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The former castmates, who found themselves at the center of the reality franchise’s biggest controversy in 15 years, reunited on TV on Monday’s finale of Paradise, coming face-to-face for the first time on the franchise since they left the show earlier this summer.
“I do wish we could have communicated, reached out to each other. It would have been a lot easier on us,” Olympios told Jackson after giving him a hug. Both contestants said they are much happier now, crediting therapy. “Even though I know who I was, I kind of lost that. I lost my happiness and my smile,” said Jackson. Olympios added, “I’m trying to get back to my old self.”
By now, Bachelor Nation is well-versed on the reported details of the controversy. After weeks of statements from both parties and stories in the press — some accurate, some not — the network premiered the fourth season of Paradise with footage leading up to Olympios and Jackson’s hookup, which spurred a production shutdown. The series lost two weeks of filming while an investigation took place, and when it returned to Mexico, the network — after promising that the season would answer all questions — handled the controversy by focusing more on how the situation became a national news story and less on the behind-the-scenes details.
Olympios and Jackson appeared for one-on-one interviews with Harrison earlier in the season when they each shared their side about what happened on set and how the subsequent snowballing story has impacted their lives. Olympios revealed that she didn’t remember what happened because she drank on medication, causing her to black out, but that she didn’t blame Jackson. On his end, Jackson said he wished Olympios only the best but said the pair had not been in touch.
That all changed with their face-to-face reunion, which was taped but aired Monday. The TV sitdown was filmed before the pair’s off-camera reunion at a recent Hollywood nightclub, where Olympios was photographed hopping into Jackson’s arms. “We’re friends, we never had bad blood,” she told photographers while kissing Jackson on the cheek.
Despite the candid on-air conversations, the show still hasn’t addressed what motivated a producer on set to file a misconduct allegation over the pair’s encounter in the first place, a criticism in many think-pieces and analysis of the season. A second producer filed a similar complaint, but ABC has not provided details about either party.
When speaking to The Hollywood Reporter after the finale taping, Harrison explained that they have kept mum on those details due to legal obligations.
“The complaint was filed by a third party, and I wish legally we were allowed to dive into that,” he told THR. “I wish I could sit down and talk to that person on camera. I wish I could interview that person. That’s the person I would really like to talk to. I have a million questions, just like everybody else does. I get to make most of the rules but not those. So I have to, for now anyway, leave it at that. But maybe I’ll get my day.” [Previously, Jackson told THR that the producer was a close friend of Olympios’, though her rep said Jackson should be aiming his questions at producers.]
The shutdown also resulted in new behind-the-scenes rules when the show resumed filming in order to ensure the safety of the cast. The returning reality stars were limited to two drinks an hour and were required to document their consent before engaging in an intimate moment.
Harrison says he doesn’t foresee any future changes in Paradise‘s future but that they will continue to be “more vigilant, more careful, more understanding and watchful over these people.” He adds, “These aren’t TV people. They’re not fake characters. They’re people we really love. We will continue to look out for them and their best interests. And if new things come to light, and we can do things to protect them even more, then we’ll do it.”
While the cast has said the new rules didn’t impact their search for a fairy-tale ending, several stars admitted that the condensed timeline of filming made ending the season on multiple engagements a difficult task. While last season’s finale ended with three engagements (with one leading to a TV wedding and marriage), the final episode taped in Mexico did not produce any.
Instead, after offering the final couples “Fantasy Suite” date nights during the Mexico finale, Monday’s episode played out weeks later as a reunion so Harrison could catch up with the cast after they continued to date after the show. Though two couples (Robby Hayes and Amanda Stanton, and Lacey Mark and Daniel Maguire) didn’t make it in the real world, another, Raven Gates and Adam Gottschalk, are still together; the season’s strongest couple, Derek Peth and Taylor Nolan, ended up getting engaged in front of the live audience.
Getting Nolan to her feet, Peth said, “I choose to love you this minute, this hour, this day and every day from here on out.” He then got down on one knee to ask his stunned girlfriend, amid loud cheers, if she would marry him. Through happy tears — and raining rose petals — she said yes, marking another success in the Bachelor couple books.
During the studio special, contestant Dean Unglert, who was a fan-favorite for The Bachelor until his unfavorable stint on Paradise, also had to come clean on flip-flopping between two women both on and after the show. “It was intense, but it was real,” said Kristina Schulman, the woman who Unglert hurt the most, of their relationship.
Instead, race car driver and former Bachelorette star Arie Luyendyk Jr. will return in a starring role when The Bachelor premieres in January. Luyendyk, who also edged out recent Bachelorette runner-up Peter Kraus, was a runner-up on Emily Maynard’s season in 2012. ABC will also launch its next Olympic-themed spinoff, Bachelor: Winter Games, in February.
What did you think of the Paradise season and finale? Sound off in the comments below.
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