It’s finally here! The end of the most painful season of The Bachelor(ette) EVER has finally, eventually, mercifully arrived. I’d feel slightly more relieved if this three-hour conclusion weren’t to be immediately followed next Monday by the three-hour beginning of Bachelor Pad 2: Attack of the Clones, but let’s cross that broken down, haunted, collogen-filled bridge when we get to it.
If you haven’t watched tonight’s finale episode yet, make sure to play the drinking game while you do. If you have watched the episode, watch it again while playing the drinking game! Because when we pay homage to a TV show that turns love into a game by turning drinking into a game, everyone’s a winner.
And now, to the matrimonial matter at hand: Which dude will Ashley (maybe) marry, which dude did she dump on national TV, why is her sister such a stone-cold human coloring book, and how do I, the most IMPORTANT person in this web of love and hate and garbage, feel about all of this? Let’s find out!
AND I CAN’T FIGHT THIS RECAP ANYMOOOORE, I’VE FORGOTTEN WHAT I STARTED WRITING FOOOOR…
We begin with Ashley on a tiny airplane, flying to another beautiful part of Fiji, where she’s meeting her whole family: Her dad, her mom, her sister, and her silent younger brother. He’s so silent he might actually have Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense disease? (Or he’s shy.) Before they meet the men, Ashley tells her family that she is definitely in love and ready to get engaged … but she doesn’t knoooow to whoooom yeeeet!
This moment happens every season, but it’s still important to recognize how it’s seen as normal on the show, yet would be considered selfish and horrific in real life. It’s like if you brought two guys home and said, “I am in love with and would marry either of them! And I have vowed to choose one as my forever-mate before the sun sets on the third day. Now, gather ’round, family, and prepare to meet my remaining suitors. The hour of the final gauntlet round has ARRIVED!”
Ashley’s sister Chrystie immediately takes over the entire conversation, making it known she will be wearing the Sorting Hat, Judgmental Sweater Vest and Bossy Pants this week. “I better like them!” she jokes/threatens. (“But that will be difficult, nay, impossible, as I’ve already mentally prepared to hate them!”)
JP and the Family: Twisted Sister
JP is up first, and of course he charms them — he’s JP. He’s America’s Boyfriend! (When Anderson Cooper is busy.) Ashley is thrilled at how well everyone is getting along … at first. At dinner, her mom even toasts to JP being “welcome in the family.” But then Sister cuts the crap, and the mood, by starting in with the big questions. Ashley gets stumped on whether JP makes her laugh: “DO you make me laugh? I think I’m funnier than you. But you’re cuter than me.” Uh oh. Ashley tries to recover, but the damage has been done. Not being able to joke with your future husband is NO JOKE to Chrystie, and her Bossy Pants are in a twist.
[Sad Trombone Slide]
In their Lady Chat, Chrystie immediately declares that JP isn’t the one for Ashley. “I think you’re too much for him. I think you’re too young, and he’s a little bit older and a little bit more demure.” Ashley is instantly devastated by this harsh critique.
One moment, happy with a white Russian.
Literally five seconds later.
Chrystie observed JP for maybe an hour in a highly artificial and stressful environment, so clearly she is the expert here. “Something’s missing for ME,” she says. If I were Ashley, that’s obviously when I would yell, “It’s not ABOUT YOU, ANTI-CHRIST…IE!” because I am as irrational and hostile as I am witty. But this is Ashley. So, it sets off Ashley’s backlog of insecurities and second-guesses. She’s sobbing. “I feel like I’ve been so alone on this journey, and to finally get this … opinion … it’s heartbreaking,” she blubbers, barely able to get the words out. “Now I’m even more confused!” Ashley declares. “I don’t know what to do!”
Ashley runs to her brother (who’s not a ghost!) for support, and he is basically like, “What? Duuuude. Our sister is crazy.” This makes Ashley feel better. Then she goes to Dad, who tells Ashley not to listen to dumb, judgmental Other Daughter, and to just go with her heart. (Yes! Dad! You’re the best, Dad!)
