A 'Bachelor in Paradise' finale recap: Breaking Down the Breakdowns

A 'Bachelor in Paradise' finale recap: Breaking Down the Breakdowns

We have arrived. The Bachelor in Paradise finale/reunion is its apotheosis; its climax; its pinnacle of entertainment, because unlike the more classic beginning-middle-and-end narrative arc that most television series, films, plays, novels, and childhood skits filmed with your neighbor in the attic on a VHS recorder have adopted for the last 10,000 years, Bachelor in Paradise chooses instead to follow a plot path that simply-goes-and-goes-and-goes: rotating in new fitness coaches, handing date cards to social media influencer influencers (not a typo!), and churning out alliterate couple after alliterate until it finally reaches its highest point…

And careens right off a cliff into nothingness!

That cliff is the finale, packed with conscious and unconscious couplings and uncouplings, and where the post-finale nothingness should have gone (Instagram), instead there were real world rumors that the Bachelor franchise had no power to control. That's right, after watching a credited college course's-worth of Bachelor in Paradise over the last month, there's still MORE Bachelor in Paradise to soak up.

After everyone took off their microphones and their floral two-piece sets, and an intern put the padlock back on the kitchenette drawer full of loose Neil Lane engagement rings, we still have summer school. Y'know, if summer school was reading a bunch of hard-to-follow Instagram comments to figure out if Jenna is (allegedly!) a North Carolina escort…

Have I ever taken on a task so great as recapping nine televised hours of Bachelor in Paradise while mentally battling with their ultimate inconsequentiality?

Surely, I have not.

I have lived in New York on a freelance writer's income, I have traveled Japan alone as a giant redheaded woman, I have been a liberal in Central Texas, I have had my ass grabbed on the subway without resorting to homicide — but, no. This is the pinnacle of hardship: the knowledge that these nine hours of television must be discussed, even if nearly everything contained within them turned to ashes the moment Chris Harrison stopped compulsively saying "we got bloopers," and all these tan people stepped back into the cold, harsh reality of Florida-based male modeling.

Time is a tricky thing in the Paradise world, after all. Nine hours of aired BiP footage appears to be the equivalent of three lived BiP-days, which I would wager amounts to two real-world years, which, of course, measures out to 14 dog years….

Hey, remember when Jordan threw a stuffed dog into the ocean?

Me neither! Because even though that outburst would have taken place four days prior to him proposing marriage to Jenna on a technical timeline, we've been given four weeks to sit with Jordan's wide spectrum of behavior and emotional capacity, and then further days and outside sources to learn that perhaps all is not as it seemed in Paradise.

The thing about taking plenty of time to put these Bachelor in Paradise recaps together — beyond a clinical procrastination disorder, plus days spent cropping screenshots in Microsoft Paint [ed.note: oh that's right, I said MICROSOFT PAINT, shalt thou come at me sideways about it?] — is that it allows life to unroll a little further. When you give situations more time to breathe and develop, they often tell a more nuanced story.

When you trap hot, desperate people on an island together, feed tableside guacamole into their veins and insecurity into their souls, on the other hand, they stand a good chance of proposing marriage to each other without knowing what the other person's job is, or if they leave dishes in the sink overnight, or don’t keep a case on their iPhone, or pretend they have a gluten allergy at restaurants, or continue to text other men explicit messages while they're actively engaged to be married.

With time, Angela is able to see that Eric was never emotionally mature enough for her, and with time, Kendall can see that she was being willfully ignorant to Joe's feelings, and with time, Tia can work on her "gracious in rejection" smile, AND WITH TIME, Astrid can wait around until Kevin takes care of his mental health and slowly uncurls from the fetal position that strikes every time Chris Harrison says the F-word (rhymes with Shmantasy, ends with emotional trauma).

It’s almost like...time is…a valuable tool...to understand…reality. And like…Bachelor in Paradise…is purposefully taking that tool…away from its already slightly delusional contestants?????

