Happy tragic single mother's day, rose lovers! I hope life has treated you well in the nine weeks since we last spoke, and that you're rested and ready to embark on yet another romantic "journey." I've gotta be honest, folks -- I'm a little apprehensive about this season. It's so much easier to handle this show when the Bachelorette is simply a dingbat (Ashley) or a purely unlikeable phony (Ali, aka Queen of Bitch Mountain) -- but the prospect of watching a seemingly decent yet misguided person feed herself into the psychological threshing machine known as The Bachelorette is extremely stressful for me. And really, isn't my comfort what matters here?
Well, my comfort and the emotional well-being of a 6-year-old girl, I suppose. The episode opens on the picturesque family tableau of Bachelorette Emily and her little girl Ricki at a park, feeding geese and having a who-can-swing-higher contest, as Emily elucidates her hopes via deliberately-spoken voiceover: "My ultimate goal in all of this is to meet somebody that I could marry and have children with and that could be that father figure in Ricki's life." (I'll get all weepy if I talk about Emily's heart-tugging backstory, so I won't -- if you don't know it, watch it here.) So release those red balloons of hope into the sky and brush the sugar bugs out of your teeth, Ricki, because it's time to go to bed... but not before you recite your line: "I'm thankful for love." Awwww. Nighty-night, sleep tight -- in a few weeks, you just may wake up with a new daddy!
Or, should I say, another new daddy? Emily's first attempt at finding her fairy tale on TV ended well -- "Without a doubt, I thought Brad was going to be my husband" -- and then just ended. But there are no hard feelings... and now Emily is ready to saddle up and ride down that reality TV road again. Or, as she says, "Put on your big girl panties and move on with it," quoting the great T-shirt philosopher Hanesocrates. After all, she gets lonely at night, especially after 7:30, when Ricki goes to bed. (Side note: I'm a sucker. My 2-year-old has conned me into believing that bedtime is 8 o'clock.) Miraculously, we get through this Learning to Love Again montage with nary a shot of Emily doing exercising outdoors in a jog bra and spandex booty shorts... wow, maybe this season of The Bachelorette really will be different!
Perhaps the biggest change is to Casa Bachelorette -- a role that's now being played by a Charlotte, N.C. abode we'll call the Perpetual Husband Plantation. Our fearless host Chris Harrison (sorry to hear the news, buddy) greets us in the PHP's flagstone courtyard to introduce us to the 25 guys who will be jamming emotional shivs in between each other's ribs in a fight to the death for Emily:
Kalon, 25, Houston: This "luxury brand consultant" has money, a lisp possibly caused by invisible braces, oversized glasses, and a new determination to be less of a douche and more "kind of, responsible, down to earth."
Ryan, 31, Georgia: A former pro-football player who now works as a trainer for athletes and kids. By the time he's through with them, they'll be able to flip that tractor tire or spring an internal hemorrhage trying! He thinks Emily is special, and his dog looks well cared for, which is always a good sign.
NEXT: Soul patch, skateboard, severe traumatic brain injury