Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC
If you will recall, last week I ranted about how much I hate the Men Tell All episodes for lots of reasons that were very smart … and also very funny. (This is a reference for the seven other people who love both The Bachelor franchise and underappreciated IFC sketch shows from the mid-2010s.) But there is one reason I neglected to mention: We lose all momentum before the finale. I can’t remember things that happened this morning, I’m expected to keep whatever’s going on with someone named Aaron in my brain for two weeks? (That’s two references for the comedy nerds.)
You might think that, given my vitriol for the Men Tell All, I’d have a similar stance toward After the Final Rose, but I actually don’t mind it. My biggest complaint is that the bloated three-hour show makes me stay up past my bedtime. You simply cannot have the same runtime as Oppenheimer without even showing me Florence Pugh’s boobs. We get a lot of Bachelor Nation housekeeping out of the way here, which is helpful for an ancient hag like me who is largely unaware of the conversations happening on social media. Jesse comes out and tells us that we’re getting “one of the most heartbreaking finales in Bachelorette history.” That’s a lie, of course, but it’s the kind of optimistic lie that is comforting in its familiarity, like, “We’re not gonna talk politics at Thanksgiving this year.” Joe and Serena are here to remind us that they’re about to have a wedding sponsored by Maybelline Fit Me. Brayden is here, sitting next to Rachel Recchia. (GET A JOB. STAY AWAY FROM HER, etc.) Gabby Windey brought new girlfriend Robby Hoffman as her plus one. I usually don’t like those audience reaction shots they put in a little box in the corner, but I would kill for a Robby cam running the whole time. Hell, mic her up. Jesse also announces that we’ll meet our new Bachelor tonight (obviously) and that somebody sitting here in our studio audience will be dating him next season, but she doesn’t know it yet. This is an extremely stupid gimmick, and I kind of love it in theory if not in practice. Let’s get stupid!
Speaking of stupid things, we open on Aaron still pacing the Fijian sand and Charity still unsure what to do about him. She’s so stressed about it she’s burping like she’s the Robert Durst of heartbreak. She says, “Excuse me, I’m having acid reflux.” I’ve literally never related to a Bachelorette until this exact moment.
Charity goes to have a conversation with Aaron where he talks about how “highly” he thinks of her. He says that she “always rose to the occasion.” This language really rubs me the wrong way. It sounds like a job interview, not a passionate plea to take him back. I don’t want my future spouse to impress me; I want to discover the weird goblin that lives in the deepest part of their soul and introduce it to my soul goblin. Also, I think saying that he’s gonna try not to cry is a bad move. Charity likes a softie who will feel his feelings! I missed the moment when she said he could stay because I had to coordinate some boring scheduling logistics with my husband, but I tuned back in on Charity suggesting a “hard reset,” which is a very romantic thing to say to someone you could soon be getting engaged to. This whole storyline is pointless.
It seems like Aaron is only here to freak out Dotun and Joey when he shows up to the rose ceremony. You know what? I’m fine with that. Keep these gentlemen on their toes. Poor Dotun is POURING sweat. It is clearly sweltering in Fiji. The one (1) thing that is harder for men than women is dressing for formal occasions when it’s hot out, which is only going to get worse. This is what those T-shirts meant by The Future Is Female.
Obviously, Charity sends Aaron home. When she’s breaking up with him, Aaron says, “I’m always in your corner.” My dude, you are not Al Silvani. She’s good! She doesn’t need you! This is another example of the way he talks about her like he views dating as a very intensive interview for the position of Aaron’s wife. I can’t wait to see who submitted the best cover letter on his Bachelor in Paradise run. (Jesse brings him out for a little couch segment that is nominally about his feelings but is actually to announce he’ll be on BiP.) Charity returns and explains this little Aaron detour as an indication she’ll always be present in her relationship(s) and give it 100 percent. That’s some C.J. Cregg–caliber spin right there.
After Aaron is sent off to the loving arms of Wells Adams, Charity’s family arrives, and she gets to inform them that she’s in love with two people and she wants their help deciding who to choose. They meet Joey first and immediately fall in love with him. He gives all the right answers to their questions about shared values. (Much like the Fast & Furious franchise, the correct answer on this show is always just “family.”) He even gently ribs Charity’s dad about football, which is probably on the first page of Future Son-in-Law for Dummies. It’s a home run for Joey with the Lawsons.
Before we see Dotun meet the family, we cut back to the After the Final Rose studio where Jesse reminds us that one of the women here just might date the next Bachelor … and she doesn’t even know it yet! This is an extremely goofy gimmick. Like, they were obviously told they might be on the show because the first woman he interviews is dressed for Bachelor Mansion and has a self-deprecating spiel about the shallow Hawaiian dating pool all ready to go. I’m okay with goofy. This show could stand to be goofier! But I should at least buy into the premise of the bit.
