Emily chooses the final piece of her family puzzle, and breaks a bunch of Bachelorette rules along the way
Bachelorette Finale

I’ve been watching reality TV for many, many years, rose lovers, and it has long since lost the capacity to surprise me… or so I thought. As Emily’s “journey” comes to an end, I’ll admit I’m a little flabbergasted — not about who she picked, but about how warm and fuzzy the whole thing made me feel inside. Did Team Bachelorette melt the jagged hunk of permafrost that is my heart? Perhaps. Thank god Bachelor Pad starts tomorrow night — I need something to put my cynicism meter back in the red.

But for this brief moment, let’s revel in Emily’s happy ending, shall we? After a brief stop in the Tealight Candle Thunderdome, we join Emily’s ruminations in progress back in Curacao, where the Bachelorette is puzzling over how to choose between the two men she loves. Plus, she’s not sure if she wants Ricki — who’s just arrived and raced to give her mommy a big hug — meeting either of the final two guys. Heeey-ya! Mama and Daddy Maynard are here! Maybe y’all can help Emily decide what to do. Let the Judging of the Suitors begin!

One F is up first, and while Emily tells him he “looks nice,” I do wish he had put a wee bit more effort into his outfit. (Jeans and a plain white t-shirt? Really?) After Jef hands over some flowers to Emily’s mom Suzy and her future sister-in-law, Bethany, Mama Maynard lightens the mood right away with a joke: “I don’t care what you said about him, Emily — I think he’s a nice guy!” Ice breaking laughter all around. But she doesn’t waste any time getting down to business. “Brad stole my heart,” Suzy tells us. “So I’m a little leery and I don’t want to see Emily get hurt.” She peels One F away from the group and begins giving him the Are you sure you love her? Not reality TV sure, but really, really, REALLY sure? You know she’s got a child, right? Jef doesn’t waver from his stance. “I want to marry her,” he insists. “I’m set on it… There’s not a single ounce of me that would leave her, ever.” Mama decides to be cautiously optimistic, declaring that Emily and Jef are a “good fit.”

Big brother Ernie, though, keeps his game face on during his one-on-one time with Jef. “She’s not going to settle if she doesn’t feel right about it,” he tells One F. “Really the last man that she brought home was Ricky, and he was just a perfect guy. Since then, every guy has tried to live up to who he was.” Okaaaay… so, Jef? Your rebuttal? “I’ve never been so in love with a girl,” he gushes to a stone-faced Ernie. “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” After processing this outpouring of emotion for a few seconds, Ernie offers a tempered endorsement: “I would never have dreamed that she may actually find somebody that she loves this way, but I believe it may actually have happened.” All right, bro-hug it out, you guys!

There’s still one more obstacle to clear today in your path to happiness, Jef, and he’s got an impressive potbelly and an impassive stare. “I’m an old-fashioned type of guy and I definitely want to have your blessing before asking Emily to marry me,” stammers Jef. “If it goes that way.” But One F only has to squirm under Papa Maynard’s gaze for a few seconds before getting the answer he wants: “Well Jef, if you sincerely mean that, you certainly have my permission.” Phew — that was easy! More bro-hugs all around!

NEXT: “I don’t know much about fishing, so…”

Go go, Speed Racer — you’re up! “I need to make an amazing impression today,” says Arie. “These could be my in-laws.” Hope they don’t start speaking Swahili in front of you or anything, because that would be really uncomfortable. Turns out Arie doesn’t have any idea how much ground he has to make up, because Emily’s dad has already mentally started fitting Jef for his wedding tux. “I’m not sure why we’re even going through the actions of seein’ another guy today,” harrumphs David to the camera. But we all know how this goes, don’t we, rose lovers? Team Bachelorette will make it seem like Arie’s crashing and burning — “I don’t know much about fishing, so…,” the race car driver chuckles lamely, as anglers David and Ernie stare at him silently — but he’ll keep at it and by the end everybody will be completely won over, right? Right. In this case, all Speed Racer has to do is present Emily’s family with a box of dead roses — the very ones Emily has given throughout this “journey” — and suddenly Suzy’s ready to give him a big hug. “That just touched my heart,” she tells us, and admits she’s now torn between her daughter’s two lovers. “I just love them both!”

