If the second part of the two-night Bachelorette finale had a happy ending for anyone, it’s Luke Parker, who was dethroned as the season’s resident villain by Jed “I didn’t have a girlfriend” Wyatt.
Parker, who has been derided in recent weeks for slut-shaming bachelorette Hannah Brown when she admitted to having sex with other contestants, was overshadowed on Tuesday night when the show’s (short-lived) winner Wyatt was outed as a cheater. Not only did he allegedly have a serious girlfriend when he left to appear on Brown’s season, but he assured said girlfriend of his loyalty and ulterior motive of promoting his music career. In Wyatt’s defense, he straight-up told Brown in an early episode that he joined the cast because he saw the show as a platform for his music. Although, in Brown’s defense, transparency is hard to come by in Bachelor Nation.
Despite the clear warning signs (most glaringly, Wyatt interrupting his proposal to pluck at an acoustic guitar in his best James Blunt impersonation), Brown passed over fan-favorite Tyler Cameron for the aspiring country crooner. According to Brown’s somber voiceover narration, she found out about Wyatt’s girlfriend only two nights after getting engaged. In an uncomfortable confrontation, she unspools his lies until he admits that he introduced his ex to his parents and repeatedly told her he loved her, all the while unconvincingly maintaining that they did not put a label on the relationship.
As Brown lays herself bare, lamenting how Wyatt took the Bachelorette experience away from her, her scumbag fiancé stares vacantly past her—no doubt thinking about all of the great songwriting material he’ll be going home with. Needless to say, they broke off the engagement with one final promotional shot of the Neil Lane diamond ring abandoned on the coffee table.
This all would have been very surprising had the news of Jed’s infidelity not broken last month. In June, People published an interview with Wyatt’s alleged ex, fellow musician Haley Stevens. Stevens divulged Wyatt’s true motives, explaining that he told her he never intended to get as far as he did. “He wanted a platform,” Stevens told People. “He kept telling me, ‘I don’t want my dad to have to help me pay rent anymore.’ He said he only wanted to be top five… to be a major player so that it would be beneficial.”
My main takeaway from the two-part special was that just because Chris Harrison says something is shocking, does not mean it will actually be shocking. Now, I realize this seems like a commonsense conclusion. Yet every year, often twice a year, I fall for his repetitious claims that this finale episode will be the most dramatic of all time. And I am clearly not the only one, since without fail, ABC manages to attract an emotionally invested studio audience to watch the show in real-time and gasp loudly with each anticlimactic reveal. This year, they snagged Demi Lovato—who probably fired her agent as soon as the cameras stopped rolling—to sit in the crowd.
The format of Bachelor franchise finales is mildly sociopathic. The pre-taped footage from the main season is cut together with live footage of the runners-up watching their painful breakups for the first time ever. Host Chris Harrison then interrogates them about their feelings in front of an audience. This serves to both drag out each episode as long as possible and to, hopefully, embarrass grown men on live television.
The most amusing moments of the two-night event occurred in the first half hour of the first episode when Peter Weber, the second runner-up, was eliminated and made to endure the process outlined above. Brown stumbles through the worst break-up speech of all time, consoling Peter by saying through tears: “When I was little and I was, like, playing with my dolls and, like, had my Ken doll, I felt like you were that. You were that!” Presumably unsure of how to respond to being compared to a Barbie doll by the love of his life, he wordlessly presses her hand to his lips.
In real time, Weber is on a soundstage being eyed with pity by Chris Harrison. Each time he tries to circle the conversation back to the positive aspects of his relationship with Brown, Harrison reminds him how hard it must have been to watch the clip. At this point, I can only assume Harrison gets a bonus each time he makes a contestant cry. To make matters worse, Weber’s mom is there and keeps emphatically mouthing “I love you” until he looks like he wants to be swallowed by his chair. Brown is then paraded out in an asymmetrical cocktail dress and blinding diamond earrings to round out the humiliation by telling millions of viewers that the couple actually had sex in the infamous windmill four times, not just twice. Somewhere offscreen Peter Weber’s mother is swelling with pride.
There were some other amusing moments, like when Brown’s James Brolin-lookalike dad roasts Wyatt for saying that his proudest accomplishment is writing a jingle for a dog food commercial. But overall, the show could and should have ended there—the widely-memed windmill anecdote was all anyone really cared about anyway. For some reason, however, the Bachelorette producers needed another three hours and 30 minutes to impart information that could be gleaned from a quick glance at a People magazine article.
It was refreshing when, in the final minutes of the finale, Hannah resisted Chris Harrison’s attempts to pressure her into picking up where she left off with runner-up Tyler Cameron. After all, as Harrison himself repeated several times for dramatic effect, their on-stage interview was the first time the couple had seen each other since she dumped him in the middle of a glorified Urban Outfitters window display in Crete.
Instead, Brown insists that they are going to just be normal 24- and 25-year-olds and catch up over a drink. Though she claims that the rocky experience made her “hella strong,” she is ready for a break. After a season of teary-eyed speeches at cocktail parties, bedazzled ball gowns, fights with her sexist, born-again Christian boyfriend, and one very juicy windmill story, Hannah B. doesn’t owe us anything anymore.