By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 03, 2023 at 4:56 PM

We're back – and here for a historic season of "The Bachelorette!" That's right: Charity's run not only marks the fourth time a Black Bachelorette's taken center stage but also the twentieth season of the show. Twenty years – almost old enough to drink! Wow, let's look back at all the happy marriages and love story successes we've found over the years! (*finds that only four of the past 19 winning couples are still together*) Welp, uh, moving on!

Anyways, considering its historic nature, let's head off to what's sure to be the MOST dramatic, MOST emotional, MOST unpredictable season in "Bachelorette" history. Wait ... where's all the drama? Or the emotion? Or the ... anything? 

Indeed, I'm sad to report that while Charity seems like an awesome person and all the guys seem like dudes, I was remarkably bored during Monday's season premiere. Maybe it's because I've fallen down the #Scandoval rabbit hole on "Vanderpump Rules" over the past several months and therefore my bar for crazy reality show entertainment is set high (which is to say my bar for televised entertainment quality is set VERY low). But where were the personalities? Where were the goofballs, weirdos and ridiculous intro antics? Where were the villains and dramatics? As has become the theme these past several "Bachelor" seasons, the franchise is admirably trying to shift away from indulging toxicity as it did in the past – but it hasn't really found much interesting to replace it.

The result was the biggest personality Monday night being a guy who just made everyone uncomfortable and the biggest villain being a guy who committed the egregious crime of ... being too happy that Charity kissed him? Actually, no: The true villain of the night was whoever costumed Charity's undercover brother, a disguise so unconvincing that it made the classic "two kids stacked in a trenchcoat" routine look like CIA-level spycraft. 

We'll get to that, though. First, let's re-meet Charity, last seen getting out of ... honestly couldn't be bothered to remember his name anymore's season mostly unscathed. (Greg? Was it Greg? He was related to The Tick; that's all I remember now.) She explains that, prior to all of that stuff, she was in a six-year relationship that included a lot of cheating on her then-boyfriend's part and a lot of sacrificing her happiness in the process – but NO MORE! Now, after her generally positive experience with Greg(?), she's ready to find the right guy through this ridiculous process. And to help guide her through it, she gets visited by ... oh, by no former stars? The producers must've gotten the note that everyone hated all of Sean Lowe's unnecessary visits last season, so instead we get a few video calls from past Bachelorettes wishing Charity the best. Honestly a one million percent improvement. 

And speaking of improvements: meeting the guys! So normally around this time in the premiere, we'd get a bunch of pre-produced introductions to five or six of the new dudes, making us wait almost until the 30-minute mark for this reality dating show to begin the actual dating. BUT NOT ANYMORE! Now, we meet the guys when Charity meets the guys, the show occasionally bopping out to the pre-made introductory packages during their mansion meet-cute. And it's SOOOO much better; it's less confusing and redundant, it's got some flow within the show and best of all, it gets the audience into the show much faster. 

If only there was something in this episode worth rushing to get to. Indeed, the premiere was a bit of a damp squib – quite literally, because the premiere got rained on, leaving the mansion soggy. Jesse Palmer tries to say that rain means good luck in romance – BUT I KNOW A BAD OMEN WHEN I SEE ONE, PALMER!

But anyways, enough stalling: SUMMON ME YOUR FINEST JOHNS, CALEBS AND AARONS – starting with Aaron B., whose hobbies include photography, piano and ... beaches? Can the beach be a hobby? Nevermind, he's the first one of the limo – always a good sign – and he compliments her dress by saying "the sparkles match your eyes." Now, my partner doesn't watch this show with me because she's smarter than I am – but she happened to be walking past when Aaron busted that line out and gave out an "awww" for that. FIANCE-APPROVED! He then flips a coin for a bet – and if it's tails, he'll leave. Thankfully for him, Charity and the producers, it lands heads. Somebody watched "The Dark Knight" before coming onto the show, because that's an impressive Harvey Dent impression (pre-becoming a two-faced murderer). 

