By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 14, 2020 at 6:16 AM

Make sure to play along with "The Bachelorette" with Kesslers and SportClub's Bachelorette Fantasy League!

It's a new star, a new mansion and a new batch of Trents all vying for attention on a new season of "The Bachelorette," made for and during a new normal. And here's something else fittingly new: a season that should be already over. No, really; that's not just me chugging wine straight from the bottle talking sassy, and it's not some socially conscious commentary about hosting a dating show during a global pandemic. It's me, as a person genuinely watching this show, pointing out that its services are already done. And also probably a little bit of the vino talking BUT ANYWAYS, LET'S RECAP THE SHOW!

The birds are chirping. Crowds are walking on boardwalks without a care. Live audiences are cheering in TV studios. WHAT STRANGE UTOPIA IS THIS!? Ah yes, the world back in February. Meanwhile, in this strange past paradise world, Clare Crawley takes the "Bachelorette" gig from Harrison on a Facetime call (wow, ahead of the curve) and starts reliving her past high-profile heartbreaks while leaning against pier posts, staring into the middle distance, drawing hearts in the sand and bumping into people in public who recognize her back when that was still a thing that could happen. But after failing to find love on the show before, Clare's ready to try again – and nothing's going to stand in her way. Nope, no global cataclysms in sight here!


So COVID-19 hits, and boy, is it strange to watch signature melodramatic "Bachelorette" camerawork and poses used to dramatize a pandemic. There's Clare, staring forelorn out the window, not because of having to decide between various generically handsome Trents but because she's sheltering in place during a global outbreak. It is ... strange.

While in limbo, she slept a lot and made cookies and briefly turned into a dog – you know, the usual. Finally, she receives word from Harrison: They're set to try again, thanks to a new location and a bunch of COVID tests creating a bubble. Hold on a second: "THE BACHELORETTE" GOT RAPID COVID TESTING, AND THE REST OF US DON'T!? They got enough tests to check everyone daily for a 14-day quarantine – and likely beyond – while the rest of us are lucky if we've got a pop-up testing spot at a CVS? Glad we got our priorities covered and made sure that this glorified televised speed dating got rapid testing before, say, teachers.

But anyways, after two weeks of negative tests – the final one dramatically revealed to Clare by Harrison, because why not milk some bonus drama out of a person's health during a deadly pandemic – we're ready to start the show. And thank god, because this mix of dopey reality drama and real-life pandemic nightmare is making me hit the grape squeezings even harder than usual. 

Here's a sentence I'd never thought I'd say: Bring me some relief and summon me the handsome Instagram bros!

Indeed, via some cell phone videos, we meet the fellas as they fly into the new location and admire the glamour of a La Quinta gated community. Before the show can truly begin, they need to quarantine and test for two weeks. Can't have anything going around when you're potentially making out with two dozen boyfriends! The guys all test negative for COVID but positive for being cowards who can't handle a swab up the nose without crying in pain all over on their Insta stories.

We don't get to learn much here – normally this would be the getting-to-know-you segments, filmed in their hometowns, but with a pandemic, sending camera guys across the country obviously got nixed – but there are a few notable details. There's one guy with fun energy who makes a fake Clare to join him in the bathtub while quarantining – JUUUUST cute and goofy enough to avoid being creepy. (Additionally helping his cause: He's Canadian.) Then there's Bennett, who MUST BE LAUNCHED INTO THE SUN. The man is a Harvard grad – and yes, he leads with that – who's basically if a Blu-ray of "American Psycho" became sentient. Even complete with the unsettling facemask! RUN CLARE; HE'S KILLED BEFORE, AND HE'LL KILL AGAIN! Anyways, it's not a matter of if he loves "The Wolf of Wall Street" but which rooms in his penthouse apartment are literally wallpapered with the movie poster. 

But enough about Patrick Bateman. Clare and Harrison have one final sitdown to talk about this very strange season they're about to endeavor. At one point, Harrison points out that, "No one else has a chance to fall in love like this right now." Uhhh, Harrison, that's EVERY season of "The Bachelorette." Even without a pandemic, no one else is normally going around dating 30 other people and eliminating them week by week. This show is NEVER normal.

But anyways: SUMMON THE BROS!

