Consistent to the end, Ashley makes another bad decision -- but this time, bachelor No. 2 does not go quietly.

And lo, our “journey” has come to an end, dear rose lovers! Wow, those were the longest eleven weeks of my life time flies, doesn’t it? We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

“I’m so excited to get engaged in the South Pacific,” gushes Ashley, as she packs up and boards a puddle jumper to another island, where her family is waiting to hear her say things like, “Fiji is the perfect place to write the last chapter of my love story.” But first they have to get the hugging and squealing out of the way, the latter noise coming primarily from Ashley’s sister Chrystie (who no doubt could have saved ABC a buttload of money on their trip to Fiji had they only asked to borrow her coupon binder). The Bachelorette wastes no time and proceeds to data dump the details of her “journey” onto her family: Everything’s been “awesome,” she has a “burning passion” for JP, and “the other guy” Ben is “goofy” and “outgoing,” much like her. In conclusion: “So, like, my struggle is, ok, do I go with exactly what I’m feeling even though in your head it might seem like we’re very different? Or do I go with somebody that I think maybe it could progress to that level of passion, but we’re much more compatible?” Queen Ink of Coupon Mountain assures her sister that her family can make the choice for her, once they see her with each of the guys. “I do hope I like them,” says Chrystie ominously.

JP is the first to go before the familial firing squad… though to be honest Ashley’s parents are about as gentle as you can get. Before she even speaks three words to him, Ashley mom’s Laurie says to JP, “You look like a nice gentleman…” and before they even finish a meal together Mama offers up a toast that concludes with, “You’re welcome in our family.” Even JP can’t believe it. “Already?” he marvels. Sister Chrystie is not having all this niceness and begins throwing out some tough (though totally reasonable) questions. “Does JP make you laugh?” she asks Ashley, who actually has to think about her answer. “Do you make me laugh?” she wonders aloud. “What does that say for me if you can’t answer that right away?” whines JP, as big Sis furrows her brow. Honey, if you have to ask, you can’t marry it.

Tattoo Sally agrees; as soon as she gets Ashley and mom alone, she lays it all on the line for her sister. “I don’t think he’s the one for you… I don’t see it.” Oh dear. Why? “I think you’re too much for him,” Chrystie continues. “I think you’re too young, and he’s just kind of a little bit older and a little bit more demure.” This is a nice way of saying that JP is a big, fat, buzz-cut sporting bore — but even couched in all those soft euphemisms, Chrystie’s assessment of the Jape makes Ashley cry. “You haven’t even talked to him yet!” she wails. Counters Chrystie, “I saw how you were together… I’m missing something.” Mom initially stays silent, most likely because she agrees with Chrystie and is too nice to say so, but then she urges her colorful spawn to give JP a chance — or at least more than 15 minutes to make an impression.

NEXT: Chrystie for the next Bachelorette!

To Chrystie’s credit, she doesn’t sugarcoat things with JP, telling him straight to his face that she just doesn’t see them together. “I was totally not expecting that,” smirks Jape, turning red. Then he puts on the hard sell, “Every time I’m around Ashley, I smile ear to ear,” says JP. “I am 100 percent in love with her.” Interesting, but not good enough for Mistress Body Art. Why, she wonders, has 34-year-old JP not found anyone yet, and, more importantly, “What does he want with my much younger sister?” Meanwhile, JP basically has no answer to this, other than to insist — somewhat weakly — that he’s not set in his ways. That’s when Chrystie delivers the death blow: “I told [Ashley] I felt like I saw more of you when you brought Brad home.” Ouch. Also: Perhaps the most rational, honest thing a family member has ever said in this history of this franchise. (Side note for Team Bachelorette: Chrystie is single and I’d sure as hell love to spend eleven weeks next summer watching her pick a husband out of 25 tattooed suitors. Or else I am going to divorce my husband, fly to wherever she lives, and marry her.) Not surprisingly, all of this honesty makes JP angry. “Talk about judging somebody,” he snarls. “She doesn’t even know me.” He then whines to Ashley about how the whole thing wasn’t “fair,” and the Bachelorette’s response — “I think I just need to figure it out” — turns his frown into a power pout. “I thought you had figured it out.” Oh, knock it off, cueball. To quote a wise man named Conan O’Brien, “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get.”

