When you cut right to the heart of it, the typical season finale of The Bachelor has a lot in common with the “torture porn” genre of horror films: After spending six weeks isolating a group of women from their families, friends, and careers, then “eliminating” them one by one, a maniacal lady killer brings his final two “bachelorettes” to a deserted mansion, where only one will come out alive. Of course, if we’re viewing The Bachelor as an extended slasher movie, then Monday night’s “After the Final Rose” represented the climactic scene where our heroine wreaked bloody (verbal) revenge on her tormentor. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! First things first…
Our season finale kicks off with Bachelor Brad standing in front of a scenic vista in Cape Town, South Africa. (“It would look better without that galoot in front of it,” says my husband, looking up from his game of Sudoku and trying to pretend he doesn’t care how the finale plays out.) Soon after, Brad is sobbing inconsolably at the arrival of his mother, plus his two brothers and their wives. Are these tears of joy at their reunion? Tears of shame that he may have spent the last two months of his life spreading some kind of oral fungus among 15-20 unsuspecting single ladies? There’s no time to find out, because Chantal is at the door.
As far as “meet the family” meetings on The Bachelor go, this one is pretty uneventful. Chantal gives Mama Brad a one-armed hug before she’s strapped to the rotisserie and grilled to perfection. “Are you willing to submit to marriage this very second?” ask Brad’s brothers. “Do all of my clothes accentuate my impressive rack?” answers Chantal. Brad’s mom wants to know how Chantal fell in love so quickly, and instead of explaining how the combination of hyper-competitiveness, desperation, isolation, and alcohol created a perfect storm of obsession, Chantal gives a rousing speech about how her divorce made her grow and realize “I’d rather be alone than be with someone just to be with someone.” Ugh, wake me when it’s over!
Ding-dong! It’s Day Two with Brad’s family, and someone’s at the door. Brad claps his hands like a frat boy spotting a fresh keg, and rushes to greet Emily, who’s wearing a purple halter dress with a bejeweled necklace neckline and who greets Mama Brad with a (gasp!) handshake.
Because Brad is either a sociopath or is following direct orders of the show’s producers, he fails to tell his family ahead of time that Emily has a five-year-old daughter, and that the child was conceived shortly before Emily’s fiancee died in a plane crash. As a result, Brad’s brother Wes drops the awkward question of how little Ricki’s father would feel if she married Brad and moved to Texas, prompting Emily to relive the most painful moment of her young life once more, with feeling, for the TV cameras. Brad’s family falls for the single mom, and Brad’s mother weeps openly about Emily’s comment that she thinks of Brad as her angel. “Yesterday I left this place realizing my brother was for sure ready to be a husband,” says Wes. “Now, I’m realizing that not only is he ready to be a husband, but he’s ready to be a full-blown father as well.” Not a half-baked father, but a full-blown one? Sounds like a plan! Well, either that, or dude can go “
sew sow some oats” with Chantal, Wes says. Ouch!
Naturally, when a man is days away from proposing to a woman, he should still be keeping his options open, and thus Brad schedules one more round of dates with Chantal and Emily. And because nothing gets Brad’s heart racing like the sound of a woman saying “No, no, oh my God, why?”, he takes Chantal on a boat and demands she participate in a terrifying shark dive. (“It places itself in the cage. It does this whenever it’s told.”) Chantal submits, but only after realizing that a half-unzipped wet suit really makes her cleavage pop. “After all this, you better be putting a [bleep] ring on my finger. ‘Cause you suck otherwise,” she teases, not realizing she’s 48 hours away from having her heart ripped out of her chest, ground into chum, and fed to the very carnivorous fishes she’s just encountered. (Visual demonstration included at the end of this recap.)
Back in her suite, Chantal presents Brad with a sweet gift: A hand-made map outlining all the places they’ve visited on their “journey.” Ironically, this will make a lovely engagement gift for Brad and Emily, who’ve been to the same exact places visited by Brad and Chantal. Brad can’t get out of there fast enough, hugging Chantal and kissing her forehead and cheek, but failing to play their usual game of “guess which toothpaste I used this morning.” Chantal fails to read the warning signs, though, and in all likelihood ends the evening Googling wedding planners in her hometown. “Best case scenario: Brad asks me to be his wife,” she says with a giggle. “He’d better tell me what I want to hear!”
Brad’s date with Emily is equally awkward, but this time it’s the bachelorette who’s making things a little chilly. After flying to the Cape of Good Hope for a picnic, Emily tells Brad that if he commits to her, he won’t be able to go back to his bachelor pad to drink beer and watch football whenever he feels like it. (Interior, Brad’s brain: “Mmmm. Bachelor Pad.”)
The topic of Brad’s readiness to be a full-time dad resumes that night in Emily’s suite, and after Brad asks that Emily “allow me to be that girl’s father,” she poses what seems like a perfectly reasonable question for a woman about to get engaged to a man who’s spend a grand total of one afternoon with her child. “What do you think that means? What do you see your role being?” she wonders, pointing out that being a parent isn’t always fun. Brad’s face fills with barely suppressed rage: “I feel like I’m being questioned,” he huffs, before declaring himself unable to breathe, in need of water, and feeling like he’s been “slapped in the face.”
