By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 03, 2022 at 3:56 PM

"Bachelor in Paradise" is back, with a real who's who of "who are you, again?"

You see, this is the problem (well, one of the problems) with having multiple recent seasons that your audience actively tries to forget existed: They forget everyone involved with those seasons, and the pickings get slim for our annual all-stars beach party. I mean, asking me to remember so many people from Clayton The Unspoken One's season? You might as well just throw a phonebook at me. I have entirely alcohol-ed everything that happened that season out of my brain creases. Half these people could be strangers who wandered in from a nearby resort, and I'd have no idea. Brittany from Matt's season? Hailey from The Unspoken One's season? Fictional humans. 

Even if that's the case, though, at least they're making some amusingly messy drama and chaos right off the bat.

And I mean messy RIGHT OFF THE BAT, because our first contestant introduces herself on the toilet. Great – convincing my parents that recapping this show is a real adult job just got A LOT harder. Anyways, her name is Hunter, allegedly most remembered for being IBS Girl from The Unspoken One's season. Now, if I was most commonly associated with IBS, I might not lead with that information – especially if most people totally forgot I existed and I could have a fresh start. But Hunter tries a different approach. Interesting strategy, Cotton, let's see if it OH LOOK AT THAT, SHE'S GONE NIGHT ONE. 

Somehow things get worse than irritable bowel syndrome as Johnny from Rachel/Gabby's season is next, introduced rapping a song called "Toez in the Sand" (because of course it's spelled with a Z). I regret all my life choices that brought me to this moment. Thankfully, things improve after his rap solo as Serene gets introduced next as our first normal person. She wants to meet Brandon – because of course she does. I DO remember Brandon from Michelle's season, and that man is a little loveable charmer. Man's about to be the most popular person on the beach. (After the bartender, of course.)

Lo and behold, our next person wants to meet Brandon too: Dr. Kira from ... some point in this show's two-decade history? She's apparently from The Unspoken One's season and made it all the way ... to week three. Huh, OK then. Points for self-awareness, though: She knows that she didn't leave much of a mark during her brief "Bachelor" time – so now she's coming in THIRSTY, either for men or screentime. Cue flashing her chest, talking about how she can't wait to make good use of the Boom Boom Room (which, honestly, sounds more like the toilet than the sex suite but maybe my mind's just still stuck on IBS) and her porn star inspirations. It all plays very sweaty – and not because the weather's hot on the beach, but because of the desperation.

Time for more double entendre, though, with Jacob, aka Financial Advisor Fabio from the last "Bachelorette," who introduces himself working out with margaritas. So far, so relatable – but then the show takes him grocery shopping to talk about how he's looking for good peaches while eating ... a pepper? WE'RE MIXING OUR METAPHORS, SHOW! He's also really, REALLY into eyebrows. A shame he's not into swimsuits because then he'd get along smashingly with Genevieve, who apparently has 200 swimsuits – enough to basically submerge the show's boom mic operator. Tell me you're an Instagram influencer without telling me you're an Instagram influencer. 

So far, so pleasant enough ... wait ... BAH GAWD, THAT'S SHANAE'S MUSIC! Indeed, cue the "Jaws" theme because Shanae, aka somehow still the worst part of The Unspoken One's season, is here. Nice to see the show really committing to elimating toxicity from its airwaves! This is going to come as a surprise, but her plan is to do whatever she wants, not care what anyone else thinks and not make friends. WHAT GROWTH AS A HUMAN! Her mission, beyond driving me to drink myself into needing charcoal, is to end up with Justin ... who is exactly the person Genevieve has eyes for. BOUND TO END WELL FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED! She ends her segment by assaulting a cookie with her mouth. So sure, she's toxic, but at least she's still desperately unfunny and cringey too. 

After wrapping things up with Jill – she loves cats so much that she brought a fake cat, which is exactly my kind of ridiculousness – and the return of Nice Dad Michael from Katie's season, we finally get to Palmer opening up the beach up to our first proper arrival: Serene. Palmer happily announces, "It's just you and the crabs" – a sentence I would never want to be associated with on television. Nice Dad Michael is then our first fella, to which Palmer says, "I have to ask: You're jacked!" THAT'S NOT A QUESTION, PALMER! Not Palmer's best start as a host; maybe we need to bring back David Spade and Lil Jon. 

