In part one of The Bachelorette finale, both Rachel and Gabby get some unwelcome news from their final men.
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GARRETT, BECCA KUFRIN

We are down to the final two men, rose lovers, yet neither Gabby nor Rachel seems poised for a happily ever after. How did we get here?

Let's recap part one of The Bachelorette finale!

We begin with a brief and completely unnecessary stop at the Tealight Candle Thunderdome, where Jesse Palmer is there to whip the crowd into a frenzy over the "controversial" finale that will have "all of America" talking. Doubt it. But hey, Gabby and Rachel are here, and they're looking lovely.

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Rachel and Gabby on 'The Bachelorette'
| Credit: ABC

Well, that was fun. On to the actual show. If you still have enough brain cells left after last week's back-to-back episodes, you'll remember that we left things off last with an unhappy Zach pulling Rachel for a chat just as she was about to start the rose ceremony. Now it's finally time for that conversation. Let's listen in:

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Zach questions Rachel
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"To be honest, I thought what I was seeing wasn't the real Rachel," says Zach of their time in the Fantasy Suite. "I felt like I was seeing 'Bachelorette Rachel,' not the real Rachel I had come to know and love." Hmmm… this assessment seems a little off to me. Why would Rachel turn on a TV persona when the cameras are gone? It's more likely, Zach, that you saw real Rachel, who just isn't that into you — but felt a little guilty or uncomfortable showing that on camera.

Anyhow, it's six of one, half-dozen of the other. The blonde Bachelorette acknowledges that there was a "different vibe" between them in the Fantasy Suite, and that's because she had at long last found "clarity" about her feelings for him. (To be clear, those feelings are: You ain't it, sir.)

"I did really love you," says Zach, his voice breaking. "I saw a future with you, but… I need to go." As Tino and Aven watch from a distance in astonishment and barely suppressed glee, Rachel walks Zach to the Reject SUV.

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Adios, Zach
| Credit: ABC

See you in Paradise, maybe? I dunno. The dude's a little vanilla for me.

Rachel returns to the now far-less-suspenseful rose ceremony and informs Aven and Tino that Zach is gone. "I don't really want to speak ill, but for people who especially who say that they care about me, to… question my character, it's obviously really disappointing," she says. With that, she hands out her final two roses. Congrats, guys.

Oh great, we're back in the studio so Rachel can sit down with Zach. Gosh, I'm so excited I could almost turn off the TV right this very second. But I would never leave you hanging, rose lovers.

Zach is clearly nervous when he sits down, but he's no longer the ball of outsized (and dare I say, contrived?) emotions that we saw in the Reject SUV. And the first thing Zach does is say he's sorry for being a bit of an asshat at that rose ceremony. "First I just want to say that I do apologize for every making you feel like I called you out for your character," he says. "That's the last thing I wanted." Not surprisingly, Rachel accepts his apology and assures him that she was never "putting on an act" with him. "Those feelings that I had, they were real."

The segment drags on for a few more minutes, with Zach and Rachel going around in around, essentially saying "no hard feelings" repeatedly. Dang, how much filler is this episode going to have? Will anything save me from this misery?

OMG you guys: THE RETURN OF BIG TONY! Thank you, Reality TV Jesus!

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Real men wear pink.
| Credit: ABC

Look at how dapper he is in pink! It's time for the family visits, in case you haven't guessed. Rachel reunites with her dad, Big Tony, her mom, Mary Anne, and her two besties, Nate and Samantha. The Bachelorette gives them a quick debrief — she's got two "amazing" guys left; they both want kids; both are "ready" for engagement — and now she just needs "clarity" about which guy to pick.

Aven's up first, and Rachel feels "very confident" heading into this family gathering. "Aven told me he's 100 percent ready for an engagement," she explains. Did he, now? This should be interesting.

Man, these tropical settings don't do anyone any favors, do they?

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Raise your hand if you're Sure.
| Credit: ABC

Still, Aven makes a good first impression, bringing Mary Anne flowers and Big Tony a cigar. "She's very special to me, and it's just an honor to meet you," he says. Pops pulls Aven for a chat first. "She's my pride and joy, and nobody's going to take her away from me without a fight," says Big Tony. "So tell me… What are you going to say today that's going to make me remember you better than the other guy?"

