Put down your torches and pitchforks, villagers -- there will be no need to hunt down Brad Womack, for he has put a ring on it!

By Kristen Baldwin
March 13, 2015 at 09:22 PM EDT
S15 E11
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Looks like we made it, rose lovers! And I’m experiencing a new sensation when it comes to a Bachelor season finale: satisfaction. Honestly, it’s a little disorienting and I’m feeling a bit woozy, so please forgive me if I have to take a break at some point and go lie down.

The final step of our “journey” begins in Cape Town, South Africa, which is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s there that Brad first sees his family, and he holds it together just long enough to get a hug from his mom before totally breaking down. It is then that we get the first and only Bachelor Balcony Cry (trademark pending) of the evening, as Brad hunches over the railing and tries to shake off all these confusing emotions. Once he’s calmed down, Brad’s twin brother Chad — who, by the way, doesn’t look all that much like Brad, which made that whole “can you tell us apart” gag from Brad’s first season pretty pointless — asks if he’s ready to propose. Survey says: YES! (Like, duh.)

Mama Womack, bless her heart, has her game face on for her son, despite having gone through this ritual farce once before in 2007. “We were all apprehensive about the girl we were going to meet because of the hurt he went through the first time, because we lived it,” says Pamela. “If he was with someone that we didn’t think was right for him, then we would let him know, and we have done that.” Well, Mom, you may get a chance to relive that experience because here comes Chantal, toting a bottle of wine (what else?) in a green gift bag. Chantal begins talking a thousand miles a minute, telling the family about how she fell in love with Brad when they got rained on in Costa Rica, and oh, by the way, they just “talked for several hours” when they went back to his hotel room. Brothers Chad and Wes pull her aside to do have the protective “are you for real?” conversation, and they find Chantal’s insistence that she’d get married to Brad on the spot encouraging rather than off-putting. Mama seems to be a little more skeptical, and her one-on-one with Chantal begins point blank: “I have to ask, how did you fall in love so quick?” The ever-garrulous bachelorette  (perhaps fueled by her Cougar Town-sized glass of wine) chatters on and on and on about how she learned so much from her divorce and her heart is so open and yada yada yada, and eventually the conversation devolves into a lovefest with Pamela calling Chantal “precious” and declaring, “I can see you to the end, and I hope that I do.” Nice work, girl! You’re mama approved — Emily may as well just go home now. Of course, we’re barely half an hour into the show; I suppose there’s a slight chance this is more red herring than done deal…

NEXT: Emily makes Team Womack cryDay two in Cape Town, and let’s be honest — Emily is already starting at a disadvantage, and not just because Chantal got along so famously with the Womack clan. First question: “How did Brad do with your family?” Um, yeah, well here’s the thing… I’ve got a five-year-old daughter. And if that wasn’t awkward enough, ill-informed Wes wants to know how Ricki’s father would feel about her moving to Austin. While Brad tries to dive in front of the verbal bullet, Emily stands her ground and tells her sad tale with the same poise she’s demonstrated all season. And with that, Emily’s apparent disadvantage becomes her trump card, as Chantal’s bubbly immaturity is thrown into stark relief against her younger rival’s life experience. “My favorite thing that Emily said to me today was that [Brad] was her angel,” says a tearful Mama Womack. “I think she’s had a very difficult time, so I want this to be good for her.”

So what say ye, Womack clan? Should Brad  choose “fun-loving” or “rooted down with family”? The wives are pulling for Emily, because “she’s in our world” — though they can imagine going out for wine and sushi with Chantal. Mama agrees, calling Emily “the whole package.” Nice work, Tragic Single Mom! Looks like you’ve got this thing sewn up! Of course, we’re barely an hour into the show; I suppose there’s a slight chance that I’m falling victim to manipulative editing… Let’s hope the Last Chance Dates clear things up!

Chantal is up first, and she is understandably chagrined to learn that her final “romantic” date with Brad involves getting inside a flimsy cage and being lowered into shark-infested waters. “After all this, you better be putting the f—ing ring on my finger!” she declares, before rationalizing to herself that risking potential shark-induced amputation with Brad is basically just a trial run for marriage. I’m disappointed to report that the shark cage does not fail, and Brad and Chantal make it out of the ocean alive. They celebrate back at the hotel with more wine, and then Chantal presents Brad with the traditional Bachelorette Dowry, in this case a colorful hand-drawn map marking all of the places they’ve traveled together. “While I was making the map for Brad I just felt like, ‘Wow I’ve really traveled the world for this guy,'” muses Chantal. “That says a lot about how I feel for him.” No, sweetie, that says a lot about Team Bachelor’s travel budget – you were sent on an extended vacation, not your own personal Hero’s Journey. Either way, Brad LOVES it. He hugs her goodbye, and they part with a romantic game of “Are you okay?” “Yes, I’m okay — are you okay?” “I’m okay.” Okay! Everyone’s okay. Okay? Next!

