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Welcome back to The Bachelor, the show that contractually obligates 25 women to declare their profound love for a man who is contractually obligated to play them all.
I tuned in ten minutes late to this episode because my mom and I were at a dinner that ran later than we thought it would, so I made her lie to the server about our real reasons for packing up the food as soon as it got to the table even though my mom would have been FINE with telling a professional that we’re leaving her nice restaurant because her daughter needs to watch The Bachelor finale.
By the time I got there, Raven is telling Nick’s dead-eyed mother that she’s in love with her son. To be fair, Nick’s mother wasn’t born dead-eyed — she became that way after her Nick made her complicit in four years of devastation porn. She’s like the woman from Final Destination who knows that everyone is fated for a grisly doom. Or, alternatively, she’s the demon from The Ring crawling out of your television set toward an uncertain freedom. Whatever horror movie icon Mary Viall brings to mind, one thing is certain: her ability to feel has been compromised and ABC is to blame.
Vanessa shows up for more of the same after Raven is dismissed and immediately launches into her meet-cute throw-up story which is funny and charming, or should be. Nick’s family doesn’t laugh, though, and it starts to make sense that Nick doesn’t want to end up with someone like his mother. Although laughter may not be a popular performance of emotion in this family, tears certainly are. Everybody cries at one point, although their reasons for doing so are unclear.
In the end, Mary Viall’s verdict, boiled down, is: “They’re fine. They’re both fine.”
Suddenly, we’re back in Finland. Or maybe we never left? I’m not sure.
Vanessa meets Nick in the woods to ride ponies, and he’s like, “This is a week that’s filled with mutual decisions,” even though it’s obviously not, and nobody should be more acutely aware of that than Nick “Always the Groom’s Competition, Never the Groom” Viall.
Vanessa and Nick run into Santa Claus mid-way through their pony ride, and he’s like “Come here so I can give you a hug,” and Vanessa seems into it. At this point, I think Vanessa is just grateful for a date that neither renders her physically incontinent nor tests her core values. Santa Claus gives Nick and Vanessa a memento that reads “To Niko and Venla” even though that’s not their names.
Let’s make one thing clear: your name is your name in English, in French, in Chinese, in every language on Earth. There is no translation for a human name.
After fulfilling her lifelong dream of meeting Santa Claus, Vanessa says, “If I get engaged, that means I’m married” a couple hundred more times even though that “core value” is “nonsensical.” The women (and men) on this show love to talk shit about how much more marriage means to them than the rest of the world. Soon, we’re going to have someone on this show like, “When I made eye contact with Nick stepping out of the limo, I thought about him naked, and for me personally that means we’re engaged, which means we’re married, which means I’m suing for divorce on the grounds of adultery with 24 other women mmmbaiiiiii.”
So then Vanessa asks Nick who he’s going to pick and he’s like “tbh idk,” and she’s like “how…?” and he’s like, “baby, when I’m inside of you, I don’t think about any other women,” and then she cries because that answer is unsatisfactory.
The next day, Nick takes Raven ice skating at a secluded pond, and there’s no one around for miles except them and some forest nymphs and a few woodland trolls and the entire Bachelor camera crew and probably Chris Harrison watching from behind a tree somewhere. It’s very romantic.
Then they run out of things to talk about, so Nick goes into the woods and finds some puppies, and it’s a grand moment for everyone involved. “I hope our children look like these puppies” says Raven, and for the first time, I feel a surge of affection for her.
Sadly, Raven will never give birth to Nick’s dog-children as his heart belongs to Vanessa. He drops her the next day, leaving her only with a Lapland keychain and the promise of finding better love in Mexico this summer.
Meanwhile Vanessa promptly abandons the moral high ground she could have claimed as her own by failing to walk away from Nick’s proposal. I’m not saying it would have been satisfying to watch Nick get rejected a third time—although I’m not NOT saying that—but Vanessa had a bad case of “this-is-actually-a-really-fucked-up-way-to-meet-your-husband” syndrome throughout this season. Then, without warning, she changes her mind and decides this is a perfectly fine way to meet your husband. So much for sticking to her core values.
Flash forward to After the Rose, and Vanessa’s disgust with Nick Viall is barely concealable, simmering visibly beneath the surface as she tells Chris Harrison that “long-distance is hard.” I have never witnessed a newly-anointed Bachelor couple who seem to possess such a virulent distaste for one another.
The happy couple still doesn’t know where they’ll live.
Following VaNick’s mutual grimacing comes Rachel Lindsay’s emanation of pure joy, darkened only slightly by Chris Harrison’s surprise announcement that she’ll be meeting four of her suitor’s early. It’s hard not to notice that two of them are…unfortunate. Like, really unfortunate.
I’m going to refrain from casting any premature judgment so as not to compromise my reputation as a critic who carries her judgment to term, but know that I am not without preliminary opinions. Join us next season to find out how I really feel about all of this.