Two years have passed since we last visited the deliriously happy world of Paradise. Here's what you've missed in the new season.
In the two years since Bachelor in Paradise last aired on ABC, the world has changed. Roses have budded, bloomed, and dropped their petals. Tropical vacations have been canceled, bikinis left unworn, safety adhesive still strapped mournfully to the crotch.
But in Paradise, all is as it should be. Infinity pools swell towards the horizon, water displaced by bulging muscles and improbable curves. Contestants discuss—but never visibly consume—tacos. The Pacific ocean is merely an ensemble member in a complex drama of professional swimsuit-wearers.
Monday's episode, the second in the season, featured multiple crying jags, shouting fights, love triangles, and a woman wearing a pearl necklace on a jet ski.
Ah, to be returned again to the ecstasy of Bach in Par after so many long years of waiting! For the unfamiliar, Bachelor in Paradise brings together discarded cast members from past Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons to a compound in Sayulita, Mexico, to compete in, essentially, a hot person hunger games. With great respect to the denizens of CBS’ Love Island, HBO’s F Boy Island, and Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle, the best reality dating show about hot people in hot places is Bachelor in Paradise. It’s the best dating show, period.
On other dating shows, no matter how compelling, there's a worry that the participants are being manipulated. On Bachelor in Paradise, every participant is a seasoned dating show veteran. They're here for exactly the right reasons—to have fun on television. It feels less like a reality show and more like a long-form improvisational exercise, a devised work, a collaboration between cast members and producers. Am I saying this dating show is art? Anything can happen in paradise.
I have never made it through an entire episode of The Bachelor. It’s not a principled stance, I just don’t get the premise. Why would 45 of the hottest women in the country compete for one low-ranking football player or account executive? The same is true of contestants on The Bachelorette. At any time, any one of them could leave and be the hottest person at any bar. This goes against nature!
BIP recreates something closer to the way hot people actually date (I believe, having often watched them from afar). They loll around on gigantic pillows and laugh at each others’ weird, bad jokes.
In the first episode of the season, each cast member introduces themselves and shares what they’re most known for from their Bachelor or Bachelorette season. Some of this year’s hits include: being smacked by a vibrator, spilling champagne on one's own face, profuse sweating, and most of all, being rejected.
In their shared rejection, the castmembers are the most like us. Yes, these people were able to take off the summer, buy 400 bikinis, and spout lines about true love like they are doing an eye exam in a greeting card aisle. But before that, they faced romantic disappointment. The glaring, naked desire for fulfillment that we often see on reality shows is turned down on Bachelor in Paradise. These people have—if not loved and lost—been at least fairly embarrassed on television. The result is a mixture of “fuck it” and adult summer camp.
“I’ve started to learn to actually love myself,” says Kelsey, the champagne spiller, of her growth since Peter’s season. “And I’m not looking for someone to fill my holes”
“Did you expect…for you…to be working with us…in paradise?” Tammy asks guest host David Spade, trying to suss out his identity. (She later guesses Dave Chappelle.)
In Monday night's episode Demi, a Paradise second-timer with manic Elle Woods energy, brings up the Colton Underwood revelation in the best way. “This has never happened to me before,” she says, after getting rejected by another participant. “Except Colton, and that was brutal. But he was gay!” Which—accurate, brief, fair! In another scene, Jessenia, who was on Matt's season, shares the racist harassment she experienced after co-starring with the first Black Bachelor.
This season also marks the return of Tahzjuan, the people’s contestant. She, more than any other cast member, behaves how I think many of us would if we were filming a dating TV show in the summer in central America: She overheats, sweats extravagantly, and gets something in her eye and can’t blink it out. In this season, she starts a romance with Tre, after revealing that she has gone on a date with his uncle.
This. This is what reality TV is for. Join me on the digital daybed this August. When Bachelor in Paradise releases new episodes, days feel sunny, life is simply easier to bear.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
This story originally appeared on: Glamour - Author:Condé Nast