Bachelor in Paradise had its season finale last night—and it went out with a bomb drop that will reverberate throughout history (…or at least for four more hours on Twitter).
It’s not actually anything that happened on the show itself. That all went (quite literally) as planned: Couples got engaged, couples broke up and one contestant announced their run on Dancing With the Stars. But while all of that was going down on-screen, off-screen there was a scandal a-brewing.
It started, as so many a Bachelor scandal does, with a post on Reality Steve. Yesterday morning, the blogger to whom Bach Nation brings its tipoffs posted a story about Jenna Cooper. In it, he alleges a source had come forward claiming that the 29-year-old fitness blogger was cheating on Jordan, a.k.a. the guy she got engaged to on the Bachelor in Paradise finale. The source was allegedly a man with whom Jenna is in a relationship with and Reality Steve had the texts to prove it. (More on those later). Timelines matter here so pay attention: Jenna and Jordan would have been engaged at the end of BiP filming, which wrapped the last week of June, and as of last night, they were still on the road to wedded bliss. Quoth Jordan to People in a raw interview following yesterday’s Reality Steve post: “I was going to bring my parents to North Carolina!”, which is where Jenna (and this other guy) live.
Jenna has since denied the allegations, and released a statement asking for her privacy. Jordan, on the other hand, says he found out about the infidelity alongside the rest of the Internet on September 11, and it “felt like a body drop.”
Infidelity is devastating, and on an interpersonal level, it’s heartbreaking—yes, even for a character as prone to completely irritating (or completely endearing, depending on your stance) one-liners as Jordan. Where it’s really disturbing, and MOST DRAMATIC, however, is in what it reveals (or reminds us, really) about the ugly reality of this beloved reality show.
Dirty Secret #1: Jenna Was There for All the Wrong Reasons
As part of his proof of the alleged two-timing, Reality Steve’s source sent him screen grabs of their text convos, which we must warn you are very heavy on the pet name- and exclamation point-front. They’re fascinating because part of Jenna’s defence to this guy—who understandably got increasingly concerned as the season was airing, and her relationship with Jordan was getting more serious—is that the entire thing was a fake relationship. She says, in part: “I keep telling you that this is all for my business. You know how much I need the money. Me and Jordan aren’t together for real. I don’t even like him let alone love him.” And if that’s not enough: “I’m better than him and once I’m able to [I’ll] break it off for good and make up some story to make him look bad.” Now, there’s a lot of talk on in Bachelor Nation about being there for the “right reasons,” which, quick refresher, are not boosting your profile and generating a lucrative sideline in athletic-wear sponsorships. The fandom knows, of course, that people might get famous from being on the show, but we need to believe that it’s a happy by-product of their sincere desire to date the same person as 25 others find true love. To have a participant, then, be so baldly craven in their using of the show for personal gain feels like a betrayal to the fans, not just Jordan.
Dirty Secret #2: We’re Not Actually In on the Joke
This is a scandal, you see, about cheating, and not just of the slept-with-another-man-kind. It’s about the veil being lifted on a few things fans secretly know about the show, but need to not be reminded of in order to suspend the disbelief that makes watching complete strangers make out on a Monday night (sometimes with your mom right beside you) an act of pleasure instead of torture. Bachelor in Paradise, with its OTT production and cheese-upon-cheese approach to filmmaking, is an invitation for fans to watch with irony, a tongue-in-cheek summertime fling that often winks at the viewer to say, “This is ridiculous, we know, and let’s bond over the fact that we’re all participating in it anyway.” Freed from the rigid fairy tale narrative of the Bachelor/ette seasons, BiP is about fun for the viewer, so for this sordid drama to happen on this spinoff feels extra disheartening.
Dirty Secret #3: These Relationships Really *Are* Unhealthy
In his interview with People, Jordan lets slip something really damning about the franchise: He’s struggling to believe that “his” Jenna could do such a thing, but then, in a moment of clarity, says: “All I know is that I obviously only knew a limited amount of information about Jenna.” Which: DUH. The show literally films for a maximum of three weeks (yep, the contestants are playing you when they refer to ‘last week’ on a show that airs for approx 17 months but is created in under 21 days). That healthy relationships, let alone lifelong commitments, can possibly be formed out of a competition-based dating situation is a stretch, but one the audience entertains, if only because we imagine they have tons of deep-and-meaningful conversations about finances, kids, beliefs and political views off-screen. For Jordan to admit what we all knew—that you probably know more about the barista who makes your morning coffee than he does about the woman he was going to marry—feels like someone flipping the lights on in the Fantasy Suite of our collective delusion.