By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 11, 2022 at 5:01 PM

It seemed innocent enough when Ashley and Jared dropped by "Bachelor in Paradise" last week. Of course the show would bring in one of the spin-off's few success stories to re-re-retell their tale of hard-earned romance as well as play relationship guru for the fledgling couples. Cue the new generation of contestants talking about how the married duo is TOTALLY evidence that the process works and how "Paradise" isn't ENTIRELY a drunken cavalcade of messy decisions. The contestants get false hope, Ashley and Jared get a free vacation away from their newborn, ABC gets enough filler to get the episode to two hours and we get some dead air to go to the bathroom or refresh our drinks: EVERYONE WINS!

But then a week later ... Ashley and Jared were still there, for some reason. Do you know how hard it is to be the most unwanted visitor on a beach occupied by Romeo, Shanae and an army of wild crabs? AND YET Ashley and Jared are pulling it off, acting like houseguests who haven't picked up on what the coffee means at the end of the night. Or, more accurately, they're like awkward college alums who keep going to house parties and drinking at the campus bar seven years after graduating, refusing to move on and get a life. And also they keep talking about farts and pee. 

ABC brought these two on to inspire and hearten their contestants – but instead they're coming off like a sad cautionary tale. 

OK, but first let's talk about some ACTUAL contestants – you know, the REASON WHY WE'RE HERE. Last we checked, Teddi broke up with Andrew and bailed – which everyone seems to be taking A LOT harder than Teddi and Andrew. Calm down, everyone; you're all acting like you all found out a Try Guy cheated on his wife. Rodney's the only one actively affected by this turn of events since he asked her out on a date but now she's got a date with a plane back to America. Brandon, like the champion guy he is, gives Rodney a pep talk and reminds him there are plenty of other potential matches on the beach. Lo and behold, after a calm settles over everyone, both Lace and Jill make moves on Rodney – with the former making the biggest impact, flirtily chatting before venturing off to make out in the darkest part of the beach. NOT DARK ENOUGH, though – because Justin and Jill can both see the two mouth jousting. Man, Jill just can't get a win this season, can she?

(*Sigh*) Which brings us to the first of WAAAY too many Ashley and Jared updates. The two try to explain that they've come back to the beach to reconnect and be alone together in a way they haven't been since their child was born. BECAUSE NOTHING SAYS PRIVATE TIME LIKE ABC BROADCASTING YOUR INTIMATE INTERACTIONS TO THE NATION! Listen, I don't begrudge anyone taking advantage of a free vacation on Disney's dime – in fact, everyone should get a free vacation from Disney as some sort of reparations for the "Lion King" remake. But why – WHY!? – would you choose to escape messy chaos by coming to a beach PURPOSELY FILLED WITH MESSY CHAOS!? And why would you want to rekindle your intimate passion for one another IN A ROOM SURROUNDED BY CAMERAS THAT YOUR BEACHMATES WILL ALSO BE ROUTINELY USING FOR SEX!?

Honestly it's all a little sad. Can you not live a life outside of clinging to your existence on this show? It feels like when the Bachelor or Bachelorette meet up with their best friends on the show ... and it's all people from the franchise, like they have no life outside this fantasy. But most annoying of all, THERE'S NO DRAMA! The whole point of this show is people dating around and finding love and getting into messy love triangles – but Ashley and Jared's story is all wrapped up. There's no intrigue here about who'll end up with who or if they'll leave together. YOU DON'T NEED THIS ANYMORE! MOVE ON!

But no, the producers have really pushed all their chips into the middle on viewers caring about Ashley and Jared's bored sex lives – so we get another episode of Wells' storytime to needlessly refresh our memory. Thankfully there's no costumed reenactments this time – but it does waste another ten minutes telling the same story we've heard each season since their union. DID YOU KNOW ASHLEY CRIED!? LIKE, A LOT!? BOOOOONKERS! Anyways, get pumped, single contestants: That could you someday, repeatedly sobbing on a beach until you finally get married, then return to that beach a few years later because your relationship's already lost the spark and you have no ideas on how to bring it back beyond playing the greatest hits again.

I think there's an idea here for a spin-off, something real and earnest about watching a couple who met in extraordinary circumstances watching their relationship evolve after living a life together. ("Bachelor: After the After the Final Rose": It's exactly what streaming is for!) Unfortunately, any promise that idea held is dead, fumigated by literal farts as Ashley and Jared spend the rest of the segment loudly passing gas between the sheets, flomping around annoyed in bed and discussing the digestive difficulties of a creamy caesar salad for what felt like 17 hours. Again, what's supposed to be honestly romantic just feels sad, a couple seemingly so desperate to cling to their old glory days that they're now embarrassingly breaking wind in the communal sex room during primetime. 

And, in the process, not letting the next generation take their turn – because while we're distracted by Dutch ovens in the Boom Boom Room, there's some actual tension and intrigue developing elsewhere.

Indeed, we have the latest test for the beach's worst couple, Genevieve and Justin, who can't stop self-destructing their relationship. First Justin went on a date much to Genevieve's chagrin, and now Genevieve's returning the favor, having a great time with Aaron who makes her feel fully appreciated and shown the affection she desires. After the date, she tries to explain that to Justin ... but does so by awkwardly tallying up the amount of kisses she received that morning, then exploding in exhaustion when Justin (rightly) thinks that's a ridiculous way to judge a relationship. But then Justin tries to fix the situation by ... awkwardly manipulating his way into a kiss because it's his birthday? These two bring out the worst in each other, and I think it would benefit everyone if they took this relationship into the ocean and kindly drowned it. 

