Part two of the Bachelor in Paradise premiere led off with the event that everyone has been anticipating for months: Carly and Evan's wedding! Just kidding. I'm pretty sure that literally no one was eager to see the former contestants engage in the crowning ritual of heterosexuality, but I guess the show needed to prove that good things can happen in Paradise, and that it's not just out to exploit intoxicated Bachelor/ette cast-offs. (Let's not forget that Carly once threw up from sheer disgust after endurance-kissing Evan.)
To this end, we were also forced to watch a montage of the weddings of all the past Bachelor Nation successes. In the 14 years since The Bachelor aired, there have only been, like, four weddings that haven't ended in divorce.
Once Evan and Carly finally get married, we're suddenly back in Paradise with the current cast members, who are freshly back from the production shut-down amidst allegations of sexual misconduct. Everyone except for Corrine and DeMario has gathered in front of Chris Harrison for a talk.
Assuming his serious voice after oddly exclaiming "Welcome back," Chris Harrison says he wants to check in with the cast about the allegations of sexual misconduct and see how everyone feels about "being back in Paradise together." I had figured that Chris Harrison would glibly mention some things about consent and drinking, but I didn't expect that a full-blown after-school special. While the purpose of the open forum is ostensibly to make sure the contestants feel comfortable returning after national headlines condemned the show for allegedly encouraging contestants to drink all day and refusing to intervene in a situation that looked troubling, it starts to seem like the real motive here is to absolve the show of any wrongdoing. (Previously, an outside investigation concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct on the set.)
"Everything that we do here, everything that we say here, is because we decide to," Taylor says when the conversation turns to the topic of whether or not the producers have the cast's best interests in mind. "We're responsible for ourselves, the things we say, how much we drink, who we kiss… we're responsible for all of it. We're not here to be babysat by production."
Throughout the forum, the cast ardently defends the show. (One person joked on Twitter, "You can practically see the cast reading the 'ABC isn't liable' cue cards the lawyers are holding up behind the cameras.") They also defend DeMario, and Chris Harrison asks the cast if they think the claims that surfaced from an unidentified crew member were motivated by race. After an extremely uncomfortable, prolonged silence—I counted seven seconds—one person hesitantly says yes.
We're responsible for ourselves, the things we say, how much we drink, who we kiss… we're responsible for all of it.
It's true that many drunken and questionable acts have taken place in Paradise, and they've typically been played for laughs instead of scandalous headlines. Last season, a white contestant, Chad, got so intoxicated that he became dangerously violent and then allegedly shit his pants while passed out on the beach. Production continued without a hitch—even though Chad had threatened to throw a woman he was hooking up with on the show "under a bus" and "duct-tie" her up.
"I'll murder everyone here. I'll kill your children and murder your family. Dolla, dolla bills, yo," he said at one point.
However, why DeMario and Corinne's situation was handled differently seems secondary to the fact that these situations keep occurring, period. Contrary to the assertions from Taylor and the rest of the cast, the show's producers do bear responsibility for cast members' behavior. Ensuring that the cast is in a safe environment, that consent is a priority and not an afterthought, and that drunk contestants aren't harming themselves and other people is not only the ethical thing to do: It's their actual job. (The producers, for instance, were well aware that Chad was volatile—he stormed off in a fit of rage during his season of The Bachelorette—but they invited him to Paradise anyway, undoubtedly expecting him to bring "drama.")
In a particularly disappointing move, most of the cast implies that Corinne was disingenuous in her response to the sexual misconduct claims, in which she said she was a victim. "Maybe she was trying to save face," one contestant responds asked why Corrine had described the situation in such terms. "It was a very vague statement," another said.
Raven, after revealing that she's a victim of sexual assault herself, says, "I hope this doesn't deter actual victims from coming forward and speaking their truth and asking for help."
After quickly going over the definition of affirmative consent and declaring that they want to continue their tenure in Paradise, Chris Harrison and the contestants affirm that the controversy is old news and eagerly leave it behind. "I now declare Bachelor in Paradise back open," Chris Harrison smiles. Everyone cheers, and the theme song plays. DeMario and Corrine are no longer featured in the opening credits.
Now we are back to more palatable drama: The contestants have no idea how the rose ceremony is going to go following the two-week shut down. Some couples kept in touch over the break, we learn, while others deteriorated. Indeed, for the rest of the episode, the only indication that production had been forced to halt is contestants occasionally fretting that the extended break disrupted the experience of Paradise. In that regard, they're right.