Unsurprisingly, ABC’s “The Bachelor” finale on Monday night was incredibly awkward for all the predictable reasons. Juan Pablo Galavis, one of the most hated bachelors in show history for his emotionless and sleazy behavior, dumped 32-year-old hairstylist Clare Crawley after a disastrous final date and chose 26-year-old nurse Nikki Ferrell in a stilted final rose ceremony that summed up a cringeworthy, terrible season where everyone seemed to loathe each other.
While the final episode was wildly uncomfortable to watch, it was also one of the most riveting hours of reality television in recent memory. The reason? It exposed the fascinating disconnect between veteran show producers stubbornly anchored in tradition and a star who doesn’t follow — and frankly, couldn’t care less about — the rules of the franchise.
Short version: Juan Pablo, the single dad and ab-tastic former pro soccer player, gave the final rose to Nikki at the end of the two-hour finale; but he broke away from tradition and didn’t propose with the special product placement Neil Lane diamond ring in his pocket. Instead, he just said he didn’t want to lose her. So…they’re dating now, right? Or something?
Well, sort of — they wouldn’t spill any details on the annual “After the Final Rose” post-finale special, and that apparently made the “Bachelor” producers enraged. Juan Pablo and Nikki appeared together, all forced smiles and cuddling on a couch. Juan Pablo did most of the talking, and essentially said that while they were super-appreciative of “The Bachelor” experience, what happens after the show is private, and it’s no one’s business if they’re in love, living together, or how seriously they’re even dating at this point.
Except, hang on Juan Pablo, ABC just paid millions of dollars for you to fly around the world on a reality show with dozens of women and try to fall in love; the part that keeps viewers invested in the show (and coming back for more the following season) is tracking the love story that they just spent 10 weeks watching on television. And it was entirely too obvious during the finale that Juan Pablo truly got under the producers’ skin with his total nonchalance with the process and refusal to spill details.
It’s an interesting debate, and one that played out in a nasty way as veteran host Chris Harrison, frustrated by the lack of information from Juan Pablo and Nikki, grilled them at length about their relationship. Harrison, who could barely hide his disdain during an angry back-and-forth, basically accused Juan Pablo of ruining the show by not playing the game correctly. He repeatedly hit on the most sensitive subject: The fact that Nikki had told Juan Pablo she loved him during the finale in St. Lucia, and he hadn’t said it back. (He replied “thank you” and gave her a kiss on the forehead: Double ouch!)
“She said she’s in love with you,” Harrison’s cross-examination of Juan Pablo began. “How do you feel about this woman?”
“I feel fantastic about this woman,” Juan Pablo confirmed, starting to ramble about how now that the show is over, they can finally reveal their relationship.
“But how do you feel about her?” Harrison pressed.
“Chris!” Juan Pablo said lightly, a tinge of annoyance in his voice. “I feel great, like I said. So I’m very honest to her and I keep things to ourselves, and I show her how I feel about her and she’s happy with that. And we’re starting our lives now together.”
“Do you love her?” Harrison asked bluntly.
“I’m not going to answer that question to you,” Juan Pablo snapped. He attempted to explain that they wanted their privacy. “We’re very happy, we’re starting our relationship right now…but we’re done with this show, we are so done. And very happy that we had the opportunity to be a part of it and we met each other.”
So done with the show? That got Harrison so riled up. “When you sign up, that’s what this is kind of about, that we’re on this journey with you,” a clearly irritated Harrison continued to Juan Pablo, whose frozen smile was fading at this point.
“I signed up to find somebody…but if at the end I didn’t propose…that’s how I feel,” Juan Pablo repeated. “I’m with somebody — look, I’ve been happy, four months happy.”
“I don’t know what I’m looking at!” Harrison exploded. “I would like to say you guys are in love, but it’s so awkward because it’s like we can’t have a conversation.”
