Though ABC's Bachelor in Paradise is tied to the flagship The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchises through similar obscene amounts of protein intake (himbos gotta stay beefy somehow), awful two-tone hair dye jobs (Carly, we need to talk), more tears than the opening weekend of Toy Story 3 and tragic lies about even the most remote chance at finding true love, Bachelor in Paradise is its own unique animal. It's own unique, awesome, schadenfreude-filled, addictive animal.
It all starts with the attitude over at ABC, which knows that if The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are fairy-tale games for the affections of Prince/Princess Charming, Bachelor in Paradise is Pin the Tail on the Donkey with beer bongs full of Jaeger Bombs. If you're not familiar with the format, buckle up: ABC fills an intimate seaside Mexican resort with rejects from previous Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons and an open bar, where contestants try to make it to the end and avoid elimination. That's it, there's no prize, unless you count a two-week long-distance relationship with another contestant that explodes in fiery failure in the tabloids as some kind of reward.
The genius move on the producers' part is that there are always more women or more men, creating an imbalance in equilibrium for both horniness and survival. And the show never loses its potential for D-R-A-M-A because ABC has a hotel full of contestants — contestants that ABC knows who they are attracted to or who are attracted to them and can deploy as the narrative dictates — waiting in the wings to join the competition. So that stud who finds a convenient spur-of-the-moment relationship with that bimbo who is obsessed with him will definitely find the girl of his dreams joining the show just as he's locked down in commitment hell with a 24-year-old dental assistant from Dallas who has her press-ons digging into his barbed-wire-tattooed biceps. Bachelor in Paradise isn't about finding a soulmate, it's about psychological torture. It's more like the Saw movie franchise than the Bachelor franchise.
Now that I've convinced you that Bachelor in Paradise is the greatest thing pop culture has ever given us and the most amazing use of recycling in the world, I have to tell you about this season. And given the third-round triumphs of shows like Breaking Bad and The Wire, it's no surprise that the current season — its third — has been particularly exceptional thanks to a combination of new personalities and reliable veterans (someone please save Sarah, PLEASE). Here are seven reasons why Bachelor in Paradise is enjoying its best season yet.
1. Evan: Super wimp or master tactician?
One of the wise old owls of Bachelor in Paradise at the elderly age of 33, Evan Bass — an erectile dysfunction specialist and yes I'm being serious — is a breath of fresh air because he uses brains over brawn. Which is good because he has no brawn and is about a third of the size as his muscly competitors. This season he made a woman throw up from kissing him and hit on another woman while she was flat on her back in the middle of a heavy-petting makeout sesh with the resident Alpha male. But his most impressive move occurred last week when he (possibly) faked alcohol poisoning to get the attention of his target — Carly, the same woman who already threw up after kissing him — thinking he could get a date with her out of a ride to the hospital in an ambulance. AND IT WORKED. He's not pathetic, he's genius.
2. The Twins showed surprising depth... well, one of them did
There are a couple of set decorations that double as contestants in Emily and Haley, two blonder than blondes who are part of a package deal — only one of them needs a rose for both of them to stay — and have already pulled the "twin swap" in the middle of a date to see if the poor sap could tell they switched out (and the guy had been on the show for like 20 minutes when they did that, which isn't at all fair). Like all twins, they insist they are TOTALLY different from each other, and like all twins, they're entirely delusional if they think they are totally different from each other. But one of the twins, Haley, no wait, Emily, hmmm, maybe it was Haley? It doesn't matter, one of the twins actually showed impressive compassion and genuine respect for Jared, the man she was infatuated with and connected to when she saw Jared drifting away to a fresh piece of meat who arrived, Bachelor runner-up and perfect-hair-having (seriously, that hair!) Caily. One fortunate unintended consequence of Bachelor in Paradise are these rare moments of humanity that pop up out of the cesspool of drunken hookups to show that these are real people. It makes the madness that much more authentic. So good on you, Emily. Or Haley. Whichever one you are!
3. Lace is secretly the season's MVP
One of the season's greatest moments — when pro-baseball lunkhead Josh confronted Evan over talking trash about Josh's alleged and published mentally abusive behavior with his Bachelorette prize Andi Dorfman — would never have happened without Lace, whose previous claim to fame was being the drunkest drunk girl on the first night of Ben's season. Lace, bless her obliviousness, came back to one of the bar couches and started spilling the beans confided in her regarding Evan's warnings to Amanda that Josh was essentially a caveman. In her Appletini fog she failed to notice that Josh was sitting two feet away and overheard everything, sparking the confrontation between Josh and Evan, which ended in Evan surprisingly standing up for himself and calling Josh out on his overly rehearsed defense of the allegations in Andi's tell-all book while steam blew out of Josh's ears (or was it just hot air?). This all followed Lace's quick and public hookup with actual caveman Chad and night-vision sex romp with Grant. When things start to sag, Lace is a reliable provider of entertainment.
4. Daniel is not-to-secretly the season's MVP
Daniel Maguire, a personal trainer (duh) from Canada, has locked up his place in the Bachelor in Paradise Hall of Fame after just a handful of episodes. He may be a secret serial killer, he may be a misunderstood ball of muscle fiber, but he's definitely the most entertaining contestant this season. And his abrasive personality has softened through the season, going from comparing the women to farm animals to (sarcastically) admitting to being bisexual while doing body shots out of another man's navel to giving Ashley I. a momentary break from her Jared heartache thanks to his awkward charm and fascination with Ashley's non-existent sex life. But mostly he's surprisingly become the audience's surrogate, having a good time while also wondering what the hell he's doing there.
5. Actually, the editors are the season's MVP
The editors of Bachelor in Paradise continue to operate under the orders of editing with extreme prejudice, best exhibited by Season 2's clip of Clare pouring her heart out to a poor raccoon. This season, the animal chats continued with Ashley I. (there are like 40 Ashleys on the show) asking a parrot if she should quit and the parrot telling her to murder the woman who stole her crush. But there was also a fantastic love affair between Josh and a pizza and plenty of insinuated sex scenes overdubbed with choice moans. Bachelor in Paradise editor is the best job in the entire world.
6. THE CHAD
Chad Johnson milked his infamy from JoJo's season of The Bachelorette and didn't learn a damn thing in his redemption tour on Bachelor in Paradise, exhibiting the same clownish behavior that frightened housewives all over America this spring. Defeated by the open bar, Chad lubed himself up and swung wildly at inanimate objects on the first night after spending the bulk of the day in an infinity pool volleying insults at and dry humping Lace. The next day, host Chris Harrison kicked him off the show while Chad stormed off and bellowed, "F--- you, Chris Harrison!" And he supposedly crapped his pants that morning. More Chad, please.
7. The torture is REAL
While The Bachelor and The Bachelorette send contestants on gorgeous dates in exotic locales, this season of Bachelor in Paradise has finally figured out that we don't want to see a half-naked couple jump off a yacht AGAIN. Among the dates this season were a world record attempt for the longest kiss after eating a habanero pepper in front of a live audience, and a theatrical virgin sacrifice of Ashley I., the show's habitually sobbing punching bag who's never gone past second base. Bachelor in Paradise isn't even trying to pretend to be about love anymore, which is exactly why it's so damned good.
Bachelor in Paradise airs Monday and Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.