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Nothing Can Absolve Arie, the Large Adult Bachelor

Most “After the Final Rose” episodes on ‘The Bachelor’ exonerate all of the lead’s mistakes, but not the one Tuesday night

ABC

Bachelor season finales usually aim to accomplish two things. They function as a highlight reel for the season’s most dramatic moments while simultaneously absolving the long-running franchise of any wrongdoing. On the famed Chris Harrison–adjacent hot seat, contestants have a chance to redeem themselves. Season villains may argue that they were misunderstood, edited unfairly, or—in the case of Krystal—experiencing vocal strain. Playboys suggest that no one fully understands the experience unless they’ve lived it. Even full-on racists are given the undeserved chance to defend bad tweets in the name of smoothing things over.

Tuesday night’s Bachelor finale, like so many others, opened the stage for Arie Luyendyk Jr.—a 36-year-old real estate agent with a Backstreet boys haircut—to exonerate himself. But nothing about Arie’s tell-all appearance absolved him. Rather, during the two final episodes he devolved into the franchise’s reigning Large Adult Bachelor.

From the beginning of the season, Arie lacked the charisma of your average leading man. His explanations for why he wanted to be on the show felt empty and rehearsed, as did his rotating vocabulary to describe both women and locales as “amazing,” “sexy,” and “cool.” Whether he was taking in the view of an ancient Incan citadel or listening to a date profess her feelings toward him, his reaction was a bot-like “I love that.”

Arie’s lack of insight became especially problematic toward the end of the season, when Bachelors are expected to demonstrate their emotional intelligence and analytical skills. Becca was “beautiful” and “would make a great wife,” but would their lives work together? His connection with Lauren B., his quiet new fiancée, was “indescribable,” and yet one of the only things we knew about her is that she takes coconut milk in her coffee. His tendency to assign one descriptive word to each woman and repeat it—no matter how much time he spent with her—was intellectually lazy, even for reality television. And as a result of all this, viewers jumped to logical conclusions. Arie didn’t want a passionate, challenging relationship between equals. He wanted a hot, cooperative woman who would be a safe vessel for his kin. “When are we going to start having babies?” he asks Becca in a post-proposal interview, champagne flute in hand.

Arie’s utter blahness was only further highlighted once he stumbled into a situation that, for the first time in history, resulted in “the most dramatic finale in The Bachelor history.” The timeline is spotty, but here’s what we know: Drunk on what I can only assume was two modest glasses of middle-shelf merlot, he landed on Lauren’s Instagram on New Year’s Eve and—sound the fuckboy alarm—slid into her DMs. He eventually called her to confirm she would be open to taking him back. (Meanwhile, he was allegedly house-shopping with Becca.) For reasons relating to money, fame, or the fact he’s a weak human being who is easily persuaded by reality TV producers, Arie then arranged to ruin Becca’s life on national television. “The more I hung out with you, the more I felt like I was losing the possibility of maybe reconciling things with Lauren,” he said to the woman he told he would “choose every day from here on out.” When Becca wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of forgiveness or a goodbye hug, he lingered until he could force one from her. Though he admitted to feeling “a little bit like a monster,” the absence of genuine guilt in his face was clear. Moments after crushing a person he supposedly loved, his aim was not to comfort, but to be comforted. Becca tragically flew home, teary-eyed, in a middle seat.

Arie then proceeded to throw whatever relationship he had with his ex-fiancée under the bus. “Are you 100 percent over Becca?” Lauren asked (for good reason!) at a subsequent visit to her home in Virginia. “1,000 percent,” he answered. “I feel like I made the wrong decision.” At this point we had regrettably watched hundreds of hours of Arie-focused television, and there was still no solid explanation for why he was doing what he was doing. Maybe he’s easily bored? Or just really attracted to Lauren? I suspect he’s never had a good idea of what he wants. Nevertheless, after admitting to Becca that he shouldn’t have proposed in the final episode with such an uncertain mind-set, he had no problem doing it again with Lauren. “I truly believe you are my soul mate,” he told her. Why would anyone believe that?

With this “journey” now mercifully over, some final thoughts: The Large Adult Bachelor is a man-child disguised in sophisticated gray hair and a sensible cashmere sweater. He lurks in the bland desert suburbs of Scottsdale, Arizona, telling tales of his past as a race car driver. He can be easily identified by his excessive moan-kissing. Simultaneously indecisive and self-confident, the Large Adult Bachelor sustains on validation. He is as uninterested in self-reflection as he is with the interior life of his romantic partners. And now that he’s engaged for the second time in one year, the Large Adult Bachelor should try to stay off Instagram.