By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 24, 2022 at 6:31 PM

Listen, "Bachelor" franchise: When I told you to take notes from the other dating reality shows, I didn't mean that I wanted you to just TAKE their shows.

Indeed, the big twist on "Bachelor in Paradise" was that, for a week or so, "Bachelor in Paradise" was going to become a different show – a little of Netflix's "The Ultimatum" and a lot of Casa Amor on "Love Island" to be real specific, where the show's time-tested couplings are split and put through a temptation ringer. But the REAL twist on "Bachelor in Paradise" was ... how BORING things got after everyone split up and their relationship minefields were revealed. I imagine the producers overlooking the beach and hotel like the Joker in "The Dark Knight," grumblingly annoyed that their boat bomb test didn't end with any explosions. Yet, at least. 

First, we have some unfinished business to wrap up – unfinished business named Nice Dad Michael. You see, all the guys on the beach are worried about the impending bloodbath coming their way at the rose ceremony since there's about four or five more men than women – and roses. And now that Michael scared off Sierra – who LITERALLY OFFERED HIM THE STARS – he's got no real prospects to keep him around. Wells, making up for all the reenactment storytime nonsense, asks the key question: What ARE you looking for? After all, Sierra was committed to him and to his family ... and Michael pushed her away because he wasn't ready to dive that fast into a serious relationship. But also ... he really wants to leave here with a serious relationship and potential partner. SO WHICH IS IT, MY MAN!? Michael has earned a lot of leash from Bachelor Nation, because he does seem like good people, but he's in danger of using up a lot of his leash right now. 

Before we figure out Michael's deal, we have to send somebody home – two somebodies, becase JARED AND ASHLEY ARE DONE! WOO! I'd complain more about them – but really, I've used too many keystrokes and brain anger pains on these two intercourse-hungry interlopers already. You can guess how this all went: Ashley makes one last joke about how much she cried on the show (which, at this point, she's referenced crying on the beach more times than she actually cried on the damn beach) while a few cast members talk about how they're royalty or something, probably between gritted teeth because they stole a lot of screentime and even date time. I can't believe a subplot would make me say this but: Can we PLEASE get back to Shanae?!

YAY! So after those two finally leave, we get to focus on the rare love triangle on the beach: Shanae, Logan and James. Who would've guessed Logan would be in a love condundrum and he WOULDN'T be the indecisive one? Anyways, his rival makes his big move during the cocktail party: shrimp. Yep, James remembered Shanae's love of shrimp (and burning everyone to ash) from The Unspoken One's season, so he presents a blind shrimp taste test to Shanae. Shrimp: not the sexiest food to be shoved blindfolded into your mouth, no? We'll have to see how this plays out for Not Aaron. 

Forget seafood, though: The real drama on the menu involves pizza because – surprise! – Pizza Pete is still the Papa John's of humans. Casey, though, is the guy who really gets things cooking. He feels like he's on the chopping block, so he decides to make a kind of Hail Mary attempt by letting Brittany know that Peter's talking about how he thinks she's a clout chaser. Because that's the ONLY reason why someone wouldn't DARE enjoy his company. Nevermind the constant product placement and self-aggrandizing talk about his own eyes: She clearly just wants to be here for the Gram. 

So, of course, this blows up – in multiple directions. Brittany decides to take this new information directly to the source – Peter. Because of course she does; the last time she was on the show, her time was completely defined by false rumors, so if anybody was going to be sensitive to people talking crap about them, it'd be Brittany. Meanwhile, Andrew – in his very quiet and soft-spoken way – suuuure doesn't seem to be a fan of Casey weedling his way into Brittany's brain like this, especially since he figures (correctly) this is a desperation play by Casey for a rose, his rose at that.

While Andrew lets his frustrations simmer out, Brittany throws some oil on this fire and confronts Peter – and while she doesn't deliver her best arguments, she's obviously right. Peter's an arrogant self-promoter who's angry his date went bad and, instead of looking inward, assumes that it must all be her fault for not finding him BREATHLESSLY attractive and smart. And to make things worse, after the initial confrontation, Peter says that Brittany will someday get old and ugly and have nothing while he'll have, I don't know, pizza? NICE OF YOU TO ADD SOME EXTRA SEXISM TO THIS SLICE, BRAH! I was wrong before: He's not the Papa John's Pizza of humans. He's the Chuck E. Cheese pizza of humans – and somehow even more cartoonish than the dancing animatronic rat. 

