I’ve realized that, while I love the climactic proposal ending of any given Bachelor season, I always take issue with the finale episode itself. The hour and 45 minutes leading up to that proposal has never sat well with me as the concept of the lead flip-flopping until the very last second just isn’t remotely believable. I believe that he might care very much for his runner-up and sending her home may be heart-wrenching, but I don’t, nor have I ever, bought that it’s a true toss-up.
Thus, Nick sending Raven home with a (albeit tearful) “This morning I figured out where my heart was” had me groaning. I realize that for the façade of this show the final two women are meant to appear neck-in-neck until the very end. I also realize that the lead is meant to make his decision sound like a last-second epiphany in an attempt to not appear cruel. But what I would love to see is a season where the lead just said, “I do have a love for you, but I simply can’t live without so-and-so. And I have known this for weeks now, but the format of this show and my contractual obligation to it has forced me to keep you in the dark and wait until the very end to break it off.” Okay, so maybe not verbatim, but you get the gist of how refreshing that would be. It felt like a wasted opportunity to have Nick of all people (the contestant famous for being runner-up twice!) not address how he now understands the position of the lead and that it pains him to do to someone else what was done to him twice. This many years in, and with the show constantly evolving (I’ll get to that in a bit), I think they can afford to begin blaming a few things—especially dragging the runner-up to Final 2 only to drop them like a sack of potatoes—on production.
Raven was a very kind and gracious runner-up, and I found it interesting that her “stoicism” was a focal point of her After The Final Rose time. Throughout the season I did gather that she wasn’t as effusive as many of the other women, but that was something I always liked about her. Watching her struggle to say she loved Nick on her first Finland 1-on-1, when so many women tend to blurt it out almost on cue, was very endearing. On AFR, however, she did strike me as the tiniest bit stoic—and I do NOT mean this in a bad way. She seemed to have put a lot of thought into what she said and there was even a carefulness to her demeanor, all of which are just observations and not criticisms. On the whole, Raven was a class act and, if anything, possibly a too understanding runner-up. I have mixed feelings about her appearing on Paradise as I still can’t help but see that show as beneath her, as I do with many other lovely people from this franchise. But with the still-strong Carly and Evan and Jade and Tanner, the fact that Nick became Bachelor from a strong Paradise showing, and Instagram’s career-altering power, Paradise really can be a game changer. So, hell, what do I know?
Now about this show’s evolution. What I did like about last night was how the engagement decision really was every bit as much up to Vanessa as it was Nick. The storyline that Nick could end up heartbroken yet again (wow, did they ever milk that) was way more interesting than the age old, “Who’s he gonna pick?” theme. I said on the blog last week that, regardless of whether or not Vanessa packs up and moves to L.A., I’m happy it’s not assumed that she would. I feel similarly here; I like that it’s not assumed Vanessa would say yes; why should she have to guarantee something that she herself can’t be guaranteed? A couple made up of two thoughtful people who have seriously considered the challenges they’ll face yet still love each other despite them, and enough to face those challenges together, is far more investable as a viewer. Vanessa’s own hesitation and healthy skepticism, in my opinion, represented an evolution in this show. Her apprehension shows she’s a intelligent and practical person and lends way more credibility to her decision-making skills and the fact that they ultimately ended up engaged.
One more thing: Vanessa more than once expressed wanting to feel special and different, for her to be chosen not because their relationship was “slightly better” than another, but because it’s on a whole other playing field. So many people—people who shit on this show for being sexist—somehow took issue with this mindset of Vanessa’s. In what world wouldn’t or shouldn’t she want to feel special or different? It’s not about her thinking she’s special or different, but rather her wanting the man she ends up with to see her that way. It’s the very essence of wanting to be seen as a panda in a room full of brown bears, you guys! Sure, you can poke fun at the irony of her for wanting these things while “competing” on The Bachelor, but what we should be doing is applauding her for voicing those valid, reasonable requirements, especially while still on the show. The Bachelor has a long history of inside-the-box formatting and building up expectations in their contestants only to pull out the rug from under them. Vanessa managed to both “win” and maintain control over her self-worth along the way. So, the way I see it, on a show usually bereft of them, her critical thinking in and of itself proved to be a small victory for feminism.
Lastly, I’ve heard mixed reviews about Vanessa and Nick’s AFR showing, but—and you know by now I don’t hold back on my opinions—I truly thought they aced it. Viewers and Bachelor alums alike seemed to find it “awkward” that the two weren’t beaming the entire time. What I saw was two very pragmatic people talking about a wonderful relationship that had its challenges but that was entirely worth the work. I was reminded of what Nick said to Vanessa earlier in the episode, before the proposal: “I could come here and tell you everything you want to hear. I know what you want to hear.” Believe me, Vanessa and Nick could have gone up there, smiled until their cheeks hurt, and talked about how easy everything is because they’re so in love. They know what we want to see and hear. And frankly, if they weren’t happy but were faking it, that’s what they SHOULD have done. (How many couples have we seen now, smiling and raving about how great everything is, who were broken up soon after?) Instead, Vanessa and Nick made it very clear how in love they are, but that everything from logistics to being “insulated” have been difficult hurdles. Realism shouldn’t be mistaken for unhappiness, especially while the folks in question talk about being realists.
On the whole, I am beyond happy for this couple in particular. I do feel like Nick has found his match in Vanessa. She’s her own person with her own opinions, knows her worth, is analytical and self aware—and gorgeous to boot. She’s everything I envisioned Nick finding happiness with and more. Congratulations to the happy couple!
For more from Sharleen Joynt on The Bachelor, visit her blog, alltheprettypandas.com.
Catch up on past episodes of The Bachelor at www.omnitv.ca/the-bachelor.