"One of the Worst I Can Remember:" Sharleen Joynt on The Bachelor Finale Part 2!

The former contestant shares her insider’s POV on last night’s episode

Sharleen Joynt

Given the happy ending to this tumultuous season, I really would love to sit here and write that this was a great, heartwarming finale. Unfortunately, last night’s was truly one of the worst I can remember. (The only live episode to give it a run for its money was that agonizing mid-season 4 Paradise episode.) I’m not saying it wasn’t nice to have things spun on their head—it was very refreshing to see the lead fight tooth and nail for the woman he loved and believed in. That part was beautiful. But, let’s be honest, all we needed to know last night was about 20 minutes’ worth of programming: Colton knocking on Cassie’s door, her accepting his offer to just casually date and see where things go, and then skipping to the present, having them come on the live show and announce whether or not they’re still together and happy. Things we did not need:

1. Cassie and Colton being separated again, right after getting back together. It’s just the two of them! Why was this necessary??
2. Cassie meeting Colton’s family. I understand this from both drama and we’ve-flown-his-entire-family-to-Spain perspectives, but this was completely pointless given they didn’t even know if they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Even his family seemed surprised to be meeting her given the circumstances, especially upon learning Colton and Cassie hadn’t even had a date since getting back together.
3. That final date in Mallorca. There was nothing on the line and no new information. This was like watching a strong Paradise couple go on a date, except at least then, you get the couple finally professing their feelings for each other in a formal date setting. We’d already seen far too much of Cassie and Colton dissecting their relationship. Even rappelling down that cliff felt tired and old.
5. The Fantasy Suite. Seriously?? They’re about to go have Fantasy weekends together for four months. With no sense of their relationship being at risk, watching a couple go to bed together—especially paired with the constant reminders about Colton’s virginity—just felt a bit creepy, voyeuristic and like none of our business.
6. Having a “panel” of Bachelor Nation alums weigh in on said already-inappropriate feeling Fantasy Suite. In case it didn’t feel creepy enough on its own.

I know this show is a big ABC moneymaker and that they probably had this two-hour slot scheduled ages ago, but this show needs to revisit the concept of leaving people wanting more. I thought we were nearing the end when it turned out there was still another 70 minutes to go. There’s no way even The Powers That Be were thrilled about having to turn this into a two-hour spectacle. I can just picture them now: “Ugh, we still need 18 more minutes. Let’s bring in Ben Higgins again.”

I might have felt differently if both of the two stars of last night’s finale were really charismatic, well-spoken people who were good at articulating their many feelings. And honestly, I’ve really come around with Colton. He may not be the most electric personality, but he’s turned out to be a really strong, clear-headed lead who ultimately managed to wield this show to work for HIM, as opposed to the other way around. He wouldn’t have been the first lead to grow confused enough to choose the wrong woman (à la Arie or Jason Mesnick), so it is a testament to his knowing himself and his needs that he was able to resist losing his way. He certainly has more gut instinct than most in his position. I swear, he even became more eloquent as the season progressed, and while some of his actions earlier in the season had me questioning his maturity and readiness for marriage and a family, he really proved me wrong in these later episodes. Consider me a #TeamColton convert.

As for Cassie, while I felt for her last night (especially while walking into the lion’s den of meeting his family), and I do recognize her youth, watching her during this episode (much less understanding her) was a challenge. Her ability to express her feelings, on a show all about having feelings and expressing them, could use some work. Her default mode, in the face of being required to talk about her emotions, seems to be to talk about being overwhelmed or confused. She has a tendency to speak many words yet actually say nothing (or the same thing over and over again). It made for a very trying last hour or so of a love story that I’d otherwise be gung-ho to root for. Because, the thing is, I LOVE that Cassie challenged this show’s strict and unrealistic timeline. I LOVE that, sans that timeline, Cassie and Colton seem to be working out great, proof that the tired format could stand to be shook up a bit. I LOVE that Cassie, without the pressure of viewing her relationship as a horse in a race against others, has found that love could, in fact, blossom naturally. These are all great shifts for this show and, as much as Colton’s grand gesture gave us a happy ending, it’s Cassie we have to thank for them. But, though I would normally be cheering for each of the above feats, the exhausting way they were delivered just made me want it all to be over sooner than later.

One of the joys of being further removed from my time on the show and the people on it is that I can be more and more brutally honest with each passing season. (Obviously, it’s much harder to write critically about people you are personally friends with or have met/might meet.) So, five years after my season (!) and with that honesty in mind, I have to ask this question: Have we ever seen a turnaround as drastic as Cassie’s? In the four months since filming, and during a period of time that most happy couples find the most challenging, she went from barely lukewarm to glowing with love and excitement on last night’s live segment.

On one hand, I do think it’s possible. Like I said above, it’s possible it truly was the circumstances holding her back, not the fact that Colton wasn’t for her. But I still have many swirling thoughts: I do think it’s possible to fall in love with how special someone so in love with you can make you feel. I do think it’s possible that all the current adoration and attention lends a rosy hue to a relationship one might otherwise feel ho-hum about. I do think it’s possible that the Happy Couple getaways add excitement and novelty to a relationship which, if you were together more often, might grow old. (In other words, the months during which Happy Couple getaways occur are hardly representative of a real life together, hence why so many previously happy couples find real-life relationships so difficult.) I also think it’d be impossible to be lost on Cassie that she unfortunately had precisely two options:

1) end things and be hated across America for inadvertently robbing Colton of his happy ending, or,
2) fall in love, land a People magazine cover and be adored across America. (Literally, those were the poor girl’s options.)

The cynic in me is all too aware of the reasons on that list. The non-cynic in me believes that Cassie just needed time and camera-free privacy, and that she truly loves Colton; that part of me wholeheartedly roots for them as a couple. The one thing I do know is that only time will tell with these two. In the meantime, I’m very pleased they’re not rushing anything and I wish nothing but the best to our new happy couple.

Finally, Hannah B is Bachelorette! I think we all knew this crowning was a possibility after her strong Women Tell All showing. I for one have no problem with this decision. Like Cassie, Hannah B isn’t great at articulating her feelings, but she’s the first to admit it and can poke fun at herself over it. She’s surprisingly funny (I laughed when she told the four men who didn’t receive her first rose to come back to the mansion and “try harder”) and endearingly self-deprecating. Hannah B isn’t polished and perfect, and if anything errs on the self-conscious side, but that’s precisely what makes her relatable. One thing no one can argue: Hannah B is great TV. Congratulations to our new leading lady!

And that’s a wrap on season 23 of The Bachelor! Thanks as always for following along, and don’t forget to bookmark FLARE.com/themorningafter for breaking Bachelorette news. Sharleen Joynt’s recaps will return following The Bachelorette premiere on Monday, May 13.

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