Who should “win” this season of The Bachelor?

The Bachelor
Photo: ABC/Craig Sjodin

Though it’s ostensibly about “dating” or “finding love,” ABC’s The Bachelor is inherently a competition that a group of 30 or so people are all trying to win—though what it means to “win” means something different to each person. Oh sure, they all say they’re there to meet their true love and be with them forever, as if none of them have ever heard of statistics or bothered to Google the vast majority of couples who met on The Bachelor, and that’s certainly true for some of them. But that’s only “winning” if you have more heart than sense. The best way to win is to get near the end, have The Bachelor break your heart in some dramatic fashion where it is explicitly clear that neither of you is the bad guy, and then you get to be the star of the next season of The Bachelorette.

However each person defines it, somebody has to winand reality TV being what it is, the seeds of who will win have to be planted in the very first episode—especially when we’re talking about The Bachelor, which has to introduce all of its contestants in its first episode. So, with the new season of The Bachelor kicking off this week and new Bachelor Zach Shallcross making his debut, let’s try and decide who could (or should) win.

First, what do we know about Zach Shallcross? He says himself in the premiere episode that the most important things in the world to him are “football, family, and frozen pizzas,” so we’re not dealing with someone who takes himself especially seriously. He’s a bro, certainly, but a bit on the doofier side. Like, if he had a choice between going to the gym or a puppet show, he might have to think about it for a bit before ultimately choosing to go work out.

Of the 30 women introduced in the first episode, all vying for a shot at being the next Bachelorette (or “falling in love” or whatever), a few missed the mark entirely. A woman named Holland noted that, when Zach went on a date in Holland (as in, the Netherlands) when he was on The Bachelorette, things didn’t work out there because he was “in the wrong Holland.” A nice adult joke, but Zach didn’t seem to appreciate the sex-positivity, and Holland ultimately went home without a rose.

Another bad introduction came from a woman named Gabi who proudly declared that she is from Vermont and that all people in Vermont drink maple syrup. She presented Zach with a bottle and excitedly watched him take a sip, and then got truly offended when he seemed to be absolutely disgusted by it. Yeah, it’s syrup. It’s a condiment! By the way, the maple syrup thing isn’t as cute as you think it is, Vermont. Learn to be a little more embarrassed about it, like people in Wisconsin are with cheese.

Speaking of Wisconsin, a woman named Madison (she’s from North Dakota, but Madison is a city in Wisconsin) drove a lot of juicy reality TV drama early on when she tried to repeatedly insert herself into interactions Zach was having with other women. But the show’s editing quickly turned her storyline into exploitative reality TV trash that everyone involved should be ashamed of (including the viewers!). She voluntarily chose to go home before the actual Rose Ceremony, and the camera held on her for what felt like several minutes as she walked from Zach (after he rejected her) to a waiting van, crying the whole time. Who needs dignity? Isn’t reality TV fun?!

But two women in the premiere actually did very well: The first, Christina Mandrell, is the only one of the women who has a last name (Mandrell, as in The Mandrell Sisters, because even The Bachelor cannot escape nepo babies), and she made a point to control basically every moment once the whole crew arrived at the famous Bachelor mansion. She does n’t seem like a fascinatingly interesting person, but everyone—especially Zach Shallcross—came away knowing who she is and that her name is Christina Mandrell. It was actually a little weird when Zach gave her a rose at the end of the episode and called her “Christina.” They didn’t put “Christina Mandrell” on every damn chyron so you could treat her like some normal personZach.

The Bachelor

The Bachelor
Photo: ABC/Craig Sjodin

The other frontrunner put in a good showing from the moment she was introduced in a pre-taped intro video (which, it should be said, not everyone gets). Her name is Greer, and she was introduced hanging out alone at a park, asking the cameraperson if you’re supposed to open champagne by shaking it up, and then scaring the shit out of a nearby squirrel when the bottle exploded. She then took a moment to meet a stranger’s dog and talked about herself in the third person. She’s a cartoon character, which is at least an interesting and definable personality.

When she arrived at the mansion, she explained to Zach that she lives in New York and brought him a cup of coffee “all the way from New York”—as if they don’t sell coffee anywhere else. It was a stupid gag, setting up that he’ll need the caffeine so they can stay up late and get to know each other, but then she handed him the coffee cup and walked away. He must’ve had to figure out what to do with the cup after that! Even the maple syrup woman took the syrup with her when she was done with her stupid bit.

Greer’s completely deranged behavior made her the favorite right away, but the only opinion that matters is Zach’s, and he actually agrees: Given a chance to present one of the women with a First Impression Rose that serves as some kind of Survivor Immunity Idol (the recipient is exempt from the Rose Ceremony and gets a free pass for next week), he chose to give it to Greer. And he didn’t even get to see the absurd champagne bottle behavior! He was just going off of her coffee gag her and the fact that she made a wild speech about how she always wanted to live in Texas like he does.

Lots of people live in Texas, it’s really not that interesting, but for a football/family/frozen pizzas guy like Zach? That might just be what it takes to “win” The Bachelor, or at least to stick around long enough to make more of an impression. If Greer can keep up the quietly zany behavior in the face of Christina Mandrell’s more in-your-face-ness, she could be—or at least should be—a lock to take home the Bachelor crown (ie fall in “love” or be the star of a follow-up show).


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