New ‘Bachelorette’ Michelle Young Avoids Glaring ‘Red Flags’ in Stunning Debut

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I know this might sound a little premature, but you know what? I’m gonna say it anyway: Michelle Young is already the best Bachelorette in years.

Granted, I was a little biased as I headed into the elementary school teacher’s season. She was one of the few bright spots in Matt James’ train wreck of a Bachelor outing last year, self-assured and straightforward in a way that’s become painfully rare in Bachelor Nation. (What else can we expect when we continually cast people in their early to mid-twenties?) But in a premiere replete with what one can only describe as absolute fuckery, Michelle maintained an empathetic directness that sure seems like... could it be... emotional maturity?

Katie Thurston, whose season aired just months ago, was another standout in Matt James’ cast. Her season of Bachelorette got a little rocky at the end thanks to a disastrous breakdown in communication. Like Katie, Michelle saw her fair share of adorable limo entrances—but she also dealt with some genuinely bizarre red flags.

This season finds us at the Indian Wells Resort in Palm Springs, California. Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe have returned as Chris Harrison’s replacements—and just like last season, they’re proving that this franchise can easily survive without him. Their commentary continues to be well timed and infectiously bubbly. Example: “They could be teachers together!”

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The limo entrances were the usual hodgepodge of unfortunate puns, cheesy costumes, and tantalizing chemistry. More importantly, Michelle showed up in one of the most stunning first-night dresses—dare I say it? why not!—in Bachelor history. An early standout: Nayte, a sales executive from Austin with a ridiculously adorable dog. He and Michelle were clearly into each other from the word “go”; Nayte was the first out of the limo, and their flirting was instantaneous. Said Michelle: “That was a good start!”

While Nayte has a dog, another contestant shares a name with one: Jack Russell. (Yes, really; he looks like he’d play Keanu Reeves in an unauthorized Lifetime biopic.)

One of the biggest curiosities of the night is Clayton Echard—a teacher who, in a first-of-its-kind production flub, has already been leaked as the next Bachelor. (Someone’s in for a sympathetic edit!) He, for the record, would be the one Tayshia and Kaitlyn were talking about with their “they could be teachers together!” line. He seems nice, if a little... generic.

But things could be worse! He could be the guy who made a joke predicated on the idea that he was asking Michelle to show him her breasts. (His name was Brandon, it was a Mardi Gras joke, and it’s really not worth getting into—our sensible Bachelorette did not like it.) And while Rachel Lindsay’s season saw a man whose job title was listed as a “cologneisseur,” Michelle got paired up with a “pizzapreneur”—a guy named Peter, who changes lives “one slice at a time.” (I’m still wary of Bachelor Nation Peters.)

It’s Joe Coleman, however, who seems like he could cause trouble. Michelle teased their connection early: When he popped out of the limo, she asked, “Have I slid into your DM’s?” It turns out they’re both from Minnesota and had been talking for some time before Joe ghosted. But they both played basketball and, well, he’s really hot, folks—so naturally he’s got Michelle at least a little intrigued, if miffed.

Soon enough, Michelle found herself in all the usual awkward one-on-one cocktail party conversations. Joe’s, however, was the stand-out.

Michelle Young knows who she is and perhaps more importantly, she’s honest. So she wasted no time before confronting Joe directly about his disappearance. “I’m the head of property at George Floyd Square, three blocks away,” he replied. He said shootings and murders disrupted his life and “just caused a lot of anxiety.”

“For me, respect is a huge thing, and my hesitation here tonight is, how do I know that you’re not going to shut down again?” the Bachelorette replied. She pointed out that as a Black woman living in Minneapolis, she could relate to what Joe was describing—and said that if he’d shared what he was going through with her, she would have understood. Joe assured Michelle that he’s working on his communication, including by going to therapy.

Michelle left Joe to think while she made her way through the rest of the cocktail party—and toward the true disaster of the evening.

Things started off well for Ryan, an environmental consultant from California whose intro video includes him riding a tractor shirtless. (That time-honored Bachelor Nation tradition.) Unfortunately, Tayshia and Kaitlyn found some suspicious “notes” in his luggage during an impromptu room raid. (The devil works hard, but these producers work harder.) It reads like something between a Bachelor fan account and Patrick Bateman’s journal—a guide outlining how “not to be the villain” on the show, how to get “more screen time,” and, from the looks of it, how to generally act interested in a woman.

That’s when things got really tense. Ryan volunteered to show the notes to Michelle, who cut off his nervous hovering with a stern, “I really...”

In a moment of editing glory, we observed a helpless Ryan in the hallway, murmuring, “It’s just... my notes!” as the camera zoomed out like an episode of Succession. Although Ryan promised Michelle there was “nothing disingenuous” about his planning, his friends’ notes about personality traits to hide are... yikes! A sample: “You come off as mean and demanding. It’s better to just keep those thoughts to yourself and express a positive outlook to others.”

“I am not OK with starting a relationship on red flags,” Michelle said. “You’re gonna need to respect that I’m choosing to listen to my red flags.” She stood firm as he pleaded: “Again, my decision is made. And so I’m gonna need to walk you out.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Michelle & Nayte</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Craig Sjodin/ABC</div>

Michelle & Nayte

Craig Sjodin/ABC

On the one hand, we must praise Michelle for her decisiveness. On the other: Has this show broken my brain or is his behavior not that different from everyone else’s as they prepare for this show? She does realize what show she’s on, right?

Anyway! The first impression rose goes to the utterly heart-melting Nayte, and Michelle’s explanation is a perfect example of her stellar potential as Bachelorette. “A wall came down, and for me that’s all I needed to see,” she said. “I feel what I came here to feel, and that’s sparks, butterflies—everything you want to feel when you kiss someone.” We love a woman who knows what she wants!

Before long it was time for the rose ceremony—and here, too, Michelle kept things grounded. Before she began handing out the roses, she told the men, “If you do not get a rose tonight, please know that I appreciate you and that I wish you the best.”

Eliminated contestants included Jack Russell (aw!) and, yes, the Mardi Gras boobs-jokes guy. (Obviously.) Joe, however, managed to make it another week—the single flaw in Michelle’s premiere game. “My heart wants to let loose, but my mind is trying to guard,” the former basketball player said as she stepped away from her final rose to decide whether to keep Joe or not. “That guard is a red flag.”

But if Bachelor Nation encourages anything, it’s following one’s heart over one’s head—and more importantly, as Michelle previously noted, Joe is simply a very attractive man. So of course he stayed. Whether he can give Michelle the kind of love she craves—the kind of love her absurdly charming parents share—remains to be seen.

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