If you’re not familiar with this drunken child of the main Bachelor franchise, is simple: it’s Schoolies, but with ex-Bachelor/ette contestants.
It’s that time of year again! There are a whole swathe of Instagram models who, having failed to find love on the Bachelor franchise proper, are giving it another shot (and angling for yet more Instagram sponsorships), and so Channel Ten, in their wisdom, has stuck them all in a resort with a whole lot of cameras, a whole lot of booze, and very few clothes.
The concept behind Bachelor in Paradise, if you’re not familiar with this drunken child of the main Bachelor franchise, is simple: it’s Schoolies, but with ex-Bachelor/ette contestants. There is sun! There is sand! There is a lot of (presumably cheap) booze! And they are actively encouraged to hook up!
I’m not exaggerating re that last part: survival in Paradise literally depends on the contestants hooking up. Unlike Bachie proper, where one sole Bachie has the power the whole way through to keep and eliminate contestants, power in Paradise is always shifting. One week, one gender has the power, and each member of it hands out a single rose. The next week, the other gender has the power, and hands out a single rose. Each week, new people are introduced, so the balance is always uneven (eg if the women have the power, they’ll introduce new men, so some of them can be eliminated at the end of the week). The only way to survive is to form an alliance with someone of the opposite gender — and as the only real kind of alliance in the Bachieverse is a romantical one, the best way to do this is hooking up.
If you’re thinking ‘hmmm, that sounds nightmarishly heteronormative’ — yes, it is. While they have had bisexual contestants before (Megan last year, and Alex and Brooke this year), and there’s been a vague hand-waving in the direction of ‘oh, they can give their rose to anyone’, they are yet to provide a compelling explanation of how that would work within the binaristic confines of the rules.
But! Maybe this year is the year we will find out. Now we’re all clear on the concept, let’s get into the recap.
Every year in Paradise, we start with a core group of participants. Let’s take a roll call of who we have this year.
Shannon (Nick’s season):an early frontrunner for the Honey Badger’s heart, Shannon then did not snog him on a date, and it was all downhill from there. Notably, she got into a lot of spats with Cat from Bali and her coterie of mean girls.
Bill (Ali’s season): LITERAL SWARM OF BEES IN HUMAN FORM. I CANNOT EMPHASISE THIS ENOUGH.
Brooke (Nick’s season): a precious angel, who was wise enough to run screaming into the night from Nick on the penultimate episode of the season, even though she was clearly going to win.
Paddy (Ali’s season):an actual nightmare. If his form on The Bachelorette is anything to go by, his favourite hobbies are objectifying women and talking over the top of them.
Cass (Nick’s season): knew Nick before she went on The Bachelor, and was unfortunately – for her – still in love with him. Deserves better. Once read aloud from a diary where there was nothing written on the pages.
James (Sophie’s season): one of the few men this season that I am (cautiously) sure is not trash. He’s a financial advisor, and got cut from Sophie’s season not because he was garbage, but because they had no chemistry. Good pal with Apollo, and they once posted a picture of them wearing pyjamas and hugging their stuffed animals while watching The Bachelorette on Insta.
Cat from Bali (Nick’s season): classic mean girl, who uses the word ‘abusive’ far too flippantly.
Brittney (Nick’s season): got a terrible weird girl edit on Nick’s season (which she didn’t really help by insisting on trying to start conga lines every minute), and looks to be headed the same way here. Told Osher she wanted three kids by thirty, which made me black out for several seconds.
Nathan (Ali’s season): absolute fucking nightmare who got turfed by Ali by talking shit about her to the other dudes. Have no reason to believe he has improved in any way.
Alex (Rachel’s season): Alex is from the US franchise, and was on Rachel Lindsey’s season of The Bachelorette in 2017.I have watched this season twice, because I’ve written an article on it, and I have no recollection of him at all, despite the fact that he is INCREDIBLY handsome.
Rachael (Richie’s season): a contestant I have a real soft spot. She seemed to genuinely want love on Richie’s season of The Bachelor,and then got the short end of the stick in Paradise last year where she got thrown in late, where the only dudes left were resident weird kid American Jared and extremely uninterested Canadian Thomas. I genuinely have my fingers crossed for her. (Also, she says she’s looking for an ‘electronic connection’, and I cannot decide whether this is an acceptable variation on ‘electric connection’, totally incorrect, or a genius metaphor.)
Alisha (Nick’s season): one of Cat from Bali’s coterie of mean girls.
Much of the drama tonight revolves around a Big Revelation from Brooke, teased heavily in the ads. There’s a lot of women from Nick’s season in Paradise, and they’re all curious to know one thing: why did Brooke run screaming into the night on the second-last episode of the season, when it seemed certain that she was going to win?
Brooke hems and haws. ‘I’ve been protecting Nick for so long,’ she says. ‘But I don’t want to protect him anymore … he’s going to hate me for this.’
