If the tabloids and Reality Steve are to be believed, Monday’s Bachelor finale will have a very dramatic twist, one that Bachelor promos have been hyping as the kind of thing never before seen in Bachelor history. In a teaser for the episode, Arie calls himself “a monster.” ABC senior vice president and Bachelor expert Robert Mills has suggested that the reception of Arie at the end of the season is hard to predict because so much of the finale is filmed live — it will depend on “how Arie handles himself there.” The overall impression seems to be that whatever’s coming will be a massive sea change, something with the power to make or break the final assessments of Arie’s season.
That may be true! As Mills notes, it’s live TV, and it’s certainly possible that Arie will suddenly come across as charismatic and freewheeling and not at all boring. Or possibly he’ll come off as villainous and unfeeling, and suddenly he’ll be a fun punching bag for everyone to have a good time walloping for a little while. If the tabloid-spoiled twist bears out, it’s a distinct possibility. [Note: POTENTIAL SPOILERS] If, as Us Weekly has predicted, Arie goes through with the finale rose ceremony, then breaks up with the winner, and then goes back to the runner-up and asks for forgiveness, there’s a good chance he could come off as a thoughtless, insensitive cad.
Either of those scenarios would be a best-case version for The Bachelor franchise. In option one, the drama of Arie’s story and the presumed real, palpable chemistry between him and whoever he ends up with becomes the main thing we all remember about this season. We might forget that the rest of it was astonishingly dull. In option two, arguably the even better one, Arie becomes a villain who gets viewers all excited about hating him. Everyone rallies behind the wronged woman, who will inevitably get cast as the next Bachelorette. Arie would become famous as one of the villain leads of the show, and ratings for the next Bachelorette season might improve as viewers flock to watch the wounded party get revenge.
If either of those things happened, it would be a huge blessing for Bachelor producers. The finale has the potential to overwrite the memory of the Arie we’ve been watching since the beginning of this season: the most boring, underwhelming series lead in recent memory.
It would also be weirdly fitting for this to be the thing that finally distinguishes Arie’s season. If it turns out that Arie’s best known for a dramatic finale where he ends up with the rose ceremony runner-up, then the thing that sets him apart would be a thing that’s actually infamously familiar within the Bachelor franchise. Coverage is already referring back to the Jason Mesnick season, when Mesnick proposed to a woman in the rose ceremony, and then revealed that the relationship didn’t work out, and successfully reunited with the runner-up in the After the Final Rose live finale. Arie’s big moment of stunning, never-before-seen drama would really be a retread.
And that would be just unbelievably perfect for a season where producers chose a safe, dull lead rather than one of the charismatic men who appeared on Rachel’s Bachelorette season. After the falling ratings of the franchise’s first black lead, and the disastrous coverage of the most recent season of Bachelor in Paradise, landing on Arie felt like a deliberate choice to play it as safe as possible. Presumably the intention was that he’d be a return to Bachelor greatness, when the genre was new enough and contestants unrehearsed enough that a man-shaped wax figure in a suit was enough to fuel a reality-TV fairy tale. But we’ve now seen so many seasons of this show, so many identical buffed and polished people, that instead, Arie’s been produced and edited to become the mass-produced chain-hotel artwork of Bachelors. He’s anodyne, inoffensive, and unexciting. He’s not enough to really draw the eye, but he’s certainly not going to piss anyone off. Or make an audience feel much of anything at all.
And the back-to-Bachelor-classic plan has borne out, in a way. Arie’s had a season full of stuff that has been promoted endlessly as super dramatic or funny or weird. Every time, the actual events have been aggressively mild, and worse, they’ve been done before. The hometown date episode was promoted as a slugfest, with fathers hurling expletives as they tried to protect their daughters; in every case, the families came away saying things like, “I was afraid that Arie was a real playboy … but actually I like him!” One of the biggest story lines of the season was that one of the contestants was much, much younger than Arie. If the show had played that as a real deep-dive into power imbalances and experience versus youth, it might’ve been interesting. Instead it was mostly mined for fights among the women and a few gape-mouthed expressions from Arie. And the penultimate episode’s big play was a contestant’s past boyfriend showing up on the show, hoping she’d take him back. Yeah. It’s been done.
Perhaps the Bachelor finale will be full of shocking moments that do actually erase the memory of everything we’ve seen so far this season. Mills has said that he’s been surprised at the short memory of Bachelor Nation; maybe we will come down with a case of collective amnesia of the entire franchise. From what it looks like right now, though, the twist spoiled by Us Weekly looks like something we’ve all already seen before. And I have to admit, a supposedly dramatic finale that’s actually a familiar snooze would indeed be the most fitting ending for this season of The Bachelor.