Bachelor Nation held its breath and gasped for more wine during Monday’s doubleheader fight to the death: In the better-lit ring: JoJo vs. Lauren B! And in the lesser, duller one: Ben Higgins vs. himself. Ben gets off easy against weak competition, but the ladies must bust out all the right moves: gazing into the distance in silk robes, admitting their darkest fears in messy buns, walking the plank in evening gowns, the works. Honestly, it’s exhausting. And to up the angst, Chris Harrison’s narrating the whole showdown in front of a live studio audience that NEEDS a wedding, stat! Patience, people. This thing’s gonna last three hours. The odds stack up against JoJo from the start, as Ben’s parents pop up at a bungalow in Jamaica and his mom Amy, who finds it “very disturbing” that her son claims he’s in love with two women, refers to Lauren by name and JoJo as “this other girl” he seems to dig as well. Although Lauren impresses Amy and Dave with her elegance and limp handholding, JoJo’s emotional gusto and intuition about their son’s character leave an even stronger impression. Amy subtly lets the camera know she’s on Team JoJo: “It DID feel different to me today,” she notes, having picked up the signature “This IS annoying” cadence of the entire Bachelor franchise. But she’s more neutral in front of Ben. “Either one would be perfectly spot on,” his dad insists. But really, who is their dim son even kidding, floating the idea of marriage without having selected a partner?
Ben is a lost man, and an eerily silent catamaran ride is not making his “last chance” date with Lauren B. any easier. It’s almost like he wants some terrible scenario to present itself so he can be steered in either direction. God makes it drizzle on the beach, but it’s just not enough. Ben still thinks his relationship with Lauren is too good to be true, whereas he and JoJo have already gone through some “non-ideal situations,” like that one time she said she was scared and the other time her ex-boyfriend (cough production assistant cough) wrote her a letter. Light strife is one of Ben and JoJo’s favorite pastimes. Unfortunately, they overindulge during their own last chance date and the shit hits the bathroom fan: Ben ends up confessing to JoJo that he’s also in love with Lauren. This is NOT what JoJo wants to hear from her new best friend and lover. “I just want it to be me and you,” she sobs softly. “I’m tired of competing, you know?” She knows the law of reality TV means he’s not allowed to say exactly how he feels (except for that little white lie about how he’s in love with her, whatever that means — Ben still has absolutely no idea). “But you still wish it was possible,” JoJo laments. Is this lady ready to turn the tables and have dudes fight over her for a change or what? The next morning, Ben’s still as conflicted as Lauren B.’s denim cutoffs. Are they shorts or a bathing suit? It seems like they’ll never decide. But suddenly, as he peers directly into the void — recurring diamond hawker Neil Lane’s briefcase of engagement rings — Ben knows which girlfriend he’ll pick. “I love two women. But I’m really, fully in love with one of them,” he explains. So no, he didn’t lie to the other one. He just hadn’t yet stretched his own limits of truthiness. And now he’s invented a brand new expansion packet on the terms of endearment!
And with that, it’s time for JoJo the bathroom baby to emerge in a sparkly pink evening gown in broad daylight so she can get flushed down and out of the swirling toilet bowl of Ben’s headspace once and for all. “I came into this not knowing if I’d find love,” he tells her, all high and mighty on the proposal platform. “But with you, it was real, always.” Uh oh. Was? Ben: “I found it with somebody else…more.” JoJo reels, desperate for a hug, a mojito, a totally different life, anything but this. “Okay. Happy for you,” she mutters on her way into the taxi of tears.
Ben’s about to get down on one knee and propose to Lauren. “And I’m CONFUSED about that, because of JoJo. Because THAT’S how much I love her.” Oh, god. Then this: “I could have married JoJo and been very happy. But I love Lauren with all my heart, and it’s a love I can’t lose.” Ben, just stop! Marriage is not the answer right now! You won’t win anything other than rushing into this for no reason! Couldn’t you just, like, sign a lease or something?! She might not even like Denver, you know? Lace and all her multiple personalities live there! Gahhhhhh! I’m freaking out, swimming in sadness for JoJo and bewilderment about this terrific buffoon. But Ben is fine — collected, even. He calls Lauren’s dad for his blessing, then does a little victory dance to celebrate what a tool he is. “No one likes you anymore!” I scream from my sofa. This seems harsh looking back, but at the time I really, fully meant it, and I guess that’s how love works, too.
Ben’s proposal to Lauren is sweet enough, but the whole thing feels misguided and emotionally clipped after the raw vulnerability of his exchanges with JoJo throughout the episode. It’s done, though. No more confusion. He sweeps the featherweight off her feet and they call each other “fiancé” like poorly timed robots. Yay? Meh. So are Ben and Lauren built to last? Has JoJo stopped crying? Is it safe for Pastor Denny to stop pretending to read that Bible yet? Chris Harrison helps put it all into perspective at the After the Final Rose ceremony, live from Los Angeles whether you wanted to get to bed early or not. JoJo saunters onstage in a stunningly snug “boob windshield” revenge dress, and she’s all smiles because…she’s the next Bachelorette!!! Justice is served! Watching the entire season brought JoJo a bunch of clarity and now she’s thrilled for Ben and Lauren, those monogamous suckers. So kindly quit asking her difficult questions, Sir Harrison. Fetch the Lady Fletcher 25 of your finest studs at once! The rest is mostly filler: Lauren comes in wearing a tiny white doily so Ben can finally “show her off” (yuck), Jimmy Kimmel mashes some naked Barbies together like a 5-year-old (no), and Chris Harrison pulls the “we flew your pastor all the way here” card so many times that Ben’s bobble head is spinning (do it! fly off!). He dodges the instant wedding idea, opting instead for a re-do of the proposal in front of their families, friends, and a studio audience, who are all much better at providing live encouragement than the wholly indifferent Caribbean Sea. That’s it for the Engagement Olympics, Round 20! How long until Ben and Lauren have their first mild argument? #TeamJoJoForever