Bachelor in Paradise, the typically light-hearted summer spinoff in ABC's reality wheelhouse, took itself a bit more seriously during its Tuesday night finale. Seemingly learning from the flaws of its franchise siblings, heavyweights The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, the post-finale reunion show delivered just as many relationship commitments as it did engagements.
In 22 seasons of The Bachelor, only one star, Sean Lowe, has married his winner. Two other memorable Bachelors, Jason Mesnick and the most recent Arie Luyendyk Jr., are, respectively, married and engaged to their runner-ups. The Bachelorettes have better success rates: 50 percent of the female stars remain with their winners, and of that group, two of them — Trista Rehn and Ashley Hebert — are married. But it was Luyendyk Jr.'s season, the second time a Bachelor changed his mind after proposing, that raised the question: Does the season need to end with a proposal?
Winter spinoff Bachelor: Winter Games ended with four relationship commitments, but none of the couples are still together. Comparatively, four seasons of Paradise still boasts two marriages and one relationship — even including the shortened fourth season, which was temporarily shut down over a sexual misconduct investigation. On Tuesday, the Paradise cast continued to take advantage of the relationship-only option.
During the first part of the Paradise finale that aired Monday, two couples got engaged: Chris Randone and Krystal Nielson, and Jordan Kimball and Jenna Cooper. Another pair, Kamil Nicalek and Annaliese Puccini, decided to keep dating. Tuesday's reunion was filmed Aug. 28, weeks after the cameras stopped rolling on the Sayulita beach. The real-time catch-up saw one of the finale couples shift their status, as Kamil blindsided Annaliese with an on-camera breakup before the attending cast and studio audience.
But the engaged couples revealed they are still happy and engaged. Jordan and Jenna pitched a plan for a TV wedding, asking host Chris Harrison to officiate their Paradise nuptials on June 9. Chris and Krystal are taking things slower, but plan to move in together as their next step.
"We have a date for the wedding, we have to start planning that," Jordan told The Hollywood Reporter after the taping of their future plans. "We want to bring our families closer together and we have to figure out a living space. We met on June 9 and it’s her birthday. The network brought us together, so why not bring us even closer together?" Jenna added, "Party with the fam."
(Jordan and Jenna's relationship has since been hit with a report from Reality Steve that accuses Jenna of cheating on her new fiance. Late Tuesday night, Jenna called the claims "untrue" but Jordan said he believed the story and opened up about being blindsided. He could not say whether the engagement was still on or called off.)
Chris and Krystal also said their wedding plans are in tact, but they are in no rush. "We just don't really care about the details. We're very laid back and simple," Krystal told THR. Chris added, "We do like very good food. There has to be great wine. But he only thing I care about is her smiling and happy. When that special day comes, I just want it to be all about her and be thankful that this woman is in my life."
And then there were developments from other Paradise couples who had broken up on the beach. Both Kevin Wendt and Astrid Loch, and Kendall Long and Joe Amabile revealed that they had reconnected once the cameras stopped rolling and planned to keep dating. Joe accepted a TV offer in order to stay close to Kendall in Los Angeles: The contestant who went viral as "Grocery Store Joe" after his night-one elimination on The Bachelorette will be competing on the upcoming season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars.
Two of the newsy contestants who were in attendance had virtually no presence during the on-air portion of the reunion taping. Leo Dottavio, who was accused of sexual harassment by a former Bachelor contestant, apologized to Joe for physically attacking him at the taping, but that never made it to air.
The new Bachelor, Colton Underwood, also had minimal star-power during the reunion. Colton's season, which begins filming shortly, airs in January.
Below, THR spoke to the stars of the season after the taping about why Paradise can work, how social media continues to impact the franchise and what advice they have for the next batch of ABC's stars.
Why do you think Bachelor in Paradise can be more successful in producing relationships compared to The Bachelor/Bachelorette?
Jenna Cooper: First of all, you're not going after just one person that you're supposed to meet — and then be in love with at the same time as all of these other women. It's the fact that there was a variety, which is so interesting because when I met [Jordan] I was like, "That's it." But it is different that are so many other options. Other people needed to explore those. But me, well, I may have explored some of the other options — but not wholeheartedly! (Laughs.)
Jordan Kimball: And when you leave Paradise, you leave very confident with each other because you just went through Paradise. There were a lot of challenges thrown my way, whether it was people trying to test me or test our relationship. It was a struggle within myself to grow and to become the person that [Jenna] needed. Paradise really allows you to grow as a person, understand what your flaws are in dating and change.
Kenny King: Let's say that Jenna is the Bachelorette and Jordan would have had to have shared her with 20 other dudes. He would've melted down. But they were able to meet like this. On the Bachelorette, you have to share her with other people. But they were able to make that strong foundation, and I think that's why you see so many people walk out of here so happy and in love.
Krystal Nielson: It's such a more natural dating experience. We're put on the beach and the cameras are very much in the background. And I think the best thing is — you do spend about 20 hours a day together — but we have the tough conversations right up front. We know about lifestyles, goals, families, what we want out of a relationship. Whereas in a normal dating situation, you have a lot of little dates and little conversations before you eventually get there.
Chris Randone: You genuinely get to spend enough time to truly get to know someone and see if you really care about that person. That sets the tone for the difference between The Bachelorette or Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise. The amount of time and having the option of doing what you want throughout that day. And I think the biggest thing is you can also see how they are for an extended period of time. Do they stay consistent? Are they changing their moods, behaviors or habits throughout that time? You can get a good feel of a person in Paradise, and I'm just completely blessed and happy that [Krystal] saw my potential and gave me a shot.
