Every “Bachelor” season finale is its own special kind of cringeworthy TV — it’s only natural for a show in which two people who barely know each other get engaged on national television. Monday night’s episode was no exception, as the franchise’s live after-show, “After the Final Rose,” really cranked up the awkwardness.
Viewers had just watched “Bachelor” star Nick Viall, a 36-year-old software salesman from Wisconsin, propose to Vanessa Grimaldi, a 29-year-old special education teacher from Canada. The runner-up was Raven Gates, a 25-year-old fashion boutique owner from Arkansas. It was an interesting decision, considering Vanessa frequently expressed her doubts about the relationship, while Raven eagerly claimed she was ready for marriage.
Anyway, as is tradition on “After the Final Rose,” the “winners,” Nick and Vanessa, sat down for interviews with host Chris Harrison and tried to show the world they were a happy couple. How did it go? Here, we’ll let Twitter chime in:
Nick and Vanessa's relationship summed up in one picture pic.twitter.com/oYEZpu7RlR
— RealitySteve (@RealitySteve) March 14, 2017
Nick and Vanessa could not look more uncomfortable and unhappy if they tried
— McKenna Robertson (@kennajorobe) March 14, 2017
— sean kane (@SeanKane3) March 14, 2017
— Kelsey (@Kelseycoz) March 14, 2017
nick & vanessa are acting like a couple filing for divorce & trying to hide from their child (chris harrison) how much they hate each other
— Margaret (@margaretclaire_) March 14, 2017
Look I've loved Nick and Vanessa since they're first one-on-one but that was the most awkward 10 minutes of TV I've seen.
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) March 14, 2017
100% convinced Nick & Vanessa are already broken up #TheBachelorFinale
— Lil Sebastian (@sarcasticmerm) March 14, 2017
… and many more. What went so awry? Essentially, the episode played out like an uncomfortable therapy session. First, Harrison brought out Nick by himself, who uttered an unconvincing assurance that he was “very happy” and “everything’s good.” Then, Vanessa got a solo interview, and Harrison grilled her about the relationship. Vanessa echoed Nick: “It’s been good,” she sighed.
“Has it?” Harrison asked suspiciously, noting her hesitance. “As you take a deep breath?”
“I mean, you know, I’m not going to sugarcoat things,” she admitted. “Some days are tougher than others. Like any relationship, I’m sure people here could understand that and relate to it. Ours is just televised.”
Translation: Not so good! Vanessa quickly got reflective as she told Harrison that she wished she had seen an entire season of the show before signing up so she would know what she was getting herself into. (Pro tip: Before you sign up for a reality show, watch an entire season.)
“I think I treated this relationship as if it was a real relationship in a very unrealistic world,” Vanessa said. “There were moments where I had to understand ‘Nick the bachelor’ and ‘Nick the guy that I was dating’ and the individual relationship that I had going with him. So, it was hard sometimes to separate the two.”
Vanessa went on to say that the distance was also tough; until now, she’s been living in Canada while Nick was in Los Angeles prepping to go on “Dancing With the Stars.” Plus, Nick, who was the runner-up on two previous “Bachelorette” seasons, felt guilty over breaking up with Raven. “There have been moments where I wanted him to be a little bit more empathetic toward my feelings,” Vanessa added. “We’ve had our challenges with that.”
Harrison also got Vanessa to admit that they have had some “knockdown, drag out” fights. (“Because you are both so open and honest,” he clarified.) Vanessa agreed. “But at the end of the day, we love each other, and even when things get hard, we’re both willing to make it work. We’re not going to call it quits because things get difficult,” Vanessa said.
Time to bring out Nick! The two cuddled up next to each other and it was … awkward. Were they truly unhappy? Or was it just exhaustion coupled with a very surreal situation? Either way, the memes started in earnest as they both looked like they would rather be anywhere else:
— ry♛ (@ryleighh___) March 14, 2017
Harrison’s interview veered into therapy session territory again. “How scared were you?” he asked Nick. “And are you still a little scared about things working out, just because you’ve been down this road before?” (Nick also appeared on “Bachelor in Paradise” last summer, making this his fourth appearance on the franchise.)
“I’ve always been a realist, and even as the bachelor, I was a realist. That’s why you saw me have some of those fears and emotional moments,” Nick said. “As Vanessa mentioned, there’s been those moments, we’ve had our struggles. But we’re good communicators and we talk. … I think we’re still looking forward to having that first normal moment.”
Harrison pointed out that “Bachelor” viewers on social media have very high expectations. “It’s tough in the real world,” he said. “Now you guys are really fighting for this and really trying to make it happen. So, I’m sure you guys are feeling that pressure that every couple goes through.”
There was a long pause. “Yeah,” Vanessa ventured. “Like I said, our relationship is televised … but at the end of the day, like, we know what we have, and we don’t really have to prove anything to anyone.”
“Have you guys been able to kind of insulate yourselves, and will you be able to continue to do that?” Harrison pressed.
“All we’ve done is insulate ourselves!” Nick shot back, a bit desperately, as there was uncomfortable laughter from the studio audience. “I think we’re looking to kind of, you know, get out there … we’re just really looking forward to any type of normalcy.”
After Harrison urged Vanessa to reveal her biggest fear (spoiler: It’s the relationship not working out), he asked the $1 million question: “Are you guys going to get married?”
“We’re taking baby steps,” Vanessa replied smoothly. “We’re still in the process of really getting to know each other. We still have things to figure out, but we’re very optimistic about what the future holds.”
Finally, Harrison brought up one possible point of tension: That Nick is going on “Dancing With the Stars,” which means he’ll be in Los Angeles for weeks, and puts even more pressure on the couple. In addition, people will judge Nick for yet another reality show appearance.
Vanessa did not look pleased with his comment. “I feel like in this world, you choose door A, people will still say something. You choose door B people will still say something,” she said. “I’m excited for this chapter in our life that we’re starting together. It’s not like he’s done ‘Dancing’ four times.”
"It's not like he's done Dancing FOUR times." Vanessa, throwing shade like a damn pro. #bachelor
— Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook) March 14, 2017
“That’s true. Good point … you cannot please everybody,” Harrison agreed. He turned to Nick. “I asked her this, and I’ll ask you the same of you. Do you feel like you’re a team? Do you feel like she’s got your back, and vice versa?”
“Absolutely,” Nick said. There was a stretch of silence as Harrison waited for him to follow-up — but he didn’t say anything else.
The show then moved to a “surprise” segment, as producers brought out new bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, as well as the first group of men who will compete for her love this summer. Immediately, people speculated that it was a planned distraction:
ABC you can't distract us from the fact that Vanessa and Nick could barely be on a couch together by throwing out beautiful, classy Rachel
— Princess Problems (@PrincessProbz) March 14, 2017
— Katie Strupp (@katiestrupp) March 14, 2017
— ZeeNa (@nataliez7171) March 14, 2017
Good move, ABC. Move on from the awkward Nick/Vanessa struggle and onto better things with Rachel!!