Ashley meets drunks, freaks, and more nearly indistinguishable white guys -- and gives far too many the benefit of the doubt

By Kristen Baldwin
Updated May 24, 2011 at 06:01 AM EDT

The Bachelorette

S7 E1
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Welcome back, rose lovers! I hope you’re fed, well hydrated, and otherwise prepared for the first leg of our “journey.” I feel ready, perhaps because over the break I’ve successfully scrubbed almost all of the memories of Ashley and Brad from the sulci in my brain, so now I can pretend that she sprung, fully formed, from Mike Fleiss’ head like Athena, with no previous Bachelor baggage. So let The Bachelorette: Chantal Said No begin!

After a brief recap of Ashley’s crash and burn in South Africa, we cut to Philadelphia for Ashley’s Pensively Searching the Horizon for Love montage, which inexplicably includes a sequence in which she performs some modern dance in an empty theater. Maybe I did too good of a job scrubbing my brain, because I have absolutely no recollection of Ashley talking about anything except dentistry and fear of commitment. She’s a dancer? Yep, apparently she is the second coming of Tenley, folks. Even with the inevitable nod to Rocky’s training montage, things are not off to an auspicious start.

It gets worse when she arrives at Casa Bachelorette and reveals that she’s worried about “being a disappointment to the guys.” I think this is as close as Team Bachelor is ever going to get to letting her say, “I wasn’t the producers’ first choice.” We know, sweetie. And it’s OK. Because you’re about to meet 25 men who are a disappointment to self-respecting men everywhere. Let’s lay down a few snap judgments, shall we?

Ryan P., 31 His punishment for running a solar power company is being forced by Team Bachelor to make a cheesy heart sign with his hands in front of the sun’s glare.

JP, 34 Perhaps the only construction manager in New York City who gives off a gay vibe.

Ames, 31 Raging egomaniac with a passing resemblance to Harry Connick Jr. Yale, Columbia, Harvard, 39 marathons, unfortunate taste in shirts.

Ben, 28 On the romantic scale of 1 to 10, this lawyer from New Orleans gives himself a 15. Welcome home, cheeseball!

Benjamin, 28 He’s a winemaker (really? that’s a job?) with a broken heart ever since his dad passed away. Also a “total brunette guy,” which means it’s a good thing he didn’t meet Ashley in her previous follicular incarnation.

Bentley, 28 Cocky single father looking for fun and a rose (from Emily).

Anthony, 28 A “fourth-generation butcher” from New Jersey, and my momentary favorite. (I haven’t read the spoilers yet, people. Please just let me have this.)

West, 30 A widower who says his wife died after having a seizure in the bathtub. Not everyone believes that’s what happened, however.

William, 30 A real life Good Luck Chuck who can’t keep a relationship or an umbrella from falling apart. Wears a watch that stopped at the exact moment his dad died. Nope, not creepy or morbid. Not at all.

Apparently those are the only nine interesting men out of the group of 25, because Team Bachelor cuts the get-to-know-them packages short and brings in our hero, Chris Harrison, to debrief the Bachelorette, who continues to spout self-hatred in her perky voice. “I’m scared that some of the guys watched last season and coming into they’re like, ‘Eh, it’s Ashley.’… I just hope I don’t let them down.”

NEXT: The limos unleash their horrors.

Even more disheartening to dear Ashley is the fact that a former contestant warned her that Bentley is coming on the show to “promote his job.” While a sane person would think that piece of information was enough to send someone packing the first night, we’re talking about the Bachelorette, folks — telling her that Bentley wants to use and abuse her is like leaving an alcoholic alone with a six-pack, or Arnold Schwarzenegger alone with the maid. You know she’s just not going to be able to resist. As she chirps to Harrison, “You have to give people a chance!” Actually, no, no you don’t, sweetie.

Enough with the pre-game show — it’s time for Ashley to take her sparkly little self outside to meet 25 nearly indistinguishable white men! Those not deemed worthy enough for a hometown profile include Jon, an “E-Commerce executive” from Canada who thrills Ashley by throwing her over his shoulder like a Neanderthal with boundary issues. Little Lucas gives off a dorky vibe but Ashley thinks he smells good, so he’s got that going for him. Mickey tries to stand out by pulling a Chantal and delivering something “from all the men in America” — a kiss — but Ashley’s full body flinch makes it clear she would have preferred a slap. Tim, a “liquor distributor” from New York clearly needs a little liquid courage because he can barely get a word out. Some of the smoother gentlemen stand out for reasons that range from cute to cornball: Ben woos her with French, Stephen thrills her with his long greasy locks, Chris D. offers a rhyming couplet, and West provides a broken compass (stuck on the W, natch): “I hope that if you ever feel lost in this whole process that it’ll help you find your way back to me.”

Those dudes have nothing in the first impression department on Anthony the butcher, who does the full Alec Baldwin I’m a Handsome Actor turn-and-reveal before asking Ashley, “Are you nervous?” — and somehow he makes it sound like a threat. Rob, by comparison, tells Ashley he has no crowns, Matt teaches her some kind of secret handshake, and then Jeff… Oh, Jeff. This guy apparently got lost on the way to the Mr. Personality auditions, because he arrives wearing a mask. “I wanted to take my face out of the game,” he explains to the Bachelorette, “and have you learn a little bit about what’s inside.” Does he mean inside his basement, where he’s holding some girl hostage whom he plans to turn into a woman suit?