Next out of the limo is Josh, who puts Charity's hand against his heart to check his racing pulse. You know how Aaron B. earned a swoon from my fiance? Yeah, the opposite here – my partner responded to that with a firm "NOPE" and left the room for the next two hours. So congrats to Josh for failing so hard that a potential viewer had to get out of your cringe blast radius. Joey fares better – because of course he does. He's a tennis professional from Hawaii, which sounds like a character from a "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" spinoff. But most importantly: HE APPEARS TO BE A PACKERS FAN! Or at least he may have been one growing up, as I would've sworn lil' Joey was wearing a Packers jersey in a photo during his intro clip. He's a winner – sure, he amusingly hangs out with chickens and charmingly brings her a flower, but the Packers thing is obviously the most important and winning detail here. 

After I stop swooning over the Packers fan, we move onto ... Warwick? Oh wow, we're naming people Warwick still these days. THERE'S HOPE FOR A COMEBACK, ULYSSES! But anyways, Warwick bets on himself by presenting Charity with two plane tickets ready to go for hometowns week ... to Oxford, Ohio. Charity's clearly thrilled; nothing says romance and excitement like the home of the OTHER Miami University. I've been to Oxford, and unless you're REALLY into synchronized ice skating, there's no reason for you, too, to make that mistake. He's followed by Xavier, an extremely smart man with a biochemistry doctorate AND A LAB COAT (that's how you know he's smart) whose hobbies include knitting, ukeleles and having a six-pack. I see no issues here. 

Well, I do see one issue: NONE OF THESE MEN ARE THAT INTERESTING! Sure, we're in the early frontrunners and swoon-makers of the introductions right now – which normally means we should hit the oddballs and goofy guys, but apparently they all got dropped off at a different mansion this season. Instead it's just a cavalcade of Calebs and bland handsomemen. There's a guy named John Henry who shows up with a massive diving mask because he's an underwater welder and commercial diver – but somehow we move right on past that. What, we got to hear one guy talk about his knitting hobby BUT UNDERWATER WELDER WAS DEEMED TO UNINTERESTING TO DIVE INTO!? I am begging this show to deliver some seasoning to this season premiere. 

OK, we've got some spice here: After Aaron delivers a candle and Tanner from Pittsburgh does his version of the Steelers' Terrible Towl, we get Chris, professional back-flipper. Indeed, his job is professional dunker and world record holder for the highest standing jump. I'm not saying he's funny or romantic or brings a lot of personality to the table – but at least I can remember something about him. The same goes for Brayden, who looks distinctly like Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent – and he must be a superhero because he brings Charity shots for his introduction. SMART MAN! People who bring food or beverage for the introduction are people you want to keep around. 

As for people you don't particularly want to keep around: Spencer, the show's lone oddball personality of the premiere. And that personality is " ... am I supposed to be here?" Looking like the movie version of "Dear Evan Hansen," the constantly-fidgeting Spencer seems deeply lost, like he JUST found out on the limo ride over that he was en route to a dating reality show. That would help explain his first impression flirting technique as well: teaching Charity how to kick him in the nuts. She doesn't – because love is knowing you'll never have to kick your loved one in the gonads. Anyways, intriguing approach for this season to only introduce one notable character during the show's premiere and that character is "makes himself and everyone in his vicinity deeply uncomfortable."

Somehow, Spencer manages to out-oddball a Florida Man pro wrestler named Caleb. (Because apparently everyone is named Caleb this season – or, if they're a REAL wild card, Kaleb.) Indeed, after that droplet of personality and intrigue, we return to our desert of bland boys. At some point, one of Charity's guys says he's nervous because everyone's so super ecclectic and memorably creative ... cut to three guys in a row introducing themselves to Charity with "tall" as their only defining characteristic. Uh oh, looks like there's been an explosion at the QuIrKy FaCtOrY! There's so little new that we somehow got ANOTHER Peter the Pilot – and NOPE, WE'RE NOT DOING THAT AGAIN! Sorry, Pete, you might be a good guy, but I'm still dealing with my PTPSD (Peter The Pilot Stress Disorder) from a few seasons ago.

