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‘The Bachelorette’ Finale Recap: A Three-Hour Horror Movie

All season long it was clear that ABC wanted the novelty of a two-lead season without putting in any of the effort required to make it work. But hey, at least the experiment’s over?

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, and goodbye to a baby back bitch of a season of The Bachelorette. Thank you to former contestant Ethan—and absolutely no one and nothing else in Season 19—for blessing us with that verbiage. I asked only that this season wouldn’t let the door hit it where the producers split it because they wanted the novelty of a two-Bachelorette season without the hard work of restructuring their 20-year-old system in order to accommodate such a whim. But even that, Season 19 could not do; Tuesday night’s finale somehow spanned three hours, despite the fact that this unmitigated disaster has, per The Bachelorette’s own marketing department, been ending for upward of three weeks now.

But you know what those other finale installments didn’t have? Jesse Palmer blithely introducing entirely new plot points that have no foundation in the source material of this season, with no context whatsoever. “Maybe tonight, Tino can convince Rachel that his indiscretions were just a momentary lapse in judgment,” Jesse says at the top of the episode, before we’ve officially heard of any such indiscretions. “Maybe Erich can explain those damning text messages sent to his girlfriend just a few days before stepping out of the limo on Night 1,” Jesse tells us, the people who just sat down to watch a three-hour finale and were apparently also expected to do unassigned summer reading beforehand.

I’ve never actually seen a Bachelor(ette) finale start in medias res, and I was so confused by Jesse immediately spoiling the drama to come that I had to pause my TV to make sure I was watching the beginning of the episode. If this season of The Bachelorette proves anything, it’s that there’s no substitute for a solid team of copy editors … not even a team of Bachelorettes.

They did at least knock off all the “most dramatic season finale ever” stuff this week after perhaps receiving the constructive criticism that watching Rachel sit onstage looking like she was preparing to eat a bowl of glass wasn’t exactly the drama we were hankering for. Rachel was still onstage, looking like she was choking down a dozen rotten eggs while being forced to Bird-Box her entire disastrous ending … but at least in this finale installment, The Bachelorette was a little more straightforward about what’s coming. “This season really has been brutal for both Rachel and Gabby,” Jesse says inside a dimly lit studio. “And now it looks like happily ever after is a million miles away from both women.” It’s a stab at honesty that teeters on an admission of culpability …

But in every other way, Jesse’s premature warnings give this finale the distinct feeling of a poorly plotted, three-hour horror movie. Because, as it must, the episode eventually makes its way to Tino proposing to Rachel: a proposal we’ve already been told is doomed, but still have to watch as Tino performs an ill-advised fake-out that he’s not going to propose—the lowest form of proposal humor. Tino and Rachel leave the show engaged, at which point Jesse prompts the in-studio version of Rachel to tell us what happened next. She says they had some good times and they had some bad times during their long-distance engagement, but eventually, during one of their “happy couple” weekends, Tino kept saying ominous things about “past relationships” coming to light. Rachel then pulled out the information that, while their own relationship was in a bad place—but definitely not over!—Tino kissed another woman and didn’t tell Rachel about it until after they’d already spent an entire weekend together.

The single highlight of this finale is Gabby coming to comfort Rachel before she confronts Tino for the first time in person, where she advises Rachel to kick him in the balls at her first opportunity. Instead, Rachel lets Tino through the door when he arrives looking like he’s just come off a bender and/or a catering gig. Hilariously, he is carrying a tiny, mysterious notebook with him. It seems this man watched one season of The Real Housewives of Potomac and thought he was ready to wield a receipts binder. Reader, he was not. And Rachel agrees, wielding her crystal-clear memories and more dominant personality with a much stronger grip. She’s furious when Tino starts reading quotes from his journal of the things she said to him that made him feel insecure about their relationship during the time that he cheated. Rachel tells him he’s not giving any context for her statements about giving back the ring or falling out of love because he wants to make her look bad and himself look better. And Tino tells Rachel that he … needs to go outside.

Tino can barely look at Rachel during this conversation, let alone talk coherently, and he really can’t sit still. He keeps leaving the conversation while making increasingly desperate attempts to get his mic off, until Rachel finally discovers him in the yard, shirt half off, extremely suspiciously hanging up a phone call …

Screenshots via ABC

It is, uh, deeply strange. And if you’re expecting more clarity from the sit-down Rachel and Tino have with Jesse at After the Final Rose, better luck next time. Because Rachel’s stated goal is that she wants an apology and answers about exactly what happened—but every time Tino tries to give her any context or apologize, she feels like he’s trying to put the impetus of his indiscretion onto her. To quote JoJo, I guess it’s just too little, too late for Tino’s apologies. No one is contractually obligated to forgive anyone on the AFR stage, after all. And that’s a good thing, because The Bachelorette creates a truly unforgivable level of discomfort when they ultimately bring out silver-place-medalist Aven to sweep Rachel offstage with a request to “get out of here and catch up” while Tino is still sitting there, watching Rachel’s eyes well up with joy.

If you’re wondering, yes, all of this really casts a damper on the second hour of the finale wherein Gabby and Erich actually do get engaged and arrive on the AFR stage looking very happy about it. Good for them! Gabby says a lot of really beautiful things about love and self-worth in that otherworldly kitten voice of hers … and Erich explains why he was sending semi-damning texts to a semi-girlfriend days before he went on the show. It basically boils down to him using going on the show as an easy excuse to break up with her, and he admits that was cowardly and misleading. Erich doesn’t explain the much grosser recent reveal that he did blackface in high school because, well, The Bachelorette never asks him to. (Erich did apologize for the photo on his Instagram last week.)

No, there was simply no time, what with only an entire hour left to get to the finale’s most inexplicable reveal yet: Zach Shallcross is the next Bachelor.

Wait, you don’t remember Zach?! Tall, square-jawed, 26-year-old white man with an indiscernible but seemingly inoffensive personality? Dated Rachel? You know, he’s a tech executive with teeth and arms? Come on, you must remember Zach—family is everything to him and he has a social security number? He constructs sentences with nouns and verbs? He finished in third place after a suspiciously bad Fantasy Suite date?? His uncle is Kronk???

The tepid response to Zach’s becoming the next lead isn’t on Zach, it’s on the franchise—choosing such a typical Bachelor lead when he’s done absolutely nothing to distinguish himself except be tall and white is disappointing. We can all see Zach’s sizzle reel, and it’s so bland it looks like they took it straight from the Step by Step title sequence—this man is going to pop out from the Bachelor mansion wearing a propeller cap. After announcing Zach as the next Bachelor, Jesse cracks a joke that he’s “just happy the Bachelor doesn’t look like me for once.” It’s such an absurd thing to say—this man looks just like him—that it even falls flat with the AFR audience, who have been whipped into such a frenzy of emotion that they would basically react to anything …

Anything but this. It’s a baffling end to a baffling season, made all the more baffling by the fact that its failure does not dampen my excitement for Bachelor in Paradise one bit. Get these people back on a beach, get them a spicy margarita, and for goodness’s sake, get Rachel off this set.