If one word could encapsulate the 22nd season finale of The Bachelor, it would be "shame."
For five hours over two nights this week, audiences across America watched as Arie Luyendyk, a lost and lonesome 36-year-old, painstakingly tried to decide who his future wife would be. It was destined to be one of two women he met just a few months prior: Becca, an outgoing Midwesterner, or Lauren, a shy girl from a military family (who also happens to hail from Dallas).
Normally, as the show's premise dictates, the titular bachelor chooses one woman to whom he will propose. He gets down on one knee, she says "yes," and the other woman is left the with the universal anguish that comes with placing second. Viewers get the satisfaction of knowing they listened in on a couple's most intimate moments.
One person loses, everyone else wins — typically. But not this season.
Long story short, Arie proposed to one woman (Becca) at the conclusion of filming The Bachelor, and then decided to break off the engagement because he was still in love with the other (Lauren). This week, viewers not only got to see the raw and unedited (read: ridiculous and distasteful) footage of the breakup, but also the details of how Arie asked for his runner-up back.
"Are you over Becca?" Lauren asked him during a televised meeting, post-breakup.
"1,000 percent," Arie answered instantaneously.
Are we still talking about the girl you proposed to a few weeks back? 'Cause that seems a little harsh.
No matter, Lauren gladly gave him the "I forgive you" and an "I love you" and they've been on cloud nine ever since. Oh, and did I mention the couple did not watch Monday night's episode, during which the engagement fell into shambles? Lauren has not even seen the way her fiancé treated his now ex-fiancé.
When host Chris Harrison asked Lauren what she loves about Arie, her answers were "his bravery and his honesty."
"He's done an amazing job handling this whole thing and he couldn't have gone about it in a more respectable way," she said.
Excuse me, I need a shower.
During the live After the Final Rose special Tuesday night, Arie and Lauren were not introduced as a couple. Instead, Arie was brought to the stage first to speak with Becca "privately" about the situation. Harrison then grilled Arie solo before bringing out Lauren. I only mention this to emphasize the veil of shame that hung over The Bachelor stage all week.
Even when Arie proposed to Lauren — on live television in front of a live audience — the tension was palpable. A hallmark of The Bachelor franchise, this celebratory moment was met with scant clapping and the wrong kind of tears — like when a bride's mom realizes her only daughter is marrying a dud, but her uncle is too drunk to catch on.
Will it last? Only time will tell.
Arie and Lauren said they have a vacation planned soon and that it doesn't involve cellphones. Can you blame them considering the backlash they received after Becca's most public of embarrassments? Harrison said the show had come under fire specifically for the way Becca and Arie's breakup was aired.
Oh, by the way, Becca's going to star in next season of The Bachelorette. And if the handful of preliminary contestants she met during After the Final Rose were any indication, it's poised to be as savory a reality TV journey as any. Rest assured, I'll be watching.