And then ... there was one.

(SPOILER ALERT: It was Kaitlyn.)

In yesterday’s recap, I predicted that the 25 men on this season of The Bachelorette would choose Britt to be the woman they would all simultaneously date in a way that is not at all weird or uncomfortable. My wife, who got me hooked on this show in the first place and has a sixth sense for its plot twists, predicted it would be Kaitlyn, and she was right. My big mistake: Buying in to the narrative presented by The Bachelorette producers that most of the men were there for Britt, and were utterly smitten by her vivacious charm and outgoing demeanor. In doing so, I forgot a key rule of Bachelorette viewership: Trust nothing, because everything is a distorted version of reality coaxed into being by the show specifically to swerve viewers with shocking surprises. Believing the version of events shown on The Bachelorette is like believing a magician when he tells you he really sawed a woman in half.

In hindsight, it was always going to be Kaitlyn. Britt came perilously close to being the villain of the last season of The Bachelor. She bashed Farmer Chris Soules’ hometown behind his back, then told him she loved it; she claimed to be terrified of hot-air balloons, but as soon as she was in one with Chris acted like it was a dream come true. Worst of all, she dared to commit one of the cardinal sin of Bacheloretiquette: She had the unmitigated gall to sneak extra time with the man she was dating. As Chris Harrison said on last night’s premiere, The Bachelorette is all about being fair. And spending a few extra hours with a guy before he maybe possibly proposes to you after like five dates is totes unfair.

Throughout her time on The Bachelor, Kaitlyn played by the rules. More importantly, she’s sweet and bubbly, and seems just the slightest bit insecure about herself where Britt is confident and self-assured. And The Bachelorette always works better with an insecure woman at the center, because that uncertainty about herself can be woven into the narrative of the show.

Take, for example, season 7 star Ashley, who was constantly compared, by herself and her suitors, to Emily, the woman who beat her out for the heart of Bachelor Brad on a previous season of The Bachelor. Ashley (or, more accurately, the version of Ashley presented by The Bachelorette producers) seemed almost pathologically obsessed with Emily and with her own relative worthiness to hold the title of Bachelorette, which made for a particularly fraught season of television. The shock Kaitlyn displays when host Chris Harrison tells her she’s the Bachelorette (not to mention some of the actions teased in the episode’s “This Season On...” montage) suggests she’s got more than her share of self-doubt to deal with.

Then again, it would have been hard not to be shocked by the big news the way it was delivered by Chris Harrison, who deliberately chose the most deceptive sentence possible. “We tallied the votes and unfortunately,” Harrison told Kaitlyn followed by one of his patented dramatic pauses, “I had to send Britt home.” Harrison could have walked up to Kaitlyn and given her a big hug and congratulated her. He could have asked Kaitlyn if she thought she won and why. Instead, he made it seem like she lost and then flipped the script. This is what Chris Harrison does. He claims he’s there to help these men and women find love, while doing everything he can to subtly push them towards their emotional breaking point. He offers a shoulder to cry on, and then once someone leans in he reaches for the knife. And he is exceptionally good at his job.

With Britt dispatched in tears, it was Kaitlyn’s turn to take center stage. From there, things finally settled into the familiar routine of a Bachelorette season premiere; the many eligible men all vying for the attention of the main woman, followed by a rose ceremony where she keeps most of the men, including several that are demonstrably crazy, and sends a few others home, including at least one or two that are demonstrably not crazy, the better to make the viewer scream “What was she thinking?” at the television. (If I had to guess, I would assume she’s thinking the producers told her to keep a couple weirdos around for another episode or two purely for the comedic value. I could be wrong, though. Maybe Kaitlyn’s just really into “healers” like Tony, who also openly admitted he preferred Britt.)

After the intensely awkward opening night, most of this second episode proceeded smoothly, or at least as smoothly as anything on The Bachelorette ever proceeds. No one else got extremely drunk, sexually harassed a woman, and was asked to leave. True to Bachelorette tradition, Kaitlyn proudly declared, after having spent maybe six hours total with these guys, that she was confident that her husband was somewhere in Bachelor Mansion. Sure, why not. With this many dudes in one place, the odds are pretty much in her favor.

The frontrunner in the early going would have to be JJ, another single dad in the cast (The Bachelor/ette loves single parents) who an endearingly honest Kaitlyn tells she takes more seriously because he has a kid. “I am into you,” Kaitlyn says with a coy smile. The look of shock and pleasant surprise on JJ’s face (as he held, but never sipped, his glass of wine) was priceless, one of the rare and hilarious moments of honesty amidst The Bachelorette’s air of manufactured romance.

If there’s a dark horse in the cast, it would be Jared, a regular dude from Warwick, Rhode Island who spends his one-on-one time with Kaitlyn confessing that he’d actually voted for Britt in the Bachelorette-off. A grateful Kaitlyn thanked Jared for his honesty (being “open and honest” is the most important value on The Bachelorette; the phrase is a cornerstone of any serious Bachelorette drinking game) and then later gave him the final rose of the evening, which is typically reserved for characters whose storylines are evolving or deepening. On the “This Season On...” montage, Jared appeared to make it deep into the season; in fact, the highlight reel implies Jared survives all the way to this season’s fantasy suite (basically an eff-shack where the Bachelorette can, let’s say, sample the cows away from prying eyes before she has to purchase the cow during the season finale). In the fantasy suit ... well, something happens. It appears that Kaitlyn sleeps with one of her bachelors, then regrets it and reveals her actions to the other contestants.

But remember: Everything on The Bachelorette is a distorted version of reality coaxed into being by the show specifically to swerve viewers with shocking twists. Every “This Season On...” Bachelorette montage starts with roses and yachts and kisses at sunset in tropical paradises and ends with heartache, crying, and the suggestion that something went so terribly wrong that the Bachelorette didn’t wind up finding love. Invariably, though, they do anyway (at least for a little while, until they invariably break up). So exactly what happened in that fantasy suite is probably not nearly as shocking as it seems right now. Because this is The Bachelorette, and that’s what it wants us to believe.

Additional Thoughts:

  • -The “This Season On...” montage also revealed the return of Nick, the runner-up of the previous season of The Bachelorette. Past contestants often come back to The Bachelor/ette and try to game the system and insert themselves into the competition. This almost never works, but the (not always trustworthy) montage suggests Nick actually succeeds in becoming a full-fledged bachelor again. He’s actually a really interesting character (with his own infamous history in the fantasy suite) but let’s table that for the week he returns to the show.
  • Line of the Night: Brady, the singer/songwriter from Nashville, who mused after Britt’s departure: “I felt more emotions in the last 24 hours than I think I could have ever imagined.” Me too, Brady. Me too.
  • Also, I owe Brady an apology. Last night, I said he had the look of a guy who was not on the show for “the right reasons” (i.e. Bachelorette lingo for being more interested in becoming famous than finding love). But tonight, after his preferred Bachelorette got the boot, he willfully excused himself from the competition to chase after Britt. It was a solid move; now he can pursue Britt all by himself and even if it doesn’t work out, he looked like a principled romantic on national television. Smooth one, Brady.
  • Sadly Shawn E., this season’s self-professed “amateur sex coach,” did not make the cut and was sent home by Kaitlyn. I’m sorry Shawn. My advice: Go home, work on your craft, and become a professional sex coach, then saddle up your hot-tub car and come back to The Bachelorette and try again. I bet you’ll have more luck. In my experience, women want men with good, stable careers.