By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 04, 2022 at 10:56 AM

Did you know this season of "The Bachelor" is making history? Yes, this is the first time the show's ever starred a punching bag!

Ever since Clayton was selected as the franchise's latest star for no seemingly discernable reason beyond "good at forts," the world's been pretty vocal about not loving the choice. But no one seems to hate the decision more than the people who made the decision in the first place: the show's producers.

It started during Michelle's finale when, after Kaitlyn savagely introduced him as "a guy who does need an introduction because no one knows who he is," they spent most of his preview interview having him read exceptionally mean tweets about himself on live television. (OK, so two personality traits now: good at forts AND thick skin.) Maybe the show roasted him to well done ash because they're annoyed that they have NO IDEA how to sell this season to people. The ads tried leaning into the hate by selling how much Clayton's gonna totally mess this all up and how much people are going to cry. Not the most novel approach, but unfortunately, they overdid the crying misery and overestimated how much I like loud weeping. When that shockingly didn't work, they basically kicked Clayton out of the ads and were like, "Hey, you like the mansion, right? THE MANSION'S BACK!" That's right: Old dusty real estate is a better pitch than their star. And when all else fails? Screw it: puppies. 

Never have I seen an advertising department wave a white flag this hard. (Though in fairness: PUPPIES!)

Yes, it's been a long and brutal road for Clayton as "The Bachelor" – but SURELY things will improve now that he's to the fun part of dating dozens of beautiful people at the same time. SURELY the season premiere won't focus on multiple women giving him the Heisman and loudly talking about HOW MUCH HE SUCKS on night one. SUUUUUUURELY ABC wouldn't do that to a star they love SOOO much. 

After we meet new host Jesse Palmer and reacquaint ourselves with the "Bachelor" mansion, we start Clayton's extended torture sesssion season in selfie mode as he breaks the news to the one person in the country excited that he's going to be "The Bachelor": his mom. He then introduces himself and his backstory ... but mostly he just drives and wanders around St. Louis looking lost and confused. I learned nothing. He eventually finds his way to his hometown of Eureka, Missouri, which appears to have lost its mind about the "Bachelor" news. They shutdown the main street, seemingly throw a parade, take photos – it's madness. It's like Victory in Europe Day in Eureka.

While they clean up their tickertape parade, we meet some of Clayton's potential women. There's a former NFL cheerleader and a flight instructor and ... a Yale law student? Girl, you are too smart to be here on this show, fighting with spray tanners for hot tub time. We've got Teddi, a virgin – because this storyline worked SOOO great with Colton. Overall, I don't remember much of what happened in this segment because I took a drink everytime a contestant said a variation of "I'm just missing my person" or "he checks a lot of boxes," and as a result died of alcohol poisoning after 14 seconds. 

There's one contestant, however, who gets a little bonus introduction time: Salley. Salley just loves walking through woods and laughing at birds – but it's not all happiness for her because she was supposed to get married ON THIS VERY DAY but the engagement was called off. Unsurprisingly, she's having a bad time and not exactly in the mood to date again – especially not like THIS. So she goes to talk to Clayton about her feelings, and he loves the conversation so much that he tries to convince her to stay by giving her an early rose. My guy: Read the room. She's clearly not over her past serious relationship – one that was SUPPOSED TO BECOME A WEDDING THIS VERY DAY! – so maybe pump the breaks and let her figure herself out first. Thankfully, smarter heads prevail as she turns down the rose because she's not in the headspace to take it (and also maybe she's just not that into you). 

So, to recap: That's rose number one rejected on night one. OFF TO A FLYING START, CLAYTON! But hey, can only go up from here! SUMMON THE LIMOS!

After Jesse and Clayton chat and have a contest to see who has the best thickest jaw line, the first person pops out of their limo – always a key clue of who will go far. It's Sarah, a Clemson grad who awkwardly tries to bond with Clayton because Clemson's mascot is the tigers and so is his alma mater Missouri's, so would you like a tiger token? It's a line that reminds me of my old attempts at flirting – and when that's the case, YOU'VE MADE A GRAVE ERROR! I think the "first person out of the limo" streak might reach its end this season. In fairness, it's not like many of the first few arrivals make a strong impact. It's always hard to remember the names with the faces on the premiere, but Monday's premiere was particularly a challenge – especially with half the women wearing similar gold dresses and busting out similarly weak introductions. 

