Welcome back to the beach, betches! Last week on Bachelor in Paradise, it felt like ABC was looking directly into my soul as they developed their editing strategy. And that soul was looking more and more like the sliver of Lord Voldemort that’s soul Dumbledore and Harry found curled in the fetal position on that dreamscape Platform 9 ¾ . He Who Must Not Be Named may have had to split his soul into sevenths for unfettered power in the Wizarding World, but She Who Must Have To Recap is splitting her sanity watching Ashley I talk about what’s coming out of her butt.
On that note, let’s dive into the episode…
A Match Made In Tequila
When last we left off, Teddi had just fled Mexico. She took one look at her romantic prospects and decided that spending the evening being felt up by TSA was better than this shit. Tell me the lie. But this means Rodney is left in a bind. He wanted to give his date card to Teddi, but with her gone, he doesn’t know where he stands.
Enter Brandon, who is ready and willing to gas this man up. Y’all, I’ve not seen this much enthusiasm for a person’s success since Kris Jenner adjusted the pearl beads over Kim Kardashian’s erect nipples in that first Playboy shoot. He’s like “Rodney? My boy is the hottest commodity to hit the sand!”, and all Rodney did was breathe in a woman’s general direction.
Look, I love Rodney, I do. But the “hottest commodity” on the beach? Seems like a bit of a stretch. The rest of Paradise is equally up in arms about his singleness. Who will date Rodney now that Teddi’s gone? How could he possibly choose anyone else for this date? They’re acting like he deserves a Purple Heart for his valor in deciding to stay on that beach to drink bottom-shelf tequila. He knew Teddi for five hours. I think he’ll be fine.
It’s around this time that Lace browns back into the conversation. I should sue ABC for underutilizing the Jennifer Coolidge of this beach, but I’m glad to see she’s finally getting some airtime. Lace decides to set her sights on Rodney. Whether her romantic interest is based on genuine attraction or because Rodney happened to be at the bar as she was guzzling down a fourth tequila soda is anyone’s guess.
LACE WHEN RODNEY WALKS OVER:
But actually, Lace does have some game. “Look at me staying up late for you,” she says, and both eyelashes actually bat at the same time. It’s amazing what happens when she puts down the shot glass.
The fact that these two are giving this thing an actual shot is wild, but I’ve seen worse pairings. Here’s hoping they last past last call!
Production Needs To Chill
Is it just me, or has BiP been particularly hard to watch this season? The magic of Bachelor in Paradise was that it was one of the more under-produced parts of the franchise. They put a group of beautiful, semi-nude people on a beach, doused them in tequila, and waited to watch the monkeys dance. Now, not only is production part of the storyline (“I told them I didn’t want to talk about my ex!”, Salley wails), but their manipulations are about as subtle as Lace’s eyelash extensions.
The result of all of this over-producing is that there are fewer genuine moments captured on screen. Everything feels produced to within an inch of its life and it takes the fun out of watching it. There are two moments from last night that really highlight this shift for me: Salley’s BiP debut and the return of Dr. Kira.
The running joke of this season has been that Salley, a woman who didn’t even make it to night one of Clayton’s season before bailing, is more of a flight risk than her sex-toy buzzing luggage. I’ll never forget the way the women ripped into her luggage like rabid dogs scrambling for the last bit of kibble, or Wells reliving his community theater days by doing a live-action retelling of how Salley missed her flight to Paradise. But no one is able to articulate why they hate Salley so much. “I don’t trust her,” Genevieve scoffs, “she’s not here for the right reasons.” To this I say: look around, honey! You’re living in a bacchanalian hellscape. People are dry humping on beach crabs and dried up tequila limes. Nobody is there for the right reasons.
The thing I can’t get my head around is why Genevieve cares so much. She has a man and is secure in that relationship. The whole reason she initially didn’t like Salley was because she was talking to Justin and she knew Justin hooked up with Salley at Stagecoach. But she’s not with Justin anymore (more on that later), she’s with Aaron. So where is this animosity coming from? Producers, obviously.
Moments after Salley’s arrival, Genevieve and Shanae team up in some sort of unholy alliance to scream at Salley about being there for the wrong reasons.
“Why were you really late to the beach?”, Shanae sneers.
“WE KNOW ABOUT YOUR EX-BOYFRIEND!”, Genevieve shrieks.
Salley says that she missed her flight because of a work thing, but Romy and Michele over here are convinced there’s an ex-boyfriend in the picture. Some of the information they hurl at her aligns with Wells’ story from last week, other information doesn’t make sense with the context we’ve been given as an audience.
Privately, Salley tells Justin that she was promised “they” wouldn’t bring up her ex-boyfriend on screen. She specifically asked “them” not do this out of respect for that past relationship. The “they” she’s referring to is obviously production, though editing would like us to believe it’s Shanae and Genevieve. Salley then leaves barely an hour into her debut. “They have no respect for me!”, she cries. Again, I don’t think she’s talking about the women.
Salley’s abrupt departure was strange to watch. Much like Teddi’s mad dash through the night, it feels like we’re missing something. Half the narrative is taking place on screen, while the other half is taking place during off-camera conversations between producers and talent. The effect is jarring and chaotic. I can’t get a clear sense of anyone’s motivations.