The first out of the limo is Ben, an army ranger who does a deep breathing exercise with Clare. Deep breathing at each other from inches away: COME ON, THERE'S COVID AFOOT! That aside, Ben seems fine, but Clare seems more intererested in him as a therapist than husband. Then there's an attorney named Riley who busts out a "guilty as charged" pun. I personally would've gone with, "I object ... to anyone else getting a rose but me!" (Because then she could say, "Sustained," and look at that, we've made witty banter.) But his version works too. In general, everyone's fine so far ... but also kind of bland. 

Thankfully, a pregnant man arrives. 

Indeed, former lineman Jason shows up with a bun in the oven – but thankfully this isn't some weird real-life "Junior" situation; it's just a nod to how Clare made her first impression when she met Juan Pablo all those seasons ago. And that all worked out so well! Who else ... there's Ivan, an aeronautical engineer – translation: someone too smart to be on this show – and Kenny, a boy band manager complete with five bonus inches of gelled-up boy band hair. He's wearing a shirt with Clare's dogs on them, so she takes the opportunity to pet them, aka stroke his underboob. It is strange, and I did not like it. 

After a person with a bowtie, Mike the Canadian arrives gifting Clare with flats to wear when her feet get tired. CANADIANS, MAN, THEY'RE JUST BETTER THAN US. I want to be a Canadian when I grow up. Then there's Jeremy, who promises to make Clare laugh then proceeds to not say a single remotely amusing thing, and Tyler C., a lawyer from West Virginia with an intense accent and the world's cleanest retro station wagon. I shall call him The Lincoln Lawyer.

And speaking of cars, a Rolls Royce pulls in next, so you know who's next: Yep, sentient jawbone Bennett, wearing a scarf that screams, "I've taken your grandmother's money and sold her bad stock advice." I don't know what happened next on the show because I punched the screen and broke the TV. Thankfully, I didn't miss anyone particularly memorable, just another guy named Blake and a few other dudes who might as well be named Blake too. I will not tell any of them apart. 

To my relief, somebody finally shows up with some personality and swagger: Eazy, who busts through a fun "future husband" sign in a salmon suit, keeping the show's fashionable tradition alive. It's certainly a better look than Jay, who shows up in a straitjacket. Because I like my first impression on a date to be, "I'm a lunatic who can't be trusted with my own hands and arms."

Yes, we've reached the prop portion of tonight's programming, with a guy named Chasen showing up in knight's armor, another fella named Demar in a parachute, a contestant named Ed rolling in quite literally in a bubble and two guys – Yusef and Jordan – showing up with snacks. Eazy's getting annoyed people don't seem to be taking this seriously, showing up like Carrot Top for a stand-up set, and I get it – but then again, Yusef brought moon pies so I wouldn't complain. 

None of that matters, though, because Dale has arrived. Dale is a former football player who Clare wants to marry NOW. She is immediately flustered by his handsomeness and charm, and as soon as he leaves, she says she thinks she met her husband. WELP, I GUESS THE SEASON'S OVER; BYE FOLKS! SURE WAS A WASTE OF RAPID COVID TESTS! (*credits run*) Harrison immediately pops out of the shrubbery to talk to Clare about her newly felt infatuation – and also to politely remind her that she's contractually obligated to film 12 more episodes so TOO BAD IF YOU'VE ALREADY FALLEN IN LOVE! You wonder if this process is actually helpful in finding love if it's forcing you to date other people after you've found your one! Though based on the previews, we'll see if those dozen episodes actually happen ... 

Anyways, some other guys show up, but none of them are Dale, so they're useless and can pack it up and bail early if they want. No one will notice – not Clare and certainly not me!

With all the guys arrived and munching on moon pies, it's time to cocktail party and small talk. Clare tells the collected Trents that, "I know what I'm looking for; I know what I want." Yeah, we know, Clare. We saw: His name is Dale, and now we're just politely waiting for the inevitable.

