The Bachelorette Season Finale Recap: The Rules of Engagement

“This is the first chapter of the greatest love story ever told.” Behold the words that the “winning” suitor used to solidify his relationship with our tragically insecure heroine Ashley on Monday’s season finale of The Bachelorette.

Of course, the path to “true love” on ABC’s reality dating franchise is never a smooth one, and so before JP heeded the wisdom of Beyoncé and put a ring on it, we had to endure Ashley taking a sensual mudbath, Ashley’s tattooed sister Chrystie stirring up our Bachelorette’s darkest fears like a fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, and bewildered winemaker Ben getting his heart crushed like a ripe grape in the middle of wine-making season.

Things kicked off with Chris Harrison telling us we were about to witness “The moment we’ve all been waiting for.” For a second, I thought our trusty host was going to reveal the annual People magazine “Bachelorette Breakup” cover, but then I realized maybe I’m a horrible, cynical human being who’s become emotionally deadened by the horrors of reality television.

Oh well.

First stop on the 8:00 p.m. train from Heartbreak to Engagement: A very sweaty lunch starring Ashley’s family and a freshly shorn (but carefully bestubbled) JP. It must’ve been 100 degrees in the shade during filming, or 110 under the  burning heat of Chrystie’s judgment. I reacted with a mixture of surprise, horror, and admiration at the way Chrystie almost immediately dismissed JP based on Ashley’s tentative response to the question: “Does he make you laugh?” When Chrystie tenderly expressed her misgivings about a JP-Ashley betrothal — “I don’t think he’s the one” — it sent Ashley’s confidence careening like a kite in the path of a tornado. “I think you’re too much for him,” Chrystie continued, making me wonder if she meant too much drama, too much insecurity, or too much making out with other dudes over the past couple months.

This being the Bachelorette season finale, we didn’t get a measured discussion about whether Ashley and JP shared common life goals that would turn their burning passion into an eternal flame (did I seriously just bring the Bangles into this?), but rather found our leading lady sobbing and offering the kind of comments that really ought to be reserved for her therapist’s couch. “I wanna feel confident in how I feel!” “Inside, I’m kind of a wreck right now.” “You’re being such a bitch.” But Chrystie had a pretty good rebuttal, pointing out that Ashley’s gut instinct had led her to fall for Bentley only a few weeks prior. “I don’t want to baby you. You’re an adult,” said Big Sis, as Ashley clutched her binky and took a nap in her playpen.

JP was understandably miffed with the way Chrystie wrote him off after 15 minutes, telling him there was nothing he could really do to turn her opinion around. (In Chrystie’s defense, though, JP actually couldn’t offer a single, specific personality trait when asked what made him so certain Ashley was his soul mate.) “Talk about judging somebody. She doesn’t even know me,” JP huffed. “To just say you don’t feel it is bulls***.” Nice job by the Bachelorette editing crew saving Chrystie’s sound bite about her own failed marriage till the very end of the segment.

The following day, Chrystie re-sharpened her claws for a sparring match with Ben, but the sight of the broad-shouldered wine maker and her little sister goofing around and showing off the voices they use to communicate with their dogs melted her reservations away. No crying or yelling or opening of emotional wounds? Let’s keep it moving then.

With her family’s opinions solidified, it was time for Ashley’s final dates with her dudes. Ben may have sealed his doom — or at least his reputation as the worst-dressed guy in the history of the franchise — by showing up in aqua shorts with pink and lime trim and a pink v-neck. Ben’s trance-like “journey” through this Bachelorette season continued with flatly delivered comments like “I am floating. I feel really great.” But dude suddenly woke up when Ashley flew him to the site of a healing mud bath, where he delivered the most cringe-inducing sound bite of the season: “When you’re lubing each other with mud, it’s really quite erotic.” Ashley, not to be outdone, let her eyes travel down to Central America on the world map of Ben’s body, then declared, “I wish I could reach lower, so I could like…,” before dissolving into a fit of giggles. 1-800-NO-ME-GUSTA.