Dotun shows up with an armful of gifts, but it’s not enough to sway the Lawsons who were so smitten with Joey. (Also, THIS MACRAME TANK TOP!!! Charity’s style is so on point this season.) I think Dotun fucked up a little when he talked about how much he sacrificed at work to be here. He wanted it to come across as a testament to how strong their connection is, but it just sounded like he thinks too much about work. This is supposed to be a fantasy, and you’re conjuring images of spreadsheets. But the real problem with Dotun for Charity’s mom, Vickie, is that he reminds her of men Charity has dated in the past. Interesting. Charity was nervous about Xavier being too much like her ex, and Dotun and Xavier don’t seem that similar to me, vibes-wise. It’s funny how the people closest to us can see things so differently.
After Dotun leaves, Charity basically asks her family to tell her who to choose. Her sister says, “Joey makes you glow,” but doesn’t go so far as to tell her to pick him. Charity gets increasingly frustrated with her family as they continue to insist that this decision is hers alone. This conversation is fascinating because they’re also talking about the show without actually talking about the show. Charity says her mom is usually so direct, but she’s not being direct with her right now. Vickie says, “I am being direct.” It’s in this moment that I see where Charity got her sharp emotional perception and linguistic precision. (Also her adorable smile.) Vickie says, “I can’t put words out there because I need to be responsible for those words.” Translation: I’m not going to trash someone on TV who might be my future son-in-law.
Charity heads to her final date with Joey, still upset about the conversation with her family. She is able to rally, though, and has a sweet evening with him reminiscing about their time together. He framed the bad impromptu poem from their New Orleans date, and they read it to each other as we flash back to them reading it in NOLA. I was pretty vocal against Joey as Bachelor, but I have to admit he’s nailing his audition here.
Oh, whoops, we’re doing the studio audience thing again. Jesse walks over to Kat and Brooklyn, who appear to have made up after their Bachelor rivalry, and teases that maybe one of them will date our next Bachelor. Kat says she would love to date Joey, and Brooklyn jumps in and says it could be Dotun. Okay, one of two things happened here. Either Kat knows the Bachelor is Joey and accidentally spilled the beans so Brooklyn jumped in to save it. Or that whole thing was basically scripted. No offense to Brooklyn but she doesn’t seem that quick on her feet. More likely this whole exchange was just a planned promo for Bachelor in Paradise, and sure enough, we get a new preview!
We already knew Kat would be on BIP from Brayden’s Men Tell All clip, but now we get footage of them getting absolutely annihilated by a wave while making out on the beach. Even Poseidon can’t stand these two. We also see that several former Bachelorettes are heading to the beach, and it looks like at least a few of them are there to actually date. (Jesse even notes that Brayden and Rachel are sitting next to each other, which is surely a herring redder than that scarf Jake Gyllenhaal has yet to give back.) I stand by the stance I took at the beginning of the season: Once you’ve been the series lead, you don’t get to come back if it doesn’t work out. You had your shot with a cohort of 25 suitors; it’s honestly embarrassing to try again! Finally, a woman I could swear I’ve never seen before in my life but is purportedly a former Bachelor contestant is informed that she’ll have to deliver a “poop baby” because she hasn’t shit in nine days. Gorgeous, no notes. Jesse also drops the bomb that Bachelor in Paradise and Golden Bachelor will be airing on the same night. Why would they do this to us?? I’m so tired.
Finally we’re onto Dotun’s last date. He brings a “treasure hunt,” which is just little memories from their journey covered by palm leaves. Like Joey, he saved these keepsakes from their time together, but unlike Joey he also brought some jewelry. If I wasn’t already absolutely sure it was Dotun, this would have pushed him over the edge. The “treasure” is a locket with their baby pictures and he tells her, “You are my treasure.” I almost gagged at this but Charity likes her men cornier than the Nebraska state fair, so she ate it up. (Much like me with actual state fair corn.) But there’s still a weird vibe because they’re both acutely aware that she’s also in love with Joey. They leave each other on a much more uncertain note, which is the final indication that Dotun is taking this thing home. The Bachelor editors think they’re slick with these fakeouts!
All that’s left to do now is get ready for an engagement. Let me just say: Charity is good at a lot of things but pretending to put on makeup for the Maybelline spon-con shot is not one of them. She doesn’t even touch the makeup brush to her face that has clearly been airbrushed by a professional.
