Contestants on ABC’s “The Bachelorette” oftenattempt to set themselves apart from the pack with outlandish props, puns or pick-up lines – just look at new star Katie Thurston, who made her entrance on “The Bachelor” last season brandishing a purple sex toy.
Of course, the new batch of contestants on Monday’s premiere came prepared: There was a dinky RV, an endearing cat costume, a ball pit in the back of a pickup truck, and … a giant gift-wrapped box?
“Is this a present?” Katie, 31, wonders during limo entrances, as two crew members wheeled in a (man-sized) box with a bow on top.
She notes that she’s nervous about the mystery gift while former “Bachelorette” stars Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams – standing in for longtime host Chris Harrison this season – giggle from a window inside New Mexico’s Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, wondering if someone’s about to jump out of the parcel.
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One "Bachelorette" contestant took an "out-of-the-box" approach to his first meeting with star Katie Thurston. (Photo: Craig Sjodin, ABC)
“Katie, it’s so nice to finally meet you,” shouts a voice from inside the box. “My name is James and I wanted to make sure I was ‘present’ for you tonight, but there is a catch. If you want to open your gift, you have to come find me inside. Is that OK?”
A still confused Katie agrees and bids him goodbye as the unidentified suitor is wheeled away.
Later inside the mansion, James, a 30-year-old software salesman from La Jolla, California, promises the rest of Katie’s 30 men he’ll “eventually” come out of the box, but “not just yet.”
“I’m ready to actually see Katie for the first time,” he tells producers in an interview. “I came here to find my partner for life. I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to settle down, find my wife, and I just can’t wait to meet her.”
Katie Thurston stars on the latest season of "The Bachelorette." (Photo: Craig Sjodin, ABC)
After Katie and her contestants get to know each other (and many of them joke about their new favorite superhero comic, “Box Man”), it’s time for the mystery man to reveal himself.
Katie joins him in a private room, where he jumps out and declares he’s “looking for the Bachelorette.” What could have been an overly-cheesy, awkward bit must have paid off, because Katie reveals she’s intrigued and finds him “super hot.”
“I definitely have a crush on him,” she says later.
Now free from his cardboard restraints, James joins the rest of the men, introducing himself as “James from the box.” Some of the suitors feel threatened – he’s good looking, charming and they worry he might be a top contender for the first impression rose.
Many of Katie Thurston's 30 suitors join together during the premiere of her season of "The Bachelorette." (Photo: Craig Sjodin, ABC)
“Put him back in the box,” one contestant jokes.
But they need not worry too much about Box Man: The first impression rose goes to Greg, a 27-year-old marketing sales representative from Edison, New Jersey, who was adorably jittery for his first conversation with Katie but nevertheless managed to pique her interest.
“I know you’re nervous but I do feel there’s something there, and once we can get past those nerves, I think there’s a great guy under there,” she tells him. Greg is baffled but beaming.
Greg, a 27-year-old marketing sales representative from Edison, New Jersey, catches Katie's eye. (Photo: Craig Sjodin, ABC)
At the rose ceremony, Katie says goodbye to seven men:
- Jeff, 31, a surgical skin salesman from Jersey City, New Jersey
- Marty, 25, a dancer from Reno, Nevada
- Brandon, 26, an auto parts manager from Queens, New York
- Austin, 25, a real estate investor from Mission Viejo, California
- Gabriel, 35, an entrepreneur from Charlotte, North Carolina
- Landon, 25, a basketball coach from Dallas
- Marcus, 30, a real estate broker from Portland
There are 23 left, but could that number increase? A teaser for the rest of the season hints that Blake Moynes, a Canadian wildlife manager who appeared last summer as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s and Adams’ seasons, will be making a return.
“I am a little bit late to this, but Katie is the one,” he says. “So I just had to show up.”
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