The devil works hard, but Bachelor producers work harder.
It’s a 2018-appropriate adage that’s been said before, yet feels especially relevant in the wake of this season’s Bachelor in Paradise premiere. After the predictable albeit still disappointing ending to what was already a controversial season of The Bachelorette, Bachelor Nation was hungry for some good, old-fashioned drama—free from the sexual harassment claims, assault charges, and, of course, thinly-veiled alt-right tendencies that plagued the most recent season of The Bachelorette.
The first episode of Bachelor in Paradise did not disappoint. While Paradise has seen its fair share of controversy—most recently, last summer’s sexual-assault allegations involving Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson—this season’s premiere seems to suggest that that’s all behind us now. Instead, Paradise opens with enough tongue-in-cheek camp and pre-manufactured drama to keep even the most seasoned Bachelor fan entertained.
Bachelor in Paradise differs from The Bachelor or The Bachelorette in that contestants can date anyone; cast members must form relationships as quickly as possible to avoid being eliminated. Throw a bunch of attractive, half-naked, and perpetually-buzzed people together in a beachside hacienda and tell them to find someone to date as soon as possible? Sounds like a recipe for reality TV gold.
Chris Harrison, our stalwart host and potentially the only person holding the franchise together at times, welcomes us to Paradise beachside. He reminds viewers that relationships, marriages, and even children have all come out of Bachelor in Paradise, and calls it the reason why “men and women around the world want to be on The Bachelor.”
After a series of tantalizing glimpses from the upcoming season (an angry Leo telling someone “Good luck with grocery store bitch over there” in between footage of crying revelers and steamy couplings, and former contestant Raven proclaiming happily, “I’m back in paradise where I had my first orgasm!”), the show gets underway with a truly cheesy intro sequence (replete with wacky stunts meant to reflect the personalities of each contestant) that could be straight out of Baywatch—if Baywatch took place in 2018 and only featured horny, slightly drunk scene-stealers desperate to be the next pop culture sensation.
In between a highly-choreographed pillow fight and shots of the ocean, the intro to Bachelor in Paradise highlights this season’s major players: fresh off Becca’s season, there’s the lovable Wills; Chris R., who promises his anger problems are behind him; John, the nerdy but cute tech bro; Jordan, of golden shorts fame; David, of chicken suit fame; and fan favorite Joe the Grocer, who was cruelly eliminated on the first night but captured hearts across Bachelor Nation regardless. Other standout cast members include Tia, whose relationship with Colton came to light and caused some drama when he competed for Becca’s love on the most recent season of The Bachelorette, as well “sparkplug” Bibiana and known troublemaker Krystal, both of Arie’s season.
Chris Harrison explains, in between nonchalantly fluffing pillows and sweeping sand, that this is “the most dramatic season of Bachelor in Paradise ever.” Considering he describes just about every season/premiere/finale of the franchise this way, it doesn’t mean much, but is a little bit thrilling to hear nonetheless. According to Harrison, the recipe for the “perfect Bachelor summer” is easy: “Start with a bowl of romance. Sprinkle in love. Add tears. And of course, toss in your favorite, most memorable bachelors and bachelorettes.”
Part of why Bachelor in Paradise is so fun to watch is because of moments like these. The show’s producers are cognizant of the roles they play in propagating on-screen drama; as such, the show alternates between tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, and unchecked earnestness in its mission to give everyone on the cast a chance at love (and their fifteen minutes of fame).
Bachelor In Paradise wastes no time getting down to business; potential pairings and past traumas are made evident from the start. Krystal wants everyone to know that she’s “totally open to grow and have constructive criticism,” even going so far as to call herself “wife material,” since she’s an entrepreneur but can also cook and look after her dog. Chris R. claims he’s ready for a fresh start, and has inexplicably been branded as “the goose.” The Jordan/David beef is as strong as ever, but Jordan is ready to settle down and find love on Paradise. “As a model, it’s not hard to find love,” he explains. “But it is hard to find the right love.” Bibiana just wants to show off her body and have fun, and as for Tia, well, she’s got her sights set on Colton again, who may or may not be appearing on Paradise.
“Who will fall in love? Who will get engaged? Who will end up crying in the back of an SUV?” Chris Harrison asks ominously, revealing that Bachelor producers are well aware of viewers’ need for tear-filled arguments, dramatic breakups, and steamy make-out sessions—and are more than ready to deliver.
As the literal gatekeeper of Paradise, Harrison is the first to greet cast members as they arrive. Most are excited, some are nervous, but everyone can agree that they’re ready for whatever Paradise throws at them. An elated Bibiana tells Harrison that the bumpy drive in to the Paradise resort was “the most action my uterus has had in a while, so I’m ready.” Harrison, nonplussed but still smiling, replies, “I don’t know what that means.”
