents, who have always had a passionate love. ”My mom and dad still have that kind of love,” he said, then — and this is the master stroke — got distracted from this thought by admiring Ali. ”Wow, you look so beautiful,” he said, before making good on his promise to teach her to salsa dance. Final touch: Telling her, ”Oh, wow, you’re good.” No, sir, you’re good.

Step 3: Accept your first impression rose. Kasey summed it up well: ”Salsa.” Hunter, less well: ”I was a little upset. Roberto did some hot-sauce dance or something.”

NEXT: Really, Shooter? Really?

John C.: Then, back in the ”too much” category, John C. was getting down on one knee with a little jewelry box. ”Ali, will you do me the honor of accepting this genuine cubic zirconium ring and giving me some one-on-one time tonight?” He correctly observed afterwards, ”You were so freaked out!”

Tyler M.: And in the ”not enough” category, poor Tyler explained to Ali that he wore cowboy boots because during The Bachelor, ”I noticed the very second you first got out of the limo, [you were] rocking the cowboy boots.” Don’t know whom he was noticing, but it wasn’t Ali. ”I definitely was not wearing cowboy boots out of the limo.” Suddenly Chris L.’s copious Hulu research was looking even better.

Derek: Speaking of Hulu research, dude brought a pile of dead leaves because during her hometown date with Jake, she wished on a falling leaf. Sort-of weird in the execution, but points for effort.

Shooter: Really, you have a great name like Derrick and you go by ”Shooter”? And then you tell her why? And you don’t make up a cool story about guns or basketball? ”It’s kind-of an embarrassing story,” he began. HINT: THEN DON’T TELL IT TO A GIRL YOU’RE WOOING ON NATIONAL TELEVISION. Oops, there he went anyway: ”I might’ve prematurely… in college, accidentally. So that’s maybe how…” NO. Or as Ali said to the camera afterwards, ”What the f—?”

Jason: Just as I’m not acknowledging Frank’s attention-seeking hop onto the limo roof, I’m not acknowledging Jason’s attention-seeking backflip off the limo roof.

Kirk: Well, I’ll let him tell you: ”I actually made a scrapbook for her. I made a scrapbook of all the things that are important to me and that I want to share with her. … I used a glue stick. I spent like eight hours on that thing.” And I will let Craig M. take it from here: ”If I was a girl and someone made a scrapbook for me, I would think that was just weird.”

Hunter: The ukelele bit at the cocktail party played well, I think. Not uproarious, but his lyrics were cute enough: ”My name is Hunter, and I’m 28/Came on the show to find a soulmate” and ”I can fix just about anything around the house/Bet you’re thinking I sound like a hell of a spouse.” That kind of thing. Mr. Backflip-off-the-Limo Jason, however, was having none of it: ”He tries to be like Romeo,” he scoffed, ”but really he’s just the nerd who doesn’t get the girl.”

NEXT: The final 15

There were some others, too, like the lawyer who barely spoke and the guy who plucked a rose off the nearby bush to give to Ali and the other guy who made a paper rose. But onto the DRAMATIC TWIST OF THE NIGHT: The super-nice wooden box with the really pretty notecards, on which the men were instructed by Chris Harrison to write the name of the ”guy you feel is not here for the right reason.” (”Right reasons” are clearly to be very big this season.) We were given the impression that the guys in the running for Least Popular were Weather Guy, Rated R, Annoying Frank, and, as one close-up on a card said, ”the tall guy with the big hair from Toronto.” Explained Hunter: ”The dude with the toupee? He’s a little too cocky. He’s a [bleep].” Craig M., in fact, was so aware of his unpopularity that he refused to vote — you know, on principle. ”I don’t think you should just make up a name and write something down,” he argued. Strenuously. Multiple times.

But he needn’t have sweated his ”toupee” too much, as the ”overwhelming amount of votes as the guy who is not here for the right reasons” went to poor little Rated R, Justin. Ali faced a choice — boot him outright or give him a rose. He explained to her that he believed (rightly, I think) that the sentiment against him sprung from the wrestling thing. ”I’m here to not only meet a wife but to meet a best friend,” he said. (Sounds like a ”right reason” to me!) ”This is something I’m passionate about,” he said of his controversial profession. ”It might’ve not been appropriate to show on the first date, but it’s something that’s important to me and I wanted to express that.” Fair enough. He got the rose.

As for the rest of them, the rose ceremony brought us a final 15 that included Jesse (the ”Peculiar man”), Ty (the recently divorced), Craig R. (main contribution to episode: ”rated dishonest”), Frank (the ”aspiring screenwriter”), love-of-my-life Chris L., Kirk (the scrapbook-maker), John C. (the cubic zirconium bearer), Hunter (the ukelele player), Craig M. (the hair guy), Jonathan (the weather guy), and Kasey (the protector of her heart). Also among them was under-the-radar-flyers Tyler B., Steve, Chris N., and Chris H. Alas, we had to say goodbye to Kyle the outdoorsman, Tyler M. the cowboy-boot-wearer, Derek the dead-leaf guy, Jason the backflip guy, and, yes, Shooter. I think we all learned some valuable lessons here about telling premature ejaculation stories on national television

What did you think of the first Bachelorette of the season? Did Ali make any mistakes? (Named Frank or Kirk or John C. or Craig M., perhaps?) Anybody you think she should’ve kept but sent home? Who’s your early favorite? How embarrassingly psyched were you to see all the (probably edited-for-extreme-effect) drama that lies ahead in the coming-this-season promo?

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The Bachelorette

Chris Harrison hosts the romantic reality competition series in which one single woman searches for her future husband amid a sea of studs. Will you accept this rose?
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