The Bachelor in Paradise relationship development format is simple:

  1. Meet

  2. Make Out in Swimsuits

  3. Confusion

  4. Confusion in Swimsuits

  5. Happy

  6. Confusion

  7. Confusion on Daybed

  8. Happy

  9. Chris Harrison: Y'ALL BETTER B READY 2 GIT ENGAGED LIT'RALLY TOMORROW, OR GEET THE FOOK OUT, DUMMIEZ.

  10. ***CONFUSION ON A DAYBED INTENSIFIES***

Pretty much anytime Chris Harrison invites a group of his inferiors to the Rose Palapa (a thing! apparently!) so he can boss them around a little, someone's Paradise life is about to fall to pieces. No one ever has control of their own circumstances here, and that's why I spend the entire season just waiting around on this reunion: to find out where any of this could possibly be headed in real life.

The whole point of going on Bachelor in Paradise is that it's a fantasy — a fantasy that everyone inside of it takes incredibly seriously, save maybe John, who just ends up talling all of his mouth-partners he only wants to be mouth-friends, or Kiwi Jordan who is maybe an asshole but gets away with it due to a hot accent and hotter bald head. But once that Paradise fantasy hits the real world, where programmers don't have six packs and hunky foreign men don't stroke your back through a self-conscious episode, it's like a moist mass of rotating air moving from water onto land…

It either lashes out its destruction (Kamil and Annaliese), or is super not as catastrophic as one might have assumed (Krystal and Chris).

Let this recap serve as your Bachelor in Paradise weather service announcement; though I know it will mean missing some important moments, we're going to mostly focus on the couples that remained after Chris Harrison announced that any duos simply having a nice, fun time together "should break up today." But for posterity's sake, I'll quickly flash through a few agenda items without commentary:

AND THE REST

Once Chris Harrison announces that any couple who has not already applied for a joint checking account is not allowed to go the Fantasy Suites, we witness all the pairs who have only been on one date break up in rapid succession. My favorites are Kiwi Jordan and Cassandra who have this exchange after Cassandra inquires about continuing their relationship outside Paradise:

Jordan: I think we gave it a great shot…

Cassandra: So you don't think if we gave it more time, things would be different?

Jordan: No.

Cassandra:

Jordan: I think if we had more time, it would have been the same kind of result, just stretched out.

All hail the New Zealand prince of painful reality. What does a recapper have to do to assemble an advisory panel made up of New Zealand Jordan, Bibiana, Kenny's precocious preteen daughter, and Iyanla-Fix-My-Life to check the rest of these dummies when they cannot check themselves?

Olivia and John have known each other for upward of three days, so they weigh their decision out a little more. Olivia tells the other women that John has been her pleasant surprise because she's always "dated the same type of guys who hurt me over and over and over again." It's very lovely that Olivia is feeling encouraged, but she makes the classic mistake of assuming that a nerd won't hurt you. Olivia! Nerds hurt the worst and they do it in cute glasses!!!

But John doesn't wear glasses; he says he really cares for Olivia and wants to give this thing a try. They would have to go to the Fantasy Suite to stick around Paradise another night though, and John says he, "[doesn’t] feel ready for that, and its connotations of what could happen."

Ah, yes, the Bachelor franchise, where you may causally tell people you love them, you may causally propose marriage to them, you may casually break engagements with them…but you may not, under any circumstances, have casual sex with them.

SO WHAT HAPPENS AT THE REUNION, JODI???

If you can believe it, John and Olivia's half-week foundation could not stand the test of long distance. Olivia says John didn't try very hard to make it work, then kind of insinuates that he instead has been trying to make it work with Chelsea, then we never talk about it again. Because we're not here to talk about casual relationships, we're here to talk about lives ruined and lovers scorned…

KEVIN & ASTRID, EH?

Kevin and Astrid are seemingly mature, level-headed, brunette people whose bodies do not indicate a high level of alcohol-intake — we should have realized there was never any chance of them making it out of Paradise alive. But we were distracted by their overall vibe suggesting that as the two most attractive people in a bar, or the only two people on Tinder telling the truth about their height, they could have actually met and flourished in the real world.

Instead, they met here: in hell.