OMG Neil’s back!!!!! When was the last time we saw Neil Lane in person on one of these shows? I was legitimately worried he had retired from the franchise but here he is in his suit and slip-on sneakers. I missed that man so much.
Heading to the final rose, Charity is super-emotional. The audience GASPS when Joey gets out of his car first, indicating that he’s the one getting the ax. Yep, this man is your Bachelor. He’ll do a good job. He’s learned from the best.
These moments right here are what make the show so incredible. The dramatic irony of a sweet boy who thinks he’s getting engaged when we know he’s about to get his heart broken, having to give a whole speech about how much he loves Charity, is excruciating and delicious at the same time. He’s smiling while she tells him that their journey was amazing, all while we know a “but” is coming. And this “but” is a doozy. She can’t even get any more words out. He tells her it’s okay and hugs her for a long time. She gets it together enough to finish her speech, saying that he deserves to hear it. I’m not sure anyone needs to hear, “I found love that’s deeper with someone else,” personally, but again this is why the show is so good and why all the bullshit fights and repetitive drama and undiagnosed personality disorders are worth it. This breakup conversation is brutal. This is two nice people going through one of the most emotional moments of their lives, and we get to watch it! That’s wild!
After lots of tears, we cut over to Joey on the After the Final Rose couch. There’s a loooong pause so either Jesse misses his cue or they really wanted to see if this man would start crying. He keeps it together, though, because he has the confidence of a man who knows he’s about to hear 25 women scream his name over a balcony. Charity comes out, and it’s the first time they’ve spoken since their breakup. She’s giggling nervously, but it’s a very friendly interaction between two people who clearly care about each other. It’s nice!
Now it’s time for the happy ending. Dotun and Charity say all the nice things to each other. I think he had the opposite experience from Joey, who was sure he was getting engaged until the “but.” Dotun’s face looked resigned and guarded until she called him “a man that I could love forever,” at which point his face practically cracked open he was smiling so hard. He gets down on one knee and this man is so tall that there’s actually a smaller height difference between them when he’s kneeling. She has to stand on a box for their post-engagement interview. Her neck is going to be perpetually sore.
Charity and Dotun come out and they’re very happy and in love. Jesse asks Vickie how she feels about Dotun, and she’s very diplomatic in saying she’s happy because she got to know Dotun a little better. This lady is clearly still #TeamJoey. Jesse says he has a surprise for her and plays a clip from a GMA interview when she said she wants to go to Greece. So ABC is sending them on a pre-honeymoon to Greece. This is very random and seems like they just had to scramble to fill 90 seconds, but I visited Greece in 2019 and had a fantastic time, so I approve of this spon-con. Dotun also has a surprise for her, which is that she’s gonna be on Dancing With the Stars. Just be careful, Dotun. She might break up with you to start dating an alt-comic. (Of course, we cut to Gabby and Robby when DWTS is mentioned; these editors know what they’re doing.)
In the final moments of the show, we get a little clip of Golden Bachelor Gerry hanging with his daughters and granddaughter (and dog). He asks about modern dating, and his granddaughter says he needs to get better at texting. They all roast him about signing his texts “-Dad.” Classic.
We can no longer delay the inevitable: Joey is announced as Bachelor. The woman that will be joining his cast is the first person we talked to, Leia from Hawaii. I cannot figure out the point of this. Did they always know it was going to be Leia? Did they gauge social media reactions to see who people liked? Leia seems nice, but this is clearly just spinning our wheels until we find an After the Final Rose gimmick that sticks. Jesse gives Leia an envelope that he says is not a date card, but will “help her on her journey” and “change everything.” The catch is that she can only open it once she gets to the mansion. And with that, we’re left with just enough mystery to make sure you tune in to The Bachelor.
I’m exhausted, aren’t you? The announcement that Bachelor in Paradise and Golden Bachelor will air at the same time finally broke me. This was such a fantastic season! I should be left reinvigorated for the Bachelor franchise! But this strategy of just keeping us on a churning watermill of content doesn’t leave us any room to enjoy what’s in front of us. I’m thinking about the constant cycle of Drag Race, All Stars, and international spin-offs, Housewives cities starting before the last one ends, Netflix’s endless cycle of dating and/or real estate shows. Part of loving something is missing it and being excited to see it again. I worry that with Hollywood strikes delaying so much scripted content, this deluge is only going to get worse.
Anyway, see you in a month for Bachelor in Paradise! (As much as I would love to follow Gerry on his journey to find a woman who he can text in full sentences, if I had to recap both BiP and Golden Bachelor while also working full-time as an editor and caring for an infant, I would simply walk into the Atlantic Ocean.)