It's been just over two years since I last delved into the grease-slicked jacuzzi waters of the Best-Worst show on reality TV, The Bachelor, to write weekly episode recaps detailing everything a bunch of vacuous women did with one exceedingly dull man and gallons of fake tan, saliva and pinot grigio.
Or, as is more often the case, to get really drunk really quickly, embarrass themselves spectacularly and go home in tears.
I'm beginning to suspect Blake might not be as intelligent as first thought. Meanwhile, his incredibly low voice is starting to creep me out.
And so begins everyone's favourite Bachelor tradition: the annual Parade of the Perpetually Awkward, in which all 24 women must negotiate their way in skintight ballgowns out of the same rented limo (it's the sweetest gig of the year - the bloke just drives up and down a driveway for eight hours and collects a cheque at the end) and sashay through the million and one lanterns to smile uncomfortably at the Bachelor, say something cringeworthy, and bugger off into the Shag Mansion to get drunk and morph into daytime soap characters.
PARADE OF AWKWARDNESS, IN A NUTSHELL:
* Victorian financial assistant Sam makes a memorable first impression by introducing Blake to her invisible midget friend Gary, who accompanies her wherever she goes:
* Then there's 31-year-old Emma, from Melbourne, otherwise known as "the reason we no longer put champagne in the limos".
"His voice is so charismatic and caramel, like Barry Manilow's, darling!" Emma cackles to the camera.
* Moving on to design consultant Chantal, 26, who gets out her copy of How To Turn Off A Guy In Ten Easy Steps, turns to chapter three: "Give him a lame romantic present on the first date", and promptly gives Blake a heart-shaped keychain that says "Let's hang".
* Meanwhile, Jessica either needs more supportive hosiery or she has a really lenient parole officer:
* After that is a bunch of sequinned dresses with names attached who are too boring to get more than three seconds air time each. Blake smiles. I check my watch.
* Then there's Lauren, who impresses Blake with an impromptu performance of her one-woman Cabaret Festival show "Xanadu: The Wheel Story":
* Moving on to events planner Louise, who turns up with a cocktail in hand and therefore is most likely to be the one the producers paid off to get drunk and stir up trouble in the first episode.
* Suddenly the plinky-plonk string music starts up signifying something "kooky" is about to happen.
"YOU MUST HAVE A SMALL MOUTH!" booms Anita the dog groomer.
"If you forget my name just remember 'I need her'," she jokes. "But say it fast, so it's like 'Anita'!"
THANKS ANITA, WE GET IT.
Then she bursts into song, which elicits the greatest reaction shot of any Bachelor season ever:
"Sometimes when I meet a guy I really like I do write little songs to let them know how I'm feeling," says Anita.
* Obviously there's a leaderboard somewhere backstage where all the women are competing to be the most mental, because then Diana "Like The Princess" shows up in a tiara and gives Blake a crown so he can like, be her prince or whatever.
Diana has odd, unblinking eyes and speaks like a robot with its vocal settings permanently set to "questioning tone". Whenever she's on screen it's like a scene from a Westworld sequel set in Disneyland.
* Not to be outdone in the robotic stakes, on comes admin assistant slash alien cyborg Samantha, who for the last six months has been studying male human behaviour from her spaceship in order to present herself as the perfect human female, win The Bachelor's hand in marriage, and begin a new superior race of robot babies to take over the world.
Unfortunately her circuitry is a bit off, so she gives him a stuffed bear. You know, like blokes are into.
Sensing a lack of enthusiasm for her gift Samantha scans her memory banks for a witty phrase to lighten the mood, but can only come up with a 404 error, so she resorts to her fallback strategy - attack mode.
* Annoyed at being the only celebrity lookalike agency in Sydney to not yet have a staff member featured on the show, Diamond Doppelgangers in Redfern immediately dispatches their Lisa McCune double to the set:
Actually, her name is Katrina and seems pretty normal, so I kind of love her. She also sings Blake a song, except this time it's actually good.
* And finally we meet Laurina, a 30-year-old "fashion entreprenoo-ah" and Guinness World Record holder for the longest neck in the southern hemisphere:
"There are 24 amazing women in this room, and only 20 roses," the hairdo explains.
Meanwhile, in the front row:
But it's not just red roses the women have to worry about, says the hairpiece. This year there's a crazy new twist to the rose ceremony - a WHITE rose.
All the women basically lose their minds over this news, despite not having a clue what it means.
"The Bachelor will give the white rose to the woman who makes the greatest impression on him tonight," the walking toupee explains.
"Whoever receives the white rose will be granted safe passage through the first two rose ceremonies."
So the white rose is basically The Bachelor's answer to Survivor's immunity idol or Masterchef's immunity pin.
Except in Survivor and Masterchef winning immunity is actually valuable, because it prevents you from being voted out by scheming contestants or sent home for messing up a challenge. There's no advantage to winning immunity in The Bachelor, because the only way you can get kicked off the show is if Blake decides he doesn't want to shag you, which is something that simply hanging around for an extra two weeks probably won't change much.
Also, Blake is clearly going to give the white rose to someone he finds attractive enough to want to get to know further. So failing that person turning out to be a massive racist/Liberal voter/braindead he most likely would have given them a red rose at the next two ceremonies anyway.
SO WHAT'S THE POINT?
Basically there's no benefit to winning a two week immunity on The Bachelor, unless you plan to spend those two weeks slothing around in trackies and acting like a douchebag, safe in the knowledge you can't be kicked out. So I sincerely hope whoever wins it does that.
"This is a bit overwhelming," says Blake, surveying the Real Doll catalogue before him.