Nikki, who looked anything but happy and in love, finally interjected, pointing out that previous “Bachelor” contestants who sat on this very couch before said they were in love, perhaps before they were ready, and they didn’t last. “We’re taking this very seriously,” she said. “This is a real relationship to us.”
Finally, Juan Pablo started to catch on as to why Harrison was so upset. “I’m sorry that this show didn’t end up like you guys wanted it to,” he said. “But, like I said, I have to be honest, and that’s how I felt.” He tried to play the dad card: “I [would] want my daughter, or the guy that wants to ask for her hand, to be 100 percent sure…so we’re taking our relationship slow.”
Only, presumably, Juan Pablo’s daughter won’t be meeting her soulmate on national television, when viewers tune in and advertisers pay big bucks in hope you’ll have a romantic magical proposal. This didn’t fly with Harrison, who got downright mean when the special came back from commercial break.
“We are live tonight with Juan Pablo and Nikki. As we can clearly see, they are engaged and they are clearly in love,” he said sarcastically.
Low blow, Harrison. His words were clipped as he clarified their “real” status. “Nikki’s in love, Juan Pablo is in love, he won’t say it but they are. And so we’re happy. That’s the main thing. You guys are happy, the end result is what’s important,” he said, practically rolling his eyes. “That’s what we’re going to take home tonight.”
Harrison also got mad when Juan Pablo and Nikki refused to share the specifics of their future plans. Are they dating long distance between Nikki’s home in Kansas City and Juan Pablo’s hometown of Miami? Living together? Juan Pablo was tight-lipped, and insisted that’s private information now that the show is done. Harrison looked over at fellow “Bachelor” alums Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici (who just got married last month) in the audience for help.
“I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s not private after the show. It’ll be public,” Sean said.
“We’ll figure it out,” Juan Pablo said wearily.
Catherine piped up in defense of the reality show where she met her husband. “I’m really happy that you guys found each other,” she said. “But don’t slap the hand that fed you.”
That confused Juan Pablo (English is his second language, after all) and Harrison jumped in to explain: “When you sign up to be the ‘Bachelor’ or the ‘Bachelorette,’ it’s a public forum,” he said. “Like, everybody wants to go on this journey with you to find love. And I think what everyone’s finding confusing is…once you get the good stuff, this is the happy stuff, why not want to share that with all of these phenomenal people who have been on this journey? Because that’s what we signed up to watch and what you signed up to show.”
Therein lies the fundamental difference between what Juan Pablo believes (this show was a special gift to him, two dozen single women from whom he could find a special lady friend) and what the show has always been about. It’s supposed to go like this: Boy meets 25 girls. Boy narrows the field to two girls. Boy breaks heart of one girl. Boy proposes to the other girl. Boy and girl appear on “Bachelor” finale either happily, sickeningly in love or seething with anger because they’ve already broken up.
Those are the rules and that’s why the show works. It’s a predictable escape and guilty pleasure for viewers, sure; but at it’s core (don’t laugh) it is truly supposed to be a love story, for better or worse. People will always watch love stories.
One thing is for sure: The whole point of a show like “The Bachelor” is that you’re not supposed to get a glance of the gears behind the scenes that churn out the manufactured “fairy tale.” This finale definitively ruined that idea.
Either way, Juan Pablo reiterated again that he originally signed up to find his soulmate, but he just had to stay honest with himself and his feelings — whatever those are, he still won’t say. Harrison wasn’t having it. “I’m going to say congratulations, I hope, I think that’s the right thing to say here,” Harrison said icily. “You guys have smiles, so good on ya.”
Good on ya? That’s a sure sign he’s mad. “Twelve years I’ve been doing this, this is a ‘Bachelor’ first,” Harrison fumed.
Later, as he introduced newest “Bachelorette” Andi Dorfman (the second runner-up who quit a few weeks ago), he got really passive aggressive.
“Another season of The Bachelor has come to an end,” Harrison smirked, then seemingly confirming some of those tabloid stories about the producers despising Juan Pablo as well: “I’m not going to lie — I’m okay moving on.”