That The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are actually filmed several months before they air has long been a gift to producers, but heading into Monday night it had started to feel like a curse. Yes, the gap in between filming and airing gave producers a level of narrative control over their reality TV program normally afforded only to scripted shows, giving them 20/20 hindsight on which contestants would go far and which story lines they needed to sell. But it also allowed real-world developments to creep in to ruin the narrative they’d set in place. Since the advent of Reality Steve, a man whose sole job has been to reveal the outcome of seasons months before they air, a cottage industry has sprung up devoted to digging into the lives of the contestants to uncover details of their real lives, from problematic social media posts to pre-existing relationships.
Monday night’s finale seemed like the final payoff of this development; reality finally catching up with reality TV. The episode was presented in three parts: The first was a relatively conventional Bachelorette ending, filmed in May in Greece. Hannah had to pick between two men—Tyler, a man with a 300-level understanding of feminist talking points and a jawline sharp enough to grate Parmesan, and Jed, a whiny platform for facial hair with a guitar where his personality should be. As we all pretty much knew she would despite her reasons being unclear, she sent Tyler away with a hug before he could propose to her. “Well that’s gonna hurt,” he said, “but I’m still gonna be the biggest fan for you.” Then Hannah accepted Jed’s proposal. The proposal was a song, because Jed always sings when there are cameras rolling.
Part 2 of the finale was filmed in Los Angeles, sometime after a June article in People revealed that Jed had not yet broken up with his previous girlfriend before appearing on the show. Hannah confronted him about the article, getting Jed to admit that he’d been dishonest to her about a variety of things. Yes, he’d gone on vacations with his ex; yes, he’d told her he loved her; no, he hadn’t formally broken up with her before the show started (according to Jed, they broke up “in my heart, not verbally”); yes, he had thrown a pool party with two unidentified women shortly after Hannah visited him at his home in Nashville. In a particularly poignant moment, Hannah pointed out that Jed told his friends about their engagement by letting them know that he “won” the show, rather than saying anything to the effect of “I’m marrying the girl of my dreams!”
In the next scene, Hannah called Jed to let him know that their relationship was over. And while it’s not great etiquette to break up over the phone, at least Hannah broke up with Jed verbally and not merely in her heart. So, for the first time since 2005—and only the second time in 15 seasons—The Bachelorette ended without a couple engaged to be married. The season appeared to be ending dismally.
But then came the third portion of the show, a segment filmed live in front of a studio audience on Tuesday night. During it, Hannah revealed her relationship with Jed was officially over. Jed also appeared to say he still loves Hannah, but Hannah explained that he’d betrayed her trust and that her feelings for Jed were gone. Jed left the stage, and out came Tyler. Tyler explained he still loved Hannah; Hannah said she still had feelings for him, too. The two agreed to go on a date. “Just so we’re clear, we’re going to have a go at this?” Chris Harrison butted in, seemingly extrapolating one date into a full-blown relationship so that we could all go home knowing that actually, the show’s format hadn’t failed. And so that’s where we left off, with Hannah giddily gazing into Tyler’s Mykonos-blue eyes; with at least a hope that love would prevail.
Time nearly ruined The Bachelorette. In between the end of filming and the show’s air date, its storybook ending turned into a sham, as the world learned of the skeeziness of its would-be chosen man. But by Tuesday night, the show spun its delayed air date into a positive. Given months to realize that Jed was a wildly unpopular chump nobody was rooting for, and that Tyler was a folk hero who would win 49 to 50 states in the Electoral College if he was eligible to run for president tomorrow, the show arranged an ambush for Jed and a coronation for Tyler. It became clear which outcome would make the public happy, and so The Bachelorette arranged a happy ending.
Yes, reality put The Bachelorette in quite a hole, as it has over and over again in recent years. But this time, The Bachelorette fought back.
Biggest Winner: Hannah
I’d like to express my surprise and sheer joy that Hannah successfully completed one of the most enjoyable seasons in Bachelorette history. I wasn’t particularly confident about her chances—her appearance on The Bachelor was truly strange, as she often forgot how to use language to convey her thoughts. (Never forget her “words that are real—real words” speech.) But she did learn to speak, and developed a knack for putting men who overstepped their bounds in their place, confidently and powerfully expressing why she wasn’t going to tolerate their actions. It was truly a joy to watch.
Really, the one downside to Hannah’s stint as Bachelorette: She has pretty bad taste in guys. There is no explanation for crosses-and-CrossFit enthusiast Luke, who was possessive and aggressive at every turn, making it into the final four. And it is truly inconceivable that Hannah picked Jed over Tyler. As I wrote on Tuesday, there is no comparison between the two guys: Tyler is more charming and smarter and more open-minded and prettier and stronger and also he didn’t have another girlfriend.
