"The controversy around Juan Pablo is unlike anything we've ever seen before," host Chris Harrison said at the beginning of Monday night's Bachelor finale, before wondering aloud whether Juan Pablo was "actually here to find love in the first place." Juan Pablo was there "to find love" – he just didn't find the love the show wanted him to find.
Harrison's introduction sat in sharp contrast to how he'd presented Juan Pablo as the next Bachelor back in August. At that point, Harrison had said of Juan, "In the history of this show, no guy has made a greater impact with less screen time." But over the course of a season, Juan Pablo got Bachelor skeptics to do the impossible: root for the show, not for him.
Let's be frank: Juan Pablo can be a dick to women, and the finale of the show made that very clear. During last night's episode – after his cousin warned both of the final two women that Juan Pablo cuts and runs when things get tough – Juan Pablo told Clare that he could imagine having children with her, leaving her feeling confident he would pick her. Any contestant who makes it to the final two who isn't chosen is typically blindsided by the decision, but talking about having kids with someone is a pretty good way to let them know – when you've been told by the show's producers you're not allowed to express your full emotions – that they should feel okay about the outcome.
The conversation about kids definitely calmed Clare down; earlier, Juan Pablo had said something way less romantic to her. When they were off-camera, Clare said that Juan Pablo "chose to tell me something that no woman wants to hear, that he really doesn't know me, and some sexual thing I really don't want to repeat." It was later revealed that the "sexual thing" he said was "I really loved fucking you."
"I'm not just an object," Clare said, fighting back tears. When she expressed her frustration to Juan Pablo after he broke up with her, his reply was simply, "Okay." When she walked away, he added, "I'm glad I didn't pick her" (the live televised studio audience watching booed). Nikki, who had eagerly talked about how excited she was to get engaged, got an "I like you a lot" from him. She also got the Final Rose, but not the Only Ring. Traditionally, the show ends with a proposal. It didn't happen.
Juan Pablo can be a jerk and the show's producers can still have manipulated him into looking even worse; the two aren't mutually exclusive. Things started to deteriorate for Juan Pablo as the show first started airing during Juan-uary, when the franchise and Harrison distanced themselves from his comments about gay relationships. On their podcast after last week's "Women Tell All" episode, former Bachelor contestants and now-married couple Jason and Molly Mesnick said they thought that the producers of the show had groomed the women to be super angry at Juan Pablo because he hadn't proposed at the end of the show, spoiling their storybook ending to this chapter of their saga. Watching the bewilderment with which Harrison handled Juan Pablo during last night's "After the Final Rose" episode, that seems quite probable. In a move that made for brilliant TV, the producers also brought back former contestants to watch the show live and comment directly on their thoughts about it: newlyweds Sean and Catherine were there, as was Sharleen, plus Chris and Desiree. These stars acted almost like a tribunal; while you might think they would have shown sympathy to Juan Pablo, there was little of it doled out.
When Juan Pablo was finally presented, he received very limited audience applause. And then things got awkward, combative and hostile. Though he and Nikki eventually ended up sitting so close to each other she was practically on his lap, it seemed like it was their "love" against the world. The biggest issue of contention was that Juan Pablo said that he wouldn't be telling Nikki he loved her, essentially arguing that it wasn't America's business. "Now is our time to be private" he said (to which former Bachelor Sean responded, "I don't want to burst your bubble but after the show, it's not private"). "I'm not going to answer that question to you," Juan Pablo said in response to Harrison's question, repeated numerous times, of whether he loved Nikki. "People don't understand, this is real life," he said. "We are done with the show, we are so done with the show."
Juan Pablo seemed generally peeved, like he had been promised a certain outcome for this experience and the show had snatched it away from him. He said he appreciated the opportunity to be on The Bachelor, but that it had been tough for him. He made numerous references to friends of his being two-faced, vaguely mentioning stories that had been published online about him, tweets and internet comments ("There are people who have been in the computer and then they send me text messages of support that say other things"). He refuted Harrison's assertion at the start of the episode that he had a surprise to announce. When Harrison asked what he and Nikki would be doing going forward, the couple was incredibly vague, though Juan Pablo did admit that their plans had changed "drastically" two weeks ago, around the time they taped the "Women Tell All." Rumors indicate that Juan Pablo had thought, like Sean Lowe before him, that he'd be getting a spot on Dancing with the Stars. As we now know, that turned out not to the case. Juan Pablo wasn't even on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday night — stars of the show usually head there to talk about the success of their relationship.
During the "After the Final Rose" episode, Juan Pablo didn't come off great, but neither did Harrison. It's uncomfortable that Nikki has been in love with Juan Pablo for four months and he won't say that he loves her, but sometimes relationships are one-sided and you can't do anything about that. It makes more sense that Juan doesn't love Nikki than it did when she said she was in love with him after less than two months. But Harrison wanted more than that: he wanted to understand what exactly was going on with the two of them, how they could be together under these strange circumstances. And Juan Pablo and Nikki were too quiet about it. "That's what this is kind of about, we're on this journey with you," said Harrison as he probed and badgered Juan Pablo for details about his relationship with Nikki. "This show is about love."
"I don't know what I'm looking at!" Harrison exclaimed. "You don't? We do!" said Juan Pablo. In some moments, it seemed like Harrison was panicking. He tried to get Nikki to say how long she'd wait for Juan Pablo to tell her he loved her, then turne it over to Catherine to ask her what she would do if she was in Nikki's shoes.
Juan Pablo had only one response. "I'm sorry that the show didn't end up like you guys wanted it to," he said.
On the flip side, the jilted women of the season came off looking fantastic and strong in the face of such a loser. They ended up as the true stars of this season. (Well, except for Harrison, who is the One True Star of the show.) In her post-show interview, Clare said she wanted to skip the usual debrief with Juan Pablo after their break-up, telling Harrison that she had said everything she'd needed to say when she told him "I would never want my children having a father like you."
"That day was pivotal to me because I had never been able to stand up to a man before," Clare told Harrison later. "It was so liberating to be able to say 'This is exactly how I feel and it's not okay.'"
"That was my closure," she added.
When Catherine was asked by Harrison what she thought of Juan, she said she liked him as a person, but she didn't seem to respect his choices otherwise. "Don't slap the hand that fed you," she said, alluding to his insults about the show and his hostile attitude towards Harrison. "What's she saying?" asked Juan. Apparently, "don't slap the hand that fed you" is, like many others we've heard on the show that he didn't get, not a saying in Venezuela.
The problem with Juan is that he thought the show needed him more than he needed it. But he was wrong. The Bachelor franchise has all the power. They can do whatever they like with their pawns/contestants, whether that means leaking rumors to the tabloids or editing the show to reflect positively or negatively on a certain contestant. And statistically, the message of their show is fantastically on point right now. Their most recent Bachelor, Sean, is married; their most recent Bachelorette is engaged. The Bachelorette before Emily Maynard, Ashley, is married to her chosen person J.P. Everyone is in love.
Things look bright for The Bachelor franchise. They're looking forward and not back; Harrison even said he wanted to "shower that one off" in reference to this season. ("Another season of The Bachelor has come to an end and not going to lie, I'm okay letting this one go.") They've got one of their strong women at the helm of next season of The Bachelorette, Andi. An Assistant District Attorney from Atlanta, Andi's a woman who said of her work, "I put the bad guys away," but also declared things like "At the end of the day, my job is not my top priority" and "I could be engaged by summer!"
In the case of Juan Pablo vs. The Bachelor, both parties felt betrayed by the other. The only problem is, only one gets to win this case. Plus, love exists in a casino, not a court room. And the one thing we know about gambling is that the house always wins.