NEXT: I’m tryin’ to tell you now it’s (self) sabotage!{C}The wind is whipping once again as Emily greets Brad for her date, which makes it difficult for her to walk in her short shirt dress. It’s t-minus two days until the final rose ceremony, and Emily’s nerves are getting the best of her, because as soon as she and Brad sit down for what’s no doubt supposed to be a romantic picnic, she begins peppering him with her insecurities: Is he really ready to be a dad? He does realize that means he can’t drink beer at 6 p.m. right? Well, at least we know she wasn’t exaggerating when she told Brad she tends to sabotage relationships. (Still, I’ve gotta give her a few bonus points for name-checking Debbie Downer.) Later that night, Brad tries to reassure Emily that he’s ready to be “an actual father” to little Ricki. “I guarantee that I can love you and your daughter more than you can ever imagine if you give me that chance,” he says. But “more than you can imagine” just may not be enough for Miss Emily. “Will you be around when she’s sick at 3 o’clock in the morning?” she presses. “Because it’s not always fun.” Um, Em? Maybe dial it back a notch. I understand that you’ve got your little girl’s welfare to think about, but if you were really concerned about that you probably wouldn’t have gone looking for Ricki’s stepdaddy on a reality TV show that’s managed to produce only two marriages in 21 seasons.

All of Emily’s doubt makes Brad hot under the collar, literally, and he begins wiping his beet-red face with a dinner napkin. Things get so uncomfortable Brad leaves early, and we don’t even get to see whatever tacky homemade trinket Emily gave him as her Bachelorette Dowry. “I’m walking away from tonight’s date with Emily and I’m defeated,” sighs Brad. “This particular date is making me question everything.” What good is all your precious therapy now, huh Brad? Self-awareness is for suckers!

Proposal Day arrives, and right on schedule there’s a knock on Brad’s door — it’s Neil Lane with his briefcase of bling. The Bachelor looks over the rings, each one more gaudy and ostentatious than the last, and manages to avoid selecting the flashiest one. As Brad explains to Mr. Lane, the last time he held an engagement ring (which he “bought” at Chopard) he didn’t use it — but THIS TIME IT’S FOR REAL, GODDAMMIT. It had better be, because there are two “ladies” at the hotel getting themselves all dolled up for the Proposal Platform. Emily wears a white gown — a bold choice! — while Chantal selects a form-fitting dark green number featuring a feathery shoulder piece. Those feathers flap frantically in the breeze as Brad works himself up to the Big Moment, rambling on about their “connection,” and how much he loves her confidence, how she lets him be himself… It all seems to be going well, but something in Chantal’s face says that she knows, on some level, that she’s about to lose her chance at love forever — even before Brad says, “And here’s where it gets tough…” Still, all she can do is cry and choke out a pained, “Emily is very lucky.” They stand in silence for a few moments, and then Brad walks her to the Final Rejection Limo. “I just feel really stupid,” she sobs to the camera. “How could I have been so convinced, and he didn’t even love me?” That’s a good question, honey — you should spend the next year (at least) in therapy trying to figure that one out.

NEXT: Arrgh, why am I tearing up?And now for the good news: Emily arrives, and takes Chris Harrison’s arm daintily. (Side note: I wish we had spent a little less time with Neil Lane so we could have gotten a quick Brad-Harrison debrief before the final rose. Dude flew all the way to South Africa! Let him speak!) In the waning sunlight, her dress looks like it’s a very pale pink, but either way it has no feathers, so that’s something. I don’t know who wrote Brad’s proposal speech, but that person deserves a raise. Even though it looks like Brad’s reading the lines off of the top of Emily’s hands, it’s still quite possibly the sweetest, most coherent few sentences ever to come out of a Bachelor’s mouth. “You’re so much more to me than a leap of faith. You’re the one, Em. You’re it. You’re my once in a lifetime. And so what I’m asking is this: I’m asking you to please give me your forever.” Okay, so the last part is a bit cheesy, but this is The Bachelor after all. Emily, classy (or, should I say, “classy”) until the end, doesn’t even glance at the ring before saying yes. And then Brad issues his final overly polite command: “Emily, come here to me, please. I love you.”

