On Monday night, fans of ABC's The Bachelorette got their first taste of Emily Maynard's season. And, oh, what a long, strange trip this is going to be.
As host Chris Harrison reminded viewers, Maynard is "the southern, single mom with heartbreak in her past." Her fiance, a NASCAR driver named Ricky Hendrick, was killed in a plane crash in 2004. At the time, she was pregnant with their daughter, Ricki, who's now 6. She landed the Bachelorette gig after winning Brad Womack's heart in The Bachelor, season 15, only to break up with him within months of their engagement.
"Like a lot of girls I've had my heart broken and it's hard to put yourself out there again," Maynard said as the episode opened. "But you have to. You've got to just put on your big girl panties and move on with it." Granted, this comment was a little weird, but no doubt viewers are happy to cut Maynard some slack. She's so dang pretty and nice!
Given the tragic events she's lived through (which were mentioned several times throughout this first episode), you'd think that the Bachelorette producers would offer her some solid candidates. And there were some of those. But this season's casting directors were clearly more interested in lightening the mood -- with some comically off-kilter guys with laughably juvenile approaches to romance.
Maynard, who's as gorgeous as any lingerie model and well mannered as a modern day Scarlett O'Hara, pursed her lips pleasantly and endured one weird entreaty after the other, as the contestants introduced themselves.
"I don't know what I did to deserve all these great guys," she told Harrison after meeting the group. "But I feel like the luckiest girl in the world."
Here the home audience probably began to feel a slight disconnect, because…really, Emily? Which one, exactly, was so great? The cornball who arrived with a glass slipper on a satin pillow? The sad sack who presented you with an ostrich egg? ("This egg is a symbol of two beautiful people, you and Ricki," he said.) Or the weirdo who disguised himself as a grandma, complete with a wig, glasses and a dress? ("I wanted you to meet someone that I think would be a great couple with you," he croaked, then ripped off the disguise.)
They say that a lot gets edited out of this show, and that viewers at home don't get the full picture of the candidates. Let's hope that explains why Prince Charming and Egg Dude both got roses at episode's end. Granny did get nixed, thankfully.
Based on Maynard's reactions (and of course, which guys got roses), here are some dudes to look out for in coming episodes:
Kalon, a Houston-based, luxury brand consultant who calls himself "the modern Southern gentleman." He angered the other guys by arriving in a helicopter, and teased the audience about his "bad boy" behavior in an early voiceover. "I used to be extremely loud and obnoxious and a womanizer, but I just kinda hit this point in my life when I did some self-reflecting," he said. Then, hilariously, he added: "This could be the first day of the rest of my life." Um, actually Kalon, yes, it is the first day of the rest of your life.
Ryan, a professional sports trainer and former pro football player from Augusta, Ga. He works with kids, has a cute dog, and wrote down his feelings for her in a love note. (Long time Bachelorette fans may remember that was a winning strategy for Ryan Sutter in The Bachelorette, Season One.)
Tony (a.k.a. Prince Charming) is a guy who buys and sells lumber and plywood in Beaverton, Ore. "I'm just a single dad [of a five-year-old son] trying to find love," he says. Good luck, buddy. You're one of several dudes with a child, all of whom were clearly hand-picked for this single mom Bachelorette.
David, a singer songwriter from New York City who crooned, "Emily, Emily, Oh, Oh. Oh. Emily." Seriously. That was his song.
Charlie, a Nashville recruiter who sustained a traumatic brain injury in an accident. "I may have had a head injury but there's nothing wrong with my heart," he said. Think the producers fed him that line?
Arie, a Dutch race car driver from Scottsdale, Ariz., who initially obsessed over the fact that "I know her ex fiance also raced and he passed away on the way to a race." Turns out she didn't mind a bit.
Doug, a charity director/realtor from Seattle who has custody of his 11-year-old son, Austin. He snagged the first impression rose by handing Maynard a note Austin penned, which called him "one of the greatest dads ever."
Jef(note the one "f"), a pompadoured entrepreneur from Salt Lake City, made his entrance by trailing the limo on his skateboard. "He is supercool," said Maynard, "and I hope that he thinks I'm cool, too."
Stevie, a party MC who danced awkwardly into the mansion with a boombox. Somehow, some way, this guy got a rose. Possibly because he emerged as an early dramatic foe of Kalon, a.k.a "Helicopter Man."
John, a Data Destruction Specialist. It's hard to say which was more off-putting: his job title, or his comment that "all my good friends call me Wolf."
Travis, an ad sales rep who opened with: "So you're probably wondering why I'm holding this egg." To Maynard's credit, she did not burst out laughing. She even gave him a rose.
Michael, a rehab counselor who looks more like a model for men's cologne, gave Maynard a guitar pick to help her remember that he's a musician. She in turn gave him a rose.
Alejandro, a mushroom farmer/Berkeley grad from San Francisco (by way of Colombia) spoke mostly Spanish, which Maynard found sexy enough to give him a rose.
Chris, a corporate sales director from Chicago, gave Maynard a bobblehead of himself. But this supremely creepy moment actually turned semi-sweet when he produced an Emily bobblehead, too -- and the pair carried on a conversation, bobblehead to bobblehead. Maynard was charmed, anyway. He got a rose.
You've got to hand it to the casting directors of The Bachelorette. They know how to make these shows interesting! Will Maynard find love? Who knows? But it sure will be a wild ride finding out.
Click here to catch the full episode or -- if you watched and want a little more -- enjoy a deleted scene: