Nice job, America. Last night's shameless and frustrating Bachelor in Paradise premiere was the highest-rated premiere in the show's history. Everyone who thought the controversy was overblown/would be good for business is vindicated. People don't learn from their mistakes when they're successful, so the next controversy will be handled with just as much tone-deafness and bad taste.
The episode opened with a tease that didn't mention the shutdown at all, and focused on the wacky romantic hijinks. Not a great sign.
Then we went to Carly and Evan's wedding. Carly and Evan met on Paradise last year. Never forget that he faked an illness to get her to pay attention to him and then basically Stockholm Syndromed her into falling in love with him. But hey, it worked. They seem happy. They're expecting. Sometimes the process works. We were shown a lengthy montage of the five previous weddings that have come out of the franchise. Trista and Ryan's wedding was so long ago that it wasn't filmed in HD. The aspect ratio was set for 2003 TVs. Shout out to them. They legitimized the process at a crucial moment, and continue to do so by still being married.
Then we were back in the present, at a much goofier wedding than the ones we just saw. Wells represented Bachelor Nation in Evan's wedding party, while Jade and Juelia repped in Carly's. Carly's mom's toast was lovely. Remember when Evan wrote an impassioned plea to not cancel Bachelor in Paradise for The Hollywood Reporter? He actually made some good points. He, too, has been vindicated. This wedding is the franchise's argument that canceling Bachelor in Paradise what deprive people of the chance to fall in love. Are you convinced?
The Reverend Chris Harrison made some jokes about how unlikely this all was, and then led them through the ceremony. There were sex jokes and lots of references to their time in Paradise. But it felt genuine. Carly and Evan are goofy. Some dude — probably Evan's uncle? — was chewing gum through the ceremony. "Today Carly got her happily Evan after," said one of the twins, and then said "that's funny," just like how Donald Trump comments on his speeches as he's reading them, calling attention to the fact that someone else wrote them.
Then back to Mexico, where barefoot Chris Harrison introduced the moment where the cast returned after their weeklong hiatus.
"I think there are a few reservations as far as coming back," Amanda said. "Seeing articles that were out there and seeing what was in the media and making the decision to come back knowing that we're going to be associated with all of that."
Chris gathered them and asked how everyone was doing, and then said they needed to have a serious talk about what happened. They're able to come back because Warner Bros.' investigation found no evidence of misconduct. They all trust that conclusion, and don't believe that anything bad happened between DeMario and Corinne, and that the media blew it out of proportion (forgive us for taking sexual assault allegations seriously). Chris said it was hard on the producers, too. Everyone explained that no one makes them do anything. Evan wrote about this in his THR article, too. Pretty much all contestants have said this: that even if the show made them look bad, they still did the thing that the show used to make them look bad, and they did it of their own volition. They said no one makes them drink. They were very defensive about it.
Being forced to drink wasn't really the issue, though. The issue was whether or not Corinne drank so much she couldn't consent to sexual activity.
Raven said that it broke her heart that Corinne and DeMario — DeMario especially — got their names dragged through the mud. Diggy brought up that Google will never forget this. DeMario will always be associated with this accusation, which is truly unfortunate. Alex said that if the viewing public had seen the entire day, their opinion of DeMario would be completely different. Alex is perhaps the least trustworthy person on the show, so his word doesn't count for much, but everyone seemed to agree. But of course, we don't get to see the entire day, so we have to take their word for it. Even though there's footage of the entire day. Don't they get that this doesn't inspire confidence that they're handling this well?
"Do you think race played a part in this?" Chris asked. After a long pause, they all agreed yes, it did. People are still uncomfortable with interracial couples and accuse black men of being predatory. Raven defended DeMario because he didn't do anything wrong, not to discredit Corinne. But they all felt that Corinne's "I'm a victim" statement was vague and probably written by a lawyer, not by her. Raven said she was sexually assaulted while she was in an abusive relationship, and that she hopes this doesn't discourage anyone who really has been a victim from coming forward. This whole situation makes me sad.
