Bachelor in Paradise is perfect TV. Like all great shows in 2016, it’s situated in the former no-man’s-land between comedy and drama. Dark comedies like Louie and Transparent have nothing on Bachelor in Paradise, which has been serving up a generous cocktail of alcoholism, antiheroes, depression, and pants-shitting for three impeccable seasons. There’s something uniquely depressing about watching a group of veteran reality TV stars mash up against one another’s private parts in the futile hope that enough friction will spark a genuine human connection. Then again, there’s something uniquely hilarious about watching a three-time Bachelor alum like Nick Viall desperately try and convince his TV girlfriend that he’s in Paradise for the right reasons (spoiler alert: he isn’t).
Tuesday night’s Bachelor in Paradise finale more than delivered on this unique brand of humor and heartache. The series is designed around the premise that “Paradise” is a vaguely Mexican-themed open bar full of semi-familiar folks who might end up marrying each other. But this season of Bachelor in Paradise was particularly pegged to human red flag Chad, a former Bachelorette contestant who’s so despicable that he insulted a fellow contestant by mocking her for only having one arm. After soaking himself in booze and lighting the proverbial match on his own Bachelor Nation reputation, Chad proceeded to literally shit himself on the beach. Mind you, this was all in the season premiere.
By lowering the bar for acceptable ABC content—who knew you could call someone a “one-arm bitch” on national television?—Bachelor in Paradise quickly set the tone for a truly depraved season of happily ever after hunting. And in filling his own bathing suit trunks like he just shotgunned a watercooler of Kardashian-endorsed laxative tea, Chad reminded us all of the raw physicality of Bachelor in Paradise. Unlike its prissy counterparts, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Paradise isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty. We see Lauren H take out her retainer, learn that Jared is into spanking, and watch the taboo, auto-erotic relationship between Nick Viall and his own abs unfurl. And that’s not to mention the myriad of probable yeast infections that didn’t make it into primetime (there’s more than one reason why spending 12-plus hours a day in a moist bikini flirting with a bunch of unemployed commitment-phobes is a bad idea).
Bachelor in Paradise is gross and grotesque; contestants binge on attention, sex, and emotional foreplay, betraying voracious appetites for affection, pizza, and drama. The best Bachelor in Paradise contestants are the franchise stalwarts who know how to make good TV. They’re also toxic black holes of insatiable neediness and narcissism (I think this is literally Ashley I’s Instagram bio). That’s why, for all the addictive drama, Bachelor in Paradise is ultimately oh so predictable. Of course Nick will dump his perfectly nice new girlfriend for another shot at his one true love: B-list celebrity. Of course Ashley I will fall hopelessly in love with Jared because they may have gone to second base. Of course Chad will be back, of course he’s not OK. And of course we can’t look away.
At the beginning of this week’s finale, Bachelor Nation was faced with four potential couples, each more questionable than the last. As Tulum’s finest awoke in their fantasy suites, each pair began to wonder if they should really be basing life-changing decisions off of a few drunken weeks in Paradise. It was, literally, a rude awakening—made even ruder by Evan’s bedside freestyle rap to his bride-to-be, Carly. Evan is the Tinder match who pulls out his acoustic guitar after you hook up. Carly smiles and insists that she’s head over heels in love with Evan because, at this point, what’s another deal-breaker?
Meanwhile, in Grant and Lace’s nearby love shack, Grant feels “very weird in a bad way.” He’s never loved someone like he loves Lace (erratically and over the course of a televised Mexican vacation), but he thinks that becoming engaged to someone you just met in Tulum might not be the most logical thing to do. Alternatively, Lace thinks that if they don’t get engaged now, they’re never going to make it. Strangely enough, in Bachelor world, Grant is actually being the irrational one. Lace knows that if you leave Paradise without a Neil Lane ring on your finger, you must be unlovable (or you’re just an identical twin and no one could be bothered to tell you apart from your sister).
Everyone knows that Nick Viall is going to be the next Bachelor. Everyone, that is, except Jen, his Bachelor in Paradise girlfriend, at the time of this finale shooting. Take a shot every time Jen talks about her and Nick’s non-existent future together.
The Paradise producers are clearly trying to cast some doubt on Josh and Amanda’s rock-solid relationship (doubts that Amanda probably should have, but really doesn’t). Amanda has never been “this happy or content with anything,” and is totally ready for her two daughters to call Josh daddy—this despite the fact that multiple contestants have tried to warn her about Josh’s not so stellar history of verbal abuse. Amanda regales Josh with tales of her babies joining her in bed and waking her up every morning. Josh musters up a weak “that’s cute,” and something dies in his eyes as he realizes that real life, unlike Paradise, isn’t all mandatory sex suites and unlimited margaritas. Josh think’s that he and Amanda are taking things really fast, and once again observes that Amanda has two children. For Josh, this constitutes an entire thought.
This episode is as briskly paced as these ‘roided up relationships. Now it’s time for the menfolk to meet with Neil Lane and pick out their engagement rings. These meetings are interwoven with shots of the remaining contestants talking solitary walks along the water, surveying Mexico’s flora and fauna with their best R&B album cover expressions on. Neil greets Nick with a cheeky, “How many times am I going to see you again?”—it’s the episode’s first reference to Viall’s upcoming Bachelor gig, but certainly not the last.
