5 Million People Can't Be Wrong About 'Bachelor In Paradise'
I'm giving one of TV's biggest franchises its first shot.
Somehow managing to avoid the unavoidable, I’ve never watched any of the 22 seasons of The Bachelor or the 14 seasons of The Bachelorette — not one single episode. So why not give Bachelor in Paradise, which features contestants from both shows, a shot?
Bachelor in Paradise is billed as a second chance for your favorite former contestants to find love — this time in Mexico. These are the contestants who failed to find what The Bachelor franchise promises: lasting love, long-term relationships, weddings, children. Over 5 million people tuned in to the Season 4 premiere last year.
The first look at this season's contestants is in the show’s intro, which bombards your eyes with flashes of tan skin, hairless six-packs, bikini strings, and hormones. To veteran Bachelor/Bacherlorette watchers, these people are recognizable; to me, they might as well be Barbie and Ken dolls.
When we dive deeper into each contestant's backstory and the closer we look at these Barbies and Kens, the less perfect they appear.
“There’s more to [me] than just taxidermy and ukulele,” contestant Kendall explains.
“I was the chicken,” contestant David says. Old footage of him in a giant chicken suit plays. “I fell out of a bunk bed.” Flash-forward to a different scene of him being carried out of the house on a stretcher. I thought this show was just love and roses and a lot of crying, but already I’m wrong.
“As a model it’s not hard to find love...” says a different male contestant, this one sporting the most unfortunate blond highlights I’ve ever seen while strutting around his own pool, “...But it is hard to find the right love.”
Well, hopefully this contrived atmosphere in Mexico does the trick for him.
Now that we’ve gotten the unfortunate backstories on all the contestants, as well as a much keener understanding of why they a) needed to go on television to try and find love and b) failed, the show really begins. The contestants all start arriving in Mexico as strangers meeting each other for the first time — or in some cases, former enemies reuniting.
They show up one at a time so everyone can judge them physically from afar and then attack their character as they get closer. You know, like real life.
There’s a girl named Krystal who apparently doubled as Satan in a previous season because everyone already wants to vote her off the island. One of the other female contestants is very offended in the way Krystal says, “Hi.” I’m almost curious enough about her earlier offenses to binge-watch her past season but not curious enough to actually put myself through that.
To no one’s surprise, the girls hate Krystal and the guys fall all over her. One point to Bachelor in Paradise for originality.
When the show’s host, Chris Harrison, arrives, he promises this show will be a second chance at love and a second chance at redemption for these failed contestants.
Since I’m new to this show, I listen to Chris explain the “rules” very carefully. Every week, there'll be “Bachelor-style dates.” (No idea what Bachelor-style is, but I can’t wait to learn.) If you get a “date card” (a what?), you get to choose whomever you want to join you on your date. (Otherwise, I guess, you’re just with a random person?) At the end of each week, they hold the infamous rose ceremony. If you’re not in a "relationship," and you don’t receive a rose during the ceremony, you get booted out of Paradise immediately. Additionally, there are nine ladies and ten men. One guy will be the first elimination.
The women head off to their shared lair and the men to theirs, so they can gather together and gossip about the opposite sex. We’ve met all the contestants, we’ve learned the Bachelor in Paradise rules, we’ve seen the beach and the beach house in Mexico. Tensions are low but they’re bubbling just beneath the surface. We’re only one hour into the two-hour premiere.
A magical envelope appears. It’s the aforementioned “date card” — an actual card with a contestant’s name on it. For this first week, Tia gets the date card, meaning she gets to pick whichever of the 10 available men she’d like to go with on a date.
Poor, poor Tia. The Bachelor she’s still pining for, Colton, never showed up to Paradise. Storm clouds gather over the Mexican beach as she gazes out to sea. It’s almost like the show's overlords knew giving Tia the first date card would cause the most dramatic reaction.
“I feel like I’m the most stressed-out person here, and I get a date card,” Tia says. Weird.
But Tia is determined not to stand in her own way and vows to forget about Colton. She chooses to take Chris on a date, after having a nice conversation with him earlier in the day. This upsets Joe, who thought he had a natural connection with Tia, but he also delights Krystal, who’s already into Joe. Except... another twist: Joe has his eyes on Kendall. With 19 contestants, it all starts to blur together.
Since Joe is already spoken for, Krystal moves onto Kevin. “You’re the hottest girl here,” Kevin tells her with a mouthful of chips and guac.
Meanwhile, Nick and Chelsea cozy up across the beach, exchanging sweet words. “You’re (bleep) cool as (bleep),” he says. She nods.
We return back to Tia’s date with Chris. “I told myself, like, going into Paradise, like, I’m going to be open minded to, like, any girl, and have fun with someone I normally, like, wouldn’t give the time of day,” Chris explains. It takes Tia a moment to realize that this is not a compliment.
Almost all of the B-roll used between the scenes features crabs on the beach, and the symbolism is not lost on me.
After the first night of romance, Bachelor in Paradise drops an Earth-shattering surprise: Colton arrives. (If you've lost track of who's who, this is the old Bachelorette contestant that Tia's been pining for.) Was his flight delayed? Did he not feel well? What could have possibly delayed him from arriving on time and caused this dramatic late entrance? Truly a Bachelor in Paradise mystery.
Colton says he’s not necessarily here for Tia, but he’s not ruling anything out either. To help him figure out his feelings, Colton is handed a date card. It’s an unexpected decision, but of the nine female contests, he decides to use the card on Tia.
All the other romances pause as the contestants wait to see how Tia and Colton’s date plays out. Tia admits that she still has feelings for Colton and pushes him to admit the same. He keeps her at arm’s length, though, claiming he’s keeping the door open for her — but also for other girls, too.
By the end of the date, however, Tia and Colton are sharing champagne and kisses. But back on the beach, the other male contestants are distraught that Colton is leading Tia on in an attempt to gain TV fame and notoriety. The music builds as tensions mount… and the 120-minute episode ends.
Tonight’s episode promises a showdown between Colton and everyone else, and, I confess, the temptation to tune in is strong. Not to mention, I still haven't had the pleasure of witnessing one of these rose ceremonies.
Something about watching 19 men and women — some strangers, some with history — try to sort themselves out into couples is undeniably fascinating. I don't know if we watch these people because they’re relatable, or we watch these people because we hope we’re nothing like them. Is this a parody of the human mating ritual, or is this a representation of what we really are at the end of the day?
Is Bachelor in Paradise just a microcosm of the dating world?
Guess I’ll have to keep watching to find out.