‘The Bachelorette’ 2021 premiere recap: Katie Thurston meets the boys

Sex dolls, cat suits and virgins — oh my!

The season 17 debut of “The Bachelorette” served up a fresh Bach of kookies.  

One guy even had the balls to make a surprise entrance by popping out of a pickup truck ball pit. 

The Chris Harrison-free “Bachelorette” premiere kicked off with its coquettish leading lady in red, Katie Thurston, 31, anxiously awaiting her 30 handsome husband hopefuls.

Subbing in for Harrison, 49 — who summarily stepped down as the franchise’s veteran host following a racist rant in March — were show alums Tayshia Adams, 30, and Kaitlyn Bristowe, 35. 

Forming a clique they nicknamed “the ultimate girl gang,” Adams and Bristowe surprised Thurston as her well-versed wing women who’ll guide her down the yellow-brick road towards Bachelorette bliss throughout the season.

“Let the journey begin,” the ladies chimed, sounding the starting pistol to Thurston’s hunt for her forever hunk.  

The Introductions 

Thurston awaits her 30 knights in shining armor at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya in New Mexico.
Thurston awaits her 30 knights in shining armor at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya in New Mexico.
ABC

From a dead fish to gently used undies, each of the culturally diverse contestants — ranging in age from 26 to 36 — greeted Thurston with personalized gifts as their unique caravan of chariots arrived at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya near Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

And while some tokens of appreciations made her laugh, others sent her into a cringe. 

An awkwardly long post-quarantine hug from Gabriel, 35, was enough to make the brunette Washington native’s skin crawl. 

But a fake British accent from overseas football superstar, Andrew S., 26, had the blushing bride wannabe beaming.  

Andrew — who’s from Chicago but plays pro ball in Vienna, Austria — pulled up in a vintage car that made Thurston say “wow.”

But other loverboys, like surgical skin salesmen Jeff, 31, from New Jersey, rolled into Thurston’s life in a beat-up RV. 

James, 30, presented himself as a present to Thurston, arriving in a supersized gift box on wheels that came complete with a big red bow — and he stayed inside the damn thing for the majority of the show. 

And when they weren’t vying for Thurston’s attention, two contestants — Aaron, 26, from San Diego and zipper salesmen Cody, 27 (the guy who brought the blow-up doll) — got into an inexplicable heated exchange. 

Though it’s immediately unclear why the guys broke out into a heated exchange, it’s safe to assume that beef between the two will continue to broil as the season progresses. 

The One-on-Ones 

Thurston gets greeted by
Thurston gets greeted by “Bachelorette” fan favorite, Greg Grippo, during the season premiere.
ABC

Greg Grippo, a 27-year-old marketing sales representative from Edison, New Jersey, stole the show when he gifted Thurston some handcrafted jewelry designed by his toddler niece during their one-on-one chat. 

His sweet gesture earned him the highly-coveted “first impression rose” and a juicy, wet kiss. 

Thurston held court with her other Casanovas in a variety of unique ways.

She hopped into a bed of balls with Tre, 26. She took a tour of Jeff’s nightmarish RV. And she swapped spit with Connor B., 29, the math teacher from Tennessee who donned a head-to-toe cat costume to emphasize their shared love of felines — talk about cat’s got your tongue. 

Who Went Home

When Adams and Bristowe announced that it was time for the Bachelorette to send a handful of her wanna-be boyfriends packing, Thurston didn’t hesitate to give 7 fellows the old heave-ho. 

Thurston cut off any budding romances with seven of her hopeful beaus, refusing to offer any of them a rose.
Thurston cut off any budding romances with seven of her hopeful beaus, refusing to offer any of them a rose.
ABC

Gabriel, Austin, Brandon, Landon, Jeff, Marcus and Marty all fell victim to her first round of cuts. Her 23 remaining beaus bid the guys a kindly farewell. 

Predictions 

Thanks to an end-of-show sneak peek at what’s to come during Thurston’s reign as primetime’s most-wanted babe, die-hard citizens of Bachelor Nation can expect a bunch of “Katie” cheers and a whole lot of heartbreaking tears. 

Fans have already taken to Twitter with their predictions on which of the guys Thurston will offer her final rose to — and everyone thinks it’ll be Greg.