The Bachelor Finale Recap: Ben Gets Fake-Engaged, Still Loves Everyone
Dear readers: I love you. Every single one of you. I am also IN love with you, and will propose to all of you, on the shoreline of a Jamaican beach, at your soonest convenience.
Ben is not in such a fortunate position. In case you don't remember from two weeks ago, he's now told two different women that he's in love with them. In case you don't remember the laws in places where people other than Jef with one F lives, men are only allowed to marry one woman, even if they love two. Mainly because Neil Lane can only front one ring for free.
I'll lay it right out there: I'm pro-JoJo here. I guess you could call me Pro-Jo. You shouldn't, but you certainly could. JoJo has spunk, and fire, and has gotten upset about things that were totally reasonable to get upset about, and has (lightly, but still) called Ben on his bullshit even though that surely jeopardized her standing, and seems like she might be pretty decent at the popular board game Risk. She's about as real and textured as people get on this show.
Lauren B, meanwhile, just kinda stands there, and smiles pretty effectively, but otherwise seems like she's flight-attendant-ing her eighth consecutive round-tripper in three days, but is keeping things very professional because she wants to be able to fly to Oslo for mad cheap one day. She's not bad, she's just... not exceptional in any way. She's like the human equivalent of Totino's Pizza Rolls: everyone gets all excited about them even though they're gonna burn the crap out of their mouths, but they're not real pizza. Or even real rolls! And the next day, you wonder why you proposed marriage to them.
It also weirds me out that she's from Portland but is exceedingly normal. That one is as red as flags get. I get the feeling her parents don't exactly run an artisanal cosplay broadsword stall in the park.
Lauren B Meets the Parents
I don't have the historical analysis on whether most winners meet the Bachelor's parents first or second, but Lauren B's gonna break 'em in. Ben's mom seems disturbed when he swears he's in love with two women. She is a regular person.
When Mom asks for a rundown of the two, the first phrase out of Ben's mouth to explain Lauren B is, of course, "She's gorgeous." It's easy to miss, especially if you haven't been reading this blog, and because everyone likes having nice things said about their looks, but Ben has never once said anything about these girls other than how hot they are. Even the ones who weren't that hot! He's got literally nothing else.
Lauren B (still calling her that, yes) shows up with flowers and wine, and we get right down to one-on-one parental interrogations. Dad wants to know if she's in love with Ben! She is very in love with Ben, she swears. And then she wants to know if Dad thinks Ben is ready to get engaged and married. Dad thinks he is! Well, guess what: Lauren B is, too. No reasons why, she just is. Congrats, everyone.
Mom takes over, and asks Lauren B if she's seen that side of Ben that can get all intense and worked up -- the one who takes a special person to deal with. Nope! She's never seen that. Just the side where he does nothing, including eating what was surely a very thoughtfully composed dinner.
This show is often portrayed as fast-forwarding on quadruple speed through a relationship. But the reality is that it's more like fast-forwarding through some early hangouts with friends, maybe four total date-dates, and that one time he sees you with no makeup. Oh, and the sex part. The point is, the only bad things that are ever going to come up involve some other girl causing problems in the house, or not getting solo dates and instead having to hang out with soccer superstar Alex Morgan, or maybe a feral pig pooping on your foot. Not standard-people relationship issues. So of course Lauren B hasn't had any problems with Ben, or seen what he's actually really like... why would she have?
Whatever: she's "fully ready" to get engaged, which I suppose making out on a yacht two separate times without getting in a screaming match will do to you.
And Then JoJo Meets the Parents
Ben starts off hot by giving JoJo seriously heady billing as "someone I wanted... around," then tells his parents that the two of them didn't manage to see the Hoover Dam from the helicopter while in Vegas because he was too busy doing a fly-by of JoJo's Hooters (Casino and Hotel). Then she tells everyone that Ben is her best friend, and I just feel outright bad for her. Best friend? I'll bet Ben doesn't even know what JoJo's freshman year college roommate was named (OjOj) or what her favorite Nic Cage movie is (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, like most sane people) or how she takes her coffee (directly from the hand of the barista, when he calls her name).