When Astrid goes to find Kevin and have their Chris-Harrison-Mandated DTR™, he is in a full-tilt spiral. Kevin is something of a Bachelor historian at this point in his franchise-run, and his documentation tool of choice is his own emotional trauma.

Unlike the rest of these newbs who think the Fantasy Suites just mean having some sex without the threat of all their friends seeing closed-captioned "[moaning sounds]" when the season airs, Kevin knows that Fantasy Suites are where relationships are made or broken. And for him, it only means broken.

He tells Astrid that when he went to the Fantasy Suite on his Bachelorette season, he came out with more doubts, and when he went in with Ashley on Winter Games, he regretted it later. Astrid can understand all that — what she can't understand is him telling her over and over that he's never felt for anyone else the way he feels for her, and she's perfect for him, and she's "the brightest star" he's ever met, but also saying, "It's like I'm at 80 percent … when I'm faced with the thought of leaving here, I feel guilty, almost like my heart isn't fully in it."

It's clear that remaining 20 percent has nothing to do with Astrid, and she rightfully tells Kevin, "I can't give you any more than what I've been giving you, so if it's not enough, it's not enough."

It is very, very upsetting to watch a very, very real breakup. It felt as visceral as Becca and Arie's breakup, but if you actually liked both people, and had nowhere to place your ill will. Much like Kevin, you just to turn inward for some good old self-loathing-as-motivation to figure your shit out…

SO WHAT HAPPENS AT THE REUNION, JODI???

Astrid forgives Kevin! Listen, for the most part, I would not recommend any of these beautiful, intelligent, mostly stable-seeming women taking on any of these dillweed dudes once, let alone twice. But for perhaps the first time in Bachelor history… this man has done! the! work!

When Chris Harrison brings him out, Kevin not only explains what happened to cause his weak relationship resolve in Paradise, but tell tale of what he's done since then to get past it. "It really didn't become clear to me until I went home, I spoke to my family, I want back to therapy, and I realized it was my own fault and my own baggage," Kevin says. "I brought baggage to Paradise, and she got blamed for it."

Astrid is attempting to stay contemplative during this time, but she can't keep a small smile off her face.

Kevin says he is still madly in love with her, Astrid says she still loves him too, and Chris Harrison, definer of relationships, decider of monogamy, declares: "Then there is still hope."

And they lived Canadianly Ever After.

WHEN KENDALL MET JOE

But first — another interlude of hopelessness!

Kendall and Joe have long been an adorable question mark. He is so, so into her, and she thinks he's funny, but is also open to dating any single other person that expresses an interest in her, just to give it a whirl.

Kendall just strikes me as incredibly confused by the Paradise situation, and the expectation to commit to someone on a beach, far away from her real life. But instead of admitting that fear and confusion, she tells Joe after a conversation where he mentioned exclusively dating and she literally turned tail fled the scene: "When we were talking about being exclusive, I got a sense of it being not because we genuinely wanted to, but because we felt like we had to."

And homeboy, good on him, is like:

When Kendall tries to tell Joe that she has no way of knowing how he feels about her, this small grocery boy *snaps*: "I haven't kissed or gone on a date with anybody else, and I got pulled for multiple dates, and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is your name." Kendall may not have known Joe was fully in love with her (which he fully is), but she knew that. For her to act like she didn't know Joe was serious about their relationship is some good old fashioned f-e-a-r.

Joe expresses himself and his feelings for Kendall with shocking clarity in this conversation, and that makes her more overwhelmed, saying she's never heard any of this before, rather than just…hearing it now??? I don’t want to go too hard on Kendall here, because it is very okay for her to not know if she wants to Chris-Harrison-Commit™ to this man she has known for three weeks without even getting to see him stock a single signature watermelon.

But to try and blame her inability to accept Joe's feelings on Joe is unfair.

And she knows it! Joe says they're just clearly not in the same place, decides to leave Paradise, and Kendall completely breaks down, worrying that she didn't say enough. Kendall said how she thought Joe felt, and talked about the pressure it seemed like they were feeling, but she never just told Joe how she felt about him and what she wanted for the future…

SO BITCH FLIES TO CHICAGO!!!

