Spoilers ahead for the August 20 episode of Bachelor in Paradise.
When Bachelor in Paradise kicked off its sixth season, Blake Horstmann was presented as the villain and Demi Burnett was immediately earning herself fan-favorite status. Her openness about her relationship with the woman she left behind combined with her hilarious commentary on all the Paradise shenanigans made her a fun addition to the cast, and she latched on to Derek Peth for one of the less melodramatic couplings of the season. Now, after three weeks of Demi seemingly showing more and more of her true colors, the question is: is Demi worse than Blake?
Now, Blake's behavior has been pretty bad. He went from hooking up with Kristina Schulman to hooking up with Caelynn Miller-Keyes in the same weekend at the Stagecoach music festival, when he was also thinking about Hannah Godwin, who he visited shortly before Paradise began filming. He didn't tell Tayshia Adams any of this before asking her out, and it's now been revealed that he was also hanging out with Caitlin Clemmens at Stagecoach. Come on, Blake! Demi's behavior, before the latest episode, seemed mildly objectionable in comparison.
Yes, she was still thinking about the woman she'd left behind, but she also told Derek about the woman, and she seemed genuinely conflicted. While viewers could probably tell that she was leaning toward Kristian Haggerty (who she left to come to Paradise) over Derek, Derek didn't get to watch the confessionals that viewers from home did. Her feelings for both Kristian and Derek came across as sincere, as did her distress at having to hurt Derek. She wasn't nearly as bad as Jed Wyatt from Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette to me.
Until the August 20 episode, that is.
While Derek was more or less pining after Demi while trying to be understanding, Demi was sharing her woes with Chris Harrison, who proceeded to recruit Kristian to drop by Paradise and add a whole lot of drama. Demi was overjoyed to reunite with Kristian, and they were all kisses and compliments at first. Honestly, if not for the heartbreak that was definitely coming for Derek, I would have been 100% happy for Demi. What can I say? It was an adorable reunion, and she hadn't crossed a line that couldn't be uncrossed at that point.
That came a little later. As soon as she reunited with Kristian, it was clear that Demi's mind was made up, and Derek was going to get some very bad news. This was a bummer, but inevitable. Better for Derek to have his heart broken sooner rather than later, before he could fall even harder for her, right? Back when I assumed that Demi choosing Kristian meant that they would leave Paradise a la Onyeka Ehie (although much happier than Omyeka was), it felt like Demi was going to rip the Band-Aid off for Derek. She would hurt him, leave, and them let him heal in Paradise. That's what I assumed.
But nope! Demi told Derek that she and Kristian were going to stay together in Paradise. Even though Bachelor in Paradise is a competition about singles trading partners and looking for love from among former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants, the settled couple of Demi and Kristian were just going to hang out and moon over each other in front of the heartbroken Derek.
And Kristian isn't even a Bachelor franchise alum! It feels manufactured and almost deliberately cruel to Derek, and Demi didn't seem to feel bad that she and Kristian would be flaunting their relationship for no logical reason. Whether you love Demi and Kristian as a couple or not, how is it appropriate that they stay in Paradise?
In light of Demi's decision to stay in Paradise, her behavior leading up to this point (and what is likely going to happen for her, if spoilers are to be believed) seems much sketchier. Was she ever truly conflicted about Derek vs. Kristian, or was she biding her time? Couldn't she have come clean to him about Kristian, and even cut him loose, sooner than she did? If she truly cared about him, why would she happily go off on a date with Kristian after deciding to stay in Paradise while he was right there?
For me, Demi is worse than Blake at this point. Demi successfully came across as somebody to root for up until this point, and she and Kristian are cute enough that it would be easy to root for them if not for Derek's heartbreak. Part of me suspects that this is all being played up by more than just Demi so that sympathy for Derek will be sky-high when he's announced as the next leading man of The Bachelor; whether that's the case or not, I'm definitely off Team Demi. And I so wanted to root for her!
If Derek does get the spot as the next Bachelor, will forgiving Demi for staying in Paradise with Kristian be easier? I'm not sure. I can practically already see the "Previously on" segments showing a crying Derek as he tries to move on while Demi carries on happily with Kristian. The episode ended with the two explicitly committed to each other, so I can't even really see the purpose of keeping them around except to bother Derek from the sake of drama and/or show some same sex milestones.
If the promos are anything to go by, next week is going to be heavy on John Paul Jones and a couple of newcomers. Tayshia is mysteriously absent from the footage teasing what's in store; will she pull an Onyeka and leave? Or will she turn her attentions to another guy while JPJ is off cavorting with new ladies? Derek will be newly available, and she could certainly do worse!
Tune in to Bachelor in Paradise on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC to find out what's next for Demi, Derek, and all the rest.