‘The Bachelorette’s Dual-Lead Season Is Already a ‘Big F*cking Mess’

Have Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia not suffered enough? On Monday night, for the first time ever, The Bachelorette introduced not one, but two women embarking on an international, lightly spray-tanned quest to find love. Rachel and Gabby, who together survived the disaster that was former Bachelor Clayton Echard, seem perfectly matched to support one

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Have Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia not suffered enough?

On Monday night, for the first time ever, The Bachelorette introduced not one, but two women embarking on an international, lightly spray-tanned quest to find love. Rachel and Gabby, who together survived the disaster that was former Bachelor Clayton Echard, seem perfectly matched to support one another through what will certainly be an unprecedented ride.

But if you think The Bachelorette is going to make these two women’s “journeys” easy… have you ever watched The Bachelorette?

Gabby and Rachel were among Clayton’s final three contestants earlier this year, along with eventual winner Susie Evans. Gabby is an ICU nurse whose quick, delightfully deadpan humor made her an instant fan favorite; Rachel, a flight instructor, instantly charms with her earnest sweetness. More imperative to their popularity in Bachelor Nation, however, was the way they came together when Clayton unceremoniously dumped them at the same time (after telling them both he loved them, and sleeping with both of them).

The supportive bond Gabby and Rachel developed in those grueling episodes and afterward is the bedrock upon which this Bachelorette season is supposedly built. But is it structurally sound? Tensions are bound to run high as they comb their way through their 32 contestants—the biggest batch of hunks in Bachelorette history.

Bachelor alum Jesse Palmer, who stepped in earlier this year to host Clayton’s season after Chris Harrison’s ouster, has now officially taken the reins from stop-gap Bachelorette hosts Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams. His first act as Bachelorette host? To tell us he knows… basically nothing.

Palmer opened the season with a series of extremely good, seemingly important questions: How will Gabby and Rachel navigate dating these guys? What happens if they fall for the same heavily pomaded medical sales rep? Do the men need to lock in their choices between the women at any point? “Honestly, I’m not really sure,” Palmer tells viewers. “But I’m confident that Gabby and Rachel can figure it out.” One might think that would be the producers’ job, but sure!

Gabby and Rachel seem as up to the challenge as anyone. Once a person has survived something like finding out their ex is simultaneously in love with three women, they can likely “figure out” anything. Still, that doesn’t mean they should have to—especially on a show that’s supposed to be a fantasy.

We begin our quest for love at the Villa de la Vina in Malibu Hills. Gabby’s Grandpa John, a fiery quote machine introduced during Clayton’s season, shows up to send her off from her home in Colorado and will certainly appear again before the season wraps. As we already know, thanks to some spoiler photos, Gabby, Rachel, and the gang will be stamping their passports in grand ole Paris before long. But first, we must cull the herd. On to the limo entrances!

The introductory jokes were about as natural as ever—a nice blend of Clayton digs, jokes about dating two women, and bizarro pick-up lines that would have been best left unsaid.

Logan, a videographer from California who looks like Eric Bana with Jason Mraz energy, showed up with a pair of baby birds in his hands—because “when I heard there was gonna be two Bachelorettes, I figured I should practice hanging out with a couple of cute chicks all the time.” Floridian software designer Jordan H. brought soundproof headphones so that he could speak with each woman individually without the other hearing. At one point, a limo pulled into the driveway and released a choir of children singing “Clayton sucks!”

The Clayton jokes kept coming long after Gabby and Rachel started to sour on them. “I’ve got something in common with Clayton,” investment banker Jason said. “I’m in love with three women: my mom, my sister, and my dog.”

And then you had your genuinely baffling ones. Quincey, a life coach from Miami, chose a particularly odd pitch for himself: “I’m a person who’s really intentional,” he said. “I haven’t had sex in a year and almost a half. I’ve been saving it for the right person.” Gabby’s response? “That makes one of us.”

The limo entrances are always a bit of a dud by now, but some standout dudes did emerge as the night went on. Gabby clearly hit it off with Ryan, an investment director from Boston who actually seems capable of keeping up with her humor. (He’s already got a nickname for her—“Gabbers.” How do we feel about that one?) Rachel, meanwhile, definitely vibed with fellow Floridian Jordan H., who hails from Tampa. In a major twist, however, she actually seemed more interested in another Tampon—leisure executive Hayden. It’s fair enough; Hayden looks like a Ken doll, and he wrote her a birthday letter in anticipation of their meeting. In this crowd, that’s a check and mate!

