I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with this show. It swings back and forth between going glacially slow and far too fast. It’s truly the opposite of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette in some ways. Instead of overstating relationships, Bachelor in Paradise tends to skim over them, letting couples pop up with little to no warning or build-up. On Monday night, Chris Bukowski and Katie became a couple out of pretty much nowhere, despite the fact that Chris gave Kristina his first rose, suggesting a potential coupling, and Wills gave Katie his. Until last night’s episode, we’d never even seen Chris and Katie share so much as a conversation, let alone a romantic one. Last night we were also led to believe that Mike only had eyes for Caelynn. However, after Dean arrived to more or less claim her, it became known that he Mike is also into Sydney enough to highly value her “character,” something that would come to light with time spent together. Where were all the (likely priceless) moments shared between John Paul Jones and Tayshia leading up to his hilarious sonnet delivery last night? I understand that the Paradise narrative is a constant jealousy train, so footage not supporting that tends to go by the wayside. However, call me a sappy romantic, but I for one would have loved to see these underground couplings in their infancy, to witness the flirtation leading up to these moments. Watching a makeout without the buildup is like hearing a punchline without the joke.
Speaking of instant couples, I have to admit Dean and Caelynn have a great rapport and chemistry. I also appreciate Dean’s ultra-humble, repentant vibes; he really does seem to recognize and regret how poorly he behaved on his season of Bachelor in Paradise. Further, the fact that Kristina appears to have forgiven him and is now his friend is a great sign. But watching Dean’s date with Caelynn, it occurred to me: hadn’t she famously slid into his DMs at one point? Katie was the one to reveal this at their Women Tell All. Given how familiar Dean and Caelynn’s conversation felt, it’s interesting to consider that on this very date he said, “The more things you try to hide, the trickier things become.” I could be reading into things, but given the hoopla surrounding Blake’s pre-Paradise developments with Hannah, I’m starting to wonder just how many Paradise couples don’t meet online first.
Speaking of Caelynn, we have to unpack the strangely undercooked drama between her and Kristina. When Kristina first arrived on the beach, I thought for sure she’d make a beeline for Caelynn. Wouldn’t it be natural for the two of them, in their shared contempt for Blake, to become fast friends? If anything, it’s been just the opposite; we’ve barely witnessed these two in the same camera frame, let alone chatting like old friends. Last night, Caelynn overheard Kristina talking about her at the bar. What ensued was some of the sloppiest editing imaginable, and we were left with WAY more questions than answers.
First, while it was definitely strange for Kristina to talk about Caelynn while Caelynn was sitting right behind her, what we heard her say was hardly critical. (What we heard: “So this thing that happened with Blake at Stagecoach; I don’t feel like I owe Caelynn anything”, “I really, like, messed with basically her head and her relationship with Blake”, and “I may be a factor in her hesitancy with everyone around here.”) Of course, I understand no one wants to be talked about, much less overhead being talked about, but the plot thickens. In her ITM, Caelynn said, “You’re still spreading my business to every guy on this beach.” STILL?? What does “still” mean?! Remember, this was the first interaction we’d seen between these two at all—what’s the history here? Caelynn then went on to call Kristina a “stupid bitch,” and to say, “Kristina’s slut-shaming me across this entire beach.” OK, now…whoa. Based on what WE heard, Caelynn’s reaction felt too strong given the crime. Did Kristina say worse things but they somehow weren’t captured? This sort of drama would be typical Paradise 101 content; was there just a footage shortage, or was the seed for this animosity planted before Paradise even began? Like I said, more questions than answers. Here’s hoping this saga is addressed at the live special.
Nicole has been an enjoyable one to watch. On Colton’s season, we didn’t see much from her beyond tears (enough tears to earn her a year’s supply of sponsored low-cal ice cream), so it’s been nice seeing her come into her own and become more confident, seemingly by the hour. It’s interesting to compare how she handles being fought over by men, versus someone like Hannah G. Nicole herself admits she’s never been in this position, though it’s assumed it might not be Hannah’s first rodeo. While part of me thinks Nicole might relish the attention a bit too much, I do think she’s handling it far better. After Nicole’s date with newcomer Christian, Nicole made a point of sitting down with Clay and specifically telling him what she felt he was lacking: assertiveness. (An entirely reasonable desire, in my opinion.) Note how Hannah never gave Dylan that same courtesy. (Literally, the only thing she really said in her sit-down with him was, “I suck.” Not a lot he can work with there, is there?) When Christian tried to steal Nicole away (never mind that it was a very weird move; there’s a huge difference between being assertive and aggressive), she recognized that she owed Clay the time after her date with Christian. Even if the effort was a feeble one, Nicole still made an effort to insert herself into the confrontation and make a decision over who to remain with versus who to talk to later. Passivity seems to be a theme of the season (my entire recap centred around it yesterday), and I appreciate that Nicole did her best to be assertive, not behaving in the very way she’d criticized Clay for.
I’ve always enjoyed Demi and so far her Paradise showing is living up to my high expectations. She is television gold, thanks to her deep understanding that what makes good TV is multiple facets, not one-liners. In other words, witty quips are nice, but witty quips paired with a dash of sporadic sensitivity are where the money’s at. (Compare to Corinne, who never made it past the witty quips stage.) Something I pointed out when Colton sent Demi home on his season: it’s her discomfort with her own vulnerability, and her awareness of that discomfort, that makes her so interesting. No one is more aware of her layers of armour than she is, and hearing Demi dissect her own insecurities and her desire to grow into a softer, less defensive version of herself was very refreshing on a show centred around nothing more than “finding love.” She’s the very definition of enigmatic, uncomplicated yet complicated at the same time.
When Demi finally told Derek about her kinda-sorta girlfriend back home, I watched keenly to see how he handled it. Unsurprisingly, he dealt with this conversation perfectly. He was courteous and understanding and appreciated being privy to the information. But, given his feelings for Demi, he was appropriately concerned as well. He asked her, “How can you both consider that and me simultaneously, and have this be just as meaningful?” His focus was rightfully on the fact that the two relationships were simultaneous, not on the fact that the other relationship was with a woman. It cannot be overstated how tricky this territory was to tread; if he was deeply bothered by this information, he’d be closed-minded, unsupportive, unaccepting of her this “fluidity” facet of hers. But at the same time, another romantic relationship is still a romantic relationship, regardless of gender. Had he been even a little too OK with it, he’d be minimizing the potential threat this woman posed to him, thus disregarding the legitimacy of a same-sex relationship. Like I said, tricky territory. What I particularly love about this couple is they show what a relationship is about; silly, juvenile moments involving armpit sniffing and running on the beach in sync—yet also the ability to have serious, substantial, trusting conversations where they learn about one another and grow together. Kudos to these two adults having an adult conversation, and doing sensitive, yet-unexplored topics on this show justice. They’re making Paradise look good for once.