Nick’s season has always been a bit of an anomaly for me. It’s a season I remember enjoying in spurts but which, on the whole, wasn’t really a favourite. Nick is not only a longtime friend but one who allows me to be this honest, and I am thankful for that.
The good: On a purely selfish level, it’s just downright fun to watch someone you know well as the lead. It adds many layers of depth to watching a show, especially one you’ve seen many times before. After all, a facial expression your friend makes on TV can carry so much more weight if you’ve literally never seen him make that same expression in years of friendship. In that sense, I remember seeing the way he looked at Vanessa and being deeply moved, as I swore I had never seen him look at any woman that way before. There were many beautiful moments in his season.
It’s for that same reason I think there’s real benefit to casting a well-known franchise veteran as the lead. It’s the closest Americans can get to feeling “in” on things, to having that feeling of knowing the person before their season has even begun. And I don’t just mean “knowing” them from their flattering spin on their previous season—a generally peachy Bachelor or Bachelorette edit doesn’t give us a whole lot. But a two-time runner-up who began as a villain, morphed into a romantic lead, and then became a platonic friend and voice of reason on a spin-off? THAT is someone whose many sides have been shown, someone who can be appreciated beyond topless shower scenes and a basic “hook” of being a virgin or a pilot.
On a general level, I loved the conversations Nick’s season brought about. Rachel may not have the same Instagram following as the JoJos and Hannah Bs, but she has proven to be one of the franchise’s most important people. Beyond being obviously intelligent, educated and articulate, she is outspoken on topics ranging from cyber-bullying to racism. Even when she gets flak for her involvement, or gets criticized by an increasingly emboldened far-right, she remains steadfast and brave; she doesn’t allow her haters to stifle her voice in her pursuit of change. If you can’t tell, I deeply admire Rachel.
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But, with an impressive woman who is such a force, it could be easy to forget that the reason we even know who she is is because of Nick. After all, so many smart and admirable men and women (OK, mostly women) have walked through this show’s hallowed halls, but we often don’t remember their names a year later (unless they went on to Bachelor in Paradise), simply because of how they fared on their season. And there have been many, many Bachelors who have kept around contestants of colour—who you knew weren’t real contenders, weren’t going to make the best First Impression and certainly weren’t winding up engaged. So, there’s something to be said about the first Bachelor (on a VERY white show) who was mature enough about race to admit to NOT not being colourblind; he could just say, “Yes, you’re Black” and the two could just talk about it. The simplicity with which he and Rachel discussed their differences, in a world where a lot of people might’ve tiptoed through these conversations of substance with too much caution, was so gosh darn refreshing. And with racial tensions and blatant inequality more at the forefront in the news cycle now, Rachel’s Hometown recap felt more important and relevant as ever, whereas the expectation might have been for it to feel quaint and passé in hindsight.
Now for the not so good: I feel Nick’s season is a cautionary tale of sorts. I felt that way in 2017 and last night confirmed I still feel that way now. Here we had a lead who had plenty to offer; he had all the trappings of a “good lead,” meaning the looks and the bod and the heartbreak. But beyond that, he wasn’t a wet blanket of a personality. He was also smart and funny; he had great commentary and witty one-liners. Yet, when I think of Nick’s season, I think of one person. Not winner Vanessa, not Rachel, not even Alexis in her shark costume. I think of Nick in moments, but for the most part, it’s a blur. I completely forgot about the majority of his season’s memorable scenes, anything ranging from funny to sentimental, and including the Rocky training scene. You know what I think of? A bouncy castle. I think of a nanny named Raquel. I think of naps during Cocktail Parties and Rose Ceremonies. In other words, the person I think of when I remember this season is Corinne and only Corinne. As Chris Harrison put it when speaking to her during their chat, “We couldn’t have done this without you. You were such a huge part of Nick’s season.” Truer words have never been spoken.