John Graham: The Bachelor and Bachelorette is very focused on one person's journey, which is the lead. You really drill down into that one person's history, their background and what they're looking for. You get to know that one person so well. On Paradise, you get to see a mix of everybody and everyone has interesting relationships. Things are changing so quickly that you get a little bit more of a breadth of people that you get to know.
Tia Booth: We're with each other all day, every day. We're actually getting to hang out, eat breakfast, work out and do things that actual couples do. It's more time spent together, not just five minutes here and there. It could be all day, all night if you wanted to. You really get to know someone — especially if you're sweating, have no makeup on and you've just been in the ocean. You're getting to know people in real time.
What has been most challenging when it comes to social media and seeing the online response?
Tia: The most challenging part with social media is that I'm just trying to do things with my life that I always have, but I forget that there's a much bigger audience watching me now. I have to be more aware and more careful of what I say and what I post. And also, people are just mean. Some people are just cruel, so I've learned to ignore that and to appreciate all the love that I get. Social media is a crazy thing and it's very easy to get sucked into it and to feel like it's super important. But at the same time, it's also very humbling that people actually give a shit enough to follow my life. It's the craziest thing.
Chris: I'm not really a social media guy. It's something I'm trying to adapt and adjust to. [Krystal] has a platform where she needs social media to build an amazing brand that she's been building, so she has that experience but she knows how to handle it. And I support that. For me, though, I'm just trying to learn. As far as for us as a couple being exposed to social media, it does not bother me at all. If anything, I cannot wait to post a picture of her because I want my friends and family to see this and see me with her.
Krystal: You get the good and the bad, but you have to focus on the big picture. We both received a lot of criticism of our times on the show, but we're here together and we're committed, and standing by one another no matter what.
Kendall: The most difficult thing is knowing that everybody does have an opinion: You can't take the good and you can't take the bad. You almost have to not take any of it because you can't invest in only the good and then ignore the bad. One of the last episodes I was in was a little more controversial, so it's the first time I've been getting some hate from people. Overall, I think I'm just happy knowing that my friends and family are really close. As long as they don't hate me, then I'm totally fine.
John: The hardest part is that the lows are lower and the highs are higher. There are plenty of reactions from people really, really disliking you and people really, really loving you. The biggest thing I found is to stay grounded and the way that I do that is I'm still back at my day job. I work a lot. My career has always been a big part of my life and I love what I do, I can't imagine that not being there for me. I can escape social media just by getting back to work and staying grounded there.
What would be your advice for the next wave of contestants who come into this franchise?
Kendall: Don't be afraid. Completely let yourself go and trust your heart.
Bibiana Julian: Sometimes you get in your head, so just be as authentic as you can be. You were cast for a reason. You are exactly who you need to be, so just own it.
John: What I tried to do myself is to put yourself in situations where you can meet people and get to know them. Be honest with how you're feeling.
Tia: I went into this saying, "I'm ready for this." And I was lying to myself. I knew that I was going for Colton. So I would just recommend to honestly, fully go all-in, because you never know what could come of it. Seeing all the couples that have come out of this season, I don't think any of them expected it. [Former Paradise star] Raven [Gates] didn't expect to find Adam [Gottschalk] the way that she did. So, be fully open and transparent. A lot of people said one thing and did another, so just be honest with people that you care about.
Joe Amabile: Just stay open. Be yourself and do whatever feels right.
Kenny: Anything can happen in Paradise, and what a difference a day makes. You gotta move with the cheese; you have to be true to yourself. It's OK to be a little selfish. It's OK for everybody to find love at their own pace.
Jordan: Go in with an open mind.
Jenna: And when you find something great, really appreciate it and explore that. And don't be like, "Oh, look at the next best thing." That's me. Watching the show back, I just didn't know. I feel like I should have appreciated [Jordan] more.
What is one thing you would like to see the franchise change?
Kendall: The experience is very normal. It's very natural and very real. And I was completely surprised by that. All the decisions are our own. So, I guess it would be that the people themselves have to be there to open themselves up.
John: I feel like the show has been doing a much better job recently of representing folks that haven't been historically represented. I come from an Asian background and it's really cool to see me up there, because I don't think there's been many like this before. It's really exciting. I was just texting some of the producers before [the taping] saying that this is amazing. I've gotten so much support from people I don't know that just congratulate me and say, "John, I'm really inspired by your story because I am also Asian," or "I am also a computer science major. You made me really excited seeing you up there and confident." That's really awesome if you can step away from this and, leaving the Bachelor part aside, you can feel good about your background, personality and culture just because you've seen someone on TV.
Kenny: I hated the drink minimum, I thought that was terrible. There is definitely a way to discern whether 220-pound Kenny can have as many drinks as 108-pound Kendall. But, other than that, I feel like you really get to have the whole experience doing The Bachelorette and The Bachelor in Paradise because they're completely different animals. For Bachelorette, you're focused on one person and how to make your limited time with that person stretch and maximize so she can to remember you. But in Paradise, it's very much just about building connections at your own pace. There isn't this sense of, "Oh my god, I only saw her for 10 minutes today. Is she going to remember me?" Paradise is built for people in this situation who have done it and who are ready for the real thing.
Bibiana: Air conditioning in Paradise. It would be great if there was an AC unit in the dressing rooms, because you would take a shower and you would come out and you're already sweating. I gave up on life. There was no doing my makeup. I have lash extensions now, but when you're out there, you're so hot and sweaty that you can't. What are you gonna do? My hair is naturally curly and the frizz out there is so unreal, you're never not sweating.
Jordan: They need to add bacon to the quesadillas 24/7.
Sydney Odman contributed to this story.
Sept. 12, 6 a.m. Updated with Jordan and Jenna's response to the cheating report.