I’m exhausted, aren’t you? After two hours of watching Ben and Courtney and ABC try so hard to convince us that they’re a picture-perfect fairytale couple who defied the odds to find perfect, ultimate, forever-happiness, now we have to/get to spend an hour watching them all UNDO that with a little somethin’ called REALITY? Reality TV is exhausting enough. Reality-reality is a stonecold bummer.

The episode starts out strangely. Given the “sensitive nature” of these conversations, Chris Harrison literally asks us to “withhold judgment about this relationship.” Are you serious? I know you’re the host, Chris, but you do … know … what kind of show this is, right? And what kind of “fans” you have for your wicked bethemoth of a show? If we can’t judge, we may literally suffocate and die. And does that mean I’m not allowed to give my opinions about this episode in this article? Am I breaking any rules here? But I HAVE TO JUDGE! THIS IS MY JOB, TOO, HARRISON!

[Looks at self in the mirror, chugs a Hatorade] No! Don’t burn out now. This is your Iron Man, Carlson, and you’ve got a half-marathon worth of feelings left to wade through. Stay strong!

Just Ben in the Hot Seat

Chris Harrison first brings out Ben to discuss that romantic finale … and the horrific, traumatizing season that led up to it. But the thing with Ben is that he had NO IDEA that he was going to be so miserable watching the show back. Even after all the women warned him throughout the season, HE thought he had addressed those concerns and laid them to rest. He also never really believed their concerns in the first place, since, in Ben’s memory, the women couldn’t give him “specific examples” of Courtney’s poor behavior. Memory can be so convenient that way! Unfortunately, the Courtney Thing still blew up in his face, thanks to a pesky little thing called “video.”

Was he ever embarrassed? Ben says yes — because America didn’t get to see the entire side of the story. “I wasn’t being tricked, I wasn’t being fooled by this temptress,” he tells us. His disgust with humanity in general, and the tabloids and people like me specifically, is palpable. He would rather be getting his head waxed than be here.  Ben admits that he wishes Courtney had been more “gracious” in those bad moments — like when she asked Emily if she ought to take her apology “up the tail pipe” —  and that’s why they broke up.

Wait. THEY BROKE UP?! Yes, grab hold of that chair before you FALL OFF OF IT, because it’s true: Ben and Courtney were “not talking” for a few weeks while the show aired. After he watched her say “winning” for the eightieth time, Ben told Courtney he needed to take steps back and reassess.

And that’s when the “cheating rumors” started. The coverage in the tabloids has been “relentless,” Ben says. But he swears, ON HIS FATHER’S GRAVE (omg!) that he never cheated on Courtney. His mom must be so proud right now. Of the photos of him clearly kissing other women, Ben says, “I’m not kissing those other women. Period.” Well … OK?

Weirdly enough, that damaging rumor magically brought Ben and Courtney closer together, because instead of hating each other, they could hate the tabloids together. Ben says that it was Courtney’s plan to go out and try on wedding dresses in direct retaliation to all of Ben’s negative press, “just to mess with people.” Imagine what a terrible relationship a secret post-Bachelor relationship is, if THAT’S how they band together and show their affection. Chris says, “You guys clearly are very weird.” Chris would try on a wedding dress if it could get him the same amount of attention.

courtney-atfr1.jpgJust Courtney in the Hot Seat

Courtney comes out in a tight white dress — very Vegas wedding. The producers paid some of the audience members to boo her so that Chris can ask Courtney how it feels to have America hate her. She blames the “hurtful” media, not the show that painted her in a very specific, very negative light — a light that SHE personally shined often and proudly.

Courtney says that she and Ben were happy for about a month before the show started airing. Ben even had Thanksgiving with her family. They broke up the week before Valentine’s Day, and Ben didn’t even send flowers or a card. That monster. “There were days when I just laid in bed and cried,” she says. Chris asks if Ben was supportive throughout all this (she just told you in specific ways how he WASN’T), and Courtney says, “he was initially, but then he abandoned me.” She picked up the anvil that was their dying relationship and tried to carry the burden all on her own, but her upper arm strength just couldn’t do it. “At least if we break up,” she thought at the time, “I’ll know that I put everything into it.”

Chris asks if they’re a couple now, and Courtney says yes, … “I think.” She cries and says that she loves him and wants to make it work, but she’s confused. “I need to be able to see him and be normal. Just have a normal relationship. We need to have some talks. We need to talk about a lot.” Off-camera, preferably.

(I know that I, as a member of the evil MEDIA, am supposed to withhold judgment for now. But my roommate isn’t in the media, and she just yelled, “Courtney, you were evil to everyone on national TV, what did you think was gonna happen? And JESUS, Ben, grow some balls!” So I can share that without getting in trouble, right?)

ben-courtney-atfr3.jpgBen and Courtney, Together Again

Ben’s hair tells the story of his frazzled last few months, trying to figure out whether he knows the true Courtney or not. Chris astutely notes that both of them seem to feel optimistic, but still have “trust issues.”

