And yes, you read that right. We haven’t traveled back in time. It is 2018, and the Bachelor is Arie. As we’ve observed, the choice to cast the 36-year-old professional auto racing driver slash realtor — who was the runner-up on Emily Maynard‘s season of The Bachelorette in 2012, and hasn’t appeared on the franchise since — was met with mixed reactions.
But rest easy, Bachelor nation. He may not be Peter Kraus, but on Monday’s premiere, Arie performed all of his Bachelor duties with poise and grace. It turns out he’s also quite endearing, and funny, and his silver foxy gray hair grows on you. But Arie’s main appeal is that he takes us back to the good old Bachelor days, where you didn’t know too much about the lead. For starters, we haven’t all been watching Arie sell tea on Instagram for the last six years. In fact, we don’t really know all that much about Arie, or 2018 Arie, at least, which means he kind of has a clean slate. Where he takes it from here, only time will tell — but in the spirit of turning over a new leaf in the new year, let’s give this handsome suitor a fair chance.
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Arie’s premiere kicks off in classic Bachelor fashion: a cheesy intro (he’s gearing up for “the most important race” of his life!), followed by a highlight reel of his previous franchise experience (TL;DR: Emily broke his heart, and then she didn’t even bother reading that journal he gave her), capped off with a visit from previous Bachelor stars. This time it’s Sean and Catherine Lowe, who share one son and have another baby on the way. In Arie’s words, they’re “overachieving.”
Arie confesses that he hasn’t been in love since he was on The Bachelorette, and somewhere, all of his recent ex-girlfriends just screamed in unison as they drown their sorrows in a glass bottle of wine.
Then, the race is on for Arie’s heart! Enter the 29 women in the running — about half of whom, coincidentally, happen to work in real estate. For the most part, this is pretty much your textbook Bachelor cast. In the spirit of originality, there are no less than four Laurens. There’s also the small-town sweetheart (Tia, who is friends with Raven Gates and looks like a cross between JoJo Fletcher and Becca Tilley), the quirky one (Kendall, who’s obsessed with taxidermy), the bubbly blonde (Krystal, who actually sounds kind of sedated), and the one not here to make friends (Chelsea, a single mom who is about to Olivia Caridi this whole season).
Honestly, disappointed by the limo arrivals this season. None of them hold a candle to Alexis, our beloved shark/dolphin. But here are a few highlights:
Tia, who is from Weiner, Arkansas, gives Arie a little wiener — but not before asking if he already has one.
Becca K., who has Arie get down on one knee for her. Girl knows what she’s doing.
Bekah M., who pulls up in a ’65 cherry red Mustang, sparking the ire of every other contestant who didn’t think of doing that.
Maquel, who pulls up in an actual race car. Bye, Bekah!
Honorable mention to all the Laurens, who were forced to meet Arie one after the other.
THE COCKTAIL PARTY
The first woman to grab Arie once the night is underway is Chelsea. It’s immediately obvious that Chelsea is going to be the “villain,” or at least one of them, this season. She’s a single mom, but opts not to disclose that information to Arie immediately because she’s fixated on remaining “mysterious.” Seems ill-advised, but you do you, Chelsea.
The night wears on, and the women grow progressively more and more anxious to meet with the man of the hour. Many of them choose to use their limited time for random gimmicks, like Lauren G., who feeds Arie pineapple because that’s her “safe word,” or Jenna, who rambles nonsensically as she gives Arie a foot massage.
But others appear to click rather well with him, especially Bekah. They don’t kiss, but he does seem particularly intrigued by her and her pixie cut.
The first kiss of the night goes to Brittany T. after she surprises him with a miniature car race in the driveway. It’s really just a perfunctory kiss, part of a silly bet the two had made, but she walks away breathless, gushing that his lips are like “clouds and pillows.” ABC is really trying to sell us on that whole kissing bandit thing.
The second kiss of the night, or the first real kiss, goes to Chelsea after she decides to interrupt Arie’s time with Krystal so that she can get a second round with him.
It’s painfully obvious, however, that Chelsea only does this to one-up the rest of the women, because as soon as they’re done kissing, she scuttles right back into the house to announce that she just “met” Arie for the second time. (Who says that? You “meet” someone once.)
“It was awesome,” she tells the girls. “He’s still like, the same charming person.” The same guy as when you first met him earlier in the night? You don’t say! But Chelsea must have done something right, because she gets the coveted First Impression Rose.
RELATED VIDEO: The Bachelor‘s Arie Luyendyk Jr. Says He Fell for Two Women on the Show
THE ROSE CEREMONY
Finally, it’s time for the rose ceremony. The 29 women, exhausted and delirious from the night — the sun has already risen by now — shuffle into the living room to find out who will be sent home, humiliated and at this point, probably already hung over.
Farewell, Alison, Amber, Bri, Brittane J., Jessica, Nysha, Olivia, and one of the Laurens. We hardly knew ya.
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.