The men have told all, the final rose has been ceremonially given, and somebody put a ring on Ashley Hebert! Now, all the key players are back to talk about what we just saw, and what the future holds.

If you haven’t watched tonight’s bittersweet (emphasis on BITTER) Bachelorette finale, be warned: Spoilers on the conclusion are ahead. So just go watch the episode, read the recap, and then rejoin us here to talk about whether THIS couple is “forever-forever,” or just Bachelor “forever.”

Interview with Ben: First, Chris sits down with Ben and makes him watch the footage of his rejection, so the pain will be extra-fresh when they chat about it. Which means we JUST watched this painful rejection, and now we have to watch it again?! I feel like this guy. And Ben looks like he’s having about as much fun, too.

ben-aftr-8111.jpg“It’s tough to watch,” he admits. He was angry, and Chris agrees with me (oops!) that it shows that Ben’s love was real. Ben says the hardest part was physically getting back up after he got down on bended knee and Ashley said no. It was hard for him to be vulnerable after his father died, but he sees the bright side now: “Ultimately, after going through something like that, and putting myself out there, it’s an accomplishment. And it wouldn’t have happened without Ashley.” He’s back to his old, precious, sweet to a fault self. The audience loves him, and so do I! Ben says it was a “long flight home” as he stewed in his rejection. And to make matters worse, he was heading from Fiji to his best friend’s wedding. (Audience: “AWWWW!”) I guess if Ames can’t do it (maybe he needs to go spelunking in Uzbekistan?) Ben would be a suitable Bachelor.

ashley-ben-aftr8111.jpgBen and Ashley Reunited: Chris brings out Ashley, whose hair is extra dark and sleek tonight. Like a Stella who got her groove back, AND A HALF. Ben’s first words: “Nice ring. … I’m kidding!” He asks when she made her decision to choose JP, and she doesn’t answer the question. (“You have to follow your heart”? That’s not a timeline, gurl!) Ben and Ashley make friends again, but if she thinks he’s going to apologize for being angry when she rejected his proposal, she’s got another thing comin’! He actually says, “I think I left with dignity,” which is, you know, pretty debatable, but under the circumstances (the circumstances being that I loooove him) I’ll give it a pass. Being true to your feelings — that’s REAL dignity, you guys.

Interview with Ashley: After Ben’s exit, Chris and Ashley chat. It was hard for her to see how hurt Ben was, but it helps that she’s on cloud nine about JP, who comforted her through the pain. “I’m his biggest fan!” she proclaims. “And he’s a really good kisser!” (At which point, Carla astutely pointed out to me that Ben’s exit marks the THIRD time that JP has consoled Ashley after another guy has left.)

ashley-jp-atfr8111.jpg“JP and Ashley, Together At Last”: Ashley is so excited that she and JP can finally be together, out in public, forever and ever! JP comes out and says they’ve been dying for this moment, and they feel such relief to finally be able to tell people how in LOOOOVE they are. “I’ve been living a double life for months!” he says. “When I’m with her, nothing else matters.”

We are Shamed Once More: Chris asks JP how tough it has been to watch Ashley get attacked in the media and tabloids. “People can get mean,” he says. “To rip into her, it absolutely broke my heart.” Now they finally don’t have to worry about what we think of Ashley anymore. Until the televised wedding. I admit this blog has contributed to the ripping, but I never meant to hurt you, Ashley!

proposal-atfr8111.jpgReliving the Proposal: It’s time for voyeurism to turn in on itself. We watch as Ashley and JP watch their own proposal that WE just watched. “Complete fairy tale,” says Prince JP. Chris asks him to grade his own proposal, and he says, “I pretty much nailed it.” “He definitely nailed it!” proclaims Princess Ashley.

Chrystie Makes Amends: JP still doesn’t get what Chrystie didn’t like about him. Chris brings Chrystie up to the stage. She gives the, “It’s not you! I was trying to protect my little sister!” defense, which I’m not buying. But then she gets to the part that actually matters: the endorsement. “Clearly, I will tell you, I feel like the biggest jerk ever. Shame on me, shame on me for being so quick to judge. TEAM CUPCAKE!” They fantasize about Christmases (and Hanukkahs!) to come, and “hug it out.”

Future Plans: Ashley informs us that she’s finishing school this month, then she’s moving to New York City. They’re getting a place together and just plan to enjoy their relationship and engagement before they start to plan a wedding. Chris asks how they’ll avoid the problems of “some of our other couples,” like the tabloids. (Yeah, because the TABLOIDS forced Jake Pavelka to embrace his Dark Passenger.) Ashley and JP aren’t worried. “I feel like we’ve already been through the hardest part,” says Ashley.

I guess we’ll see. But they DO seem really, truly, madly, deeply happy, don’t you think? Chris sends Ashley and JP off with a parting gift. A little token to thank them for all the ratings: Another trip to Fiji! Being the Bachelorette sounds awesome, minus all the televised physical intimacy and public character assassination. 

And then Chris sends us off with another, different, much more horrible gift: Another sneak peek at Bachelor Pad 2. Like Ben said, “Good things don’t end unless they end badly.” And some bad things just NEVER end! (You heard the premiere is three hours long, right?)

(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.