Once upon a time, Peter Weber’s season of The Bachelor felt more Real Housewives than Bachelor Nation. The tension of the season was defined by loopy infighting between Peter’s women — like Victoria Paul, Alayah Benavidez, and Victoria Fuller — more than any true romantic turbulence with the actual Bachelor (at least until Fantasy Suites). Then, once Peter’s love story imploded on countless fronts, the franchise as a whole moved on and back to Bachelor form.
That is until Monday night’s Bachelor in Paradise 2021 episode. “Week 2, Part 1” fully resurrects the “Scary Island”-esque chaos of Peter’s season, thanks to three women from that bygone era: Victoria P., Tammy Ly, and Kelsey Weier. The ensuing drama, which ends with Victoria P. leaving the Paradise beach via self-elimination, is a beautiful and ridiculous mess of reality TV art — with a whole lot of meaning about how Paradise gameplay is changing before our eyes.
Victoria P. commences with her own downfall early in the episode as she pursues James Bonsall, one of Paradise’s least attached men. “My energy healer friend told me that when you get the chills it means that you are in the right place with the right person. To be honest I haven’t felt that,” she says in a confessional. “But I want to get a rose because maybe there’s someone else here — or that’s coming, potentially — that I could connect with.” This is, as Tammy will later say, bald-faced “rose chasing.” Victoria’s actions are especially egregious since she also refuses to remember James’ name; she calls him “Jordan” in confessionals and conversations with other contestants. Victoria is already giving producers everything they need for a villain edit.
The scene takes a much weirder and more interesting turn on the precipice of the first Paradise season 7 rose ceremony. By now, Tammy and Kelsey — who had a major and painful feud during their initial Bachelor season — have teamed up to expose Victoria for a perceived Right Reasons violation. “She has a boyfriend who’s an aspiring country singer back at home,” Tammy tells a blindsided James. “She was with him literally Thursday. And they share a dog together.” James is unsurprisingly upset by this rumour. Kelsey, who lives in Nashville along with Victoria, corroborates the story.
A traditional Paradise narrative would drag out the Victoria mystery over at least two episodes for maximum television juice. This is not what happens. When James confronts Victoria, she says she and her “boyfriend,” now identified as musician Teddy Robb, broke up in May after a three-month relationship. Paradise filmed in June. “He encouraged me to step into this with an open heart. And that’s what I did,” Victoria continues, which is a statement that suggests she and Teddy always recognized the potential of a Paradise stint. As James asks casual questions to understand the gossip around Victoria, she gets defensive, claiming, “This is a freaking lot,” and demanding James “relax a little bit.” As someone in such a calm position he is practically sliding off of a beach daybed, James is the picture of relaxation.
The rest of Victoria’s time on the beach is defined by wacky attempts to use Instagram Story-level therapy proverbs as actual conversational tactics. “I’m sorry. I’m just having to take a minute because I’m really just more hurt that my friends couldn’t come to me and check me,” she tells James as a way to avoid explaining her “past” relationship any further. “I know this environment can bring out parts of people that aren’t real,” Victoria says to Tammy and Kelsey when she attempts to paint them as the villains here; she declines to explain what, exactly, about their allegations aren’t “real.” When Tammy and Kelsey make salient points about the reality of the situation, Victoria rattles off buzz phrases like “process my feelings,” “take a pause,” and “healthy boundary” before running away. Tammy and Kelsey are left annoyed and confused.
“I’m crying because I’m upset that the words I’m giving the people I love are being questioned,” Victoria says in a confessional. “Like I could not come into this without an open heart because that would require me to lie to somebody else. I can’t fake it! I can’t lie!”
Again, this is someone who repeatedly admitted she could not remember James’ name and simply needed a rose because nobody “wants to go home” yet.
Finally, Victoria quickly announces her decision to self-eliminate after crying to producers and in a confessional: “The best thing for me to do is to take all of me, imperfect me, growing me and… walk away from this.” Her tears did not work. This development appears to be unexpected for Victoria — hence her flight — and should be a surprise for audiences. As Metro UK’s Leona Awoyele wrote in January after an interview with British academic Alanah Mortlock, “white women’s tears are particularly potent as they are ‘attached to the idea of femininity’ and the ‘notion that white women need protection.’” After years of Bachelor Nation falling at the feet of such displays, someone finally questioned their sincerity. If such actions continue, the series could genuinely change for the better. After all, the cast was similarly unmoved in this same episode when Victoria Larsen sobbed and called Tahzjuan Hawkins, a dark-skinned Black woman, “aggressive” and “crazy” for approaching her with gentle criticism.
While Victoria has turned to Instagram Stories to confirm she is in fact single, her final appearance on Bachelor in Paradise offers one last bizarre cherry on the baffling sundae that was her storyline. In Victoria’s final line from her SUV exit interview she says, “I tried to make something work. And I realize that I don’t have to search for what I already have at home,” — which sure sounds like she has a man waiting back in Nashville. As they say on I Think You Should Leave, “Oh my God — she admit it!”