Hold on … If we just …
Okay … Let’s just …
WHAT? HOW AND WHY?
How do we even —
ARE THERE NO MORE RULES?!??!!? NO, I WILL NOT CALM DOWN.
So, nothing means anything and we can just bring people from home now, I guess? Chris Harrison just lets you do what you want and we all have to go along with it?
Sure, technically, if you want to be a nerd about it, “other” “things” “happened” this episode, and we can talk about those things, but the real narrative thrust is Demi’s girlfriend, Kristian, joining her on Paradise and Demi’s breakup with Derek. Unfortunately, the entire endeavor is just BAFFLING. I’m bewildered, perplexed, and befogged! I’m CONFOUNDED, dear readers. CONFOUNDED!
Because the problem with all of this — well, one problem with all of this — is that it’s an insult to our intelligence. What are the odds that after seeing how much Demi had been struggling with her sexuality, Chris Harrison, out of the goodness of his heart, flew in Demi’s very telegenic girlfriend exactly halfway through the season? Are we supposed to believe that all this happened at the last minute because Demi’s emotional suffering had gone too far, and production just wanted her to be happy?
I could go through an itemized list of my problems with this whole storyline, but my singular biggest problem is that none of this had to happen on television. Specifically, on this television program. When you realize that the person your heart truly wants isn’t on a television program, the solution isn’t to bring that person to the television program. Unless you care more about being on television than having an authentic and honest relationship. Unless you’re the type of person who would go on a TV show even though you are in a serious relationship, get involved with another person, and withhold information about your serious relationship. Unless you’re that type of person, the solution is to leave the television program and go be with your serious girlfriend.
There’s no space for Derek’s feelings in all this. If, as it’s reasonable to believe, Demi knew there was a possibility for Kristian to appear on the show, Demi’s flirtation with Derek was irresponsible and insensitive. And even if Demi didn’t know that Kristian was going to appear on the show, she was perfectly willing to put their relationship on hold so she could goof around on Paradise. Did she expect Kristian to wait for her? Say Demi really fell in love in Paradise, what happens to Kristian’s feelings then? How is it any different than what so many of these dudes have been accused of?
Because now we have to watch Derek be upset and hurt by Demi’s actions when even the most generous reading of the situation paints Demi as someone who was callous with two relationships. The show has gone to great lengths to entangle Demi’s relationship with Kristian and her honesty about her sexuality, so it’s difficult for Derek to express discomfort about being lied to about Demi’s relationship with Kristian. Every time an emotion passes across his heart, he has to put a disclaimer that “Love is love is love” and “Demi is so brave” before he can be bummed that the girl he liked was planning a “most dramatic season” moment all along!
PLUS. PLUS. Kristian is the least charismatic person ever to grace that damn beach. We gotta deal with this lady now? I didn’t sign up for this random lady. I signed up for and get paid to watch a bunch of personal trainers and Teami brand partners I’ve grown to know and “love” get romantically crushed on a beach. I did not sign up for Kristian. What’s her deal? What is her personality besides “blonde bob” and “bad at picking out outfits” (according to Demi)? Does she even #sponcon #ad? WAS SHE AT STAGECOACH? I’m all for love and everything, but my God, it doesn’t seem like this woman wants to be there.
At some point, someone decided that we’re all Demi stans, that we’re all worshipping at the altar of the Demi God. This woman has no idea who Nelson Mandela is. NELSON. MANDELA. If there’s any human who was the main character of Earth, it was Nelson Mandela. He was that bitch. Also, Wells’s clue was “Will Smith played him in a movie.” No, he didn’t. Will Smith has never played Nelson Mandela. Idris Elba has. Morgan Freeman has, because that makes perfect sense. Somehow, Terrence “I invented my own math” Howard has played Nelson Mandela, but Will Smith NEVER has. Does Wells not know the difference between Will Smith and Terrence Howard? Does Wells think the movie Ali was about Nelson Mandela? Or does Wells think that concussion movie where Will Smith played that Nigerian concussion doctor was about Nelson Mandela? I need ANSWERS because this cannot stand.
Look, I’m sure we all will wake up to a sea of thinkpieces about the “queering” of the show, and as a straight person, I’m certainly not here to tell folks that a same-sex relationship on a major network isn’t something worth noticing. Seeing the whole cast accept and welcome Kristian, while narratively confusing, was heartwarming. But as a fan of reality TV, and having seen how other networks are working in LGBTQ realities from the jump, c’mon, Bachelor in Paradise, do better. You could create a system where roses aren’t only exchanged along heterosexual lines. You could include people’s pronouns in their chyrons along with snarky job descriptions. You could have included actual viable queer options as contestants. You could have made Demi and her girlfriend the bartenders and sent them on fun dates throughout the season. Something, anything other than a premise-breaking move that bolsters the franchise’s “reputation” as progressive more than anything else.
Elsewhere in Paradise, Jen S. arrives and she’s impossibly beautiful and it freaks everyone out. She asks Chris on the date and since Katie has temporarily lost her mind, he accepts. Katie is behaving as if she has absolutely no agency and once she’s decided something, she cannot go back on it. Once things start happening, they just happen and there’s nothing we can do about it. Also, another woman falls victim to Cool Girl Syndrome. Telling a guy that he can date whoever he wants when that’s the literal opposite of what you want and how you feel is the first symptom. Once you’re sympathizing with Blake on a palapa, there’s no cure.
Jen’s arrival also has Caelynn immediately doubting Dean’s integrity, and she says that he’s just interested in the new shiny object. Good Christ. Whatever happens in this woman’s mind is dark. Instead, Chris goes on the date and proceeds to vomit his brains out on a boat. Why is there so much vomit on this season?!
Nicole has written Clay a song where she says that she wants him in her tummy. What does that mean? I find it horribly inappropriate and I would like it off my television.
Kristina appeals to Blake to give her a friendship rose. Caitlyn gets upset and sits around talking shit about Kristina to Caelynn. Every moment Caelynn spends on the beach makes me believe Hannah B.’s version of their falling out a little bit more. Caitlyn decides she’s going to CONFRONT Kristina about her confusing Blake and monopolizing his time. She takes Kristina aside and says, “Hey girlie! Let’s have a little chitty-chat!” Listen, if you’re about it, BE ABOUT IT. Kristina makes sure to compliment Caitlyn’s shoes because the rules of female engagement are opaque and contradictory. They speak to each other in perfectly clipped sentences and slyly accuse the other one of being “oh my god sooooooooooooooo defensive.”
Caitlyn walks away telling Kristina that she’s just so impossible when Kristina, in this moment and this moment alone, has a bit of a point. If Caitlyn wants Blake’s rose, the rules of the show require her to communicate that to him. But according to Caitlyn, Kristina doesn’t respect women! Kristina is like a CRIME against WOMEN because she was a little rude to Caitlyn once.
Let’s see what fresh hell this show can spin for us next week!