At some point over the last two decades of reality TV competitions, contestants realized you don’t actually need to win the grand prize. Sometimes, winning is a hassle, like when you’re stuck with one of those singing show recording contracts or find yourself engaged to someone you don’t even like that much. Why not be the runner-up, or even finish in fifth or ninth place? You can still get an agent, land Instagram sponsorship deals, make TV cameos. It might actually be more fun.
In the three years since the launch of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise,” that seems to be the mind-set of some who appear on “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” Sure, they may sob in the limo when the star sends them packing, but the lucky ones have a sweet consolation prize: a trip to “Paradise,” the spin-off where you can seek comfort in the arms of other rejects at an all-expenses paid resort in Mexico.
As “Paradise” grows in popularity, viewers have noticed that certain “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” contestants clearly have no chance of winning, and instead have personalities primed for the madness of the spinoff, where you can earn even more fame. However, there’s a downside: No matter how popular you were on your original season, “Bachelor in Paradise” can make everyone turn against you.
On Monday night’s “Paradise” finale, Dean Unglert learned this lesson as he cemented his status as a “Bachelor” villain, evidenced by the chorus of boos when he was introduced at the cast reunion in front of a studio audience. His crime? He courted two women at the same time, a dicey enough endeavor in real life, let alone on a show where cameras follow you everywhere.
Dean, 26, was a fan favorite from Rachel Lindsay’s season this past spring; he was too young to seriously be a contender, though he made it all the way to the final four. When he was cast on “Paradise,” fans started wondering if he was being groomed as the next “Bachelor,” the most coveted prize of the franchise.
Unfortunately, after building up lots of goodwill on Rachel’s season, he tanked it almost immediately. In the beginning of “Paradise,” he struck up a relationship with Kristina Schulman, 24. But on this show, new contestants are introduced in each episode as everyone frantically tries to find their soul mate, or someone to make out with. And when Danielle Lombard, 27, (known as “D-Lo”) joined the cast, Dean couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Kristina’s just so much more perceptive and smart. But D-Lo’s just so f‑‑‑ing hot,” Dean confessed to the camera, later adding, “I know — I’m being a complete unbearable idiot in the situation.”
Indeed! His castmates agreed. (Jasmine Goode: “Dean is still playing ping-pong with these two girls. That love triangle is gonna explode any minute.”) Obviously, it went awry; Kristina was devastated when she saw Dean and Danielle grow closer, and she left the show early. Feeling guilty, Dean eventually told Danielle he couldn’t make it work with her because he still had feelings for Kristina.
It imploded further during the live finale, which everyone is contractually obligated to attend. (Knowing this love triangle was a lightning rod, the network also sent the trio to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” earlier in the day.) During the finale, when Kristina and Danielle started to tell their sides of the story, Dean piped up. “You guys should not be arguing with each other,” he said, stoically. “It all falls on me.”
“Dean, you look like the most uncomfortable human being in the world,” host Chris Harrison said, failing to keep the glee out of his voice. “My friend, you have some explaining to do.”
After producers played a video that recapped everything, Dean tried to apologize — sort of. “I hope that both of you understand that there was never the intention of malice. There was never a point where I wanted to do either of you wrong,” he said. He added the worst part was knowing he hurt Kristina. “I still have very strong emotions for her.”
Kristina was not impressed. “I hope that whoever’s next, in your relationship, that you will never treat them like that,” she said. “I was really willing to work on it, because I believed in you … it just came to a point, I had to say goodbye. But I’ll always have that love for you, because it was intense, but it was real.”
At that moment, Danielle had enough. “Okay, my point of view right now,” she said, looking at Dean. “If you were saying that you were in love with Kristina this whole time and that you love her, like, we left the show, and immediately after — like, within an hour — you called me.”
“Ohhhh,” the studio audience said. A look of fear flashed across Dean’s face. “In that — okay, in that regard — ”
“And you came over,” Danielle continued smoothly. “We had a relationship that unfolded after ‘Paradise,’ and you’re saying all this now. So then it’s like, you loved her, but then, did you just want to get with me and then go back to her? I don’t understand that.”
As Dean tried to talk his way out of it, Kristina implied that she and Dean had also been in touch after the show completed filming. “Careful, Dean, what you say, because I thought we tried, kind of, talking again?” she said. “But it’s just like, are you still flipping-flopping us both?”
Uh oh. “Yes, my indecisiveness carried on until after the season, and I understand that,” Dean said, looking thoroughly defeated.
An awkward pause later, Harrison offered him the opportunity for the final word to Kristina and Danielle. He went with this: “I’m sorry for my actions in ‘Paradise.’ I’m sorry for stringing you along as long as I did. Neither of you deserve that. You both are incredible people, and I’m sorry.”
With that, Dean officially sealed his fate as not-the-next-“Bachelor.” The “Paradise” finale was taped weeks ago, and last week, ABC announced that Arie Luyendyk, 35, will be the star of the franchise when it returns in January 2018. And hey, Dean leaves the show with 771,000 Instagram followers and a reputation as someone who can make headlines — and frankly, no one should feel too sorry for him, because other former reality stars have gone on to do more with less.