In the very first season finale of The Bachelor, Alex chooses between Trista and Amanda — but viewers didn't quite get the proposal they hoped for.

By Kristen Baldwin
April 27, 2020 at 09:44 AM EDT

On April 25, 2002, more than 18 million people tuned in for the very first season finale of The Bachelor. After a five-week “journey,” single hunk/hair product connoisseur Alex Michael had two potential wives: Trista and Amanda. But even in ye olden days of season 1, the Bachelor wasn’t about to choose his final lady before checking in with his family first.

Let's recap!

Trista, the one finalist who doesn’t own a sex swing (as far as we know), is up first. Will she pass muster with the Michael family? “My mom is excited for me, but she thinks that it’s too short of a period to really know for sure if somebody is right for you,” says Alex. Your mother is correct, sir!

Though I’ve spent the last 18 years thinking that Alex’s last name is pronounced the way it sounds, like “Michael,” his dad, Peter, sets me straight right away by introducing himself to Trista as “Peter Michelle.” Mind. Blown.

Anyhoo, Trista meets Alex’s sisters, Jen and Mary Kelly, his mom, Mary Jay, his dad Peter, and his brother-in-law Jeff. Pops jumps right in, rhetorical guns blazing. “My sense is that you’re a very competitive person, and this whole thing was sort of a contest that you wanted to win, regardless of the final outcome,” he says to Trista. Um, is that a question? Either way, Trista tells Peter that she’s not treating Alex like a “prize” to be won. “If I wasn’t the right person,” she says, “then I thought he should be with the right, compatible person.”

Credit: ABC

That said, Trista wants the Michaels to know she’s not a total lunatic: “I really am in like with your son, but I really don’t think either of us is in love, per se, yet.” Holy crap, rose lovers, are you hearing this? Was Trista the first and last Bachelor contestant to have an ounce of common sense? As the kids say, we stan a level-headed queen! (Yes, I know the “kids” don’t say stuff like that.)

Peter and Mary Jay absolutely LOVE it. “That’s the perfect answer,” says mom. Later, dad tells us that Trista is pretty “self-possessed” and smart… for a Miami Heat dancer.

Once Trista leaves for the night, though, Alex’s family gets their knives out. They make fun of Trista for being a “cheerleader” — which, of course, she isn’t. (But also, why didn’t Alex them about Trista’s other job as a pediatric physical therapist?) They also make fun of Trista for saying she’s been “hurt a lot” in relationships. “Give me a break,” scoffs Jen. “Move on, babe.” Rude!

Mom, meanwhile, states the obvious: “I don’t think you’re ready to get engaged.”

Welp, Amanda — you’re up! I’m glad to see that she covered up the girls for her visit. The Michaels are a proper Catholic family, and décolletage is frowned upon.

Credit: ABC

Mary Jay wants to know two things: 1) If Amanda is Catholic, and 2) If Amanda, who “very recently” had a marriage annulled, feels like going on TV to find a husband in six weeks is really a great idea. Answers: She’s lapsed, but willing to go back to church; and yes, she thinks it’s a spectacular idea. Growing up, says Amanda, “I couldn’t wait to be middle-aged, and be married and have my family!”

As for the age issue (Amanda is 23, and Alex is 31), they both say it hasn’t been a problem. But Mary Jay doesn’t even wait for Amanda to leave before she pulls Alex into the kitchen and gives him the lowdown. “I have not seen something from you that looks like, ‘I am really in love with this girl,’” she says. (Once again, correct.) “Don’t do anything rash!”

Moms — what would we do without them?

Alex’s sisters say they liked Amanda better than Trista, because her personality is more like theirs. Still, they don’t want their brother to propose just yet. “She’s pretty much on the baby train,” says Mary Kelly. Alex admits that Amanda’ ticks more boxes on his pro/con list, “and the fact that she likes me more is a pretty good sign,” he adds. But the Bachelor says he’s “a little bit more wrapped up” with Trista.

Papa Peter (and his GIANT can of beer) has some good advice for Alex:

You said it, sir.

Unsure of which woman he wants to choose, and knowing that his parents really don’t want him to propose to anyone, Alex asks for one more date with both Trista and Amanda. Once again, Trista goes first, and all the Bachelor wants is to “hang around” and chat with her over pizza and beer. And what a chat it is! Suddenly, two days after “eloquently” explaining to his parents why she wouldn’t want to get engaged so quickly, now Trista says she’s maybe open to an engagement?

