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This season of Bachelor in Paradise is the greatest. It’s reached peak self referential and seems entirely unpredictable. Also most of the players seem as transparent as can be about their desired outcome from this show. If I knew anything about professional sports (which mostly I know the OG Washington Bullets theme song and I still miss Adam LaRoche from the Nats, mostly because of my uncomfortable attraction to him), I’d say Bachelor in Paradise is less it’s own show and this season seems to own up to the fact that it’s a training camp for either the next Bachelor, become a franchise power couple, and/or get on the next Bachelor Winter Games. These contestants came to play and I’m here for it.

For the uninitiated, Bachelor in Paradise is a spin-off show where former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants (mostly of recent seasons and now some foreign additions as well) hang out by the beach in Mexico and hook up and go on dates and bed hop in the hopes of making a romantic connection (and/or get an extra 100K plus Instagram followers). There’s no real monetary prize (unlike the show’s predecessor Bachelor Pad) and now that we live in the influencer age, even real romance doesn’t seem like the ultimate prize (though the show will tell you it is). Two former Bach contestants are certainly more powerful than one — when it comes to selling Revolve clothing and FabFitFun boxes.

Maybe I’m cynical. There are in fact two (and a half) successful couples that grew out of previous seasons of Bachelor in Paradise: Tanner and Jade and Carly and Evan are both married with a kiddo and Ashley and Jared have a 45 minute long People Magazine video about their love. But this season there seem to be three distinct camps: The ones that keep repeating “Jade Tanner Carly Evan” over and over like some meditative chant, the ones out to craft or continue to craft their persona (C’mon Chris, everyone knows never trust a guy who gives himself a nickname), or Colton.

Colton Underwood, an actual (former) athlete, knows his way around an actual training camp and it seems that as much as he may play like he’s naive to Paradise, he’s working hard to show he’s MVP, future Bachelor lead material. Bachelor in Paradise‘s sweaty debauchery disguised as courtship may not seem like the best prep to find a dashing lead looking for love, but it’s happened before. Two-time The Bachelorette runner-up/loser Nick Viall popped into Paradise two seasons back and had a reception tour from mopey hipster to cross-fit buff and got cast as the lead. Now that that casting option is in the universe, it’s on many male contestant’s mind, Colton especially.

He’s only been on two episodes but he’s already had a romantic date with Tia, thrown into a love triangle with Tia and Angela, broke Tia’s heart, gotten a surprise save from Bibiana, had a good cry, got closure from his Bachelorette Becca, and become Tia’s shoulder to cry on buddy. There’s definitely still time for him to go down in flames (I wonder what the reality show equivalent of tearing your ACL?), but for now he’s taking viewers on a real journey that (with his Stretch Armstrong meets Ken Doll good looks) could secure him the next Bachelor pick.

For now, my hopes are still with the cut-too-soon Wills for Bachelor. We need an African American Bachelor to throw a little refreshing water on the dumpster fire that is this country. Also he looks damn good in a patterned male romper.

 

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