As much as The Bachelorette has hyped up its dual-Bachelorette season, however, Night One felt a little… stale. The producers’ refusal to impose some structure on this romantic Hieronymus Bosch painting might yield some explosive reality-television mess later in the season, but the uncertainty of how any of this will work seemed to drag down the premiere. “If I kissed both of them, I don’t know how that would work,” one understandably befuddled contestant said. Added Ryan: “It’s a delicate process where you can’t come on too strong, but you have to be a little bit selfish and just be you [and] figure out, is there that instant chemistry?” Nothing kills the sexy vibes in a room quite like a mindfuck like this.

The producers’ refusal to impose some structure on this romantic Hieronymus Bosch painting might yield some explosive reality-television mess later in the season, but the uncertainty of how any of this will work seemed to drag down the premiere.

By the time Gabby shared the night’s first kiss with Mario from Naperville, Illinois, I’d nearly fallen asleep. Thankfully, the personal trainer is actually a good conversationalist—and not just by Bachelor standards. His questions, specifically about how Gabby’s experience with Clayton affected her outlook on relationships, were insightful and genuine.

From that conversation onward, about halfway through the episode, things started to pick up for both members of the Clayton Echard Survivors Society. Not long after Gabby and Mario snogged on the patio, Rachel planted her first kiss on Californian general contractor Justino “Tino” Franco. (No relation to those other Francos.)

Of all the men featured Monday night, Tino seemed to be working the hardest. He staged a humorous but sweet kiss for himself and Rachel at the bottom of the stairs—the same place Rachel cried her eyelashes off and broke a nail after the Great Clayton Debacle. (I realize that this sounds absurd, but in Bachelorette parlance, it’s basically the equivalent of a Shakespearean sonnet.)

More fun for us viewers chomping popcorn at home, however, were the guys who already seemed to be playing the field. Who would have thought that Logan Two Chicks would manage to spark a connection with both Rachel and Gabby? Reader, I will readily admit that was not me. The other smooth operator to watch would be Erich, a real estate analyst from New Jersey with a mullet and a nice beard—and a little jealousy.

Although Logan and Erich each seemed to hit it off with both our Bachelorettes, neither formed a strong enough connection to take home the First Impression Rose. Both Gabby and Rachel handed those over to their respective first kisses, Mario and Tino.

As always, not everyone had time to meet our Bachelorettes during the cocktail party, which wrapped up with the usual hemming and hawing from men who never got face time with their prospective lady loves. This time around, however, Gabby and Rachel deliberated among themselves before calling Jesse over to make a request: Could they cancel the rose ceremony? So effusive was Jesse in his acquiescence, it almost sounded like he was ready to throw in a pair of free jet skis just for the hell of it.

Why would The Bachelorette, a stickler for arbitrary rules if ever there was one, allow Gabby and Rachel to cancel this ceremony? As with so many things in Bachelor Nation, the answer might come down to appearances.

The optics around this season are, for those of us old enough to remember Kaitlyn Bristowe’s Bachelorette season, already pretty suspect. In 2src15, the show’s 11th season staged an on-air face-off between Kaitlyn and her fellow Bachelor alum Britt Nilsson during the premiere. The goal? To determine which woman their male contestants liked better; whoever won would become Bachelorette. The move, never attempted on The Bachelor, was both degrading and controversial.

There was reason to believe this move with Rachel and Gabby might feel different. In a post-Fboy Island world, we know it’s possible to create a dating show in which multiple leads quench their thirst from the same pool of lunks. On that show, created by former Bachelor producer Elan Gale, three women date their way through a shared pool of “Nice Guys” and “FBoys,” marking their preferred candidates with beaded necklaces along the way and sharing information as they go to determine who among their guys is there “for the right reasons” and who is not.

It would seem that everything Gabby and Rachel faced last season with Clayton was only training for the shitshow to come.

Given similar structures in place, Gabby and Rachel could plausibly hang out with the same guys while still maintaining control as Bachelorettes. From what we saw during Monday’s premiere, however, things quickly went off the rails. At one point, Gabby described her and Rachel’s situation as a “big fucking mess.”

It would seem that everything Gabby and Rachel faced last season with Clayton was only training for the shitshow to come. A preview clip for the rest of the season finds some men “on the fence” about which of the women they’d actually like to date. Other men, meanwhile, reject Rachel’s roses at elimination ceremonies, proclaiming their feelings for her friend instead. The same seems to happen to Gabby at least once. One guy “changed his mind” about which woman he’d like to date, while Logan can be seen telling Gabby he still has feelings “on the other side.” (Perhaps one of his chicks can explain that bizarre choice of words.)

Once again, Rachel appears to be crushed. “It seems cruel for both of us to be put in this place together,” we hear her say through tears at one point. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to fall in love when no one gives a shit about me.”

Again I ask: Seriously, have these two not suffered enough?

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