Ernie, however, is determined not to be a pushover. He enters his one-on-one time with Arie guns blazing. “You’re very smooth in the way you talk, and you seem very practiced and good at it,” he begins. “One of my concerns might be are you in this to win the competition or are you in this for Emily?” And one of Arie’s concerns might be getting out of this conversation without soiling his pants. “I’ve been in love before,” he tells Ernie, “but I’ve never met someone that I’ve just fallen so hard for.” Just as he did with Suzy, Arie makes sure to work into the conversation that he used to date a single mom, and he just got so much “enjoyment” out of her kids. And Ernie LOVES it. “I had my mind made up before I met Arie,” Big Bro admits. “But he was spilling his heart out to me… And now I’m just at a total loss as to what to tell my sister to do.”

Papa Maynard, it’s all coming down to you — please bring your clan some clarity! He listens thoughtfully as Arie confesses his love for Emily and says he “can’t imagine” losing her. “So,” continues Speed Racer, “I would ask you if I have your blessing, if I could ask Emily to marry me…?” Did Daddy just shake his head no? Hard to say, but he does pause for five full seconds (yes, I counted) before responding to Arie’s plea. “You seem like a very nice fella…” Uh-oh. “…and I know she thinks a lot of you.” Wait, that’s not a yes… “Of course you could, Arie — particularly when you say she’s the love of your life. That’s a daggone good place to start. I’d be proud to have you in the family.” Holy crap what a comeback! I guess Speed Racer isn’t out of this yet. “You killed it!” beams Emily as she leads Arie out the door, and he’s certainly feeling confident as well: “I think if it was up to Emily’s family, I’d be the one here in the end.”

NEXT: “This is my friend Jef.”

Is that true, Maynard family? Not really. “I wish I could pick something out with one of them to say, ‘Eh, you don’t want this one,'” drawls David, “but I couldn’t do that.” And Ernie makes the best point I think any family member has ever made in the history of this franchise: “If she can’t decide between the two at this point, I’m certainly in no position to decide for her.” Sorry, Ems, looks like you’re right back where you’re started — screwed. The only advice Daddy has for her is similar to what Dr. Lecter told Agent Starling: Look deep inside yourself. “I don’t believe that you can love two people at once,” he says. “So you’re in love with one or other now.” Mama, meanwhile, thinks her daughter should refrain from picking either guy until Ricki’s had a chance to weigh in… even if that means waiting until after the show’s over. “Honestly in that split second, it made me question everything,” sighs Emily, her eyes filling with tears. “The fact that I still don’t know who the guy for me is makes me wonder if any guy here is for me.”

The next day, Emily still has no idea whether or not she should introduce Ricki to Jef at some point during their finale date. The two meet on a deserted beach for a chat, and Emily seems a little relieved to confess that she’s “stressed out” about hurting someone. Jef tells her that he’s feeling totally relaxed — “I feel like you have everything I’ve ever wanted in anybody, and it’s amazing” — but he’d still really like to meet Ricki. “Just because I haven’t met her doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about her every day,” he says. (Damn, One F, you’re good.) “But it’s up to you.” Here’s the thing, though: Emily still feels guilty for making Ricki go on that totally awkward kite-flying date with Brad, only to have the relationship fizzle. She’s not anxious to make that mistake again. Jef understands, but he’s not going to back off — the guy’s simply not going to propose without meeting Emily’s daughter. “I really wasn’t planning on introducing her to anybody,” says the Bachelorette. “But, only because I feel so confident in you and what we have, I want you to see that side of me, and I want you to see her… We should just do it today!” Huh — that was an abrupt 180, but okay. Jef, I hope you’re ready to bring your A-game, because Emily is working hard to convince herself that this is the best idea ever. “I have all the faith in the world that this time is going to be different than last time.”

Knock knock knock! It’s a potential step-dad at the door! After nervously peering through the shutters at Ricki, who’s playing around in the pool, Jef and Emily walk in to surprise the little girl. “Can you say hey? This is my friend Jef,” says Mommy. One F immediately sits down to be closer to Ricki’s level and offers her a raised hand. “Can you give me a high-five?” he asks. She giggles and swims over to slap his palm. Within minutes, Ricki’s already spoken more words to Jef than she did on the entire outing with Brad — yes, she’s older now, too, but it’s pretty clear that she’s comfortable with mommy’s new friend with the funny-looking hair. “Can Jef get in the pool now, too?” she asks Emily. Of course he can, pumpkin! He’s been waiting to try out his Daddy pants on you for weeks. (That actually came out a little grosser than I intended it to.)

