This post is dedicated to the first member of my Awesome L squadron. L, I am so glad we discovered our mutual fascination with this show early enough to become friends, and I still miss getting to dissect episodes with you on Tuesday mornings. Next season I’ll blog about it in real time and we can discuss in comments!
I often have mixed feelings about the ending of a season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. I watch the show in part to laugh at it, but inevitably I wind up shipping one of the pairings and wanting to believe in their love story. At the same time, I am rarely convinced it’s real, and the subsequent break-ups usually prove that right.
I have a confession about last Monday’s finale for Desiree’s season of The Bachelorette: I actually teared up watching it.
The editors on this season’s narrative did a great job balancing hope and doubt, tension about what will happen with the trust in a given storyline created by establishing events. Really, it was masterfully done: the two guys her decision really came down to, Brooks and Chris, were both shown early on as favorites, Brooks from the first date episode and Chris from I think his second group date; possibly it was his first. Every time Des would get close to being too far down “Brooks Is the One” Lane to turn back, we would get a really great moment with Chris and a confessional of her saying “I thought Brooks, but Chris….”
They also highlighted the men’s progressions well; we saw Brooks having doubts and struggling, and got to enjoy the dramatic irony of knowing Des would pick him if he reciprocated, and also the tension of knowing just how much he was struggling when she didn’t know how hard a time he was having. Chris, on the other hand, went through a pretty believable transition of skeptical of the situation to falling hard for the right girl, and so we had the dramatic irony of watching him fall in love with her knowing she was falling for Brooks…but also getting that reassurance every time she said “but” to maintain hope. There was a point when Chris Harrison asked if Des was done, if Brooks was it and they should all pack up and go home, and she said no, because of Chris.
I was shipping Chris from I think the second episode. Not necessarily for Des at first so much as “this is the one of all the group I’d be most interested in having a date with.” He was serious and seemed pretty grounded, and even if his poetry wasn’t great I found the fact that he wrote it charming and a little weird, and I need that dash (or more) of weirdness. (Plus the only way to write good poetry is to write a lot of bad poetry for practice–he might eventually get good. At least his rose’s perspective was an interesting one.) But pretty much every time we saw him after the second episode was in the context of him and Des having a really great date or moment together and her face just lighting up around him. (Brooks said he saw that happen in the After the Final Rose, and she totally did.)
One aspect of their story that was kind of coincidental–in the sense that her one-on-one the day Bryden left happened to be with Chris–but, by the end, one of the establishing points of their relationship, was the day Bryden left. Chris’s first solo date with Des almost got wrecked by Bryden’s little breakdown (seriously, jackass, you couldn’t wait till that night to tell her and go?…or did one of the producers see an opportunity to set the stage for later in a potentially useful way?), but Chris managed to turn the day around. Took her for beers, told her he was there till the end as many times as she needed, and laid a subtle foundation for both his character as a guy that’s going to stand at her side through anything and the dynamic of their relationship as it played out later. The story editor at the end of filming had to be dancing the “I hit the jackpot” dance to have that moment in Germany to use to help build the plausibility of Des and Chris at the end.
The other “plot turn” for Des and Chris’s story, of course, was what happened with Brooks. Obviously Des had decided to play out the rest of the season despite knowing she had fallen in love with Brooks before the end, so we won’t know for sure what would have happened if Brooks hadn’t left–but chances, I think we all agree, are high that she would have picked him. There’s always the chance not; that something in the final date with Chris would have clicked (or something in the final date with Brooks would have come undone), and she would have chosen Chris anyway, but we cannot know. I give Brooks a lot of credit for leaving when he realized he was not going to fall in love with her–it’s a gesture of good faith on his part that Des really was there to find a husband, and if there was a chance of her finding that with one of the other guys then he needed to leave as soon as he knew he did not want that with her.
I think everyone watching the first half of the finale–the part with Brooks’ endless, most-painfully-slow-break-up-speech-ever monologue–came away wondering if Des really could pull back from having her heart broken that hard, that close to the end, and still find love with one of the other guys. I think, more than that, was the question of whether either of the other guys, if she did finish out the show and choose one, could stay in a relationship with her knowing that while he had been falling in love with her, she’d been falling in love with someone else, and he (the winner) only got her by default.
