Terhi Tuovinen / ABC

The Bachelor Puts The Season On Ice

And by that, we mean...hooray, he finally chose a (potential) wife!

It's taken me eleven episodes, but I've finally accepted that, for some women in the world, Nick Viall is a desirable mate. And, sure, I'll go along with the conceit that Raven and Vanessa are both totally in love with Nick. So, I'm fully on board for this final installment of Who Will Mate With Marble-Mouth?. It's been a thrilling ride so far, filled with staring into fires, staring near fires, crying (female), crying (male), plates and plates of uneaten food, and more staring (neither at nor near a fire). It's all come to this, a "dramatic three-hour finale." Because why in Cthulhu's unspeakable name would you want a Bachelor finale that was even a moment shorter than that?

Chris Harrison's Breathless Preface

"Welcome to this historic, live, three-hour season finale of The Bachelor!" host Chris Harrison tells us at the top of the show. That's a dubious use of the word "historic," for sure. Harrison promises that "something so unexpected, something so extraordinary, something that has never happened before in Bachelor history will take place, right here, on this stage." And now I understand his use of "historic" earlier. We're talking about that most noble subset of human history, "Bachelor history." Later, Chris again uses the word "historic" to describe the final hour of the finale, After The Final Rose. By the end of the evening, he will have used that word close to a dozen times. It is possible that in his heart he truly believes these three hours are "historic." How wonderfully simple his life must be.

"Millions have watched Nick's desperate search for love," Chris says, tipping his hand a little bit at how he feels deep-down about Nick. Can't remember a Bachelor or Bachelorette being called out as "desperate" before. Sure, many of them have seemed so, but this is a little on the nose for this franchise.

Raven Meets The Family…Again

Nick sets the stage for this "important final week," reiterating that he's scared it won't work out. But at least they've moved on to a different town in Lapland, to Rovaniemi, the "most beautifully scenic place" Nick has ever seen. Also, he tells us, "Santa Claus lives here, which is pretty crazy." Hmm, well, the level of crazy depends upon how much you, a 36-year-old man, still believe in Santa Claus.

We see Nick's family, forced to go through The Interview Of The Potential Mates a third, humiliating time. Even Mom and Dad, who are genetically predisposed to support the dreams of their child, seem worn out. Mom cries, remembering the previous times. "Going through this whole process as parents was, at times, excruciating," his dad says. "People have asked whether it's possible Nick could once again be left standing at the altar, and of course it is." Whoa. Dad burns are the most devastating burns.

When Raven arrives, Nick lifts her off the ground, but she shows the proper respect so close to his parents by not deploying The Bachelor Handshake and wrapping her legs around him. There's SO MUCH talk of Kaitlyn and Andi, it has to be such a drag for Raven, but she doesn't show it. Nick's little sister Bella starts off her one-on-one time with Raven by revisiting Nick's previous heartbreaks. Then it's Dad's turn. Raven lies and tells Nick's dad that she's okay with Nick NOT saying "I love you" back when she said it to him. She prefers it that way, she says. Ha. Right. Sure. Most women do. Men too. Human beings, as a rule, love to show their vulnerability and to then stare into the unblinking face of a mannequin groomed for reality TV. Dad doesn't bring up the previous heartbreaks, but Mom comes out firing with that. Raven? Did you know that Nick has had his heart broken twice on this show? Would you like to hear more about HOW IN LOVE WITH THOSE OTHER PEOPLE Nick was? You wouldn't? Sorry. We're all going to tell you about it.

"We all have that little bit of emptiness in our hearts for him, after all of his heartaches," Nick's mom says, adding that she hopes that he's not blindsided. It is clear, after all of these seasons on the Bachelor franchise, that Nick's mom has PTSD, and she believes he might also be on Survivor.

The first commercial break reminds us all that Nick will be on Dancing With The Stars. This is fine. I do not watch that show. So I will be spared further Nick exposure. But I feel sorry for my mother-in-law, who normally looks so forward to DWTS. Goddamn you, ABC! She's a nice lady. She doesn't deserve that!