NEXT: The Bachelorette drops a bomb

“I’ve been so worried about this one moment for awhile now,” says Emily. “And within, like, two minutes, Jef made Ricki feel so comfortable.” It’s true, Ricki and One F do seem to be having a great time splashing around in the pool, setting a little crab free, and examining the Cheeto stains on Ricki’s stuffed monkey. When it’s time to leave, Ricki gives Jef a parting high-five and scampers back inside. “She really liked you,” Emily tells him, and his response is typically One F sweet: “I really liked her.” The awwwww moments continue later that night when Emily comes to meet Jef in his hotel room for a little trip down memory lane. “I remember sitting on the beach with you in Bermuda and putting the vibe out, ‘Hey it’s okay to kiss me if you want to…’ And you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s go back inside.'” (She’s right Jef, that was an epic fail.)

Their banter culminates in a cute thank-you-no-thank-YOU back and forth — a moment that is 10,000 times more human than anything we’ve seen her have with Arie. One F even manages to give the Ritual Bestowing of the Hotel Gift Shop Dowry some personality by drawing stick figures of himself and Emily on various pages in the Curacao coffee table book he gives her. And she LOVES it. “I feel like I get him and he gets me,” coos the Bachelorette. “Not a lot of people get me, and I don’t think a lot of people get him… so I think that it’s cool that we found each other.” And with that, Emily bids him goodbye and walks back to her hotel room as the rain falls on Jef’s hopes and dreams. “Tomorrow Arie’s going on a date with Emily,” he says grimly. “And knowing that she could possibly see a life with him — it’s so scary.” You can say that again, pal. But don’t worry, Paisley (seriously?) in the studio audience thinks you did a great job, and Charlotte wants to steal you for herself.

It’s another gorgeous day in Curacao, and there’s a knock on Emily’s door. Must be Arie arriving for his date… Whaaaa? Chris Harrison, what are you doing here? Are the rumors true? No, the Bachelorette has called our host to her side because she’s confused, and she needs a dose of his patented Final Rose Tonight wisdom. She fills Harrison in on Jef’s visit with Ricki and how well it went, and then she drops the Bachelorette equivalent of a nuclear bomb: “I was so scared I was going to get to the final day and still be going back and forth between these two perfect guys, but this just did it for me… I know that Jef is everything I’ve been looking for.” (Major props to Team Bachelorette for their deceptive promo editing up until this point, which made it seem like Harrison’s “Your mind is made up here — you are done” meant Emily wasn’t going to choose either guy.)

Well hells bells, what now? Speed Racer’s probably on his way over at this very moment! “I need to tell Arie, that, you know, as much as I love him, I’ve just fallen in love with someone a little bit more,” sniffs the Bachelorette tearfully. “I don’t even know how to start the conversation.” How about, Okay, so our date is going to be a lot shorter than you think… For whatever reason, Arie doesn’t go straight to see Emily from his hotel; instead he stops at the Den Paradera botanic garden where a nice lady named Dinah invites him in to make a love potion. Ouch, that’s really gonna hurt in hindsight.

NEXT: The slowest breakup talk in recorded history

But you know what? Team Bachelorette still has two hours to fill, so if they can’t shoot Emily on a date with Arie, they’re damn well going to get some footage of him picking flowers and ruminating on how great his life is about to be. “Tomorrow I am getting engaged,” he insists. “That moment when Emily looks into my eyes and she can express how she feels, is gonna feel so good.” And all of America says, We beg to differ.

