When the famous enfant terrible and alleged fashion designer Kanye West said, “No one man should have all that power,” he didn’t know it yet but he was referring to Riley and Riley alone. The time has come for the Rilenaissance and I am HERE FOR IT. Good God. I think literally every woman on the beach summed it up when they first laid eyes on Riley and simply said, “What a man.” It was unfair to bring Riley in because … look at his whole thing. Riley was already a fucking stud on the desert season, but now? Now? This man is unstoppable. Some people really thrive on Paradise compared to a usual season because they might be more comfortable being pursued than having to pursue someone, while other people thrive because they’re able to INSTANTLY CAPITALIZE ON SEXUAL TENSION.
Holy shit. I was at home, on my couch, squealing in delight. Is Bachelor in Paradise genuinely horny again? Because I am THRILLED. I am TITILLATED. I am TANTALIZED.
I would just like everyone on the beach to really look close and see what sexual chemistry and sexual tension really looks like. Riley slowly and carefully pulling Maurissa in for a kiss with just one finger under her chin is the stuff of great romance novels. Do I wish their perfect first kiss could have happened somewhere other than under the watchful eye of Lance Bass while surrounded by boiled tongue? Sure, but considering everyone else on the beach’s stratagem is to make eye contact and then say, “Let’s kiss,” a carefully executed smooth move is a delight. Especially for the people who consider themselves sexual scoundrels, seeing some sexual chemistry build and then finally be released between two people who are really feeling the moment and are getting to know each other is a FUCKING TREAT.
So, my kingdom for a thousand Rileys. Let’s get to it.
I can’t believe we have to start somewhere other than the entrance of Riley. Up first, we have to meet our new guest host, and I hope each one is introduced with a musical sting and pun every single time. I need Titus Burgess to enter singing “And I’m telling youuuuuu I’m your new guest host!” The guest host is Lance Bass and I’m perfectly fine with this. He’s down to gab and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to make any untoward jokes about someone’s sexual preferences. That’s where the bar is and he’s sailing over it. Kenny says the boy band he manages would only be able to exist because of Lance Bass. All Kenny has is because of Lance Bass.
This week in Paradise the women have the roses, so you’d assume that the men would do all they can to impress the women and keep their spot there, but dating is broken and men are pests. The men are more concerned that Thomas from Katie’s season might show up. Y’all. He’s going to show up. Of course he is. That’s how this game show works. They figure out what would make you have the worst time and then give you that. I’m still waiting for Tre’s hot uncle to saunter down the steps and trap Tre in a love isosceles. The arrival of Thomas has all the men from Katie’s season FIRED UP. They are so incredibly pissed that a hot guy they don’t like is on the beach with them. Meanwhile, every woman’s neck has snapped off their bodies from craning it to look at Thomas. Demi! If you’re such a little troublemaker, go climb all 6’6” of Thomas! This is your moment! But instead, Thomas takes basically every woman aside and asks them if they know how tall he is. He’s 6’6”, has he mentioned that yet?
Aaron and Tre are pacing back and forth, enumerating Thomas’s negative qualities in a list that just keeps growing. He’s a snake, he’s trash, he’s a narcissist, he’s a liar who doesn’t deserve to walk the earth. All the other guys on the beach are trying to stay as far away from any drama as possible and praying that their girlfriends of two full days aren’t going to abandon them for a certified hottie, even if he is an alleged monster. Tahzjuan decides to just tell Thomas that some of the guys don’t like him but she still would like to climb him like a tree if the option is still available. Aaron makes eye contact with Tammy and says “Tammy, ignore his ass” which is exactly what a woman wants to hear from the guy she likes about literally talking to another man.
Thomas ends up asking Serena P on the date, prompting Joe to wander the beach again, questioning his very existence. He keeps taking naps to keep the bad feelings away. He’s reminded of when Kendall went on a date with Leo on their season of Paradise and she spent the next few days wondering who she was going to pick. All I was thinking was “Who the fuck is Leo? If we’re supposed to remember who this pivotal person was in Joe’s time in Paradise before, maybe show one clip of his face?”
On Thomas and Serena P’s date, they’re going banana-boating and sitting at some sort of floating cocktail table that’s pulled behind a speedboat. Adorable date. Thomas takes his shirt off and we see it in slow motion. Serena P and Thomas make out on the floating cocktail table before having what can only be described as a “sangria picnic.” Thomas toasts to the “side pickle” and Serena P asks him “so why does everyone hate your fucking guts?” Thomas decides to take this moment to say that he was a father figure to Tre who is basically emotionally weak and Aaron is full of shit. Let me reiterate: Thomas stealing Katie away multiple times when other people hadn’t gotten time shouldn’t even be part of this. That’s slightly dick-ish but permissible Bachelorette behavior. Thomas says he wishes there was actual tea to spill, but calling Tre your adult son who can’t do emotions good is pretty hot.