Jill's certainly not a fan and, because she hasn't had her requisite drama for the hour, makes it her msision to send Peter home immediately. So while she, Brittany and Peter yell it out down the beach, Casey does his best impression of the "I've made a huge mistake" "Arrested Development" meme, feeling so guilty for lighting the beach on fire that his brain starts on fire – kinda literally! Casey starts getting dizzy from all the chaos and collapses to the bar floor, injuring himself so much that he takes an ambulance ride off the beach and off the season. ONE HELL OF A WAY TO GO OUT, MY MAN! Truly, if you're gonna get the boot, might as well throw a stick of dynamite behind you on your way out ... even if the force from the blast injures you in the process too. Not sure Casey's making the "Bachelor" Mensa team ... 

After Casey's taken care of, the remaining folks still have Pizza Pete to deal with – and this time, it's the guys' turn to convince him to leave with what little dignity and respect he's got left. And because he is a small person, he agrees – though not without one final burst of loud nonsense, shouting about pizza one last time and a big annoying "BUONGIORNO!" Which, as Jacob points out, means "good morning" when it's clearly night time. I'd say botching the Italian is the most embarrassing thing to happen to Italian Cuisine Ambassador Pete – but I think getting outsmarted by Chardbodies Mascot Tarzan easily takes that dubious prize. 

With Pete getting served a plane ticket back home, a calm sets over the beach ... except for Michael, who's still sad because he didn't find his great serious connection on the show and now it's all over. If only somebody he cared about showed up miraculously in the nick of time. OH WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT! Apparently Michael slipped a producer $50 because in comes Danielle, a fellow widower that Michael already has some form of connection with in the real world. WHAT TIMING! If I was Sierra, I'd have JUST A FEW questions about how my time on this show went down – question one being, "Can I get a refund for these stars?"

The two get brief time to connect before we finally reach the rose ceremony, where pretty much everything goes accordingly. Serene gives her rose to Logan – NAH, just kidding, it's Brandon, obviously. Jill passes her carnation to Jacob, Lace hands her heart to Rodney, Aaron receives Genevieve's rose, Victoria offers Johnny another week, and Andrew and Brittany keep things going – especially without Casey around. Even Danielle gets a rose after approximately 15 seconds spent on the beach, giving her rose to Michael ($50 well spent, my guy!) while Shanae ends up picking Logan from her love triangle, sending Not Aaron home along with Justin, who did not put in his finest work this season. 

OK, new fresh week, new fresh energy – starting with Danielle getting this round's first date card and taking Michael because obviously. I've never seen this show so desperately in a person's corner – which, yes, we all like Michael but this is all starting to feel awfully arranged (except nobody told poor Sierra). Especially when the two talk more about how they know each other in the real world – never meeting in person but forming an online connection posting about their battles through grief. It'd be a lot nicer if it felt even 11 percent more natural. 

Things feeling natural, however, becomes a problem for these two – because as much as the show can force Danielle and Michael into being A Thing, you can't force chemistry. And their date doesn't have a ton of it, with Michael acting all nervous and stressed, overthinking things and worrying that he's not feeling the same spark he felt once upon a time with his wife. But maybe that's an impossible sensation to try to chase and he's once again pushing himself away from something good. Admittedly, the resulting conversations are quite honest and real – not the usual canned "Bachelor" confessional stuff, but two people talking pretty openly about how they have (or haven't) moved on with their lives and the tricky, complex feelings grief brings along. We, as a culture, don't talk very openly about loss, grief and the messiness that ensues, so I appreciate this segment for that ... even if I less appreciate the lack of real spark here, despite the show's most desperate "Tom Hanks in 'Castaway'-esque" kindling-rubbing. 

The chemistry is far stronger on the beach, so you know what that means: PALMER'S GOTTA SCREW THAT UP! So Palmer gathers the contestants together for the big reveal: They're turning into "Love Island," aka they're sending all the women away to a separate hotel. To complete the process, they're bringing in five new women to entice the guys: Jessenia from Matt's season, three ladies from The Unspoken One's season and a person from the Australian "Bachelor," just to REALLY underline that they're stealing from the overseas-born reality dating show. So while the women all go back to base to pack up and cry (except Serene because LOL she knows she's got a good one) the guys IMMEDIATELY are like, "WELP, I GUESS I GOTTA START FLIRTING!" OK, not all the guys – but definitely all the guys you imagine, aka Johnny, Jacob and Logan, who's WAY too excited to be vindictive about the past week of love triangle-ing with Shanae and putting her through an emotional ringer now. I just feel like, maybe, if your first reaction to getting to date a new woman is "WOO! Bye old girlfriend; gotta see what these ladies are all about," MAAAAAYBE you're not ready to be in a serious committed relationship. 

