There is something off about the version of the song “Almost Paradise” that plays over the opening credits of Bachelor in Paradise; the male vocal track is too loud. The song is a duet with the woman singing the melody and the man providing the harmony but for some reason, on this particular recording, the male voice is overpowering the female one, as though the singer is trying to show off his vocal knowhow while simultaneously demonstrating that he is unable to take the back seat. Similarly, both the producers of and the men on The Bachelor in Paradise have not allowed the women take the spotlight.
Case in point: Amanda’s role in the Amanda-Josh-Nick drama has been almost entirely ignored. Josh has clearly been positioned as the convenient substitute villain for Chad, a role he seems to have willingly accepted, but Amanda is clearly the clever game-player in this equation. The narrative in Nick’s mind, the one that he expresses, is that Josh has “stolen” Amanda away from him. This is clearly not the case. It is obvious that Amanda and Josh connected prior to their respective arrivals in paradise and because Amanda arrived prior to Josh, on a week when the guys were handing out roses, she needed to attach herself to a guy in order to stay on until Josh’s arrival. That guy was NIck and Amanda played Nick like a fiddle. I do not mean to impugn Amanda’s character, the show is set up to force its subjects into this kind of manipulation game and she did what she needed to do to stay on until the guy with whom she wanted to spend time arrived. For some reason, Nick is not acknowledging this truth; he wants to be mad at Josh, not Amanda. It’s understandable, he likes Amanda and Josh is kind of a douche. Still, the idea that Amanda was “stolen” is kind of a sexist diminishment of her ability to make decisions for herself.
Josh and Amanda were not the focus this week, they spent most of their time obnoxiously making out on various loveseats, cruelly in view of Nick. Nick, who is given a chance at recovery when Haley mercifully spares him at the rose ceremony, spins his wheels for the first part of the week but then connects quickly with Jennifer upon her arrival, getting to go on a date with her, an event that culminates in them making out in the surf, From Here to Eternity-style. Nick seems just as taken with Jennifer as he was with Amanda, commenting on how delightfully “hot” she is (Nick, for all his good guy persona, seems just as shallow as any of them). That’s fine, Nick deserves a win as much as anyone on this show. It seems likely that Jennifer arrived in Paradise with Nick on her mind, and she and Nick will stay above the fray for the rest of the season. I see them going the distance.
Elsewhere, there are two double dates. Vinny and Izzy go out on the town with Grant and Lace. None of this is very interesting. Meanwhile, Sarah and Carly invite Dan and Evan, the guys with whom they have respectively been stuck with, over for a kind of couples’ evening. This goes fine, Dan is weird and Sarah remains half-heartedly interested in him. Carly remains disinterested in Evan for most of the evening, from the beginning of the date to Evan’s awkward attempt at a goodnight kiss, but then… Look, Evan is not a smooth man, he has very little “game,” but he has lucked into what is apparently going to be a very successful seduction technique for him when it comes to Carly which is to be the opposite of smooth. Who knew that the thing that would turn Carly on to Evan once again would be a bad reaction to mixing alcohol with pain meds? No one, that’s who. But sure enough, once the producers and paramedics have revived Evan and left Carly to watch over him, they are soon smooching on Evan’s bed. The meds and booze seem to have had a galvanizing effect upon Evan, who displays a lot more moxy than he previously has, getting a bit more assertive, just like Carly had expressed was her wish. Later they will share an ambulance ride together, Evan requiring medical attention for his swollen ankle, and Carly will share that she is once again on “the Evan train.” Good for him, I guess.
It is not quite true that Josh and Amanda were not in the limelight this week, they were at the beginning. Evan’s attempt to woo Amanda away from Josh, what he was about to execute when last week’s episode ended, quickly fizzles. After he has been gently rejected, Evan takes the same tack he did with Chad on The Bachelorette: He tells on him. Evan would be a much more compelling giant slayer if his move wasn’t to go behind said giant’s back to try and poison a woman’s thoughts against him. Evan relates what he understands to have been written in Bachelorette Andi Dorfman’s tell-all autobiography (he hasn’t read it himself) about Josh having been verbally abusive. This accusation may well be true (Josh kind of seems like the type), but it still plays like a weenie move on Evan’s part. Evan says that he is just looking out for Amanda like “a big brother,” which is absolutely disingenuous; most “big brothers” don’t wait to defend their “little sisters” until after their sisters have sexually rejected them.
Daniel, the other guy who was clearly only on the show to get eliminated before Chad, has positioned himself as the Forrest Gump of Bachelor in Paradise: a kind-hearted fool who flits about wherever the wind may take him, saving whatever lonely, nice girl he happens upon from elimination. Daniel, despite his overwhelming awkwardness, seems to be in his element, winning hearts and minds. I am of the opinion that Daniel would be a much more likeable if he was never afforded time for talking-head interviews. This will never happen because Daniel is a goldmine of weird, off-putting non-sequiturs, but he is considerably less charming when he is allowed to make myriad jokes referring to his penis as bacon, canadian bacon, and canadian sausage, circling but never getting any closer to a funny joke.
Those pork-related penis jokes were in reference to Daniel’s proposed “deflowering” of the newly-arrived Ashley, who was the focal-point of this week’s second episode. Jared, nice, nice Jared, is really vibing with Caila, for whom he has, in the nicest way possible, ditched Emily, painfully asking her permission to go on a date with the new arrival. But as soon as Jared begins to get comfortable in his idyll, Ashley arrives to tear it down. Apparently Ashley and Jared have remained in touch between last season and this one, and have wildly different ideas about what their relationship is and should be. Ashley refers at one point to Jared as “my boyfriend who doesn’t touch me,” which pretty well sums up their relationship, except for the boyfriend part. Jared is not into Ashley, but Ashley is not having it. Apparently Ashley, sensing that Jared would be interested in Caila, made sure to get in touch with Caila, befriending her in the hopes that this action would prevent Caila from pursuing her beloved Jared. When Caila does not go along with the plan, Ashley is, to say the least, upset, calling Caila “a backstabbing whore of a friend,” which is more than a bit over the top. I get the sense that Ashley and Caila are not really friends but that Ashley is trying to make it seem like they are close so that she can be reasonably angry at Caila. A second un-truth: Ashley claims that she has come to Paradise to “get over” Jared, but is clear that she has come to monitor Jared and actively prevent him from dating others. Mission accomplished. Caila is already backing away from Jared, not wanting to be cast out from the community of the other women.
Jared is learning a hard lesson here: There is a difference between being a nice person and only ever saying nice things so that nobody is ever mad at you. He would not be in the situation he is in now if he had, at some point, simply and coldly told Ashley that it is never going to happen between them. Doing this would have upset Ashley in the short term, but would be the kinder thing to do in the long run, and what was he thinking keeping in touch with her between seasons? Jared needs to grow a little backbone and be more okay with people being mad at him sometimes. This is not to say that Ashley isn’t totally the worst. She is. Ashley arrives in Paradise with the stated goal of limiting herself to three “good cries.” The first of which she has burned through in, like, fifteen minutes. Basically the only time we see Ashley not crying is on her non-romantic date with Daniel, perhaps she has found a loophole in her own self-imposed rule: if she is always crying it only counts as one “good cry.” The crying thing might not be entirely her fault, it seems likely that, for her entire life, crying has been an effective tool for getting attention or whatever else she might want. Really, it’s a pretty effective tool for her now, in her adult life, Caila is distancing herself from Jared and everyone else is rushing to comfort Ashley. Step aside Josh, Ashley is the new villain on Bachelor in Paradise. Sorry Jared.