Unfortunately, across the villa, Chrystie has gotten JP alone, cut off his legs and asked him to dance. She basically says, “I don’t see you and Ashley together, and I already told her so. Bluntly and harshly. Now, try to convince me you want to be a part of this family.” JP says that whenever he’s around Ashley, he’s smiling ear to ear. (Aww.) “I’m 100% in love with her,” JP says, voice shaking. Chrystie then goes for the jugular, accusing JP of preying on her “much younger sister,” and suggests that something must be wrong with him if he hasn’t settled down yet. (“Objection! Ageism!” “Sustained.”) Then Chrystie says that JP is obviously shy, set in his ways, and that Ashley is “too much” for him. Chrystie thinks all of life’s answers can be found in a Cosmo Personality Quiz. Chrystie is not only judgmental, she is quick, harsh and open about it. And that isn’t cool, because that’s OUR job.
JP asks Chrystie if she would be unhappy if he proposes to Ashley, and she F*CKING NODS. I seethe. Then she tells JP that he can do nothing to change her mind. May I remind you that this woman’s addiction to buying and hoarding food is so severe that they made a mini-documentary about it? “I’m coming in as an outside, rational person,” said the Extreme Couponer.
JP to the camera: “Talk about judging somebody. She doesn’t even know me. So to say you ‘don’t feel it’? That’s f*cked.” Yes, Chrystie is totally f*cked, and not just because all of America thinks she’s a total bitch now. JP starts crying as he worries that Chrystie will affect Ashley’s opinion of him. He’s most hurt that Chrystie said she “saw more of Ashley” when Ashley brought home Brad Womack. WELL, YEAH. Because Brad has the charisma and personality of a caveman — anyone next to him would shine like a thousand suns. God, I’m way more angry than I thought I would be about this. I want to defend JP’s honor with a TRIDENT! The poor guy is left teetering at the end of the day, and doesn’t feel like Ashley gave him enough positive reinforcement. He’s putting his big, manly walls back up: “If today changes her mind about me, then I’m definitely not proposing.” Nooooo! But you loooove herrrr!
After JP leaves, Ashley sits Chrystie down by the tropical pool of SHAME to say what we’ve all been dying to hear: “You’re being SUCH a bitch!”
Oh, brother. Oh, SISTER!
Chrystie says, “You only want me to tell you what you want to hear.” Well, yes, but also … no. What Ashley can’t articulate is that honesty and kindness are not mutually exclusive. And the people who never shut up and listen are usually the ones who think they know everything. And SHUT UP CHRYSTIE, GET OUT OF MY ROOM/POOL!
Ben and the Family: The Other Side of the Coin
Ashley smartly warns Ben that her sister might come at him guns blazing. Inside, she’s nervous about how she’ll deal if they don’t like him. Tellingly, she’s even MORE nervous that they’ll love him. It’s like when you flip a coin to make a big decision, and as it’s in the air, you realize which side you actually want it to land on. Ashley clearly wants it to land on JP. The question is: Does she KNOW that she knows? (No, probably not.)
Back to the meeting. The family immediately love Ben, because Ashley forces him to do a showcase of their dorky dog voices (the voices they each use to talk to their dogs). Ashley’s is basically baby talk, while Ben’s is more Gollum-esque. It’s weird and dorky, but it’s real. It’s their “thing.”
Ben sits down with Chrystie, who has picked up on the fact that Ben and Ashley are very comfortable with each other. She enjoys that. Ben drops the L word, and says he feels like Ashley is his best friend. It all feels so easy, and he can see their lives fitting together perfectly. Chrystie talks about how she’s been divorced, and she never wants Ashley to go through that. Maybe Chrystie just doesn’t believe in love anymore, and she’s taking it out on Ashley just because her poor sister is picking a husband by process of elimination on a TV show that has a 2.5 out of 21 success rate.
Oh, Chrystie. If only acceptance came in a coupon. If only hope could be tattooed onto your heart.
At the end of the visit, Ashley claims she’s thrilled by how much her family loved Ben, but really, she’s still hurt and “more confused than ever” with the big decision ahead of her.