Moving on, Frank is the second bachelor to manhandle Ashley, twirling her around in a forcible tango of sorts. Michael, whose job as a “technology salesman” could not be more vaguely defined, essentially tells Ashley he hates going to the dentist (maybe that’s why they have such a high suicide rate), while Ryan P. arrives with a digital camera in hand and proceeds to snap photos of the Bachelorette like she’s a wax figurine at Madame Tussaud’s. Nick attempts to distract Ashley from his God-awful soul patch by reciting a wobbly poem: “As we embark on this journey/ to places unknown/ on group dates and home dates/ and times spent alone/ I make you the promise/ to be the perfect catch/ as long as you make the promise/ to eliminate everyone else in my stretch.” Blake makes absolutely no impression, but at least he does not have a soul patch. (We later learn that he’s the dentist Harrison alluded to earlier. Lucky Ashley!) The award for the Cutest Intro Gag of the Night goes to Constantine, who ties a string of pink dental floss around Ashley’s finger as a reminder to talk later. Simple, funny, memorable. See, boys? Manhandling is never necessary.

NEXT: I’m not as think as you drunk I am.

Into this miasma of pheromones, tension, and rebreathed white wine molecules walks Harrison, who drops off the first impression rose and then makes a hasty retreat. Seeing this, Ben C. manages to interrupt Ashley’s time with Blake by spelling out a message to her on a series of cue cards. “I guess our time’s up,” sighs Blake. Oh, dude — please don’t become a statistic. Once he has Ashley on the couch, Ben reveals that the secret to his French fluency comes from his love of travel and French father. Boring! OK, pal, in an effort to make you more interesting (and to distinguish you from the other Ben) I’m hereby dub you… Oui Man! Because she’s such a nice lady, Ashley leaves her cheerful one-on-one with William — who does a crap Sean Connery impression, but his Shaggy is fantastic — to go talk to Tim, who is too inebriated to speak… or cameras caught him right as he was having a stroke. “I feel bad for the guy,” says the ever-forgiving Ashley. “I can identify with wasted opportunities.” (Pun intended? I’m guessing no.)

But before Tim can beat Jeff the Masked Man to a bloody pulp, he passes out on one of the wicker couches. Team Bachelor sends Ashley to rouse him from his boozy slumber, but she’s too tiny to move his beer-soaked body. With the help of a handful of her suitors, Ashley escorts the liquor salesman to the driveway, where a Reject Drunk Tank on Wheels is waiting. Bye, Tim! Be sure to take two aspirin with a full glass of water before you go to bed.

This turn of events pleases Jeff, who peers over the balcony as Phantom of the Opera-style organ music booms on the soundtrack. (Nice touch, Team Bachelor.) He somehow manages to convince Ashley during their one-on-one time that his mask is not just “a cheesy gimmick,” so if we’re lucky she’ll give him a rose and we’ll get to see just how long Jeff can keep his face “out of the equation.” Soon after, JP bonds with Ashley over, of all things, the fact that his construction boss gave him the disparaging nickname “cupcake” after he offered to bring some into the office one day. (Did I mention the gay vibe?) Anyhoo, Ashley can totally relate: “I always say that the man that I’m going to marry is going to call me cupcake.” Looks like a match made in disastrous first marriage heaven!

NEXT: Ten men get metaphorically castrated.

At long last, it’s time for Bentley’s one-on-one with the Bachelorette. He plays the sensitive single dad card, saying his daughter Cozy (good God) is everything to him, and that he’ll always tell Ashley the truth. And she LOVES it. But not enough to give him the first impression rose, which goes to Ryan Sunshine. Bentley is not amused. “Even though I’m not overly attracted to her,” he drones, “I’m very competitive. I feel like it should be mine.” Really, dude? Is that all you’ve got? If you’re going to be this season’s Resident Jerkoff you had better step it up a notch.

When the rose ceremony finally begins, Ashley drops an estrogen bomb on her assembled suitors by handing out the first flower to Jeff the Masked Man. (“It puts the rose on the lapel. It does this whenever it’s told.”) Up next is a pair of longhairs, Constantine and Ben the Wine Guy, followed by Lucas, Stephen the hairdresser, Matt the Mama’s Boy, Soul Patch, Chris D., Ryan M., Blake the Boring Dentist, Mickey, Ben C., West, William, Cupcake, Ames, and Bentley. (That whooshing sound you hear is Team Bachelor‘s sigh of relief.) Alas, my butcher boy Anthony didn’t make the cut, nor did Jon with the loud purple tie, who tearfully tells the camera that he fears this result is a verdict on his worth as a human being. (I think someone might want to audition to be the next Bachelor!)

The preview of Ashley’s international adventures with her boys in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Fiji is sufficiently intriguing, especially because it answers several burning questions, including, “Does Jeff take his mask off when he’s on the toilet?” (No), “Will someone be taken to the hospital in an ambulance?” (Of course!), and “Does Bentley wish with every fiber of his being that he was Bradley Cooper?” (Most definitely). And with that, rose lovers, we’re off to the romantic races! Please form an orderly line in the comments section and post your thoughts on tonight’s premiere immediately. Do any of these guys appeal to you? Would you have kept Jeff around? How many episodes before Bentley’s cover is blown? (My guess: 6.) Brush, floss, rinse, and let’s talk Bachelorette!

Episode Recaps

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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