There's always a moment of anxiety at birthday parties just before the cake is cut. The cake, if it's pretty, is on full display, but it's still untouched. Party guests are still picking at hummus and artichoke dip, but they're anxious. Everyone wants the cake, but they can't eat it until the birthday person breaks the seal. It's excruciating.
This is what it's like watching After the Final Rose. By the end of last night's episode of The Bachelor, the ending of the show seemed inevitable, and not in the Aristotelian "unexpected but inevitable" way. Arie was going to run to Lauren and Lauren, being a docile woman from what we know of her, would agree to marry Arie. (I wish someone had made a parody of the movie Somebody Marry Barry but as Somebody Marry Arie.) Becca, after having weathered the Arie storm, would emerge as the next Bachelorette. This is all information that could have been relaid in a tidy epilogue. Like a post script, but for The Bachelor. Alternatively, ABC and Warner Bros could have scrolled this information over the screen Star Wars-style, and everything would have felt a bit more epic.
But The Bachelor lives on making us wait. Sometimes I think I watch this show as an exercise in patience. Tonight's After The Final Rose was two hours of very bloated television. Chris Harrison took an extra two seconds to read his cue cards. The camera gave Bekah M.'s expressive face a lot of screen time, and, after the damn thing was done, our new Bachelorette met five new suitors, all of whom gave feeble stump speeches that we won't remember after next week.
The most interesting part of the episode is at the very beginning, when Becca K. makes her way home to Minnesota. A producer must have followed her home, because there's footage of her on a plane. Becca K. has excellent airport style, and it is oddly therapeutic to watch her go through the motions of leaving LA.
"How did I not see this at all?" she says. She shuffles through Polaroid photos of her time with Arie, weeping a little and wondering aloud what went wrong. This is all excellent footage for her Bachelorette intro package.
Her timeline with Arie and Lauren is confusing, even after two hours of television. Supposedly, Arie told Becca that he was grappling with feelings for Lauren. He then asked if he could reach out to Lauren. Becca, thinking he was seeking closure, gave her permission. Arie then slid his slippery self into Lauren's DMs on Instagram, which led to a phone call on New Year's Eve, the night before the show premiered. After the phone call, Becca thought the Lauren-Arie relationship was over. A week and a half later, Becca met Arie at the fateful "happy couples" weekend. He dumped her. Days after that, Arie went to Lauren's home.
Before that, though, he visits with Jason Mesnick, who is famous in Bachelor Nation for having rejected his winner in favor of his runner-up. He and Molly Mulaney, now Molly Mesnick, have been married for eight years now.
"They're going to say things that aren't really nice," Jason warns Arie. This doesn't deter Arie, who moves forward with his plan.
At Lauren's home, Arie has a "panic attack," which is actually him breathing like Darth Vader. Cshhh. "Two seconds ago, I was fine." Cshhhh. "I don't know why I'm so nervous!" He had no reason to be. Lauren doesn't rake him over the coals. Mainly, she's sad she was dumped. She's happy he's back.
"It was really difficult coming back and being heartbroken because I felt extremely alone," she says. She couldn't talk to anyone about their breakup. When she asks Arie if he's over Becca, he says, "Yes, a thousand percent." That was way harsh, Tai.
Rid of Becca and the pesky Bachelor pressure, Lauren and Arie's relationship is smooth sailing. They kiss, and she hints that she's super down for an engagement. This will be Arie's second engagement in the span of six months.
The live show has a lot of thumb-twiddling to do while it waits out the two hour time slot. Bekah M., Seinne, Tia, Kendall, and Caroline from this season all arrive to help pass the time. They all have a lot to say on the breakup. Kendall, for one, claims she thinks Lauren and Arie have a connection. Bekah M. is anti-Arie, and stubbornly so.
"I think that he is not a genuine person. I think he is an incredibly manipulative person," she says. "I hope that Lauren gets out of that as soon as possible."
They assure Chris that they don't hate Lauren and none of the girls want Lauren on the chopping block for this. She's just doing what feels right, they say, and Arie makes it seem like he's the right decision. Seinne stresses that she hopes Lauren and Arie find happiness. At this point, the future of Arie and Lauren hardly matters. Get on to dessert! We want to know who the next Bachelorette is!
It's Becca, of course, but she needs to close out the Arie chapter of her life. Together, she and Arie parse through the details of their breakup, partially for the sake of the audience.
"I think from the time we got back from Peru, there was this emptiness," Arie tells Becca. Which then leads to the question: Why did you propose? "I do regret proposing that day."
Before things get too tense, Jason and Molly Mesnick arrive to lighten the mood. They assure the audience that things can work out when two people begin a relationship in the middle of a breakup. They do, however, take issue with the way Arie handled the breakup.
"Why didn't Arie give us a call before he did anything?" Molly says, shaking her head. I was under the impression that Arie did call Jason Mesnick? But maybe he filmed that segment after he called Lauren and dumped Becca on national television. Becca, by the way, isn't perturbed that her breakup was on television. She says it gave her closure to watch it back, and she knew she "signed up for" the cameras. This is The Bachelor. Nothing is private.
Nothing except Lauren's personality, which still remains to be seen. (Sorry, I forgot: She likes puns.) Lauren and Arie arrive briefly onstage to play the happy couple game. Chris Harrison tells them their "passion bucket is still full," proving that even Chris Harrison doesn't know how to describe this couple, and Arie proposes.
"I've made some bad decisions, but the best decision was running back to you," Arie tells Lauren on bended knee. When he asks for her hand, she says, "Definitely," as if she's just agreed that Martin Freeman's role in Black Panther should have gone to John Cho. ("Should that CIA agent have been John Cho?" "Definitely.")
Farewell, Arie and Lauren. Your love may be real, but, most importantly, it is now irrelevant. The Bachelorette has begun, The Bachelor's far superior cousin. With 20 minutes to go on the telecast, Chris Harrison announces that Becca's season will start right now, something that happened last year as well. (We met DeMario, Blake, and Dean that night.) Here's who we met:
Lincoln, a man who spoke with an accent who declared, "Arie is a wanker."
Chase Ferguson, who has poofy hair.
Darius, who is so taken with Becca that she says, "Don't get ahead of yourself!"
Ryan, who brought a banjo!
and Blake, who brings a horse named Bradley and asks that Becca "get back on the horse." And, with Becca riding sidesaddle on a stationary horse, The Bachelor came to a close. They say beginnings make for good endings. I'll have my cake now, please.
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