Last Chance Date #1: Ben
Ben shows up in a jaunty straw hat, and says everything with him and Ashley is “going swimmingly!” No, Ben isn’t gay, but he must want us to question that until the last possible moment.
A helicopter shows up (driiiiink!) and whisks them away to a “healing mud pit.” Cue the sexy time music as the clothes come off and the camera zooms in on Ashley’s ass. They rub mud all over each other erotically. (Remember when Jake and Vienna did that? Horror brainquakes!) Ashley rubs it on her own chest, then says she wishes she could rub it on Ben’s privates.
What a little minx! Of course, just as she’s finally getting a hang of this Bachelorette thing, the journey is almost over.
At dinner, Ben is ready to drop the L bomb with Ashley. He just needs the perfect moment. They cheers to “everything going well tonight” (like the sex) and “everything being well received” (like the man body part of the sex). Just kidding! I’m just trying to lighten the mood, because Ben is shaking in his kicky summer loafers as he tells Ashley that he got her family’s permission to propose, and he’s wanted to tell her for a long time: “I am in love with you.” Aw, cute! But then he follows it up with: “And I never expected this. Ever. In a million years.” I get that he means “because this show is such a joke,” but let’s pretend he means, “because at first I thought you were just OK.” Ashley responds with a few hundred kisses and a solid leg mount, which Ben interprets as Ashley saying she loves him “the only way she can right now.”
The “Love” Mount
Last Chance Date #2: JP
JP greets Ashley and they immediately sit down and talk again about The Sister. Ashley says, “Any good relationship has to be questioned,” and she thinks that their differences (hers and JP’s) may be easy to misinterpret at first. JP says he KNOWS that Chrystie is wrong, and he thinks they’re a perfect fit. Ashley, clearly shaken by her sister, is “questioning the reality of us.” I am questioning the reality of this bikini she has chosen to go with her brown flowered wrap skirt. She looks like a Birthday Cake Ice Cream Waffle Cone. Does the bikini bottom have a clown’s face on the butt?
THAT BIKINI/WRAP COMBO.
JP sees that he needs to use his trump card: “I told your entire family, I am madly in love with you. And I have been, and I’ve been dying to tell you.” KABOOM, it’s another L bomb. Which begets another kiss reward. Ashley, now satisfied, lets her concerns wash away into his mouth. JP tears away her skirt as they passionately kiss in front of a windswept rock.
That night, JP presents Ashley with a photo album containing his favorite picture of them together, and a heartfelt letter that is full of every romantic superlative statement he could think of. Ashley is touched and says that everything she dreamed of is coming true.
But while her brain is busy dreaming, her heart is busy breaking for the guy who’s about to get dumped. And worse, he doesn’t expect it.
OH MY GOD, WHO WILL SHE CHOOSE, AYYYY!!!: The Final Rose Ceremony
It’s finally time for the big decision. But before we get to the dumping/proposing, we have to raise the stakes: Ben and JP meet with Neil Lane (THE Neil Lane) to select rings. Ben feels very confident, and picks out a BIG ASS ring to offer Ashley. JP, on the other hand, is feeling vulnerable and worried that he just picked out a ring that will get shoved back down his throat. The ring itself is nice to look at, though.
The Journey to the Final Rose Ceremony: Ashley says the day is bittersweet, and looks beautiful in a lush, feathery white gown. JP looks seriously terrified. He might cry or barf at any moment. This is TV at its best. Ben, sweaty but adorable, lounges in the plane like he’s on his way to Applebee’s. Who will be the first out of the flying limo? For he, as tradition has taught us, will be the loser in this battle.
“I’m dreading putting an end to a relationship that, at one point, I thought would be everlasting. I don’t think I can envision anything much harder than this,” says Ashley as the plane lands, and a man exits, and it’s … BEN.
Awwww. I’m so sad for him. He’s completely convinced that Ashley is in love with him and they’re starting a fairy tale. It is at these moments that I truly grasp how emotionally exploitative and horrific this show can be. Ashley almost starts to cry, but Ben doesn’t notice her face saying, “NO, DON’T!” and pulls that movie-move that I thought never actually happens in real life! “Before you say anything…” he cuts her off, then declares his everlasting love and gets down on one knee and proposes. OH MY GOD. This is wrenching all the guts! Why did she let him do that?!