We’ve had plenty of villains over the years: Villains who rubbed people the wrong way (Michelle Money), Wrong Reasons villains (Wes Hayden, Jed Wyatt), villains who trusted their producers a bit too much (Courtney Robertson), villains who were largely misunderstood (Olivia Caridi). We’ve had contestants become villains on later franchise stints (Samantha Steffen), villains who wholeheartedly embraced their villainy (Bentley Williams, Clint Arlis), villains who sought and even received redemption (JJ Lane, Krystal Nielsen, Chris Randone) and villains who disappeared into the night and from whom we never heard another peep (Tierra LiCausi, Kelsey Poe). But I believe Corinne was the franchise’s first villain to be “in” on it all. Meaning, she toed the line between giving producers what they wanted, and doing so knowingly. We’d had contestants flirt with this mutually beneficial arrangement before (Michelle Money, especially in her later appearances) but Corinne was, in my opinion, the franchise’s first truly transactional villain.
I know most Bachelor seasons are more about the contestants than the lead, but rarely should one single contestant be given the power to hijack the entire season. And in my opinion, this is precisely what happened with Nick’s: Corinne was a caricature contestant who was given far too much leeway in exchange for being a source of entertainment.
What Corinne offered was clear: eccentricity, outbursts, hijinks, overt sexuality and plenty a heated argument. She was an entire season’s worth of talking points rolled into one extremely valuable contestant. And she was rewarded in kind: an edit revolving more around her comedic timing than her selfishness, a playful soundtrack as opposed to an evil, conniving one (the latter they’d freely apply to people who’d committed a fraction of the transgressions, mind you), and even a “cheese pasta” segment at the Women Tell All.
Back then, what Corinne represented annoyed me, but today it more than annoys me. It disturbs me. Then, Corinne’s run on The Bachelor felt like a pessimistic preview of what was to come, but today feels eerily like a microcosm of America’s politics: a person who gets a pass for being, for a lack of a better word, a jerk—because they’re “amusing”. It’s A-OK to disregard and hurt the feelings and experiences of others if it’s done in a way that is “entertaining.” It’s somehow acceptable for the rules to apply to everyone else but not to you, or to rewrite history in a way that serves your narrative. (Corinne: “You told me you wouldn’t be my friend because I’m not intelligent enough for you. You literally said that to me.” Taylor: “That’s not what I said at all.”) I’ve always been quick to point out that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There has never been a thicker cloud than the one around Corinne. If EVERY woman in the house has an issue with your antics…well, maybe it IS you. Maybe you ARE the common denominator. And that’s OK—we’re all disliked and at some point in our lives; the key is to recognize it’s happening a lot and to look inward and to maybe try to change and grow.
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Now, I’m not saying Corinne’s six or seven weeks spent filming The Bachelor in any way represents who she is as a human being overall. I’ve long admitted I was at my worst during filming my own season and that the circumstances are designed to make it so. My point is more about how she behaved then and, in the grand scheme of things, how poorly that behaviour has aged. Therefore, I would have been downright delighted to have witnessed a where-are-they-now chat in which Corinne seemed to have grown into a more thoughtful, considerate, reflective woman. That’s not to say she wasn’t perfectly charming in her talk with Chris Harrison, but that never was her problem. I wanted to hear her say, “That wasn’t my finest moment,” or for her to even come up with a reason, like “I was feeling ABC and that’s why I behaved like XYZ.” Something—anything—to show self-awareness and maturity with time and retrospection on her side. Unfortunately, my hope was misguided. Who knows, maybe she was playing up the same character for TV and giving the show what she thought they wanted. I’m hoping this is the case. But years later, she still rolled her eyes at women having issues with her, still belittled the person who had the gall to challenge her (“I don’t think even SHE knows what [emotional intelligence] is”), still made it about the “naps.”
As I said in my recaps then, it never was about the bouncy house, the antics and, no, not even the naps. Trust me, in the Bachelor mansion, it’s not like Corinne could just go have her nap and the women could simultaneously live their lives. One 10 minute nap would have a ripple effect throughout every Cocktail Party, every Girl Chat, every ITM. And Corinne would of course know this, having also been there. It’s just a disregard—a flagrant and flaunted disregard—for others’ time, feelings and their individual once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It’s treating her own time, comfort and convenience as more important than others’. And to avoid blame or responsibility for that disregard, the go-tos are to gaslight, twist words and play victim. A perpetual web of spinning and sidestepping. Corinne’s selfish and manipulative behaviour on this show was actually not so different from Luke P’s on Hannah Brown’s season, but the difference is Corinne did it with humour. But bad behaviour remains bad behaviour. Is meanness negated by funniness? Of course not.
Remember how this was supposed to be a recap of Nick’s season? Exactly.