Inside Bachelor in Paradise's Extreme Hookup Culture: Why Did Corinne & DeMario's Scandal Change the Game?
On a reality show that centers around couples forming and people hooking up, what about this specific circumstance raised the flag?
Sun, sand, drinks and a sense that nearly anything goes — it was a party atmosphere that made Bachelor in Paradise a wild ride for many contestants, and infectious viewing for its audience.
Then came a scandal that upended production, prompted an investigation into sexual misconduct by the show’s studio, Warner Bros., and exiled two contestants from the sybaritic eden that was the paradise’s Mexican resort set. Lawsuits still may follow. And while filming is now set to return any day now, producers say the cast members asked to return will be living in a much different Paradise.
Questions linger about just what happened between Corinne Olympios, 24, and DeMario Jackson 30, that caused two producers and a contestant to raise concerns and trigger the investigation. But what’s clear is that the party atmosphere in Paradise — where hookups made for screen time, alcohol was readily available, and contestants understood that sex made for great reality TV — won’t be quite the same.
“It’s a party vibe, and that’s generally the way that the show works,” a former producer from the franchise (who was not on the most recent BiP set) previously told PEOPLE about the culture of the Bachelor/ette spin-off series. “The whole point is that to succeed you need to make friends, and people feel it’s advantageous to drink and hook up and find a boyfriend or girlfriend.”
According to him, the hookups are largely spurred by the fact that Paradise is “like spring break, or summer camp.”
“It’s like real life is suspended,” he said. “Time is just different there. You’re filming around the clock, production is around-the-clock and it’s around-the-clock partying.”
“There’s a lot of sex on the various shows that happens that never airs,” he continued. “There are cameras everywhere and there’s nowhere to hide, so when cast members behave outrageously, they allow themselves to forget there are cameras — and just get caught up in the moment.”
Ryan Beckett, who competed on season 3 of BiP, echoed the producer’s claims that there is a copious amount of sex between contestants and the alcohol is free-flowing.
“It’s not unprecedented that people would get drunk and hook up on the show — it happens all the time,” he told PEOPLE.
Filmed in the beach village of Sayulita, Mexico, where the waters are warm and the sand is soft, it’s easy for contestants to quickly adapt to vacation mode and relish in the relaxation of the ocean backdrop — as well as abandon any typical concerns about drinking and driving.
“People drink like they were in college or on a cruise. They go out and they drink more because they don’t have to drive, they’re on vacation. I think people indulge more a lot more than they normally would,” said Beckett.
“We’d just go up to the bar and order a margarita or whatever,” Beckett continued, and added, “So it was always available, but it definitely was never forced on us.”
Though drinking may not be forced, it is encouraged — producers even acting as waiters and waitresses to serve their designated cast mates a cocktail (or two) as a form of liquid courage.
“The producers pump you up to talk to someone if you express interest. ‘You should talk to her. I’ll go get you a drink to take over to her,’ ” an insider told PEOPLE. “The producers often will have a drink with the cast as they’re buddying up to them. They encourage people to loosen up and put themselves out there.”
While Becket believes that producers “try to keep it, relatively speaking, as genuine as possible,” he admitted, “There’s some leading the horse to water, but at the end of the day, it’s always the cast that has to decide if they want to drink or hook up.”
But on a reality show that centers around the drama of couples forming and cast members hooking up — while still ultimately competing — what about Olympios’ and Jackson’s specific circumstance raised the red flag to stop production?
PEOPLE sources previously confirmed that production was halted after two producers voiced their concerns about the alleged sexual encounter between Jackson and Olympios — both of whom had reportedly been drinking heavily all day. On Tuesday, Warner Bros. released its first statement regarding the investigation to PEOPLE, announcing that it was complete — concluding that there was no evidence of misconduct — and that filming would continue.
According to season 4 cast mate Jasmine Goode, who witnessed some of Jackson and Olympios’ flirtations, no one seemed all that concerned while it was going on.
“Everyone saw them kissing and having fun together,” Goode said. “To me and everyone else, it just seemed like crazy fun Corinne that we’re used to, because for the next two days we kept filming.”
“There was other hookups between other cast members like any other season of Paradise, but for some reason this one is being brought to light,” she added.
Goode does admit that that at one point, she believes another contestant asked producers if they should intervene with Olympios’ drinking and were told she was “fine” — which leads to the question that many people were asking last week: If there was sexual misconduct, should the producers have intervened faster than they did?
Olympios’ lawyer believes so. “We’re going to see if she was in a situation where the producers should have shut this down sooner,” Martin Singer told PEOPLE.
“It was obvious something went significantly wrong here,” said Singer. “For them to shut down production like that? People have been killed on sets and they haven’t shut down productions.”
However, Walter Mosley, a lawyer for Jackson, told PEOPLE that the incident was nothing out of the ordinary, and that the taped footage would serve as proof that any sexual encounter between the two of them “was consensual.”
“The tapes will show that everyone, all of the participants of Bachelor in Paradise, were consenting to what was going on,” said Mosley. “And certainly his interaction with Corinne was a consensual interaction.”
(Warner Bros. said in a statement that the company does not intend to release the videotape of the incident, but a source close to production confirms that camps for both Olympios and Jackson have both reviewed the footage.)
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Olympios, meanwhile, has maintained that she has little recollection of the events surrounding that evening.
“I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened on June 4,” she said in a statement last week. “Although I have little memory of that night, something bad obviously took place, which I understand is why production on the show has now been suspended and a producer on the show has filed a complaint against the production.”
Now that production is set to resume, how will Warner Bros. ensure a similar incident won’t occur? A source close to production insists changes have been put in place, without going into specifics.
“In broad strokes, changes were made to ensure everyone’s safety,” said the source. “Obviously it’s to prevent anything like that happening again.”
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“It’ll probably be a different vibe,” Johnson (he went home after one day on BiP as a result of misconduct) told PEOPLE.
“I’m sure the producers will probably have some type of like, amount of drinks you can have in one hour or a limit per day. Something like that,” he continued, and added, “Just because, if you’re at the point where you’re going to shut the show down, you’re going to make some kind of drastic change.”
Bachelor in Paradise will return later this summer on ABC.
—With MARY GREEN, GILLIAN TELLING, LINDSAY KIMBLE, PATRICK GOMEZ & JANINE RUBENSTEIN