By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Sep 29, 2021 at 11:31 AM

Don't you hate it when reality keeps getting in the way of your reality show? 

Between Brendan and Pieper plotting behind the show's back for clout, Smoke Bro Jr. attempting the same but dumber, and now Ivan sneaking around literally behind the scenes to find love on his own terms, the outside world is tearing the insular and manicured world of "Bachelor in Paradise" apart at the seams. I can't decide if it's interesting that the show's embracing its meta narratives and the Instagram influence of it all or hilariously naive that the show thinks it has any control over them – and that they're all just happening now. In this social media age, and with the cast seemingly never more interconnected (everybody seems like they're just a half-degree of separation from a previous contestant nowadays, something "Paradise" only heightens), "The Bachelor" is clearly putting in an overt effort to police its purity – an admirable fight, but also an adorable one considering LOL come on now, what purity?

One thing's for sure: Ivan, you really done messed up Tuesday night! TWO TIMES! So much so even the editors chucked you under the bus! (*Tyra Banks voice*) We were rooting for you! We were ALL rooting for you!

Last we checked, Aaron was trying to have his record 4,117th altercation on this franchise – this time with Ivan, who was previously seen flirting with Chelsea and avoiding talking with a steamed Aaron. (As if there's any other brand of Aaron.) Eventually, the two have their fight, with everyone landing on Ivan's side – and why wouldn't they be? Ivan's generally been a good guy, claims that he never said he wasn't going to pursue Chelsea and notes that she took him aside rather than the other way around.

One person who wasn't on Ivan's side, though? The editor of the show. 

Yes, for the first time I can recall, the show decides to flashback to Ivan's previous conversations, showing that actually he DID tell Aaron he wouldn't pursue anyone already in a relationship and that HE actually took Chelsea aside, not the other way around. I've never seen the show go out of its way to toss somebody under the bus like this before! Normally it's on the audience to recall conversations – but this time, the editor decided to pop in and yell, "I'VE GOT THE RECEIPTS!" Frankly, I'm here for it. Really amplifies the cattiness factor. 

Unfortunately, though, the cast doesn't see the flashback telling them the truth, so everyone lands on Ivan's side – even when he's super condescending, telling Aaron that "he's doing a lot" and that he's actually trying to help him not embarrass himself on television. It gets so rough that Aaron starts thinking about bailing now that apparently he's single and hated by everyone on the beach. Feeling bad for fight-monger Aaron while rooting against the formerly sweet and wholesome Ivan? What a world. 

Thankfully, Chelsea shows up and, when she's filled in on everything Ivan said, clarifies that basically Ivan is full of lies and crab meat. Aw man, Riley wasted all that energy and that snappy "I'm yelling because I want to!" line on a liar! There may be an orderly queue of people on this beach wanting to beat up Ivan after this whole debacle. 

At the front of the line? Strangely enough, Wells. Yes, the amiable resident bartender had to play bad guy on Tuesday night as, before the rose ceremony, he reports to the group that SOMETHING HAPPENED while everyone was bunkering at the hotel during last week's storm – and then pulls Ivan aside to chat. What the heck happened?! Did he break COVID protocols? Text or DM somebody? Get his arm caught in the vending machine trying to snag a dangling bag of Fritos?

As it turns out, he snuck a peak at a producer's info and found out Alexa – a potential new arrival on the beach – was in the hotel and hooked up with her. And as Brendan, Pieper and ... the other two whose names were not worth remembering learned the hard way, love is only allowed on "Bachelor in Paradise" while the cameras are rolling, not before or after. Again, the show's desperately trying to keep its stories and romances within the confines of its untainted system – a growingly impossible trick when everybody already knows everybody and social media exists. Somewhere a "Bachelor" producer is lamenting that this was all a lot easier when the only social media out there was AOL Instant Messenger. 

Nevertheless, while the unseen Alexa will probably remain that way and never get her free televised vacation, a newly humbled Ivan confesses his mistakes to the group, says his goodbyes and leaves – but not before his BFF Riley does his best dad impression and tells Ivan that he's not mad, just disappointed. I can't imagine a more devastating blow that knowing I disappoined Riley. OK, I guess a punch from one of Riley's tree trunk arms would qualify as a pretty devastating blow too, so maybe Ivan got off lucky.

So now that THAT whole mess has been removed – surely to be replaced by a fresh one any minute now – it's on to the rose ceremony, where the pairings go just about exactly as planned: Serena and Joe, Abigail and Noah, Riley and Maurissa, Kenny and Mari, Thomas and Becca, and Chelsea and Aaron. Things border on interesting with Natasha's rose, but it seemed pretty obvious that she was going to pick Ed as opposed to Brendan's BFF Dr. Joe. Looks like it's back home and back to shimmy-dancing with your bestie on Instagram for you! Tia also picks Sentient Hollister Mannequin James for her rose as opposed to (*sighs the world's deepest sigh*) Tatty Daddy Blake for reasons I was too bored by last episode. So he's gone too, along with Demar who maybe had all of one line of dialogue this whole time. THE MAN DID NOT BUILD THOSE GLORIOUS PECS ONLY FOR A HERON TO GET MORE SCREENTIME! I expect justice next "Paradise."

After yet another rose ceremony, the cast relaxes before meeting their new celebrity guest host: Wells! Because of course. Frankly it would've been rude to not let him take a bartending shift off so he could try properly hosting. He tells everyone that "Paradise" is coming to end soon, so it's time to start talking engagements and futures – and boy, you could almost hear the collective nervous gulp from the cast. Kenny in particular is now all angsty because he suddenly feels like the passion and emotions have already fizzled out with Mari. SURE SEEMS LIKE A GOOD TIME TO LAUNCH A NEW WOMAN ON THE BEACH TO BLOW THINGS UP!