The other dynamic, of course, was would Brooks come back and try and get her back? I hoped he didn’t; learning that someone you didn’t think you could fall in love with loved you is a reason to run from them faster, if you’re running because you can’t give them what they need, rather than a reason to go back…but yet how many of us have friends who go back into unsatisfying relationships because the other person loves them? When I said Brooks better not come back just because she said she loved him, my husband (yes, I force him to watch this show with me) pointed out that Brooks’ problem might have been not being confident in her feelings for him, and that hearing that might make him feel safe enough to fall in love. While I can sort of understand that, especially in this kind of context, I also feel like Des had given him every reassurance, so that him having a change of heart because of her feelings would only make him a coward. So would letting her tears and heartbreak change his mind. I give Brooks credit, as well, for not changing his mind.
As an aside: I do not give Brooks credit for how he handled the actual break-up. Four words–six if you are extra-sensitive and need to add “I’m sorry” to the statement–suffice for a woman in this situation: “You’re not the one.” I think every woman has had the experience of a guy liking her more than she likes him, and examining his qualities “on paper” and not being able to come up with a better answer than that as to why she doesn’t want to be with him. Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and leavening are all you need to make cookies, but if the proportions aren’t right the cookies aren’t good; just because someone is smart, funny, cute enough for your minimum standards, and reliable doesn’t mean you’re going to fall in love with them. People aren’t interchangeable; sometimes the only articulateable reason is you’re not the one.
That was the answer Des had for Drew. He wasn’t it. Should’ve been, based on personal qualities, but was not, based on their interpersonal dynamic. I think she was absolutely right to send him straight home on the day of their final date. What made the ending with Chris believable was precisely that she didn’t vacillate between him and Drew. Drew wasn’t it; Drew was gone.
I want to back up and talk about Des’s decision to keep going even when she was heartbroken. I think she made that choice because of the relationship she had with Chris; I mean, even after hometowns she was unable to tell Chris Harrison “Brooks is so unquestionably the one that we can wrap up now.” My husband didn’t think any guy who watched that break-up would stay with her after the show; I said that if she told him what had happened and the extent of her feelings for Brooks, and he didn’t leave then, that it would be a non-issue. The issue would be if she didn’t say that she’d been in love with Brooks and probably going to pick him.
So we end up with Chris as the last man in the ring. Here is where Germany comes back–she can look back and see this pattern of him being there for her, being dependable and supportive and unequivocal in his interest and then feelings for her. That bedrock matters. It might not be a glamorous way to finish falling in love with someone, to realize they have been there for you even when you didn’t notice, but I think it is a much more real way to fall in love than the flashpan emotions that get stirred up by someone new and fun and exciting. I think Des and Chris probably came out of the show with a stronger relationship for her having gone through the Brooks thing than they would have if she had chosen Chris out of a Brooks/Chris finale.
Their engagement was just priceless. I loved that Des didn’t let Chris propose until she had told him what really happened with Brooks (Chris’s reaction to her stopping him from kneeling was hilarious–that poor man thought she was about to kick him to the curb). I loved that she basically proposed to him before he proposed to her…it made the engagement feel very mutual and also played to the dynamic of her proving to Chris that he wasn’t just a rebound or the default winner but the man she really needed and wanted in her life.
I am glad for Des that Brooks showed her what she had with him…and what she had with Chris. I am glad that Chris was able to look at the entirety of the story and see how it was his character and his actions that had him standing there at the end as much as it was Brooks’ absence. Des’s comment, what was it, “I almost feel guilty; how did I not love him like this from the beginning?” goes to the point about needing the wrong thing to make you appreciate the value of what you have. Maybe she should have seen it sooner; maybe if they had just met in the real world she would have.
I hope the two of them work out. They had a very sweet love story, and the kind that I like best–the kind built on compatibility and a history of reasons to trust one another enough to fall in love forever. I hope I get to cry watching their wedding.
And ABC production editors–I tip my hat to you for making a truly satisfying narrative that both kept me biting my nails till the end yet, after the fact, felt entirely supported by what came before. Well done.