Things turned more serious as evening arrived, but the couple’s choice of attire said everything about the seriousness of their intentions: Ben in gray slacks and a checked dress shirt, Ashley in denim booty shorts and a flimsy tank. After a long and awkward silence, Ashley coaxed an “I love you” out of the guy whose heart she intended to break, then made out with him on his hotel bed because, well, it’s important for the ABC camera guys to give the editor some footage that can ramp up viewers’ suspense levels during the season finale, okay? Ben, however, interpreted the kissing in a different way. “She’s telling me she loves me the only way she can.” Oh, dude. It’s a good thing you’ve got access to plenty of free wine in your life.

Continuing the theme of suitors in sherbet tones, we then cut to a date with JP (and his yellow V-neck) and Ashley (and the voice of her doubting sibling). “Any good relationship is meant to be questioned,” she explained before lobbing some softballs that allowed JP to express his willingness to compromise and sacrifice, and to reveal the most important detail of all: No, not why his eyebrows are so tiny. “I told your entire family I’m madly in love with you.” Oh, that. Cut to some kissing on the beach — I chuckled when Ashley’s towel “unexpectedly” fell to the sand to reveal her toned, bikini-clad backside — and an evening smooch-fest in JP’s hotel room (complete with a photo album containing that “greatest love story ever told” shtick).

(We pause for this following mid-telecast prayer: Oh dear God in heaven, did ABC seriously schedule five hours of Bachelorette broadcasting over two consecutive nights?)

Before we can get to the good stuff, let’s take care of some housekeeping:

* Am I the only one who thinks Ashley looks better waking up with minimal makeup and without 10 lbs. of false eyelashes?

* Did anyone else think the gaudy engagement ring Ben picked out for Ashley looked like a diamond-encrusted string of DNA?

* Are all of Neil Lane’s salespeople required to ask prospective grooms “What happens if she says no?” Because that would be kind of amazing.

* Classy job by the ABC camera crew to give us a shot of JP’s Calvin Klein bulge as he prepared for his proposal.

* According to Google, “Ni Sa Bula” (the message on the side of the Bachelorette plane) means “A Warm Hello.”

* And random dark thought that occurred to me as Ashley entered the driftwood and flower ceremonial circle: Wouldn’t it be amazing TV if one year, the Bachelorette said yes to the first proposal she got, then left the mansion? Then the second suitor could show up in his tuxedo only to find Chris Harrison eating a BLT on an inner tube in the infinity pool. “Oh, dude, sorry, you’re too late.”

We prepared for Ashley’s final rose ceremony with an internal monologue in which she talked and talked and talked and talked (but at least didn’t mention the name Bentley). My favorite part had to be Ashley discussing how hard it was to know it would be the last time she saw Ben, and failing to acknowledge that in a year’s time, they’ll both probably be signing up for Season 3 of Bachelor Pad, coming Summer 2012.

Ben’s proposal and ultimate rejection were seriously depressing, especially since he expressed his feelings about how he would be gaining a family member in Ashley after losing his dad four-and-a-half years prior. But at least Ashley didn’t give the standard-operating bait-and-switch speech after Ben got down on one knee and proposed, instead coughing out a pained “I’m sorry.”

What followed was sensationally good for TV viewing, albeit sensationally bad for the soul. “Wow. I didn’t see this one coming,” said Ben. “I guess that’s it, right?” Ashley, programmed to keep talking for the cameras, began to tell Ben that he was “so interesting” and tried to explain how she led him on to the point that he was willing to commit to spending the rest of his life with her, but dude was having none of it. “What I don’t need you to do it sugarcoat it,” he said. And when Ashley seemed to indicate her hope that they could still be friends, Ben delivered four of the most salient lines of the season: “You can’t leave something like this on good terms: It’s not possible.” “Good things don’t end unless they end badly.” “There were no hints. Absolutely no hints.” “What the f*** just happened?”

Farewell, Ben! Your burial (or the burial of your chance at TV romance, anyway) will take place at sea! (See screengrab below.)

In the world of The Bachelorette, though, devastating heartbreak can turn to a happy-couple montage, a mushy marriage proposal, and a jaunty formalwear-sporting romp in the surf in the course of a single commercial break. And thus we got JP stepping out of the old “Ni Sa Bula,” expressing his inner fears to Ashley, and then declaring that his love for her was his leap of faith. “I don’t want to be with anyone else but you forever,” responded Ashley, as REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (the couple’s official roller-skating jam) began to percolate in the background. And thus, Ashley got her engagement ring, JP got the final rose of the season, and we got our guaranteed happy ending. At least until Chrystie gives the Maid of Honor speech at Ashley and JP’s wedding reception.

