Yesterday, I noted that Bachelor In Paradise season 6 was neither as horny nor as boozy as it usually is. Between the shocking breadth of Blake Horstmann’s Stagecoach drama and the historic handling of Demi Burnett’s queerness, ABC’s most lovably messy reality show has been earnest and urgent in the places it used to be chaotic. Even Nicole Lopez either accidentally or on purpose pitting three men against each other for her own beachside enjoyment escalated to terrifying and near-fatal levels.
But, one person is still playing by the original, wild rules of Paradise: Kristina Schulman, officially putting the shadow of her Dean Unglert-Danielle Lombardi love triangle far behind her. The new Kristina may not be the villain Paradise wants (ask Sayulita newbie Caitlin Clemmens), but she’s certainly the villain Paradise needs right now.
BIP first signals Kristina is up to old school soap opera villainy in Monday night’s “Week 3, Part 1,” during the second rose ceremony of Paradise 2019. After days of drama on the beach, it appears Blake will finally be kicked off of the show. His main love interest, Hannah Godwin, has officially picked Dylan Barbour; Blake’s initial Paradise target, Tayshia Adams, has moved on to John Paul Jones; Blake’s former hookup Caelynn Miller Keyes couldn’t be more fed up with him. When Blake’s former flame Kristina is tapped to hand out the final rose, everyone expects this will be her ultimate revenge after the Stagecoach fiasco. Now Kristina can be the one to send Blake home.
Instead, she turns the rose over to her ex, saving Blake from elimination.
Kristina caps her twist decision by telling Blake she believes he is “a good person” and deserves to find love in Paradise like anyone else. However, Kristina didn’t only keep Blake around out of the goodness of her heart. “I think people are surprised with my decision tonight,” Kristina says in a confessional. “Sure, I want Blake to stick around and find love, if that’s what you’re here for. But then Blake would have to watch Hannah and Dylan together. He accepted my rose. In a way, he’s choosing to stay in his personal hell.”
With a coy smile and a shrug, Kristina reveals the true depths of her scheming — she's playing the long game. It’s a plot diabolical enough to make you scream out loud in shock, and one so welcome in a show meant to be as harmlessly dramatic as Paradise.
Kristina continues to unapologetically manipulate the Blake situation in “Week 3, Part 2.” Her goal is to remain on the beach until someone who actually piques her interest walks down the Paradise stairs. The only way for Kristina to ensure such a legitimate romantic event happens is if Blake supplies her with "friendship roses" until such a mystery man appears. Kristina confirms as much. At the top of the episode, Derek asks if Kristina is feeling anything “emotional” for Blake, and she shoots back with a laugh, “No, I just want his rose.” At one point, Caelynn tells Caitlin she heard Kristina dub the evening “a rose hunt.”
This mounting drama reaches its climax with two big conversations around Blake's up-for-grabs rose. With Blake, Kristina toys with the fact that “Caitlin,” the name of Blake’s latest love interest, sounds a lot like “Caelynn,” his Stagecoach hookup and greatest Paradise critic. Then she suggests Blake will regret giving Caitlin his rose over Kristina and asks directly if he’s not planning to return the rose favour. Blake sidesteps the question rather than reiterating his genuine interest in Caitlin.
Caitlin then confronts Kristina about her interest in Blake. She points out that if Kristina were really Blake’s friend, she would be encouraging him to find real love in Paradise. Caitlin goes so far as to ask whether Kristina has explored any romantic relationships of her own. Kristina decimates Caitlin’s very fair argument, claiming her intentions and actions should have no effect on Caitlin’s relationship with Blake (this is impossible). Kristina’s two best lines out of the conversation are, “Focus on your relationship with Blake — if that’s what you have,” and “There’s nothing wrong with me wanting a friendship rose to stick around.”
Usually, wanting to “stick around” Paradise for fun, rather than with an established partner, is a cardinal Bachelor Nation sin. But, Kristina is spinning defenses so quickly, Caitlin doesn't even have time to make that argument.
Caitlin walks away from the conversation tearing up. She is weeping by the time she ends up in a confessional. “I’m not doing anything wrong. It’s her that’s here manipulating everybody,” Caitlin swears, trying to convince the camera as much as herself. After one conversation with Kristina, Caitlin has been reduced to a puddle. On the other hand, Kristina leaves the chat mumbling that Caitlin is “immature” and then gets on with her evening.
Caitlin has already lost the first battle for Blake’s rose. And, considering Kristina is stronger than ever this season, she is poised to lose the war, too. Breaking bad has never been more fun.