For the love of God, people, did my eyes really just well up with tears? Am I seriously sitting here considering the idea that these two simple souls might just have a chance to make it as a couple? I apologize, rose lovers. I have no excuse. Perhaps I’m just feeling unexpectedly optimistic given the outcome, seeing as I spent most of the season thinking that Brad was going to pick Chantal thanks to some faulty spoilers (better luck next time, Steve-o!). And they lived happily ever after… for the next two minutes until After the Final Rose.

But first, let’s explore Chantal’s heartbreak in excruciating detail, shall we? Being dumped certainly agrees with her, because she looks fantastic in her red I’m-so-over-you dress. And she’s not letting Brad off the hook easily. When Brad let her know he had feelings for Emily, but also wanted her to “stick around,” she pounces: “I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse” — sure you do, honey — “but when you say: ‘You deserved to be there,’ versus ‘I really thought I could spend my life with you,’ that is harsh.” Of course, the bravado is just that, and soon she is wiping the tears from her heavily made-up eyes and sobbing on Brad’s shoulder. While Chantal says she’s found a new man, I’m pretty sure that guy is either imaginary or just content to be a reality TV rebound.

Brad’s “journey” with Emily hasn’t been an easy one since that last day in Cape Town. While Brad’s eager to get married — and Harrison reveals that there was even talk of the duo getting hitched on the ATFR special — the Bachelor says things got derailed by incessant tabloid coverage. “People take a fraction of the truth and embellish them to no end,” he laments. “It’s just been a tough go.” It’s been so bad that he and Emily even broke up at one point — one lady is so shocked by this news she looks like she might need a defibrillator — but Brad is not giving up. He wants people to know “when, not if, this works out, that we did go through the trials and tribulations… and we made it through.”

NEXT: An intervention, Bachelor-style

When Emily arrives, she is her typically poised-to-the-point-of-icy-reserve self, and is reluctant to give Harrison the juicy details he so desperately craves. “It’s certainly not all roses,” she admits. “But, you know, I’m very confident in how I feel about him.” With a little prodding, she finally reveals that while she loves Brad, she’s not ready to marry him right this second. Somehow, this shocks the crowd even more than the news of the phantom break-up did. “We need to figure out how we fight and how we deal with things, and how we communicate,” Emily explains. “I love him… But could I move to Austin today and, and, you know…? No.” The crowd issues a collective OH NO SHE DIDN’T! and probably had to be held back from throwing rotten tomatoes at Emily’s cream-colored sheath. Seriously, people, is “Brad and Emily’s difficult situation” that surprising? As Emily points out, for the past two months she’s turned on the TV every Monday night and watched her fiancé “open up” to a bunch of randy women. “I knew it wasn’t going to be the Let’s Watch Emily and Brad Fall in Love Show,” says Emily. “But I didn’t think he would give them so much material to work with!” She also rightfully points out that she was given the Serious Edit befitting a Tragic Single Mom, while Chantal got cast in the role of Fun Fearless Female: “If I was given dates that I got to go diving with sharks and going down friggin’ lines in the jungle, I would be fun too!”

I have to say, it’s pretty smart of Team Bachelor to come right out and annihilate the fiction the franchise has been living on for years that two months of fantasy dates can automatically translate into a real-world relationship. To drive home the point they bring on their sole three “success stories” — Trista and Ryan, Molly and Jason,  and Ali and Roberto — though I don’t think those last two have earned their Real Couple Stripes yet. Anyhow, this makeshift SWAT team parachutes down from their helicopters to perform a romantic intervention. “I know it’s really hard to not watch the show or not read what the blogs are saying,” explains Molly. “But what someone is saying sitting behind a computer who you’ll never meet in your life doesn’t matter.” (Hey! I resent being called a “silly nay-sayer”!) Ryan tries to tell Emily and Brad that nothing worth having is easy, but what comes out is a nervous jumble of word salad that doesn’t make much sense. Bless his heart, he is so dumb. Finally, Roberto tells them to live in a bubble, which is extremely practical and helpful advice. See, you guys? Marriage is easy! Now quit your whining and pick a date, preferably during May sweeps.

Well, rose lovers, do you have any hope for these two crazy kids? (Despite all evidence to the contrary I am going to continue to cling to the fantasy that they may not break up… for six months at least.) Did Brad the once Toxic Bachelor redeem himself? And can you believe Jason and Molly have been married a year? Decompress with other Bachelor fans (and haters who inexplicably troll the comment boards) below! After that, be sure to check out Chris Harrison’s exclusive blog on PopWatch to hear his take on the finale and the new Bachelorette. So get in that shark cage and let’s talk Bachelor!

Chris Harrison hosts the veteran reality romance series. Will you accept this rose?
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