Katie Thurston touched down in the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in New Mexico on Monday night.
And so did 30 men angling to be the brand new Bachelorette’s lover, husband and/or soulmate.
Coming off a somewhat controversial run as a suitor on Matt James’ season of The Bachelor, however, Thurston wanted to make one thing apparent early on:
Yes, she’d like to find love.
But, no, she isn’t desperate to do so.
"I’m happy where I’m at now," Katie said in an on-camera interview during Monday night’s premiere. "I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m not going to settle."
Thurston also thought she’d be on her own throughout her search, following Chris Harrison stepping away from the franchise earlier this year.
But then… surprise!
Former Bachelorette Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe approached Thurston prior to the limo arrivals and let her know they’d be there to offer assistance.
"I couldn’t have imagined anything more perfect," Katie said of her season’s co-hosts.
It was then time to meet contestants.
There was a business owner named Michael, who gave Katie a watch that he explained had been in his family for over 200 years, before confessing he purchased it at the airport.
Still, he wanted to send the message that "time is precious."
How sweet? We guess?
More gimmicks followed:
Tre, a software engineer, popped out of a ball pit aboard a pickup truck… 35-year-old entrepreneur Gabriel shared with Katie one of his "favorite hugs" … and Andrew S., a 26-year-old pro football player in Austria, pretended to be British.
There was also a sex doll named Sandy.
"There’s been someone in my life these past few months that’s been really helping me through these weird times," Cody told Katie, taking a cue from Thurston herself, who brought a vibrator with her when she met James.
"We’ve been intimate," added Cody.
"We’ve been best friends and it’s been a shoulder to cry on, someone that’s listened to me."
Lastly, Connor B., a math teacher in Nashville, closed out the arrivals … in a cat costume.
"It’s so mice to finally meet you," the 29-year-old actually said to Katie.
Cut to the cocktail party, where Katie told the men to act like themselves.
"I’m here because I believe in this, and I hope you’re here because you believe in it as well," she said.
"And so all I ask is that you be yourself, because that’s the only way this is going to work."
While making her rounds, and bonding with Greg ("there’s something sticking out about him," she noted), Katie also hung out in the ball pit with Tre and earned a painting of roses from Justin, with whom she shared her first kiss as The Bachelorette.
Jeff struck out with the RV ("I wasn’t feeling the vibes," admitted Thurston) and Aaron and Cody got into an altercation, during which the former told the latter he didn’t like him — without any explanation.
From there, attention shifted to James, though, who Katie finally went to meet face-to-face after he simply left a giant boxed gift for her as an introduction.
"I think he’s super hot," she said in an on-camera interview after James emerged from the present.
"Something intrigues me."
Michael, for his part, told Thurston he had a four-year old daughter, prompting this notable quote from the star:
"For me, I definitely want kids in some way I think.
"Whether it’s someone who already has a child, that’s something I’m fine with.
"If someone doesn’t want children, I think I’m also fine with that. Really, I’m just open to all scenarios."
However, Katie ended up giving her first impression rose to Greg, as broken by a number of The Bachelorette spoilers while back.
"I do feel that there’s something there," she told Greg.
"And once we can get passed those nerves, I think there’s a great guy under there."
So… who made the romantic cut?
"This ends in an engagement, and so when I offer you a rose, I hope you understand the weight that goes with that rose," Katie told the group before sending seven home to wrap up her premiere.
Katie proceeded to give roses to Tre, Michael A., Thomas, Garrett, Connor B., Andrew S., James, Justin, Quartney, Karl, Mike P., John, Kyle, Andrew M., Josh, Conor C., Brendan, David, Aaron, Christian, Hunter and Cody.
This meant these guys were sent packing:
- Jeff the RV Guy
Tough break for these fellas, but, hey: At least Jeff had a ride home.