Just when I thought this franchise’s Dramatic Contestant profile was beginning to evolve, Paradise went and proved me wrong last night. Here I was, beginning to think a character like Demi was a sign of a changing of the times. She’s controversial, sure, but also multi-faceted and intuitive, like a 2.0 version of the traditional, airtime-sucking Dramatic Contestant, of which Corinne is the poster child. But the arrival of Tahzjuan—and the subsequent onslaught of her on our screens—was proof that, indeed, all one really needs to become scene-worthy is to, well, make a scene.
I started out really enjoying Tahzjuan. First, I happen to really like it when “Night One” contestants get cast on Bachelor in Paradise; it’s way more interesting to watch them alongside the more prominent, “famous” faces. Further, she’s got a huge personality and a talent for comedy; that conversation with John Paul Jones about Bachelor dinner date food was hysterical. Unfortunately, things quickly went south. Her incessant complaints about the heat got old fast. Her talking to herself at full volume about breaking up couples, the pigeon-versus-seagulls bit, her literally screaming at the ocean… it was a LOT. Too much. There was no sense that she was out to make the most of the experience or at the very least make friends. I understand the desire to stand out, but I personally can’t stand when things are so obviously played up for the cameras’ sake. No one’s personality is that huge. If I wanted to watch acting I’d tune into one of the many non-reality TV options out there.
In a refreshing contrast to the cast’s many deliberate antics, honesty was a sort of theme last night. It began with Demi volunteering her brutally frank (but very reasonable) assessment of Dean’s intentions with Caelynn. (During this conversation I wrote in my notes that Demi would make a fantastic friend if you could handle her honesty—you better bet she’d tell you to your face if she didn’t like your new partner!) Next up was Dean himself, when Caelynn sat him down to ask about what their longterm future looked like to him. Here Dean really showed how far he’s come since Season 3. Sure, he may to have a little bit of growing up to do in that he seems to equate being in a committed relationship to a lack of freedom, however he deserves major props for his honesty in this conversation. Old Dean most likely would have appeased Caelynn by simply telling her some version of what she wanted to hear. But New Dean even said, “I think you would be miserable as my girlfriend,” and “It only makes sense for you to protect your heart.” Yes, he came off looking very noncommittal, but I’m a longtime supporter of the ethical player. Sow all the wild oats you want, but be transparent about it so that your partner(s) have the information they need to make the right decisions for themselves. Given his lady juggling a few years ago, the honesty struck me as something he’s surely been working on, and it looks a hell of a lot better on him.
But honesty has perhaps never been in such full force as it was in Kristina’s pursuit of Blake’s rose. Despite a budding romance between Blake and Caitlin, and the fact that the show’s premise is supposedly solely about love, Blake and Kristina have bestowed one another with the same “friendship” rose twice now, highlighting an inherent flaw in this show’s blueprint. There is a direct correlation between minutes of airtime on this show and how much one can expect their Instagram following to explode. Pair that with the fact that any of these people can and do reach out to one another before filming. Beyond the obvious romance bet-hedging of having as many baskets as possible in which to put one’s eggs, there’s non-romantic strategizing as well. Imagine all the pre-filming scheming and alliances that would develop if Survivor contestants knew one another beforehand. In Paradise, a million dollars may not be on the line, but it kinda-sorta is when you consider the dividends having a million Instagram followers can provide. (Think one sizeable gold bar versus the golden egg-laying goose… don’t mind all my egg analogies!) Sorry, Chris Harrison, this show is NOT all about finding love. Unless you’re talking about the platonic, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-
I practically cheered when Caitlin said in an ITM, “It was shitty of [Blake] to tell me that he was 100% going to [give me his rose] and then 20 minutes later change his mind.” Caitlin was well within her right to dislike Kristina, both for the relationship sabotage, but also for how venomously Kristina handled what could have been a perfectly cordial exchange last week. But note how Caitlin, instead of blaming Kristina for being manipulative, rightfully blames Blake for being manipulated. How awful for Caitlin to get that kind back-and-forth from Blake, especially with all his flowery professions of how much he liked her. But it ultimately shows how weak his character is—what a terrible romantic prospect for any woman. For him to go from “You’re 100% getting my rose and I don’t see that changing” to “I’m not 100% sure on what I’m going to do tonight” in a matter of minutes is absurd. Either the man’s a liar, is easily manipulated or needs a refresher on how much 100% is; none of these is a good look.
But to all the haters who felt Kristina should have exited quietly last night, I say: Hate the game, not the players. It’s not breaking any rules to seek or hand out “friendship” roses, it’s only breaking rules to admit it. And all that faux sincerity and faux romance have been rubbing me wrong for years now; it’s insulting to our intelligence. (Seriously, do we really think Caelynn was ever even remotely interested in Cam?) And I for one would far rather a contestant who admits to gunning for a friendship rose over one who exaggerates (or completely fakes) a romantic connection just to scrape through a Rose Ceremony. You could argue that Kristina robbed Blake and Caitlin of some great romance (Blaklin? Caike?), but in the vein of honesty, how great was that love ever really going to be? And if Blake’s feelings were strong enough to result in a great love, wouldn’t Kristina’s powers of persuasion have not had any sway? So believe it or not, I appreciated Kristina’s honesty. She’s not cheating; she’s relying on loopholes. And she’s playing this flawed show like a fiddle.