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Intense “Bachelor” finale has a ring of familiarity

| Thursday, March 17, 2016

BachelorFinale_WEBLauren Weldon

In the series’ 20th season finale, “The Bachelor” did not disappoint. Unfortunately for me, as I had to work on Monday night, I could not watch the final episode until Tuesday. Despite knowing the outcome going into the episode, the cast kept me — as well as millions of other men and women, I’m sure — on edge through its entirety.

Two women poured their hearts out to one man, competing for a chance to see his knee hit the ground with a ring in hand. One was Lauren B., a cute flight attendant from Marino Del Ray, California, who had attracted Bachelor Ben Higgins from the first episode. Through the entire series, Ben and Lauren maintained a strong connection. From running off together for some one-on-one time away from cocktail parties to Ben admitting he’s been in love with Lauren “for quite some time now,” the pair share a bond obvious and envied by her competitors.

Lauren, whom Ben showed his favorite hometown youth club, met the Bachelor’s parents at the beginning of the episode. Though Ben described Lauren as a beautiful woman with a kind heart, his mom expressed a different opinion — she worried that the pair hadn’t experienced enough raw, emotional moments to know how each other deals with stress.

JoJo — a beautiful real-estate developer — became Higgins’ best friend, go-to and confidant through the last few weeks of the series. In the season finale, he emphasized her ability to take the stress and craziness away from his life as the bachelor.

As JoJo’s talk with Ben’s mom progressed during the episode, Mrs. Higgins grew quickly attached. She latched onto JoJo’s awareness of Ben’s insecurities — after all, the contestant admitted to having gone through some hard conversations with the Bachelor already.

“I really felt early on in the day that Ben felt really happy, really comfortable, really excited to see JoJo,” Mrs. Higgins said. “When we had the opportunity to talk, JoJo had this ability to know what it was going to take for Ben to feel safe.”

When asked her number one choice for Ben, Mrs. Higgins admitted that JoJo would suit her son well, both in good times and hardships.

Ben’s clouded feelings only worsened through the episode. Struggling with both Lauren’s and JoJo’s final one-on-one dates, the Bachelor tried and failed to find faults in either woman.

Spoiler alert — Lauren B. received the final rose. Looking back, I am sure many viewers could have predicted such a result after watching the pair’s relationship blossom faster than any other contestant. Before the finale’s premiere, I heard so many predictions in favor of Lauren B. Heck, I even heard some team-JoJo members admit that Lauren and Ben will most likely end up together. So, why did this episode pack such a large punch? Why couldn’t I pull myself away from my computer screen? What drew viewers into what Chris Harrison notoriously refers to as the most “dramatic season finale” thus far?

Simple. He loved two women … and he wasn’t afraid to share it.

For the first time in the show’s history, the Bachelor told two women that he loved them. His constant struggle between whom he loved more kept viewers glued the entire time. Even more shocking, Ben actually admitted to JoJo his love for Lauren. As soon as those words came out, my jaw dropped, sure that there was some mistake in the outcome. Ben acknowledged his love for another woman openly to JoJo, and for some reason, I took that honesty as a sure sign Ben would choose her. The pair had yet another emotionally raw conversation. Where was this from Lauren? Why didn’t she ask the difficult questions?

Unfortunately, the results were right.

While I do adore Lauren — she is so sweet and genuinely loves Ben — I didn’t gather the level of depth so apparent in his and JoJo’s relationship.

With my palms sweaty, knees weak and arms heavy, I watched Ben say goodbye to JoJo the next morning. Though my heart — as well as many others’ — broke to witness her reaction, I did appreciate the pair’s maturity. More importantly, I appreciated the respect they showed one another in the post-interview. Most importantly, I appreciated JoJo’s nomination as “The Bachelorette” for next season.

The last good-bye spoken, Ben watched Lauren B. meet him at the boardwalk. They looked into each other’s eyes, confessed their love and sealed the deal. Happily engaged and excited for the years to come, the former Bachelor and his fiancée left to celebrate, happier than ever.

Was the show’s 20th season finale really that surprising? Did it live up to our expectations as the most dramatic season finale yet? While the episode brought surprises and kept viewers on edge, it yielded a commonly predicted result. Looking back, I can definitely see Ben’s love for Lauren develop from day one, and maybe that’s what is best when looking for a wife. He remains biased and loyal to his fiancée throughout the season. With that said, I did appreciate the finale’s natural outcome.

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