Like the inverse of Arie trapping Becca in an Airbnb to break up with her, Kendall traps Joe in a weird glass office to ask him to get back together. She tells him that she was projecting her own fear of opening up onto him, and that the reason she was scared is because she's — gasp, gulp — in love with him.

And while I fully respect Joe for giving her the "I had to get over you, so we’ll just have to see" treatment for awhile, there was never a question that when Kendall finally gave him everything he'd been wanting from her, he was going to come back around. And boy did he…

They're just the cutest, weirdest, whitest-toothed couple you ever did see on the reunion. Joe tells everyone, "It's good, it really is," and when Chris Harrison asks what's good, Joe drolls:

I like Joe's dimples and his curly hair and his deep-dish-accent, but you know what I like most about Joe?

That he makes Chris Harrison do his gotdang job. And Chris Harrison must like it too because he asks Joe and Kendall who currently live in Chicago and L.A. if they might like the opportunity to work in the same city for a while. No, Joe isn't opening a Sprouts franchise…

Dancing. With. The. Muthafuggin. Stars.

I truly cannot wait.

ANNALIESE'S BACHELOR IN PARADISE FAIRYTALE

Since the last time I wrote about Bachelor in Paradise, Annaliese has fallen in love with and declared her intent to marry a whole new man.

That man…is Kamil: a vaguely European, montonone, Former Social Media Participant whose most commonly known trait is not wanting to be an equal partner in a romantic relationship. He's also frequently shown calling Annaliese his “friend” on dates with other women while Annaliese is on the beach, tearfully declaring her commitment to bear his children.

From the moment Annaliese entered Sayulita, Mexico she made it clear that she desired that CarlyEvanJadeTanner kind of love. She wanted to leave Bachelor in Paradise not just happy, not just in a relationship, not just in love, but full-on engaged to be married. When her second failed boyfriend released himself from duty halfway into the Paradise season, the average person might have cut their losses for timing reasons alone…

But let it never be said that Annaliese is not a woman who knows what she wants, and sets out to get it — content and quality of the result be damned.

In Kamil, Annaliese thinks she's finally found her Bachelor in Paradise fairytale, and in way she has. Annaliese wanted the quintessential CarlyEvanJadeTanner story — what she got instead, was the quintessential Bachelor in Paradise story.

In the adjusted words of He's Just Not That Into You, a terrible movie full of terrible wigs that would do the people on this show and their own terrible (metaphorical) wigs a world of good to hear: CarlyEvanJadeTanner are the exception, not the rule…

Annaliese is the rule.

Yes, five Bachelor in Paradise seasons have yielded two successful marriages, and that is a much higher ring-to-aisle success rate than the seasons and seasons of The Bachelor(ette).

But the system is rigged!

Thirty-five potential lovers rotate through each season, available to be matched in any kind of combination, and coming from any Bachelor-contestant tier. In fact, most of the people who roll through are former villains and first-night releases. That's not to say those people aren't worthy of love, that's just to say that if Annaliese thinks she's guaranteed an engagement out of this system, she's putting her odds not on finding a Kevin, but on finding…

A Kamil.

Kamil is not to be trusted from the beginning, but until it's absolutely impossible not to anymore, Annaliese hears what she wants to hear. During most of their four-day courtship, Annaliese is hedging her feelings to Kamil's face, and being an absolute banana split behind camera-doors. But in a moment of vulnerability going into their Fantasy Suite, she tells him, "In the past, a lot of my boyfriends have said, 'You are the type of girl I could see myself with,' but I wasn't the girl they saw themselves with." She asks Kamil if she's the girl he can see himself with. And Kamil has an answer for her:

"Seeing ourselves outside of Paradise is a very important thing we can discuss."

Indubitably! Kamil does eventually get around to telling Annaliese he's falling in love with her, but if there's any chemistry to see between them, the cameras are dodging through it like The Flash staying dry in a Sayulita rain storm. It is simply a weird pairing: Annaliese seems like your second-favorite kindergarten teacher, and Kamil seems like your second favorite immersion blender. I mean, he is just giving her nothing, including voice inflection, and she is clamoring all over herself for any morsel.

