Chris Harrison’s yearly guarantee that every season of The Bachelor will be “the most dramatic season in The Bachelor history!” and every finale will be “the most dramatic finale in The Bachelor history!” had come to seem like an empty promise — like how every politician proudly states that if elected, they won’t be doing “politics as usual,” or how the coach of the Cleveland Browns starts every season by telling the fans that the team will be better this year. But surprisingly, the annual hyperbolic promise came true this year. Monday night’s episode was, in fact, the most dramatic finale in Bachelor history.
We knew the season-ending predicament coming into Monday: Arie, our prematurely gray-haired “hero,” was in love with both remaining women on the show, Becca and Lauren. He couldn’t pick, even though, as Becca stated, the two are as different as “an apple and a starfish.” Becca likes saying things out loud; Lauren apparently believes that Arie is the first person she has ever felt comfortable talking to. And yet, Arie loved them both — and he made sure to tell them both that many, many times.
The first part of the finale (the second part airs Tuesday night) started off fairly conventionally: Arie introduced both ladies to his parents; he went on dates with both; he said, “I need to look inward,” as he was shown staring out from the top of a Peruvian mountain. All standard stuff. He brooded for much for the episode, lamenting that he had to break the heart of one of the two women. But little did he know that he was about to double the amount of heartbreak he could cause and kill two birds with one enormous Neil Lane–designed stone.
At first, Arie decided he was going to dump Lauren and marry Becca. On a beautiful Peruvian hillside complete with a babbling river and a healthy alpaca infestation, he let Lauren deliver the traditional Bachelor Runner-up Declaring Her Love Speech before revealing that he was ringless, and that he had chosen her rival. “Why did you do that?” she wept. “I feel betrayed!” Shortly after being whisked away in a car, an identical car delivered Becca to Arie. He proposed, she accepted. Arie gave her the show’s final rose, which broke a few seconds later as he whisked her off her feet. “Oh no!” they giggled. One of the many alpacas nearby then bleated out “FORESHADOWING” before continuing to chew grass like a big fuzzy-faced idiot. The same saccharine music that has played during every happy moment in The Bachelor’s history then swelled as the two declared their love for each other.
This is when every other season of the show ends. But on Monday night, it kept going. We got a short segment showing Becca and Arie’s happily ever after. They brushed their teeth together; they filmed a selfie video in a hammock; they played chess; Becca commented on how good Arie is at doing dishes while an anonymous woman does the dishes in the background. But then in a voice-over, Arie explained that their ever after is not so happy. He still loves Lauren. He’s going to break up with Becca.
The cameras then cut to Becca happily arriving at a house in Los Angeles, believing she was walking into a perfectly normal, filmed meet-up between two betrothed people. Instead, she was walking into a televised breakup. Arie sat her down and revealed that he was going to leave her to pursue a relationship with Lauren.
The Bachelor is normally an over-produced show, even by reality TV standards. It will often splice together audio from different interviews, selectively air material to portray certain contestants in certain ways, and play the same types of music over the same types of shots date after date, episode after episode, season after season. The show has invented the tropes of the romance reality TV genre it spawned, and it generally sticks to its rules.
But the end of this episode featured no production tricks at all. It was just two feeds from two cameras filming two people breaking up, displayed side-by-side on one screen, with no editing whatsoever, for a half hour (minus commercials, of course). The confrontation was filled with dead air. I believe the longest period of uninterrupted silence is here: The 32-second break between Arie whispering, “Can you look at me, please?” (she doesn’t) and Becca whispering, “Oh my god!” to herself.
But maybe I’m wrong. Search for yourself! Here’s an additional 25 seconds of silence:
(And I thought Arie and Lauren were the couple that liked to sit across from each other and say nothing for uncomfortably long periods of time.)
Camerapeople were clearly visible in the backgrounds of shots. Sometimes, one feed went black for a few seconds as the cameraperson shifted between shots. It’s clear this format was not the show’s intention going in — it was easy to see the cameras attempt to capture the shots the show normally takes, like a clip of Arie staring into space, or a shot of a closed door while Becca cried behind it, before transitioning to other shots. All of their footage-gathering methods were the same as usual — but this time, we just got the raw footage instead of a carefully stitched together package.
The presentation was gripping. It didn’t feel like watching a TV show about two people breaking up; it felt like watching two people breaking up.
Arie wanted to talk more to Becca about the breakup. This is what “nice guys” do when they hurt other people’s feelings — if I just explain everything and talk about it a lot, you can see that I’m actually OK! Becca, understandably, wanted to be left the hell alone. She wanted Arie to stop talking to her, she wanted Arie not to touch her, she wanted Arie to leave. She wanted all those cameras — whose presence we felt more firmly than ever, considering we could literally see them — out of her life, and Arie was the person who arranged for them to be there.
