Gather round, kids, pour a bottle of wine and a packet of Miracle-Gro into an empty vase because it’s time for one final rose of potentially-everlasting love as yet another season of The Bachelor comes to its inevitable thorny conclusion.
The Ben Higgins legacy is a classic tale of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy falls in love with second girl, boy chooses one girl he loves more and banishes the other to Dumpsville, Population: 1.
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A romantic love story, for sure. And approximately three-fourths of a Mesnick, according to Chris Harrison.
Who Does Number Two Root For?
I can’t speak for the rest of Bachelor Nation, but I am ready for this journey to be over. It has unquestionably been one of the more likable seasons, with a tall, dark and handsome prize piece who seems to be a genuinely nice person.
Ben has been blunt and honest, which are traits of the well-constructed lawn rake his personality so closely resembles. He’s also sturdy and safe, like eating sugar-free Raisin Bran inside a Volvo.
But while it’s easy to wish Ben success in his quest for love, even at the expense of more dramatic women who would have compensated for Ben’s waiting-in-line-at-the-post-office-like existence, he needed a bit of help to keep it that way.
Chris Harrison to the Rescue
There was a noticeable lack of real craziness this season (really? No one thinks their widow story is amazing? We couldn’t have kept some chickens or ponies around the mansion a bit longer?), which led to mostly manufactured drama that was gleefully capped off with Ben professing his love to two women. And I stand by my statement that producers had to tell us in advance this was going to happen so as not to sway popular opinion.
Can you imagine if it had remained a surprise, like when Leah unexpectedly threw Lauren B. under the bus? If you had seen Ben drop the L-bomb on Lauren, you’d have been all like, hooooooly crap, I can’t believe Ben just became the first Bachelor to say “I love you” to a girl before the finale! It’s in the bag!
And then like, 10 minutes later, when he did the same thing to JoJo right before taking her to bed? If you didn’t know it was coming, your first thought would have been, wow, what an A-hole this dude is. More like it’s in the D-bag…
Without the predication, there’s a decent chance you hate or at least start to dislike Ben. Even Juan Pablo wasn’t that low. It most certainly ees not okay.
But luckily for Ben, all those promos allow us to chalk it up to the process and justify that under these circumstances, I guess a guy can be in love with two women. Just don’t tell the siblings that.
The Brothers Grimmsby
Speaking of which, and perhaps this is common knowledge to most, but I only recently learned that JoJo’s over-protective half-brother Ben Patton was one of the three men looking for love on the ill-fated Eva Longoria match-making extravaganza Ready for Love.
I thought brother Ben looked familiar, but since only two episodes ever aired on TV, all I remember from the show is that the guy from the Plain White T’s found his wife. Maybe General Patton’s aggression stems from the fact that he walked away with Angela Zatopek, a 24-year-old virgin waiting for marriage.
They obviously didn’t end up together, and perhaps she tops his wish-I’d-banged regret list, which comes with, um, pent-up frustration. If he’d just hit it one time, perchance he’d have been nicer to Ben (are you reading this, Stephanie?). As for the other half-brother, well, he’s probably always the bridesmaid.
Lauren B. or JoJo?
Lauren B. was my premiere episode favorite, along with Olivia, but I’m leaning team JoJo these days. She strikes me as being more dynamic, and she also appears to be the superior kisser.
After Chris Harrison welcomes the studio audience and both dudes in the crowd to the live finale, he hints at a first-of-its-kind After the Final Rose wedding (yeah, right). They’ve even flown in both families, Neil Lane and Ben’s pastor in case he actually is ready to tie the knot.
And then it’s back to Jamaica, where the women are basking in the glow of I love you’s while Ben makes a punching bag out of his own heart over which gal to wife up and which reject to kick to the curb of loneliness.
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All in the Family
Ben is about to introduce his two potential spouses to Amy and Dave, and their input means the world to him. His mother’s reaction when he says he’s in love with two women is the same as when you’re 4 and tell your mom you want to grow up and be either a rock star or a homeless person. She’s disturbed by the prospect, and it’s time to fill the wine glass.
Lauren B. is up first, and she’s apparently wanted to meet Ben’s family since night one. Mr. Higgins notices the gleam in all four of their eyes at the possibility of ending up together, and he takes Lauren’s proclamation of love to heart.
Mrs. Higgins is a bit more skeptical, though, asking Lauren if she’s seen the side of Ben where he’s pathetically sad and sensitive in front of other people his own worst critic. He can be intense and needs someone who can talk him off the ledge at times because it’s not all about the roses. And she needs to know who is going to mind her little man in the bad times because that’s the test you have to pass in order to have a successful marriage.
