I’ll be be honest and say I’m a complete Bachelorette newbie. Before the 2017 cycle, the only actual Bachelor(ette) exposure I had ever experienced was watching the premiere of JoJo Fletcher’s season and wondering why all of the men looked like sets of quintuplets. I even came into Rachel Lindsay’s season two weeks late thanks to a trip to Italy. So, after entering season 13 with "Week 3," I had no clue who the actual frontrunners were. All I knew was that I needed to immediately follow "business owner" Peter Kraus and his perfect gray eyes on Instagram. When I asked my colleague with a Ph.D in Bachelor Nation, the wonderful R.A. Farley, whom she believed would win Rachel’s heart, she surprised me. Instead of screaming "Peter, duh!" right in my face, she revealed the true Bachelorette sleuth's pick is none other than Will Gaskins and his now-famous Maintain Swagger t-shirt.
After a few weeks of waiting to see how the Miami sales manager would break out of the pack, Will finally got to prove he’s the one to watch this season with last night’s "Week 5, Part 1."
Will started out the episode strong, finally pulling public racist and Bachelorette chaos monster Lee Garrett to the side for a quick conversation about race in America. Over the last few weeks, Lee has pretended to be blissfully ignorant about his casual dog whistle racism when it comes to wrestler Kenny King. Thankfully, Will finally puts a stop to the singer-songwriter-Twitter sexist’s flimsy excuse. After Lee repeatedly tries to get Will to call Kenny "aggressive” too, the Black 28-year-old says, "When you call him aggressive, there is a long-standing history in this country of regarding Black men in America as aggressive to justify a lot of other things." Historically, those "things" have been lynchings and mass incarceration. Although Lee completely misses the point — confusingly claiming the object of his obsession, Kenny, is playing "the race card" — the moment makes Will look like a hero, since no one else has stood up to the villainous Lee in such a way.
Will’s Very Good Episode didn't stop there, as he completely dominates the Bachelorette’s Norwegian handball game date. He was competitive without being rude and totally into the entire experience. Rachel takes notice, saying in a confessional, "Will put on his game face, his athleticism. He was like Jordan in the ‘97 finals. I needed to see that from Will today, and that didn’t go unnoticed." That is some high praise. The Florida man’s strengths continued to shine during the after-date cocktail party, where he finally opens up about himself. Will explains the last person he was in love with left him, seemingly unexpectedly, and "picked someone else." He goes on to reveal he was only able to get over the heartbreak by realizing there was nothing else he could have done.
Rachel couldn't have been happier with Will's at-long-last openness, responding, "I know, whenever I see you, I’m gonna have a smile on my face. I’m gonna have a good time." In fact, she had such a good time with Will, she gives the "handsome" and "optimistic" guy the group date rose, despite her steamy bathtub hookup with Peter, leaving the male model and other frontrunners looking more nervous than usual.
Going forward, we’ll find out if Will is able to maintain this swagger throughout the season, and end The Bachelorette as Rachel’s one and only.