At a Brooklyn nail salon on Sunday afternoon, every single woman was buzzing about The Bachelor. Thanks to the tabloids and the Internet spoilers, everyone knew Ben would choose Courtney. We even all knew that after Ben saw the way Courtney acted on the show as it aired, he broke up with her. The only real question was what would happen during the After the Final Rose special — would they still be together? Season 16 of The Bachelor was surely the most spoiled reality series season in history, and it didn’t even matter. We were all still going to watch, because Courtney has been the most watchable Bachelor contestant we’ve ever seen. But as last night proved, she might not have been the real villain.
Here’s what I think Courtney’s producer-mapped narrative was: Beautiful model and sometime C-list celebrity dater goes on The Bachelor to get famous. She surveys her competition and sees that she’s going to get the most screen time by being creatively rude to the other women, and by breaking the “rules” of the show to get the most time with Ben. (Skinny-dipping, etc. Remember, the producers were the ones who let her do that.)
Courtney begins by testing the waters with lame Charlie Sheen quotes (“winning!”); when that works, she goes all out, antagonizing the other women while being funnier than any other Bachelor contestant in history. (Rubbing the rose on her face, interrupting another woman’s date by stripping down to a bikini in the immediate background, telling another contestant who just announced Courtney’s upcoming date with Ben, “How did that taste coming out of your mouth?”) And then she committed a sin equivalent on this show to calling the Pope fallible at Christmas mass: She suggested Ben wasn’t the only man on Earth! At a rose ceremony, no less. Burn her at the stake!
Basically, Courtney Robertson, unlike other Bachelor villains who were less funny and more crazy, made a mockery of the entire proceedings. She acted like this show was a ridiculous charade instead of a solemn rite of courtship and passage into adulthood. And she was absolutely right to call The Bachelor on its bullshit. The harsh response to Courtney was not because she was cruel to the other girls (who will need a thicker skin in any profession if hearing a side-ponytail is “not a good look” sends them into hysterics and demands, months later, a national apology).
But — and we’re still following the producer-prodded and edited narrative here — a funny thing happened on the way to Courtney’s villainy: Courtney just happened, despite herself, to actually fall for Ben. And if you were like a lot of people watching this show, even though you knew your mind was being messed with, you bought it. The most surprising part of the finale and post-show special is, in the end, we might have bought it even more than Ben did.
Do we really need a recap? Okay: In the finale, Courtney’s competition, the nice but bland Lindzi meets Ben’s mom and sister in Switzerland. They approve of her, but Ben’s sister Julia (who, if unattached, would make the greatest Bachelorette star in history — and would issue this series an eye-rolling era it desperately needs) tells Lindzi she needs to open up to Ben more, officially giving her the dignity of a Reason for Rejection.
So Lindzi tries to “be vulnerable,” and Ben nods and thanks her for sharing, and gives her one word answers like “indeed,” and, most tellingly, withholds the eager tongue that has wagged from his mouth the entire season.
Then it’s time for Courtney to meet Barb and Julia, who are just now finding out she’s a model (riiight), but, turns out, they love her! Courtney presents Ben with a cheesy (but actually, for this show, classy) photo book and letter about her love for him.
Then the moment comes: Ben stands before the Matterhorn (“that big old beautiful Matterhorn”) and Lindzi comes out in a cape (both women chose capes). We know, from the tabloids and the Internet and intuition, that she’s about to be let down. Lindzi does the talking, and the show doesn’t stray from the formula; as in any negotiation, the one who does the most talking loses. We get to watch the nine or ten gradual steps of face-falling that signify Lindzi’s realization that she didn’t cut it, and then Lindzi is off. “Good luck. If things don’t work out, call me,” she says. We can laugh at that line, but that’s exactly the way the only actual marriage in this show’s history took place (when things didn’t work out between Jason and his choice, Melissa, he called his runner-up, Molly; they are the only Bachelor couple to have married).
Now, Courtney. Ben does the talking, including a fake out where we think he’s going to choose nobody, Brad’s First Season–-style, but he chooses Courtney. His weirdo. The two of them do an unprecedented two-shot faux-documentary style confessional and then return to their reverie under the Matterhorn. “Oh my God, this ring is heavy!” Courtney says in her baby voice. I think they left that line in for a reason.
After the Final Rose
Just as all the ladies in that Sunday afternoon Brooklyn nail salon predicted/knew from tabloids, Ben broke up with Courtney. He “abandoned” her (her words) when her behavior on the show became too much for him. Which makes a viewer wonder: Who’s the asshole now, Ben? Courtney was, near the end, pretty honest with Ben about how she acted on the show. If Ben really believed what he claimed to, that he would “love [Courtney] forever,” why did he care what America thought? There have been plenty of moments in the show that revealed who Ben and Courtney really were, and it should have been, as Chris Harrison put it, the two of them against the world. Instead, he put tabloids and the manufactured drama of a TV game show ahead of their relationship. Which should, of course, surprise nobody. But I have to admit I’m disappointed. I was starting to really root for those two self-described “weirdos.”
Ben and Courtney say they’re together now, but it’s outrageously unlikely to last, especially since Courtney says she’ll “never trust him” again. But it was a fun ride, no? And not to be heartless, here, but for the sake of Bachelor franchise romance, I hope Ben held on to Lindzi’s number.