It always seems like it sneaks up on us, but it’s time for yet another televised quest for love to reach its inevitable conclusion on The Bachelorette. And this marks the 30th occasion in franchise history that one man or woman has had to choose between his or her final two suitors with only slightly varying results, only this finale looks roughly one-third similar to the last time a lady was calling the shots (despite Shawn’s best efforts to be in control).

Yes, for the second straight season, Nick — a guy no one on opening night could have guessed would reach the end of either season — finds himself off the brink of love. Last time, he lost out on a girl who was more fame-seeker than fun to a guy with giant teeth who peaked on draft day and who shared a romance that didn’t quite make it as far around the bases as Nick typically does.

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On the line this time is a quirky Canadian who is terrified of birds yet has two of them tattooed on her elbows, a teeth-sucker slut-shamed to pieces who keeps banging for more. And standing in Nick’s way is a Ryan Gosling knockoff with a jealousy problem and a constant need for validation.

Not quite a match made in heaven, is it? 

Still, we haven’t had this level of contempt between two finalists since Nikki and Clare sat in complete silence for 10 minutes during a cocktail party in Miami, and that’s not a fact lost on Kaitlyn, who seems to enjoy guys “manning up” to fight over her. And that might be the one thing that gives Shawn the edge. 

So who will Kaitlyn choose? Can Shawn overcome his issues to steal the fair maiden’s heart? Will Nick finally find happiness? Or will he yet again settle for being the bridesmaid, destined for the interview of shame on the After the Final Rose? At least this time, America already knows he slept with the girl.

The three-hour marathon begins, and it’s sure to be the most dramatic finale in Bachelor history.

No Love Lost

Host Chris Harrison welcomes us to the live finale — a studio packed with women and two or three guys who aren’t part of the crew — before reminding us that Nick and Shawn literally hate each other. But really, it’s a bit more one-sided, as Nick only hates Shawn because Shawn hates Nick.

The one thing they have in common, however, is that they’re both in love with the same woman. And now, they’ll have to prove it to her family in Malibu. Kaitlyn’s relatives have a few collective mouth drops, first when Kaitlyn tells them she’s in love with both guys and went too far with one, and then again when she reveals one of them is Nick. 

Mom Leslie has preconceived notions of Vile Viall, having disapproved of his actions during Andi’s season, but sister Haley cautions that this is a different situation and everyone must keep an open mind. Kaitlyn muses that if her family doesn’t approve, it means Nick isn’t the one.

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Nick in the Super Flaming Hot Seat

In addition to Leslie and Haley, Nick will also be meeting dad Mike, a step-mother and a step-father. He hopes to be himself and that they’ll end up liking him, but Kaitlyn adds to his nerves when she preps him with the knowledge that she divulged the tryst. 

Leslie immediately jumps to “Why are you here?” while Haley admits she doesn’t picture Kaitlyn with a guy like Nick because he’s out of her norm. She also questions his reasons for being there, and he admits that last time was a bit about the experience, but this time he’s only interested in Kaitlyn.

Leslie pulls him aside for a chat, using affectionate words like “possessive,” “jealous” and “arrogant” to describe his behavior during Andi’s season. So she’s anxious to clear the air, asking why her daughter likes him and if their physical connection is something that could last. 

He gets emotional describing his feelings for Kaitlyn, unable to hold back a few tears as he avows his love and desire to ask for her hand, and if mom would be okay with it. The newly-won-over Leslie says Kaitlyn trusts Nick with her heart and that they trust her. She now refers to him as “teddy bear” and “sweetheart,” and she believes she was totally wrong in her pre-judgment.  

Nick then turns his phasers on papa Mike, telling him he loves everything about Kaitlyn, from her looks to her humor to her boldness and everything in between. He asks for Mike’s blessing, and after responding that he gets a good feeling from Nick, said blessing is granted. 

The date ends with kisses and happiness, though Nick is still concerned about Kaitlyn’s connection with Shawn. 

