In an early episode of this season’s The Bachelor, Corinne Olympios eviscerated the show’s meanest girl at a campfire with the same tactics my mom taught me in fifth grade. The only difference between 10-year-old me and 24-year-old Corinne, a self-professed millionaire with a nanny, was that Corinne knew exactly what to say.
After Corinne’s departure from the show on last night’s episode, and ahead of what is sure to be a bitter reunion during the Women Tell All special with Bachelor Nick Viall next week, it’s important to revisit this particular scene. Every aspect embodies my elementary-school playground: the fuming jealousy (over a boy); being attacked for something moronically trivial (like taking a nap); all the pent-up emotions (crying, tears). The bully in question was Taylor, a certified mental-health counselor (!) who trash-talked Corinne to all the girls in the house, refused to acknowledge her in passing, and made her cry in front of the group. So it made sense when Corinne pulled Taylor outside to roast her over a campfire. She’d had enough.
Growing up, I felt the same way about the Christinas, two pretty fifth-graders who shared a name and a distaste for smart girls. They excluded me from birthday parties, ignored me during recess, and referred to one redheaded girl in our class as “It.” That was nauseating, but then it got comically worse: In middle school, another Christina arrived and there were three awful Christinas. In high school, the Christinas were eclipsed in wealth and coolness by four girls who were the veneered, real-life versions of Regina George: They wore designer clothes, drank alcohol, and drove expensive SUVs to school.
So I felt a kind of whiplash, while watching this particular episode of The Bachelor, when Corinne’s protests were the same words my mom taught me late at night in my pink-walled bedroom. Perched on my twin bed, we rehearsed one-sentence, excruciatingly kind comebacks. “I can’t believe you said that,” we’d practice. “It’s so unlike you to say something so mean!”
My mom advised starting confrontations with how the nasty person makes you feel, because no one can argue with your feelings — they’re indisputably yours to own. With Taylor, Corinne expertly begins this way: “I just feel like the way you’ve been treating me … is disgusting,” she says at the campfire. “And I would have never, ever, ever, ever have gotten to this point or said anything until you made me cry in front of the group. I think it’s really mean, and you really hurt my feelings.”
When Taylor retorts that Corinne’s just dumb (lacking “emotional intelligence”), Corinne sugarcoats her comeback with thoughtfulness: “With the utmost respect for you,” she says, her voice dripping with the generosity of this courtesy, “let’s stop playing Miss Proper here. You’re treating me like an idiot. I did not treat you like an idiot.” Another flashback: Treat others the way you want to be treated! (My mom’s golden rule.)
And just like my mom’s go-to phrase (“That’s so unlike you!”), Corinne finishes by showing Taylor why she’s a bad person: “Taylor, I really think that you feel that you’re superior in certain ways to other people, and I don’t think that you should feel that way. … You’re just not nice.”
She’s just not nice! They leave the campfire, fuming. In the next episode Corinne is victorious again, at a voodoo priestess’s card table in the Bayou. On a two-on-one date with Nick and Taylor, which Corinne goes on to win, Corinne tells Nick she’s being bullied, and Taylor reacts like all of my bullies did by completely denying it.
“I feel like I’m in high school again,” Taylor tells her interviewer, pouting like the four Plastics at my own high school. “Corinne used her time with Nick to say that I bullied her and called her stupid. That’s not what happened. That relationship will be built on whipped cream and lies.” Whipped cream and lies! Taylor is upset but Taylor is delusional, and a liar, because she forgets exactly what she told Corinne that night at the campfire. She said:
My concern is just not feeling confident that you are in a place to enter into a committed, romantic, healthy, fulfilling relationship. … There have been times over the last few days that I didn’t know if you had the maturity or the emotional intelligence or the coping skills to deal with that. Intelligence can mean a variety of different areas …
And then Taylor explained what intelligence means to Corinne, an adult woman. After Nick sends Taylor home, she truly cannot believe it: “I am not a bully. I am not a bad person. I am certainly not the villain in this experience.” My mom paraphrased the classic mean-girl’s reaction many times at our kitchen table: “‘I am not my own fault!’”
Bless The Bachelor’s editors, in this one instance. Corinne gets the last word: “Bullies never, ever get a happy ending,” she tells the camera, echoing my mom’s promises. “You were rude, you got what was coming to you.” Just like Taylor, the mean girls at my school did, too.
To me, Corinne standing up to someone dumbing her down represents a chronic struggle women have to endure from elementary school to old age. It’s strange and awful, how mean girls are always there somewhere in your life. All season, The Bachelor’s producers tried so hard to get us to hate, and dismiss, Corinne. What they forgot, though, is that we all see a little of ourselves in her.