Then again, at least Emily didn’t literally slap him in the face, the way Chantal O. did when she first got out of the limo and met Brad. Our protagonist stands in front of a mountain vista and has an epiphany. His decision is made. We see a hawk flying overhead, because apparently the ABC camera operator couldn’t find a buzzard. And here comes Chantal, clad in a forest-green gown with shoulder feathers. “You look amazing. You always look amazing,” Brad tells her, before reflecting on how much their relationship has grown. “You’re someone that I really have looked for for a long, long time. And here’s where it gets tough. I don’t know how else to say it except I have stronger feelings for someone else.” Thwack! After a full season of waiting, Brad finally slaps Chantal back.
Chantal’s tears still damp on his lapel, Brad regroups and greets Emily at the Ceremonial Dumping and Proposing Platform. He spits out a whole bunch of platitudes, then gets down on one knee and presents Emily with a gaudy diamond ring in a little black box emblazoned with the Neil Lane logo. (Side note: Anyone notice the logo was missing when ABC replayed the engagement video for Brad and Emily during “After the Final Rose”?) “Please give me your forever,” Brad asks. Emily says yes.
But is this a Trista and Ryan forever, or a Jake and Vienna forever? We cut to an episode of “After the Final Rose,” taped weeks after the South African extravaganza finale. Chantal takes the stage, and even though we later discover she’s happily embarked on a new relationship, she weeps about being hurt by Brad. (Maybe those are onion-scented candles behind her?) “Being strong is being able to be open,” she coos. Um, okay? Brad comes out and uses words like “friendship” and “so much fun” and “you deserved to hang around” to describe his relationship with Chantal. Her mood becomes blacker than her painted fingernails, but she recovers and tells Brad she’s moved on to someone new. Now we know why The Damned Dentist is going to be the next bachelorette. Blech!
Then, it’s almost Emily’s turn to take the hot seat, and what follows is nearly a full hour of barely suppressed rage. Brad starts by saying he’s “more in love than ever,” but Chris Harrison reveals that our fairytale couple has already been through a breakup, and postponed a wedding that was supposed to have served as a backdrop to “After the Final Rose.” Brad admits he feels like Emily has said something along the lines of “I just can’t do this” on a near daily basis. Suddenly, there’s a crack in his facade of chipper infatuation. “Sweet little Emily can be tough,” he drawls. “Sweet. Little. Emily.”
But you want thinly veiled hostility? Let’s bring out Emily! “So you’re still a couple?” asks Chris Harrison. “Mmm-hmm,” she replies, her smile tighter than the seal on a Ziploc bag. So is she ready to get married? “Right now, in this instant, I love you, but no,” she tells Brad. Cue gasps from the audience. How about a cross-country relocation? “Could I move to Austin today? No,” she explains. And Emily’s reasons why not? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Brad says he knew he had strong feelings for her from early in the season, and yet he kept his mack game in full effect with all the other ladies. “I didn’t think he’d give them so much to work with!” says Emily, saying that watching The Bachelor on Monday nights made her feel like “a dime a dozen,” that her fiancee should have saved “some things” (the fantasy suite, perhaps?) just for her.
“Watching it, I’m trying to figure out what’s reality TV and what’s my reality?” says Emily, outlining the central conundrum of the entire Bachelor franchise. Before Brad has a chance to show off the vicious temper that Emily’s hinted at, Chris Harrison brings out the
role roll call of the show’s “successful” alumni: Jason and Molly, Roberto and Alli, and Trista and Ryan. “We’re here to help,” says Jason, because who wouldn’t want relationship advice from a guy who ditched his fiancee and took up with a jilted runner-up on live broadcast television? Ryan sputters the platitudes about love and marriage that Trista tape records and plays back on his bedside table every night after he goes to sleep. “Hopefully, you’ll follow in our footsteps,” lies Trista, who I’m still convinced is motivated to get out of bed in the morning by virtue of being the franchise’s “most successful couple.” And finally, there’s Chris Harrison, swiftly bringing us to a close, before Brad and Emily can change their minds, call it quits, and flee the building. “This is family,” he says ominously, pointing to the three other Bachelor couples. Then he cuts quickly to footage of Brad and Emily’s engagement, which they’ve never seen before. We see the carefully edited moment that soars on the wings of luscious lighting, high-definition cameras, and swelling music. “That is what’s real,” says our proficient host. Brad and Emily wipe the tears from their eyes and exchange “I love yous,” and Brad slips Emily’s re-sized ring back on her finger.
And the prince and princess lived contractually happily ever after.
What did you think of the season finale of The Bachelor? Do Brad and Emily have a champagne bottle’s chance in the bachelorettes’ fridge of surviving? And what are your feelings on The Dentist as the next franchise anchor? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!