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Chris Harrison got to deliver on a big promise when he introduced the new season of Bachelor in Paradise as one “that I can definitely say will go down in Bachelor history as the most shocking and yes, the most dramatic season ever.”
After opening with audio recordings of the news coverage that nearly engulfed the Bachelor spinoff series this summer, the host of the ABC franchise set up the scene from an empty beach in Sayulita, Mexico, which serves as the seasonal home to Paradise.
“This was the season of Paradise that looked like it might not happen,” said Harrison during Monday’s premiere. For viewers who are somehow in the dark, the host explained that production was suspended after two and a half days of filming: “Yes, there was trouble in Paradise.”
Harrison spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the humble scene-setter and explained how he will continue to serve as a guide to viewers as the show premieres over two nights on Monday and Tuesday. First, the series travels back two weeks to the first day of Paradise, before the sexual encounter between DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios, two contestants who had been drinking, that nearly derailed the show.
Jackson, who was eliminated from the most recent season of The Bachelorette when Rachel Lindsay discovered he had a relationship back home, walked into Paradise with his character already in question.
“DeMario is a grade-A cheater, douchebag, asshole,” said female contestant Raven Gates, who first met him during Lindsay’s Bachelorette. “DeMario doesn’t stand a chance in Paradise,” echoed another.
Still, Jackson wasn’t deterred and tried to convince his new co-stars, and Harrison, that he came to Paradise to clear up his reputation and was in search of new beginnings. “I want them to see a different side of me because I’m a good guy,” he told the camera. Gates, however, still wasn’t buying what Jackson was selling. (After the scandal broke, Jackson would go on to announce that his character has been “assassinated,” but more on that later.)
When Olympios made her entrance, she brought with her two glasses of champagne. She told Harrison that she was single — something she would later contradict — and said she didn’t plan to “jump on the first guy that shows” her attention. “If you want this, you’ve got to work real hard,” she added, saying that at that moment in time she was her “best self.”
According to one of the other contestants, it only took 30 minutes for Olympios to jump into the pool with Jackson, the beginnings of a flirtation that would eventually lead to the sexual encounter that was in question during the on-set investigation. (Warner Bros. Television concluded that no misconduct took place, which is why the season resumed filming.) “I wanted Corinne since day one and I want to get to know her, Corinne, right now,” Jackson had said of the star, who was shown quickly cozying up to his affections.
The biggest question heading into the highly anticipated premiere — which earned ABC its highest ratings ever for a BIP premiere — was exactly how much of the footage of Jackson and Olympios would be shown.
“It was important to show that anything that was alleged that happened didn’t happen,” ABC’s reality chief Robert Mills had told THR of airing the footage leading up to the exact moments in question. “We are in no way trying to hide anything.” He and Harrison both shot down accusations that the show is centered around alcohol and ABC made no attempts to edit down the amount of drinks that continued to flow.
“It is approximately 4:30 in the afternoon right now and Corinne and DeMario are already attached at the hip,” said contestant Alex Woytkiw, who gave a play-by-play of their flirting in the pool. Both contestants appeared happy to be spending time together. They leave the pool, however, to say goodbye to the show’s resident bartender, Jorge, along with the rest of the cast, and welcome in new bartender and former Paradise star Wells Adams. “I’m here for the right reasons, and that’s to make drinks,” he announced.
By nightfall, as some contestants headed off camp for one-on-one dates, one contestant was drunkenly slurring his words and a couple were making out in the hot tub — but none of those contestants were Olympios and Jackson.
The next morning, the second day of Paradise, Jackson and Olympios were shown eating breakfast together side-by-side. As promised ahead of time by WBTV, footage of their actual encounter that night was never shown.
“That was never going to see the light of day,” Harrison had told THR about the footage. “What you will see is what led up to that, and that, to me, is the most important thing. You need to form an opinion on: What was the mood and the state of everybody? And what was the general feeling going on for everyone in Paradise at the time? I think you’re going to have a great look and great insight into what was happening, so you can form your own opinion of everybody and of the whole incident.”
Cut to later that night, ahead of the elimination rose ceremony, and Olympios and Jackson still appear to be getting along as she fist bumps him and tells him they are “homies.” She tells Vinny Ventiera, however, that he will be the recipient of her rose, not Jackson. Shortly after, she is surprised when a producer asks to steal her away for a minute. The producer then approaches Jackson. “What’s up, what’s the deal?” Jackson asks the producer, who says they need to speak in private.
“You could sense that there was something going on,” says Woytkiw, as producers are shown taking over the set. One cameramen says “Cut it,” as the crew puts their cameras down, but the cast is still mic’ed. “I’m thinking something happened with DeMario on the first night,” says one of the female contestants.
“Production is coming to a halt. It’s the last thing I would have ever pictured we were going to hear,” says Woytkiw. Another contestant, Danielle Maltby, adds that it was like “a chill fell over Paradise.”
Earlier in the day, Jackson took to Instagram to encourage Bachelor Nation to tune into the premiere. “I’ve waited on this day for 2 months and 3 days because I want YOU ALL to SEE the TRUTH with your own EYES and then form an opinion about the ‘situation,'” he wrote in part. When the season trailer was released, showing the pool footage of the pair, Jackson echoed the sentiment to “roll the tape” and said it was a “victory for all men who have been falsely accused.”
Olympios responded by clarifying that she never leveled any accusations at DeMario. Reportedly, the star will reveal during the upcoming reunion that she mixed pills with drinking and that led her to blackout and not recall her encounter with Jackson. (Olympios’ rep declined comment.)
Next week, ABC will air interviews with Harrison and both Olympios and Jackson that Mills said will answer any remaining questions. “Corinne, especially, talks about how she used the word ‘victim,'” said Mills. “She says, ‘I used the word ‘victim,’ but let me explain what that meant.’ I think she felt badly about what DeMario went through as well, so you’ll see both of them discussing that.” He added, “After that second week, I can’t imagine there will be any more questions.”
On Tuesday’s episode, Harrison will sit down with the cast when they returned to set to discuss what happened, the new rules that were enforced behind the scenes and the topic of consent.
“This show has always pushed social topics and issues, and this is just another one that we needed to push and talk about,” said Harrison. “Whether it was racial stuff last season with Rachel [on The Bachelorette], or whether its consent with Paradise, there are topics that come up where you have to have honest, sometimes emotional and sometimes ugly and messy conversations about them.”
Read more about what’s in store on Tuesday’s episode of Bachelor in Paradise, including the Evan Bass and Carly Waddell wedding (which airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC), from Harrison and Mills.
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