The next day, the forces of light and darkness collide poolside to do battle over the true meaning of love. Is it about “being inspired,” as the golden-haired Bachelorette insists, or is it about “is this really going to work out,” as the raven-haired Defender of Sanity and Body Art declares? The fight’s a bloody one, with Chrystie questioning the core of Ashley’s very being — “Who are you, then?” she wonders — and the Bachelorette deriding Chrystie’s actual perception of reality: “We’re in a different world!” But in the end, dark triumphs over light, who once again breaks down in tears. “You’re being such a bitch!” she shouts. “Why can’t you feel for me for a second?” Chrystie, bless her heart, does not back down. “I don’t feel like I want to baby you,” she says. “You’re an adult… I’m trying to protect you from yourself.” Testify! After all, this is the woman whose gut reaction said Bentley was a good guy.

Poor Ben wanders into this familial minefield with his typical easy-going vibe and good humor. “I was a boy when I got here,” he tells Ashley’s clan. “I’m a man now.” Though everyone seems to be getting along nicely, there’s clearly still some tension between Ashley and her sister. “What do you think — was this what you expected?” snipes the Bachelorette, before breaking into a weird wave-dance and shouting, “Party! Come on, let’s have a party!” Befuddled Ben says quietly, “I don’t know what that means.” Don’t worry, honey — neither do we.

NEXT: Ben and Ashley take an “erotic” mud bath

Things don’t get any clearer when Ben and Ashley give a master class in “dog voice” performance art; let’s just say Ben sounds like Peter Lorre with a chest cold and Ashley makes a sound even dolphins would find excruciatingly high-pitched and piercing. But you know what? This horrifying display of schmoopiness actually makes it clear how much more compatible Ashley is with Ben than she is with stiff-as-a-board JP. Big sister sees this too, and her one-on-one chat with Ben is a lot less tense than the beatdown with JP. “I appreciated Ben’s open honesty,” she says. “I could see that Ashley was, what I felt, herself around him.” All the more reason she’ll probably pick JP, right? If we’ve learned anything on this “journey,” it’s that Ashley is a sucker for a bad decision.

The next day, Ben has one last chance to wrench Ashley’s head out of her ass. They meet up on a stretch of grass by the beach, where a boat tractor motorcycle jet-ski spaceship helicopter arrives to pick them up for an aerial tour of the island, followed by a dip in a “healing mud bath.” Cue the sexytimes guitar music! “When you’re lubing each other up with mud,” says Ben, “it’s really erotic.” I am going to take your word for it, sir. That night, Ashley arrives at Ben’s room, where he’s set up a little snack on his bed — but he cuts right to the main course. “There have been multiple moments where I wanted to tell you that I am in love with you,” says Ben with a goofy grin. Ashley rewards him with a tight-lipped smile and a makeout session, one that Ben thinks translates to victory. “Based on that kiss, I absolutely think that Ashley’s telling me that she loves me the only way that she can right now.”

When it’s JP turn for his final date, he launches right into complaining about Ashley’s sister and how judgey she is. To her credit, Ashley tries to initiate a discussion about how her sister might have reached the conclusion that they weren’t right for each other, but Jape and his blindingly yellow t-shirt steamroll over her attempts at conversation. “I know she’s wrong,” he insists. “I’ve never thought about trying to explain us to anybody, because it works.” Are you sure about that, pal? Ashley isn’t. “You’re willing to, like, start a life with me and not just, like, have me fit into yours?” she asks timidly. Well, duh! says stubblehead. Haven’t you been listening to me this whole time? Sheesh! Then he goes in for the kill: “I am madly in love with you.” Later that night, we get the Ritual Exchange of Trinkets Found in the Hotel Gift Shop, as JP gives Ashley a photo album. Apparently he’s been taking fiction-writing classes as well, because he’s written an inscription: “My dearest Ashley, this is the first chapter to the greatest love story ever told… When we look back years from now, still happy and very much in love, we’ll always remember this time in our lives…” Ok, I think we get the picture. Let’s just get this over with.