A running (and true) punch line about The Bachelor is that all the couples break up. They’ve done 22 seasons, and with the end of Arie and Becca’s relationship, 21 Bachelors are no longer with the person who “won” their season. How can they really spout all the nonsense about “searching for love” if nobody has ever found it? How can the show be “real” if none of the couples end up together?
But with this finale, The Bachelor flipped the script. After almost two decades of reality TV love, this breakup feels like the realest thing The Bachelor has ever aired.
Biggest Spoiler: Going to Machu Picchu
Congrats to everybody who didn’t read spoilers this season: We did it. I’m really bad at giving in to spoilers — I saw one Best Picture nominee this year, but know the plots of like seven of them — but I managed to fend off Reality Steve and his ilk for the entirety of this season. I don’t hold anything against the people who do read spoilers, but HOLY HELL, I’m so glad I had no idea what was coming at the end of this episode. It was riveting.
However, I did have a sneaking suspicion as to which woman Arie was ultimately going to choose, because look at the disparity in Lauren and Becca’s final dates in Cuzco, Peru. One of these dates (Lauren’s) involved visiting Machu Picchu, which Arie repeatedly described as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. (It’s not, unless you trust this version of the Seven Wonders decided via internet poll.) “You know, Machu Picchu,” he wisely stated. The other date (Becca’s) was essentially petting some alpacas in the rain.
Look, I love alpacas — I love all ungulates. But petting alpacas is second-choice date material. You visit pack animals with the soon-to-be-booted ex-boo, and you visit Machu Picchu with wifey.
Best Moment: Becca’s Disappearing Ring
Becca walked into the death of her relationship with a smile, bragging about her engagement ring. “He did well with the ring selection … it’s huge!” Then she got dumped, and this happened:
She put her hand on her forehead, realized the mountain she’d been carrying on her fourth finger wasn’t helping her support her head in her time of need, took it off, and resumed being inexplicably disappointed in the man sitting across from her.
Becca did a commendable job handling being dumped. She made sure to call Arie out on his BS: “This is fucking embarrassing,” she said, later adding, “This is a really shitty thing on your part, everything.” She also refused to give him the satisfaction of a goodbye hug—even as he lurked around for what felt like hours after she repeatedly begged him to leave.
Realizing that you’re being dumped on national TV probably isn’t fun, but I think Becca will be fine. Hopefully she can wear all those designer dresses, shoes, and jewelry Arie gave her in the second episode when she starts dating again.
Happiest Man on Earth: Ross Jirgl
Well, at least until Becca becomes the next Bachelorette in two months.
Arie came into this episode with an unfortunate situation: He had to dump one of two women, even though he’d told both that he was in love with them. “The hardest breakups are the ones you don’t see coming,” he mused, admitting that he would blindside at least one person who thought they had a secure relationship with him. But of course, breakups on The Bachelor are scheduled: Everybody sees them coming. It’s the premise of the show. But instead of merely breaking one woman’s heart while getting engaged to the other, Arie extracted the maximum amount of pain from both women and is currently not engaged to either.
First was the breakup with Lauren, which he handled pretty poorly, allowing her to go through an entire speech about how she’d never been able to open up to anybody the way she had opened up to him.
And the breakup with Becca: Oh, Arie, what a disaster. I’m glad this was on TV, but my dude, this should not have been on TV. It didn’t have to be on TV! But instead, Arie voluntarily participated in relationship-ending entrapment and a televised breakup.
Arie explained that he was just following his heart — he chose Becca, believing he could live the most practical life with her, but he just couldn’t shake his love for Lauren, who he was more passionate about. That’s somewhat reasonable — and he’s definitely not the first person to go through these emotions. But Arie was so foolish in love that he maximized the pain of two women he supposedly cares about. Both breakups played out like Joe Pesci’s death in Goodfellas — did you have to set the person up to feel happy before shooting them in the back of the head?
“I Love That”(s) of the Week
As you’d expect, Arie’s final episode — really, his entire journey — was defined by “I Love That.”
First, Arie shared a drink with his family and Lauren, the woman he actually loves. Lauren provided the toast, and instead of saying cheers, Arie hit the group with an “I love that” to signify his acceptance of the toast:
Later, Arie shared a moment with Lauren on a scenic overview, and he commented on the beauty of the Peruvian clouds. In a surprise twist, though, it was not Arie who loves that, but Lauren:
You know that it’s love when a couple adopts each other’s catchphrases. Arie had only one catchphrase, and Lauren literally doesn’t speak, so this was basically the only way we could see how far their relationship had come. But it was not to be. As Lauren told Arie why she loved him, expecting a proposal, Arie realized he had to break the news to her that their relationship was over. How did he do this? First with an “um.” Then with a new twist on his trademark phrase: “I have loved that.”
Deep. Tune in to Part 2 of the finale on Tuesday night to see whether Arie and Lauren will ever “love that” again.