So I have been absent the last three weeks from recapping The Bachelorette. It was for probably the only thing that could have pulled me away from Emily's season: My own personal version of Bachelorette, a whirlwind trip through four different countries in three weeks with my own version of Jef on a honeymoon (my new hubs also used to skateboard, yet is very polite). But don't think that means I skipped any episodes. Using possibly the most illegal sites in Europe I managed to wrangle each new installment a couple days after they appeared in the States, along with a crop of very offensive Russian pop-up ads. (Who watches The Bachelorette on their honeymoon? Me, apparently. One needs a couple quiet nights during a month-long trip full of climbing the Alps and catching trains, and my boo thinks the series is hilarious and watches it with me. Clearly that's a soul mate.)
But I have to say, for a season that possibly had the highest stakes yet in all eight seasons of the series, the finale managed to tear all that suspense away and streamline itself into Jef and Emily enjoying a glowing, public proposal. Personally, I was sort of shocked. If there is one thing we expect going into a season, it's the heart-pounding moment when someone's heart gets broken in broad daylight while wearing formal evening attire. The tension of the series is crystallized in that moment, that thrilling 75 seconds when all the audio drops out except for the personal microphone packs and we see the rebuffed party handle the long walk back to the limo or helicopter or dinghy while struggling to keep a blank face. Emily was both too much a softy and too much a mom to put her second-best suitor Ari through that public humiliation, and while I very much respect that decision and think it was the right one (especially as it kept little Ricki from having to process two suitors vs. one, and little Ricki seemed reluctant enough about meeting Jef. You could tell she was thinking "Hey, I'm showing my MOM this underwater somersault, not you. Why don't you go show YOUR mom something?"), that choice, I'm sure, probably meant a lot to Jef. Jef is someone who seems quite classically morally conservative despite his access to asos.com and a hipster barber. And while I was totally rooting for Jef and agree morally and rationally with Emily's decision, I was shocked by how much I missed the trademark double-proposal.
What kind of sadist am I? Indeed, was this my motivation all along—the promise of watching an ego get squashed? Suffice it to say, without that moment of pure adrenaline, the proposal became a series of gushing speeches.
The show did make Emily tease us that she might not accept Jef's proposal to add some suspense, but I never bought that. Chris Harrison didn't seem phased by the rules of the game being once again upended by Emily at the last minute. Honestly, ever since his wedding ring disappeared two episodes ago when Emily sent Shaun home, his eyes have completely glazed over and he's just floated through each week with his usual bland, mechanical enthusiasm thrown like a threadbare veil over his chilling, blank expression. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Harrison has ever been fully invested in any of these romantic shenanigans. At this point his resume fully condemns him to another ten years of televised pimping, and the strident ring of a cash-register drawer is all I hear when he opens his mouth, but the last few episodes have taken his glazed-over mien to whole new levels as his marriage ending dovetailed with Emily essentially making this show her bitch. His paycheck goes through no matter what happens, alimony can be legally enforced, and I think if Emily told him she had decided to walk into the ocean he would have been just as smiley and excited about her choice, albeit he would have phrased his question, "Now just one thing remains—what am I going to tell Ari?"
It was kind of cruel of the series to set Ari up on some faux date, making salsa in the jungle with his hands until Emily showed up to excuse him from the show. That being said, I loved his reaction. Ari's quick fury and cool leave-taking were on a level with Ben's own refusal to hear Ashley's excuses when she rejected his proposal. Maybe casually saying goodbye and instantly emotionally detaching is a rich-kid thing. Maybe after years of your parents dropping you off at Riding School for Christmas you can just hit a switch and mask every expression of rejection. Either way, with a race car driver's need for speed Ari hustled the hell out of there. Although when he hugged Emily the microphone at her neckline picked up Ari's very accelerated heartbeat. I don't know if that was some savvy editor's choice to add a sound effect or if it was an actual telling detail the show left in, but it was surprisingly touching. Is Ari going to be the next Bachelor?
Goodness, I hope not. I think as a nation we're all looking at Shaun, whose self-professed "selectivity" and muscles seem to make him an ideal candidate for making snap judgements and proselytizing in hot tubs. Emily and Jef: Are they forever? Will they last past the contractually obligated three-month "engaged" period before breaking things off? Jef has been super clear about this being a "forever thing" and if under all the hip clothes he's as Mormon as the rest of his family, I don't see him taking that statement lightly. Still, he's a very young 27, and it may occur to him that he wants to go sell his water at Coachella before he becomes a family man. But Emily seems to embrace that edge about him, and I can kind of see Emily at Coachella, putting sunblock and noise-canceling headphones on Ricki, looking about 18 in cut-offs and fringe-y sandals. I can also see her insisting that they spend the night at a nearby five-star hotel rather than camping on-site with the tweens, and Jef staying up late with his friends at an after-party and then really enjoying getting to go back to a nicely made bed with 500-threadcount sheets and air conditioning and Emily in cute PJs . So who knows.
Despite the weird lack of stakes at the end of a very climatic and intense season, I can say with authority that we, as a nation, do romantic reality elimination saga series better than anyone else. I say this based on a single experience: stumbling upon an episode of Moundir: L'Aventurier D'Amour in the wee hours of morning, my last night in Paris, as I frantically packed for the early flight to London. It's the French Bachelor, so of course I was transfixed, and I was impressed by three key differences:
1. Their bachelor, Moundir, was spectacularly humorless. My French is rudimentary at best, but it seemed like he got super angry when the girls ("les filles") asked him what his job was and had several shouting matches with his dates about stuff in general.
2. Every night was a potential Fantasy Suite, if you get my drift.
3. The girls who didn't go on dates PARTIED all night long. I'm talking drinks, strippers, the works—and when Moundir got pissed about it, they were like whatevs, all, "Pfft, c'est tant pis pour toi!"
While I do love the optional monogamy for the contestants featured in the French version, I think the way this Bachelorette played out shows a rather admirable set of cultural values in dating. Emily, a single mom, got to date a lot of guys at once while protecting her little girl, and ultimately decided to reject/ignore the whole reality show structure to protect the feelings of a person she became invested in. There's a lot of self-respect there, and if I'm going to trade my beloved moment of watching someone get his or her heart broken at high noon in the tropics, having it be for a lesson in self esteem is not a bad deal. So congratulations, Emily and Jef! And dear readers, let me know your thoughts on the last couple episodes in the comments... especially your call on who the next Bachelor will be.
1. SHAUN AS THE NEXT BACHELOR OBVIOUSLY?!?!
2. Ari: Would he make a pretty spiffy Bachelor?
4. Emily and Jef: A Forever Thing?
5. Did you miss the double proposal this season, why or why not?