Here comes the Bachelorette now, grim-faced and nervous as she strolls toward the man she’s about to destroy. Arie’s so confident that at first he doesn’t even notice that Emily is teary-eyed and sniffly — he’s too busy showing off the love potion he made especially for her. “I’m supposed to put a little bit on your arms and your legs,” he tells Emily, and she doesn’t have the heart to stop him. But as soon as she sits Arie down for a talk, and he gently inquires “What’s the matter?”, Emily loses it. After crying on his shoulder, she starts tearing off the Band Aid — sloooowly. “You know how I feel about you, from our very first date,” she says, as a vague realization settles on Arie’s face. “I felt like it was going to be me and you. And I don’t — I don’t know anymore.” Yes you do — you know that it’s going to be you and Jef, lady, so just say it! Arie may be arrogant, but he still deserves an explanation. But the best she can do is this: “I never thought that I would have to make a choice between you and anybody. I always thought it was just going to be me and you, honestly. And then, you know…”

He gets it, and Emily isn’t making matters any better by telling him how very, very, very close he came to winning her heart. “I honestly did for so long think it was going to be me and you,” she insists. “But I have more confidence with Jef, you know?” Yes, he does. You can stop talking now. “I don’t know what to say,” Emily tells him, and his reply is decisive: “Don’t say anything.” His kiss lingers on her cheek for a second, and then he gets up and walks away. “Arie!” she whines. “Will you wait for me?” But Speed Racer is annoyed, understandably, and is no longer trying to hide it. “Good luck, I don’t know what else to say. I don’t think that you’re going to get the goodbye that you want… I don’t know what you want! I thought I knew what you wanted. Thank you for sparing me the embarrassment tomorrow, I appreciate that.”

Then, after angrily demanding a hug, Arie reluctantly consents to let Emily walk him out of the garden. (Oh, Dinah, this is not a good advertisement for your love potion.) In the Reject SUV, Arie rapidly cycles through several Stages of Dumpee Grief, from anger (“I feel like I give way more than I get!”) to shock (“I just can’t believe that I’m here”) to despair (“It just makes me realize it’s just so hard to find that person”). It’ll be interesting to find out what stage he’s at now (Bitterness? Day Drinking? Denial?) when we see him on the live After the Final Rose.

Back in the Tealight Thunderdome, the camera pans over a sea of devastated female faces – everyone is “deeply affected,” says Harrison, so he’s gonna pull in some experts to help fans work through their grief. Wait a minute — Ashley? First of all, Harrison, she has not “literally” been in Emily’s shoes (unless there are some secret slumber parties we don’t know about), second of all, no one cares what Ashley or her prickly-headed fiancé have to say. As for Stagliano, I love you, pal, but stick to Bachelor Pad. See you tomorrow!

NEXT: “I’m not going to be that girl who gets engaged 15 times before she gets married”

But enough about Speed Racer — there’s a fairy tale ending on the horizon! And a ginormous diamond, of course. Jef has his sit-down with Neil Lane, and I’ll admit it, I yelled “No no no — not the pink gold!” when that ring flashed on the screen. (“He can’t hear you, honey,” called my husband from the kitchen.) Fortunately, One F avoids pink gold and chocolate diamonds and all that tacky crap and picks a simple, and simply huge, rectangular rock. It’ll go well with the blush-colored, studded gladiator gown Emily dons for the Proposal Platform… which, by the way, is sort of oddly situated in an interior courtyard. All those nice ocean views, and Team Bachelorette chose an enclosed town square? Well, whatever. Let’s do this, people!

Of course, not that the which guy will step out of the limo/helicopter/pontoon plane first? drama has been obviated, Team Bachelorette has to drum up a little suspense — so they interspersed scenes of Jef walking to meet Emily with her voice over saying she might start to “question everything,” and how she’s “not sure” she can accept a proposal should One F get down on one knee. “I’m not going to be the girl that gets engaged 15 times before she gets married.” You’re not fooling anyone, toots. Now tell your pompadoured paramour that you love him! To Emily’s credit, she doesn’t dither around or try to fake Jef out with an ominously placed “But…” in her speech — it’s just straight up you’re my guy: “I really do feel like you’re my soulmate… I love you, so so much. So, so much. I knew you were the one for me.” In fact, she continues, “You were the only one who got to meet Ricki, and I didn’t even go on a date with Arie yesterday. And he’s not even here today! So it’s just me and you.”

A few chaste kisses later, Jef is pouring out his heart right back to Emily, telling her that he thinks “God puts the right people in our lives with the timing is just right.” And I’m sure Emily appreciated the fact that he telegraphs his proposal — “I want you to know that what I’m about to ask you aren’t just empty words, where in a few weeks or a few months or a few years, or even a few decades, they’ll be lost” — rather than leaving her to guess Is he gonna drop now? What about now? Once he does take a knee and offer up those five words — “Emily, will you marry me?” — the Bachelorette sighs and pauses for 15 full seconds before answering with a breathy, “Yes!” Was it doubt or producer-planted drama behind that pregnant pause? Only Emily knows for sure… and hopefully she’ll reveal the answer in a few minutes on After the Final Rose.

