This season of The Bachelorette had been a stultifying one until last week’s episode, when it suddenly became super sad and weirdly gripping. For nine long episodes we listened to lunkhead after lunkhead blather on and each date was as boring and predictable as the last; oh sure, there was kissing, but was there passion? There was not.
But all of a sudden came heartbreak! Front-runner Brooks, with his wavy hair and dimpled chin and a family so extensive that everyone had to wear name tags, dumped our ostensible heroine Desiree completely out of the blue. He cared about her, he said. Just not enough. And certainly not enough to marry her. It wasn’t her; it was him. He cried. She cried a lot. Maybe some people at home shed a tear or two.
And it was great television.
And now for tonight’s finale, there’s no way for anything satisfying to happen, at all. Heartbreak is its own reward in The Bachelorette universe, where love is a contest, broken engagements are de rigueur, and everyone says “between her and I.”
Here are the possibilities: One, Des accepts a proposal from one of the other two sad pandas who have already professed their love. Seems unlikely, given how tepid she’s seemed about both of them. (And how tepid they are as alleged human beings.) This would be emotionally grotesque. Two, Des either breaks things off with both dudes right up front, or she declines someone’s proposal; either way, that is very boring. She has dismissed at least one talking six-pack a week so far, and none of those goodbyes have been interesting for even a second. (Even you, guy who was maybe cheating on his single-mom girlfriend.)
Third, Brooks comes back and he and Des reunite in some capacity. This is probably what’s going to happen, and while that perhaps pleases some, it displeases me. Part of what made Brooks’s I’m-dumping-you speech so sad — and therefore good — is that it felt surprisingly authentic, given the desperately artificial circumstances. It is not normal be one of three simultaneous (theoretically) very serious boyfriends. (No judgement on people who thwart the confines of monogamy, but we can agree that that’s not typical.) Outside of extraordinary circumstances or extreme religious beliefs, most Americans don’t get engaged after nine weeks of dating. Other people don’t set up our dates for us, we don’t have to consult Chris Harrison on anything, nor are we forced to recite the talking point that Munich is the most romantic city in Germany. So to find, in the middle of all that nonsense, a breakup that had even a shred of genuineness feels almost remarkable. If he changes his mind, or realizes his mistake, or whatever shlocktown slogan the show slaps on it, it’ll be a cop-out. And as anything thinking adult can attest, when someone tells you he or she don’t love you enough, you should listen to him or her! That person doesn’t love you enough.
Look, we all know that Bachelor/Bachelorette couples almost never work out. The breakups are so routine at this point that they barely warrant a mention on People’s blurbs page, wedged in between news of an actor settling a lawsuit and a morning news personality announcing a cookbook. To say that I am “rooting” for any one outcome is overstating my investment in this show. But that breakup was the first moment of this entire season that I bought. The love all seemed fake, but the pain sure felt real. This could perhaps be the franchise’s motto.