JoJo gets her Mom Time in, and does way, way better than Lauren B, mainly via validations of intention-purity. She actually aces both parents, then moves on to the big problem: Ben. As they sit outside on a bench, she asks him: are you ready for a proposal? Ben tenses up like he was checking under the bed for monsters, and last time there were monsters. "Ahhhh, you know that I love you! And I'm in love with you. And that we're on the same page." And then straight to the make-out. The parents portion went quite well -- and they confirm that to Ben, basically saying that she's better than Lauren B because she actually has thoughts about Ben other than "He's six foot four and has a decently nice jawline." But the parents do not choose who you get fake-engaged to on this show! Wait, that just gave me a great idea for another show...
The Final Lauren B Date
Of all the dates Ben's been terrible on, this one was his most terrible-est. Apparently he hasn't slept in days, and it shows. His words are rarely good ones, but now they're even worse, and coming out in stranger orders than ever. But he tells her she's beautiful! He's still good at that. But it doesn't take. The Awkward Cloud descends, and both of their heads are in it for a while. Ben's worried about their relationship not being tested -- he's overcome SO MUCH with JoJo.
Lauren B says she's scared but at peace, and that she didn't overthink things as much as she thought she would, when she was thinking about overthinking. Eventually he starts rambling again about how she's made him a better person, and how she's always stood by him, especially when they were standing, nearby each other. They do a lot of hot, sexy nose-to-nose action without actually kissing, and I'm sick of this date. So is Lauren B -- she thinks it might be the last time Ben ever says he loves her.
The Final JoJo Date
This one goes great! They hop into a Jeep, and Ben shows off his crazy personality by driving from the right side of the car instead of the left. WHAT INTERESTING, UNIQUE THING WILL HE DO NEXT?!? They go to a very lovely swimming hole, make out under some rocks, and JoJo once again proves herself to be a real person when she asks: what are we going to do after this? Where are we going to live? How's all that going to work? Lauren B did not ask these questions. Maybe Lauren B doesn't need a home: her home is the sky! But she also didn't think to inquire about, like, what happens next, after they're forcibly separated for four months, of course.
Ben shows up to her room later on, and says, "Hey, beautiful," not "Hey, smart" or "Hey, person who loves small children and animals and the fine television program Family Feud, except when Steve Harvey is the host." JoJo can tell Ben's struggling, and wants to know about his concerns. He doesn't have an answer. He wishes he did! But she keeps pushing; she wants a sign. So they go into the bathroom, where the cameras couldn't dare go because people do things like use toilet bowl cleaner in there, and you can't show that on ABC. JoJo tries to whisper so the mics can't pick up what they're saying, so Ben, dutiful Bachelor drone that he is, starts speaking really loudly. And that's why we get to hear the conversation of the season, maybe the entire show:
"I'm losing my mind. Look at me, I'm sitting here on a bathroom floor, with you tonight, and I love you, and I know it doesn't feel like it should. What I'm telling you tonight is exactly where I'm at."
"But you love her, too. Am I right?"
"And you said that to her?"
"How stupid are you, you stupid, stupid man? Could it really be as stupid as you seem at this moment? Which is quite stupid?"
OK, those last two exchanges maybe didn't happen. But now we've got Ben on record as a confessed double-lover, and JoJo telling him she loves him as he leaves, and very little of this makes any sense anymore. If someone told you that they KNEW you were the very best at baking cookies ever, except there was also another person who was the very best at baking cookies ever, would you believe your cookies were any good? Or would you sneak into the other person's kitchen and switch the sugar jar out for salt, just in case, so their cookies would come out terribly? I thought so.
Neil Lane in the House
Or actually, outside of it on the deck, where he asks Ben if the girl he loves is "vivacious," then gives Ben a $30,000 ring for the low, low price of not asking Neil Lane where he got his hair plugs.
The Brutal Rejection, and the Proposal That Follows That
JoJo is wearing a white dress, because that's what people do to get married. Lauren B is wearing a blue dress, to prove how Portland-weird she is. Whichever color we see hopping off the helicopter first is the color of sadness. And that color is... WHITE! JOJO, noooooo!!! This is going to be rough stuff.
For all of the wonders he provides to this great nation, Chris Harrison doesn't get enough credit for keeping a steely straight face when he greets the girl who's about to have her aorta pulled loose. Of course in some ways, if he ceded so much as an inch of his boundless smiling positivity, they'd know and that would help. But this episode, and this show as a whole, is in many ways more about the destruction of the loser than it is the highly temporary infinite happiness of the winner.
