Image via ABC.

On Monday night, two women 3,000 miles apart watched the premiere of The Bachelorette separately. This is their story.

Kate: Let’s set the scene: I, Kate Dries, of sound body and mind, have been watching and covering The Bachelor and Bachelorette regularly for several seasons. Kara, what is your relationship with these shows?

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Kara: I watched the first season of The Bachelor and the first season of The Bachelorette. (Love you, Trista!) I have a vague memory of dipping back into The Bachelor a couple times but this is the first time in probably a decade that I’ve sat down and committed to this television program. Though, we’ll have to see about that... NOBODY TOLD ME EACH EPISODE IS TWO HOURS LONG.

Kate: Yeah, they’re a doozy…

What compelled you to come back to this season? I said to myself that two seasons ago would be my last, but then we had Nick, who was insane and did four seasons of these shows, and now we have Rachel, the first black Bachelorette, and it seems like, well, interesting things are actually happening so I need to keep watching after complaining that interesting things never happen on these shows.

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Kara: Literally just because Rachel is black. Though television is far from perfect in terms of diversity, one of the things I appreciate now is that generally, there are enough black people on television where I don’t feel obligated to watch a particular show just for that reason. However, this feels like new territory—watching a black woman be pursued by 30 men on an extremely popular TV show—and I want to witness it.

Kate: Yeah, I strongly agree. After years of commentary about the lack of diversity on these hugely popular shows, since they’re finally doing the thing everyone has been telling them to do, it seems important to check in on how it’s all going to pan out.

That being said, what did you think of last night’s episode? While you were upset it was two hours long, I’ve long been well aware of that fact, so what threw me is that it did not start at 8 p.m. but instead started at 9 because of the Dancing with the Stars finale, which meant I had to watch this shit until 11. Obscene.

Kara: My god, what DIDN’T I think of last night’s episode. I was watching alone and spent a lot of time yelling at my TV or texting you in all-caps. I also kept a running list of thoughts I had while watching. I’ll share a few now:

  • Lucas guy who shook his face. waboom. INSANE.
  • The penis guy
  • Do they live in the same mansion?
  • Why does every guy take her hands and say “stunning”?
  • Guys are hot
  • The hottest dumb men I’ve ever seen
  • TOO MANY GUYS
  • The crier is a PUNK

It was a rollercoaster.

Kate: I also watched alone, which is maybe an indication of my burnout on this franchise—that I didn’t think to set up a viewing companion who would have made the whole thing a little more fun than just refreshing Twitter, which was, during the time the episode aired on the East Coast, interspersed between thoughts on this program and horrifying updates on the Manchester bombing.

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It’s sometimes hard to tell if the subtleties you notice season over season in these shows are real or wishful thinking, but I will say that they seemed to be working to make you aware that this is a better crop of men than they usually have, given that Rachel is a lawyer and has been painted as a smart, together woman. It was also nice how immediately noticeable the more diverse cast was; several of the men who got screen time, both for talking to each other but also for talking to Rachel, were black, as opposed to what usually feels like just one, and then a few others who get kicked off immediately at the end of the premiere. That was echoed in the promo for the upcoming season as well.

Some of Kara’s texts

Kara: Though I hadn’t been watching, I obviously know the show had been a bastion of whiteness since its inception. Even I knew the diversity of the group was something new. It’s funny how that works... how diversity begets diversity. Something to think about, executives!!!

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While I appreciate the range of men from a cultural and equality perspective, I also appreciate it because they were very attractive. Sexy, these dudes are sexy. But also extremely annoying. I wanted to hide under a pillow when they were all nipping at her feet like lap dogs trying to get three minutes of face time. Though, I guess that’s the game. That’s something I’d like your thoughts on, actually: the number of dudes who referred to trying to “win this thing” was VERY weird. Sure, it’s a competition of sorts—mostly for screen time, I’d imagine—but it’s also very much not if it simply depends on her liking you enough to keep you around.

Kate: At the beginning I think they’re all really aggressive because there are so many people and there’s so little time available (though I don’t know if you noticed this, but this night was one of the longest I can recall seeing aired. It was fully daylight by the time the Rose Ceremony ended and Rachel’s rejects were filmed stumbling blearily out of the mansion).