Alex wonders aloud if Trista is just saying that to “win,” but our future Bachelorette insists that she’s not just in it for the competition. “Now I’m ready to, you know, fight for you and tell you that I want to be with you,” says Trista, who clearly got a stern talking-to/pep talk/brainwashing session from producers. And Alex LOVES it. When Trista asks him who she would pick if he had to pick right now, he mumbles, “I’d probably pick you.”

Things are going so well, Trista might even stay the night.

Credit: ABC

Of course it is, honey.

The next night, it’s Amanda’s turn for a Last Chance Date. They sit on a giant ottoman and eat dinner, and then it’s time for (you guessed it) the hot tub.

“I’m falling in love with you,” says Amanda. “I will support whatever decision you make, but I would just like to be in your future.”

So who will Alex choose? As the sun rises on Proposal Day, the Bachelor says he feels like this whole process has aged him five years. “I really believe in the chance for real, lasting love here,” he says, before heading to Harry Winston to “purchase” a ring. That’s right — in season 1, there was no Neil Lane with his suitcase of baubles. But don’t worry, the rings are still large and gaudy. Before the Bachelor can put a ring on it (or not), he must sit down with our host for a quick debrief. (Why are they sitting in a bedroom? Could production really not find any other place to set up in this mansion?)

Credit: ABC

“Sometimes what you want and what you need are different,” says Alex. “And the woman that I’m choosing is definitely what I need, and I realize that she’s also what I want… I’m falling in love with her as a result.”

With that, Harrison explains how it’ll go down — the women will arrive separately, and Alex will speak to them each “privately” about his decision. “Now remember,” adds the host, “both women are likely to be expecting a proposal.”

The women aren’t the only ones expecting a proposal. I mean, in the series premiere, Chris Harrison literally said, “If all goes according to plan, several weeks from now our Bachelor will propose marriage to one of our 25 bachelorettes.” So has all gone according to plan? Let’s find out.

For the third time this hour (oh my god, this episode is only an hour — can you believe it???), Trista goes first. “You have made my heart race from the first day,” Alex tells her. “I’ve enjoyed every moment that we’ve spent together… but I don’t think that we are meant to spend our lives together.” Trista, sphinx-like as usual, smiles politely and hugs Alex goodbye. “Good luck,” she whispers, as Harrison leads her to a waiting limousine. And there, rose lovers, Trista gives what remains to this day the most dignified Reject Limo exit interview ever.

Credit: ABC

Damn right it will, Queen!

Now it’s Amanda’s turn. The Bachelor is bowled over when he sees her. “She looked incredible in this beautiful blue dress,” he gushes. “She had this beautiful smile, and I knew without a doubt, this is right.” Great, so you’re gonna propose, right? Right? OMG, rose lovers, he’s getting out the ring…

Credit: ABC

“I find myself falling in love with you,” says Alex, pulling out the ring. “I got this ring for you. I’m gonna hold on to it. Let me explain why.”

That scream you heard was the sound of 18 million viewers (and probably a dozen producers) screaming “BULLS---!!!!!”

Look, Alex’s reasoning is sound. He tells Amanda that before they get engaged, “I want to make sure that we feel the same way about each other outside of the fantasy world of mansions and limos.” But if we wanted sound reasoning, we’d watch literally anything else on television.

Amanda doesn’t seem too upset, and she giggles giddily when Alex asks her to move to California for him (typical). The Bachelor’s final “lady” is happy to accept when he gets down on one knee and offers her… his final rose.

Credit: ABC

RIP-OFF! And yes, I know this was ultimately for the best. Even though Alex says Amanda is “the person that I could spend my whole life with,” the couple broke up after a few months. Still, I wanted an ill-fated engagement, dammit!

The good news is, rose lovers, Alex’s loss was America’s gain. Perhaps if the first season of The Bachelorette is ever back on Tubi, I’ll recap it here. Until then, thank you for joining me on this "journey," fellow citizens of Bachelor Nation.

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Chris Harrison hosts the romance reality competition series in which a gaggle of women vie for the Bachelor’s heart — and a wedding proposal. Will you accept this rose?

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