Ice in hand, Evan nabs the coveted first proposal spot. As Carly approaches the guy she finally agreed to sleep with, she tells the audience that, “I love that man like I’ve never loved anyone.” She can’t picture life without him, and luckily, she doesn’t have to—Evan is whipped AF. He describes their relationship as “nothing short of epic,” citing their hospital visit as the turning point in their epic love affair. Imma let you finish, Evan, but can we just check the receipts on this one? Evan is referring to the time when he guilted Carly into hanging out with him under the guise of a mysterious ankle malady. This isn’t the first instance of Evan faking an illness in order to get Carly’s attention, but it is the moment when she finally realized that their relationship would probably be less painful if she didn’t struggle so much.
It was only a matter of time before Carly’s pity hardened into begrudging affection, and Evan got down on one knee in front of the distractingly loud ocean and pledged eternal love to his apathetic bride-to-be. Even Evan can’t seem to believe that his deal with the devil—evidenced by the tell-tale mark of his thick leather man-bracelet—actually worked out. He loves Carly because she celebrates and loves every part of him, which is good because Bachelor in Paradise gleefully mocks Evan, labeling him an “Erectile dysfunction specialist” in his post-proposal talking head.
Carly tells the world that she can’t wait to make Evan dinners and sit on his porch: in her words, “Happily Evan after.” Clearly, we’re supposed to think that Evan is “quirky” and Carly is the lucky gal who got past his weird affectations and saw the adorable, affectionate boner-whisperer within. This really begs the question of what passes for a personality on this show. No one on Paradise seems to understand that Evan isn’t actually a nerd—he’s just a slightly less attractive white dude who appreciates puns. It’s like every woman in this franchise has spent their entire adult lives dating Simone Biles’ cardboard cutout of Zac Efron.
Next on the docket is Lace and Grant. Lace is pretty anxious, since Grant seemed less than stoked on forming a more perfect union when they unsuccessfully discussed marriage in the fantasy suite. Plus, she adds, “It doesn’t help that we got tattoos the day before he is questioning proposing to me.” Touché, Lace. Lace quiets her fears by telling Grant everything she likes about him, which includes a handful of generic traits and his smile. Despite acting like she’s only met him once or twice, Lace is 110 percent ready to move forward with this engagement. Grant can’t picture his world without Lace, either, and he wants to build a life with her—starting today! Grant kneels down in front of the aggressively swelling ocean—really chewing the scenery here, nature—to make his dream of a post-Paradise relationship with Lace (really? her?) a reality. The happily engaged couple proceeds to make out in a bunch of places, allowing the rest of us to focus on the more pressing love affair between the camera and Lace’s huge Neil Lane diamond.
And now, the moment we’ve all been dreading. Poor, poor Jen. She knows that this is Nick’s third season, and that he’s had his heart broken before; little does she know that it certainly won’t be his last. Jen is wearing adorable separates, and she’s apparently ready to be a wife and a mother! Nick is wincing already, and I am so here for every moment of his guilt and shame. Jen tells him that she’s fallen in love, and she wants to keep falling if he’s willing to catch her (he’s not). Nick starts crying and can’t look her in the eye. Jen refuses to take him out of his misery, and he’s forced to revert to a series of brutal break-up platitudes. Apparently, he really wanted to say he was in love with her, but something in his heart said that he couldn’t. And if he could tell his heart what to do, he would tell it to choose her. Lastly, he swears between bouts of ugly-crying, “Something’s telling me to say goodbye.”
While watching this excruciating scene, it’s important to remember that this was actually edited by producers in order to make their next Bachelor appear as likable as possible. So let’s all take a minute to imagine all the saccharine lies that didn’t make the cut. Nick feels like Jen deserves better than him, which she definitely does. Jen says “ok,” because she probably agrees with him. Nick sobs onto his newly minted ex-girlfriend multiple times before offering to walk her to her SUV; this is a classic Nick Viall “nice guy” move, the real-life equivalent of kindly calling someone an Uber because you really want them to leave your apartment forever. Jen says that Nick’s non-proposal “makes no sense”—poor, poor Jen—and warns Nick that “at some point you’re going to have to let go of the past.” Wise words of advice for someone who’s about to star on his fourth season of a Bachelor franchise.
In his own SUV, Nick moans that, “I feel like I’m incapable of saying I love you to anyone.” Sad! Also, “Sometimes I feel like my heart’s a knot and I can’t untie it. I have to figure out how I can do that again.” Who’s excited for Viall’s season of The Bachelor? Anyone?
Josh cranks out a proposal to tie up the episode. Despite the careful editing that characterized Josh and Amanda’s subplot this finale, it quickly becomes clear that Josh doesn’t actually have cold feet. Josh musters up his limited stores of enthusiasm and acts excited about meeting Amanda’s daughters and becoming a part of their family. Daddy’s home! In his most relatable moment so far, a dazed Josh stands next to his future bride and stares at the camera: “This is my fiancé” he exclaims. “That’s unbelievable.”