By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 12, 2021 at 7:06 AM

"The Bachelor" has introduced something new this season: pre-ruining episodes.

You see, instead of just starting the show every Monday night, each new episode opens with a scene from later in the evening, just missing a freeze frame, a record scratch sound effect and a voicover going "Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I got in this situation." For the premiere, they opened with the Vibrator Lady because, hey, what better way to hook new viewers than a sex toy – and now, for episode two, they revealed that a contestant would end up on the border of blacking out at the rose ceremony. That would end up being the literal final scene of the night, a surprise cliffhanger ... despite not being a surprise since THE SHOW TOLD US IT WOULD HAPPEN TWO HOURS BEFOREHAND. Instead of adding tension, the cold open just made the episode feel like two hours of going nowhere, waiting for the show to catch up with what we already knew was going to happen.

Listen, I get "The Bachelor" producers wanting to flex those big fancy film school diplomas, try something new and speak a little Latin in the process ("in medias res," so fancy!), but instead they're self-spoiling some of their biggest surprises thus far in the name of ... repetition? Dragging out drama? It's a shame because episode two was actually a lot of fun, featuring our first true villain of the season and brides whacking each other in a forest with paint-covered bouquets (as one does) – but the final takeaway I have from the episode isn't "what a good time" but instead "did I just spend two hours going in a circle?" In case I wasn't questioning my life choices enough while watching "The Bachelor."

After our first shirtless Matt scene of the episode – before we even hit the one-minute mark; new record! – we hang out with the ladies getting excited for their first round of dates on the season. Everyone's settled down from the night before – Vibrator Lady's put "MJ" away, even the "fashion entrepreneur" seems normal – except for Victoria, who insists on running her whole "queen" shtick into the ground. She giddily announces that "This is my kingdom, and Matt is my king." She gets THIIIIIS close to dropping the ultimate "Bachelor" cliche – "I'm not here to make friends" – instead saying that she's not here to form a sorority, a line she's very proud of as it gets recycled a few more times Monday night. And, when Bri gets selected for the first one-on-one date, she sulks and whines not only about her royal rejection but about everyone eles being civil adults about it. HOW DARE THEY?!

The only good part is how much no one else is enjoying it. Magi in particular gives her a dead-eyed face of annoyed despair. This lady founded a non-profit; SHE DOES NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS "MY SUPER SWEET 16" REJECT WHO NEVER GREW UP!

Anyways, Bri – who you'll remember as the first one out of the limos last week – gets to ride ATVs with Matt through the paths of Chateau at Nemacolin, which still sounds like a pharmaceutical product but whatever. Because nothing says romance like being on separate vehicles, unable to hear one another over motors while wearing clunky helmets they can't even see each other through. At one point, they get on the same ATV but tip the four-wheeler over into the mud – but can't even makeout with each other and be romantic because of the big clunky head protectors. But that's OK, at least they looked cool OH WAIT, NO THEY DON'T; THEY DRIVE THESE THINGS LIKE FIRST-TIMERS PLAYING "MARIO KART." I want a refund for this date.

It's OK, though, because the date's engines truly get revved up as soon as they ditch the ATVs for a hot tub – not just any regular hot tub, but a wood-fired hot tub, meaning that Matt gets another excuse to take his shirt off and chop one whole log of wood. If you took a drink everytime Matt takes his shirt off, you would not remember any of this season. Heaven forbid you take a drink anytime Victoria says something involving royalty. If you do that, can you let me know what heaven's like, because you've clearly already died of alcohol poisoning. 

Speaking of which, Queen Victoria's still not making friends back at the Chateau at Prevacid, complainig about how the other ladies aren't letting her be her most authentic self. You're telling me marching around like you're Kate Middleton isn't your most authentic self!? She would rather not there in the mansion with the other women – and trust me, Victoria, the feelings are mutual – but unsurprisingly, when the group date card arrives, Victoria is one of the 45 contestants listed for the crowded first mega-date. I'm sure it's going to go great. Gonna be a real casual good time. (*uncorks fresh bottle of wine*)

As for actual good times, Bri and Matt are still hanging in their wood-powered hot tub, ignoring all the dirt and mud floating around in there by making out for a brief bit. Seems like it's going well – and the dinner portion of the night would only confirm that, as the two discuss what it's like to grow up in divorced families. It's not as in-depth a discussion as some of Tayshia's last season – Matt is well-trained in the "that's great"/"I like that" school of "Bachelor" conversational etiquette – but it's a nice chat that seems fairly genuine and sweet. Bri was already a front runner coming out of the limo first; this date locks her in as a real contender for the final three. I expect she'll disappear for a bit now to get people like me off the scent. 

Anyways, cue receiving a rose, cue fireworks and cue the deer from last week having a panic attack from all the booming sounds. Oh, and of course cue Queen Victoria harrumphing up a storm – so much so that her roommate is like, "Do I have to sleep in the same room as her?" Apparently the answer is no because Victoria grabs her blankets and sleeps in the lobby. "I literally am a queen," she proclaims one last time, which (*rubs temples*) is not how the word "literally" is used. 

The headache has only begun, though, as it's time for the group date, which is annoyingly one of those wedding photo shoot dates. Listen, you've known these women for maybe 24 hours; maybe we pump the breaks on the wedding photo theme? Anyways, it will not surprise you that a certain contestant becomes a royal pain during the shoot, strutting her way into other people's photos and nudging her way into starting her photo session sooner than later. But thankful, everyone will soon have a way to let out their growing anger and aggression as the episode turns into literal bride wars, heading into the forest to play "capture the heart" – complete with paint-soaked tagging weapons to decimate these poor unfortunate wedding gowns. The winning team gets the date night with Matt, so in a wild twist, suddenly everyone's jazzed to have Queen Victoria on their team. If there was ever a time to have an over-competitive and distracting Tazmanian devil on your side, now would be it. 