Once everyone has arrived and has a drink in hand, the beachside mingling begins. Tia tells anyone who will listen that she’s over Colton, but is obviously crushed that he didn’t make it to Paradise. Joe the Grocery Man is just the right amount of dumb but hot to be a hit with the ladies, and is equally enchanted with them. “A lot of girls here,” he observes wisely. “I like ‘em.” Kendall, from Arie’s season, manages to whisk Joe away to a cabana, where their chatting quickly turns to flirting. “I actually love picnics,” Kendall says while batting her eyelashes at Joe, who seems a little confused but nonetheless charmed when she reveals that she prefers to picnic in cemeteries. Joe, however, can’t relate. “I just don’t do picnics,” he explains. The topic, naturally, turns to death, and they both agree that they’re not freaked out by dead people. Glad they got that out of the way so soon!
Joe is also charmed by the conniving Krystal, saying she seems “smarter than me, but I think I need that.” And the first encounter between David and Jordan since their beef on Becca’s Bachelorette season is disappointingly friendly, although Jordan predicts that their truce is just temporary.
The rest of the episode unfolds predictably. Capitalizing on Tia’s pining for Colton, the producers give her the first date card of the season. Since her Prince Charming isn’t there, she reluctantly chooses Chris R. for her date, despite the fact that they have little chemistry. Joe, who hit it off with Tia earlier in the day, is let down. “I’d go on a date with her. She was cool,” he says, a bit forlornly.
While Chris and Tia are on their very boring date, the rest of the Paradise cast members are left to their own devices. Joe finds solace again with Kendall, while Jordan and Nysha, from Arie’s season, sit awkwardly together in the pool—a pairing that reeks of producer involvement, since the two hadn’t spoken much previously. Perched a couple feet away from each other, they sit in silence and avoid eye contact. “You only get this one life, right?” Jordan intones after a while.
Meanwhile, Tia appears to be completely smitten with Chris, after allaying his fear that she was still into Colton. “Colton who?” she says, smiling in an on-camera interview after her date with Chris. “We don’t know him.” Tia and Chris are still kissing and canoodling the next day, until the man in question materializes. Looking like a Ralph Lauren model, Colton strolls nonchalantly down the steps to the beach where the group is assembled, blissfully unaware of the absolute shitstorm he’s causing. To top it all off, he has a date card, and two camps quickly form: those who think Colton should use his date card to address his history with Tia, and those who think that, in the spirit of Paradise, they should both move on and explore other, um, opportunities.
After shadily chatting up some other women and teasing them with the premise of a date, Colton finally asks Tia to accompany him; she happily accepts. While cuddling together on a yacht, the subject of their relationships comes up. Colton, rather nastily, tells Tia that he loved Becca and that she had the potential to be the one, implying that Tia’s interference caused the demise of his relationship with Becca. Tia defends herself, saying that was never her intention, but that she stills cares for Colton. He doesn’t give her a straight answer, but instead says vaguely, “I’m not closing the door on us.” A blissful Tia seems to takes this as confirmation, and the two spend the rest of the afternoon together sailing and finding new ways to make out while riding a jet ski.
Back at the homestead, most everyone is furious at Colton for seemingly leading Tia on. Chris R., angrily venting to Jordan and Nick, lavishes the highest praise on Tia, calling her a “good girl” and “very beautiful,” saying they really hit it off after their one date. Jordan tries to comfort Chris R., despite his earlier observation that “Colton showing up is Chris’s personal Vietnam.” Ever the quote machine, Jordan wisely reminds Chris R. of his advantages, which are many, over Colton. “Things you have going for you: you’re not a virgin. She picked you. You’ve got great hair product. He doesn’t really have enough hair to use hair product.” Chris mulls this over, but seems appeased. “Wow, I didn’t think of it like that,” he tells Jordan.
The episode ends with rumblings of an all-out uprising against Colton. While most of the women merely complain about how Colton “shifted the mood” in Paradise, the men make plans to confront him when he returns from his date with Tia, shown in the last few minutes of the first episode. “We’re gonna kill him,” Jordan says ominously.
Yes, the drama on Bachelor in Paradise is quite obviously manufactured by the producers. Does that matter? Not really. After the numerous controversies the franchise (and ABC) has faced, it’s nice to just sit back, relax, and watch a bunch of ridiculously good-looking people fight and then make out on the beach. It’s what the Bachelor franchise does best—and boy, does it hit the spot. Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough.