The Bachelorette season finale recap: 'Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives'
There are two things I've learned from watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise for nearly 20 years, rose lovers: Grammar is often a hard subject for attractive people to master; and when given a choice between a person who's ready for a commitment and one who clearly isn't, the Bachelorette will always — always! — choose the latter.
We begin in the Tealight Candle Thunderdome.
What in the holy hell? Why is no one in the audience wearing a mask? Why did they even need to have an audience? For God's sake, they're already down to one host, Kaitlyn, because "Tayshia was recently exposed to Covid." Guess what, everyone in this studio — you'll be able to say the same about yourselves in just a few hours! To be fair, a source inside Bachelor Nation confirmed to me that everyone in the audience was tested at the door. (Plus, viewers roasted the show so brutally on Twitter, producers eventually had everyone in the audience wear masks for the remainder of the broadcast.)
On to Michelle's "journey," I suppose. Though she's still "fully affected" from sending Joe home, Michelle begins her final week feeling "really excited" about the possibility of getting engaged to Brandon or Nate. To be honest, though, it's pretty clear where her heart lies from how she talks about the final two suitors: Brandon is a man "who will do anything for me," while with Nayte, Michelle says she "feel[s] things that I've never felt in a relationship before. There's just something so special about our connection and our chemistry." How will she ever make this decision that she's clearly already made in her mind, even if only subconsciously?
Oh, thank goodness for family. Welcome back, LaVonne and Ephraim! And everyone please give a big Bachelor Nation welcome to Michelle's heretofore unseen sister, Angela! They're all in Mexico to help their darling Michelle choose a life partner while cameras roll.
Of course, Brandon has a slight advantage here, because he already met Michelle's parents during that "surprise" hot tub date, and mom and dad came away with a positive impression. "He seemed genuine when he was at our house," says Ephraim. Dad likes that Brandon seems like he would put Michelle first in their life together, just the way that he makes LaVonne his "number-one priority." Good Lord, am I already getting misty? There are still three hours left to go in this damn finale!
The Youngs greet Brandon warmly. "If she picks you, we would gladly adopt you into our family," Ephraim tells him. LaVonne is equally enthusiastic about the prospect of Brandon as a son-in-law. "I would be so happy if you're here in the end," she says. "I can see it in your eyes that you really love her."
Okay, so… show's over? On to After the Final Rose? Nope, sorry. There's still one more dude on deck to meet the family. "I think it's going to go well," says Nayte. "I'm not too worried about it." Michelle admits that she needs her family's approval, and she hopes they will see how "special" Nayte is as well.
Things are a little iffy from the jump. Ephraim notes that Nayte has a "different vibe" than Brandon, who is "a warmer person" is his estimation. It doesn't help that while Brandon said he would absolutely move to Minnesota to be with Michelle, Nayte tells Ephraim that the "logistics" of their relationship haven't been worked out yet. Angela raises the question as well, and once again Nayte responds with vagaries. "The thing about me is, I'm all about the adventure," he says. When it comes to putting down roots, Nayte admits that he hasn't "given that too much thought," because he's more focused on having "adventures" with Michelle.
So, Nayte… you're ready to propose to a woman who DEFINITELY wants to raise her family in Minnesota, but you're not ready to commit to living in Minnesota? Angela's face says it all.
It was shocking to hear Michelle say that she doesn't even know if Nayte wants to get married right away. For now, our Bachelorette seems to be clinging to the fact that Nayte said he's ready for an engagement. "She's an eternal optimist," sighs Ephraim. "She's always thinking about what can go right, and not what can go wrong."
LaVonne is equally concerned. For one thing, Nayte can't even answer "Is Michelle the one for you?" with a simple "yes," and he also makes this Freudian slip: "I definitely don't take love seriously." (He claims that he meant to say, "I definitely don't take love for granted.") And mom is not shy about sharing her doubts. "I'm still not sure that at the end of this, you'd be ready for an engagement," she tells him. "Honestly, that's how I feel." Nayte's all, No, no, I'm all in — but what else is he going to say? "You're not real open with your emotions," continues LaVonne. "You're saying them, but I'm not quite feeling them." MOMS! FOR! THE! WIN!
And now it's time for LaVonne to share the hard truth with her daughter.
Michelle wants to know: Does mom think Nayte is ready for an engagement? "To be honest, um, no… I wasn't really feeling that, and I kind of expressed that." Poor Michelle looks devastated by this news. "Maybe I am more into him because I'm scared of losing him," she muses, "and he's not scared of losing me. I deserve to be in a relationship where someone loves me as much as I love them." YES! That is 100 percent correct, Michelle! Please, remember that sentiment as you continue your "journey"! Tie it as a symbol on your hands and bind it on your forehead. Write it on the doorframe of your house and on your gate.
Knowing that Michelle's mom has big doubts, all Nayte can do at this point is assure the Bachelorette that he's "100 percent positive" he wants to marry her. "I love Michelle," he says. "All I think about is just sharing a life with her." Of course it's all you think about, dude! You've spent the last two months in a distraction-free bubble competing to "win" the "prize" of an engagement with Michelle. Perhaps you should live with her in the real world for a while before popping a question that you cannot un-ask. (Same goes for Brandon and literally everyone who will ever appear on this show in the future.)
Anyhow, Young family group hug!
On to the Last Chance Dates™. Brandon is up first, and Michelle's goal for this date is to go from "falling in love" to officially "in love" with him by the end of the day. And what better way to get to Love Town than…
After jet skiing around for a while, Michelle and Brandon relax on the beach and talk about how much her family loooooved him. The schmoopiness continues that night in Brandon's hotel room, as he and Michelle drink wine and talk about their favorite moments in this "journey" and their potential future together. When it comes time for Brandon to present Michelle with a token of his affection, he presents her with… his white sweatshirt from their post-Fantasy Suite food fight. Sure, okay. At least he's had it laundered, so it's no longer stained with coffee and green juice. Anyhow, she LOVES it.
"I want to make sure you know where I'm at with everything," she says. "I really am not falling in love — I feel like I'm already in love with you." Excellent fake-out, Michelle! But is she trying to convince Brandon or herself? Or maybe she's truly in love with two people at once? I don't know, rose lovers.
While we all ponder that question, let's move on to Last Chance Date™ number two.
Muchas gracias, señor. Raul is a shaman, and he's here to bring Michelle and Nayte some blessings ahead of their (potential) engagement. He instructs them to anoint each other with smoke from burning herbs of some kind while speaking their wishes for each other out loud. Nayte, who keeps running out of smoke and saying "my bad," says he wants their relationship to continue on the same trajectory — but Raul senses a "blockage" in his brain. "You are so emotional, but you pretend not," he observes. But the more Raul urges Nayte to Open Up™, the more nervous Nayte gets.
"I can see that he's putting in effort," says Michelle. "But during the ritual, I didn't feel like I was getting enough from Nayte. He was very uneasy today." The Bachelorette walks away feeling like there's a "red flag" with Nayte — and to that I say, "Just one?"
For whatever reason, though, Michelle seems to have a hard time being direct with Nayte about her doubts and her family's doubts. The closest she comes is telling Nayte that her conversation with her mom made her feel "uneasy." He responds by saying he is ready, he's "madly in love," he's "scared as hell," and if she dumps him, it will suck. "I know that's not a profound way to explain yourself," he says. "But it would suck." Rose lovers, do I need to tell you that she LOVES it?
"This is what I've wanted," says Michelle, her eyes filling with tears. They smooch and exchange "I love yous." Still, Nayte worries that his outpouring of emotions may be "too late," so that night, he doubles down on convincing Michelle that he is all in. "All I do is think about life with you," he gushes. "As crazy as it is to get down on one knee, I am more than ready to do that with you." Of course, that's everything Michelle wants to hear, and when she heads back to her room, it seems like her mind is made up: "My heart is telling me this is my person."
Oh snap! Looks like Brandon has once again figured out a way to be the last person in Michelle's ear before she makes her big decision. His letter contains more declarations of love: "A world without you is a world I fear to face"; "the kind of love where I will ALWAYS place your happiness above mine"; "I will love you forever," and so on. Thus, our Bachelorette heads to bed conflicted: "Tomorrow is going to be the hardest decision I've ever made."
