Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Bachelor: I'm Gonna Miss You

If the finale episode of The Bachelor succeeded in anything, it is in becoming a true reality show. The traditional spats and sweeping generalizations about love and its importance to the human condition gave way to something more pragmatic and real this season. There was almost no "here for the right reasons”, “not here to make friends", or even "suck a dick, Chris Harrison".  Nick and his now public fiancée Vanessa were open about the difficulties they face both as a celebrity couple and a long distance couple. Hell, even the scorned Raven was realistic and understanding about Nick's decision, refusing to publicly badmouth either him or Vanessa during her time. For the first time in a long while, I actually agree with Chris Harrison's annual assessment of "This season will be unlike anything you've seen before."

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Chris Harrison is actually right.

The episode opened with the reintroduction of Nick's family, who have grown increasingly nervous about his decision making abilities.  Honestly, they have good reason to be worried. On three separate occasions Nick has had relationships with brunette women end painfully in primetime and now he's bringing home two more brunette women with a smile on his face. At a certain point it's got to feel like watching Sisyphus roll a boulder up the hill. We all appreciate the effort, but let it go. It's not going to happen.

Raven is the first to (re)meet Nick's family, and puts them at ease almost immediately. Nick's youngest sister has been a fan of Raven's since they first met in Waukesha, and his dad refers to her as "mature" and "a good fit". Even Nick's mom liked Raven, an astounding feat considering at this point meeting the women who will eventually crush her son has almost become a yearly tradition for Mrs. Viall.

Paying for Nick's mistakes for the last 35 years.

The family's response to Vanessa was far more tepid. This was in part due to Raven's natural charisma, but also Vanessa's honesty about her hesitations. Not only is Vanessa openly skeptical about accepting a proposal from Nick, she worries that their hard headedness will ultimately be their downfall. "Is love enough to make a relationship work?" she asks Nick's father in a pleading voice. "No," he says after a pause, "that's a cliché… a relationship requires commitment and selflessness." It's actually kind of amazing this conversation made it to air considering it undermines the whole idea of The Bachelor.

 With family time behind him, Nick prepares for his final dates of the season. The first last date goes to Vanessa, whom Nick takes horseback riding to Santa Claus’ cabin in the middle of a Finnish forest. Not one to let an opportunity go to waste, Nick asks Santa for true love, while Vanessa asks him for happiness. Since he traffics in tangible gifts over esoteric concepts, Santa gives them a piece of wood with their picture on it.

I wish I was making any/all of this up, but it was all depressingly real.

Santa and The Bachelor has always been a bad idea.

Leaving Santa in his cabin, Nick and Vanessa sit by a campfire to talk. Vanessa immediately admits that she is not content to simply have the best connection with Nick on the show. She wants to be the one true somebody for Nick. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if Vanessa had heard of The Bachelor before signing up, because that’s almost a literal description of the show.

Vanessa carried her concerns into the evening portion of the date, where she tells Nick that the show does not feel romantic like she hoped it would. Nick points out that of course it isn’t as romantic as she would like because Raven was still in the running. This makes Vanessa burst into tears. Nick meanwhile looks around confused because he is a stupid, stupid man.

Also, Santa lives is kind of a shit hole.

After Nick left Vanessa crying, he met with Raven for the final final date of the season. Nick and Raven ice skate on a frozen lake, all the while remaining the fun loving, goofy couple they have been all season. After a brief make out session on the ice, Nick surprises Raven with a literal armful of Siberian Husky puppies to play with. I’m not sure how Vanessa got “trip to glorified Mall Santa” for a date and Raven ended up with skating, making out, and puppies, but if I were Raven, I wouldn’t be complaining.

Later that night, Raven tried to console a stressed out Nick. He admits that while he doesn’t know which woman he will ultimately choose, Raven has made his day better. He also waxes rhapsodic about Raven’s loyalty, passion, and sense of humor. Nick even goes so far as to say he knows he would have a great life with Raven and she makes him proud to have her in his life. Boy, if I said all this nice stuff about Raven and didn’t pick her I sure would feel like an absolute asshole…

Pictured: An absolute asshole

Of course, Nick doesn’t pick Raven. When the final Rose Ceremony of the season begins, Raven’s is the first car to arrive. She confidently walks inside and immediately begins telling Nick how in love with him she is and how she can’t wait to spend the rest of her life with him. In return, Nick lets out a long sigh and Raven immediately realizes her time with him has come to an end. Instead of crying or pleading with him, Raven is stoic till the end. When Nick says, “I’m going to miss you,” Raven responds with a simple, “I know.” I can’t believe I just watched Nick Viall get Han Solo’d during a Rose Ceremony. We truly live in a golden age of television.

To her credit, Raven was emotionless until the very end. Even riding away from Nick in the car, she didn’t manage to shed a tear. As someone who was raised in a Midwestern Catholic household, I can respect that level of emotional repression. A+ work, Raven.

Why talk about your feelings when you can pretend they don't exist?

After Raven's departure, a nervous Vanessa arrives to see Nick. The two exchange the usual finale level declarations of love before Nick gets down on one knee to propose. "Vranessa Gummaldi" Nick mumbles, "will you marry me?" Vanessa must have assumed he was talking to her, and accepted his proposal as the episode came to an end.

After The Final Rose was, in large part, a reflection of the season as a whole. Nick came out first and admitted that he had a difficult decision, but was ultimately confident. Raven then joined him and said that she tried to be light hearted for Nick in order to ease the tension. The two left the stage amicably before Vanessa came out and admitted that she might not have had a great grasp on the mechanics of the show or she wouldn’t have acted so awkwardly towards Nick. Upon hearing this, I was perhaps the least surprised I have ever been in my entire life.

Eventually, Nick and Vanessa take the stage for the first time as a couple. Unlike past seasons, there was no love struck talk of marriage dates or excitement. Vanessa admitted that a combination of distance and celebrity made their relationship extraordinarily difficult. Nick even went so far as to scoff at Chris Harrison’s suggestion of a wedding, saying “We’re still getting to know each other.” While I get what Nick is saying, he lost the right to scoff at weddings when he got down on one knee and proposed.

Pictures like this lose Nick the right to do most things.

To end the night, Chris Harrison brings out new Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay for a brief interview. Rachel says that she is humbled and excited to begin her new journey, and has been shocked at how welcoming Bachelor fans have been, and basically just reiterates everything she said on Women Tell All. At first it seemed like Rachel's interview would be the same old filler Bachelor fans have come to accept from the show. However, Chris Harrison used the opportunity to reveal his massive, dramatic, earth shattering surprise, which made this segment an entirely new kind of filler.

Instead of waiting until mid-May, Chris excitedly announces that Rachel will begin meeting her suitors right now. If meeting your potential husband in front of a studio audience sounds like an extremely awkward proposition, that's because it was. None of the men seemed to have strong camera awareness, and one contestant exclaimed, “I’m going black and I’ll never go back!”

Are you kidding me? It’s not even May and already I have to listen to clueless white guys say blatantly racist shit to the first black Bachelorette. I know this is America and racist shit is the norm, but I thought I could at least go five weeks without being forced to write about it. All I expected was to read about it, live through it, and accidentally take part it in. You know, normal American shit.

Oh well, see you next season.


Gossip Squirrel

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