In June, Bachelor in Paradise abruptly halted production amid allegations of misconduct relating to a pool encounter between cast members and fellow franchise “villains” Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson. On Tuesday night, after heavily and tastelessly teasing some kind of dramatic on-camera reckoning, the show dealt with this controversy in the best way it knows how—as a plot point to be explored and then briskly abandoned.
It’s a confusing situation, one the first two episodes of this season didn’t make much less confusing, so let’s briefly recap what we know. Shortly after production was stopped in June, it was reported that two producers had filed a third party complaint against the show questioning whether Corinne was able to give consent to the alleged sexual encounter she had with DeMario. In a statement, Corinne said that while she had “little memory of that night, something bad obviously took place” and referred to herself as a “victim,” while DeMario insisted in an in-depth E! interview that he’d done nothing wrong, providing an explicit play-by-play of the night’s events.
In the same interview, DeMario said that prior to the hookup, he and Corinne had teamed up strategically to make a big splash on the show. “Our conversation leading up to that point was talking about dominating Paradise,” he told E!. “For her it was like, ‘follow my lead’ type of thing, she was very confident.” Unlike older iterations of Bachelor spinoff competitions, Bachelor in Paradise doesn’t really even need to hand out prizes—the end goal is explicitly to achieve a lasting romantic partnership (and increasingly, engagement, quite a feat after two boozy weeks of filming), but it’s also obvious that the longer they last on the show and the bigger impression they make, the more social media influence (i.e. moneymaking opportunities) a cast member might achieve.
DeMario also told E! that “two cameras, an audio guy and a producer” had followed them to the pool, and that “we were both super coherent, we were both speaking,” although afterwards, according to DeMario, extremely heavy “shot-for-shot” drinking was taking place (“At one point Chris is like, ‘DeMario, get your s—t together, pick your head up, open your eyes,’” he said. “‘Corinne, get up.’...Corinne’s drunk, everybody is drunk. But it’s not bad—we’re just in Paradise. Chris is, like, poking fun at us.”)
DeMario said he’d made sure the cameras followed him “because when you’re a man, mostly African-American men, no matter where you are, you look for things that will help you out.” He said that later, as news of the shutdown emerged, the public formed opinions based on racist and misogynist stereotypes before the facts were clear; cast members would later echo this in Tuesday night’s episode.
The minute you release this black man’s face and this white girl’s face, before either of us commented on it, I was already like a rapist and I was like, excuse my French, a n—-er, a monkey, and she’s a whore and a slut. They were slut-shaming her because of what she did last season with Nick.
On June 20, Warner Bros. announced that an independent investigation had concluded that no misconduct had taken place, and the full cast returned to paradise. Producers will now reportedly have to explicitly approve sex between cast members before it happens, and will reportedly enforce a two drink per hour maximum. Olympios’ lawyers recently wrapped up their own investigation into the incident, which was followed by another statement:
In light of the overwhelming amount of misinformation that has been spread in the media, I want to clarify a few things. My intent over the past few weeks has been to learn and understand what happened on June 4. While I never filed complaints or accusations against anyone associated with Bachelor in Paradise, my team and I felt it was very important to be thorough in getting to the bottom of what had occurred. I felt victimized by the fact that others were judging me through conflicting and unsubstantiated reports, while I myself had no recollection of the events that transpired. My team’s investigation into this matter has now been completed to my satisfaction. I am also happy about the changes that have been made to the production of Bachelor in Paradise. While I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have been a participant on The Bachelor, and while I was invited to return to Bachelor in Paradise when production resumed, I respectfully made the decision not to return.
I understand the media’s interest in this story, and I greatly appreciate my fans’ concerns for my well-being, but I think it is best if I keep any further thoughts private for now.
So—as anticipated, though it did address the situation head-on with an extended sit-down talk between the cast and host Chris Harrison, following Monday night’s premiere, Tuesday night’s episode did not quite match its subject in complexity, nor did it clarify exactly why those complaints were filed.
