Jake Malooley: We’re now two episodes into The Bachelor, season eleventy-thousand. Our bachelor is Nick Viall, a Wisconsin native who recently resided in Chicago before heading off to LA to become a career reality-show contestant. But in episode one the show made a desperate attempt to make it look like Nick still lives in Chicago, with shots of him walking around Michigan Avenue.
Brianna Wellen: It felt inauthentic, like when Rahm first ran for mayor and was trying to convince everyone he was a Chicago resident even though he’d been living in D.C. Nick wants to belong to Chicago, but he just doesn’t. I saw him once at Pitchfork Music Festival (this was post-Andi, pre-Kaitlyn), and have heard that he used to frequent bars in River North—but he’s an LA boy now.
JM: By now the only person who’s logged more hours on Bachelor shows is probably host Chris Harrison. This is now Nick’s fourth appearance, and at this point he is the unrivaled student of the game that is this show. It’s clear he’s studied the series history—what seems genuine, what doesn’t. How do you think his veteran status is playing out this season?
BW: He definitely knows what makes good TV. He knew in the second episode that giving the aggressively sexual contestant the rose would be more interesting than giving it to the woman he’d had a nice conversation with. He’s also been through enough bullshit that he should have a better idea of who will be a good match for him. But ultimately his veteran status is making him come off as extremely bored with the whole situation. When it’s your fourth time, there aren’t too many surprises.
What do you think? Is he trying to be the star of The Bachelor or is he really “trusting the process”?
JM: So far he seems like he hates the process. He doesn’t look like he’s having much fun. His past experiences on the show lurk at every turn and weigh down the proceedings. Before the first group date on the second episode, he told all the women that they should know group dates are always awkward—and he knows because “I’ve been on my fair share.” Later, he explains on a different group date, this one at the Museum of Broken Relationships, that “I’ve had my fair share” of broken relationships.
BW: I think that is exactly why Nick turned out to be a popular Bachelor after two seasons of being hated: beat someone down enough and America will root for you.
JM: The one thing Nick apparently hasn’t learned in his many hours on the show: How to pour a glass of champagne. On a one-on-one with Danielle M.—who has showed signs of being a genuine person—they take a helicopter ride, land on a yacht, and Nick proceeds to pour her a glass entirely filled with bubbles.
BW: He also hasn’t learned how to be discreet. During the first group date, all the women posed with Nick in various wedding tableaux—and he had no problem making out with all of them in front of all the other contestants. It’s continuing a sexually charged vibe that started in the first episode. There’s thankfully less sexual stigma this time around, but it feels, as one of my favorite contestants, Christen, says in this week’s episode, like a little much for a Monday night on a family-friendly channel.
A few other small progressions this season: more women of color and a bisexual woman who is proud to admit she dated a girl. And not in an aren’t-I-sexy-because-I-kissed-a-girl way.
JM: For a show about one person dating 30 other people, The Bachelor has traditionally felt it necessary to put on this false chaste courtship act—at least until the “fantasy suites” week. Those implied rules of propriety seem to have gone out the window in recent seasons, especially as Bachelor in Paradise‘s more overt raunch has leaked into the mothership. It’s all led up to the creation of Corinne, this season’s obvious villain, who made out with Nick on the first night and by episode two ordered Nick to palm her bare breasts, a la the Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover, during the wedding photo date.
BW: Corinne, who is 12 years younger than Nick. Corinne, who still has a “nanny” fetch her bowls of cucumbers to snack on.
JM: Corinne, the Floridian whose daddy runs a “multimillion-dollar company” that she’s apparently being groomed to inherit. I’ve been referring to her as Ivanka Trump Lite.
BW: She’s one of those ultra-competitive contestants who is “in it to win it,” without thinking about what “winning” really means.
JM: As the Trumps like to say, there are winners and losers in life.
BW: And just like certain parts of our country were bewilderingly into Trump, Nick seems kind of into Corinne, even though she’d never win the popular vote in the Bachelor house.
JM: I’d definitely tune in to a Flinstones-meet-the-Jetsons episode, in which The Bachelor and The Apprentice come together in a beautiful-horrible reality-television train wreck.
BW: If only they were on the same network . . .
What I liked about episode two was that the girls questioned whether or not Nick was the type of person for them based on his apparent attraction to Corinne. So often on these shows it’s just assumed that OF COURSE every contestant wants the bachelor—HE’S THE BACHELOR!
JM: Nick might be drawn to her because she probably reminds him of himself at the dawn of his Bachelor career. Like him, she’s also a studied Bachelor strategist, albeit in a more bratty manner. She knows it’s the villain (which, by the way, you can’t spell without “Viall”) who is the star, that the villain controls the narrative and gets the most screen time—and who has the most potential on future shows. She’s surely on her way to Paradise, where she’ll have a Nick-like reversal and somehow become beloved.
BW: The trajectory that so many of these contestants have been on really changes the game of the show. The Bachelor franchise has turned into a vehicle for so much more than one happy ending. It’s not so bad to be a loser because then you get to go on a sexy vacation in Mexico or have your own group of 30 singles to choose from. The romance is gone!
I think that this is why Liz went on the show. Liz, who added the MOST DRAMATIC twist of this season so far: She and Nick met at a wedding nine months before.
JM: And not just any wedding—Jade and Tanner’s wedding, where Liz was Jade’s maid of honor.
BW: They hooked up, she turned down Nick’s request for her phone number, then she didn’t connect with Nick again until there were cameras involved.
My theory is that Liz saw her best friend, Jade, meet Tanner on Bachelor in Paradise, and Liz wondered if she could use her minimal connection to forge the same path. If she really wanted to be with Nick, this is the worst possible time. Go grab a coffee or something, for goodness’ sakes! Don’t subject yourself to an awkward visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships with six other women who are trying to date the guy you’re interested in!
JM: Nick spent the first two episodes questioning Liz’s motives: Was she there to explore a relationship him after nine months of not calling him—or to use him to become a reality TV star? Which was an absolute pot-meet-kettle moment. Nick is the ultimate Bachelor opportunist. Let’s not forget he came aboard midway through Kaitlyn’s season after having some history with her. In the end, I believe Nick saw his worst, most mercenary tendencies in Liz and that’s why he said good-bye. He might as well have said, “You’re fired.”
BW: I completely agree. Nick is using this time to raise his public profile so he can go on to be a professional . . . personality? It seems like the wrong word to use for someone who’s about as exciting as a piece of toast. A piece of toast that I am rooting for, because I just can’t help myself. Sigh.