The easy explanation is that Hannah just likes Southern guys, like Tennessee Jed and Georgia Luke—as she explained in the premiere, Southern guys are “comfortable” for her. But, like, these guys seemed genuinely unenjoyable to be around, and everybody told her so: A chorus of contestants told Hannah how toxic Luke’s presence was at every turn, and both Hannah’s own family and Jed’s family seemed to agree that something seemed off about her relationship with Jed. But she refused to listen—if anything, these criticisms caused her to double down on Luke and Jed.
Somehow, Hannah stopped time and Matrix-dodged those two bullets, although both were upsettingly close calls. I’m not particularly confident about her future with Tyler—their reconciliation seemed a bit forced—but Hannah at least avoided disaster.
Funniest Character: Jed’s Guitar
For a few moments, everything seemed normal about the way Tyler and Jed headed over to meet Hannah. We got shots of both men wearing suits; shots of them looking wistfully out the window; shots of their vans winding through the Greek countryside. But then, when the camera focused on the ring in Jed’s hands, we saw something else: the neck of a guitar, capo on the second fret, resting on Jed’s leg. As we soon found out, Jed had prepared a musical proposal. He approached Hannah, with his guitar in hand, and sang to her before dropping to a knee to ask for her hand in marriage.
Stunningly, Jed once again tried to hit some high notes in his proposal song. This felt like watching a basketball player with a 21 percent career 3-point percentage square up from deep with the game on the line. This is your full-time job, right? You’ve done this your whole life, right? You know that there are some parts of your job that you’re good at and some parts that you’re bad at, right? Surely, after a lifetime of voice cracks and/or bricked jumpers, you should be able to realize your falsetto/jump shot is not worth displaying in public, right? And yet.
At this point, Jed’s penchant for singing to Hannah is beyond parody. Jed sang to Hannah the first night they met; Jed sang to Hannah the second time they met, on the beauty pageant date (it was his talent); Jed played piano for Hannah on a date in Latvia; he also found a guitar in Latvia (did he carry it with him from country to country?) and played it outside her hotel room and then brought it upstairs and played it for her in bed and then made out with her next to the guitar; when Hannah visited Jed’s hometown, he brought her to a recording studio where they played music together. There was also an episode teaser which showed Jed making out with Hannah while wearing only pants and a guitar, although we never saw that scene in the actual run of the season. It seems like the only times Jed did not play guitar for Hannah were when they met up to discuss the People article and during Monday night’s live segments. Don’t back down now, Jed! Win her back with some smooth singing!
As Hannah seems to put together during their L.A. decoupling, Jed’s guitar-playing is shady when examined with any skepticism. He explicitly told Hannah that he initially came on the show to promote his musical career, and then later claimed that his mind-set changed when he fell in love with Hannah. But … he did spend the entire time showcasing his replacement-level warbling. He even showcased his ability to boost a brand’s national awareness by explaining to Hannah’s dad that his “most major accomplishment” was writing a jingle for a dog food company. Shout-out to the Better Bowl social media team for being prepared to capitalize on Jed’s newfound fame:
Always waiting. Always there. Go ahead and give your dog something special and fresh. BetterBowl - It's Better Than Fresh. #fresherdogfood #healthierdogfood #betterdogfood #betterbowl #jedwyatthttps://t.co/fn8GSM6zDj pic.twitter.com/SNiOje6JZB— Better Bowl (@BetterBowl) June 20, 2019
(Aren’t … aren’t jingles supposed to be catchy?)
To be fair, it was a good strategy. Hannah was completely entranced every time he slipped on his six-string, bobbing and swaying to songs which all sounded exactly the same. She genuinely couldn’t resist Jed’s generic strumming. If it wasn’t for his musical wooing sessions, why would Hannah have picked a guy she barely seemed to get along with? If Tyler had just learned “Wonderwall” at some point in his life, this damn show could’ve been over in minutes.
Newest Trope: The Safe-House Breakup
If I could change one thing about Tuesday night’s finale, I would erase the finale of the 2018 season of The Bachelor. Not that the episode was bad—it made our list of the best television episodes of the century, actually—but I’d want it to be briefly stripped from the public consciousness for the sake of this episode.
