If there’s one unquestionably good thing about Bachelor In Paradise 2019 it’s the rise of Demi Burnett. The 24-year-old has gone from polarizing Bachelor contestant to game-changing BIP star. After years of watching heterosexual couples populate Salyulita for ABC, Demi brought a complicated and honest queer coming out story to Paradise.
But, it was difficult to understand why Demi was allowed to stay in Mexico after she choose outside-of-the-game girlfriend Kristian Haggerty over fellow BIP contestant Derek Peth. Traditionally, picking a non-Bachelor Nation love interest immediately ends a cast member’s time on the series. Those are just the rules. Yet, the summer show instead bent itself backwards to keep Demi and Kistian, a stable and seemingly untouchable LGBTQ+ pairing, in the mix.
It was difficult not to wonder if Bachelor Nation producers were exploiting Demi and Kistian’s love story to score their show ally points after throwing out countless botched queer stories over the years. However, Monday night’s “Week 6, Part 1” proves the reality show has more of a reason to keep the their best queer pairing in Sayulita than patting itself on the back.
Demi and Kristian are far from an impossibly perfect couple. Demi and Kristian are still fantastic, necessary television.
We get our first inkling something might be amiss in Demi and Kristian’s relationship just before Katie Morton and Chris Bukowski’s “Week 6, Part 1” date. “It’s hard to be vulnerable and put your guards down and trust somebody with your whole heart,” Kristian says in confessional, supposedly about her friends. Yet, it sounds like Kristian might just be projecting her own feelings onto another established BIP duo.
We learn that hunch is correct around the mid-way point of the episode, when Demi admits she isn’t “touchy-feely” with Kristian. But, Demi also feels like her girlfriend can’t stop mindlessly flirting with other women on the beach. “I hate seeing it,” she says in confessional before getting introspective, adding “I don’t know if maybe she’s lacking physical touch from me and so she’s going to get it from somewhere else? But I don’t think that that’s fair.”
Soon enough, Demi’s irritation turns to vulnerability. First we learn Demi has never been in a relationship based in PDA-friendly touch. Then she admits she is worried she isn’t “giving Kristian enough” through physical touch. And, eventually, Demi opens up about the fact she is still “worried” about how the people around her will respond to her queerness. “It shouldn’t matter, but it does. And I hate that my brain works that way,” she admits. “But I’m just scared … It has everything to do with me being comfortable being gay around people.”
It’s a stunning reminder than Demi is Paradise’s most hilarious, vocal star and she is still struggling with living her sexually fluid truth every single day in front of the cameras. As Demi says, “It’s not like I’m just like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m with [Kristian],’ and every wall is broken down and every fear is banished.” Right now, her fears include people calling her relationship “weird” or staring. So Demi is caught between those anxieties and increasing guilt for not overcoming them quickly enough to give Kristian what she wants right this second.
If Demi’s BIP story had closed with her choosing Kristian weeks ago, viewers would have been given a false fairy tale ending when something much more interesting, and real, was on the horizon.
A quick Demi-Kristian exit would have also deprived viewers of the couple’s “Week 6, Part 1” reconciliation. After a spiritual cleansing date that is bound to start some cultural appropriation discussions, Demi and Kristian have a sit down. At last, Demi unburdens everything she has been bottling up inside. “I feel like I’m not good enough because I can’t be touchy for you,” Demi confesses. But, it’s more than that. Demi is worried that her inability to evolve around PDA will eventually alienate Kristian, forcing her to leave Demi. Then, Demi feels guilt for not being able to get over her fears in a homophobic world.
Kristian disarms each of these panics like magic. “You are enough,” she assures Demi. “You’re everything to me. You are enough” It’s one of the most guilelessly romantic moments of Bachelor in Paradise season 6. Thanks to some open communication on both women's part, the date ends with a meaningful hug rather than an upsetting breakup.
In an episode of classic reality TV hijinks, this is the emotional center viewers needed. We’re lucky ABC kept Demi and Kristian around long enough to give it to us.