Call it televised heartbreak, call it televised slut-shaming, call it whatever you want, but to speak in Chris Harrison-approved superlatives, Monday evening's episode of The Bachelorette provoked more response than any moment on the show ever. And all because the contestants talked what they're not supposed to talk about: the sex stuff.
The Bachelorette/The Bachelor is supposed to be all about love, but its most insane moments come up when sex comes into play. So during this season's finale, after Andi picked Josh (as Reality Steve demonstrated ages ago by releasing a video of scorned lover Nick ranting on an airplane about her decision), we got to actually see what happens when people address how sex plays into a relationship. It was not pretty.
The writing was on the wall that Nick wasn't going to be the final pick. He didn't know that – and fair enough, how could he? Most of us have been there, where our feelings about a relationship just don't line up with the feelings of the partner we're with. What felt weird was watching the show encourage Nick's obsession with Andi, to the point where Bachelor producer tweeted about it like it was all a joke.
Watching Nick didn't feel much like a joke; clearly, this relationship was and is very real to him. So: How did we get here? Well, Andi broke up with Nick before the final Rose Ceremony, telling him she had woken up that morning and felt like something was off. Nick didn't have much to say then: he was clearly in shock. But later, after he had time to think about things, he really wanted to talk to her. Chris Harrison really emphasized that Nick tried to get in touch with Andi multiple times, though she rebuffed him until the After the Rose special, when she contractually would have to talk to him. Who set that up, one wonders? (The producers.)
Andi did take a letter of his on the second attempt, the day of the filming of the Men Tell All, which apparently outlined the things he couldn't bring himself to say when she broke up with him because he was so in shock. Before last night's episode aired, ABC posted that letter from a "mystery man" to tease the show:
Let's just call it what it was—our relationship was very much the road less traveled. I totally get that all the passion, intensity, and connections that we had were accompanied by fear and sometimes discomfort. There is a reason why very few are willing to take the road less traveled. It can be scary, challenging, and risky, but if you have the courage to take it, it usually ends up being amazing.
The letter wasn't enough. During the After the Final Rose special, Nick couldn't stop himself when the producers allowed him to ask questions he finally could. (Or as former Bachelor contestant Nikki Ferrell tweeted, told him to.) He started off slow, clearly just wanting to be able to talk to her about it one-on-one, without millions of people watching. Andi had her guard up. And finally, finally, when he wasn't getting what he wanted, when he was getting frustrated with Lawyer Andi, he slipped up as he was explaining how he was trying to come to realization that he couldn't be with Andi.
"The hard part is," he started to say, when Andi interrupted him to finish his sentence "- knowing that I can't give that to you." No, Nick responded. "Feeling like you did."
Nick obviously had something in particular he was thinking of, moments that we didn't see. He referenced a time in the ocean, when he told Andi he loved her and she apparently responded, "I wish I could say things back." Nick interpreted that to mean that she wanted to say "I love you" back but wasn't allowed to according to the rules of the show.
"Watching it back hasn't been fun," said Nick, who explained he "still doesn't get it."
"Not to mention the things you think about that you don't watch." What kind of things? Sex things. At this point, Nick said the greatest thing any one has ever said on this show:
Knowing how in love with you I was, if you weren't in love with me, I'm just not sure why, why you made love with me?
I watched this scene twice and though it was shocking to hear someone actually say that both times, after the second watch, I was far more sympathetic to Nick. He's basically crying, barely able to get the words out, talking really quietly. He practically whispers "made love." This is a man on his last legs, grappling with the fact that the woman he loves does not love him. He'll say anything to come out on top, to seem right, even to embarrass her. It can't all be in his head.
Andi, however, showed no mercy, and good for her. She was not going to be shamed about her choices and the way she played this game. "First of all, I think that's kind of below the belt. That's something that should be private," she said, before explaining that she felt what they had was real. Nick tried to explain, but he just dug the hole:
I didn't have any expectations about that night, but to me, that night, that was like fianceé-type of stuff. That meant so much to me. And I told you that. It meant the world to me.
