"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: So I guess anybody can stay on the beach now
In a better world, I'd just be able to focus happily on Demi's history-making moment for the franchise, bringing a same-sex romantic storyline to the show for the first time – complete with oddly mature conversations for a show that, just 24 hours earlier, featured two grown men fighting over a piñata.
I should be thrilled that "The Bachelor" is joining the 21st century. But instead I'm here wondering: Do we not have rules on "Bachelor in Paradise" anymore? Seriously, do you just get whoever you want onto the show now and then keep them around? I feel like a college dorm RA, politely knocking on the door and going, "Hey, sorry to be a buzzkill, but we do have rules here about random outside people just staying overnight." The show broke away from its own antiquated, heteronormative constraints Tuesday night – and that was terrific, but in the process, it disintegrated the whole premise of the show and seemingly turned the thing into a contrived free-for-all.
Let's go through it all: Last we checked, Demi was feeling really bad about her relationship with Not John Krasinski on the "Paradise" beach, so much so that she summoned Harrison – who's probably getting pretty tired of getting called into the show for emergencies. The guy typically only has to wear a suit, say everyone's name at the rose ceremony and let everyone know that they're down to the final rose, then he can get party at the local bar. But now he's had to break up a fight, kick two dudes off the show and now deal with Demi's drama. GOOD FOR YOU, FINALLY EARNING THAT PAYCHECK THIS SEASON, HARRISON. And while I'm at it, good for him on being so reassuring and sincerely concerned about Demi's emotional wellbeing and life decisions. Again, a weirdly adult moment for a show that spent several minutes on John Paul Jones horking bad tacos into the sea.
Anyways, Demi's sad because she hoped that the more time she spent with Not John Krasinski, the less she would think about the woman she left back in Los Angeles – but instead the opposite happened. Meanwhile, Not John Krasinski is still handling this all like a gentleman champ. Sure, he's not thrilled about Demi dating somebody else right before the show, much more seriously than she originally let on, but he could not care less that it's because she's dating a woman and he's being more than considerate and thoughtful about Demi's decisions and life choices. Good on you, Not John Krasinski! I'm THIS close to calling you by your actual name!
Some time passes and Harrison returns for some more Harrison-terference, calling Demi aside and sending her up the stairs to meet Kristian, the woman she's dating back in the real world. It's sweet, precious and genuinely affectionate – not to mention I think the first same-sex kiss in "Bachelor" franchise history, so LOOK AT YOU SMASHING THROUGH GLASS CEILINGS, SHOW! But also smashing the rule book while we're at it, because ... we're just inviting anybody to come on the show now? Kristian isn't some former "Bachelor" cast member or member of Bachelor Nation; she's a complete outsider – which seems super unfair to Not John Krasinski that the show decided that it's fine to bring in outside beaus if and when they decide.
Plus, are we just fine with people dating other people as they go onto a dating reality show? Some have conflated Demi's situation to the same as Jed's on "The Bachelorette," and that's not wholly fair – Jed was deceptive and was using the show as a platform for financial success, while Demi's been fairly forthright about using the show to figure out her own feelings and emotions. Still, maybe if you're dating somebody and trying to solve how you feel about it, maybe an artificial dating reality show where romances are essentially games to play in the hopes of staying on vacation isn't the place to go for clarity.
Still, the actual relationship discussions are honest, thoughtful and tender – and unlike in the past, when people's fluid sexuality or bisexuality was simply used as a kind of sleazy twist, this is handled as just two people figuring out who and what they want in a partner. Demi takes Kristian aside and explains that, while she did spark up a romance with Not John Krasinski, "it's always been you." Demi then chats with Not John Krasinski, explaining that she wants to stay with Kristian and work on their relationship. Again, he handles it very sweetly, telling Demi that he understands before letting Kristian know that there will be no ill-will from him on the show, that he respects Demi's choice and their relationship, and that he wishes them the best. Then the two head off, leaving Not John Krasinski behind on the beach, looking the saddest he's ever been since his kid died at the beginning of "A Quiet Place."
So Demi and Kristian are off to the real world to figure out their relationship without cameras or other ridiculous reality show dramas getting in the way, right? So, funny story: No.