I'd say that this goes the other way as well – that if you're first reaction to your guy being in the same place as a woman is "OH GOD, WE'RE SO DOOMED," maybe this isn't the most stable foundation for a lasting connection – but then again, the women are generally right to be concerned. Indeed, while sobs and a clear "F*CK YOU, PALMER!" from their supposed significant others waft through the air, Rodney immediately starts hanging with Unspoken One season survivor Eliza while Jacob begins hanging with ... anyone female in the vicinity. As for Logan, well, none of the new girls particularly hang out with him because they're too busy making fun of him for dating Shanae – which, yes, can be seen as a red flag of sorts. 

Things don't really make a splash for Logan off the bat, but the same cannot be said for Jacob and Rodney. While the girls get rained out by a thunderstorm at their hotel, Jill rolling her eyes at the obvious metaphor of it all, the guys throw a pool party – with Financial Advisor Fabio really warming up to newcomer Kate. The thing is Jacob REALLY thinks he has a great, real connection with Jill that he doesn't want to lose ... but he also REALLY wants to make out with Kate in a hot tub, and unfortunately Jacob's little head is doing the thinking right now. As for Kate, she's into Jacob because, I mean, look at him – but also she just REALLY wants a rose. She will ride a crab into the ocean rather than not get a rose – which I think would really make quite a memorable rose ceremony! 

Jacob's not the only one getting himself in trouble: Rodney too is setting himself up for a smackdown by going all in on newcomer Eliza ... which is a shame for Lace, who's all in on Rodney. CAN'T IMAGINE THIS BEING A MESS! And admidst all these shenanigans, Michael and Danielle show up back from their date looking like this famous "Community" GIF:

Wait – but why isn't Danielle being summoned away from the beach to join the rest of the women in the Sadness Hotel? Oh, they just ... get to continue their relationship like normal? Never mind, Michael didn't slip a producer a $50 – he slipped them at least two Benjamins, maybe even a ... what's a thousand dollar bill? A Fillmore? (It's ... Grover Cleveland? OK then ... )

So while the dudes (minus Brandon) fool around, Jesse Palmer daringly checks in on the women he condemned to the Hotel de Unhappy ... but with good news! Well, bad news if you're into long-lasting, strong relationships – because unbeknowst to the guys, the ladies are now getting the same deal with five new dudes showing up to tempt them into new connections. And now it's their turn to all be like, "I really feel something with NEVER MIND FRESH ABS MUST HIT ON THEM!" Again, clearly a lot of stable and sincere connections being formed on this show. Listen, "Bachelor in Paradise," I'm gonna need you to stop pretending you're here for the right reasons. 

Hosting a revenge pool party of their own, the ladies get to know the new fellas – including Rick and Olu from Michelle's season, Alex from Rachel Lindsay's run and Thor's literal body double. But somehow, the God of Thunder's back-up abs isn't the hottest new resident at the Heartbreak Hotel. No, that would be Tyler from Rachel and Gabby's season, who gets everyone hot and bothered – including Brittany, who thus far has been the show's MVP for not wanting to step on anyone else's feelings. WELP, it was a nice run because she's smitten as hell – all while Andrew is laser-focused on her and convinced she'll be the same. I'm rooting for them ... but I'm not optimistic for them, especially while Tyler's 13 abs are in attendance. 

And especially while date cards are getting dished out – and Brittany CERTAINLY deserves a make-good after the Pizza Pete debacle. Too bad, though, because the card goes to Shanae – who, for one of the show's more despised villains, sure is getting a lot of breaks this "Paradise" run. Maybe she and Michael made equal bribes.

Anyways, she asks out Tyler who of course says yes, and the two head off for a yoga date. Pardon me: a TANTRIC yoga date. Because when this show has no good ideas, the producers just do tantric yoga – or just throw the word "tantric" in front of anything. I'm excited for the inevitable tantric ATV ride happening some season. The two stretch and rub up against one another and make sweaty human sex pretzels (sexzels? Is that something?) and get all of Shanae's cracks wet. HER WORDS, NOT MINE – DON'T GET MAD AT ME! Sure, she's a little worried about hurting Logan – but according to her, "I have to be selfish for once." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA PARDON ME!? Ah yes, good for you, Shanae, finally taking a break from all your FAMOUS selflessness and generosity. Glad to see you finally putting yourself first! SUCH LESSONS LEARNED!