Next, Chris said it was time to talk about consent, and this was a little better, but still very imperfect. Taylor, the therapist, broke it down: verbal consent is the most important form of consent. Nonverbal cues are good, but nothing beats verbal consent. And Ben brought up the crucial point of consent throughout the encounter. Just because someone consents to one thing doesn't mean they consent to another thing. And they talked about how there's a bit of a gray area with consent when alcohol is involved. "Would you have given the same consent if you were sober?" said Diggy. "Alcohol clouds your judgement, but you can give consent." It's true, but also seems a little self-serving in this situation. They left the gray area gray. What can they do? They're not gonna make it a dry resort. Chris advised them to keep consent issues in mind at all time, especially while on Paradise.
Then Chris went around and got everyone's consent that they want to be here. The show must go on. Chris declared "Bachelor in Paradise back open."
Look. If they wanted to get us totally back onboard and believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing bad happened, they would show us the footage. But they've made it clear that they're not going to. Maybe they legally can't show it. But tell us that! Chris Harrison promised that our questions would be answered. They weren't. I have a new one from last night — it seemed like Corinne and DeMario were not interested in each other on day two after being all over each other night one. But we weren't shown or even told what happened to drive them apart. If it was just they weren't feeling each other, or had some kind of stupid fight like Chad and Lace last year, show us that. But when we're shown nothing, it seems like the show is hiding something.
Honestly, I don't think DeMario assaulted Corinne. I do think it was a misunderstanding that got out of hand. Everyone is saying the same thing, and everyone who seems to know the whole story acts like there's not much to it. Like, if ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey thought someone had been raped, would she let the show come back, even if the show's ratings would be good? The reputational damage if it came out that that was the case would be astronomical. But the way the show and the network has handled this whole thing has been so sketchy. Maybe next season when the memory of the scandal has faded a bit the show will be fun again, but this season is tainted.
Back in the show proper, everyone is back in give-out-roses mode. Lacey is back from burying her grandfather. Raven doesn't want Robby or Ben. No one likes Alex. Dean spent the week off in Kentucky with Kristina, and then told her that if someone asks her out, she should go with them. Wow, Dean. Dictionary definition.
There are three couples: Matt and Jasmine, Dean and Kristina and Derek and Taylor. Everyone else is a free agent. Alex is into Amanda. Alex seems like not a good guy. Danielle said he was "peacocking" a little bit. He's so aggressive. And Amanda is not into him, but he doesn't get the hint. And Raven doesn't think that even if Amanda was blunt he'd take no for an answer. Cool. Amanda said that in the past, she'd find his possessiveness flattering, but she's trying to get away from that. Danielle told him that he was coming on too strong, and Raven told him to move on. But of course, he's still going after Amanda.
He pulled her aside, and he said...I don't know. It was so boring. I just wanted to watch Alexis and Vinny role play Alex and Amanda and make fun of him for being short. I guess he just wanted a rose, and was like, fine, you don't have to give me a rose. It sounds like Alex learned the pick-up artist's lesson: being nice doesn't work. And if he thought he was being nice before, things are going to get gross.
Lacey wants someone to love her, but she doesn't love anyone. Derek and Taylor got a date card. Lacey was sad. She wanted goofy Canadian Daniel to show up. Daniel is her dream man. Weird! There's no accounting for taste, as they say. I guess this means Daniel is going to show up at the end of the episode.
Derek and Taylor's date was nice. A lot of Day of the Dead decor. Derek and Taylor are a good match because they're both smart but not as smart as they think they are. They spent the night in the fantasy suite.
There's trouble with Dean and Kristina. They used to cuddle, but now she just cuddles him. They had an argument about communication. If they're fighting like this a week and a half in, it's already over. Hey Kristina, you know who's a good communicator? I've been very clear about what I'm thinking. Email me. I'm not as hot as Dean, but who is?
Jasmine wanted to run off with Matt, and Matt wanted to go to bed. Alone. So it's not going to work out.
Dean called Kristina over and said that they need to nip this in the bud. He doesn't feel good about anything. Yeah, not a great communicator. He wanted to break up with her, but wanted her to say it and do it for him. She went back to the bar and cried, and Wells came around and gave her a hug. Awww. If Kristina doesn't end up with me, Wells would be alright.
Okay, so Daniel didn't show up now, but he'll show up.
Alright, so that was unsatisfactory. I'll keep watching, but it's my job. Chris Harrison will talk to Corinne and DeMario about what happened in interviews that will air at a later date, so we'll just have to hope that we'll be able to get some closure on this then.
Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.