The Bachelorette is the weirdest show on TV right now, and if you’re missing it, you need to catch up, because I can’t even describe the surreal level of weirdness that is happening on this seemingly stupid and fluffy television show. This season has been one of the most dramatic, and saddest. Because for the first time ever, we’ve seen real torment about what it’s like to simultaneously date twenty-five men and the pain that comes from having to turn down twenty-four men, and on the opposite side, the overwhelming fear and uncertainty that comes with a woman who is dating twenty-five men and wants you to marry her at the end of a staggeringly short two months.
I’m taking about Desiree and Brooks. To sum up: our perpetually on the edge of tears Katie Holmes/Rachel Bilson hybrid, Desiree Hartsock, is the bachelorette and with one episode left of the season, she’s made it clear that only one of these men is the man for her: Brooks Forrester. But Brooks Forrester is the only person in the history of this franchise to say, “This is fucking crazy, I’m not getting engaged to a girl I’ve had four dates with, known for two months, and spent maybe a total of sixty-five hours with.” Well, not in those exact words.
To recap the season up this point, Desiree has had to deal with:
- A guy who brought his kid on the premiere episode and used him to paint himself as a doting dad so he would have a shot at the next Bachelor (“Hollywood, you missed your opportunity — a single dad from Texas” he said, when Desiree rejected him.)
- A guy who already had a girlfriend.
- A guy who wanted to stay on the show so badly he fake cried and manipulated her into believing that he also wasn’t looking to be the next Bachelor.
- A cringe-worthy rap video shoot with Soulja Boy, in which she and the Mr. Desiree hopefuls had to put on stupid costumes and rap about the show.
- Two guys who dumped her.
The first one to dump her, Brandon, did it while she was on a date with another guy. No doubt egged on by the producers, he decided right then and there that he wasn’t feeling it to the point where he had to dump her right now. So with a camera crew following him, he found Desiree on her date with Chris, pulled her aside, essentially told her that her feelings for him were stronger than his for her, and left back home for the USA. Desiree cried and poor Chris, still on their date, was left to cheer her up.
About Chris: he and another guy, Drew (who is probably gay), are “madly in love” with Desiree. They, among Brooks, are in the final three. Throughout the show, almost to the end, Desiree said that she likes these three guys very much, and that she’s falling in love with all of them. But then host Chris Harrison, the Olmec (giant stone head in Legends of the Hidden Temple) of the show asked her if there’s anyone in particular she’s really in love with. He asks this of every Bachelor and Bachelorette; they’re never actually expected to answer. They usually deflect the question. The Bach/elorettes never admit to being in love with anyone until the finale, otherwise why would they keep the show going? But Desiree announced, “I’m in love with Brooks.” Stunned, Harrison said something like, “Well should we just pack up and go home?” He asks her, “Has Brooks told you he loves you?”
Zak, Chris, and Drew all told Des that they loved her. Again, they’ve each gotten maybe three dates with her and over the span of two months, while she was dating several other men. Brooks was the only one not to declare his love. “He doesn’t need to,” Des said confidently, 100% kidding herself. “I know how he feels. He doesn’t have to say it.”
But we, the audience, we know how Brooks feels, and we saw that awkward moment where he gave it away with a look. Earlier on their date, Des cheerfully suggested they come up with adjectives to describe something in between “like” and “love” — no doubt she thought this would take the pressure off of him to say “the L-word.” At dinner, she proudly announced her “adjectives.” “There’s stepping. [Then] skipping. [Then] jogging. [Then] running. [Then we're at the] finish line.” Never mind that none of these are adjectives. The girl is relying on the simplest of metaphors, and possibly the worst; she may as well say, “I am running after you.” When Brooks asked, “So where are we?” she pauses and at the same time she says, “I’m breaking into a run” he says, “Jogging.” Des didn’t acknowledge his lower tier, but we saw the surprise on Brooks’ face. “Running?” he said, trying to keep his eyes from widening to the size of moons. “That’s…good.”
SO here we are, part one of the two part finale, and this is brand new, never before have we seen the show structured like this, by which I mean, it’s not a game anymore. We see Brooks go home to get advice from his mom and sister about whether he should propose. He tells them that Desiree is perfect and what he’s looking for — she checks off all the boxes — but he doesn’t know why he can’t feel love. They stare at him. “If you don’t feel you love this girl, you shouldn’t propose,” says his mom (to paraphrase.)