In the meantime, the guys start stealing Clare away for chatting time. The first guy chats her up; I don't know who he was, but I'll assume he was a Blake. Eazy and Clare talk about puppies and meeting someone nice for their mother's sake. And then ... she chats with Dale. The world stops. The birds chirp. My god, just call it a show already. She's clearly in the palm of his hand, eagerly hanging on his every word. I've heard that often the lead of this show normally has someone picked by night one, and that the show has to come up with conflicts to make it seem as though the choice hasn't already been made – and I guess that story editor was fired in the interim. Either that, or they better start coming up with something pretty good to knock these two apart. Might I recommend a meteor?

In the hopes of distracting you from Dale already winning, here's one guy with a carnival hammer game and another guy who brings what sounds like the Cones of Dunshire but made of origami. Meanwhile, Straitjacket Jay continues to wear his straitjacket. The only benefit here is that Clare can clearly identify who you are. On the negative side, though, you're definitely the most sober one there because you can't hold a drink. Or maybe someone's pouring the alcohol into his mouth like a helpful butler? I have such questions. 

Unfortunately, there's no time for my Straitjacket Jay queries, because there is DRAMA! Yusef, the moon pie delivery guy, is charming Clare when The Lincoln Lawyer spills that he KNOWS THINGS about Yusef. BAD THINGS! And what is this secret information that will blow him up in Clare's eyes? Yusef ... is reckless on Instagram. Yes, according to The Lincoln Lawyer, Yusef flirted with people on Instagram during their quarantine. I, for one, am SHOCKED that guys on this show would turn out to be douchebags sliding into DMs on social media. SHOCKED I TELL YOU!

Clare decides to settle this like a grownup and has the guys sit down with her to explain the situation, but she – and the audience – get bored of them making a lot out of frankly a little, so she bails to talk to more interesting company. Maybe even Straitjacket Jay? (Ha, no, of course not.) Good for her, though. I get frustrated when the show introduces its "Bachelorette" lead as a STRONG woman who KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS, only to force her to keep around plainly toxic bros for the sake of dragging out drama, making her look bad in the process. (But enough about Hannah B.'s season!) Hopefully Clare makes things simple and sends both Yusef and The Lincoln Lawyer home. Keep the moon pies, though.

There's still more drama, however, as Clare goes to chat with one of the Blakes, who reached out to her during the show's fallow period when her mom got hurt. (Surprise! This nice guy? Also a Canadian.) As Clare points out, that's unfortunately against the rules of the show. Fortunately for Blake, she doesn't care and, in fact, actually appreciates that he reached out and cared – so much so, he gets the first kiss of the season. BUT HE'S NOT DALE! I'M CONFUSED! Anyways, this won't be the last we hear of this rule-breaking – especially if Harrison has anything to say about it. Prediction: This will be the source of the drama that leads to the tension we're seeing in the previews between Clare and the rest of the Trents. But in the meantime, enjoy Blake!

So does this mean that there's some intrigue about who might get the first impression rose? Nah. Surprise: It goes to the guy whose name rhymes with Zale, with Clare pointing out that he's the one she wants to keep talking to, even when she's talking with the other guys. (Sorry, Blake.)

At least Blake gets the first rose at the evening's rose ceremony. Everyone else pretty much gets a rose too. Straitjacket Jay gets a rose. The guy who fake proposed with a ring box with a mini farting butt inside – THIS IS ALL TRUE – gets a rose. Even Patrick Bateman gets a rose, which forces me to crack open wine bottle number seven on the night. The big final rose essentially comes down to Yusef or The Lincoln Lawyer, and in the end, Clare choses Yusef because snitches get stitches, not roses. A shame – though mainly just because I liked The Lincoln Lawyer as a nickname. He leaves along with AJ, Chris, Jeremy, Jordan, Mike, Page and Robby, who were all technically people on this show. 

And so that's night one – though it feels like it's already over with Dale already claimed as Clare's husband. The show's certainly hoping to distract from that with a lot of drama, though, if the previews are to be believed, between one sulky guy slamming her age like a full jagbag to the whole collection of Trents and Blakes marching out in protest and even Harrison telling Clare to shut the show down – and this is a guy who filmed around racism and sexual assault scandals in recent years. Even he's like, "This is too toxic."

Does this mean the show will have a second Bachelorette? And is that the worst idea I've ever heard? I'll guess we'll just have to keep watching "The Clare and Dale Courtship Hour" to find out. 

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.