Vanessa's Turn

Nick's family kicks off this segment by showing that they have ZERO FAITH that this will work out well. His dad says, "I would think that with these two women, that he feels confident that their feelings for him are there. And it's up to him to figure out where his feelings are."

"They can still say no," his brother says. "And given his track record, it's not the greatest." I said earlier that dad burns were the most devastating burns, but I may have been wrong about that.

When Vanessa arrives, it's awkward. She obviously just wants a hug, but Nick lifts her up and kind of forces her into The Bachelor Handshake. Vanessa tells Nick's family the story of their first date, and her romantic vomiting spree in the plane, and how Nick took care of her. She ends it with, "It was a feeling I've been searching for the last three years." She seems to fight off tears. Everyone stares, waiting for Nick to say something, but he just sits there with a dumb look on his face before someone says, "Nick, this is where you chime in."

Vanessa makes her case to Nick's mom, who looks like she's being tortured, honestly. She looks like she's thinking, over and over, Why is my son putting me through this AGAIN? "I have never been in the position where I could almost be engaged and proposed to," Vanessa says, clearly not understanding the order in which things happen. Vanessa tells Nick's mom that she's not 100% sure how she feels about ending up engaged at the end of this. With Nick's sister, played here by Sleepless In Seattle-era Rita Wilson, Vanessa implies she's not completely against moving from Montreal, but she also implies that she would rather not.

Before Nick's dad talks to Vanessa, he talks to Nick, who talks about how he's drawn to strong, independent women. "But you haven't had a lot of success," Nick's dad says. Ouch. I mean. It's true, but shit, Dad, sugarcoat it or something, why don't you. Vanessa asks Nick's dad what it takes to make a relationship last, and while he explains what that is, he totally breaks down in tears. So I guess we see where it comes from. And Nick's dad's tears make Vanessa cry. I'm certain they're crying about the same thing: that they're on this show.

While Nick is outside saying goodbye to Vanessa, the family debriefs. "I want to trust these girls, I want to believe that they really care for him," his mom says. "But you know what. Each experience that he's had here almost seemed like it got worse and worse. It's just, I don't know, I can't even describe it, to be honest with you." But even Mom has to agree that there's an obvious chemistry between both Nick and Raven, and Nick and Vanessa. So it's obvious to her that he cares for both of these women. "Is there any fear that it won't be reciprocated?" Nick's sister asks. Gee, I don't know, sis. This is honestly the first time this has been brought up on the show. His family is a SUPER-DOWNER. They're pretty convinced this will end badly for him. And they don't even try very hard to put on a happy face.

Vanessa's Date

This should be great. Vanessa says she really wants to spend this date talking about heavy topics. I'm assuming that will go super-well for her. There's no way that can backfire, right? ...Wait. How has it taken this long for me to notice how much Vanessa looks like Andi Dorfman? Yeah. I guess you DO have a type, Nick. And that type is Women Who Look Like Andi Dorfman. Nick and Vanessa go on a horseback ride through a snow-covered forest. They both rhapsodize about how romantic the ride is. "It's a dream," Nick says. "It's literally…wow." Meanwhile, a man dressed as Santa lurks in the forest, watching them. I suppose he's meant to look kind and jolly, like the Santa we all know and love. But he comes across more like a serial killer who dresses up like Santa when stalking his victims.

ABC

ABC

They ride up to a cabin, where they're greeted by this same Santa Claus. He doesn't murder them though. "I am so excited," Vanessa says. "It really feels like I'm back in my childhood days." Santa asks Nick and Vanessa about what's on their wish lists. They say "happiness" and "love." Santa gives them a gift with their pictures and their names in Finnish on it, along with two symbols on it, one for happiness and one for fertility. So…yeah…gross. Santa shouldn't be so gross. But Santa also shouldn't lurk in the woods like a scarlet-clad Bigfoot either.