Instead, the two get a date card, and they're off on date because ... I guess Kristian is on "Bachelor in Paradise" now? The two are off, once again, having very real conversations about how Kristian feels somewhat upset that Demi felt the need to test their relationship by going on a dating show and finding a new romance while Kristian never had that same uncertainty, and it's very mature and thoughtful for a show that will later reveal Demi has no idea who Nelson Mandela is. But that entire time, I was too busy being distracted by the fact that I guess we're just inviting random people onto these shows now? (Distracted by that – and also that during their entire discussion, the audio sounded like somebody left a sink running in the background.)
But seriously, it was odd enough that the show decided to bring somebody's wholly outside significant other onto the program – but now I guess Kristian's just on the show as a regular cast member. Did we just break the premise of the show? Can anybody just bring randos onto "The Bachelor" now? People go on this show, and we watch this show, for a certain structured experience – and now apparently the producers can just summon random outsiders whenever they feel like it. I'm all for mixing up the formula on these shows, but like Cam electing to bust into a group date he wasn't invited to during Hannah's season, I'm less enthusiastic if it feels like cheating the system – or that the system itself is cheating, playing by its own willy-nilly whims.
Never mind the rules or the confines of the show, however: Doesn't this all seem wildly rude to Not John Krasinski, who was falling in love with Demi and now has to watch as they get to hang out and have their romance play out right in front of him because the show decided to burn its rulebook due to Demi being too valuable of a character to lose? Because make no mistake, if this was Sydney or Katie or someone else, "Bachelor in Paradise" maybe would've brought Kristian on to help settle their hearts, but it would've let them figure out the rest of their relationship off-screen. (Which, frankly, would probably be for the best if you want to see how strong your relationship works.) But since Demi is such a big, entertaining personality seemingly born for "Paradise," the show decided to bend its concept to the point of breaking. Oddly enough, in the process of developing its most authentic and sweet relationship, "Bachelor in Paradise" has rarely felt more manipulative, like it was toying with its cast members.
Then again, considering the rest of the episode, I get why Harrison and company wouldn't want to let Demi simply walk off the beach – because otherwise this thing was a two-hour televised Ambien.
Somehow, there's more Blake drama as he and Caitlin hit it off, but Kristina – who is proving to be here exclusively for the drama – dives in and starts blocking off Caitlin. She obviously takes that as an affront, and the two chat it out, where Kristina explains that they're just friends, but Caitlin's annoyed that it seems like Kristina's fishing for a friendship rose from Blake when she's actually pursuing a relationship with him. (Always a bad decision. Have we learned nothing from this season?) And to make matters more testy, Kristina is all condescending and "honey"-ing to Caitlin. But it's honestly not that compelling since Kristina's transparently in the business of blowing things up – but not in a fun, entertaining way since she claims the high ground. Plus, I don't think Caitlin knows where to put the emphasis in the word "manipulative." Fair enough, though; they serve a lot of alcohol on this beach.
AND SHE WILL NEED IT as there's a new arrival: Jen from Ben's season. And this may not surprise you, but she too went to Stagecoach and also spent time with Blake prior to "Paradise" – separately though. Suuure. Blake needs to chill the hell out with hanging with every single "Bachelor" alum. But don't worry because he doesn't get Jen's date card – and neither does Dirty Dean, even though Caelynn was VERY convinced he was going to bail on their relationship for a new woman. SEEMS LIKE A SOLID BEDROCK OF TRUST YOU'VE BUILT THIS RELATIONSHIP UPON! So instead the date card goes to Gerard Butler, who conveniently just got hurt by Katie when she casually said that he could do what he wanted with the newly arriving girls while he was truly interested in being serious with Katie. Meanwhile, no one in the audience cares. If you had asked me, I'm not sure I would've even known Gerard Butler and Katie were an item. Much like an actual Gerard Butler movie, it's there but nobody's paying that much attention to it.
Still, Jen and the star of "300" go on their date on a catamaran, which goes well until they wind up in "The Perfect Storm" and Gerard Butler is left puking off the side of the boat. A WHOLE LOT OF THROWING UP THIS SEASON – and somehow none of it having to do with Cam! Even with Gerard Butler chumming the water, though, the two have a nice date that ends with them chatting and making out in a bubble-less hot tub – aka the worst kind of hot tub.
Meanwhile, Nicole sings a bad Broadway musical number to Clay about his yummy biceps and how she wants him in her tummy. So you can see why the producers would be desperate to keep Demi around – even if it meant blowing up the show's premise and Not John Krasinski's house as a result.
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