Anyways, Nice Dad Michael quickly becomes one of my favorite characters on the show – mainly because he's so adorably out of place. The man is the most 38-year-old Midwestern dad I've ever seen – and I mean that in the most loving way possible, as he arrives with an awkwardly less-than-enthusiastic "we're here?" followed by describing the crowd as "youthful," which makes him sound like Old Rose from "Titanic." Everyone – including me – loves Nice Dad Michael, but he's very much coming off like the season's fun chaperone or guidance counselor rather than someone anyone wants to actually date. But I much prefer that to, say, talking in the third person like some Johnnys I know. 

Our first connection starts clicking, though, with the arrivals of Andrew and Teddi, the now-requisite virgin subplot from The Unspoken One's season – introduced with B-roll of birds and bees, obviously, because "The Bachelor" thought it was clever back half a decade ago and apparently still does. Anyways, the two have some cute flirty chats until they get interrupted by ... Andrew's toe, which is painted with a serial killer smiley face? I have questions – mainly "How much alcohol has already been served on this beach?"

We get a few more arrivals: Bonus Dad Casey from ... sometime, a somewhat sloppy Sierra, and Financial Advisor Fabio wearing nothing but a collard green dangling over his man business. They're all side characters, though, to the main introduction: Shanae. And you know she's gonna be trouble because she's wearing the EVIL DARK SARONG. An already traumatized Genevieve hopes that the guys use their brains and don't fall for any of her tricks – which LOLOLOL HAVE YOU MET MEN BEFORE?! Thankfully she stays focused and turns her attention to Justin, flirting with him ... I think? I don't know, their conversation is all weird, talking about feet and debating whether or not pears are overrated. CAN YOU FEEL THE SPARKS FLYING!?

Still, I'm just happy that Shanae hasn't ruined anything yet. In fact, Justin may have been on her to-do list, but she instead shares the season's first kiss with Financial Advisor Tarzan, who spends much of the makeout session concerned about his collard green hiding his, er, excitement. See, this is why you wear real clothes to this show, not just a shrubbery. 

Elsewhere on the beach, Lace from Ben's season – which is approximately 47 decades ago in "Bachelor" years – arrives much to the excitement of ... exactly no one. They literally don't acknowledge her entrance, and when they actually do, they have no idea who she is. Hailey in particular is confused who she is or why she's here – bold words from a person who I'm quite certain has never been on this franchise before. Logan, aka the guy who tried dating both Gabby and Rachel but instead ended up with COVID, arrives with slightly more fanfare – but Serene's literally like, "Oh, nice to meet yWHERE'S BRANDON!?"

Luckily, he shows up next, and the two waste exactly no time hitting it off. Five minutes together on this show, and everyone on the beach and watching the show is already rooting for them to get married now. Seriously, Serene and Brandon: LEAVE NOW WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

But why concern yourself for future drama when we have PRESENT drama to discuss?! Indeed, while Serene and Brandon have a happy functioning relationship, Jill and Romeo chat it up elsewhere on the beach ... only for Kira to divebomb their convo and almost literally steal Jill's drink right from under her nose. Romeo, being a gentleman with a spine ... does absolutely nothing while Jill trundles off grumbling because apparently this isn't the first time her apparent-friend Kira has tried stealing a guy she was interested in.

As one who tries to keep my involvement in "The Bachelor" limited to the show itself – for the sake of my mental health and the health of my liver – I always get annoyed when it tries to drag me into caring about the increasingly imbred world of all these cast members dating one another outside the show. It's like the "Star Wars" extended universe: If it's not interesting enough to put in the show proper, THEN IT'S NOT INTERESTING ENOUGH FOR ME TO CARE ABOUT! And also it just makes me sad that these people don't seem to have any non-"Bachelor" friends or connections. 