GOD, I LOVE BIG TONY. He's been through this reality TV rodeo before and has zero f---s left to give. Aven does his best to give the best answer possible, saying that he's been "open and honest" the whole time. "This isn't a joke to me," he adds. "This is my life just as much as it's hers." The suitor goes on to say that he and Rachel share a lot of the same values, they have the same sense of humor, and so on.

Meanwhile, Rachel raves about how great Aven is to her mother. Once again, the Bachelorette declares that Aven is, in fact, ready to get engaged. "We talked about it at length," she says. "I'm so happy."

You may want to put a pin in those giddy feelings, Rachel, because in the next room, Sam and Nate are grilling Aven about his intentions and whether he plans to propose.

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Aven says the unthinkable.
| Credit: ABC

"I want to be with Rachel at the end of this. I want to have a life with her. And I want the engagement aspect of it to be perfect… I want it to be a one-time shot for us. I can 1,000 percent see myself getting there."

Nate's all, Can you get there in five days? And Aven is understandably non-committal. "I don't know," he says. "But I am falling in love with her, and my feelings are very strong." Adding to the confusion, Aven says that he's told Rachel that he's ready for an engagement "as far as my life is concerned" — which… sorry, what does that mean? How is that different from "I'm ready to propose to you next week"? No wonder Rachel thinks Aven's prepared to put a ring on it.

By now, Nate is in full Gay Bestie Red Alert mode. "I just know [an engagement] is her intention," he tells Aven. "So just keep that in mind."

Cut to:

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Rachel's BFF has bad news.
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Poor Nate is definitely not looking forward to being the bearer of bad news about Aven. "He just said, he just was unsure that, like, there would be an engagement at the end," he explains. "He couldn't give me an answer." Oh boy, you know Rachel does NOT love this.

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This is new information, and Rachel does not like it.
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Both Sam and Nate try to assure Rachel that Aven is genuine in his feelings for her and that he does truly want to be with her, but all the Bachelorette hears is, "He no give me ring." And honestly, I can't blame her for being confused. Aven himself said he told Rachel that he was ready to be engaged. "This is, like, shocking," she says, grabbing her wine. "I'm not coming out of this not engaged." (Did anyone else immediately think of this brilliant Laura Dern moment when Rachel said that?)

The Bachelorette knows the only thing she can do now is confront Aven about the mixed messages he's sending.

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Rachel gets to the point
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"I'm, like, a little bit, like, concerned because [Sam and Nate] expressed to me that maybe you might not be ready for an engagement?" Aven seems prepared for the question. "It's not about not being ready," he says. "I see a life with you after this… I just want to make sure that it's 100 percent right for both of us."

That doesn't do much to clear up Rachel's confusion. Nor does his assertion, "I do feel like I'm ready to get engaged, I just want to make sure if it's right." Okay, sir — those two sentiments can't really co-exist in the same statement. If you need to "make sure" about something before doing it, you are not, by definition, "ready" to do it.

"I want nothing more than to be with you after this," says Aven. "I know there's still somebody [else] involved in this, that's another thing." Ohhhh, okay. Now we're getting somewhere. If you're worried about being rejected, SAY THAT. It's a universal feeling that even Rachel, laser-focused on engagement as she is, can relate to.

Instead, the two just keep talking in circles. She's upset and embarrassed because she told everyone Aven was ready, and he's upset and frustrated because he believes he is ready even though he also wants to wait until it feels "right." Now Rachel's crying, Aven's getting heated, and I'm desperately looking for a way to exit this emotional roundabout.

"You told me you were ready for an engagement," Rachel says for the 400th time.

"I am ready!" responds Aven, raising his voice. "I want to make sure that the timing is right, Rachel!"

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Oh, boy.
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Ooof. These two need a time out. Eventually they get up and say their goodbyes. "I'm here for you, okay?" says Aven. "I need you to know that." They share a few chaste kisses and then part ways. The entire encounter leaves Rachel frustrated and tearful. "How am I supposed to have confidence in anything anyone says to me?" she sobs. "Is it better just to leave by myself?" (That sound you hear in the distance is me screaming YES! YES, IT IS! at my TV screen.)

Here's hoping family visit number two goes better.

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Gabby and her family
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Awww, I love Grandpa! When Gabby announces that Erich is the only one left, Gramps doesn't miss a beat. "I know Erich," he says. "He's a dips---." (Really and truly, we need producers to hire Big Tony and Grandpa John as the franchise's official relationship coaches.)