And she's not the only one facing a big choice.
Yep! Neil Lane has arrived in Mexico with his gaudy wares, and it's time for Nayte and Brandon to select a ring. (Nayte goes with a pear-shaped rock, while Brandon goes with what looks like a square cut.)
After getting glammed up in a gorgeous silver gown, Michelle makes her way to the Proposal Platform on the beach — barefoot, because ain't nobody got time for trying to walk on sand in stiletto heels. And now for the biggest question of the evening: Which man will arrive first? Survey says…
Dang it! Dang it, dang it, dang it! Looks like poor Brandon is the one who destined for heartbreak. Tayshia and Kaitlyn greet him at the top of his stairs, and then send him down to the beach… where Michelle and his televised humiliation await. Ugh, and now comes the worst part! Brandon's gonna make his whole big speech leading up to a proposal, telling her that she's the "missing piece" he's been searching for, only to have her dash all of his hopes and dreams with one little word:
"I meant what I said with loving you, but… I promised myself that I would continue to follow my heart. And it's not that I don't love you, 'cause I do. It's just that my heart is pushing me in a different direction. And it hurts so much, because you are this unbelievable person... You truly will always have a piece of my heart, Brandon."
Michelle's crying. Brandon's crying. I'm crying. LaVonne and Ephraim are probably at home crying, too. Look at how devastated Brandon is!
"I truly wish you nothing but happiness," he chokes out through his tears. "Even if it's not with me… Giving you my heart was worth it." A true gentleman to the end, Brandon ends up comforting Michelle. They stop on the beach and sob in each other's arms, before finally parting ways. "I'm so f---ing hurt," says Brandon, dripping with sweat and tears. "I'm so broken." Before getting in the Reject SUV, Brandon throws… something in a fit of anger and pain.
Was that the ring? There's no way he threw the ring, right? He just threw the ring!! How fast do you think Neil Lane had his assistants down on the beach with metal detectors? They may still be there searching, for all we know.
Welp, rose lovers, you know what time it is.
Yep, Nayte has arrived at the Proposal Platform. "I want to run away with you," he says. "I want to run away to forever with the woman that I've come to love — this amazingly crazy wow kind of love." He goes on to promise Michelle that he will always put her first, "today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives." When it's the Bachelorette's turn to speak, she starts with the old misdirect ("this has not necessarily been a smooth ride") before giving Nayte the go-ahead to propose: "At the end I wanted to be standing in front of my soulmate, and he is definitely standing right in front of me."
Dang, it's so hot there even Nayte's fingers are sweating! Michelle says yes, of course. Congrats, you crazy kids. "This is my soul-Nayte!" announces Michelle giddily. Okay, mariachi band — that's your cue!
And with that, rose lovers, we're almost done with Michelle's "journey." On to After the Final Rose!
First up in the Tealight Candle Thunderdome is Brandon, who's greeted by cheers of love and support from the (thankfully) now-masked crowd. "I'm doing good," he tells Kaitlyn. " "I'm so thankful for my support system, my family, some of the guys from the show — Will and Daniel, helping me out, getting me through it, lifting me up. I'm doing good."
Indeed, Brandon does seem in much better spirits than he was when we last saw him. Looking back, Brandon admits that going through the TV breakup was beyond devastating — especially because he was "certain" that he and Michelle would end up together. "In that moment, I thought, 'Oh, the world is over,'" he admits. Still, he has nothing but (purely appropriate, platonic) love for Michelle. "She did find happiness," he says, "and I'm thankful for that."
Kaitlyn shares a photo she took of Brandon brooding on the beach after Michelle dumped him and asks him what he was thinking in that moment.
Brandon says he was on the beach crying, but ultimately realized that even at his lowest point, God helped to remind him of all the beauty in the world. Ugh, I just love this guy.
Next it's time for Brandon to reunite with Michelle for the first time since that emotional night.