Thankfully, Genevieve is on the same page – no, literally, as soon as she's done kissing Justin, she says "Ooooh god, drown me in the water," immediately regretting her decision. And that's BEFORE she finds out Aaron saw the whole thing, igniting his PTSD (Post-Tammi Stress Disorder) from last season on "Paradise." She ventures off to find Aaron and explain herself, and during their convo Aaron says it's fine (while also pointing out that Justin goading his way into a kiss was a little creeper-y). They'll move forward together – and indeed, after a flirty breakfast the next day, Genevieve officially takes her relationship with Justin to Drown Town. YAY, THIS IS A WIN FOR EVERYONE! Probably could've done this before rubbing your cutesy brunch with Aaron in front of Justin's face – BUT YAY!

For some odd reason, Justin's bummed out – but there is a new date card so maybe he'll have a chance to create a better relationship with someone different, that he's more compatible with and whose every decision doesn't start a war. Alas, the date card instead goes to ... ASHLEY AND JARED, WHAT THE HELL!? THEY DON'T NEED A DATE CARD! THEY CAN JUST DATE IN THE REAL WORLD, WHEREVER THEY WANT! So annoying – and it seems like the rest of the "Paradise" residents are getting miffed too, no longer charmed by their random overstaying houseguests stealing time from them. Or maybe they're all unhappy because they made the mistake of walking past the Boom Boom Room and got an unfortunate whiff. 

Anyways, the two go to the beach where they first met (how romantic!) and debate the best approach to urinating in the ocean. (How significantly less romantic!) Again: These sequences are already useless, utterly devoid of dramatic intrigue or emotional investment. There's no sense of tension or stakes for their relationship; they're just putzing around with no purpose. The fact that they're filled with gross-out gags is just a bonus insult. It's only tolerable because, near the end, Ashley says that she feels like she's gotten boring, and while Jared politely says no, you could hear the entirety of Bachelor Nation all at once hilariously yelling, "WE AGREE: YOU ARE BORING!"  

After all, why would we spend so much time with them when we COULD'VE been spending it hanging out with Nice Dads Michael and Casey, who are being not-so-nice making jokes from a distance about their younger beachmates playing "Top Gun: Maverick" football. The two are a hoot! One roasts James for only being on "Paradise" because he's friends with the infinitely more popular Aaron; the other jokingly says his hope is that everyone dies from injuries playing sports, leaving only them on the beach. IT'S GREAT! We've been watching Ashley and Jared fart and pee all over the place WHEN WE COULD'VE HAD THESE TWO STATLER AND WALDORF-ING THE WHOLE CAST INSTEAD?! Pardon me: I must now take a jackhammer to my television. 

Or not, because one of the saving graces of the episode is up next: Brandon and Serene getting a date card. These two haven't been on much this season because, well, their relationship has been just too happy and perfect. And to prove it, the two get some solo time together – and before they even go on the date, Brandon's crying from just how gosh darn beautiful Serene looks all dressed up for their night out on the town. And now I am too because IT'S JUST SO LOVELY! "Paradise" can be cruel to previous fan favorites – but that's not the case thus far with Brandon, who still seems as sweet and caring as in Michelle's season. The two go to dinner at a table gorgeously set up in the middle of a glowing pool, talk about how they're both falling in love with each other ... and then hopefully make plans to LEAVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE BECAUSE THIS PLACE WILL RUIN YOU! 

Case in point: Sierra and Michael. The two developed into one of the beach's most unexpected yet sweetest relationships ... but obviously that has to die because ALL GOOD THINGS DIE ON "PARADISE." Indeed, Michael starts feeling like Sierra's moving a little too fast for his comfort, already talking about her excitement about being a step-mother. It's certainly not on her; he just needs a little more time to settle his feelings of grief and concerns about introducing somebody into his full life too soon. 

Sierra, though, just keeps doing wonderfully sweet things to show her seriousness and commitment – topped off by buying Michael a three-star constellation that represents him, his late wife and his child, forever remembered together as one. AAGH, HOW CAN A SHOW FEATURING SO MANY FARTS NOW MAKE ME SO TEARY-EYED!? And if I was teary-eyed before, I'm even more so when Michael sadly tells Sierra that he's just not ready yet for the commitment she's so pursuing and needs to be friends instead. The two are kind and understanding to one another's needs, and the break-up goes as well as an emotionally shattering moment can – though it does end with Sierra calling it a day and leaving the show since her heart was for Michael exclusively. 

It's all very sad, raw and emotionally honest for both parties. And Michael, I'm a fan ... but I have to ask ... why are you still here? Again, I blame no one for taking Disney's money and grifting free vacation out of the Mouse House – plus if this means we get more Statler & Waldorf beachside roast sessions with Casey, no complaints here. But if you're not emotionally ready to get into a serious commitment in fast fashion ... why are you on a show that forces you to get into serious commitments in fast fashion? Maybe he just needs a relationship that's not quite going from zero to 60 like that, a relationship that's fine taking things more casual and leaving the show as a dating arrangement rather than a locked-in commitment. Still, it's hard not to feel brutally bad for Sierra ... and wonder if she's not just a little bitter that he's not on the ride back home too. 

The rest of the fellas on the beach certainly feel bad for Sierra ... or actually they feel bad for themselves due to Sierra's departure, because there's now one less rose to keep them around at the next ceremony. And there was already a hefty handful of guys guaranteed to leave before she called it quits – so now they're even more desperate and concerned, which should lead to some intense draMAAAAAAAN WHY ARE WE ENDING WITH MORE ASHLEY AND JARED?! I didn't think I'd be that happy to see Salley arrive, as the previews tease – but maybe her arrival will make things so loud, so messy and so chaotic that Ashley and Jared will escape to the relative calm of a crying newborn.

One can hope! I sure know the exhausted, overworked air fresheners in the Boom Boom Room are ... 

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.