Put a pin in all of that, though, because we have the first date card of the season, going to Andrew. He obviously asks out Teddi, and the two take off for dinner at an empty Mexican restaurant – other than a giant margarita-shaped hot tub that doesn't appear to have any bubbles or heat, and just might be a gigantic room-temperature beverage. Somehow when the two get into that little pond of lukewarm still water, that represents THE BEST part of their date as they spend most of the night having awkwardly stiff and corny conversation. Then again, it's the kind of awkwardly stiff and corny chats you'd expect from a first date between two cutely normal people, so it's actually pretty charming. The two kiss and go into the margari-tub, while I root for the two to make it out of this show happy. GO TEAM TEDREW!

As for teams I'm very much NOT rooting for, Lace and Shanae appear to be bonding, so HEAD FOR THE BOMB SHELTERS, EVERYONE! Indeed, while the rest of the cast is on the beach having fun, Lace is plopped in bed being bored and sad because no one's hitting on her. Maybe LOCKING YOURSELF IN YOUR BEDROOM might have something to do with that? "Why don't I get any visitors," I ask while installing a gator-filled moat and electric fence around my property. Of course, Shanae is entranced by Lace's bad vibes. She sees someone doing their best impression of the smoke monster from "Lost" and is like, "I must learn more about this toxicity" and comes to visit. What's the opposite of the Wonder Twins powers activating? 

That being said, Shanae does something resembling good (NOT A SENTENCE I EVER EXPECTED TO WRITE) by convincing Lace to stop whining and come hang with the rest of the cast. So Lace meanders down and tricks everyone into celebrating her birthday with free shots ... which were already on ABC's tab anyways, but hey, whatever makes you happy. She also hangs with Logan – because OF COURSE Logan is trying to get with her. Judging by his dating habits with Gabby and Rachel, as well as this first "Paradise" episode, I'm starting to think Logan's type is "literally any woman in his eyeline." That sours fast, though, as Lace says she's really into him and the premise of commitment hurts Logan's brain so hard that he calls her "Luce" instead of Lace. SO THAT'S THAT ON THAT! So Lace meanders off to have a much better time with Casey while Logan goes to flirt with whoever he sees next. 

OK, you can take your pin out of the Jill/Kira/Romeo drama now because that's coming to verbal blows elsewhere on the beach. Jill and Romeo are flirting and chatting, with Jill really wanting him to commit to her if they're going to move forward. So, to show her some concrete action, he kisses her. WELL CERTAINLY THAT SETTLES THAT! Welp, Kira disagrees. She's actively annoyed that Jill's here to find a relationship while she's here to make bad decisions – and apparently one of those bad decisions is trying to cut in once again with Romeo and Jill. But this time Romeo's committed to Jill, so given this opportunity to stand up for their connection, he ... sends Jill away to be with Kira. (*sighs so long my body runs out of CO2 to exhale so it's just booze vapors*)

OK, I'll be fair: While Jill ragefully samples out all her goofy character voices for her future one-woman stage show, Romeo does ask Kira to let him pursue his relationship with Jill in peace. I'M SURE THAT'LL DO THE TRICK! Indeed, Kira takes this information directly to Jill for a big ol' angry verbal spat on the beach – all in front of our cast, including Brandon who dives in with some tacos for the fireworks. See: Brandon gets it. It's not THAT entertaining of a fight, though, as after some aggressive hand-talking, the two go their separate ways after Kira throws out every grievance that the internet has overused to the point of losing meaning. (Not everything is gaslighting! Sometimes, it's just lying!) Jill goes back to Romeo while Kira goes to Casey, who apparently, between this and Lace before, is just everyone's booty call when things go wrong. COULD BE WORSE!

With Kira and Jill all settled and in their separate corners, things seem calm on the beach – particularly for Justin, Genevieve and her 200 swimsuits, who are happily hitting it off. BUT OH NO, VICTORIA'S HERE WHICH ... is bad, I guess? I vaguely remember her from Petey the Pilot's season, but don't particularly remember her being particularly dramatic or A Problem – at least compared to the other shenanigans that came up by that season's end. Heck, she hasn't even been the most problematic or notable Victoria across the past several seasons. Not sure why she's getting the villain reveal edit here – but she's blown up into an Instagram influencer, so I guess she's important now.

Welp, I hope that drama actually translates from the BCEU (the Bachelor Cinematic Extended Universe) onto the actual screen – and if so, I hope Brandon's got more tacos. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.