She wishes she had advice to make her son’s decision easier, but it all starts with not saying “I love you” to more than one woman without the other(s) knowing what’s going on in his head.
Lauren ends the date by pointing out how seriously she takes marriage, and meeting the parents was the final step to ready her for the plunge she hopes they take together. It’s smooches, goodbyes and on to the next.
The Way to a Man’s Heart is Through His Mother
The idea of meeting her potential in-laws is a source of anxiety for JoJo, and Ben notes her nerves before making the introductions. JoJo has brought an obligatory greeting plant, which I’m sure they’ll be packing in their suitcases to take back to Indiana and treasure forever. Still a nice gesture, though, and it’s mimosas instead of wine this time.
JoJo proclaims her love right off the bat and thanks them for getting it on 27 years ago to create this hunk of a man, and and she also covers the insecurity blanket issues prior to being asked.
She tells Dave that the idea of a proposal makes her heart happy, and she tears up while casting away any and all doubts. She loves Ben, and there will never be a day that goes by without her best friend knowing it. Dad was comparing JoJo to the bar Lauren had set, and she may have exceeded it.
JoJo gets equally emotional with Amy, promising that she and Ben will get through hard times together and that her intentions are pure. So it’s team JoJo for mom, who believes this is the woman with the ability to know what it takes to make Ben feel safe.
The day ended up being better than JoJo could have hoped, and she has zero doubts about whom she wants to spend her life with. She takes the extra step to ask Ben what he’s thinking and if they’re on the same page, and it’s a nice makeout before they part ways.
Ben confers with the ‘rents, and Dad lets him know that both choices are spot-on and he would say yes if he proposed. Lauren is polished, and they can see why he’d fall in love with her. But then there’s JoJo, who addressed all their questions and concerns before they were even mentioned. Everything about her was wonderful.
Mom is scared that Ben is making such a huge life decision without being sure of which lucky lady he’d prefer to marry, but at the end of the day, all she wants is for her son to be loved.
Ben was hoping for clarity, but he’s as confused as ever. C’mon, brah! Just pick JoJo already!
Lauren’s Last Stand
After Ben reiterates for the umpteenth time that he’s in love with two women and doesn’t know what to do, Lauren motors up on a tiny boat to meet him on a catamaran. The cutoff jean shorts are back in full effect, and there’s an awkward sense of aloofness on Ben’s part.
He’s decidedly guarded as she makes small talk, and he is playing the same role Caila did on her final date. Lauren inquires as to his thoughts, and he responds, “You’re beautiful. You want to go to the beach?” So naturally, she is instantly terrified.
She asks about his doubts, and his confusing answer is that things have been too perfect, and when things are too good to be true he freaks out. He doesn’t know what life will be like with her in tough times because they haven’t had any, while he and JoJo have already been through the ringer to some extent.
That actually does make sense, but is it enough to give up on a potential soul mate? It doesn’t sound fair to Lauren, but it honestly might be because those struggles make you stronger as a couple.
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The Sun Sets on Lauren and Ben
Lauren left the dayside portion of the date feeling defeated, knowing that Ben wasn’t himself but unsure of why or the strength of his relationship with JoJo. It’s almost like Ben is creating the tension to see how they handle it as a couple.
She opens up, professing her fears and stroking his ear while he remains emotionally distant. Even though they are expressing niceties, with her pressing and insisting that she’s invested for the long haul, it’s clear things are different.
It’s more hugs than kisses, and he closes the date out with a rather harsh, “No matter what happens, you’ve made me a better person.” It’s what every girl wants to hear, and it makes it even harder that it’s his shoulder on which she’d prefer to cry. And just like that, she’s sure this was the final time Ben will tell her he’s in love with her.
I still love me some Lauren B., even I’m confused about who I want Ben to end up with.
Let’s Get Real
Ben hops in a jeep and picks up JoJo for a drive to a private lagoon in the middle of the jungle, where she reiterates that she has no concerns about the man who has become her best friend. She’s never been happier, and she cherishes every moment they get to spend together.
Ben tell the camera that in no way has Lauren taken a step back, but JoJo has caught up and their relationship is consistently growing. They talk about the future and the struggles they will face, particularly being in different cities, and she promises she’ll do everything she can to make it work and that she trusts him completely.
He’s more forthright than he was with Lauren about his confusion and the uncertainty he feels regarding his decision, but the outcome is the same. She was confident that they were on the same page, and now she’s sure that they aren’t. Could she love him more than he loves her? What could he possibly be so torn about?
She enters the evening more scared than she’s ever been in her life because she thinks they’re perfect and can’t understand how any other relationship could trump what they have. She is also more direct than Lauren in addressing her concerns, but he struggles to find the right words to express what he’s feeling or alleviate her anxiety.