And listen, in some ways, I admire someone like Annaliese who can so blindly commit herself to something directly in the face of so many — just so many — reasons not to. I simply cannot relate to it; I'm much more of a Kendall or a Kevin. Like, Sure I'm "in love with you" and I "can't see my life without you," but also, sometimes you fall asleep in your contacts, and I think maybe something is missing, SO I DON’T KNOW!!!!

Annaliese's dedication to turning Kamil into a win is a trait that probably serves her well in other areas of life. In this particular area — this life-partner area — it's proving a difficult lens. When Annaliese and Kamil meet out on the All-Purpose Proposal Mat the day after their Fantasy Suites, Annaliese bares her soul, telling Kamil he's the one she wants to wake up next to for the rest of her life…

Kamil tells Annaliese that she is a special woman, but right now he needs to "move at a pace that is long term for [them]," meaning no engagement. "I totally agree!" Annaliese tells Kamil, blood trickling out of her ears.

"I know he wants to marry me,” Annaliese tells the camera. "It may be in a couple of weeks, or a couple months, but I know we're on that path."

READER, THEY WERE NOT ON THAT PATH

Annaliese is glowing at the reunion, looking just beautiful as she joins Chris Harrison in the hot seat. She reports of their relationship after the show, "We are in a good spot! Long distance isn't always easy, but I definitely feel like Kamil is somebody that I want to go through the good and the bad with."

<Infomercial voice> What if I told you, Annaliese—that it could ALL be bad?! Terrible! Just the worst!!

When Kamil joins Annaliese in the hot seat, he kind of…recoils at her touch, and then just…breaks up with her before his cheeks have even hit the leather. Kamil says he was trying to hold through and see how things went in the real world, but, "I know Annaliese is ready for a guy to get down one knee right now, and you deserve the best, and I might not be the guy for you."

Gentlemen of BiP, and the world at large, I would like to tell you something right now: STOP telling the women that you are breaking up with what it is that they deserve. It is a cop out that puts the impetus of a decision over which they have no control on them. It's not fair!

Kamil doesn’t need to tell Annaliese that he doesn't deserve her — he needs to tell her he ain't shit, and let her react accordingly. "You're great, Annaliese, you're an amazing woman," Kamil continues. "I don’t want to string you along and pretend we have some special still. It's just not working out for me. I think it will just be best for us to slowly part ways."

"We literally booked an Airbnb yesterday for us to stay the week together…" Annaliese stutters out.

"I didn't means to shock you like this, it's just been coming for a few days," Kamil responds, giving no further details on the Airbnb's cancellation policy

Annaliese is stunned into silence, so Chris Harrison asks her what she wants to do, and she says she wants to leave the stage. He gives his Chris-Harrison Permission™

And then she comes back, devil-in-a-blue-dress style, hollering out as she walks: "I literally tried to break up with you two weeks ago and you said, 'I don't want to lose you, and I'm gonna fight for you!'" Take it away Tia:

Please retroactively give the cameraperson who zoomed past Annaliese's vengeful stride and right into Tia's "yes bitch, yes" every Creative Arts Emmy available.

And please give Kamil motherfucking shingles.

Annaliese exclaims, "I sent your mom flowers, I booked your flight back to New York, and you're sitting here breaking up with me in front of everyone?"

It is a non-stop feast of horror for the eyes and ears until Chris Harrison finally puts his Chris-Harrison Foot™ down. He looks at Kamil and says, "I'm gonna say goodbye to you, we're gonna let you go." And I finally feel thankful for Chris Harrison's power to legally force a breakup.

Kamil gets one more unbelievable lash in backstage when they sit down to have a conversation and he says he couldn't handle the distance; Annaliese counters that he knows she was willing to move to New York. "I know you are, of course you are," Kamil responds.

This…this is the story of Bachelor in Paradise.