In the 2018 episode, Bachelor Arie decided to propose to Becca instead of Lauren. Later, he changed his mind, rekindling his relationship with Lauren behind Becca’s back. Eventually, it came time for Arie to tell Becca, so the two met at a rented house in Los Angeles—common protocol for Bachelor couples as they try to stay out of the public eye before their season airs—except this time, Bachelor cameras were there to capture their meetup. Becca didn’t think much of it, figuring the show simply wanted footage of her and Arie enjoying a happy weekend together. But she was actually walking into an ambush, as Arie had arranged to dump her on TV.
And so when Jed rolled up to a rented house in L.A. with cameras rolling, he knew the drill. He knew he was about to be asked about his other girlfriend, and he knew that there would be cameras there to turn it into content.
This episode would have been perfect if there had been a legitimate element of surprise when Jed walked through that door—if he hadn’t known that Hannah knew about his ex, if he had thought the cameras just wanted to capture their pre-marital bliss. (I guess in this case, I’d also need to scrape the People article from the internet, since once that was released, Jed probably only expected to walk into ambushes.) Jed spent this entire season with a secret; it would’ve been perfect if just once, Hannah had gotten to surprise him.
Thriftiest Contender: Jed
Hannah tore Jed limb from limb in that safe house. Yes, he knew he was going to get grilled, and therefore came prepared with all the answers. The problem is, all his answers sucked.
At one point, Hannah pressed Jed about his trip to a cabin with his ex-girlfriend, a trip that ended with her meeting his parents. Hannah seemed surprised—Jed was still claiming that he’d never considered his ex-girlfriend to be a “girlfriend,” and yet was talking about a time they stayed in a cabin as a couple and went to meet his parents. However, Jed had an explanation: In a voice nearly as whiny as the chorus to the one song he uploaded to YouTube, he explained, “Yeah, I got a cabin for free!” As if to say to Hannah: “How could I not take advantage of such an incredible deal?”
Of course, Hannah was not grilling Jed to find out whether he was fiscally responsible. She was trying to determine how big of a lie it was to downplay the entire existence of his relationship, and as it turns out, it was a really big one. Shortly after the super-dope, free cabin trip, the ex-girlfriend’s parents paid for Jed and the ex-girlfriend to go to the Bahamas, where Jed told her he loved her. It is virtually unbelievable that any guy would say “I love you” to a girl he did not consider to be his girlfriend. It is completely unbelievable to imagine two parents buying their daughter’s non-boyfriend a trip to the Bahamas. But once again, Jed wanted Hannah to know that this trip was basically meaningless, because he didn’t pay for it.
Jed’s primary indicator of relationship gravity seems to be whether or not trips cost money. That has to be a pretty big warning sign for Hannah, who just ended up engaged to Jed after the two went on a series of trips to Scotland, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Greece, all on ABC’s dime.
It’s going to be hard for Jed to date after this, because he was just portrayed as a liar on one of America’s most popular TV shows. He needs to find a woman who has never seen The Bachelorette, and then, after she finds out he was recently engaged to a woman he met on a television show, he can whine, “Yeah, the ring was free! How could I not get engaged to her!”
Surprise Champion: Auburn
I firmly believe that everything is actually college football, but even with this worldview, The Bachelorette is more college football than most things. This year’s runner-up-turned-winner, Tyler C., played quarterback for Wake Forest and tight end for Florida Atlantic; the winner three seasons ago was ex-Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers; the first-ever winner of The Bachelorette, Ryan Sutter, played at Colorado; 2014 winner Josh Murray played at Georgia (as did his more football-famous brother Aaron); last year’s Bachelor, Colton Underwood, was an FCS All-American at Illinois State; Daron from this season was a linebacker at Kentucky; and so on. It’s basically a postgrad program for players who don’t make the NFL.
And this season, the Bachelorette came with football flair, too. Hannah hails from Tuscaloosa, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who have won somewhere between 12 and 21 national championships. (A fun thing about college football is that it’s legitimately tough to keep track of these things.) Hannah’s season began with a dance party at Bryant-Denny Stadium and a premiere in which 100 guys yelled “ROLL TIDE!” at her. One of those men: Jed, who sang Hannah a “roll tide”–themed song shortly after exiting the limo. Jed, from Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the Vols, is well versed in the SEC.
Perhaps, I think, a tad too well versed. In the People article that turned out to be his downfall, you may notice that Jed’s ex-girlfriend is wearing an Auburn hat. In fact, she went to Auburn. As you may know, Auburn and Alabama are intra-state rivals, perhaps the most bitter enemies in all of American sports.
My point is: I guess you could sum up this season of The Bachelorette by saying that Alabama was headed for a perfect season until Auburn showed up out of nowhere in the final seconds to turn everything upside down.
Folks, they’re not gonna keep ’em off the field tonight.