Anyway, enough of all this foreplay. It's time for the first night cocktail party, otherwise known as the Chardonnay Thunderdome: 24 women enter, at least one leaves in tears and without her shoes.
COCKTAIL PARTY IN A NUTSHELL:
* First to bond with Blake is real estate sales PA Holly, who wants to be an agent but hasn't got enough time because her professional netball career is really taking off and... hh^%sa8y7Sgs2zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Sorry, I just dozed off for a second there.
* Meanwhile, the trailer for new horror film "Anita" looks scary as shit:
* Here's a fun game: try and pick which of the following are either a) lines from Stephen King's Misery or b) lines direct from Anita's mouth.
"Most of the night I did make sure I kept an eye on him."That's right, all except the last one are Anita originals.
"I'm a hunter not a gatherer. I don't want to be just gathered. I want to HUNT it."
"I'm the jealous type. I normally hate guys even looking at other girls."
"I'm impatient. I'm so FRICKIN impatient. I'm quite a go-getter. I'm not just someone who sits around and waits for things to happen."
"You dirty bird."
* "I like him because I can genuinely tell how authentic he is," says Sam, who has known Blake for about half an hour. Perhaps she bit into him?
* Meanwhile long-neck Laurina couldn't care less how authentic Blake is. Or if he's even still at the party, frankly.
"I'm all about the mystery, so I'd rather not see him again tonight," she says.
Of course her total lack of interest drives Blake wild and he chases her all over the house, so Laurina makes him sit down next to Miranda Kerr lookalike Jessica and gets them both to talk about how beautiful she is.
"She's a very stylish woman," says Jessica.
"She's like Audrey Hepburn - I've always had a bit of a crush on her as an actress and I was like, wow, yeah you've nailed that!" gushes Blake, as Laurina sits there batting her eyelashes.
"So do you remember each other's names? Good," says Laurina, getting up and striding away leaving Jessica and Blake with nothing to talk about but how amazing she is.
* But not everyone thinks Laurina is so amazing, notably fiesty Canadian Amber, who calls her an "idiot" and pulls the greatest "OH NO SHE DIDN'T" face of the episode so far:
* Laurina continues winning more fans when someone asks her if she's ever dated anyone who looks like Blake.
"All my ex boyfriends look exactly like that," she says.
* Speaking of Chinese manufacturing plants, I think I've worked out what Laurina does in her role as a "fashion entrepreneur":
* Katrina the Lisa McCune lookalike gets the first rose, and a ripple of shock goes through the women. Realising time is of the essence, Anita throws herself onto Blake shrieking "DO YOU MIND IF I GRAB YOU?", a phrase which launched a thousand sexual harassment lawsuits.
Sensing Anita's crazy levels are at an all time high, the other women clear the area as she and Blake sit down for a one-on-one chat. All except alien cyborg Samantha, whose primitive CPU prevents her from assessing the imminent danger of the situation.
Fortunately she's brought a decent supply of coolant with her to keep her processors running while she waits. Although it might be a while; Anita is thrilling Blake with some scintillating conversation about the sports and hobbies he likes to do.
* After being forced to listen to approximately seven and a half hours of Anita saying things like "So what's real estate like?" and "Do you like dogs?" Samantha finally gets her turn alone with Blake, and immediately arses it up:
* "So, why are you single?" Blake asks her.
It's true, he's really not as intelligent as we thought.
* "Anita seemed like she really put in some effort to get to talk to me tonight, which is quite flattering," Blake says through gritted teeth, trying desperately to convince us that he really is interested in a slightly deranged dog groomer from country Victoria, and isn't being forced to keep her in by the producers because she's good television.
* Then it's time for another red rose to be handed out and... seriously? I mean, come on! I've seen Michael Bay movies shorter than this. Christ. Anyway this time the lucky recipient is "Luscious" Louise the human cocktail, who celebrates by spontaneously acquiring foreign accent syndrome. (Seriously, did anyone else notice when she suddenly turned American?)
* "The white rose still hasn't come out," says Sam, although it's unclear whether she's referring to the flower or using some sort of bizarre innuendo.
Whatever it is, the gifting of two red roses so far is enough to drive the women batshit crazy; some start running through the garden, stalking Blake in the bushes, others pace up and down. Laurina polishes the coffee table.
* In other news:
* Then suddenly OMG IT'S WHITE ROSE TIME... and it goes to Holly the boring pro netballer. Maybe Blake has trouble sleeping.
Despite nobody ending up in tears or a scrag fight or even seemingly getting drunk (seriously, I know the budget's tight but fruity lexia is like $5 a box) the cocktail party is finally over, and Blake retires to the set of Game of Thrones to decide which four women he's going to execute.
Will it be crazy Anita the dog groomer from hell? Or Diana the deluded Disney princess? Or will it be this girl, who has clearly just crawled out of Sydney Harbour and broken onto the set without anyone noticing?
As it turns out, it's none of them. Instead Blake says goodbye to Karla and Emma L, which is fine because who the hell even knows who they are, and Emma F, who heads straight to the nearest bar to drown her sorrows with cheap champagne and a Barry Manilow Greatest Hits CD.
The saddest cut of all is Samantha the passive aggressive cyborg; she can't even cry about the situation because it will short circuit her vision sensors. She's so overcome her motherboard overloads causing her to accidentally blurt "Hey, how are you doing?" instead of "Goodbye" as she leaves the room.
Once outside the house, she immediately resolves to ensure no one remembers her mistake.
Now go on and READ EPISODE TWO when Blake stumbles out of the charred and smoking remains of the Shag Mansion to go on his first date... but with whom?