Nick and Vanessa hang out by a campfire outside Santa's cabin. It doesn't seem fun. They're both a frown, honestly. Their dates always end up in these heavy, boring talks. Vanessa is honest and says that she doesn't want to "win" this competition by virtue of being liked slightly better than someone else. Thus, Vanessa ends up unsure whether she really wants to go on with this.

Vanessa says, "The unknown is very scary for me." And she wants Nick to help provide her with some comfort, which is something he's not great at. "I definitely want to feel a love I've never felt before," Nick says. But that doesn't do the trick. "You're asking me to know my decision," Nick says. Vanessa has a problem with not knowing Nick's true feelings and with competing with another woman for Nick's proposal. "It just makes it less romantic," Vanessa says, poking a hole in the fallacy at the heart of this show. "That's a matter of perspective," Nick says, as if speaking for the producers.

The conversation goes on. And on. As their conversations always do. Vanessa cries again. And it's hard to recall a moment these two spent together where it looked like they were actually having fun, at least since Vanessa barfed in what she later referred to as "space." Vanessa wanted questions answered by the end of this date, but it's obvious that didn't happen for her.

Raven's Date

"As we all know, Nick has made it to this point twice before. Will he let America down?" Chris asks. No pressure, Nick! The fate of America hangs in the balance! Nick begins the day hungover from the bummer of the date with Vanessa. So he's looking forward to seeing Raven, who's always fun. Raven greets him with The Bachelor Handshake. "It's so playful and fun," Nick says of his dates with Raven. Playful and fun like those dark, dreary talks with Vanessa? Or playful and fun in a different way? Nick and Raven go ice-skating on a frozen pond or fjord or whatever they call it in Lapland. As when they roller-skated, the producers provide Sixpence None The Richer's "Kiss Me" as a musical backdrop. They achieve The Bachelor Handshake On Ice, a very difficult move.

"She puts me in great spirits," Nick says. Raven expresses that she has no hesitations. Vanessa has a backpack full of them. Raven doesn't want to talk about heavy subjects. Vanessa wants to only talk about those things. So far this doesn't seem like much of a decision for Nick. It's a classic Debbie Downer vs. Lady Who Is Swallowing Her True Feelings To Make Herself More Appealing To A Man. Unless Raven really is this "fun" and "carefree" all the time. But I suspect that is not so. Nick has Raven wait by the fire, while he walks off and comes back with three Husky puppies. They do not cook them on the campfire, if that's what you were worried about/hoping for. Raven says she hopes their kids are as cute as these Husky puppies. I'm sorry, Raven, that is impossible. Nothing is as cute as those Husky puppies. "I've never felt this kind of love for someone, and I think it's a real love," Raven says. She thinks it's a real love. I guess that's good enough.

Raven doesn't seem bugged when Nick talks about how much he cares about both her and Vanessa. Whether that's a lack of self-esteem or she's just pragmatic about what this show is, it's hard to say. I'm gonna guess it's more the former than the latter thought. Raven reassures Nick that she has no hesitation. "If you have any worry at all," she says, "I hope that I can alleviate that by telling you that I'm ready and that I do love you and it's gonna be really easy for me that day if you get down on one knee." It's like she's telling him, "I promise I won't be any trouble." Raven seems very confident that she's gonna end up being proposed to.

"I am proud that you are here," Nick says to her. Which is a super-weird thing to say.

Nick's Final Day

Nick stares forlornly into a fire, in a room filled with more candles than should be safe for a cabin made mostly of wood. Neil Lane shows up with his rings, and we spend a minute or two on The Ring Decision. While Nick figures out the ring, Vanessa spends some time in her room doing some last-minute crying. Conversely, Raven imagines herself even more engaged than before. She's really doing a great job convincing herself about how much of a lock she is. So much so, she has me convinced. Especially after Nick says this about Vanessa: "She wants assurances that aren't realistic in the hopes that she can have a perfect story, and right now, I can't guarantee her anything." Seems like things could be tipping away from ol' Vanessa.