We began with an hour-long look at a handful of Bachelor weddings, a pointed parade of the positive “results” the franchise has achieved over the years. While production for Bachelor in Paradise was shut down, former cast members Carly and Evan went ahead and walked down the aisle anyway, with bridesmaids in gigantic flower crowns gushing over the couple and members of the Bachelor family (minus the current cast) looking happily on.
The scene we were waiting for opened with characteristic drama as media chatter about the Paradise shutdown played over windswept shots of the empty beach. Cast members appeared on the horizon, marching back towards their non-air conditioned cabana. “I hope this is a fresh reset on love, and that we can just take a deep breath and start over again,” Raven told the camera.
“Before I can officially declare Paradise back open, I think it’s very important that we have a serious talk,” Chris solemnly informed the cast. He asked if they trusted the investigation’s conclusion, and everyone agreed that yes, they did.
“I think we all knew that, though,” said Alexis. “It was just hard going back home and seeing the media blow it so out of proportion.”
“The media” ended up being a central pillar of the conversation.
“I think there was a lot in the media regarding the producers, as if they’re not our friends and they’re just using us to make us do things,” said Alex.
“I think there’s a weird perception that exists out there that we’re not in control of ourselves when we’re here and that there’s this puppetmaster thing occurring,” Derek said. “And we all know how realistic the friendships are amongst the cast and the crew and producers, I mean it’s not some sort of crazy—”
“You guys aren’t mindless robots?” Chris interjected, to laughs.
“Everything that we do here and that we say here is because we decide to,” Taylor said. She emphasized that she doesn’t drink, and has never been pressured or asked to do so by producers. “We’re responsible for ourselves, the things we say, how much we drink, who we kiss.”
The conversation included a seemingly heartfelt dialogue on race, a subject the show hasn’t always treated with care (pretty recently; for example, the first black Bachelorette was courted by a racist suitor).
“It was so unfair the way people were speaking about DeMario,” Raven said. “And the blame he was getting, and the horrible things said to him—and Corinne both, it broke my heart because I thought...people are always going to associate something bad happening with Corinne and DeMario.”
Diggy agreed. “I’m thinking of the long-term effects [on DeMario], and I was really, really pissed about that.”
Chris asked the cast if they thought race played a part “in this,” although it’s not clear whether he meant the public response or the allegations themselves. There was an extended pause, then everyone nodded. Raven said she was particularly sensitive to it because she’s from a place—Arkansas—where the notion of a black man with a white woman prompts racist reactions.
“I was super empathetic with DeMario, because it’s just another issue, not only is consent important but it’s also [important] to get rid of the stigma that interracial couples can’t be, or blaming African-American men for crimes they didn’t commit,” she said. Jasmine followed up, noting that she worries something like this could happen to her brother. Chris then asked why the cast thought Corinne referred to herself as a “victim.”
“Maybe she just didn’t want... she wanted to kind of save face, is what I took from it,” Danielle offered. Derek thought Corinne’s statement was written by a lawyer, and misinterpreted as an allegation. Chris claimed that there was “a lot of slut-shaming that went on in the press,” and everyone agreed that slut-shaming is bad. Raven shared that she was sexually assaulted, and “I hope this situation doesn’t deter actual victims from coming forward.”
This is a hard subject to tackle, particularly without a clear knowledge of—or ability to share—all the facts, so I suppose the show and its cast deserve some props for attempting it. But with so much focus on the “media” and external interpretations and so little on the conditions that allowed something like this to happen in the first place, it’s hard to view this episode as anything other than an exercise in world-building, cleansing both the franchise and its audience of culpability in the face of a potentially existential threat.
Once the “elephant in the room,” as Chris put it on Monday night’s episode, was dealt with, everyone was free to get back to whatever it was they were doing before, as show executives and producers promised they would: showing off a boob job, relentlessly pursuing Amanda, enjoying a mindless show about competitive coupling without feeling like you’re actively participating in something that is, at its core, rather sinister.