America’s favorite members of Bachelor Nation weren’t the only ones frolicking on the beach this summer during Bachelor in Paradise. There were also animals. A lot of them. And those B-roll critters often serve as agents of foreshadowing, acting as the Mexican chorus in this Greek tragedy. They may fly and crawl under our subconscious radar, but they’re telling a story of their own — if we only pay attention. Each species had its own crucial role to play this season: every feather full of symbolism, no sandy skuttle too small to ignore. So get out your scrunchies, call dibs on the boom-boom room, and buckle up for nature’s most dramatic deep dive ever.
A Journey Into the Exoskeleton
If BIP footage is any indication, the beaches of Sayulita are completely overrun by various species of crabs. But these crustaceans are not simply random; they symbolize the weakness hiding under the surface, the shortcomings protected by a hard shell, just waiting to be revealed with the slightest crack. Throughout this season, footage of a single crab in some sort of solitary trial consistently precedes moments that highlight our contestants’ fatal flaws.
Take, for example, Annalise’s overconfidence despite her questionable character judgement and utter lack of self-awareness. In episode two, we see various clips of a crab struggling in the sand before Annalise stirs up the Clay and Angela drama, as well as immediately before she gives Chris “kiss prescriptions,” noting her conviction that he will give her a rose. We even catch a blink-and-you-miss-it clip of a crab engaged in violent activity with its own claw — an ouroboros moment as Annalise shoots herself in the foot, failing to secure both her sanity and a rose to stay another week. These crab moments continue all season: Dylan’s clinginess, Caelynn’s idealism, Cam’s intensity, Blake’s well-intentioned brooding, and Tahzjuan’s brutal honesty all receive the crustacean punctuation. No fatal flaw is immune to getting the crab treatment, with John Paul Jones’s sad excuse for a gag reflex and proclivity for vomit securing four separate instances of crab spotlight.
The Man, the Mustache, the Metamorphosis
Dean, who destroyed everyone’s life last summer in Paradise, makes his grand return alongside the appearance of a black bird, a peacock, and a caterpillar. These mere seconds of footage hint at his entire narrative arc this season, illustrating how he’s perceived by the audience as ostentatious, then sly, then (hopefully) metamorphosed.
First, we have the peacock — in the words of Dean himself, “When everyone starts to look like each other, you do what you can to stand out.” And stand out like a flashy bird he does, with tattoo choices that rival Pete Davidson, a firm dedication to #vanlife, and the use of a mustache as a personality trait. But Dean is not merely here to innocently peacock around the beach: The black bird — specifically, the Common Grackle — is a sign of looming darkness, that Mr. Steal Your Girl is back in business. Dean immediately woos Caitlyn away from both Cam and Mike, leaving them both blindsided. The journey does not end there, though, for the caterpillar hints that there is a long road ahead. We know that Dean isn’t looking for a relationship, and neither is Caelynn, who responds “that’s cool” when her adorable fuzzy caterpillar man says that he “lacks foresight” and that his priorities are van adventures. To no one’s surprise, Dean self-sabotages shortly thereafter, dumping Caelynn on her birthday. But the metamorphosis is just beginning as he flees Mexico for a journey of cocoonlike introspection, only to return to the beach “a changed man,” begging Caelynn to take him back. In this moment, Dean has shed both his mustache and his chrysalis; he is a self-aware butterfly back for his butterfly queen. A new question arises: Will these crazy insect kids survive once they are released from captivity, let loose back into the LA habitat? As with any prodigal son, only time will tell.
The Pigeon versus the Seagull
Episode seven brings us the gift of Haley and Tahzjuan’s arrival. These two newcomers take to the beach and proceed to fight over John Paul Jones, wielding their date cards and sweeping him away on back-to-back dates. The animals really come out to play when Tahzjuan calls Haley a “pigeon” and describes herself and JPJ as “seagulls.” This rare moment of creature symbolism plays out not visually, but aloud, with Tahzjuan as the master of her own metaphor. However, pigeon Haley usurps the thought-to-be-superior seagull Tahzjuan. She receives JPJ’s rose, reminding us that the animal kingdom doesn’t always play by the rules. Or, as she puts it, “A seagull is just as bad as a pigeon. Seagulls are like the scum of the ocean and pigeons are like the scum of the earth. There’s more water on the earth than there is just, earth, you know?” Philosophy at its finest, and a victory for pigeons everywhere.
What’s Good for the Goose Is a Nightmare for the Gander
In Episode 8, Goose (a.k.a. Chris) and Krystal return to Mexico for their ABC-sponsored wedding, with the paradise gang joining a bunch of outsiders and former cast members at the ceremony. In an unprecedented animal B-Roll move, Goose himself is the only critter that appears for nearly an hour. What follows is pure chaos caused by the disruption of Paradise norms. First, there is discussion of the outside world as Tia tells Blake that Twitter is blowing up about him, and Ashley I. jokes that he’s going to have to move to Europe. Then, new competition is thrown into the herd, with the long-foreshadowed appearance of Clay’s ex, Angela. Previously confident in her relationship, Nicole mentions that Angela is “invading the world I’ve created with Clay — she’s an intruder on my happiness, my relationship.” Try as he might to “instill faith and hope in this process,” Chris Harrison cannot prevent the nuptials from turning into a total free-for-all, as the outside world bleeds in, disrupting the delicate narrative that producers have carefully crafted. In fact, the brawls and tribulations from Goose’s wedding plague the entire remainder of the season — highlighting the epic destruction that occurs when invasive species are introduced into America’s favorite dystopian bubble.
The Agent of Death
A nefarious, gangly bird repeatedly appears onscreen, usually at night, always alone, and oftentimes eating something mysterious and disgusting. He is the grim reaper of Paradise, signaling the end of a journey. From Bibiana and Wills to Derek and Tahzjaun, this spooky creature materializes to foreshadow departure. If you see him, hold your breath, get out the tissues, and immediately tune in to the Twitter feed of his next, ill-fated victim.
The Complete and Utter Trolling
A late addition, Matt Donald enters paradise in episode ten, armed with a date card and a bucket of anxiety. He asks Sydney, who is inexplicably no longer with Mike, to join him on a day of eating spicy things and learning sign language. In what could have been a perfect rom-com moment, he teaches her how to sign “kiss me,” which she then does repeatedly. But he does not kiss her. After getting smooching advice from every bozo on the beach, Matt finally goes for it, only after Sydney consents to the point of exasperation. What follows is the most absurd display of B-roll footage this franchise has ever seen. There are crabs. There are turtles. There are baby horses and grown horses. There are stadiums and crowds, butterflies and dolphins. There is NASA footage. There is a guy catching a football and a lion roaring. An entire dissertation could be written about the symbolism in these moments of B-roll. But the thesis is clear: We are all a bunch of suckers, tuning in four hours a week with the hope of feeling something more than pure escapism. As much as we joke about Bachelor in Paradise between commercial breaks, we long to bask in the joy of its absurdity — for the creature-filled version of this reality, preposterous and idiotic as it may often be, is far preferable to our own.