The Bachelor (ABC), America's favorite prime-time courtship tournament, returned Monday night for its 10th season of serving what is either comfort food or retro cuisine and, in any case, includes a slab of Cinderella, a half-gallon of Sadie Hawkins, heavy cream, and cooking sherry among its ingredients. This installment, subtitled "Officer and a Gentleman," runs its fillies around the track in pursuit of one U.S. Navy Lt. Andrew Baldwin, M.D. That's right, girls, this humble boy from Lancaster, Pa., is dreamy in both dress whites and surgical scrubs of sea-foam green.
Also, Andy is a triathlete; we saw considerable footage of him and his nipples engaged in their training routine. Further, Andy gives back to the community. We know this because some other triathletes gave him a humanitarian award and because we watched his compassionate expression as he took a tongue depressor to a disadvantaged child, or a facsimile thereof. What's more, Andy has a proper respect for history and for sacrifice. The Bachelor, testing the limits of what is sweet and fitting on reality shows, attested to this by showing Andy, who is stationed at Pearl Harbor, looking thoughtfully at the memorial to the USS Arizona. At least he'd put a shirt on.
Last night, Andy alit from some swan-winged Tomorrowland sports car and met The Bachelor's host, unobtrusive Chris Harrison, who explained a new wrinkle. Chris gave Andy a "first-impression rose," which he might instantly bestow on any of the 25 ladies vying for his hand (a total of 15 would survive to the next episode). Here they came, unfolding themselves from limousines: deep teeth, big tans. We appraised the gait of each as she show-ponied from the curb to the surgeon. Their cocktail dresses seemed somehow familiar, though certainly not from cocktail parties. Many of the women hailed from the pageant belt that stretches from Texas to Tennessee—a Chicagoan was, in fact, a former Miss Illinois. Has the Miss America Pageant—spurned by ABC in 2004 and dropped by its latest broadcaster, CMT, just last week—lost its place in the popular subconscious to this?
Andy greeted the girls with such phrases as, "Are you pumped? I'm pumped to talk to you more inside." He gave the first-impression rose to Stephanie T. in appreciation of her confidence. She then got cocky about it. We developed a fondness for Blakeney on account of her Alabama twang and the daring cut of her dress. Chris wondered, "Who will get a rose, and whose dreams of a man in uniform will be crushed forever?"
Inside the Bachelor mansion, it was getting-to-you-know time, partly a matter of chitchat, partly a talent competition. A lady lawyer with eyelashes like fruit bats did some push-ups. Kate, the one in a minidress, responded by doing the worm. Stephanie W. did back flips. Tina, a medical student, serenaded Andy with "The Star-Spangled Banner"; he failed to stand up. Blakeney fell over drunk but did not spill her drink. It was Andy's birthday, and it was also the birthday of Peyton, a sorority recruiter from Tennessee. Peyton believed this circumstance to be "ironic." Then, there was the rose ceremony, and 10 ladies were dismissed, Blakeney included.
According to the show-closing "this season on The Bachelor" montage, this season on The Bachelor, the bachelor will keep being hot, and the women will keep remarking upon his heat, and then he'll go down on one knee.