Well duh, right? But this is The Bachelor/ette world, where it’s expected by the end of the show that there will be a proposal. Because it’s a show. It’s a game. People are eliminated every week until there is a “winner.” But unlike other reality competition shows, there is no cash prize. This reality competition show does not want to acknowledge that that’s what it is. Though Chris and Drew said they are ready to propose to Des right there and then, it’s because they’ve been brainwashed by the entire experience. Brooks is the only one who has stepped back and said, basically, “This is insane.”
He goes to Antigua. Desiree gushes about how excited she is for their date. It’s going to be a romantic day of sailing, and at night, she’s going to ask him to spend an evening with her in “the fantasy suite.” Being in the fantasy suite is the one time during the whole show that the couple can be together without cameras present. And yes, bang. They can bang. And they should, unless they have their own personal reasons against having sex before marriage, but they really should know each other intimately before getting engaged, because that’s what this is, this is your last chance to have sex with someone before you ask them to marry you, and typically, that’s not how people have relationships. But of course none of this show is typical.
Thus Brooks, who must feel like he’s taking crazy pills, came to the decision that he must break up with Desiree, because he isn’t in love with her and isn’t ready to propose, and he doesn’t have any more time, because we are nearing the season finale of a TV show.
Des, so excited to see Brooks walking towards her, immediately knows something is wrong when she sees his face. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
And then we are treated to the most awkward break-up in all of television. Because this is real. No one warned Des about this. Brooks doesn’t want to begin the conversation until they sit down on a bench that is approximately 300 fucking miles away from where they are standing, or at least that’s what it feels like. Once they sit down, it becomes clear that Brooks has no idea how to break up with someone. Des doesn’t understand what he’s getting at until she asks, “How do you feel?” and his pause goes on forever, and she knows, and then he says, honestly, “I want to be madly in love with you…” and trails off and she starts sobbing. He doesn’t even need to add “but.”
He tries to make it better by saying how great she is and he doesn’t know why his feelings aren’t as strong for her as he would like and then she drops the bomb, “I love you.” He’s shocked. “Why didn’t you tell me that earlier?” he says, voice cracking. “Because I couldn’t,” she cries. I’m assuming she means that she was pressured by the producers not to tell him, but who knows really. “You’re the only one I love.” This breaks him. And we see them sobbing on the bench, holding each other, until she pushes him away, begging him not to touch her because it hurts too much.
Neither of them want to leave this bench, they are clinging to each other for dear life. There is no soundtrack, there is just the sound of sobbing. He finally suggests they get up, and they walk away. “I guess you’re leaving” she says, emotionless. “I don’t know what to say,” he says. He keeps apologizing. “Don’t say you’re sorry,” she responds. “It makes it worse.” “I’m sorry,” he says. She stops and for a moment you think she’s going to turn around and smack him.
They keep walking. He says something like, “I thought maybe you had similar reservations I did, that you were confused too” or something and she snaps, saying she did have confusing feelings, because, “I didn’t want to share my heart. I wanted to give it to you” thus revealing that this whole time on the show she’s just been going through the motions while dating everyone else. He realizes he’s made it worse. He has no idea what to do with himself. They hug and she says “stop” and she turns around because she can’t watch him leave. She walks back to the bench of doom. Then he paces, sobbing, saying he didn’t know it was going to be that hard and that, “I didn’t want to let her go…I didn’t expect to feel that.” Does this mean that he’s falling in love with her? That her revelation changed his feelings? You better believe that’s what the producers will convince him. He’ll most likely be back, and they’ll reunite and it will be edited like a Nicholas Sparks movie, and this moment of raw emotion will be pushed aside until the show ends and they break up for real.
So why the hell did I write this much about an episode of The Bachelorette? Because this was the most painful fucking thing I have ever seen on reality TV, and this includes every time someone got their nuts smashed on Wipeout. For once we have the “real” in reality. This feels like my break up. I’ve had this break up. Because this part has nothing to do with the show, this part has to do with feelings, that horrible crunching feeling in a suddenly empty space in your stomach when you realize for the first time that someone you are in love with isn’t in love with you. She must have known it, or she wouldn’t make the classic excuse for him, “he doesn’t need to tell me he loves me, he says it without saying it.” We’ve all said that at some point. We all really wanted to believe it at some point. But thankfully, millions of people weren’t watching us prepare for such an epic car crash at the finish line.
Image credits: screenshots of The Bachelorette, via Hulu, ABC