The revelation is this: during Brooke’s last date with Nick, he got the cameras turned off, smothered his mike, and told her that he wasn’t going to pick anyone in the end. That is, his Womacking — picking no one — was premeditated.
And my goodness, there are some interesting implications here. Firstly, it exposes the romantic artifice of the show dramatically. Dana Cloud (2010) argues that watching The Bachelor franchise relies on the ‘irony bribe’ — a dual engagement with the romantic fantasy and its ultimate emptiness — but very rarely do we see the fantasy actually made empty in the diegesis of the show like this. It’s a possibility that Paradise engenders in a very interesting way: we see beyond the ending, and the contestants can actually engage in real talk about their Bachies in a way that they can’t in the main franchise. Counterintuitively for a show ostensibly about romance, there’s a real pleasure in that (perhaps because there’s also the possibility for new romance ahead).
Secondly, I’ve said several times that Nick could have come out of The Bachelor much better if he’d run with a different line: ‘I like you so much, but I’m not in love with you, and I don’t want to lead you on’ rather than ‘I’m not ready for a relationship’. I’d chalked it up to some naïveté, or maybe panic, but if the Womacking was premeditated? Nick Cummins, you fucking idiot for not realising how ‘I’m not ready for a relationship’ would play when you were paid seven figures to be the actual Bachelor.
After this revelation, the women toast to never mentioning Nick Cummins again, which seems like the happiest way for Nick’s trash fire of a season to end. May it never be necessary to mention him in these recaps again.
The action shifts then to the first date card. This has been awarded to Shannon (just like it was in Nick’s season, grumbles Cat from Bali), and given that she’s been hanging out with James, the only man there who I’m almost positive is not a denizen from one of the lower circles of hell, it seems like a no-brainer as to who she’ll take.
But no! Shannon talks to a few people, and after James stammers his way through an admittedly awkward (and … not un-red-flaggy) monologue where he’s like, ‘if I could plan out us, we’d hang out all day, every day,’ she chooses Paddy.
Paddy. Nightmare boy Paddy, who rhymed ‘fit’ with ‘tit’ in a poem delivered to Ali on his first night on The Bachelorette, and who tells us that Shannon is the kind of girl he usually goes for because she’s ‘small’.
To add insult to injury, Alisha is mad about this choice, because she’s alsohot for Paddy. There are literally multiple people on this island with a romantic (or at least a physical) attraction to an actual nightmare person.
…this is going to be a long season.
Shannon and Paddy’s date does not go especially well. Well, this is a bit of a lie – the date itself goes okay (probably because they’re listening to singers for most of it, and thus Paddy cannot open his trash mouth), but afterwards, he kisses her, and her description of it could go into the dictionary next to ‘damning with faint praise’: ‘it was a good kiss! It was nice to, um, interact.’
Suffice to say that this romance is not one that is going to have much of a future.
Paddy does embroil himself in some more drama, though. He and his trash bro Nathan discuss something which is apparently common knowledge: Bill has been sliding into the DMs of, like, every Bachelor lady ever, trying to form an alliance to carry him to the end of Paradise.
‘It’s fine for him to slide into the DMs,’ they agree. ‘Creep away, Bill! But you know when it’s not fine? When it affects me! What if we don’t make it to the end of Paradise because Bill’s made some deal?’
So Paddy and Nathan confront Bill, and they get into a big argument, and honestly, it’s hard to pick a side – not because either position is particularly defensible, but because I loathe them all so much I can’t decide. Just fling them all into the sea and be done with it.
And speaking of trash men — we have one last addition to our dramatis personae, before the season premiere is complete:
Richie (Sam Frost’s season, his own season):remember this guy? Our Bachelor in 2016, he started offas widely beloved, as a kind of national Mr Bingley figure, and ended up … well, not loathed like Blake Garvey and Nick Cummins, as he claims here, but certainly not as everyone’s favourite sunflower man. And then when he and his winner Alex broke up publicly after a few months, his image took another hit, and … yeah. Not well liked, is old mate Richie ‘crikey!’ Strahan.
That said, one of the more horrifying things about this season of Paradise is this: I have a feeling Richie is going to end up being one of the better male options. Not because he’s secretly wonderful, but because … well, imagine me gesturing broadly at the rest of the men there.
This introduction comes right at the end to build up to tomorrow, when the ads tell us that Richie’s ex Alex is going to enter Paradise, and we’re going to be served with the longest unedited scene in reality TV history. Considering that the horrible unedited breakup of Arie Luyendyk Jr and Becca Kufrin went for like a million years in the US Bachelor franchise last year, we’d better strap in for a long one.
PS: tomorrow’s recap might be a little late, because I’m speaking at an event about romance rather than watching Bachelor in Paradise live like a dutiful recapper. If you’re in Melbourne, and you’d rather hear me speak than, say, human swarm of locusts Bill, there’s still tickets left: Australian romance at the Wheeler Centre.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.