We run through a few more miscellaneous Calebs – one named John, who gives Charity a fortune cookie and also got his own dang commercial about him, so I would put money on him making it far – before we get to our final new arrival. This guy isn't here to win Charity's heart; he's here to protect it. That's right: It's Charity's brother, Nehemiah, who's here to check on all of Charity's guys and find out if any of them are hiding any personality anywhere.

OK, but actually it's to spy on them and make sure they're on the level – so Nehemiah spends the rest of the night posing as a random bartender – but decked out in fake glasses, a bad mustache, a curly wig and a fedora. I would describe this look in many ways – mainly "Bruno Mars' less-talented brother, Steven Mars" – but I would NEVER describe it using the word "convincing." The man's outfit makes the disguises in "White Chicks" look credible. He'd be more discreet if he was done up like Karl Havoc on "I Think You Should Leave." Hard to believe that none of the bros decide to talk loose about Charity or their intentions for being on the show in front of this obviously fake man, asking them probing questions at the bar while a giant Vegas neon sign blinks on and off behind him saying "NOT ON THE LEVEL." 

It certainly isn't for a lack of effort, though, because this premiere REALLY commits to the bit. So much time is spent checking in Nehemiah, learning nothing while dressed in his "Undercover Boss" best and making the world's worst mixed drinks. (You just know all these Calebs didn't tip, either.) The only thing he learns: He does NOT like hearing the guys talk about dating his sister! Turns out it's uncomfortable! Huh, maybe if you don't want to be surrounded by dudes talking about dating your sister, DON'T GO ON THE SHOW WHERE DUDES DATE YOUR SISTER. (Also: It's more than a little annoying to celebrate your 20th season of "The Bachelorette" ... by sacrificing a bunch of her season premiere to her brother's misadventures instead.)

Anyways, speaking of the dudes dating his sister, Charity does spark some chemistry during the one-on-one portion of the premiere – starting with Joey to Hawaiian tennis pro. It's not the most entertaining conversation, but Charity seems to be ABOUT IT, with her inching closer and closer to him the entire chat, eventually nuzzling into him by the end. Unfortunately Joey seemed to miss these clues, failing to top off the date conversation with a kiss – but it's a strong and memorable start. A guy named James also gets off to a nice start, delivering Charity a note from his mom talking glowingly about her son along with some apple cider and donuts. (The latter obviously better than the former.) Charity eats it up – literally, in the donuts and cider's case – calling him a precious lamb by the end of their interaction. 

It's Xavier, however, who scores the first kiss of the season from Charity – even with the rain loudly hailing down just outside the mansion, making the audio mixer's life hell behind the scenes. And John – the guy with the fortune cookie and his own promotional ad – isn't far behind either, earning a kiss that sends him swooning and flipping out. Not literally flipping out: He leaves that to the professional, aka Chris, who shows off his jumping skills – which someone gets our Florida Man pro wrestler into the actual, performing a very different kind of flip on our poor world-record holder.

It's all A Lot – but still no competition for tic-y Spencer, who has a secret to reveal to Charity. (Dangit, Nehemiah; this is exactly the kind of dirt you were supposed to be snooping out!) No, he's not secretly Ben Platt in "Dear Evan Hansen": He's a single father with a child back home in the real world. Charity – stiff in the premiere but seemingly unflappable in the face of dudes literally flipping out in front of her – seems unfazed by the news, responding thoughtfully and putting Spencer's fears to rest that she'd immediately cross him off for it. No worries, my man; she's got all your previous interactions for that. 

After that pitstop, Charity continues her world tour of tongue-tying on the premiere, with her next stop being Aaron B., the initial first man out of the limo, who's now busted out a Casio piano and is playing hotel lobby jazz for her – apparently well enough to earn a serious makeout session! Bodes well for the "first one out of the limo" succeess trend!

