Longtime fans of the Bachelor franchise know that, season after season, it infamously promises to present the “most dramatic” conclusion yet—which often just seems like a ploy to cuckold viewers into sticking around until After The Final Rose. However, Jesse Palmer, the latest to host the show and preside over #BachelorNation, told Jezebel that this week’s two-part finale will confirm that he’s been telling the truth for the last eight weeks. And despite the skepticism I’ve been forced to adopt as a longtime viewer, I believe him!
If you haven’t been tuning into the latest iteration of the flawed franchise, the 19th season of The Bachelorette joined Bachelor fan favorites and best friends Gabby Windey, a 31-year-old ICU nurse, and Rachel Recchia, a 26-year-old flight instructor, on their quest for true love. While that may sound like a more heartening—perhaps even feminist—turn for a show that’s long been criticized for being anything but, this season wasn’t exactly the departure some viewers might have hoped it would be. Why? Largely because production didn’t put parameters in place to avoid the discomfort of two friends dating the same pool of men until it proved as problematic as one would expect. Apparently, there are just some things in the Bachelor universe that must remain consistent, including the answer to the immortal question: whether or not the season will deliver the most dramatic finale viewers have ever seen.
“The short answer is, yes,” Palmer assured me. “We’re going to have Gabby, Rachel and their men live with a studio audience to sort of address some of the controversy from this season, and it is going to be very, very emotional.”
He added: “A lot has happened to both Gabby and Rachel in those final days in Mexico,” where last week’s episode left us, “and in the days since then as well. ...There are twists and turns on the horizon that I don’t think anybody in Bachelor Nation, or anyone that’s even been watching the show, will see coming.”
While a two-night finale—and the tantalizing of multiple twists—is hardly unprecedented, some of the controversy Palmer alludes to certainly is. Like any other season, the leads were tasked with finding “their person” for our viewing pleasure—putting the men through pageantry (a swimsuit competition, a boxing match, an interrogation from a dominatrix) that historically has never actually indicated whether or not someone was prime picking for marriage. This time however, Rachel and Gabby were doing it together, a new concept that was marketed as a quasi-feminist rebrand. Ads for the season showed the two women laughing, taking turns behind the wheel of a fire-engine red convertible, rose petals flying through the air like caution to the wind. It’s a ham-handed metaphor for a season in which both women should have been the sole navigators of their own destinies—in which they’d enthusiastically pursue men who would pursue them back.
Even Palmer underscored the role of their bond: “I think the most beautiful thing about this season is these two incredible women—beautiful, intelligent, independent and great friends.” As someone who often found herself imagining Gabby and Rachel ending the season simply by hopping back into that red convertible and leaving all of these suckers behind, I agree. However, if it was romantic love that they wanted to find, it would be a shame that they couldn’t do so in a franchise that promises to make it possible.
Within the first few weeks of the season, the flaws in the new format grew impossible to ignore, as multiple men either attempted to entertain the affection of both women, flip-flopped from one to the other, or flat-out rejected them in the most callous of ways. Rachel in particular suffered from the show’s lack of structure and was turned down more than three times. The most egregious offense though, was committed by potential suitor Logan Palmer who abruptly stopped pursuing her in lieu of Gabby midway through the season. The season became progressively more painful to watch as Rachel was reduced to sobs in one episode after the next. And who could blame her?
“I think at the start of all this, when they made the decision to have two Bachelorettes, they really didn’t know how it all was going to play out,” Palmer said. “A lot of producers and the powers that be weren’t exactly sure how these journeys would unfold, and I think a lot of this was trying to put the power into Rachel and Gabby’s hands and give them the control of the decisions that they wanted to make.”
As a cynic, one might wonder whether or not the powers that be had anticipated such problems and, in fact, sought to coast on the inevitable boost of a controversy. Unfortunately, if this were the case, they’d have been right. Last month, the Bachelorette was the highest-rated and most-watched program on primetime.
By next Tuesday night, we’ll know for certain whether or not season 19 will deliver the most dramatic finale yet. But with a structure like this—a mere performance of leaving outdated ideals behind without actually doing so—I’m not certain I need it.