Good morning, boys. It’s d-day… are you ready to pick a grotesquely ostentatious ring from Mr. Neil Lane? Ben’s up first, and he chooses a chestnut-sized diamond surrounded by “two uniting lines” that represent “infinity.” (Unfortunately Neil did not bring his rhinestone ring that represents “six to eight months, tops.”) JP is, as usual, a lot less relaxed than Ben, and it doesn’t help that Neil Lane suddenly turns into Barbara Walters, asking, “What happens if she says no?” (Don’t worry, Neil — I’m sure ABC will make sure you get the ring back.) Jape chooses a plain-by-Bachelorette-standards square diamond, and heads on his way. Now, let us head to the driftwood-and-flower-bedecked Proposal Platform!

NEXT: Damn, that’s cold.

The plane! The plane! Check out Harrison, rocking an homage to Mr. Rourke with his white-on-white shirt-tie ensemble. Oh my gosh, you guys, who’s going to get out first? Whose dreams of love are about to be crushed until January 2012 forever…? Aw, crap. It’s Ben. And just to rub a little salt in the wound, he’s telling us how “proud” his dad would be on this day. “Life moves on, and this is the next step — it’s a new addition to the family,” says Ben, choking up. “I lost one four and a half years ago, and I gain another one today.” Oh my god this is just brutal. Ben greets Ashley with a hopeful observation — “Well, you don’t have a ring on your finger…” — and then cuts her off before she can give him the bad news. “Before you say anything, I’m totally confident in how I feel in us, but what I love about you and I is that every time we spend together is better than the time before. Every second that I spend with you makes me fall a little deeper in love with you…” Ashley, say something. Now. “I want to thank you for allowing me to feel completely and utterly vulnerable and open with you…” For the love of God woman stop him! “…and it makes what I’m about to do a whole lot easier…” Do not let him get down on one knee you mealymouthed moron!!!! “Will you marry me? Make me the happiest man on earth.”

Of course, it’s only then that Ashley opens her stupid mouth. After an excruciating pause, she finally chokes out, “I’m sorry… I know that this is unexpected and I want you to know that this is the hardest thing I’ve done here.” Oh really? The hardest thing you’ve done in two months? Wow, what a consolation. I’m feeling so many complicated emotions right now it’s hard to put them into words, but let me try: ASHLEY, YOU SUCK! It seems Ben’s prevailing emotion is also anger, because he wants no part of her weepy woe-is-me apologies. “I guess that’s it, right?” he snaps, and then turns on his heel to leave… but of course she can’t let him have his dignity, can she? “Ben!” she wails, hobbling after him in her furry pink mermaid costume. “I want you to know, I feel so blessed to just have met you and to be part of your life. You are one of the most interesting, smart, funny — ” Enough! Ben’s through listening to her squeaky pleas. “What I don’t need you to do is sugarcoat it,” he says shortly. “You can’t leave something like this on good terms. It’s impossible. I don’t know how you want me to feel, but I’ve trusted my gut this entire time… and right now I’m in utter shock and disbelief. Things don’t end unless they end badly.” Then, with a voice dipped in acid and rolled in broken glass, he says his goodbyes: “JP’s a wonderful guy. I’m sure you’ll have a nice life together.” On the long walk back to the Reject Dinghy, Ben is still reeling. “I don’t know what the f–k just happened,” he sighs. Really, Team Bachelorette? You’re gonna make his sad little boat drive right by the Proposal Platform? Way to secure your spot in Hell.

NEXT: “What the f–k is she talkin’ about?”