As Peter Cetera belts out a tune about the power of love, Emily presents One F with the “last and final rose” of his entire life. (Kudos to Team Bachelorette for synching the “Like a knight in shining armor” lyric with footage of One F shooting a bow and arrow.) Oh good Lord, are they really sending Ricki in to complete the insta-family portrait? I feel like that’s a moment that should have been reserved for off camera. (Yes, yes, I know — that ship sailed about 10 weeks ago.) Jef greets the giggly little girl with a casual “Hey, Ricki,” and the trio does a slo-mo walk into the sunset. Fingers crossed that this isn’t the last time we see them happy.

NEXT: And we’re liiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

Welcome back to the Tealight Thunderdome! Emily’s in the house, and she’s still looking happy and in love. “This ring, as beautiful as it is, it means nothing to me because it’s really all about the person that he is, and I would be happy with, you know, a piece of tape wrapped around my finger!” Awww, that’s so sweet, but Harrison would like to interrupt Emily’s bliss for a second to remind her that she did completely humiliate a guy who’s not used to hearing “no.” How’d it feel watching that moment back? “I learned that I’m not very good at being direct,” admits the Bachelorette. “I’m not good at being the bearer of bad news.”

Of course, Arie’s waiting in the wings. The studio audience squeals and hoots as he strolls into the studio, his hair reaching high into the heavens. (Perhaps as a tribute to Jef?) He and Emily exchange a cordial hug and then sit down to relive the agony. Arie says he was “completely taken by surprise” when Emily pulled the plug on their relationship. “I feel like the viewers got to see a lot of our physical side, but I feel like we had so many good conversations, and I feel like we had such a good future planned.”

Speed Racer was so blindsided, in fact, that sometime in the weeks after being dumped, he hopped a plane and flew to Charlotte to visit Emily. “I wanted closure or I wanted a beginning, and I wanted it to be off-camera,” admits Arie, who didn’t tell Team Bachelorette about this particular “journey” of his. By the time he got there, though, he realized it was a bad idea to barge in on Emily’s life back home. “So I called her, and I told her I would leave my journal and she could read about my experience,” he explains. As it turns out, Emily didn’t read the journal “out of respect to Arie, and especially Jef,” so she pulls it out from behind the couch and hands it back. Arie’s peeved, but is managing to staying strong and put bros before homemakers. “Oddly enough, I speak to Jef on the phone,” he says. “We have this great friendship… After hearing how happy he was… That really pushed me through.” Well, good on ya, sir! I’m sure you’ll do just fine in the “ladies” department going forward.

Now for the man of the hour, Jef with One F! He’s looking hipster cute as always in his fitted suit and pouffy hair. Instantly he begins gushing about his ladylove: “She’s so funny, and I wish they’d show more of that on the show. She’s the most caring person ever, she’s gorgeous, she’s so beautiful…” Everything’s been going well since the finale taped — they’ve been spending weekends together in “secret locations,” and hey look, here are some snapshots of One F and Ricki feeding goats at a petting zoo and fishing together. How cute!

Team Bachelorette, let’s roll that proposal footage one more time. So what about that epic pause, Emily? “I don’t even remember, it’s such a blur,” says Emily. “I was scared.” Still, she’s “so happy” with her final decision, and she’s ready to go dig wells in Africa with her sweetie. After that, One F is going to pack up and move to Charlotte so Ricki won’t be uprooted, and he and Emily will plan their eventual wedding. I’ve gotta say, rose lovers, I’m a little sorry to see Emily’s “journey” end. I’m gonna go out on a limb, here: Best season of The Bachelorette ever? Am I crazy to think these two might actually make it? Am I even crazier to be recapping Bachelor Pad, which starts tomorrow night? (I hope you’ll all join me!) Let me know what you thought of tonight’s finale, and whether Arie has supplanted Sean as your runner-up Bachelor of choice. Now wrap some tape around your finger and let’s talk Bachelorette!

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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