Courtney still seems genuinely shocked that most viewers hate her, but she’s sort of come to terms with it and instead wants to move forward with Ben, despite the trust issues. Ben says that they love each other and they KNOW it’s going to work, and sounds super annoyed that he has to keep telling us that. Chris to Courtney: “So you have no doubts?” Courtney: “Umm…?” She feels like people don’t like her honesty (they don’t), but if she’s being honest — yes. Well, I like THIS Courtney! The one that admits that NOT having doubts in her relationship would be the crazy thing. NOT the one who said Elyse was ugly or that Kacie was dumb or that Emily was annoying or that Jamie was stupid or that Blakeley was a hooker or that Lindzi didn’t have depth. That was rude.

Chris asks Ben to look into Courtney’s eyes and say that he won’t abandon her (HOW ROMANTIC!!!!!!!!!), and he does, but again seems annoyed to have to do it. They both promise to work through it and love each other FOREVER NO MATTER WHAT, whether it makes them miserable or not!

I think it might be in Chris Harrison’s contract to get these forced, false promises out of a final Bachelor couple, and if he doesn’t, they cut his tie budget in half for the next season. He wants those positive answers BAD, so Chris now forces them to watch their proposal in Switzerland, to remember how they felt about each other when everything was beautiful and fake. Life was so easy back then. When it wasn’t really life.

The clip ends. No one claps. Courtney starts crying. “That was the happiest day of my life!” Chris asks what she whispered in Ben’s ear just then, and she says, “A lot of I love yous.” These interviews are starting to remind me of those pre-Games interview scenes in The Hunger Games. WE ARE THE CAPITAL! WE MUST BE APPEASED!

Chris notes that Courtney’s not wearing her ring, and then reaches into his suit jacket and pulls it out. (The ring, not the gun that he keeps there and puts in his mouth every night when he thinks about the lives he’s helped destroy.) Ben says “I very much want her to have this again,” and puts that ring back on Courtney’s finger. They say that they think “this will end in a wedding … but when? Who knows?” We’re really playing fast and loose with the word ‘forever’ around here, aren’t we?

Talking to the Actually Happy Couple

To distract us from the trainwreck we just witnessed, Chris brings out the chipper chipmunks from Chipville, Ashley Hebert and J.P. “Cupcake” Rosenbaum. Ashley starts off by saying that she can relate to what Courtney’s going through, because people called her “ugly and stupid” during her season. Ashley, for the record, I never called you ugly because you are not, and I’m pretty sure I only said you were acting stupid. Also, nobody EVER called Courtney ugly and stupid. They call her a beautiful evil mastermind.

JP says that Ben “has a really good head on his shoulders, he’s one of the good guys,” so he thinks they can make it work. Bless your heart and sexy bald head, JP. Then we all give Chris the side-eye when he submits that since Ashley is now “America’s darling,” maybe soon these hard times will also be just a faint memory for Ben and Courtney. Stop trying to make false parallels between these two couples, Chris. We’re not buying it!

Time for the relationship update! JP jokes that Ashley is pregnant, and Ashley SCREEEAMS with delight because she absolutely hates tabloid rumors, hates them SO much. So that was a lie, and really just another chance for Chris to joke about how HUGELY FAT 80-pound Ashley is. Ashley recently graduated from doctor school, and it’s hinted that she makes JP call her “doctor” in bed. Ahhhh! I did not want to know that!

They’re still talking about the wedding, but nothing’s set in stone yet, though JP says that Ashley was sending him texts pictures of rings yesterday. At least she tells JP that he shouldn’t have told everyone that, because that makes her sound pretty crazy. Ashley says they’re hoping to get married within the year. That’s when things go off the rails. Ashley: “I always thought it would be romantic to get pregnant and then get married!” JP joke-yells at her for getting that silly non-rumor started all OVER again, and then Chris Harrison offers to officiate their wedding. Did all three of them get high together before the show? They’re just SAYING THINGS! 

Ashley’s advice to Emily Maynard, the next Bachelorette: “Just be open and have fun with all the guys! You’re going to go through hard times, but the hard times are what is going to lead you to THE MAN.” The producers must think it’s pretty neat how they’ve convinced the stars of these shows that going through hell is both normal and necessary. It opens up so many opportunities for fear dates!

Chris ends with an afterthought wish of happiness for Ben and Courtney, and then reminds us all to tune in when Emily’s Bachelorette season premieres on May 14. One chapter closes, and another begins. Love springs eternal on The Bachelor — thanks to that endless list of applicants willing to play the game over and over, season after season. But whether it can last? Well … I’ve been told to withhold my judgment on that one.

What did you think of The Bachelor finale and the After the Final Rose?

(Images courtesy of ABC)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.