Last week, Tanner Tolbert incited a Bachelor Nation civil war with just a few words. “So it's okay for Demi to have a relationship back home... but not for Jed? Got it," the Bachelor In Paradise alum wrote in a now-deleted tweet. The message connected The Bachelor(ette)’s current No. 1 villain, Jed Wyatt, and the ABC franchise’s rising sweetheart, Demi Burnett. To make matters even worse, the tweet came just one day after BIP newbie Burnett started talking about her sexual fluidity with her co-stars, including love interest Derek Peth.
Still, Tolbert continued defending his statement, writing, “I am tired of everyone talking beforehand and pre planning these relationships... whether it’s Demi, Blake, anyone,” effectively comparing Paradise’s first multidimensional queer star and this season’s bumbling villain, Blake Horstmann. Monday night’s episode, “Week 3, Part 1,” proves just how very wrong that line of thinking is. Demi couldn’t be further from the actions of Jed, Blake, or any other Bachelor Nation bad guy.
When you look at Demi’s basic behavior — without the context of her sexuality or anxieties around broadcasting it to the world — you’ll already see a difference between her and the Jeds of the world. Demi came into Paradise season 6 honest about where she was in her romantic life. Her introductory package disclosed her fluidity and non-exclusive relationship with a woman named Kristian (whom Demi doesn’t name until “Week 3, episode 1”). Even at that time, before stepping foot in Sayulita, Demi confesses she is unsure about her romantic future, despite feelings for Kristian.
“It’s this constant indecisiveness in me,” she says in confessional. “I just feel like the only way for me to truly know what I want and how I want to love and who I want to love is if I try out Paradise.”
Those are exactly the same emotions Demi shares with Katie Morton, Tayshia Adams, and Derek about her outlook in “Week 2, Part 2.” And, it’s one she divulges fairly early in her burgeoning relationship with Derek. Demi comes to Paradise open to any of the people walking around the beach. She eventually settles on Derek and spends a few days getting to know him. Then, when she’s sure she is genuinely interested in Derek, Demi informs him she is sexually fluid and casually dating a woman back home. In “Week 3, Part 1,” when thoughts of Kristian continue to knock around Demi’s head, she pulls Derek aside again to share the full intensity of her emotions for both Kristian and him. There are no games and no lies here.
Jed, on the other hand, continued to couch or hide the tangled road that led him to The Bachelorette all the way up until Hannah Brown broke up with him, according to footage. As the reality show’s finale confirmed, Jed kept a girlfriend back home when filming began. He promised to return to her once his reality TV turn had garnered him enough fame to level up his music career. If multiple leaks hadn’t broken about Jed’s past, Hannah would never have learned any of this — not even after Jed supposedly bared his soul after production ended and he “won” The Bachelorette.
This simply couldn’t be further from how Demi has behaved. Demi is the kind of person who tells the camera in “Week 3, Episode 1,” “The connection is definitely there [with Derek]. I just feel guilty that there’s a woman I’m still thinking about. I don’t want to lose anyone, but one of them deserves to have all of me.”
On a surface level, it’s obvious Demi is trying to be mindful of everyone’s emotions. Then you take into consideration the fact that she is trying to blaze Paradise’s queer path, and you realize how difficult this situation must be for her. Previously, Jaimi King was previously reduced to a bisexual stereotype on her season. Demi is clearly worried about such pigeonholing, along with possible homophobic attacks.
“I’m coming to terms with everyone knowing who I am. Knowing this part of me that I’ve been scared to talk about. Scared to share with people,” Demi explains in a confessional. This is someone who has cried every time she brings up the fact her parents reacted kindly to her coming out. She has used the word “scared” more times than anyone could count about speaking publicly about her sexuality. In one confessional, Demi tearfully explains, “I have been surrounded by people my whole life who just made me feel really bad … and I just want to be 100% myself.”
It's clear why Demi waited a little while to open up to Derek about her sexuality and continues to struggle with knowing what she wants. She has seemingly been running away from those desires for some time. Still, Demi closes “Week 3, Part 2” explaining to Derek exactly how she feels about Kristian, overcoming many of her fears in the process. “I kind downplayed it a little bit, she says. “I really, really think about her a lot … I’m just so confused.”
Derek is understanding in the moment, telling Demi, “It’s okay to not know how you feel,” and reiterating his interest in her. He then took to Twitter on Monday night to defend his Paradise love interest, writing, “As you all watch this, I want to ask that you have as much empathy as you can for Demi. I’ve seen some really hurtful things being said that don’t reflect how I feel and I lived this … I think it’s unfair to assume we should all be clean slates bent on getting engaged because we’re on a show. This is our lives and we’re all just people seeking meaningful connections.”
If everything Demi’s done is good enough for Derek, it should be good enough for us.