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Open-Mouth Kisses Win Out on ‘The Bachelorette’

On the season finale, a favorite goes down in flames, a runner-up glows up, and the guy who made everyone uncomfortable prevails

Rachel Lindsay ABC

It was a weird season of The Bachelorette. Somehow, one of the most likable Bachelorettes ever—the witty and wise Rachel—ended up with one of the least enjoyable seasons ever—dreadfully boring and painfully uncomfortable, to the point where I wondered if the show’s behind-the-scenes staff had been replaced in the few months since wildly entertaining seasons. But perhaps the season’s weirdest element was a finale episode that—for the first time in, I think, my entire history of watching this show—made me genuinely develop opinions about the romantic choices made by its lead character.

Rachel had narrowed her choices down to two men: Bryan, the sweet-talking Miami native with the aesthetic of the third-most-popular member of the third-most-popular boy band from 1997, and Peter, the guy we all assumed she’d pick.

Everything about Bryan seemed fake. (I did not know there was such a thing as “cheek implants” until my girlfriend, my editor, and half of my Twitter timeline accused Bryan of having cheek implants. Peter even seemed to notice.) Bryan was handsome, charming, and apparently capable of expressing undying love for a woman within a month of meeting her. He also had no off switch. Rachel admitted she thought Bryan was a douchebag the first time they met, and her family instantly picked up on his apparent insincerity. Peter, meanwhile, seemed to have a genuine connection with her, and their future seemed set. They would hang out at Peter’s favorite extremely quiet bar where he hangs out with his favorite mixed-race couple friends; they would have beautiful children who could fit entire straws through their front-teeth gaps. The show’s producers had even upped his listed job title from “personal trainer” to “business owner” to make him sound like a more reputable husband for Rachel, the high-powered attorney.

But in the last few episodes, Peter veered off track. While Bryan consistently emphasized his undying love for Rachel in the form of open-mouth kisses, Peter expressed skepticism about his ability to propose to Rachel at the end of the show. He wanted to get engaged only once, and wasn’t sure whether Rachel was the right woman for him after the rushed reality TV dating process. Rachel did not compromise; she exited her season as the loser of zero arguments, having ceded zero inches.

Somehow they both seemed wrong. Why was Peter on a damn dating show that ends in a proposal if he was unwilling to propose after the length of said dating show? Why was he making such a big freakin’ fuss about the potential that he might propose to Rachel and break up? Everybody who proposes on these shows breaks up! And why would Rachel pick the wrong guy just so she could end the show with a proposal? After all, everybody who proposes on these shows breaks up!

And yet, they both seemed reasonable. Rachel didn’t go through all of this to be made to look a damn fool on TV. Perhaps she read Peter’s reluctancy as an easy postshow breakup strategy. And in Peter’s case, I get him not wanting to propose to a person he’d known for only a few weeks. Lots of people feel uneasy with the pace of relationships that are significantly slower than the crash course Rachel and Peter went on. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for about four years now, almost none of which has been the subject of a highly formalized, nationally televised courtship, and I get antsy when people talk about marriage.

I was prepared for Rachel to pick Peter at the beginning of the episode; I remained prepared for Rachel to pick Peter as they explained their differences and parted ways. Even after we were shown their breakup and the two sat next to each other on a live-show postfact and discussed their breakup, I found myself believing the breakup scene was an act.

I’ve never approached this show with anything but cynicism. It produces more attempted Instagram celebrities per season than it has produced marriages in more than 30. And yet I found myself imagining Peter and Rachel sitting on the couch at the live show, smirking as they watched video of themselves reuniting, having fooled the entire audience. I imagined this mini-fantasy sequence like it was the end of La La Land.

Instead, I was stunned to see the presumed loser win, like the other thing that happened with La La Land. I was perhaps more stunned to realize how stunned I was. Peter left, and there was only one contestant remaining, grinning from apparently fake cheek to apparently fake cheek. Congrats, Bryan, winner of The Bachelorette by default.

Line of the Season: Peter

The split between Peter and Rachel felt less like a TV elimination and more like a breakup. It was almost mutual; both parties realized the time element and the chasm they couldn’t cross. But no breakup is mutual, and Rachel was closing the door while Peter tried to yell his way back inside. He said this.

I wasn’t sure whether to be upset with Peter for being such a jerk or applaud him for what has to go down as one of the most vicious zingers in show history. Yeah, people call each other bitches and threaten to fight all the time. But “go find someone to live a mediocre life with?” It’s cruel and viciously real. Peter apologized in the live show, and Rachel snapped back by saying she’s not living a mediocre life, but her best life. Her comeback won the moment, but, like, Bryan is distinctly more mediocre than Peter, so ...