The Final Rose

Chris Harrison greets the first woman, the sacrificial lamb, to the Final Rose Lodge where she will be humiliated. And that woman is Raven. Oh dear, Raven's overconfidence will be her undoing. I'd say that I feel like Nick is making a mistake, but I think I'd say that regardless of which woman walked in first. As the runner-up, Raven has to first give a speech to Nick about how much she's in love with him and how easy it was to fall in love with him. It's tradition. It's the final escalation of the humiliation. She ends her speech with, "I couldn't be more sure. And I love you."

Surprisingly, the producers stayed away from the sad trombone sound effect. Seems weird that they show restraint now. It takes Raven a few sentences into Nick's response for it to dawn on her that he's not working up to a proposal. "I just don't know that I'm in love," Nick says, as he magically turns Raven from potential fiancée into contestant on Bachelor In Paradise. "I'll never regret standing here telling you how I feel," Raven says. To which, I would add, "'Never'? Really?"

"I'm sorry," Nick says. Like he always does. I hope when he proposes to Vanessa he apologizes as well. Hoxie's answer to Katie Holmes turns to self-pity in the limo ride away, wondering what she can do differently to make herself more of a catch. Hoo boy. It's not you, Raven, it's Nick. Nick is always to blame.

"That was tough to watch," Chris says. Yes, it was, Chris. That and so many more of the hours of this season. Nearly all of them. We return to the Proposal Lodge, where for some reason there's a reindeer tethered outside. Could it be because Santa is there too? Maybe Nick will propose to Santa? Is that the "historic" thing we've never seen before that Chris Harrison alluded to?

"I'm nervous," Vanessa says to Chris before coming through the doors. "You should be," he says. Vanessa, since she will get Nick's proposal, doesn't have to suffer through giving a speech. "So much about me being here has to do with the past," Nick says. Really, Nick? Do you have some sort of past that we could talk about on this show? I'm pretty sure I don't know what you are referencing. Nick cries. Vanessa cries. Wow. These two cry SO MUCH before the proposal. Nick kisses Vanessa's forehead. She kisses his tie. Then he drops to a knee and asks her to marry him. And she bawls.

"Should we go start a life?" Nick asks her. "Let's [kiss] go [kiss] do it [kiss]. Literally," Vanessa replies. They ride off into the forest on a horse-drawn sleigh. But we're not done with them yet, oh no. We still have one last hour to spend…

After The Final Rose

"There are still unresolved questions," Chris says to open this final hour of Nick's season. But are there really? I'm unconvinced. And will remain so for the duration of this hour. Raven says she's happy that Nick didn't get rejected, which the audience laughs and applauds at. Chris invites Raven to Paradise, which she accepts. Of course.

Vanessa gets some one-on-one time with Chris. She paints a picture of a Bachelor and his prospective bride who are DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. But then when Nick joins her onstage, and they talk about Nick's upcoming DWTS appearance, the two of them do a great job of further underlining the point that they are DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. Oh yeah. No way.

Rachel comes out to talk about The Bachelorette. Chris finally reveals the "epic surprise," the "historic" moment, which is that The Bachelorette season begins right now, with Rachel getting to meet a few of her gentlemen live onstage. She meets Demario, who offers her tickets to Vegas and a ring. Then there's Blake, who is awkward. Already Demario quickly becomes the front-runner. Next comes Dean, whom the ladies in the audience love. He is a white man and he says, "I'm ready to go black, and I'll never go back." Rachel laughs and says, "I love that." Or so the EMTs tell me in the ambulance. Because I died from embarrassment. Then Eric comes out and saves it by being charming and funny.

Verdict

Should you ever watch the Bachelor finale without fast-forwarding? Of course not. There's no reason the whole thing couldn't be cut down to fit in an hour. But I will say this for this season of The Bachelor, and I mean it in all sincerity: it's definitely over.

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