And I do think the competition language is used a lot, though maybe more by the men then by the women. I was really wowed with Rachel’s ability to handle all of them. I haven’t quite understood why she (or some of the other women in the past with similarly high-powered careers) have chosen to be on this show, when it’s a given you’re not going to get an impressive crop of men to choose from as much as you’ll get some dudes who have jobs (or don’t have jobs…) that they can get away from for anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months. But Rachel’s lawyer training is really working for her here. Did you notice how she repeated back the names of the dudes she didn’t give roses to at the end as she said goodbye to them? Very impressive.

Some more of Kara’s texts

Kara: She is wonderful and is probably the only thing that will keep me going until goddamn AUGUST.

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Can we also talk about the guy at the end who cried? Who cried because he was upset he got cut early which mean he wouldn’t be able to show off all the clothes be bought? GOOD LORD, MAN. Also, somebody needs to tell him he’s really not that great of a dresser. A grown-ass adult cried on national television because nobody is going to see all his new shoes. I hope they keep crying! Actually, not much more needs to be said about him. Who else stood out for you?

Kate: See, this is a clear indication that I’ve been watching this show for too long because I felt bad for him! I seriously thought to myself, man I bet he’s tired—the tears over a woman he had spent less than 12 hours with is a clear sign he can’t be in his right mind.

For the most part, not much stood out to me, which I think is a good sign. It was great to actually get some interesting narratives—Josiah’s story about losing his brother, struggling with the law and then ending up a lawyer showed that they actually cast at least a couple people who could be a good fit for Rachel. There are a few obvious idiots put in there for entertainment purposes—waboom guy being the loudest—but we know they’ll get cut after a few weeks anyway so I’m not too concerned. My biggest issues going into this season was that it was going to be full of the “once you go black, you don’t go back” jokes we saw Rachel greeted with in the After the Final Rose ceremony where she met a few of her dudes, but they were pretty light on that this episode.

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The best case scenario to me this season is that the show mostly sticks to its format but benefits from having a different and more interesting lead and, by proxy, a more interesting cast. (On that, it seems noteworthy that Pantene was advertising their hair care line for black women during this episode, clearly trying to take advantage of the possibly changing demographics of a usually very white audience.) Otherwise, the premiere seemed pretty normal to me; I think I felt like the packages where they introduced the men went by really quickly? And wow was that kiss Rachel shared with Bryan full o’ tongue!!!

Kara: GOD THE KISS! THE CRYING! The guy who gushed, “Being in Rachel’s presence is unbelievable” after being in her presence for like two minutes. I don’t know how I’m going handle the enormous amount of secondhand embarrassment I get from this program. I can barely make it through Married at First Sight!

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As a black woman who has been on the receiving end of those exact kinds of comments from men who supposedly like me, I am also worried about the black jokes or any white person whose reaction to dating someone of another race is to constantly reference the difference. However, I am excited about the possibility of seeing an interracial couple that doesn’t involve a white person. Even though the dude with the dolphin tongue was a lot, watching them speak Spanish (or him speak and her sort of understand) was cute. I guess that’s something I’m going to have to deal with throughout the season. With every moment that seems cute or genuine, you can bet something extremely embarrassing is coming just around the corner. I might develop a drinking problem. Also, in general, I find the degree to which they’re all completely enamored with her from the JUMP extremely creepy. I’ve seen UnREAL, I know how all this works, but still. Relax, homies!

Kate: Yes, as our good friend and colleague Madeleine Davies just said to me, “no doubt she IS wife material,” but do they really have to scream SHE’S GONNA BE MY WIFE like cave men so early on?

All in all, going solely off of the premiere, this season seems to be shaping up all right? I’m tentatively optimistic, while at the same time very aware of how much the producers love to stick to a format while ever-so-slightly changing things up. (For instance, I laughed at how, instead of the usual “Rachel gets advice from former leads of the show” sequence, they had her meet with her girlfriends from Nick’s season, all of whom are destined to be on the upcoming season of Bachelor in Paradise. Never miss a moment to promo!).

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You said at the beginning of our conversation that you’re not sure you’ll make it through this season. What do you think the odds are? Will I see you here next week?

Kara: Oh man. Honestly, I don’t think I can commit to two hours of this for three months. That’s a lot and the show is a bit redundant to begin with. I’ll definitely be here next week. And probably the week after that. I’m not sure what my tipping point is or will be. I’ve really never tested the limits of how much I can watch other people embarrass themselves. I guess we’ll see!

Kate: I’d love to say same, but at this point, I think we know I’ll be around.