What did you think of The Bachelorette finale? How did you react to Chrystie’s harsh comments for Ashley and JP? Did your heart break for Ben? And can these crazy kids pull a Trista-and-Ryan and make it work? Sound off below, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. SK says:

    WHY – do the final two men on The Bachelorette have to do the proposing? It should be the Bachelorette doing so, in the same vein that the Bachelor does.

    It has nothing to do with tradition or gender.

    The “star” of each show should be the one proposing – not the suitors.

  2. Sam says:

    I was REALLY pulling for Ben but it makes sense she chose JP. Ben is too good for her really.

  3. E says:

    “a diamond-encrusted string of DNA?” Yes, this exactly.

  4. Emily says:

    I was dying as “Can’t stop this feeling” played while they frolicked on the beach…on the floor, laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, kind of dying.

  5. Christine says:

    While we’re asking questions, when are we going to get a Bachelorette that wasn’t first a reject from the Bachelor? Maybe instead of getting a woman this sadly desperate for a man, we actually showcase an attractive, successful woman like they do with the men on the Bachelor.

    • hopeless romantic says:

      great idea! how about a older single mother the likes of Emily but not necessarily with a tragic story? how about just a real person maybe more mature in their 30’s or even 40’s who is possibly divorced didn’t get it right the first time & give the show some “depth” from those with more “life experience” :) just a thought

    • Genie says:

      Chris Harrison said they will probably never feature “new” Bachelor/Bachelorettes again, because they want the viewers to be invested in them already, so we get the used up characters like Ashley. It’s basically easier for them, they already have a lame back-story they can refer to ad nauseum. What they could do is select sassy confident women so the men can think they are getting a prize. It’s not fun watching weak women self destruct. If the women don’t think they are deserving of being wooed, why would the guys want to woo them? Ashley was the worst ever in the series, Bachelor or Bachelorette, in every way, and she needs to go back to high school freshman English.

    • ceah705 says:

      I agree, except for Brad.. what a loser…

  6. Winnie says:

    Haven’t watched it. I read the spoilers on Reality Steve and I am disappointed. I couldn’t watch Ben get heart broken. He is such a great man. Ashley is a fool but that’s ok…I am counting the days…JP’s true colors will show up and he will break Ashley’s heart worst than Bentley. He will boil over one day from something not worthwhile. I could see him pouting and giving Ashley the silent treatment. Mark my words…Ashley will be miserable.Sorry.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    you missed the best line of the season from JP as the credit’s started to roll:

    “When you walked in, in that first rose ceremony, like ‘My husband is definitely in this room,’ I was like, ‘What the f–k is she talkin’ about?'”

    The funniest and most reasonable thing said all season.

  8. RK says:

    Firstly Mr. Slezak, appreciation goes to you for not partaking in the blatantly cruel Ashley bashing that has gone on with other reviewes (some of who you may know….) To me there was something very endearing about Ashley’s willingness to share her insecurities, which a lot of women can relate to, and I think people have been way too harsh judging her. Looking at her relationship with JP regardless of whether he has the right words to describe it, I see complete honesty and openness – she always told him what was going on and he was always supportive. Quite admirable. As far as Ben – his ego was bruised but more that that I think his “journey” with Ashley was more about opening up after he lost his dad and with time he will now be truly open to a long lasting relationship. I think Ashley’s sister really needs to deal with her own emotions – I wonder if JP reminded her of her ex – her response to him seemed more about her issues –

    • JH says:

      Well said. Did I cringe at times watching Ashley in her awkwardness? Sure. But the truth is that we all have our own insecurities. Kudos to her for having the courage to put herself out there. I know I wouldn’t be able to open myself up to the kind of criticism that comes with being on a show like this.

    • Yo says:

      I like Ashley. Except for the one character flaw that allowed her to participate in this show, I think she is far more “real” than most contestants. I like that she is cute and upbeat, but not perfect. All should note that two bachelors were actually and obviously crazy about her. (How often does that happen?) The show simply is not into accurate personality portrayals and the producers do their best to rout out anything that smacks of character. Ashley looked like she was a lot of fun in the out takes that should have been left in.