She begs him to be honest about his reservations, and he can only admit that he doesn’t have any regarding either relationship. It’s tough for her to be so happy and still feel that fear, and he meekly offers that in two months, she has become his best friend. All she wants is a sign that she’s the one, even while recognizing he can’t reciprocate.
They retire to the bathroom, where she crumbles to the floor in a puddle of insecurity. You can add tears to that puddle after he admits that he’s also told Lauren he’s in love with her, and she feels foolish for believing his declaration was something special meant exclusively for her.
She wanted to be reassured, and instead she’s walking away knowing he drops L-bombs like Trump supporters drop protesters. She appreciates his honesty, but she’s hurt and feels naive for trusting him.
Ben says the word “lost” more times than J.J. Abrams ever has, and it’s time for a man to make up his mind.
Neil Lane Inspires Change
It’s decision day, and Neil Lane stops by to help Ben pick the perfect gaudy ring. Neil attempts to match the jewelry with the recipient’s personality, but it’s tough to describe traits when you don’t know to whom you are proposing — later that day. Like, Ben is proposing in a few hours, and he doesn’t know who is getting the ring.
But then something magical happens as Ben peruses the selections. One of them screams out a name, and it appears that the clarity of a Neil Lane diamond can also bring clarity to one’s life. The four-carat advertising slogan writes itself.
While Ben now knows with certainty who his life partner will be, our two potential Mrs. Higgins are agonizing about what happens next. And while Ben is excited to finally know what he wants, it is bittersweet that he must break the heart of someone who five minutes ago he saw as his wife.
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A Heartbreaking Goodbye
Like Lauren and JoJo, we’ve spent months investing ourselves in Ben’s present and future. But there can only be one fiancee, and it’s time to shatter dreams and make the After the Final Rose special even more uncomfortable for one family.
The first helicopter lands, and it’s JoJo, who will be devastated. She’s hoping that Ben will not blindside her, and that trust makes it even more gut-wrenching to watch. She chokes up recounting all their experiences together on a journey that has been worth the struggles, and she promises that he has her heart and that she’ll never run no matter how hard it gets.
He tells her he came in not knowing if he was going to find love, and even though it was real with JoJo, he fell in love with someone else more. He doesn’t want to say goodbye, and even though he’s about to offer his life to another, he doesn’t doubt his feelings for her.
She feels betrayed and baffled, and after hearing that he loved her, was his best friend and couldn’t live without her, she wants to know where it went wrong. He can only assure her that it didn’t, and then it’s time for the awkward walk to the limo for one last parting hug. Her final words are yet another reason why I’m team JoJo: “I’m happy for you.”
She wishes she could hate him or be angry, but even while her heart is being crushed, she can’t stand to see him cry. She wants love she can count on, that when someone says those words, it means he’s not going anywhere.
Sorry, Amy. And please, let’s go with JoJo over Caila as the next Bachelorette.
A Match Made in Perfection
Every fairy tale has a happy ending, and even though I’m disappointed with the outcome, Ben still has to drop to one knee. But first, he calls Lauren’s dad to ask permission for her hand in marriage. Mr. Bushnell has been waiting for this, to know his daughter has met the man of her dreams, and he pledges his support and that of the family.
Ben offers a hearty “Woo!” as the helicopter approaches, and Lauren’s speech is about her last first kiss and not previously believing that a love like this existed. Ben is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with because he’s her “person.” He came into this wondering if he was even lovable, and in this journey of goodbyes, Lauren is the person to whom he never wants to say goodbye.
It’s all smiles as he genuflects, opens that box and pops the question. It’s like the pill, really, because there are lots of questions, but there’s also only one question. He reciprocates that she is, in fact, his “person” as well, and then kisses abound as he presents her with the final rose of season 20.
It’s the happiest day of their lives, and it feels great. He carries her to the helicopter, and they fly off into the hazy sunset to begin yet another journey together.
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That’s a Wrap
And just like that, Ben’s time as the Bachelor has reached its conclusion. Sure, we have to tie up loose ends and find out if there’s wedding bells in the air at the After the Final Rose special, but Mr. Higgins has found a Mrs. with whom to buy matching oven mitts.
There were highs and lows along the way and a disappointing amount of crazy, but all’s well that ends well. Unless, of course, you’re JoJo.
Did Ben make the right call? Or did he choose a chance at perfection over a life of realistic happiness with a best friend? Do you think these two have what it takes to make it over the long haul, and will they end up as one of the few success stories? Or will they go the way of nearly every other Bachelor and Bachelorette over the past 14 years and 31 seasons?
Only time will tell. And as always, thanks for spending the season with me and with BuddyTV. The After the Final Rose special beckons…
(Image courtesy of ABC)