Eventually, somebody finally makes an impression: Susie, who may or may not be the secret clone daughter of Hannah Brown and TikTok "celebrity" Addison Rae. She greets Clayton with a hearty handshake ... and one of those old hand-buzzer pranks. "Wow, I love it," responds Clayton, who CLEARLY DID NOT LOVE IT. But hey, Susie Rae Brown made an impact, so that's something. Also making an impression: Teddi, who does pretty respectably with her intro as well, doing some cute "teddy bear" wordplay. 

I've been fairly mean to Clayton this recap (me and everyone else), so let me give him credit for a nice move: After about half of the women arrived, he dipped into the mansion to check on everyone already inside and say hello, which I thought was a cute and kind gesture to make sure they didn't feel forgotten.

And with that, we're back to meeting more women – the qUiRkY ones, always saved for last, starting with Kate, who busts out a "hold my nips" joke. GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER – she means nips like little booze bottles hiding in her dress, not her nipples. If I was Clayton, I would've been hoping she meant those chocolate caramel candies – but hey, a shot will work too. She's followed by Sierra, who does a gag about how she's come "back to the future" to tell him that she's his future wife so they should just get out of there now. Cute bit – though come on "Bachelor" producers, it needed a DeLorean. BUT WAIT! Looking through ABC's press photos from the premiere, it turns out that SHE DID HAVE A DELOREAN!

The BachelorX

Editors, why'd you do Sierra dirty here and edit out the best part of her intro!? Anyways, Sierra rules – if there was ever a moment where somebody made some funny offhand comment during the night, it was likely Sierra. I already predict she'll be gone too soon.

Continuing with the quirky arrivals, one woman arrives in moon shoes while another named Hailey brings a jar of pickles for Clayton to open. Smart play on her part: Worse comes to worst, if she gets the axe right away, at least she's finally got that jar opened and a snack for the ride home. Plus, it's not THAT weird. It's not like she brought an urn holding the ashes of her former exes – LIKE JILL! Love implying to my date that, if things go poorly, you'll be dead and burned to ash – though, considering how much he's been roasted on this show already, should be nothing new for him. She's followed by Jane, who drives up in a vintage car because she's a vintage "cougar" at the wise old age ... OF 33?! What does she think 50 is? The GIF of the villain from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" drinking from the wrong Holy Grail?

It seems even more ridiculous considering who comes out of the limo next: Holly, a 63-year-old retiree. Well, hey props to the show for finally venturing outside of its usual narrow contestant base – though the whimsical, goofy music doesn't give me hope they're going to take her seriously. But then, she explains that she's actually here for the senior "Bachelor" they've been auditioning for over the past two years. So is this just product placement, a surprise plug for the new spinoff? I ... don't know – because after all that, Holly says she's actually kidding and introduces flight instructor Rachel, who explains that Holly was her "wingwoman." But she doesn't say how she actually knows Holly, so I'm just confused. Are they friends? Co-workers? Was that a clumsy ad for "The Bachelor: Young at Heart" or whatever it'll inevitably be called? AND SERIOUSLY, THAT ONE LADY THOUGHT 33 WAS COUGAR AGE!? 

My brain hurts now, so let's blaze through the remaining oddball entrances. There's Ivana, a bar mitzvah dancer who refuses to speak – not even her name – and tries to play the intrigue card. Yeah, she's definitely going home tonight. She's followed by Kira, a physician who shows up in a lab coat and not much else. She's definitely NOT going home tonight. Gabby shows up carrying a pillow with Clayton's face on it because she wants to sit on his face. Maybe she brought a whole bunch of the pillows and, later in the night, they'll make a pillow fort covered with a bunch of Claytons. Also an option!

Hunter shows up in her "I'm a Slave 4 U" best – aka with a huge yellow snake draped over her shoulders – while Samantha arrives in a bikini, soaking in a tub rolled around by two production assistants. Honestly a genius play, because hopefully she just got to stay in there the whole night, just relaxing and soaking and drinking wine and getting rolled wherever needed. Or maybe the production assistants got vindictive and made her stand for the rose ceremony and didn't bring her a towel or change of clothes. It's a risk I'd be willing to take! 