  9. derby says:

    The scene at the end between Ashley and Ben looked and felt so contrived I could hardly believe it. And this is a series where everything is contrived! When Ben begins to speak, Ashley tries to interrupt. But her ‘Uhhmm….’ was horribly overplayed. And why on earth would she not just grab him before he starts proposing?

    This ‘scene’ was even too atrocious for a ‘I watch it to ridicule it’ type viewer like me.

  10. derby says:

    Did anyone else notice the boat taking Ben away in the end was headed directly out to sea? That was weird.

    I also want to add that, once again, the true stars of this abominable series are the editors. Kudos again! Job well done!

    * I’m serious. They earn their paycheck having to construct some semblance of a fantasy, fake-reality TV show from what has to be hours and hours of mind-numbing footage.

    • Darla P says:

      I thought they had added a new twist where they knocked the rejected suitor over the head and did a burial at sea.

  11. Tommy says:

    Derby – Yes, my wife & I laughed like hell when Ben’s boat appeared to be sailing off into the deep blue sea. Next stop ? Gilligan’s Island ?
    Hawaii ? All the way home to California ?

    I knew there was a back story with the Amy Winehouse wannabe sister. There’s nobody better for wedding advice than an (apparently) badly divorced older sister. Plus her sister hit the reality show lottery, while she’s doing some couponing show in a far less idyllic setting…

  12. Yo says:

    Thanks Slezak for noticing Ben was a little low on, well, affect. Deader eyes I have never seen, except on his mother and sister. For all the criticism the JP gets, he and his family at least smile – and not just with their mouths; their whole faces curl in an upward direction. I woulda married them, too. As a lover, Ben was unconvincing; who really thought Ashley would succumb to a passionate peck? Ben, baby, loosen up; you have to throw yourself into this stuff.

    • Kim R says:

      Yes!!! I’m sure Ben is a sweet guy but they had no chemistry really. And I was getting so irritated by the pecking!!!!! I mean come on…JP is a fantastic kisser…..:) There was so much real emotion in JP & I appreciated it. Even the interviews I caught on TV yesterday, he was the same. Did anyone see where Ashley admitted she told him she loved him first? We didn’t get to see that during the shows airing. Hmmmmmm….those editors. :)

  13. Mama says:

    I think her sister was a total B. Ashley had it right. I think she was trying to make the show revolve around her and her opinion. The jealousy was so obvious. To tell JP that Ashley and Brad made a better couple was nothing short of rude.

  14. Abe Froman says:

    This show is a complete waste of time. They will be broken up by the holidays… count on it.

  15. MK204 says:

    I read the early spoilers so was not surprised with the outcome, however the editors did a good job trying to deceive the audience. Apparently the editors don’t read the spoilers.

    And inasmuch as Ben was my favorite this year and inasmuch as I didn’t want him to feel heartbreak, I’m glad he didn’t get stuck with whiny, needy Ashley. Honestly I didn’t like Ali because I thought she was a (rhymes with) witch on her season, but at least she didn’t seem quite so needy. I also blame the producers for not telling her about Bentley but Ashley is so needy and insecure (can you blame her with a sister like THAT) that it became painful to watch.

    Good luck to JP, he seems like a good chap, but I’m glad Ben got away from it.

    As for the Final Rose show. He showed he was a MENSCH!

    Good looking, smart and a mensch. Where were these guys when I was 24???

  16. lisa says:

    I thought this was the worst dumping I’ve ever seen,and I’ve watched almost every episode.Why didn’t Ashley cut him off or stop him before he got down on one knee.Then she paused so long and left him down there,it was horrible.No wonder he seemed angry.Instead of saying I’m in love with someone else she tries to tell him he’s interesting. Painful to watch.The last Bechelorette handled it with so much more class letting the guy go the day before.

  17. Melissa says:

    I watched ABC’s classy job of capturing JP’s Calvin Klein bulge – TWICE. I wish I would have saved the recording.

  18. Er in says:

    I have a question-how come when the bachlorette questions her feeling all the way to the proposal site she doesn’t once say “I have doubts since MOST the relationships from this show DON’T work out” LOL!

  19. J. says:

    Worst grammar on TV: “Ashly and I’s relationship”. Can’t remember which one said it. Then Ashly did the same: “Constantine and I’s relationship is moving slowly”. What’s going on here?