On the Bachelor finale, drama means exposing a woman’s pain for a TV audience

The most dramatic ending in Bachelor history is what viewers were promised.

If by dramatic ABC meant the most voyeuristically exploitative, then yes, promise fulfilled.

On Monday, we watched Arie Luyendyk Jr. waffle between Becca Kufrin and Lauren Burnham before finally proposing to Becca. And then, over a third hour, we watched Arie break up with Becca — in unedited, split-screen video — to try to reunite with Lauren.

That a Bachelor would change his mind is not unprecedented; Jason Mesnick did it in 2009.

In Arie’s case it wasn’t even unexpected. Rumours had been floating around for weeks that he would renege on his engagement (rumours even I couldn’t avoid despite my best efforts to stay away from spoilers).

We got to study the stunned expression on her face when she realized Arie was dumping her for Lauren, note the moment when she took the engagement ring off her finger and listen to her sobs through a bathroom door. There was no relief from the cameras and microphones for her, nor from Arie, who refused to leave despite being asked to do so several times, just sitting on a couch watching in mopey silence as Becca cried into her shirt.

She deserved better than to have what should have been private pain exploited for the sake of revving up the drama in an otherwise tedious season. And given that she’ll have to face Arie — and Lauren — again in a live After the Final Rose on Tuesday night, ABC will squeeze a little more dubious entertainment out of Becca’s pain.

In the meantime, here’s what led up that sorry conclusion.

Meet the parents: This part of the episode was pure Bachelor boilerplate: nervous final two meet their suitor’s parents and other family members, who are expected to pass judgment on the women and help him decide which one is wife material. The visits varied from the routine in two particulars: Arie’s family members would not shut up about their visit with Lauren, who met them first, in their conversations with Becca (which in hindsight seems an awful lot like foreshadowing); and they actually gave Arie advice, eschewing the usual “it’s all up to you, son” fence-sitting. At first, mom Mieke thought Lauren was “the one,” but after meeting Becca she told Arie, “I just love Lauren, but I think Becca would be better for your future … because I think you have to reassure Lauren all the time about your love and Becca stands on her own.”

Final dates: Arie seemed to be leaning toward taking his mom’s advice, but he had one more date with Lauren to get through. And lo and behold, his doubts about Lauren seemed to wash away with the rain over Machu Picchu. It may have seemed like the same old Lauren to everybody watching but, to Arie, Lauren had changed: she was being open and vulnerable and relaxed and confident. “I thought I really had my feelings sorted out, but today Lauren’s found her way into my heart,” he said.

Later, in Lauren’s hotel suite, Lauren and Arie professed their love (for the umpteenth time) and they daydreamed about a life together that sounded bland as hell, all morning coffee and weekends at the dog park and making dinner at home. I bet Arie was picturing them snuggling in matching cardigans before (early) bedtime.

When he left with more “I love you’s” he claimed he could have proposed right then and there.

Except he had one more date with Becca.

They walked through Cusco in the rain, trying on sweaters, petting alpaca and battling their nerves over what lay ahead, and then spent an evening in Becca’s hotel suite. And just as he had with Lauren, Arie veered from doubt to — well, not certainty exactly — but a reluctance to part with her, laced with kisses and “I love you’s.”

“I’m in love with Becca. Tonight I could really feel how much she loved me and I could really feel how much she wanted us,” Arie said.

Decision day: It took him until that very morning, but Arie claimed he finally knew who was getting the Neil Lane ring — and it wasn’t Lauren.

Lauren was so confident of a proposal that she didn’t even seem to notice how sad Arie looked as she gave her customary finale day speech (a bit of ritual humiliation for the loser that persists from season to season).

“Looking back at all the signs now, I know that I loved you all along. You have what I’ve been looking for my whole life,” Lauren said. But she finally clued in that the fairy tale was over when Arie began shaking his head.

Something was holding him back, he said, “and I can’t go through with it,” even though he had fallen in love with her.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Lauren responded.

Except she knew exactly what to say as the SUV carried her away crying: “How can you get down on one knee if you weren’t sure till three hours ago?”

The answer is you shouldn’t, as previous contestant Bekah so sagely noted during the live part of the finale. But Arie went ahead and did it anyway after he and Becca exchanged speeches about how much they loved each other.

“I choose you today and I choose you every day from here on out,” said Arie before popping the question. Cue the jubilation, the laughing, the kissing, the cheering. It looked like any other Bachelor finale, not that those have generally led to happily ever afters either.

The breakup: At first we saw post-proposal footage of Arie and Becca looking happy together, and then Arie started talking in confessional about how he couldn’t stop thinking about Lauren. “Just thinking about the possibility of something with Lauren is making me want to risk it all. I feel I made a mistake,” he said.

Becca was oblivious to this, having arrived in L.A. expecting to spend a “happy couple weekend” with Arie. Then Arie walked into the house with a couple of camera crews in tow and Becca started getting nervous.

Arie said he was struggling and trying to sort out his feelings, and “the more I hung out with you the more I felt like I was losing the possibility of maybe reconciling things with Lauren.”

“So what, you want back with her?” Becca said.

“I want to see if there’s that possibility,” said Arie.

“Are you f–king kidding me?” replied Becca.

No, he wasn’t. He continued to talk about how conflicted he had been in Peru and how he had been thinking about Lauren lately when he woke up and before he went to bed, and all sorts of things that were hard for Becca to hear, and she interjected with “Oh my god” and “Oh my f-king god.” And finally she had enough and walked away from him.

Arie followed her into the bedroom, where she was packing, claiming they should talk some more. “I want you to go,” she said. And he did, but then he came back in and knocked on the bathroom door where Becca had gone to cry.

“Hey, are you OK?” asked Arie.

Uh, well, you just told her you were leaving her for another woman, so probably not.

“Just leave. What are you still doing here?” responded Becca, asking what all of us were thinking.

But Arie didn’t leave. He followed Becca around and even tried to rub her neck. And then he sat on the couch next to her as she cried into her T-shirt, which is when he finally said he was sorry. And he also said he wanted Becca to know how he was feeling — like, who cares? — which still didn’t adequately explain why he kept hanging around after Becca asked him to leave three more times. Finally he did go while Becca bent over double with her crying.

The next thing we saw was Becca in the studio with Harrison, getting such hearty cheers from the audience that Harrison had to pause before he could continue the show.

Becca told him she still loves Arie, but she feels betrayed “just because I feel like I was lied to for so long.” Becca also said she has a ton of questions for Arie, whom she hasn’t talked to since the breakup. She’ll get to ask some of them as the finale continues with a two-hour After the Final Rose on Tuesday night.

It airs at 8 p.m. on ABC.

You can email me at dyeo@thestar.ca, tweet me @realityeo or visit my Facebook page.

TORONTO STAR

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