Lastly, we get Cassidy pulling up in a mini-car followed by Shanae driving up in the mini-car's massive roided-up big brother. She even tries to run the mini-car over demolition derby style to assert her dominance, but instead the truck just kind of nudges the mini-car. No matter the case, the move results in some side-eye from the fellow contestants while the show cuts to Shanae looking a little devious. Perhaps it's a tease of villainy to come ... 

Indeed, there IS some villainy on night one – but not courtesy of Shanae. Instead, it's spray tanner Claire who arrived all flustered and ill-prepared for her introduction in a way that was kind of charming. For her cocktail party one-on-one time, however, she sets up a tailgate for Clayton complete with bag toss and chicken wings. Wings? HOW COULD THIS GO WRONG!? Welp, the two don't quite hit it off, with him seemingly bristling at not getting to play more bag toss and her coming in hot about his wing preferences – and to make matters worse, another contestant swoops in to steal him away, lingering around and repeating some line about how "when he's done with that sauce, he should come with her to try some real sauce." (Twist: It turned out to be ACTUALLY sauce!) Eventually, Clayton awkwardly bails from the tailgate, leaving Claire with a pile of chicken wings. I call that a 100 percent win for Claire. 

So, are these two ladies going to have it out tonight? Nope, instead Claire points all her rage at Clayton, telling anyone in the house who will listen that she is NOT attracted to him, that they are NOT vibing and that he SUUUCKS. Who do you think you are, openly talking about how much you hate Clayton: the producers?! Anyways, someone eventually brings it to Clayton's attention that one of his contestants hates him, so he chats with Claire, who says that it's true that they didn't click. And for a moment, it seems like Clayton's ... not gonna do anything about it? I CANNOT GO FROM MICHELLE ASSERTING HERSELF AND NOT PUTTING UP WITH DRAMA NONSENSE TO THIS SENTIENT WET TISSUE PAPER! I REFUSE! Thankfully, Clayton's spine shows up, and he decides it's best for everyone if she leaves right away. Hopefully she took the rest of the wings for the ride back. 

With the Claire cloud no longer hanging over the mood, Clayton flirts with everyone else – eventually landing on Teddi for his first impression rose. Thought he hits it off with Rachel the aeronaut, Teddi wins the rose thanks to their cute one-on-one interaction that ended with his first kiss of the night. (His first of many, though, so things are by no means decided already.) 

But there are still 20-some more roses to hand out, so the next morning – and I mean MORNING, with a bright sun streaming in, birds chirping, waffles cooking – Clayton hands out of the rest of his carnations. I'm honestly amazed, considering how long this night's been and how much alcohol's almost assuredly been consumed, that everyone's standing for this ceremony and not sprawled and draped over couches drunk asleep. In the end, 22 women get roses – including Tessa, who spends the entire ceremony sad that she didn't get any time and is guaranteed to go home. SO MUCH FOR THAT; IT'S YOUR LUCKY DAY! Less lucky are Hailey and her jar of pickles, silent Ivana, the ancient 33-year-old Jane and bathtub Samantha, who at least didn't get all dressed up for this. 

So that's it, minus the usual tease of scenes from the rest of the ... hold on a second, did they just reveal who the final three women are already? They've been showing clips from Clayton's big downfall, when he reveals that he's been intimate with more than one of the final women remaining and told them he loves them, this entire time – but now they've straight-up shown the finalists' faces. And man, if I could tell any of them apart or match any names to faces, I'd be rather upset that this was all spoiled already! Man, the producers really do hate this season, don't they? They're already trying to render most of the season useless by the end of the premiere.

One episode in, I certainly don't hate it as much as they do. Sure, Clayton and the women need some more personality, but that always comes along later while episode one is a waterboarding of generic smiles and mediocre lines. Hopefully that personality and drama comes sooner than later and proves everyone – even ABC itself – wrong. And if not, take a page from the ads and just add PUPPIES!

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.