Well, Shanae may be putting herself first – but the show will always put chaos first, so of course back on the beach, the date card goes to Sarah from Clayton's season, who asks out Logan. Together they have a great, romantic time. WHO COULD'VE GUESSED SHANAE AND LOGAN WOULD BE NUCLEAR CHAOS!?

As for everyone else, after the new arrivals make their first splashes, instead of heating things up, everything ... cools right on down? Sure, Jacob's cheating around with Kate, convincing themselves that they're not stepping on anyone's toes or hurting anyone's feelings all while sitting on top of one another's laps kama sutra style. But basically, other than the obvious casual daters taking advantage of the situation, the BIG TWIST of "Bachelor in Paradise" just inspires ... bored pool parties? On the beach, the men do synchronized diving routines – more for their own entertainment, it seems – while the women just sit around the pool. Sure, Poor Man's Thor and Olu try to get the ladies into the water with them and play sexy pool games – but no one takes. Not even Shanae and Tyler turn into anything more after their date – though that's more because Jill comes over and chats any spark they had to death. 

"Bachelor in Paradise" resorted to stealing from its rivals ... for THIS?!

Part of the problem is that "Love Island" offers a completely different commitment level – and, frankly, a more logical one than "Bachelor" at this point. "Love Island" doesn't insist on marriage or engagements at the end of the show, whereas "Bachelor" prides itself on being a genuine process that works (as we heard over and over again when Jared and Ashley were here). So to play these kind of manipulative games when you ostensibly want RINGS ON FINGERS by show's end rings false. Plus, "Love Island" is also signficantly longer, running several dozen episodes a season. As a result, when the Casa Amor test arrives, established pairings actually feel established, and the test feels like a sincere challenge. Here, half of these couples just formed at the last rose ceremony – and even the most stable bonds of the bunch are just a few weeks old. Of course Shanae, Logan, Jacob and Rodney are poking around elsewhere; they've barely been something to begin with. 

Most of all, though, the "Bachelor" universe is this inbred, uber-connected world where everybody knows everybody (and probably goes to Stagecoach together). These contestants know that, if they start getting reckless on the show and seeming like a cheat breaking hearts all the time, they're not going to stay in the "Bachelor Nation" universe's good graces and get to profit off all the podcasts and guess appearances and beyond. Everyone knows they can be a villain – but they can't go too far and become untouchable territory for future "Bachelor" involvement. 

So, in the end, you get a twist that's kind of the worst of all worlds. It's a show too obsessed with RoMaNcE and ThE pRoCeSs for this twist to play into people's most devious natures in an entertaining way – and it's too sleazy and disruptive of a twist to make it feel like the show is building, nurturing and creating genuine bonds. "Love Island" works because it's all strategy with hints of sincere commitment thrown into the mix; "Love is Blind" works because, for all of its ridiculous "pods" action, the Netflix Original becomes very legitimate once it becomes a dating show ABOUT the reality of falling in love on a dating show. "The Bachelor," or at least particularly this season, falls into a weird no man's land, not knowing whether it's sweet or sleaze – and this attempt at a twist just underlines how much others have figured out that formula better. 

Or not, because maybe everything's about to get real UN-BORING REAL FAST! On the beach, Andrew and Jessenia are hanging out, eating the world's worst flatbread pizza. (The ONE TIME people finally eat on a date during this show – and it's THAT!?) So even if Andrew and Brittany don't end well together, maybe they can have separate happy conclusions on "Paradise" – though I'm having a hard time seeing Andrew taking any of the Brittany/Tyler flirtations well. Actually, I can; he's a really nice guy. 

As for less nice situations, Rodney and Eliza head off on an official date card night out, eating in a fancy decorated barn it appears. But the real drama is back on the beach, where Lace has called herself an Uber and stomped onto the men's hangout to check on Rodney and see if he's staying loyal. Wait ... SO EVERYONE COULD JUST GO BACK TO THE BEACH IF THEY WANTED?! This quarantine between the two was, like, super unenforced? Can't see this ending smoothly – especially for Rodney. But that's for next time on "Bachelor in Paradise," when I look forward to Palmer announcing that they're all going to have to flirt from now on in pods and also no one's allowed to have sex or they'll lose money. And maybe one of them is secretly a millionaire. 

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.