Peter’s last moments on the show were not great. This was one of his multiple attempts at telling Rachel she was making a mistake. He was trying to manipulate her into accepting his vision for their relationship, instead of altering his plans to fit hers. Peter spoke to her like he was the subject of a reality show where he got to eliminate women, rather than one of 30 dudes hoping a woman might pick them. His display almost made me wonder if Rachel had made the right choice. (Of course, she didn’t, but: almost.) But I’m willing to forgive Peter. We should all be glad our breakups were not nationally televised. He still seemed unhappy talking about it. His cutest anecdote was “I was too depressed to pick up the eyelashes Rachel lost while crying,” which is not cute.

But hey, maybe one day he will be the subject of a reality show where he gets to eliminate women. Who else could possibly be The Bachelor? The Whaboom Guy?

Las Palabras Más Excelentes: Bryan

Bryan is proud of his heritage. He wooed Rachel in Spanish from the night they met; in Miami, he showed her Colombian food and danced with her to Colombian music. This came in handy in the last episode, shot in the Spanish province of La Rrrrrrrrrrrrrioja, which Bryan pronounced with the dialect native to White Dads Ordering “El Burrito de Pollo” From Unimpressed Waiters in Sit-Down Mexican Restaurants. As a pale half-Cuban with a middle school understanding of Spanish, my lifetime of insecurities about that have trained me to spot others overselling their Spanish fluency. Bryan isn’t just overselling; it’s the only thing he’s selling. He speaks to her in Spanish whenever possible, even though she doesn’t understand. He presents Rachel with a Bachelorette-themed Spanish-English dictionary, which helps her to say “Big Rach” and misspells “siempre.

Bryan knows women (including Rachel) swoon for sexy Spanish phrases, but unfortunately his Spanish comprehension seems to be limited to phrases sexy enough to appear in a fifth-grade textbook. “Mi amor,” he whispers sweetly, but strongly in Rachel’s ear. “La biblioteca ... está cerrada ... en la noche.”

Biggest Winner, Somehow: Eric

Rachel probably picked the wrong guy, Bryan is the wrong guy, and Peter reacted the way humans do during breakups, which is to say, like a human at his worst.

Nobody came out looking good in this finale. Nobody except for Eric, who was sort of forgotten. The show’s plot did not focus on him: He’d had his fantasy suite date on last week’s episode, and even he seemed to know he was done. He didn’t even show up to the suit-mandatory rose ceremony in a suit, instead rocking the blazer-with-a-T-shirt-and-sneakers look.

It’s a look that I, an abysmally bad dresser who did not own dress shoes for four of the most recent five years of his life, have worn. Nobody on The Bachelorette should be mimicking my style. But he handled his elimination gracefully and showed up on the live show with an excellent post-breakup beard.

Eric didn’t come in first or second, and he still might have won.

Worst—or Best—Location Scouting Job: the Proposal Church

The show’s producers found a gorgeous church in Spain for Bryan to propose at. Unfortunately, the church was right next door to a local tornado factory.

The scene was basically inaudible, but here’s my guess of what happened:

Bryan: I’M GOING TO PROPOSE TO YOU IN SPANISH. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND SPANISH, BUT I PROMISE YOU THAT WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY IS VERY ROMANTIC.

Rachel: WHAT?

Bryan: EL GATO TIENE TRES AÑOS! HOY ES MIÉRCOLES!

RACHEL: I LOVE YOU TOO! LET’S GET MARRIED!

But there’s a plus side to somebody presumably running a Dyson Airblade right next to the microphones during the season’s climactic scene. We didn’t have to hear Bryan kissing Rachel, an act he tackles with the same technique as a toddler sloppily slurping sugar milk from a near-finished bowl of cereal.

Bryan kissed Rachel loudly and grossly on the first night of this show and continued kissing her loudly and grossly until the end. It was a romance that swept Rachel off her feet, hypothetically, even as I grew increasingly perplexed. But in this moment, as they kissed in front of a picturesque church without the overpowering wet clicks produced by Bryan’s industrial-grade vacuum kisses, they almost seemed like a good couple. Maybe this is why Rachel likes him? Maybe she can’t hear all the noises his mouth makes?

While the result is disappointing, I’ve come to realize Rachel’s pick was a net positive for viewers. Think about it: Bryan will not be the next Bachelor, which means he will not be able to sweet-talk 30 women before smacking his gums against their faces for two hours a week on my television.