So the women go about battling one another – complete with the fabulous Franco playing war photographer amidst the cake-flinging chaos – while Victoria battles the English language. She tries to bust out a burn about how – just wait, you'll never expect this – she's the queen and everyone else is a jester ... but instead, she says "gestures." Maybe she's playing the drinking game too? She also says "let them eat cake" – no one tell her how that story turns out for Marie Antoinette. But while she struggles with history, her team kills it at Capture the Flag, earning the date night while Vibrator Girl Katie and company are stuck going back to the chateau in their busted gowns. Don't feel too bad, Katie; at least you've "MJ" waiting for you back there. 

As for the winning squad, the date night actually goes pretty smoothly – even with Queen Victoria, who opens up to Matt about having insecurities. WHAAAAAAA?! You're telling me the woman who behaves like a queen and smugly calls herself royalty MIGHT BE OVERCOMPENSATING FOR SOME EMOTIONAL INSECURITIES?! This show is just one twist after another. What's next: Matt James exercises!? Victoria even scores a kiss after their solo time together – though Matt does not seem into it at all. Sorry, Victoria, but you're a mere first third of the season villain, not a full-season one. Matt is, however, into Lauren, who he has a nice conversation with about faith and religion – one that earns her the rose on the evening. 

That takes us to date number three on the night: our second one-on-one date, this time with Sarah and Matt taking to the skies in a biplane. OH GOD, NOT THE PETEY THE PILOT FLASHBACKS! NOOOO! Other than that, however, the date goes pretty well – though Sarah struggles with opening up this early in a relationship. She eventually builds up the confidence to talk about her father's fight with ALS and how her family has rallied to help him – a emotional breakthrough so valuable, intimate and special that the two just have to make out in a pool right afterwards. (Another shirtless Matt shot, take a drink!) Just once I'd love to see a conversation on this show that feels like a real date conversation and not this wildly intense personal stuff right off the bat. I get it – there's only so much time to make an impact and create a genuine connection – but juts once, I'd love to cut to Matt and a contestant having a great lively conversation about how "Back to the Future" is overrated or how one of them is secretly a Swiftie. That's how you know you've REALLY got something special.

It's time for the rose ceremony now, though, and if you thought Queen Victoria was done wreaking havoc on the night, well, you must be new to the Chris Harrison School of Dramatic Nuance and Restraint. 

It all start when a devious "Bachelor" producer Matt happens to remember that Marylynn's favorite flower is an orchid, so he gives her one during their one-on-one time at the cocktail party, helping reassure her that she's made an impact on Matt despite no dates thus far. And Queen Victoria, looking like a lost "Sixteen Candles" extra with a gaudily patterned dress with poofy sleeves that reek of the Reagan administration, will just have none of this – especially since Marylynn is her former roommate who she ditched for the lobby – so she determines that Marylynn is toxic and that Matt must know about her DEEPLY SINISTER NATURE. And Matt – poor, sweet, naive Matt – is new to his show, so he believes Victoria and brings back Marylynn to discuss her supposed bullying. This would typically be where a person would deny the charges and also point out that Victoria's been an ACTUAL toxic presence on the show, but instead Marylynn says a bunch of mush-mouthed PR speak that makes her look super guilty. Meanwhile, I want to die. 

Thankfully, Victoria summons some laughs as she goes to everyone in the house to complain about Marylynn, only for everyone to respond to her accusations like, "Hmm, yeah, sorry, I don't believe that." TURNS OUT ALIENATING YOURSELF FROM LITERALLY EVERY PERSON WITH A PULSE IN THE FIVE-MILE RADIUS IS A BAD STRATEGY! In the end, maybe joining the sorority wouldn't have been the worst idea. Unfortunately, Matt doesn't do any investigative work or ask anyone else what they've seen or know about Victoria and Marylynn's tiff, so he's almost certainly keeping her around. Marylynn tries to mend things privately with her rival, but after a round of musical chairs with Victoria and a river of pettiness melted out of my television screen, that seems to have failed – which breaks Victoria's heart because she "genuinely cares about making human connections." WAIT, WE WHAT NOW!? I'm sorry, but I've got approximately (*checks tape*) every single minute you've been on screen that would say the direct opposite. 

And lo, time for the rose ceremony. Gosh, I sure hope nobody passes out during this event! What a shocking development that nobody could see coming unless it was revealed at the start of the episode! Indeed, so while Anna tries to summon herself another rose with the power of telepathy and crazy eyes, everyone else is talking about how Victoria needs to go. So obviously she isn't. I'm reminded of Hannah Brown's season and how during each ceremony, the guys were like, "There's no way she's keeping Luke P." Cut to her keeping Luke P. I do love it when this show makes its lead a doofus for the sake of drama! Definitely makes me want to root for them!

But before we can find out that Victoria's staying, Sarah suddenly loses her balance in the back of the crowd, saying she feels like she's about to blackout and needing a medic. MAN, WHAT A TWIST WE ALL SAW TWO HOURS AGO! Oddly, she already had a rose, so she had nothing to be worried or mentally strained about. Maybe Anna's hexing powers messed up again. Maybe Victoria is toxic – literally. (See, Victoria, that's how you use the word "literally.") Maybe it's Victoria's awful '80s dress – I know I could feel my body violently rejecting it, and I wasn't even stuck in the same room with it. Or maybe making these women stand for hours at a time for these ceremonies isn't the best idea. Who's to say?!

All I know is that I hope she's better next week – and that we can get Queen Victoria overthrown next episode. And if not her, at least the cold opens. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.