Tonight’s Bachelorette finale was hardly a surprise. Those of us invested enough in the ABC franchise to mine the web for insights and spoilers learned via accidental Snapchat back in June to whom Kaitlyn would give her final rose.
Yet knowing that Shawn—the personal trainer who, if you squint and cock your head just so, looks like Ryan Gosling—would win Kaitlyn’s heart was not enough to keep us creatures of habit from tuning in for the three-hour finale all the same: to meet Kaitlyn's family, to see if Shawn would slip that ABC-funded Neil Lane rock on her finger and propose, but most of all, to see just what happens when a man known for reacting to rejection with sour grapes and slut-shaming is dumped on national television… for the second time.
But even that hope for schadenfreude (the real reason we tune in to reality TV anyway) was squashed, when a software salesman and part-time Bachelorette villain took his public flogging with more dignity than anyone expected.
Much like a bad relationship, this season of The Bachelorette has managed to be both tiresome and controversial. Kaitlyn was one of two Bachelorettes presented to the amorous men. Once chosen, Kaitlyn brought back Nick V., last season’s first loser loathed not only due to some questionable sartorial decisions (he’s got a thing for scarves and man-bracelets), but also because as Andi’s runner-up, he turned his hurt feelings into a national television kiss-and-tell, asking on After the Final Rose: “If you weren’t in love with me, I’m just not sure why, like, why you made love with me.”
Kaitlyn also had “off-camera time” with Nick outside the agreed-upon boundaries of the Fantasy Suite and then to make it fair, Bachelorette producers moved up the sex dates so everyone had a chance to knock boots with her in private before the hometown visits. A 29-year-old woman having consensual sex with men she is dating set off an Internet firestorm and, as revealed in the “Men Tell All” episode, Kaitlyn was cyberbullied and received death threats.
Before the final rose, Nick and Shawn both meet Kaitlyn’s family. The Bristowe clan were obviously Bachelorette fans, quickly able to guess that Nick was the one to return and effortlessly worked “here for the right reasons” and “can I steal you away” into conversation. Recalling Nick’s shenanigans from last season, Kaitlyn’s mother grills him: “You were possessive. You were jealous... arrogant... Who are you?” But the mother is easily won over after Nick reveals his plans to propose and they both cry. “I was totally wrong about Nick,” she gushes.
Then Shawn comes along with presents for her sister’s kids and a jar of moonshine cherries for his soon-to-be in-laws, and pulls the classy move of asking both parents for permission to wed their daughter. Unable to resist his strong Roman nose, they give their blessing to Shawn, too. And just like that we have two men ready to propose.
But before they do, show rules say they must bestow sentimental gifts on our Bachelorette. Nick goes with a Things Remembered-style frame—a photo of the couple sitting on the left and an ill-advised poem on the right. Though his verse would probably get him laughed out of a junior high English class (“There is electricity in your lips and when I kiss you I feel your energy”) it lands with Kaitlyn and leads to more making out. Considering Nick’s gift to Andi was a fairy tale penned about their love journey, complete with crayon illustrations, perhaps Kaitlyn was judging on a curve.
Shawn’s gift—equally puzzling, but almost certainly cribbed from Pinterest—was a memory jar. Basically, Shawn filled an oversized cheese puffs container with a bunch of junk from their past dates: tickets and notes and golf balls. Swoon.
Much like the rest of the season, during which producers quarantined a gaggle of unlikeable suitors and their equally tiresome lady paramour in Ireland, the powers that be at ABC decided to save their budget for a season people really cared about (or maybe for Bachelor in Paradise). Instead of whisking the contestants to Barbados or Aruba for the finale, they decided to just wrap it up at the mansion.
Nick arrives first. He’s feeling confident and is “looking forward to finding out if I’m right.” But, of course, as the in-bed Snapchat between Shawn and Kaitlyn made very clear, Nick is not right. In an all-too-familiar scene, Nick steps out of the limo, and mistakes Kaitlyn’s deer-in-headlights look for love.
Nick pours his heart all over Kaitlyn’s final sequined gown and though she knows he’s not the one, at the behest of producers and as a favor to us, she lets him go on and on and on: The odds were stacked against them, but he knew they were meant to be; he’d never felt this way about another woman; he is so in love.
“I am yours forever if you’ll have me,” he says as he pulls out the Neil Lane.
Only when he pulls out the box does she stop him. It is cruel and calculated and as much as Bachelor Nation may hate Nick and his scarves and his wooden man-bracelets, the drawn-out on-air dumping is almost too brutal to bear.
Even more surprising is Nick’s response to Kaitlyn’s niceties. Nick manages to be honest and raw, but retain a bit of dignity as he goes out the door. “I believe all that,” he says. “I just don’t need to hear it.”
“I hope you have no regrets and I hope it works out for you... I don’t want to sit up here and say things that are hurtful... You don’t want to be with me and you don’t feel things that I feel. You don’t love me.”
Throwing the ring once he gets into the limo of shame? It was one hell of an exit. We should all be so graceful in the face of rejection.
With a mere three hours, and no time for the second-time loser, The Bachelorette switches gears. Shawn and his massive side part exit the limo and it’s time for him to profess his love, which Kaitlyn returns in equal measure and promises not to cheat on him with any (more) guys.
“You light me up and make me laugh and allow me to be myself,” she says. “I am completely yours and I will always be faithful to you. I have been waiting so long to tell you how I feel because I love you with all my heart.”
Kaitlyn can’t wait to make a lifetime of memories to stuff in even larger cheese puff jars.
And the rest of us can’t wait for Bachelor in Paradise, in which men and women compete for love on a tropical island and can bed whomever they choose.