Shawn’s Slow Roll

The more angular version of Ryan Gosling has a bit of an easier road ahead, as the family has no opinions of him yet. Still, Nick left a great impression, and mom is concerned about Shawn’s jealous nature. 

He’s more nervous than usual, but he gets things off on the right foot by delivering gifts for Haley’s children and admitting that he Snapchatted a photo of Kaitlyn with a heart around her and the message “Don’t worry, I’m coming for you,” when Chris Soules eliminated her. Yes, folks, it’s both sweet and creepy. 

Leslie asks how Shawn will deal with jealousy in the real world, based on his experiences with Nick, and he says over and over that it’s only been so hard because he feels so strongly for Kaitlyn. But he understands that they weren’t in an exclusive relationship and that there were other guys, but once the relationship is exclusive, there won’t be any trust issues and everything they’ve gone through will only make them stronger as a couple. Leslie is left complimenting his character.

Haley flat-out tells Kaitlyn that she’s Team Shawn, despite the fact that she was Team Nick for the past year. And that’s because of the way Kaitlyn acts around Shawn, as if they’re connected already. 

Shawn delivers the same speech to Mike, saying he’s excited to start a life with Kaitlyn and that he’d be proud to have her as his girl and potentially his wife. He fetches Leslie and asks both parents together for their joint permission, and they pledge their support. 

The day ends with more kisses and proclamations of love, and Kaitlyn has but two dates left to make her final decision.

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Nick’s Final Plea

Nick and Kaitlyn kick off their final date on a boat in Marina del Rey, popping champagne and cheering to her family’s acceptance of him. Nick foresees a giant family barbecue with her mom and his little sister dancing together. 

They whisper sweet nothings and talk about their love for each other in confessional form, and he just wants her on his couch, hanging out. Neither of them saw this coming, and she appreciates how the relationship is different from her usual ones, as he brings out a side in her that no one else can. But she cares so much for Shawn that she’s still looking for clarity. 

The night part of the date continues, with Nick thanking her for keeping him around and sticking up for him and following her heart and letting him follow his. For her part, she’ll always remember New York City because it’s rare that someone can surprise her. His visit was a game changer, and she appreciates the risk he took in wanting to explore the possibilities in spite of the backlash. 

For his parting gift, he got her something special that’s in the bedroom. She thinks it’s a sexual innuendo, but it’s really a framed photo of them on their first one-on-one date with a poem. It goes like this:

“There is magic in your eyes, and when I look at you, I see my future. 

There is electricity in your lips, and when I kiss you, I feel your energy.

There is love in your heart, and when I touch you, I feel a love worth never letting go.”

Got that, Chris? Desiree is like, WTF? Where was this guy during my season?

In this moment, Kaitlyn feels hopeful and confident that this is the guy for her. She knows she’s in love, everything feels right and she can see him as her husband. But can Shawn change that? 

Shawn, Kaitlyn and the Curly-Haired Elephant

Kaitlyn is feeling anxious ahead of her final date with Shawn, still seeking clarity. They share some wine at a vineyard and discuss sunscreen, but their conversation doesn’t have the ease it does with Nick, and it’s certainly not as dynamic. They struggle to find small-talk topics, both distracted by the events of the previous day. 

She talks about not wanting to be weird and uncomfortable, which is exactly the thing you say to make things weird and uncomfortable. His feelings are the same as always, but he gets the impression that she’s different. His insecurities were in check leading up to this, but now there’s a Nick-sized pit in his stomach. 

He has no idea what she’s thinking, but he’s hoping to end the date with a good night. They talk about their ups and downs through the course of their journey, and he says he’s ready to start sharing moments in this crazy life with someone. She questions what watching it back will be like for him, and he says parts will be tough, but he loves her and is protective of her, and he can’t wait to call and be like, hey, I love you, I can’t believe you’re making out with Joe. 

He thinks having kids will be amazing and that their marriage will always be fun. He’ll put her above everything else and be proud to have her by his side. So he successfully ropes her back in then presents her with his final gift, a memory jar full of pictures, notes and knickknacks from their dates. It’s their love story … in jar form.