"You look lovely," begins Brandon. "Honestly, I mean, I don't really know what to say… I'd rather hear your side." Really though, what can Michelle say? The Bachelorette spends a fair amount of time explaining that she never thought it was possible to fall in love with two people at the same time — but she did. And when she told Brandon that she was in love with him, she meant it. "My decision to share that I was in love with you, I wasn't sharing that because I had already made a decision," she explains. "It's not an easy thing to be in this position… I wanted to be completely honest with where I was at, and that was that I was in love with you."
What Michelle doesn't say, but what is clear in the subtext, is that she ultimately loved Nayte more. Brandon seems somewhat satisfied with that answer, and even though he felt at times that Michelle "overlooked" his love, he still is grateful for the entire experience. "Honestly, I thank you, because I've never been that vulnerable in a relationship in my entire life," he says. "To me, it was so hard watching because I was so truly in love with you… At the end of the day, I do wish you the best." Awww, this guy is such a peach. Best of luck to you, Brandon! (Also: See you in Paradise!)
Welp, you know what's next, rose lovers: Time for the happy couple!
Okay, I'll admit it — these two do look great together. Nayte says he first realized that Michelle was something special on the basketball date. After offering us a long and somewhat convoluted analogy about listening to a song multiple times and eventually realizing it's your favorite song, Nayte says that something clicked on their one-one-one date: "I am literally witnessing myself fall in love. I couldn't believe it." Awww… Even though Nayte had a hard time Opening Up™ on the show, Michelle says now he's "so vulnerable" and "gives so many words of affirmation." Round of applause for men showing their emotions!
Still, leaving the Bachelorette bubble was hard — especially the part where Nayte had to watch 10 episodes of Michelle swooning for and smooching with other guys. "The biggest thing is that we communicate through everything," says Michelle. "It's not easy. There's going to be uncomfortable emotions — and we definitely had them."
Speaking of hard conversations, how do Michelle's wonderful parents, LaVonne and Ephraim, feel about Nayte now — especially since they were so clearly #TeamBrandon during the filming? Oh hey, there they are in the audience!
I swear to God, if these two angels get Covid from this ridiculous show… Anyhow, LaVonne says that she and her husband are truly "in love with Nayte." In fact, she and Nayte's mom, Leanna, are now BFFs. So what's next for Nayte and Michelle? Turns out he's moving to Minnesota… and soon!
"There's no reason to wait," Nayte gushes. "Let's do this! I'm excited." Kaitlyn asks if they are already house-hunting, and the answer is a resounding "yes." Okay, Paulie Claus — that's your cue! He brings out a gingerbread house on a silver platter, and…
Looks like "the Bachelor family" just gifted Nayte and Michelle a sizable check — for a down payment on their first home together! Okay, but is that gingerbread house edible? Because it looks delicious.
Looks like producers saved the best for last, rose lovers. The final 10 minutes of After the Final Rose are given over to humiliating our new Bachelor, Clayton Echard. "I kind of want to address the elephant in the room," says Kaitlyn. "There's been a lot of mixed reactions to you being announced as the Bachelor. I thought, there's nothing like facing your haters head-on." To that end, it's time for Mean Tweets: Bachelor edition!
Clayton handles this awkwardness with good humor, even when he has to read an insulting tweet that compares him to Shrek. If the goal was to make America feel bad for this big old hunk of white meat… well, it might have worked? At least in the studio, that is. The audience boos at each mean tweet, and the segment ends with the crowd chanting Clayton's name. "It's fun to be in on the joke!" giggles Kaitlyn. "I also know America is going to fall in love with you once they watch you." As for the Bachelor himself, he says, "I really hope that people just do give me a shot, because my journey is authentic."
Speaking of that "authentic" "journey," the episode ends with an extended sneak preview of Clayton's season of The Bachelor, premiering Jan. 3. There's squealing, crying, smooching, fighting, lots of bleeped-out expletives, and… this:
Welp, rose lovers, we made it to the end! If you haven't passed out from sheer exhaustion, take a minute and let me know your thoughts. Do you think Michelle and Nayte will make it? Are you willing to give Clayton a chance as the Bachelor? And do you think it's possible to get infected with Omicron just from watching a superspreader event on TV? Post your thoughts below!
One single woman searches for her future husband amid a sea of studs in this romantic reality series. Will you accept this rose?