This season, however, a simple triangle would be quaint. Instead we have a “love pentagon,” as contestant Demi Burnett characterizes Blake Horstmann’s involvement with multiple women. (However, if you count the man one of Blake’s ladies is also dating, it’s more of a hexagon.) Much of the drama unfolding on the beach began long before the contestants arrived in Sayulita, Mexico, so let’s review what we know so far.
Blake was the runner-up on Becca Kufrin’s 2018 season of “The Bachelorette,” emerging as a fan favorite. Night One in Paradise, Blake appears to be getting along well with Hannah Godwin (from Colton Underwood’s season of “The Bachelor”) — but when he gets a date card, he asks out Tayshia Adams (a finalist from Colton’s season), which leads to them making out in a hot tub.
In this first episode, we also learn that Blake already has a history with Caelynn Miller-Keyes (also from Colton’s season). She tells everyone who will listen that they slept together at Stagecoach (country music’s Coachella) and that he had slept with Kristina Schulman (from Nick Viall’s season of “The Bachelor”) the night before. Caelynn is furious that Blake is practically ignoring her and had asked her to keep their relationship a secret.
By the end of the episode, guess who shows up on the beach? Kristina. The last time she was on Paradise (Season 4), she was in a love triangle with Dean Unglert and Danielle Lombard. Dean tried to juggle both women, but Kristina wasn’t having it and went home.
As the “Paradise” season began and Blake was getting social media backlash for sleeping around (even though that’s the exact premise of this show), he released private text messages between him and Caelynn while at Stagecoach and afterward. He wanted to vindicate himself, as the texts show Caelynn saying, “If I come over it’s strictly for sex … Nothing more nothing less.” In the texts, Blake tries to set expectations that that won’t happen, saying, “we can cuddle but no sex lol.” Other texts show them deliberating about whether to go public about their past before “Paradise.”
Blake also posted a statement on Instagram apologizing for hurting Kristina and Caelynn through his actions that weekend. “I realize now that I hurt these women and I deeply regret that. I’ve done a lot of self reflection since and have learned from my mistakes,” the post said. Several other members of Bachelor Nation commented on the post, lending their support.
But Blake still got blowback for releasing those private texts without Caelynn’s consent. Host Chris Harrison told the Hollywood Reporter that releasing the private texts “was a really bad call.” Harrison continued: “I know there were people in his life urging him not to do that and I wish he had listened to their advice because there’s just no way you are going to come out looking good.”
Dean (yes, the same Dean who dated Kristina two summers ago) was one of those friends urging him not to release the texts. Last week on the “Almost Famous” podcast, hosted by former Bachelor Ben Higgins and former contestant Ashley Iaconetti, Dean said that sharing private messages without someone’s knowledge is “almost equivalent to sharing someone’s nudes” without their consent.
Certainly the format of “Paradise” leads to lots of dating around. But “too much” partner swapping can get a contestant branded as a player. “Paradise” has several lasting couples, averaging about one per season. Jade Roper and Tanner Tolbert, who met in “Paradise” Season 2, are married with two kids. Carly Waddell and Evan Bass, who met in Season 3, are married and expecting their second child. Raven Gates and Adam Gottschalk met in Season 4 — and each dated other people before leaving that season as a couple. They’re now engaged.
Iaconetti and Jared Haibon appeared on Seasons 2 and 3 together, during which Jared rejected Ashley multiple times as he dated other people. However, they maintained a friendship off the show, and Jared eventually realized he was in love with Ashley. They got married in Rhode Island last weekend. Kendall Long and Joe Amabile met during season 5, during which time Kendall also went on dates with other people (remember Leo and his luscious mane?), and the two now live together.
Back on this season, on Episode 2, Kristina asks Blake out on a date with the express purpose of bringing up what happened at Stagecoach, telling him it felt like “a slap in the face.” Through it all, Blake maintained that he didn’t do anything wrong. As far as viewers can tell, no one was exclusive during any of these unofficial fantasy suite dates, so Blake didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. By the end of the episode, Blake takes Hannah aside and tells her that she’s the reason he’s in “Paradise” — to get to know her. This from the guy who’s already been on dates with two other women and has a history with a third? It comes off as insincere — but Hannah seems open to Blake’s advances, even though she’s already exploring things with Dylan Barbour.
Then, on Monday’s Episode 3, Blake waits until the end of the day of not talking to Hannah to inform her once again that he’s going to pursue her. “I’ve got some big things planned,” he tells her. “But I’m not going to shadow you or be like in your pocket.” He leads her out on the sand to twirl her around as the surf dances at their feet. The rest of the cast watches — Tayshia and Kristina talking about how Blake’s dance moves look familiar. Dylan goes to intervene, to try to get a few minutes with Hannah, and she doesn’t budge. Her inaction speaks louder than words.
“I’ve been so solid from Day One,” Dylan says to Derek Peth (from JoJo Fletcher’s season of “The Bachelorette” and Season 4 of “Paradise”) of his feelings toward Hannah. “What am I not understanding? Did they date before this or something?”
Well … in Tuesday night’s episode, we get our answer: Blake visited Hannah in Alabama a week before “Paradise” started and they shared a kiss. Dylan is not happy that he’s just learning this piece of pertinent information now. “I don’t know why she held that. If I didn’t press her, I probably wouldn’t have found out,” Dylan says to the camera. “This is just like the ultimate slap in the face.”
Tayshia is also upset she didn’t know this about this meet-up before agreeing to go on a date with Blake in “Paradise.” “If you were interested in him, that could have been expressed,” she says to Hannah, “so that I wouldn’t have been brought into this.”
Hannah says she thought the visit was a “private thing” and out of respect for Blake, she didn’t share it.
Unfortunately for Bachelor Nation, there’s no such thing as truly “off-camera time” anymore. What happens before a season starts still affects how people relate and their connections to one another.
The episode ends without a rose ceremony.