"I've had to replay that in my mind over and over," Nick said, adding, "I just felt like it was a cavalier." What stuff Nick? Were you a virgin? Did you do creative sex stuff with Andi? Were you just in love?
To Andi, she did it all right and she would do it that way again. It's hard to argue with her lawyer logic:
But I did know how you felt, which is exactly why I didn't have you pick out a ring. That's exactly why I didn't have you walk down there and let you think you were going to get engaged to somebody and think you were going to propose to somebody and then say no. I knew how you felt which is exactly why that morning I came over to you and said those things.
After Nick said he's "grateful" to her for doing that, Andi made it clear that she took their "great relationship" and his past hurts into consideration, but that wasn't the driving force behind her choices – she's just a decent person:
You don't have to be grateful. I didn't do it for you to be grateful. I did it out of respect for you and, I think you should know, out of the respect for the relationship that I thought I had.
Nick broke the unwritten rule of the show: what happens in the Fantasy Suite stays in the Fantasy Suite. That's your time alone, off camera. You get into trouble when we find out things about that time, like when we found out that Juan Pablo told Clare, "I really loved fucking you." But those moments are the ones where what contestants on these shows are actually like as humans is the most clear. Andi became the frontrunner to become the next Bachelorette during one of those moments with Juan Pablo, when she revealed that he talked about other girls during their Fantasy Suite time.
As she said, she did what was right and dumped Nick before he could propose. She used the Fantasy Suite for what it is for: another way to get to know someone. We do not tolerate making Andi feel like she's a dirty slut and neither did she.
Watching the show back, Nick might not get why Andi didn't pick him, but the rest of us do. She had an easier life with Josh and that's what she wanted, whether Nick agrees with that or not. She and Josh live five minutes away from each other in Atlanta and have been "sneaking around" to see each other since the show wrapped in "disguises." It's why she didn't pick farmer Chris for a reason: like most people, she wanted a future life that actually made sense with the one she already had.
"Josh is totally my type, I have this amazing connection with him, he lives in Atlanta," Andi said during the finale. But, "I mean, my brain definitely thinks, is this too good to be true?"
"Josh has a great way of being able to calm me down and make me feel giddy inside and make me feel butterflies," she said. In contrast, she used adjectives like "passionate" to describe her relationship with Nick, who clearly seemed to give her anxiety because they both "overthink" things too much.
Andi might be confident with her choices, but Josh is now on overdrive to convince the world that Andi isn't a slut. When it was his turn to come out during the After the Final Rose special, he basically wrapped his body around her and joked about how he's "trying" to knock her up, a comment he repeated on Good Morning America Tuesday. He told Jimmy Kimmel that he didn't watch any parts of the show but his scenes and those with the guys. Don't worry though – Andi is "very honest" with him about what happened when he wasn't around (that she had sex).
According to my coworker and Bachelor cowatcher Erin Gloria Ryan, in the hyperbolic way that former President Bill Clinton was often called the first black president, Andi can be considered the first female Bachelor of The Bachelorette. It's an argument worth considering. She didn't really have to worry about being proposed to, the way the promos tried to pretend she did. She got told "I love you" by (as Harrison noted last week) more guys than anyone else in the show's history. She shut people down. She cried and got overwhelmed, but not too much. She ended up with Josh, a guy who came on television and endlessly kissed her after she had just been made to look (for a moment) like she was the love-him-and-leave-him type. Then, they sealed it with a joke about how Andi's face looks like Grumpy Cat's when she's "serious," complete with a live appearance by Grumpy Cat.
Cry all you want Nick. Andi won this round. While it might be going too far to say she's paved the road to a new future for Bachelorettes to come, she might have won the whole show, every single season of it, even as the façade of what you are and are not supposed to say on The Bachelor crumbled around her. Y'all are just pawns in her game.