Then there’s Dr. Kira’s return. She waltzes onto the beach during the tail end of Tuesday night’s episode like she wasn’t eliminated at the first rose ceremony. She’s supposed to be stashed away at some discount Mexican Hilton engaging in hostage negotiations with production for the return of her phone, not putting in a drink order with Wells and gabbing with the rest of the cast. The only reason she’s on that beach is because production wants her to be.
But when Kira pulls Jacob aside to deliver the lines production seemingly wrote for her, she isn’t sure of why she returned.
KIRA: Uh, you feel like… home to me?
ALSO KIRA READING THROUGH THE SCRIPT:
Unlike in past seasons, Kira wasn’t just encouraged to return to the beach, her return actually seems staged. She knew what lines to deliver and where to stand. When Jacob won’t play her game and she asks Romeo to leave with her instead, her eyes even keep darting back to the cameras as if she’s concerned she isn’t selling the scene.
What sort of deal did she make with these people? Are they holding her
loved ones sex toys hostage off-screen, threatening to throw the batteries into the ocean if she doesn’t comply? The look she’s giving Romeo right now is pleading with him to follow her lead. Think of the butt plugs, Romeo! They never did anything to hurt you!
Don’t get me wrong—there are still real moments happening—those are just fewer and farther between. Take the Jacob/Jill one-on-one date. That was one of the only bright spots in the Monday/Tuesday content lineup, and the kind of date that makes me love this goddamn show. Jacob and Jill don’t need to be coached into any antics. They’re weird enough to let the story write itself.
At one point during their date, Jacob says that he loves doing breathing exercises because it’s good for his body and “lowers inflation.” That bit of dialogue is STUNNING. My masters degree may have just visibly quaked at transcribing that sentence, but my god does it make for good television.
Watching these two sync their menstrual cycles as a shaman instructs them on how to do a full moon ritual is exactly how I wanted to spend my Tuesday night. When the shaman tasks them with rubbing oil all over their bodies and stripping completely naked, I screamed. “I have so much anxiety about being naked and vulnerable,” Jill says, “but that’s where the most growth happens.” Yes, I imagine that is where the most growth in Jacob’s pants happens.
Later when Dr. Double-Dose-of-My-Titties Kira shows up, Jacob actually entertains her antics. Not because production told him to, but because he’s genuinely that stupid. It takes another contestant physically pulling him away from Kira to remember that he was just rubbing nipples with Jill only 20 minutes ago. “Don’t worry,” he tells Jill. “I’m here for you. I told her good luck and god bless.” What he actually said was “that was hot,” but I appreciate his taking creative licensing on the events.
What I’m saying is, Jill and Jacob work because they can’t be managed or produced. They’re acting exactly like who they are and it’s refreshing to watch. I don’t need production going all Wile E. Coyote on the influencers, luring them into production traps with false luggage and off-screen gossip. You don’t need to manipulate these people into acting like lunatics—they’re already on the beach! Let the tequila absorb whatever brain cells they have left, then sit back and watch the damn show.
Other Things That Happened
Ashley I & Jared are now
producer plants season regulars. ABC devotes almost two of the four hours of episodes to ex-Paradise contestants Ashley I and Jared. Watching these two on my screen again feels a little like the second act of a horror movie. You thought you staked the vampire or escaped the chainsaw-wielding psychopath, only to realize that all the while the killer has been lying in wait for you in West Hollywood.
Production seems intent on marketing their love story as a Paradise success. It’s revisionist history at its finest. They’re like “it’s boy meets girl but with a twist!”, and then the twist is that Jared tried to date literally every other girl in the franchise until Ashley finally wore him down and they started dating in a last-person-on-earth kind of situation. But by all means, tell us more about how infatuated he is with Ashley’s toxic farts!
The Justin/Genevieve/Aaron saga continues this week. When last we left off, Genevieve was torn between two men. Last week, she went on a date with Aaron despite accepting Justin’s rose. This week, she is practicing for a two-episode character arc on Days of Our Lives. Genevieve has been waiting her whole damn life to be at the center of a love triangle and it’s a loooot.
I know ABC wants me to care about this love triangle, but I just don’t. Genevieve is a melodramatic hypocrite who dragged Justin for doing to her what she’s doing to him right now. Justin gives me nothing, and Aaron shows more affection to his protein shakes than any woman on that island. I do think Gen made the right choice by choosing Aaron. They’re perfect for each other in that they are both the type to count kisses. Congrats, kids!
Michael dumps Sierra. Sierra started off this week telling us she’s ALL fucking IN with Michael. She doesn’t care that Michael hasn’t taken his shirt off once since he got on the beach, nor does she care that he spends their foreplay talking about gas prices and the best way to grill meat. She doesn’t need to see any more. She’s in full-on mommy mode and she doesn’t care who knows it.
SIERRA: I can see a life with him
THE LIFE SHE SEES:
To show Michael how serious she is about him, she plans a star-gazing date for the two of them. She tells him that she bought three of the stars they’re looking at, one for each member of Michael’s family: Michael, his son, and… his late wife!!! Y’all. She bought his dead wife a star. I know she had good intentions with that, but seriously, she’s known the man for seven days. This is too much!!
Michael is looking at Sierra like he finally realized there’s a 12-year age gap between them. He takes in the telescope, his deceased wife’s celestial grave stone, and the five gallons of body glitter, and goes all middle school yearbook on her. He’s like “HAGS and let’s be friends, okay??” Oh, Michael. I’m afraid the damage is already done.
And that’s all she wrote, betches! Until next week!
Images: ABC/Craig Sjodin; Giphy (9)