We’re seeing the first same-sex love story taking off in Bachelor Nation. It’s a big deal for this often-traditional franchise, and it’s about time.
On Tuesday night’s episode, host Chris Harrison takes “Bachelor in Paradise” contestant Demi Burnett aside to say that he’s “come to a decision that I think is going to put you in the best decision” to find love. Then he brings out someone who’s been on Demi’s mind a lot lately: Kristian, a 25-year-old woman she’s been dating back home.
As soon as Demi see Kristian, she starts to cry and they kiss. “I’ve missed you,” Demi says. Kristian has missed her, too. Demi tells Kristian that she’s been seeing a man (Derek Peth) while in “Paradise,” but that she’s had a hard time figuring out what she wants. Now that Kristian is here, Demi is clear. “You kept coming to the forefront of my mind,” Demi tells her. “I want to be with you.”
On other countries’ Bachelor-type shows, female contestants have gotten together during the season (as in Vietnam) or after (as in Australia). But this the first time an American “Bachelor” spin-off has showcased a same-sex couple.
Before Demi and Kristian can be together on “Paradise,” Demi wants to tell Derek what’s going on. “You’ve probably felt me be a little off,” Demi tells Derek, adding that she’s been thinking about someone else back home – and that’s where her heart is. “She’s going to stay here and I’m going to pursue my relationship with her here,” Demi says.
The “Bachelor” shows have long been criticized for their lack of diversity when it comes to sexual orientation and race. So when this moment, which has been teased all season, arrived – Twitter’s response was mixed but mostly positive. Some thought Demi should have gone home rather than be allowed to stay and bring someone new into the fold. Former Bachelor Nick Viall tweeted that Demi and Kristian’s reunification was the “first mutual connection I’ve believed all season.”
Derek appears devastated, but he’s mature and gracious about Demi’s decision.
“If this is what makes you happy, you’re making the right decision,” he tells her, noting that he wants to speak with Kristian before she joins them in Paradise.
The three of them sit down, and even though Derek is clearly hurt, he recognizes that he and Kristian have something strong in common: Mutual love and admiration for Demi.
“It’s bittersweet to meet you, I guess,” he tells Kristian.
“There’s no animosity between us,” Derek tells Demi. “It’s just hard. ... It’s hard to give something up when you’ve had that feeling of what something could be.”
Bachelor viewers were so impressed with how Derek handled the news that many of them called for him to be the next Bachelor.
Derek is clearly personally hurting while expressing support for Demi. It’s not his first “Paradise” relationship to start off strong and then fizzle. During “Paradise” Season 4, Derek dated and got engaged to Taylor Nolan, but they broke up about a year later. “It’s all so much. ... Am I just always going to be there for other people? Is that going to be my life? It would hurt no differently (if it was a man or a woman) ...
Once Demi introduces Kristian to the rest of the contestants, they welcome her and the new couple gets a date card. Derek and Demi even share a hug before she leaves on her date.
Now reunited, Kristian lets Demi know that it’s hard for her to know that she’s had “romantic moments with somebody else.”
“It made me feel like you doubted us and you had to test that,” Kristian says. “And I didn’t have to test that.”
Demi responds maturely, acknowledging that she has difficulty with commitment because she’s scared of not having control of her emotions. But she doesn’t want to run anymore, Demi tells Kristian. “I want to commit to you ... and I’ve never wanted to commit to someone before,” she said.
Then the two women exchange “I love you’s” that feel markedly different from most other expressions of emotion on this show.
“I love you,” Kristian says to Demi.
“I love you so much,” Demi responds.
It feels natural, not forced, between them. No one is holding back from saying “I love you, too.” They’ve had the chance to form a relationship without the camera’s intrusive glare – and it shows. After being apart, they’re choosing to be together.