While Ashley has a minor post-Ben breakdown — “I hate this. I hate that I just did that. I hate it!” — she’s fully recovered by the time JP gets out of the plane. As usual, Ashley’s already high-pitched voice goes up another octave when she sees her man. “Heeeey, handsome!” After JP blathers on for a few minutes about his feelings and emotions, Ashley finally opens her mouth: “I’ve been wanting to tell you how much I loved you for so long now… I don’t want to be with anyone else but you forever.” This forever you speak of — I do not think it means what you think it means. Anyhoo, this declaration of delusion prompts JP to drop to one knee and propose, and of course she says yes. Cue REO Speedwagon! Then, in accordance with FCC rules and regulations, Ashley offers JP the “last and final rose.” As they stroll along the beach, JP says the funniest — and most reasonable — thing he’s said all damn season: “When you walked in, in that first rose ceremony, like ‘My husband is definitely in this room,’ I was like, ‘What the f–k is she talkin’ about?'” Well sir, at last we agree on something.

Gee… I wonder what happens after the final rose? Let’s find out from Chris Harrison, who’s back in the Tea Light Thunderdome for a post-proposal debrief. But before we can get to the happy couple, Ben’s here to relive his crushing defeat in Fiji. (Side note: How are we feeling about his shorter, straighter hair? Honestly I don’t think the flat-iron is his friend — his look is a bit too reminiscent of the low-flow shower head episode of Seinfeld.) Back in the present day, Ben is still shell-shocked and somewhat angry about what went on, but he and his flat hair handle it calmly and with as much dignity as he can muster. “That was a long flight home,” he recalls. “Stewing in my head in these layovers, because I was in fact on my way to one of my best friend’s weddings.” Awwwww, coos the audience. “I’m a more complete person because of [Ashley],” adds Ben, as the women in the audience hoot and howl. Your loss, Ashley. When the Bachelorette emerges to face Ben for the first time since Fiji, he greets her with a brilliantly glib, “Nice ring.” But he wants answers — when did she decide he wasn’t the one? Like a politician, Ashley — who seems to be experimenting with a bangs/middle part combination — answers a totally different question and says she just needed to follow her heart. Sorry, Ben. Maybe you should have enlisted those detectives from Take the Money and Run to help you find the truth.

After Ben leaves, JP strolls in, his shirt untucked and his hair neatly cropped, and plants a long kiss on Ashley’s lips. Like Ashley, he seems to have trouble answering a direct question with a direct answer — when Harrison asks him what he loves about Ashley, JP can’t seem to produce a single specific quality. “When I’m with her, nothing else matters,” he gushes. “I’m just so, so in love with this girl.” That sounds like a relationship built on a foundation of forever! It seems pretty clear that when these two run out of things to say about/to each other, they just start making out. In this midst of all this PDA, somehow Ashley’s sister Chrystie has suddenly changed her mind and decided that JP is the right man for her little sister. “JP, it had less to do with you and more about the fact that I was trying to protect Ashley,” she tells her never-to-be soon-to-be brother in law. “I can’t even apologize enough… It’s clear to everyone: Team Cupcake! Shame on me for being so quick to judge.” Oh, Chrystie, how could you? How many Buy One Get One Free coupons for Dawn dishwashing liquid did Team Bachelorette have to fork over to get you to spew the party line? Sigh.

As for the future, Ashley is going to finish dental school and then move to New York, where she and JP will get their own place. “Once things are a little more stable then we’ll start talking about wedding plans,” promises Jape. And with that, the “journey” is over. How do you feel, rose lovers? I’m disappointed, annoyed, tired, and a little hungry — which is about how I always feel at the end of a Bachelor/Bachelorette season. Even though you’re no doubt weary from this adventure, please gather your strength and post your thoughts about this season below. Did the right man “win”? Should Ben be the next Bachelor? How is it possible that Ashley’s hair looks even worse now than it did when she first got the extensions? Cram a cupcake into your mouth and let’s talk Bachelorette!

More Bachelorette from EW:

Episode Recaps

The Bachelorette

One single woman searches for her future husband amid a sea of studs in this romantic reality series. Will you accept this rose?

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