JENNA & JORDAN (JUST JOKING)

After that exercise in masochism, perhaps I’ll keep the tragic story of Jordan and Jenna's doomed love affair brief…

As Fantasy Suites approach, Jordan and Jenna’s narrative revolves entirely around him only wanting to get engaged once — that's very important to him…

Inside Fantasy Suites, Jordan tells Jenna that once he saw her, he could never unsee her again, and Jenna tells Jordan that she's been hurt so many times, but she's been praying for someone like Jordan, and she feels like God sent him to her…

After Fantasy Suites, their new narrative revolves around Jenna really wanting to be engaged at the end of this, and Jordan wanting to give her that…

Jordan proposes and Jenna says yes…

At the reunion, they look like beautiful, glowing mannequins that have turned sentient in order to tell the viewing public that they already have a venue and a date for their wedding…

What the viewing public knows, if they read spoilers, is that in between the proposal episode and the reunion episode, Reality Steve reported that Jenna (allegedly) continued seeing other men in Raleigh after she got engaged to Jordan, and (allegedly) texted one of those men that she doesn't love Jordan, doesn’t even like him, she's just doing this for her "business".

For Jordan, who has now done a lot of press on the matter, word that something was up came to him about a week earlier. And basically, while Jordan can't be sure of the validity of the exact information sent to Reality Steve, he believes because the way of Jenna responded to him personally, that she has not been fully committed to their engagement…

File this in the Smithsonian under “Modern American Tragedy.”

Jordan has broken off the engagement with Jenna and, unbelievably, ABC has yet to kick Colton to the curb, and replace him as Bachelor with the more eligible option of a recently shattered Florida-based male model.

A HAPPY ENDING

I can't believe I'm saying this…I can't believe I'm feeling this…I can't believe I'm not sending a rescue-copter to Krystal's sunny home with room enough for Krystal, her two teacup dogs, her mom, and her mom's new best friend — Chris' mom.

But Chris and Krystal are a match made in leg-day-heaven. Watching or listening to them remains an absolute nightmare: there's, y'know, every single thing about Chris that makes me want to stick recyclable straws in my all my ear and eye hole, plus the fact that now that she’s in love, Krystal has fallen permanently back into her sexy-kitten-breathy-baby voice, now with add-on kitten-baby qualities like constantly stroking Chris' scalp and cooing all the time…

It's very tough to stomach, yes, but there is no doubt that these two are in love. And you may think I sound mean, but just listen to what Chris Harrison says to Krystal moments before she walks down to the All-Purpose Proposal Mat to get engaged to the man she loves: "I don’t think any couple was as surprising as Chris and Krystal — both villains from their seasons!"

First of all, rude; second of all, lazy writing, Chris Harrison!

All thanks to a fully self-aware turn for Krystal this season, I really am happy for these two. I don't love that their whole storyline on the reunion is about how Krystal saved Chris from his own nasty, manipulative behavior by telling him if he didn't cut it out, he'd leave Paradise without her or any friends…

Mostly because that seems unsustainable and like a lot of pressure on Krystal, not because I'm not impressed that Krystal was able to sit Chris down and undo a lifetime of drilled-in toxic masculinity. Sounds like quite the conversation — would have loved to see it on film, ABC?????

And nowhere is it clearer that Chris can be a good person for exactly as long as Krystal can talk him into it than in his proposal. When given the floor all by himself, Chris immediately does a hilaaaaarious fakeout like he's going to dump Krystal just moments before asking her to be his bride. That she loves this is proof that ABC has provided Chris with the one woman in the world who can tolerate him:

Chris Harrison gives them a crystal goose (get it???), and their moms sit in the audience together because they're best friends now, and I guess love isn't dead. But there's still time…

When The Bachelor returns, RIGHT HERE ON ABC, with a fame-hungry former college football player who doesn't technically have a paying job, but that's okay, because at 26, he's still young enough to be on his parents' insurance!

Stay tuned to TATBT for some exciting updates on what will be happening here in the Bachelor off-season, and visit the TATBT archive to make sure you're caught up on the entire BiP season! Until that, just know that I'm here for you…once I saw you I could never unsee you…and I talk about you in therapy all the time.