7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause, Christina Schoellkopf
'Bachelorette' Tackles Race Amid 'Bachelor in Paradise' Drama
[Warning: This story contains spoiler's from the June 19 episode of The Bachelorette.]
Only two weeks have passed since Rachel Lindsay last appeared with a new episode of The Bachelorette, but in that short period of time, the Bachelor world imploded.
After announcing the cast for this summer's season of Bachelor in Paradise on June 6, production on the season was suspended June 11. Producers Warner Bros. Television halted filming when a producer on the Mexico set filed a complaint over an alleged sexual incident between two contestants who had been drinking, Corinne Olympios and Bachelorette castoff DeMario Jackson. One or both parties may have been too intoxicated to give consent.
What ensued has been more than a week of headlines as the story continues to unfold, with new details flooding Bachelor Nation each day amid an ongoing internal investigation. As of Monday, ABC had yet to make an official decision on whether the season, or possibly the series, would be scrapped. (This is the first time in 15 years that production has been halted on a series under the Bachelor franchise umbrella, aside from delays due to weather and location changes.)
With the decision on the fate of the series still looming, Monday arrived and so did a new episode of The Bachelorette.
Many questions have been raised since news first broke about Bachelor in Paradise, including if the scandal will tarnish the ABC franchise as a whole. While some of the sibling shows won't be airing until months from now, there is little distance between Bachelorette and Paradise, which have crossover contestants and a similar audience. Olympios has, so far, made two appearances on Bachelorette, once on the premiere and another on the most-recent June 5 episode. Jackson was a contestant until his May 29 elimination and subsequent June 5 appearance, as well.
When Monday's episode picked up, after a to-be-continued rose ceremony from June 5, there was little question about whether Bachelorette would address the ongoing controversy. The season has already wrapped, save for the two live reunion and After the Final Rose specials at the end of the season, meaning host Chris Harrison or someone on behalf of the show would have to break in with a live announcement.
That didn't happen, nor was it expected to. But the cloud still hung heavy. Would boozy courtships be watched in the same light, knowing alcohol was involved with Olympios and Jackson?
The episode did feature popped champagne bottles and liquor was flowing during the group dates, but the episode didn't center on an alcohol-fueled hookup. Instead, the drama of the night surrounded an ongoing argument between a white contestant and a black one, and Lindsay's role in it all.
That's how Bachelorette emerged from Paradise's shadow.
Lindsay is leading a historic season as the first black lead of the 15-year ABC franchise, but she made it clear ahead of the season that race was not going to dictate her path to love. When speaking about the expectations placed on her by the African-American community to pick a black man in the end, Lindsay told THR the pressure was "something I wanted to get over before I entered my own season." Lindsay, who revealed she is currently engaged with her yet-to-be-seen winner, added, "I couldn’t get caught up in picking a certain man to please a certain community. Race didn’t play in as a factor when it came to choosing men along the way. In my final decision, I just went with my heart."
She also said that if a contestant wanted to talk about race in the beginning that she would, but she preferred to wait until the end of the season, when she had a better handle on who she might be spending her life with. "It was not important for me to bring that up until I was going to walk into someone’s home or they were going to walk into mine," she said.
But now, only four episodes in, Lindsay was seen breaking down over that pressure she had tried to avoid when she directly addressed her history-making role for the first time on-air.
After inciting several confrontations with his housemates, contestant Lee Garrett continue to stir the drama during the pre-rose ceremony cocktail party. He and contestant Kenny "'Pretty Boy Pitbull" King argued so loudly, their confrontation interrupted Lindsay's other one-on-one conversations. Lindsay told the camera she was "disappointed" in the men. Stress from the drama in the house, coupled with the pressure of being the first black Bachelorette, led to a tearful breakdown. "I get pressure from so many ways being in this position," she said through tears. "I already know what people are going to say about me, and judge me for the decisions I'm making. I'm going to have to be the one who has to deal with that and nobody else, and that's a lot."
When she did show up to the rose ceremony, she told her remaining 18 men that the night was "heavy" and "frustrating," admitting that she underestimated how hard this process was going to be. She ended up eliminating two white contestants and one black contestant.
As the episode continued, the tension between Garrett and King escalated. The source of the ongoing disagreement stems from Garrett, 30, a white singer-songwriter from Nashville, accusing King, 35, a black wrestler from Las Vegas, of being "aggressive," and getting under King's skin.
One of the other contestants summed up what he was witnessing. "The only people I've seen Lee picking fights with have been not the people that he's used to seeing on a daily basis from a cultural perspective," said Dean Unglert during an interview with one of the producers." Brady Ervin also linked Garrett's Southern upbringing to his behavior on set, saying, "He comes from a different background. So you just respect where they're from and understand that everyone's different."
All of the back-and-forth between King and Garrett left the former feeling defeated. "I spent most of my time with Rachel, which I intended on growing a relationship, trying to [convince] her that I'm not some aggressive, dangerous human, which is absurd," King said to the camera. "Her body language was very much in Lee's corner and it messed me up. Lee's a liar, a fabricator, an alternative-facts piece of garbage. He lives in alternative facts."
King ends up confronting Garrett at the end of the episode, which prompts another "To be continued" ending. Scenes for next week's two-parter imply that the argument between the pair will only escalate further with the two going head-to-head. King is shown with a bloody eye and is heard calling Garrett a "Southern piece of garbage" and a "snake," while Garrett says, "I go exactly what I asked for."
Previews in the June 5 episode, from scenes that will presumptively air next week, helped to shed light on the issue at heart. One of the black contestants, Will Gaskins, is seen explaining to Garrett why it's offensive to call a black man "aggressive." He says, "When you call him 'aggressive,' there is a long-standing history in this country regarding black men as aggressive to justify a lot of other things."
Not to mention that the racially charged storyline came about at the same time Garrett was accused of being racist, due to since-deleted social media posts.
With the Bachelorette storyline unfolding over the next few episodes, and the Paradise investigation set to conclude this week, it's safe to say there will be more headlines. That doesn't, however, mean they will be as intertwined as many might have thought.
What was it like for you to watch Bachelorette amid the Paradise controversy? Tell THR in the comments below and follow all Bachelor franchise coverage here.