Remember when I said yesterday that Paradise has a way of wiggling its way back into your good books? Well, it has officially set up shop there, because last night’s finale was overall so decent that I somehow have a good taste left in my mouth for this season. Despite the periodic boredom over the last few weeks, I have to admit this was one of the stronger seasons, if not the strongest (the season giving it a run for its money would be season 3, IMO). We had our share of couplings that felt forced, but we also ultimately got some very special and authentic-feeling ones.
It was a relief to see Kendall and Joe and Astrid and Kevin had rekindled their relationships. It was also a relief to see that the two culprits responsible for their breakups, Kendall and Kevin, were so able and willing to admit their fault with both specificity and sincerity. This is easier said than done, so kudos to them for their maturity and ability to look past their pride toward something more important. Astrid and Kevin particularly feel uniquely right for one another and it felt like a shame that they wouldn’t give real life together a shot, so I’m really rooting for these two.
The scene with Annaliese and Kamil was upsetting but I’ve got to say, sadly, not super surprising. Not super surprising in that I never saw this relationship lasting long term, not that I wasn’t floored at Kamil’s ability to be a garbage person. And remember, this was the guy whose judgment told him it would be a good idea to exit his limo on Becca’s season, where Becca had stressed time and time again that she wanted a 50/50 partner, and ask her to give 60% while he gave 40%. Whether or not he was joking, there’s something off there. But last night was the pièce de résistance in douchebaggery. In what world could breaking up with your girlfriend ON A STAGE in front of MILLIONS OF VIEWERS be argued as the right thing to do, or him being “a man about it”? Of course, it’s hard to imagine production had no idea about this, or hadn’t planted the seed for it and even encouraged it. (There’s a zero percent chance they didn’t.) But as I’ve said before and will say again over and over again: No producer can MAKE you do anything. This argument doesn’t make production the devil and Kamil some faultless pawn. He is responsible for his actions, and nothing made his lack of empathy clearer than when Annaliese left the stage to cry and he emotionlessly watched her go and proceeded to matter-of-factly answer Chris Harrison’s questions. Kudos to Annaliese for dealing with this with as much dignity and strength as humanly possible. She rightly put him in his place (during his onslaught of senseless arguments that he was somehow in the right) with, “I get that your heart is telling that, it’s how you’re doing this right now.” Exactly.
For as long as I’ve been old enough to date, I’ve found it fascinating to observe the many sides of a man: how he is with his buddies, at work, with his mother, with you. There really can be a huge range of versions of the same person—not because he’s multi-faced, but because he’s multi-faceted. It’s simply not as socially acceptable for a guy to be as soft and sensitive towards the rest of the world as he would be towards you.
Therefore, one of my favourite things about last night was seeing couples where the man we’ve gotten to know is on the abrasive or controversial side, and watching how the influence of a woman he really cares about can transform him. On Becca’s season, we saw Jordan as a hyper-narcissist who it seemed to rub others the wrong way for even breathing. Remember in the evening portion of his 2-on-1 with David, where he could hardly muster one question to ask Becca, instead opting to ramble for the umpteenth time about his modeling? That seems like a different person than the Jordan we know now. We’ve seen Jenna turn him into someone who cares about something—both her and their relationship—more than himself. We’ve finally seen the golden retriever in him that he’d told us about! Beyond that, I feel like we watched him become a man this season. I’m not saying Jordan will no longer see red and hurl insults when someone like Benoit baits him. (Baby steps, apparently.) But watching him truly care for, comfort, and even nurture Jenna was a side of him I’ll admit I didn’t think he had in him. And I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. His arc was so dramatic it felt like it could have been from a storybook, in a very good way.
Our other abrasive, controversial man was Chris. I certainly have not minced words about Chris, both back during Becca’s season and here for Paradise. Even for the past several episodes where he and Krystal have seemed sublimely happy, I’ve expressed an appreciation for her but a distrust for him. Over the last few months I’ve called him manipulative, the boy who cried wolf, Mr. Hyde, and said that even though he seems better now, I doubted he’d be able to keep up the wholesome front in the face of conflict. And you know what? I think I was wrong. Rather, I think he has changed, and I couldn’t be happier about it. But what made this development particularly poignant was the fact that they WENT there. As in, this change in him was a conscious one that they addressed. Krystal and Chris didn’t have to discuss his tumultuous earlier edit; as an engaged Paradise couple, they could technically waltz off into the sunset together, now a Bachelor Nation power couple, and deny any and all questionable former behaviour. But instead, Krystal said frankly that watching back the first few episodes was difficult, and Chris went on to describe something to us we never would have known had he not mentioned it: “After the second Rose Ceremony she sat me down and said, ‘You’re going to lose me, you’re gonna not have any friends leaving here, this hard shell that you’re wearing, Mr. Tough Guy, putting on this act, this needs to stop. You need to become self aware and take ownership and right wrongs.’ And I opened up my eyes.”
What’s cool about this, beyond it being 100% right (my biggest issue with Chris was always his lack of self awareness and his inability to take responsibility), is that it couldn’t have come from anyone else. A platonic friend couldn’t have “opened his eyes.” Only a woman he cares deeply for could do it, could give him tough love (because that talking-to certainly was tough love), and have it not fall on deaf, defensive ears. Even Chris admitting Krystal had given him this tough love is a evolution of sorts. I wouldn’t put it past the old Chris to find a way to take the credit for his new, improved self. His telling us that Krystal had called him on his flaws shows his own acknowledgement of those flaws, plus an ability to be vulnerable and, yes, wrong—something we’ve NEVER seen from him. They say you can’t change a person, but you can help them change if they already want to. I really, really believe in this couple and love their villains-to-lovebirds story. Congratulations to these two!