Elsewhere, Nehemiah is CONCERNED – and not just because some of the guys are kinda, sorta picking up on the fact that the extremely fake-looking bartender might not be who he seems. No, he's concerned about Aaron S., a firefighter who played charming fire extinguisher games with Charity and who confided to Nehemiah and others that he was skeptical of "The Bachelorette" process when he first signed up. HOW DARE HE QUESTION THE GOOD NAME OF THIS REALITY FRANCHISE!? You're telling me a guy might wonder if a show with a success rate in the 20 percent range, where one person dates 25 others at the same time while cameras, producers and America judge, is an effective and genuine strategy at finding love?! THAT'S A DEALBREAKER!

Nehemiah moves off that mild concern to a EVEN MILDER concern, though, as he gets to know Clark Kent (aka Brayden, but I'm never calling him that again). During his solo time with Charity, the two emotionally bond over giving over too much in relationships and letting their partners take too much in the past, eventually literally bonding over a prolonged makeout sesh. GOOD FOR THEM! Clark Kent is just smitten by the whole thing, he just can't stop talking about it – telling the guys, the bartenders, the tapestries on the wall about how their time went. It's not humble, but it sure doesn't seem problematic – just a guy happy that he made a real connection with a lovely woman on a date. But THE PRODUCERS I MEAN, NEHEMIAH WON'T STAND FOR IT! Something – ANYTHING! – must come from this spying subplot, and now we've got it: Clark Kent is SECRETLY ARROGANT!

Before he brings his DAMNING report to his sister, Nehemiah reveals to the guys that – shock of all shocks – he's not actually a mustachioed, curly-haired, fedora-loving bartender just hanging out at the mansion. The real twist? How many of the guys act like Lucille Bluth getting fooled by Gene Parmesan. 

OK, but if you were genuinely stunned by this reveal, that should be immediately disqualifying. Charity should review the tape after this episode and boot off anyone who seemed surprised. That guy who said "That's not a real mustache!?" Gone. You cannot be trusted in the real world. You will almost certainly spend your joint emergency bank account on Bored Ape NFTs. The only reasonable excuse is you didn't want Nehemiah to feel bad for spending the past 12 hours in crappy disguise, so you gave him a pity gasp. Otherwise, off to the driveway with you.

While the guys adjust to this new altered reality where bartender Steven Mars is a lie, Nehemiah brings his report to Charity that Clark Kent is DARING to be a little too happy about how much he likes her. Truly devastating intel that Charity immediately brings to Clark Kent, pulling him aside ... and giving him the first impression rose. I can't believe "this guy likes you so much, he can't stop talking about you" didn't make Charity want to send him home! Maybe Clark Kent will turn out to be a cocky villain later as the season goes along – and judging by the pretentious actor scarf shawl he wears in the future, the odds are good – but for now, he's just a guy happily in love. Can't hate him ... yet. (Again, beware the scarf shawl to come.) 

The two return to the rest of the guys giggling and happy, leaving the rest of the dudes – and the audience – shaken that this whole spy plot was a waste of everyone's time and of a really bad wig and makeup set. 

Anyways, the REAL twist of the night was yet to come at the rose ceremony. Most of the ritual went as expected – guys we recognized got roses, guys we're not sure we ever heard speak didn't, somehow it was dawn already – except for the very end when the final rose went ... to SPENCER! A victory for awkward dudes and flirtatious nut-kick conversations everywhere! And an unprecedented defeat for Chris the high-jumping hero. I guess, for Charity, the idea of keeping him around another week was just ... too far of a leap. (*drops mic that I was holding while writing this entire article for some reason*)

One episode down, six dudes eliminated ... and not one particularly memorable moment to grip onto after Charity's premiere. But hey, the first episode is always the worst, always cramming so many introductions and elements into a short period of time that nothing actually makes an impact. That's for the rest of the season – so here's to this historic season making my boredom history after this intro episode.

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.