Indeed, down the steps comes Anna, last seen on Matt James' season LITERALLY slandering fellow contestant Brittany by baselessly spreading rumors about her being a sex worker on national television, trying to shame her and threatening to potentially harm her actual career and reputation in the process. Sure, why not; seems like a great choice. Was Luke P. not available? Armed with a vial of pheromones and a date card, she surprisingly doesn't snag Kenny but instead takes Sentient Hollister Mannequin James on her one-on-one date – his first ever on the entire show. Awww. 

So what special plan does "Paradise" have for James' first solo date? How about weird food kinkery and snakes! 

Indeed, what appears at first to be a spa day turns out to be ... human churro making. The two roll around in a box of granulated sugar that doesn't NOT look like a giant cat litter box while dumping gooey melted chocolate over each other. Granulated sugar in my mouth? Great. Granulated sugar on my body? That's just sand but sweet – and while Anakin Skywalker may have been wrong about many things (space genocide, murdering younglings, etc.), his anti-sand stance is 100 percent correct. It's coarse and rough and gets everywhere and is anti-sexy. Also: There are bugs and critters where they are filming, and these two just became human sticky fly traps. Again: anti-sexy. Between this and last week's naked taco bar, the producers must have a vendetta against Mexican cuisine. 

In case THAT wasn't enough, the date then treats Anna and James to a giant snake. Apparently the theme for this one-on-one was the catering table at the "I'm A Slave 4 U" video shoot. Or maybe the theme was torture. It'd be great if Anna yelled, "Whose idea was this date?!" and the camera panned over to reveal Brittany in the director's chair.

After an hour-long Maxwell House commercial starring Melissa Joan Hart, we return to the beach where "Paradise" reveals yet another new arrival: Mykenna, last seen briefly at Titus Burgess' VIP party not being interesting enough to be mentioned. And in case that wasn't sad enough, she's arriving on the beach at the worst possible time. (OK, the tropical storm was probably the WORST possible time, but moving on.) Everyone's already paired off, so when she asks Aaron out on her date, she gets rejected, leaving her crying and staring out into the ocean.

Luckily, sweet himbo Ed comes down to see if she's OK and to say that he would super love to go on a date with her. It's a move that could've come off like a condescending pity date situation – no wonder Mykenna isn't sure about saying yes at first – but instead comes off sweet and genuine. Eventually, Ed wins her over, and the two go off on their roller-blading date, complete with the entire cast is cheering on the couple on and rooting for them as they cutely walk hand-in-hand down the beach.  


Man, Natasha's just had a terrible time on "Paradise" – not only with romantic partners but with her alleged friends too. After all, she had to move heaven and earth to get anyone to do anything about Brendan and Pieper manipulating her – all while Smoke Bro Jr. got the villain treatment they truly deserved – and now she's watching the entire cast cheer as HER DATE ABANDONS HER FOR ANOTHER WOMAN. I'm starting to wonder if maybe these people are bad ... 

Elsewhere, Mari and Kenny rekindle their passion with the help of a priestess, a smoking chalice and some sort of pepper candle (all seems self-explanatory, moving on) while Grocery Store Joe and Serena talk vaguely about the future, deciding that, even though they live in separate countries, they'll figure it out. GLAD YOU LEARNED SO MUCH FROM YOUR LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WITH KENDALL, JOE! In other concerning relationship developments, Abigail is feeling uncertain about her and Noah – and things don't get better when he says he's falling in love with her and she basically ignores it. Again, this show insists that I find these two emotionally compelling television, and I truly and deeply do not. All I see is time that could be spent watching Riley work out instead. 

"Bachelor in Paradise" has a better idea: THROW A PROM! Better yet, an '80s-themed prom! You know, that decade that all of four people on this beach were alive for! So after a deluge of promposals and the requisite retro glam-ups, the couples arrive for their night of flashback fun – complete with some cover band bellowing covers from a stage. (An improvement over the usual random country acts, I say!)

As is the case with prom, not everyone's having a great time. Chelsea, for instance, is bummed out that Aaron's hanging out so much with his bros while Tia's all sad because she's the single girl with no date at the prom. Weirdly, these two storylines intersect because, during a slow song, Aaron grabs Tia instead of Chelsea for some alone time, eventually coming back to the group holding hands while Chelsea and everyone watching at home is VERY confused. My dude, you just almost threw hands with Ivan for trying to take your girlfriend; two hours later, you're bailing for someone else? I guess it had been too long in between conflicts for him. The man needs one an hour to live, dammit!

As with any prom, there's a king and queen – Joe and Serena, natch – and some superlatives, including Biggest Flirt (Kenny) and Most Likely To Live Happily Ever After, which goes to Abigail and Noah. So that's guaranteed doom – and indeed, right afterwards, Noah takes Abigail aside to have a serious conversation, one that at first must not have been that interesting because Noah's voiceover talks over it all and we don't hear a bit of it.

Eventually, we're brought into the serious chat, where Noah essentially breaks up with Abigail, clumsily saying that she's just not his person. Abigail is blindsided, to which I say ... how? Sure, no one wants to get dumped at prom – much less by a guy wearing neon yellow suspenders – and yes, he did recently say he's falling in love with you. But we've spent at least the last two episodes watching you two complain about each other and how neither of you are happy with the amount of affection you're receiving from one another. And as for the L-word, yes, he told you he's falling for you – AND YOU RESPONDED WITH SILENCE AND ECHOES! So yeah, he's not exactly feeling like you're on the same page. Great – now I'm bored AND annoyed by these two. Time for them to go home. 

But actually, I guess it's about time for everyone to go home as next week marks the season finale when everything is certain to smoothly and BY GAWD THAT'S KENDALL'S MUSIC! 

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.