“Shoulders back. It’s okay. I’ve seen you worse, right?” Those are the jarring words we heard from Kristina Schulman about a quarter of the way into Bachelor In Paradise 2019’s finale reunion special. She sounds like a Dance Mom mom. Her charge is Blake Horstmann, who is sobbing backstage at the live taping of the episode.
If you didn’t know any better, you would assume it was Blake who was thoroughly devastated during his moment in the classic Bachelor(ette) live-show hot seat. But, he’s not. Because, somewhere else on that soundstage, you would find Caelynn Miller-Keyes also sobbing. In that case, it’s Dean Unglert wiping away the tears.
It’s difficult to remember a time when emotions ran this high during a Bachelor Nation reunion special (all parties involved even seem superhumanly detached during The Bachelorette’s chilling Luke Parker debrief). Yet, the moment producers ask for everyone to return to the stage, Blake and Caelynn both dry their faces and slink into their seats, dropping the most epic and thorny conversation of the evening. The subject of their text messages, which were leaked by Blake in August 2019, is never brought up again. It’s disappointing and fans deserved more.
So, let’s really dive into the Blake fiasco now.
The beginning of Blake’s Chris Harrison-led interrogation suggests trouble is on the way. “I was surprised by the anger a lot of these women have,” he says. Then he says he doesn’t want to say Kristina “attacked him” on their first Paradise season 6 date… but she attacked him. These are deeply oblivious statements.
But, the real darkness appears when Blake says that everything should have been fine between him and Caelynn on Paradise — that the texts messages prove they spoke about their relationship and game plan at length beforehand. He skips over the part of this story where he released the texts without Caelynn's permission and needed to delete them from his Instagram due to the dangerous amount of vitriol she received. “You’re pulling from text messages, very perfectly-selected text messages, that make you look good,” Caelynn shoots back. “That make me look bad. And that’s not fair.”
No matter how frustrated some fans may be that Caelynn picked semi-reformed, van-living playboy Dean over Good Guy Connor Saeli, they have to admit she has a point. The text messages reveal some of Caelynn’s most private sexual thoughts. Blake put those out there knowing she would get blowback. Both Caelynn and Dean confirm as much since they reveal Blake called Caelynn before posting the screenshots and also texted Dean.
“I told you that was going to happen,” Caelynn says exasperatedly when Blake claims he has no idea people would be so awful to her. “You knew all of this was going to happen.” We’re left wondering if Blake simply couldn’t believe Caelynn about the slut-shaming she would receive or didn’t care.
As Blake listens to his entire cast explain to him why his betrayal of Caelynn was terrible, you can almost understand his point. He defends himself by saying Caelynn accused him of seducing her and then silencing her, which aren't “light allegations,” as he says. Blake had the right to protect himself against claims Caelynn herself has admitted were an “overreaction” during filming.
But, Blake didn’t have to set a slut-shaming trap through his texts. There were 1,000,000 other options that included asking Caelynn to release a joint statement that would be fair to both of them. It could have been a video, helping kick off one or both of their lifestyle vlogging careers. The alternative options are endless and it’s impossible to believe Caelynn wouldn’t have picked one of them over what happened.
But, he didn’t have to set a slut-shaming trap through his texts. There were 1,000,000 other options that included asking Caelynn to release a joint statement that would be fair to both of them. It could have been a video, helping kick off one or both of their lifestyle vlogging careers. It’s impossible to believe Caelynn wouldn’t have picked one of them over what happened, especially when you take into account her history as a sexual assault survivor and advocate.
On Twitter, people are now qualifying her past (tweeting things like “if Caelynn is a survivor of rape”) and calling her a “manipulative bitch.” As Caelynn tearfully says, “I’ve never felt so exposed or violated in my entire life. I truly feel disgusting that everyone has seen that shit … Your whole point in this was just to discredit me, and you’ve done far more than that.” One can only imagine the nightmarish DMs Caelynn has been bombarded by in the wake of Blake’s leaks.
That’s why everyone begs Blake to just say sorry. At this point, Caelynn has already acknowledged her part in the drama, and they want Blake to do the same. It’s painful to watch him avoid those three little words, eventually apologizing for the fact that Caelynn got attacked and for her emotions in the moment. Yet, he never takes full responsibility for his part in directly causing her so much pain.
We already know Blake is headed back to his Stagecoach stomping grounds in 2020 — but maybe he should stay out of Paradise forever?
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please visit Shelter Space.