All joking aside, Grandpa assures Gabby that he thinks Erich is "a keeper," adding that Grandma "would be tickled pink" to see her granddaughter so happy. "I love you," says Grandpa, wrapping Gabby in a big hug. "I love you, I love you."

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Grandpa John is the best
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I hate it when this show makes me cry, dang it!

When Erich sits down with Gabby's dad, Patrick, and Patrick's girlfriend (did we ever learn her name?), he talks about the "crazy connection" he has with the brown-haired Bachelorette. "I can't imagine my life without her at this point," says Erich.

Dad is supportive of Gabby's choice, as is Aunt Julie, who sits down for an emotional chat with her niece. Gabby says the "process" has exacerbated her pain over "not having felt love" from her mother, and soon she's sobbing about how she feels unlovable. Aunt Julie hates hearing her niece in so much pain. "That sucks," says Aunt Julie. "You shouldn't have had to go through that, and I'm sorry that you did." She encourages Gabby to share these feelings of doubt and insecurity with Erich. "Let him be the one to understand you," she says. "Let him see you for all that you are."

Good advice, Aunt Julie! The evening ends with hugs and smooches and more tears from sweet Grandpa John. "I just love her," he says. "I want the best for her." SAME, Grandpa!

Holy cow, rose lovers — only one family visit left. Man, this heavily padded two-hour episode is just flying by. Rachel is feeling a bit deflated after being "blindsided" by Aven, and she hopes she won't experience a similar surprise when Tino meets her family. Drink up, honey!

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Time for a little liquid courage
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Tino is super nervous, and he has a much harder time making small talk with the family than Aven did. Maybe he'll do better in a one-on-one with Rachel's mom. "Do you think you guys have enough in common?" asks Mary Anne. Tino's reply: "Yeah." Mom's all, Uh, could you maybe elaborate?

He mumbles something about how they'll find new things to do together, so mom switches to the family question. Does Tino think his parents will come around to this (potential) engagement? "Absolutely," he says. "I am one million percent confident they'll love Rachel — because I do, so they don't have a choice." God, he can be so smarmy. Look at this shit-eating grin:

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Tino has a very punchable face.
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In another room, Rachel sits down with Big Tony, who has concerns about Tino's career as a general contractor prohibiting Rachel from realizing her dreams. Tino works on building skyscrapers, which take years to complete, which means Rachel might not be able to "work in Europe," which is apparently something she's interested in. Still, Big Tony can see that Rachel has a lot of "enthusiasm" for Tino, so he's willing to give the guy a chance.

Dad begins his sit-down with Tino by asking about the infamous hometown date, and once again Tino insists that his parents just need to spend a little more time with Rachel and then they'll realize how great she is. As for the career challenges, Tino says he'd be willing to move overseas, but it may take a few years for him to secure a spot "on a building" in another country. "Your daughter does mean the world to me," says Tino. "I'm going to make your daughter happy forever."

Big Tony LOVES it — but then again, he hasn't seen the previews for the finale next week. Here's hoping he's in the Tealight Candle Thunderdome so we can see how he reacts to all the drama.

This week's episode ends with the Last Chance Dates, both of which result in difficult conversations. Rachel heads to Aven's room first, and at her urging, he immediately launches into re-explaining how he feels about an engagement. "I want more time with you, and I want to come visit you in Florida and see where you live. I want you to come visit me," he says. "I want to do life outside of this with you, and I just feel like that's so important for us at this point before that next step… I want us to be fully, fully in love with each other."

Everything he's saying is perfectly reasonable, and Rachel might have been able to see that if she didn't have such "I must get engaged" tunnel vision. Right now, she can't get past how blindsided and humiliated she was when Sam and Nate told her Aven wasn't ready to propose. "Do you know how that felt for me?" she asks, weeping. "I thought… that we were on the same page."

Once again, Aven tries to impress upon Rachel that he wants to be with her and admits that maybe he got a little "caught up" in the moment when he told her during overnight dates that he "might be ready" to propose in two weeks. As you might imagine, rose lovers, this doesn't sit well with Rachel.