OH GOD WHYYYYYYY
“Will you marry me? WIll you make me the happiest man on Earth?” he asks. To which Ashley says, “I’m sorry.” Ben: “Wow. I didn’t see this one coming.” This is so sad! Like, REALNESS sad. “I guess that’s it, right?” says Ben, and then he sulks off. He’s too hurt to talk. Ashley tries to make him feel better, but there’s nothing she can say. “Good things don’t end unless they end badly,” he says. “JP is a wonderful guy, and you’ll have a NICE LIFE together,” he practically spits out as he walks off for the last time. No Chris Lambton hugs and rainbows for this guy! Ben gets in the Rejection Dingy and declares that Ashley made the “safe choice” by picking JP.
Well, daaaaaaaaaamn. I am simultaneously sad and impressed. I mean, Ben’s shock and anger and coldness aren’t exactly pretty colors on him, but they also show how genuine and deeply he felt for Ashley. And I don’t blame him for wanting to make her feel like sh*t after she let him pour his heart out that way, and then tried to comfort him by calling him “INTERESTING.” Maybe Ashley should have read three books cover to cover about how to dump somebody.
In the immortal words of Brad Womack, “Ben, come here to me, please.”
Now it’s the moment that’s supposed to make this all worthwhile: JP exits the flying limo, where Chris Harrison is waiting to greet him on the beach like that little person from Fantasy Island.
JP approaches. Ashley’s smiling and says, “Hey, handsome.” They say how fantastic each other look, then kiss. He must know this is going well.
JP: “It’s so hard to believe where this all started and how far we’ve come. I remember getting out of the limo as if it were yesterday. I was afraid, I was skeptical, I was worrried, not knowing what to expect. The hardest part of this has been not knowing. I’m an open book, all my cards are on the table.” He continues: “My biggest fear is falling in love with you and having my heart broken again. And I’m still afraid. I also know that in order for me to overcome that fear, I have to take a leap of faith. And that’s exactly what this is. This is my leap of faith.”
Ashley says what he wants to hear: “You mean the world to me, and I don’t want to be with anyone else!” She’s wanted to tell him she loves him for SO LONG. Like, two weeks!
JP: “I’m so in love with you. You’re the one. You’re it.” And with that, he proposes. And she says yes! It’s happening! We pretend we don’t care, but we TOTALLY do! He puts the ring on her finger. They kiss. They say, “I love you, baby.” They’re going to be together forever and have a million babies with their faces on them!
Then, FOR REAL, 100% NOT EVEN KIDDING, REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” plays as we watch a highlight reel of the Best of JP and Ashley. So cheesy, so perfect. Especially how the song is about fighting and resisting until you’re just too exhausted and just give in to the love. That’s probably how love feels on The Bachelorette: Like losing a battle with yourself, and accepting the sweet release despite all your misgivings. It’s all so romantic.
In a final act of impulsivity sure to enrage women everywhere, Ashley runs into the ocean with JP. IN THAT DRESS! NOT THE DRESS! Of all her wardrobe choices this season, it was probably my favorite. So I guess it makes sense that she’d ruin it.
On a sincere and rather sappy note, here’s one thing I am unequivocally thrilled about: All of you. Throughout the season you have been such it-getters and word-spreaders and kind-comment-givers. And Ashley thinks SHE’S the lucky one, just because she got a fiance and free trips and fame and new hair and 5,000 half-shirts out of it? Pshaw. I couldn’t be more grateful to have you as my readers. So thank you for another great season! I feel like we’re all in a really good place to take on the emotional hardships and horrors of Bachelor Pad together.
And that’s it for the finale. But there’s still the After the Final Rose to discuss! Before we get to that, though: I KNOW you all have opinions on Ashley’s sister, Ben’s excruciating exit, and Ashley and JP as an officially engaged couple. Talk it out in the comments. I’ll be over here, needle-pointing “Good things don’t end unless they end badly” onto a doily.
(Images courtesy of ABC)