Tonight’s episode of Bachelor in Paradise starts by prompting a terrifying question: Are some of these people too young to have experienced *NSYNC? The show opens with the contestants coming across a boombox and a note that says “play me." “It’s Gonna Be Me” blasts from the speakers, and soon, guest host Lance Bass reveals himself. Everyone seems excited, but I can’t help but think about how young some of them are. I regret to inform anyone over the age of 30 that “Tearin’ Up My Heart” was released the year that Serena P was born: 1997.
But with this crisis about the passing of time out of the way, the episode soon launches into the new arrivals and the new drama. We get a Bachelorette villain, who's still sort of being a villain, and a nice guy who mixes things up for our old buddy Connor the Cat.
Thomas’ mere presence stirs up trouble
When Thomas (Katie Thurston’s Bachelorette) arrives, the women think he’s hot and want to ditch their dudes for him; the guys from Katie’s season (mainly Aaron) still hate him. Still, the main issue they have with him is that he considered whether he could be the Bachelor. “He openly admitted it? Never a good idea,” Grocery Store Joe says with a much appreciated tinge of sarcasm. Look, I'm not the biggest Thomas fan, but the Bachelor argument doesn’t hold much water when all of you are now on your second reality show.
Thomas asks Serena on his date, which worries Joe and reminds him of his situation from BIP 5 in which his ex Kendall almost left him for Leo. “Leo from my season. Fuck him. Still,” Joe says. (Leo actually was awful, by the way.) Joe says he’ll consider leaving Paradise if Serena is into Thomas and goes back to moping around while wearing no-show socks and Adidas slides.
Meanwhile, Thomas and Serena ride a banana boat, flirt, and kiss. Serena asks Thomas about why everyone from his season hates him. (When Paradise was filming, Katie’s season hadn’t aired yet.) He explains that it’s all petty show drama, which is true as far as we know.
Back from the date, Serena tells Joe that she told Thomas he should pursue other people. Joe turns from Sad Grocery Store Joe into Happy Grocery Store Joe once again.
Thomas is annoyed that the guys are talking crap on him because it could have lost him a connection with Serena. Then, in a convo with Tahzjuan, she tells him, oh no, my man, this lost you a connection with everyone. I love her.
Thomas confronts the guys from his season and says Serena rejected him because she didn’t want drama. But then he apologizes to them for interrupting their time with Katie, being an asshole, and lying to Tre about something that’s left vague. Aaron accepts this apology, but says he isn’t ready to be friends. Tre is actually quite moved by it and wants to give Thomas another chance.
The problem is, Serena is on another part of the beach telling a bunch of people about how Thomas told her Tre isn’t “emotionally strong.” When Thomas said this, he explained that he sees Tre as a little brother who needs to be protected — not a great date convo and obviously something that might get back to Tre, which it does. Tre confronts Thomas right away, telling him that he’s done with him and this is their last conversation. Can’t blame him! And I don’t feel great about Thomas getting a rose next week.
Riley & Maurissa’s “dinner” date
Riley (Clare & Tayshia’s Bachelorette) arrives on the beach, everyone fawns over his muscular arms, and Tahzjuan reveals that he is “the entire reason why I’m here in Paradise.” Sorry, Tre, she did not actually come here to end up with a guy whose uncle she kissed. She straight up tells Riley this, but unfortunately for her, he chooses Maurissa — who had been hanging with Connor — for the date.
Maurissa says this is the first "romantic date" she has ever been on. (She left Peter's Bachelor season night one.) Unfortunately for her, the date is hosted by Lance Bass, who reveals they’re playing a game that could involve eating bugs, hot peppers, a pig snout, basically a lot of Fear Factor-type stuff (the early aughts references just keep coming!). They have to either answer questions or eat an item. They won’t answer “How many people have you slept with?” so they have to take a bite of a tongue from an unidentified animal. After not telling their “most embarrassing story” they have to eat tripe. You get the idea. Neither of them seem too bothered by the challenges. They even start kissing during the game and right in front of Lance, because their sexual chemistry is so strong that tripe breath can’t stop it.
They get to have a real dinner afterward with a more serious conversation about how they’re looking forward to marriage and kids. Maurissa shares how she struggled in relationships in the past and lacked confidence. Riley is receptive to her saying she likes to have a lot of reassurance. They make out as Connor’s guitar provides the soundtrack. “I know a place we can go,” Riley whispers. Bold move, Riley! They head to the private room (the “smush room” to use Jersey Shore parlance) while Connor the Cat walks sadly along the beach.
Couples try to clear things up — no one is eliminated
After not getting the date with Riley, Tahzjuan seems like she should probably throw in the towel… but she doesn’t. Instead, she and Tre talk it out and decide to keep getting to know each other. Once again, we get confirmation from her that he is a better kisser than his uncle.
Then there’s Natasha and Brendan. Natasha doesn’t feel like there’s a romantic connection with him and is confused that he hasn’t tried to makeout with her. He says he likes her more and more each day. She says “something’s not clicking.” They leave it at that. Could the problem be that he’s waiting for Pieper? It certainly seems like it.
Fashion moment of the night: Grocery Store Joe’s head scarf. He wrapped what appeared to be a strip of excess fabric from a sewing project around his head. As Joe admitted in the first episode, he forgot to get a haircut, so the whole look is very Survivor.
Quote that could go on a novelty mug: “I’m a very inside person, so I’m sitting inside, chilling.” —Maurissa to Riley when asked what she likes to do for fun.
Best chyron: Tre, 26, “Better kisser than his uncle”