SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the Aug. 23 episode of “Bachelor in Paradise.”
Week two of “Bachelor in Paradise” began with the beloved cast title cards and introductions (including Kenny Braasch’s black box, the return of Connor Brennan’s catsuit and another attempt from Kelsey Weir to open a champagne bottle). Viewers then picked up from last week’s unexpected entrance where former cast member Demi Burnett returned to the beach.
The self-described “troublemaker” arrived with a date card and identified Brendan Morais as a potential suitor after meeting with Kenny and Connor. Brendan — who had recently been linked to Natasha Parker — accepted the invitation and headed to the date with Demi.
Natasha was disappointed by Brendan’s acceptance, as they expressed interest in each other during the first day. In addition to Natasha and Brendan, several other couples started to emerge: Tammy Ly and Aaron Clancy, Tahzjuan Hawkins and Tre Cooper, Maurissa Gunn and Connor, Mari Pepin-Solis and Kenny, Noah Erb and Abigail Herringer, Ivan Hall and Jessenia Cruz, and “Grocery Store Joe” Amabile and Serena Pitt.
The men were scheduled to give out the roses for the week, leaving James Bonsall and Karl Smith as the most eligible and unclaimed bachelors on the beach. Kelsey, Deandra Kanu, Serena Chew, Victoria Larson and Victoria Paul were the unpaired women.
Despite Brendan’s acceptance, the date between him and Demi was less than rosy. While it started playful with jet ski rides in the ocean and a brief make out session, things turned south when Brendan admitted that he wanted to explore connections with other women. Demi was descriptive in her unhappiness.
Meanwhile, on the beach, other cast members speculated that Brendan was in fact “there for the wrong reasons.” Rumors flew that he was holding out for Pieper James to arrive. Pieper was a contestant from Matt James’ season of “The Bachelor,” but the two were linked before the show as a potential pair and sparked conversations about Brendan’s readiness for a relationship, or if he was genuine in his search for love.
Upon their return from the date, the cast updated Demi on the Pieper development. Natasha interrogated Brendan about his relationship pre-show, questioning why the two didn’t continue dating off-screen. Demi accused him of wasting her time. He admitted to “hanging out” with Pieper for a month and a half but was adamant that there were no labels and that he wasn’t in a relationship. He claimed to not know if she was arriving on the beach and instead confirmed to Natasha that he had feelings for her.
As they mended things, Ivan and Jessenia flourished with the second date card of the day. The two spoke over an intimate dinner and dove into how they faced racism (Ivan is half-Black, half-Filipino; Jessenia is Latina) since joining the franchise. Ivan was credited with having difficult conversations with Bachelorette Tayshia Adams during her season; the two made headlines for their talks about Black Lives Matter, police brutality and their experiences with prejudices in the real world. While Ivan was celebrated for his conversations, he acknowledged that Jessenia’s experience was different as a woman navigating the franchise.
“I had no backlash at all — no negativity [for the race-related conversations on air]. Almost zero racist messages,” he said. “It’s not right that you guys have to go through [racist social media harassment]. People tend to be harder on women and I just felt for ya’ll.”
“It was difficult, I guess, to see myself through that lens,” Jessenia said. “I’m aware I’ve always been a person color, but to then go home and have to face all these really scary, really nasty messages online where people were just outright racist towards you. … I had never experienced that type of racism until after the show. And it hurt; it really hurt. That’s why I had to think about it long and hard [about coming back]. Because the way I saw it — if was if I’m gonna go share my heart to someone, just to be torn apart — why do I want to do that again?”
In a franchise often criticized for not addressing its white-leaning cast and audience, the two addressed the situation head-on before sharing their feelings with each other.
In the midst of the budding couples, several others scrambled to solidify their relationship statuses. Deandra shared a kiss with Karl and Victoria P. tried to scoop up James. But the latter rose and fell from James’ good graces quickly, as it was revealed by Tammy that she has a boyfriend back home.
Their confrontation unraveled after guest host David Spade announced the beginning of the week’s cocktail party leading up to the rose ceremony.
James was initially smitten with Victoria P. but was confronted by the news by both Tammy and Kelsey. The news was juxtaposed with Victoria repeatedly forgetting James’ name in her confessionals, sparking more questions about her interest in him. When he confronted her, she quickly became defensive and combative before eventually walking away. She, in turn, confronted Tammy and Kelsey for starting the rumor and refused to take responsibility for her actions. She was accused of blaming her actions on others and trying to get out of her web of lies. She eventually decided to leave paradise, self-eliminating before the rose ceremony.
With James’ rose now available, Demi and Kelsey both pitched their eligibility to him. Meanwhile, Victoria L. fought with Tahzjuan after her attempt to steal Tre’s rose, and Serena C. performed a last-ditch rap/make-out with Aaron to claim his.
Despite the attempted rose theft, the initial roses handed out during the ceremony went to the identified couples: Ivan gave his rose to Jessenia, Noah to Abigail, Joe to Serena P., Connor to Maurissa, Tre to Tahzjuan, Karl to Deandra, Brendan to Natasha, Aaron to Tammy and Kenny to Mari. James’ distribution went last but was briefly interrupted by a near-fainting spell from Kelsey. Demi called it performative and an attempt to guilt her way into a rose, but the unverified tactic was unsuccessful. James handed out his flower to Demi, sending Kelsey, Victoria and Serena home.
“Bachelor in Paradise” airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.