The Danger Of Picking Sides In The Bachelorette’s Greg Vs. Katie Showdown

Photo: courtesy of ABC.
Go off Katie!” “Damn Ms Thurston get him!” “Let's go, Katie.” If there’s anything about half of The Bachelorette's fans could agree on during Monday night’s “Week 10” finale, it’s that watching star Katie Thurston confront ex Greg Grippo was one television’s most thrilling showdowns of 2021. In last week’s “Week 9,” Greg broke up with Katie following an abruptly disastrous hometowns date, leaving her crying on the ground. The split — which hinged on whether Katie would tell Greg she loved him — raised painful discussions about clout chasing, gaslighting, and emotional abuse throughout the fandom and Bachelor Nation itself. Katie shared an Instagram post about gaslighting. Monday night’s “After the Final Rose” special was Katie’s first opportunity to speak to Greg since their relationship disintegrated this past spring. 
Despite the internet’s overwhelming glee over Katie and Greg’s ensuing “After the Final Rose” argument, there was, naturally, an equally strong opposition opinion. “I don’t like how Katie coming for my man Greg,” said one fan succinctly.  
As with many pop culture moments in the post-Brangelina age, the Bachelorette’s latest disagreement has been boiled down to teams: Are you with Katie or are you with Greg? This question totally misses the much bigger points at hand in The Bachelorette finale. No matter which “team” you pick, Katie and Greg’s blowout wasn’t a win for anyone — it was profoundly sad. 
Katie and Greg speak for about 10 minutes during “After the Final Rose.” The initial section of the conversation is dedicated to Katie accusing Greg of using her, as she says, to get “the experience, the exposure, dare I say, the acting practice?” The crowd responds with a series of whoops and hollers like “After the Final Rose” is a Jerry Springer production. Greg, as internet sleuths found out, attended William Esper Acting School in New York City.
“[The acting] was pretty good! ‘Til the end when you kinda fucked it up and ran away,” Katie continues to increased applause from the crowd. The moment feels more like a producer-approved avenue for audience entertainment than Katie’s unvarnished chance to challenge an ex-boyfriend who broke her heart and she believes gaslit her. Host Kaitlyn Bristowe’s readiness to jump in with a clarifying question about Greg’s “acting” past only gives credence to this likelihood. 
In comparison, “After the Final Rose” only glances at the gaslighting accusations, which should be the heart of this conversation and the special itself. Like Kaitlyn says, “gaslighting” is a “very strong term.” Katie is given, at least in the footage that aired on Monday night, about five seconds to define gaslighting, saying, “Gaslighting is when you try to make someone else feel like it’s their fault.” From there, the segment quickly pivots to much simpler criticisms of Greg. He is called “rude” and “dramatic” and is slammed a second time for not “saying goodbye” to Katie during filming. Everyone cheers again. It’s an easy win for production to help pose Katie as a “strong, independent woman” heroine and TV character without having to dig into the possibly toxic environment something like The Bachelorette can foster. 
The rest of the face-off continues to ignore the production strings at hand, giving it an air of willful ignorance. Greg explains that he self-eliminated because of the very Bachelorette-y “terminology” used during his hometown date. Katie told Greg’s mother he was “a frontrunner;” Katie promised Greg a rose when he told her she “filled a hole in his heart.” “I felt like you were playing the Bachelorette role with me, instead of just being Katie,” he says. Eventually Katie responds, “The second I tell someone they’re the one — that’s when my journey ends. My journey wasn’t over.” The real-life translation: “I had, and still have, a legal and financial contract as the Bachelorette, and I couldn’t end the show because of your feelings.” These were the words Katie repeatedly hinted at during her initial breakup with Greg; these are the sentiments Greg either didn’t understand as someone new to production, or merely didn’t care to recognize due to his own insensitivity. 
If “After the Final Rose” had the ability to drill down into the mysteries of how Katie and Greg moved in the strict framework of filming  — and thereby out its own proverbial Wizard Behind the Curtain — viewers would have gotten a far more compelling and honest farewell to these two. We would have seen the unfortunate effects this dating game show had on their behavior (chief among them, Greg). It even would have been fruitful if anyone was allowed to raise the serious fact that it was never Katie’s job to “fill a hole” in the heart of her romantic partner, as Greg said — any belief to the contrary could be the start of an unhealthy connection.
Instead, Greg is allowed a real conversational triumph by reminding his ex that he wasn’t “lower” than her in their relationship because he wasn’t the lead. Katie is left repeating that her hands were tied because she was “the Bachelorette.” In a segment so focused on deep-seeming aphorisms as this one, Greg’s parting words win him points with the crowd. That uncomplicated applause — for both Katie and Greg, depending on your allegiance — is all it seems “After the Final Rose” was after.

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