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Rachel is unhappy
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She shakes her head sadly. "I want to be engaged. I want someone who's sure about me," she says. "I'm not willing to sacrifice that at the end of the day." She's really sobbing now, so much so that I think if Aven hadn't stepped in it — and by "stepped in it" I mean "expressed purely reasonable concerns about getting engaged after two months" — Rachel would have given him her final rose.

But he cannot, as she puts it, give her what she needs. "I can't, like, move forward," Rachel says through tears. "It's over." She dissolves into gasping sobs, and Aven buries his head in his hands. "I'm never going to get over this," he mumbles. Once alone in his confessional, Aven does look pretty inconsolable.

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Now Aven is unhappy.
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"I've failed," he says. "I didn't think I was going to be leaving here without Rachel." But leave he does, wheeling his little suitcase through the hotel lobby as Rachel walks home, crying in the dark. "I did see it being him and I at the end," she says, wiping away tears.

Congratulations, Tino — you're Rachel's second choice!

Back in the Thunderdome, Jesse Palmer checks in with Rachel, who says it "still hurts" to think back on her breakup with Aven. "I really did see him and I at the end of it," she says. (Sigh.) And wouldn't you know it? Aven is backstage right now — why don't we bring him out so we can all revel in the awkwardness in his first meeting with Rachel since she smashed his heart into little pieces.

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Rachel and Aven
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Much like Zach, Aven begins his chat with Rachel by offering a big old mea culpa. "I'm extremely, extremely sorry about the way things ended between us. I blindsided you with everything, that wasn't fair," he says. "I definitely feel like I let you down in that moment and I'm truly sorry."

Rachel is empathetic and she gets that Aven was just being true to himself and his needs. "It's all completely understandable," she tells him. "At the end of the day you were just being honest with yourself."

As for flip-flopping about being "ready" for an engagement, Aven says it was a realization he reached between his Fantasy Suite date with Rachel and his meet-the-family date. But he didn't have a chance to speak with Rachel about it directly until after he spoke to Nate and Sam. I mean, fair enough? He sat around for a week wondering how things were going with Rachel and Tino, so it seems very possible that he might start overthinking — or really, just thinking — about the risks of getting engaged so quickly. Especially when THERE IS NO REASON TO DO IT other than to please producers.

Moving on. Erich and Gabby's Last Chance date starts off well.

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Erich and Gabby, before the trouble begins.
| Credit: ABC

Still, Gabby needs a little reassurance that Erich will propose on the final day. "I obviously didn't expect to ever be here in this position," says Erich. "It's been crazy, but I truly love you. I do want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I don't want to rush anything, and I don't want there to be any expectations, or anything that won't be natural to us."

Too late, sir! Expectations are here, and they are not going anywhere. "I do want a proposal from him," Gabby tells us. "I just want to know the truth." The Bachelorette takes Erich out on the balcony where they can talk without cameras in their faces. (The cameras are instead filming them through a glass door.)

"The last thing I want to do is put pressure on you," says Gabby. Erich, like Aven, wants their relationship to take a more natural path. "I really want us to work," he says. "I want to date you, in the real world. I want to date you and getting engaged before that happens is not how things usually go."

Sure, but it IS how things usually go on The Bachelorette, buddy. I know some of you guys think I'm being too hard on Erich with my "he knew what he signed up for" attitude, but HE KNEW WHAT HE SIGNED UP FOR. He willingly went into hometowns knowing that doing so would signal to Gabby that he was ready to propose. That may not be rational, BUT THAT IS HOW THIS SHOW WORKS. THE SHOW THAT HE VOLUNTARILY SIGNED UP FOR. If he had doubts, he needed to start raising the alarm way before that.

End of rant.

Anyhow, Gabby is quite disheartened by her conversation with Erich on the balcony. "He said, 'I want to continue to date you,'" she says. "That doesn't scream, 'I want to propose.'" She walks out of the hotel suite crying, as a producer trails behind her. "I don't want to do this anymore," she says. "I'm so sick of this." On the other hand, she doesn't want to torpedo the whole relationship because Erich's not ready to propose.

"Here we are, a big fat dumpster fire," she groans. "A big [bleeping] mess."

And the inferno will keep raging next week, when the first ever two-Bachelorette season of The Bachelorette comes to a chaotic close. Before you go, rose lovers, a few questions: Do you think Rachel was planning to choose Aven before she learned he wasn't going to propose? Do you want to see Zach in Paradise? And what did you think about Erich's blackface apology? Post your thoughts below!

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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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