Spoilers ahead for the August 27 episode of Bachelor in Paradise's sixth season.
When it comes to romance in the Bachelor franchise, it's best to assume that the love stories are being framed at least a little bit by the show for maximum entertainment. That's part of the fun of watching these series, right? We just accept everybody from Stagecoach who hooked up with one guy to show up, because that's how it's supposed to work.
Well, the latest episode of Bachelor in Paradise revealed a shocking decision from Dean Unglert and then ended with the reveal of a huge Dean twist in the trailer for next week, and I've discovered that I apparently have a limit of how much I can take. This was the last straw. Here's what happened.
The episode picked up where the previous one left off: with Dean about to spoil poor Caelynn Miller-Keyes' birthday. He'd sent up some red flags to Caelynn already about not necessarily feeling ready for a serious relationship following the end of Paradise, and he decided that the right time to drop a heartbreaking bombshell on Caelynn was right after the rose ceremony, before which he'd given her a sweet birthday celebration that rings a bit hollow now considering what happened next.
Dean pulled Caelynn aside and confirmed to her that he didn't think they could continue a relationship after Paradise because their lifestyles wouldn't match. He further broke the birthday girl's heart by stating that he was leaving Paradise, like Onyeka Ehie before him. While the heartbreak is partly on Caelynn for not seeing all the red flags -- because of course their lifestyles wouldn't match unless Caelynn decided living out of a van sounded fun -- I still hold it against Dean for doing it how he did it.
But still, I was along for the ride. Dean and his mustache were out, and Caelynn was miserable for the better part of a day when the whole Paradise crew had to attend the wedding of Chris Randone and Krystal Nielson. While the biggest drama of the wedding (which cast "a dark cloud" over the wedding, according to the happy couple) was the confrontation between John Paul Jones and Derek Peth, Caelynn got to spend some time and swap some spit with Connor Saeli, who later turned up to join the fun in Paradise.
Fine by me! This was a classic Bachelor in Paradise twist, and it put a smile on Caelynn's face. All good so far. In fact, it was all good -- for me, at least, considering Nicole Lopez-Alvar was doubting Clay Harbor's feelings after he reunited with ex Angela Amezcua and Tayshia Adams was in the middle of the JPJ/Derek mess -- until the trailer for next week revealed Dean shaving his mustache and returning to Paradise, saying that he "made a mistake."
And this is where Paradise lost me. Season 6 of Bachelor in Paradise has been packed with twists that go against the (admittedly unofficial) rules of the show and feel too manufactured for me to just enjoy the ride for what it is. Twists like this pull me right out of the episode. What possible reason would Bachelor in Paradise have for allowing Dean to return other than to maximize drama and conflict for Caelynn?
Yes, drama and conflict are a big part of why a lot of us probably watch Bachelor in Paradise, but it's more fun when it doesn't feel staged. Whether or not this is what happened, it feels like Dean was just waiting in the wings to make his grand return to try and win Caelynn back. It doesn't feel real, especially since it's hard to take Connor and Dean seriously as romantic rivals. Connor doesn't live out of a van, Caelynn! Stick with Connor, even if Dean does shave his weird mustache for you!
Admittedly, this would be a bit of an overreaction... if this was the first time that Bachelor in Paradise Season 6 had included a twist that felt too staged to keep me engaged. The biggest one of the season was that Demi Burnett and Kristian Haggerty rekindled their love and then stayed in Paradise. What possible reasons were there to allow Demi and Kristian to stay, when they were 100% settled on each other and not going to exchange roses with anybody else, other than the Bachelor franchise showcasing a same-sex relationship and maximizing drama for Derek?
Wasn't it just a little suspicious that Chris Harrison just so happened to call up Kristian and recruit her to Paradise so incredibly quickly? And how did it make sense for the show to keep these two people who were settled on each other -- and one of them isn't even a Bachelor or Bachelorette alum! -- in the mix?
Demi and Kristian are very cute together, and their reunion was one of the sweetest things of Season 6. But they should have left/been sent home afterward. They're not looking for love anymore. Instead, I was left after that episode wondering if Demi is worse than Blake Horstmann for staying!
And now, the latest episode went out of its way to create a love triangle between Nicole, Clay, and Angela, although Clay certainly helped. First, Clay and Nicole were separated when Clay was invited to the wedding reception while Nicole was not, and it just so happened that Nicole was dressed to the nines as a bridesmaid and clearly has some unfinished business with Clay, who had decided to attend even knowing that Nicole wasn't invited and Angela would be there.
Clay then failed to definitively discourage Angela about the possibility of a renewed relationship, and the episode ended before the trailer by revealing that Angela was the next woman to join Paradise. She confidently strolled down to the beach, brandishing a date card and ready to complicate things. Can't poor Nicole just enjoy a plain, boring relationship after watching a literal brawl start over her? And if this was going to happen, couldn't it have felt less staged?
I want to enjoy Bachelor in Paradise again, and I freely admit that enjoying the Bachelor franchise means suspending disbelief and just accepting that some things are manufactured and staged.
I will happily do that as long as the show goes to the trouble of trying to at least hide it a little bit better. I want to vicariously enjoy the drama, judge the outfits, envy Wells the bartender his job, and decide which of the dates actually sound like fun to go on. I want to experience Bachelor in Paradise, not watch and think about how it doesn't make sense even by Paradise standards. Win me back, Paradise!