Last night's Bachelorette finale got a little too real.
I'm not talking about the ridiculous three-hour run time, complete with live commentary by Chris Harrison, Rachel Lindsay and her three finalist suitors — one of them her fiancé. The most believable, and emotional, part of this Bachelorette finale was, ironically, not the final proposal by Bryan Abasalo, which seemed lukewarm at best. Rather, it was Rachel's breakup with Peter that left me feeling like someone had punched me in the gut.
Full disclosure: I've been rooting for Peter all season. There was just something about the Wisconsin native that seemed genuine, very unlike the generic grand gestures you usually see on this show. And, you know, that smile didn't make me want to run away, either. But whether you were Team Eric, Peter, or Bryan, you'd be hard-pressed to say that last night's tearful argument about commitment wasn't the most honest moment we've seen in 21 Bachelor and 13 Bachelorette seasons.
Honestly, watching Peter attempt to explain to Rachel that, though he believes they have a future together, he isn't ready to commit to that on national TV with 24 hours notice, I felt a little uncomfortable, as if I was spying on a real relationship going up in flames. In fact, it was a moment so out of place on the series that I was certain there would be some kind of twist, a grand gesture a la Jason Mesnick in which Peter would leap onstage during the live show and demand that Rachel throw Bryan's pear-shaped diamond (NEVER PEAR) at Chris Harrison's face, in favor of his French-cut pavé. They would kiss and glitter would descend from the heavens, restoring my faith in Bachelor Nation love. Obviously, none of this happened, which made for the saddest Bachelorette ending I can remember. Despite getting the loser's edit, Bryan won the contest, and no matter how happy Rachel keeps saying this makes her, I can't help but feel that she, not Eric or Peter, is the true loser here.
Despite the Unreal effect, which has led viewers to call for more transparency in the reality TV process, whether it's behind-the-scenes Instagram, or showing the producers from time to time, the reason I tune into The Bachelorette every week is because it's good TV. All that staging may be easy to mock, but it also adds a layer of fantasy to this whole crazy journey, which enables me as a viewer to pretend that these are characters ready to ride off into the sunset at the end of 12 episodes. Without that suspension of disbelief, how can anyone jump on the find-love-in-mere-weeks-be-happy-forever bandwagon?
It seems fitting that the Bachelorette finale was capped off with a clip from the controversial upcoming season of Bachelor In Paradise, which shows the exact moment production was halted on account of sexual assault allegations. That show too, has given us a glimpse of what true reality TV could look like. And I'm not sure I like it.
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