The worst part of that, by far, is that they make them give a Love Speech that amounts to THEM proposing to the Bachelor. Clearly these girls have spent the last two weeks writing, probably not ever editing or re-writing, and definitely rehearsing said Love Speech. Would it make everything easier if JoJo walked across the bridge and onto the Engagement Platform and Ben just gave her a shrug and said sorry? Or was holding a rose, then hurled it into a fire? Of course it would. But if we don't have maximum manufactured embarrassment, confusion, tension, and hellish realization, what do we have? Just two people who barely know each other saying they're going to get married. And you can see that in Reno any night of the week.
During her whole Love Speech, Ben face reflects his stomach, which seems as if he's been on a rickety ferry in a severe thunderstorm after eating an entire party-size tin of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. What? No, that never happened to me when I was 9, and made me so I still can't even smell Milanos to this day. That's ridiculous. Ben tells her she looks unbelievable, of course, and she tells him she trusts him more than anything. It's almost like they fed them the lines that will make them the most hurt in three minutes.
As she runs down their very brief history, and how much she loves him and how much he's worth all this crazy shit, Ben is cracking more and more; he can't even force a smile. I'm pretty sure she figured it out about halfway through, but had to trudge forward just in case.
And to confirm one more time, in his final moments on this show, that he's a terrible man, Ben gives the very wrong speech in return. Instead of letting her down in one fell move, he hurls her expectations about 5000ft in the air, and then shoots them with a shotgun on the way back down. He didn't know if he was going to find love or if this would be real, but with her, it always was real. And he found love with her! Oh god so much love, with JoJo. Except... he found it more with someone else.
JoJo is mad, panicked, and looks like she brought a machete. So Ben tells her he loves her some more! And that his feelings haven't changed. But, no Neil Lane ring for her. Then he tries to get out of it all by saying JoJo wanted him to be honest, and that's what he's being. Not this kind of honest, dude. Now is the time when even the best men in the world should lie their damn faces off. Or at least omit the whole love part.
JoJo lets me down here. She could've done so many things, so many harsh, brutal, reactive, strong things, like telling him and his love to fuck off, or stomping on his toes with her heel, or rubbing a bunch of dirt on his suit so Lauren B would never, ever respect him again. But instead she lets Ben give her a big hug and walk her to the limo, and she hops in, to cry and smoke the provided Jamaican spliff that probably isn't even made with very good weed.
Ben whips out his phone, and instead of sending JoJo a bunch of Cupid emojis, calls up Lauren's dad, and does the most casual, presumptive hand-asking in history. He says yes, and Lauren B gets off the chopper and comes over. Ben's all smiles this time. She gives a far more boring and boilerplate Love Speech than JoJo did, and tells Ben that he's her "generally lifeless, pale representation of a human being", or something.
Because even the winner has to feel temporarily terrified and run through negative emotions, Ben's speech builds to saying that this journey is full of goodbyes... but that he never wants to say goodbye to her! Never. She has won. He gets down on one knee, and flashes the Neil Lane branding on the box around for the allotted 10 seconds Neil Lane demands and deserves. Everyone agrees to get married, and Ben gives her the final rose, then carries her to the chopper, because he has a strong athletic frame.
Am I happy about this? Not in the least. I back my people! But in the end, Ben and Lauren B (which now stands for "Ben") deserve each other. They can sit around Denver eating quinoa and calling each other hot for the next six months before deciding that, you know what, it seems like we're not getting on Dancing with the Stars after all, so let's break up and bang other people while we're still recognized in bars.
But in other ways, I AM happy because...
JoJo Is the Next Bachelorette!
Lesser Bachelor recap sites than this had reported that it was going to be Caila, and they were very, very wrong. In the past I've been upset that my favorites have been chosen to turn into the same soulless goblins as the rest of them. When Andi was picked, I wrote "Goddammit. They will ruin the best of these girls yet." And it happened. But JoJo, despite what should be my better presumptions, is going to kill this thing. I think she's got the potential to be Emily Maynard Lite: strong and in complete control of the situation, sometimes hilariously so, untainted by the Process, full of that fire, honest as hell, and maybe sometimes just mean enough to make stupid men weep, but not because she told them she loved them and then stabbed their heart with an ice axe. High hopes!
I'll See You Guys In Paradise, Bachelor In
God it can't happen soon enough.
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Ben Robinson is Thrillist's Editorial Director, and really does spend his Monday nights doing this. Follow him to hang out with Ames in Gstaad @BatchSlap.