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Here s what we ve learned so far from the fourth season of If you re meeting a Southern belle you re hoping to impress, don t lead with the fact that you worked on the Obama campaign. And leave your pet raccoon at home.

No, the same guy didn t make both those missteps, which is too bad. That would have been a guy who deserved a contract for his own reality show, immediately. It was two separate guys, and both were sent packing by Kelsey Smith, the belle at the center of the show, after only a few minutes of contact. Love is cruel.

The CMT show s season premiere was a brisk hour eaten up mostly by introductions and city-vs.-country posturing as 22 competing bachelors got their first look at each other and at Smith. But a couple of big personalities stood out right from the git-go: Jacob Lambert, described as a 23-year-old fireman and Marine Corps veteran from Flomaton, and Alex Stein, a 26-year-old car salesman from Los Angeles.

Lambert is so assertive about his particular bare-armed vision of Southern manhood that Larry the Cable guy would probably advise him to dial it back a notch or two. Stein s baby face belies a breathtaking belligerence: For him, there seems to be no sense of proportion between friendly ribbing and full-on, this-can-only-end-in-bloodshed provocation. His mad-dog taunting of some of the country guys even alienated some of his fellow city boys. Either man s persona could be a complete put-on, or evidence of severe underlying personality disorders. We might never know for sure, but it ll be interesting.

Losers: The single funniest exchange of the episode was the commentary that followed the brief first meeting between Smith and Anthony Marks, an environmental activist and political organizer from Los Angeles. I definitely shocked Kelsey by being a Democrat who works for Obama. But I think it could be a good thing, he theorized, completely misinterpreting her glazed, distant smile. After he walked away, she made a sad little face and said, He s a liberal, as if he had some tragic congenital disease that she d heard of, though she d never personally encountered a victim of it before.

Consequently, when she told Marks that she had to cut him loose because she felt he was more like friend material, it was the least sincere friendzoning in the history of the show. She was a little more believable when she said the same thing to Georgia lumberjack Jason Johnson. And really, who doesn t like the idea of a friend with a pet raccoon? There s nothing wrong with that. You know that friend s never going to find love, if he keeps bringing semi-feral critters on dates, but he s fun to have around.

Winner: Birmingham landscaping company owner Collin Varallo returns this season, after making it to the final four in the first season. I had the biggest crush on you, since I saw you on TV with Devin, Smith confessed, referring to her predecessor, Devin Grissom.

On location: All the action was set in the Fairhope-Point Clear area, at Oak Hollow Farm and Dorgan s Inn.

Drama: Boyd Little of Oak Hollow Farms returns as Sweet Home Alabama s grim reaper, the man who summons bachelors to the meetings where Smith tells them their time is up. He s usually impartial, but there was a hint in Friday s episode that Stein has already gotten on his bad side. Come on, Boyd, tap me on my shoulder, taunted Stein. I want to, said Little. I know you do, replied Stein. Not tonight, brotha.

This is reality? I m country, mused Smith. I m Southern. I like to go fishin . I like to go huntin . I like a guy with a truck, seriously. I just don t feel right getting into a car with a guy. I think there s a part of every Southern girl that wonders what it would be like to date a guy in a suit. It s a mystery because it s not real-life to someone who s grown up around country boys their whole life. It s a fairy tale. It s not even real-life, to be with someone who wears a suit to work every day.

That's what he said: After Jersey boy Danny Martinez made his entrance wearing a flashy tank-top, Lambert had to ask the price. He was bowled over by the answer. Hell no, I wouldn t spend a hundred dollars on a tank top, Lambert declared. I mean if, maybe if it had something like Roll Tide on it, and it was the only one in the world, signed by like somebody bad-ass like, you know, Mr. Van Damme, yeah, I d probably pay a hundred dollars for that.

That's what she said: I feel like God placed us here, Smith told her 22 suitors. And I feel like, we might not know the reason, but I feel like at the end we will.

And then there were: 20 bachelors remain.

The Tease: The most romantic dates lead to the most intense rivalries in a house sharply divided. The preview reel for this season indicates plenty of shouting and shoving ahead, and Stein doesn t appear to be involved in all of it.

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