I’m Kathryn, and I’ll be your guest Bachelor in Paradise recapper tonight! I am very sorry that you won’t get the pleasure of an Ali Barthwell recap for this shout-y, weepy, beach-yelling disaster, but I am deeply honored to take the baton. (And Ali will be back tomorrow.)
We begin, as we all knew we would, with Ashley I., the woman whose dramatic depths are so unending that her name gets a last initial even though there are no other Ashleys this season. When the episode begins, we’re stuck watching Ashley and Caila and Jared, with Ashley saying that Caila is a “backstabbing whore of a friend,” and Caila telling Jen that Ashley’s here for “the wrong reasons.” Two hours later, we’re in the exact same place. Caila stares into the bottomless pit of insecurity that is Ashley. Ashley knows that Caila does not have the guts for this Jared-centric blood sport. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the — seriously, can we just move on with this plot, OMG PLEASE.
It didn’t have to be this way. When the episode was just dawning and the whole world looked new and fresh, Paradise’s great skinny hope, Wells, arrived to offer some hope that we could break up this grinding Ashley/Jared/Caila death spiral. I like Wells. It turns out you only need the tiniest scrap of self-awareness to stand out among the Paradise crowd. And who am I kidding: Wells had me way back with those drunken snap recaps of his Bachelorette season.
So Ashley prays to her deceased dog, Lucy, that someone good will show up for her, and lo and behold, Lucy delivers. Wells plays along with the prevailing winds, gracefully accepting the overwhelming tsunami of pressure to take her out on a date. Everyone sighs a deep breath of relief that Ashley isn’t going to Awakening herself out to sea just yet. Ashley and Wells eat tacos, and they feed some to a stray dog. Between Ashley reminding us that All Dogs Go to Heaven, Josh’s sick dog/alibi, and Taco Dog, you got the overwhelming sense that some producer was like, “I found a DOG THEME!” and everyone ran with it and threw in as much dog-on-beach footage as they could find.
The takeaways from Ashley and Wells’s date are that Ashley loves Hanson, and Wells loves the Talking Heads. You don’t need a lantern of fate to literally crash and burn to prognosticate about the future for these two, but just in case, Bachelor in Paradise provides one. That moment right there ensured we’d be back in this unlovely morass of emotion by the episode’s end.
But before that, we’ve got a whole rose ceremony, and a Lace-and-Grant-flavored tempest in a teapot. Lace is scared of relationships (and given that fact, her decision to do this show again makes very little sense, but okay), so she does a little self-sabotage work: She flirts with one of the man-shaped blow-up dolls they keep lying around the pool in order to continually gaslight the audience about whether we’re paying close attention. Grant gets all huffy. There’s a lot of dark shadowy shoulders footage, and then Lace suggests they do a shot and everything blows over.
Of course, we also get some perfunctory catch-up work with the other couples. Nick’s ringing endorsement of Jen is that she’s “not a big personality, but she’s not timid either.” Carly and Evan swear their almost-love for each other, and Carly is yet again shocked to find herself in this position. CARLY. If you still find your love object so worthy of ridicule that you can’t stop laughing about the fact that you’re in a relationship with him, maybe take a step back. Daniel sees the rosy-hued writing on the wall and does some last-ditch nonsense to convince Emily, Haley, or Izzy to give him a rose. The highlight of this is a debate about whether Daniel’s stunt lamp is nine volts or 60 watts.
Yeah, that’s the highlight. Yes.
Okay, let’s talk Josh. Here are the facts: Before the rose ceremony, he is a real asshole about a sleeping-arrangement situation, claiming what’s apparently a desirable couples bed for himself, even though his partner, Amanda, has, without his knowledge, gone off to sleep on her own. Nick and Jen are pissed. Josh goes and wakes up Amanda and is seriously snotty about her horrific act of abandonment. (As in, she fell asleep because she was tired.) Here are some more facts: Andi Dorfman wrote a book claiming some pretty unpleasant things about Josh. Nick, who was the runner-up to Josh, doesn’t seem at all angry about the opportunity to question his rival’s motives. And somehow the twins insert themselves into this whole mess because sure, why not?
The rose ceremony goes down, and everyone pairs up as expected, leaving the twins to pick among Daniel, Brett, and Ryan. (Man-shaped blow-up dolls.) The twins decide to pick no one and leave Paradise on their own terms. Delightfully, their own terms turn out to be lighting a Josh-shaped match, tossing it over their shoulders, and then walking away without ever looking back.
The twins get Amanda all worried about Josh’s motives, and Josh blows a conch shell beautifully forged from his own rage to gather everyone to the beach. It’s time to get to the root of this anti-Josh sentiment. Nick and Josh yell at each other. Cancerous dogs are invoked. In essence, Nick is doing his best to turn Josh into the CHAD 2.0, complete with the suggestion that he’s on the brink of a murderous rampage. And sure, Josh is a jerk. Every time he smiles, he does so with all the naturalness of someone taking a question at a press conference. But he is no the CHAD.
Consider this: More than one thing can be true simultaneously. It can be true that Josh is a scary individual who vibrates with an intensity that suggests his car-salesman exterior will imminently shatter into a million pieces and release the vortex of toxic masculinity contained within. It can also be true that it’s not especially cool of Nick and the twins to sabotage his relationship with Amanda. It’s certainly true that Amanda, who may or may not have made a good choice of partner, is well within her rights to be with someone just because she wants to.
And let’s keep in mind the ultimate truth: Josh’s motives are a mystery because all human interactions are mysterious. Who’s to say if he’s actually genuine this time? The hearts and minds of other people are fundamentally unknowable and all we can do is try our best to muddle through this corporeal existence however we can. Isn’t that what Paradise is really about?
Anyhow, the next morning, Jami arrives and decides to take out Wells before Ashley wakes up and freaks out, and that’s how we get back to this particular circle of hell. Jami, a Ben season veteran, is very nice. If you picked up on the very subtle musical hints that Wells and Ashley might not be an OTP, you might also sleuth out the hidden clue here: Wells and Jami had the same major in college! My 2-year-old could tell you that one of these pairs match, and the other does not.
Jami and Wells go on a classic boring Paradise date that involves waterfalls and bikinis. They talk about Jami’s Batman tattoo, and Wells is happy to talk about comic books because gender roles have come very, very, very far and finding a girl who likes comics is apparently like finding a Bachelor who likes women of color.
Back at the palapas, everyone waits with baited breath for Ashley to learn that Wells has gone on a date with someone else. She does … and she’s totally cool with it! Everyone is shocked!
And then we get a shot of Caila grinning because Jared “smacked [her] butt so hard last night” that it’s still pink. Maybe Ashley sees this, maybe not. But whatever the case, Ashley gathers her strength and rolls up to Caila and basically wills her to leave. Which Caila decides to do, because she doesn’t need any of this. She doesn’t need “the attention.” Ashley is victorious, ensuring that the next episode will be more of this nonsense yet again. Ashley I., more like ASHLEY WHYYYYYYYYY.