Back in Paradise, RILEY IS ARRIVING. He has been doing bicep curls since the day he left the New Mexico desert. The women line up on a daybed for the mere privilege of being gazed upon by this delicious man. Riley is a lawyer and everyone, and I mean fucking everyone, would say yes to going on a date with him. I saw Wells perched on that daybed. The men are finally worried about this new arrival because Riley is a decent person and jacked as hell. After gazing into the eyes of every woman on the beach and telling her that she’s beautiful, Riley picks Maurissa and Tahzjuan has a fucking meltdown. Riley was THE ONLY person she was there to meet, and Tre is really going to have a hard time watching this season back.
Serena P finally returns from her date and tells Joe that she’s still into him but if Thomas had been involved in like 20 percent less drama, they might be having a different conversation. Thank goodness this 35-year-old man can continue to date this 23-year-old. Before we can get to Riley and Maurissa’s incredibly sexual date, Tahzjuan tells Thomas that the women on the beach have heard the feedback about his behavior. Thomas asks “what was the feedback” and Tahzjuan says “that you’re a liar and you manipulate and mislead everyone.” She says he’s about to have a very bad time.
Karl decides to snag a literal second of screen time and leads Thomas over to the rest of the dudes for an unsolicited confrontation. No one asked for this. Not even the audience. Thomas should just take his shirt off and pose in the water. That’s all I want from him. Thomas takes accountability for his actions on Katie’s season but doesn’t own up to any of the trash-talking he did on their date. Tre appreciates the accountability-sounding language but he won’t believe it until he sees some different actions. And again, that’s not what’s about to happen. We know how reality TV works. Tahzjuan tells Tre that Thomas was talking trash on his date with Serena P. Tre goes to confront Thomas again to tell him that Tre isn’t going to talk to him again. In terms of the confrontations we’ve seen on Paradise, this is pretty tame and actually a pretty healthy way for Tre to handle this drama. Good for you, Tre.
Y’all. It’s time for Riley and Maurissa’s date and her titties are OUT. She is READY. I completely forgot she was even with Connor because those titties say she did too. Connor tries to remind her before she goes on her date that he likes her (because Jessenia has to remind him that putting in an effort is a good idea) and if the choices are “Music Improv Guy who Keeps Bringing His Ukelele to Rehearsal” and “Jacked Hot Lawyer,” we know who Maurissa is picking.
Riley and Maurissa get the joke date!!!!! Nooo!!! Give them something cute, damn it. They have to answer a probing question or take a bite of some animal parts. All of the animal parts featured would actually taste good if they were braised in a chili broth. None of the questions are that mortifying and they both won’t answer, “What was your most embarrassing moment?” C’mon, we’ve all read a YM magazine. Just say your period bled through your pants or you puked on a roller coaster. Then the questions start to get sexier and they feed each other the offal. You know you wanna really bang somebody when feeding them dry table tripe with your bare hands becomes an erotic experience. Maurissa says she masturbates every day and yes, bitch. You know exactly what an orgasm is, so feel free to ride Riley until the wheels fall the fuck off to get what’s yours.
Meanwhile, Connor’s corny ass is still playing the ukulele. Sir. No. I’ve dated one of these twee lil’ cherubs before and yes, while they are highly enthusiastic and take direction well, at some point, you just want A Jacked Lawyer. The other minor relationship scuffles are that Tre and Tahzjuan have to reaffirm their commitment to each other after Tahz is visibly disappointed Thomas doesn’t take her on the date and Tre has no idea how to actually pursue a woman, and Natasha is folding into herself because Brendan isn’t trying to make their connection romantic. She can tell something is wrong and he won’t actually name it or own up to it. Combined with all the Pieper rumors, it’s becoming clearer that Brendan is just trying to hang around until someone more interesting shows up. I wonder if he’ll still get a hot edit when all that goes down.
Back on Maurissa and Riley’s date, they both talk about wanting a marriage and a family and Maurissa wants her children to be the team at the family reunion no one wants to fuck with. She also talks about gaining weight because of what sounds like some bad relationships. I simply did not know how to interpret this conversation. As a fat person, I’m used to someone gaining weight being used as storytelling shorthand for “depression” or “letting yourself go.” It doesn’t make it easier or less depressing to hear “200-and-something pounds” as a nightmare weight scenario. Probably the most depressing part is that this show hasn’t featured anyone who wasn’t an absolute thin knockout. “Two hundred and something pounds” is probably an average weight for a lot of people, and this show would never ever ever ever feature a woman anywhere near that number. I’m glad Maurissa was able to find the strength and peace she needed to, in her words, “snap out of it.” (What does that mean?) I really am. Not liking the body you’re in is incredibly painful and knowing that people are treating you different because of your body is fucking awful. Hearing Riley tell Maurissa that he’s sure she was beautiful when she gained weight because she has a beautiful soul was pretty great. But man, oh man, it’s time for literally any size diversity on this program so the only narratives we hear about fat people aren’t “I had to snap out of that.”
Thankfully, the show leaves us on the positively mouth-watering moment when Riley puts Maurissa up against a wall and makes out with her, gives her a lil’ kiss on the forehead and says “I know a place we can go.” Connor who?!??!??!?!?