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Decisions, Decisions

I still have no idea what Kaitlyn is going to do, though it seems clear that her relationship with Nick is easier and more stable, with fewer red flags. But that being said, there’s something about her and Shawn that keeps her invested. She partakes in the standard emotional venting at the prospect of blindsiding and hurting someone who cares deeply about her. 

Shawn is supremely confident heading into the final rose ceremony, which is likely overcompensation for his fear. But he’s ready to propose, and for that, he needs a ring from Neil Lane. And he picks out a giant one. 

Nick was set to meet with Neil last time, but instead the knock came from Andi, who sent him home. So he’s quite relieved to see a dude on the other side of the door. Nick knows it’s possible that he could be wrong again, but he’s willing to put it on the line for the woman he sees in his future. He’s hoping for the best but preparing himself for the worst.

The Runner-Up Revealed

The final rose will be handed out at the mansion where it all started, which makes me wonder if the show has budget issues this season. I mean, Utah? 

The first car — aka the limo of death — pulls up, and Nick is the unlucky gentleman who exits the vehicle. Chris Harrison wishes him luck, and frankly, he’s going to need it. He tells Kaitlyn he woke up today thinking about the whole process, and how they started with no expectations and how quickly it turned into something more. Every moment they’ve spent together has been special, and what he feels about her is what he’s always wanted to feel about someone. 

He chokes up talking about how he’s hers forever if she wants him, and with that, he reaches for the ring, and she stops him. She needed every single second that they’ve had together to make her decision, and the only explanation she can give is that her heart is with someone else. He doesn’t want to be short, but there’s nothing she can say to make him less confused. 

She tries to convince him that she really does loves him and that it was all real, but he counters that she can’t say that because if she did, she’d have a ring on her finger. “What I felt for you was greater than a moment,” he says, and while he doesn’t want to be harsh, she doesn’t want to be with him, doesn’t feel the same way he does and doesn’t love him because those things don’t require convincing. He hugs her one final time before getting back in his limo. 

He’s speechless, just taking time to pull off the ring from their one-on-one date and toss it and the engagement ring onto the seat in disgust. He’s in disbelief, calling himself the world’s biggest joke. I feel you, Nick. I’ve been on the losing team every season since JP and Ashley.

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Shawn’s Happy Proposal

The only thing left before Shawn and Kaitlyn ride off into the sunset is a guy on bended knee, and the prince arrives, full of anxious energy, to ask for his lady’s hand. She’s visibly shaking as he approaches, and he tells her that from the first moment he saw her, he knew his life was never going to be the same. And through all the highs and lows, he wouldn’t change a thing because it led them to this moment.

She’s the most incredible person he’s ever met in his life, he falls more and more in love with her every time he sees her and he never wants those feelings to end. She’s made him the happiest guy in the world, and all he wants to do is return the favor. 

She knows this has not been easy for him, but she can’t describe the way he makes her feel, which is something she’s never felt before. He lights her up, makes her laugh and allows her to be herself, and she never wants him to question what they have ever again because she’s completely his and will always be faithful to him. She loves him with all her heart like she’s never loved anyone before, and she can’t wait to make a lifetime of memories with him. He’s the one and always will be. 

He believes everything happens for a reason, and this has taught him that he’s not supposed to live his life without her. And with that, he drops to one knee and asks if she’ll marry him, a proposal she tearfully accepts. They embrace, she pins the final rose and another journey has come to a fruitful end.

Whether it will work in the long run is a question for the After the Final Rose, and that recap will be posted soon, along with Nick’s breakdown of his own repeated heartbreak. But for now, it’s all unicorns and butterflies as Shawn prepares to become Mr. Bristowe.

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Are you happy with how it all went down, or did the end leave a sour taste in your mouth? Did Kaitlyn make the right choice? And can the couple stand the test of time and live happily ever after, or will they crash and burn like most of the rest? Stay tuned.

Bachelor in Paradise season 2 premieres Sunday, August 2 at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order