Is Love Alive? Processing The Bachelorette Season 13 Finale

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The Bachelorette ended last night not with a bang but with a hours of whimpering and I am unsure how I’m supposed to process. I’m just sitting here in the middle of my mediocre life, gobsmacked. It’s not that we didn’t know this was going to happen, but the way it happened makes me question whether I knew anything at all.

Here are what seem to be facts in this alt-facts, post-Whaboom world we live in.

Last night, Rachel Lindsay, stunning lawyer Bachelorette, and Peter, salt-and-pepper snack, broke love. After a grueling 45 minutes of conversation and a truly pearl-clutching read from Peter, they decided that they couldn’t reconcile their differences, essentially kissing love on the mouth while wearing poison lipstick.

The finale was like a three-hour rendition of “Winter Song” and I’m stunned.

The two dog-lovers with teeth gaps argued once again over Peter’s desire to have a normal courtship despite the fact that both of them went through a very lengthy audition process and signed a massive number of legal documents so that they could appear on a show that could be called Black Tie Speed Dating. Peter decided that the hill he would die on was the “I won’t be pressured into proposing” one. Which, fine. That’s a great hill. Again, you’re on a television show called Proposal Pressure Cooker so maybe read the room.

Rachel also held her ground, which basically amounted to “Don’t propose because I want you to, propose because you want to (and the producers are legally requiring it).”

Neither budged because that’s how real arguments between real couples work sometimes. Sometimes you have a meltdown at a Macy’s over Wedgewood china; sometimes you debate the semantics of engagement on a television show called Don’t Think About It; It’s Just The Rest of Your Life.

Things got heated. Rachel accused Peter of not knowing what he wanted. Peter countered that he actually did know what he wanted, thanks much, but he’d be willing to go against his own wants if that meant keeping her.

Rachel still wasn’t mollified. “I want someone who knows what they want to do!” she shouted. Peter shot back, “Great, then go find someone to have a mediocre life with.” And every pearl in every oyster in all of the sea got clutched.

And that was the end of it, wasn’t it? When they kissed goodbye, Peter said, “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.” In a romcom, that line lets up know that at some point before the credits roll, someone is going to go running through the airport to catch someone else before they get on a plane or whatever it is that people do nowadays when they want to make a grand romantic gesture but don’t want to get tased by TSA.

Yet in place of grand gestures, we got awkward body posture as Rachel and Peter reunited on the live finale and sat as a far apart as possible on the sofa.

Elsewhere in the three-hour show, Rachel had a conscious uncoupling with physical trainer Eric, who grew a breakup beard and seems to be living his best life.

And lastly: Rachel chose cheeky chiropractor Bryan and was rewarded with the proposal she seemed hellbent on receiving. There is no wedding on the horizon, however. After haranguing Peter about making a commitment, Rachel revealed on the finale that she and Bryan would be “taking it slow.” Ah yes, that new “slow-engagement” movement. It’s crock pot couplehood. Everyone’s doing it. Except, apparently, Rachel and Peter. Bryan, the sous-vide suitor, has finally won her heart.

I think the lingering question from last night’s episode is whether we were expecting the wrong thing. Bryan and Peter were front-runners from the beginning. Bryan has a large fan base who like noisy kissing and Olga, his phenomenal/terrible mom-wife. The choice of Bryan over Peter isn’t super surprising, nor is it all that bad. In an emergency phone session with my therapist this morning, we reaffirmed that Rachel is a grown woman and she can do what she wants. Even if what she wants is getting engaged to a man for whom her sister Constance wouldn’t cross the street. We cannot control our hearts nor the hearts of our friends, according to my therapist. So, chew on that.

Nevertheless, the story of The Bachelorette is ultimately a romance and romance is built on big moments of magic, on coincidence and confluence, on sudden rushes of feelings and long-simmering desire. And last night we didn’t get that. Instead, we watched a picture-perfect couple go through the very real, very relatable process of discovering that they weren’t going to be compatible. There’s no magic in that. That’s as flat-footed and Muggle-born as they come.

This was a romcom as directed by Werner Herzog. Peter and Rachel’s breakup took up a full third of the episode. That’s like devoting half of Sleepless in Seattle to Bill Pullman’s character.

Thanks to the new live format, Rachel got to relive all three hours of footage like she were starring in a Lifetime movie version of A Christmas Carol. I’m obsessed with myself and yet if presented with the opportunity to watch a super painful breakup followed by an engagement that seemed a bit like an afterthought I’d have to give it a hard pass. “I’ll just scroll through my own Instagram feed until I OD on narcissism, thanks.”

But Rachel did it. She did all of the sometimes challenging, sometimes maddening things the show threw at her this season. She came back after having her heart broken by Nick.

She did it all for love, which means big moments of magic and small fights about semantics. It means proposals in front of scenic vistas and sometimes, a gap between two people that will never be closed. It’s not always romantic, but it’s pretty damn real.

R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas is a playwright and person on the internet. He writes a daily humor column called “Eric Reads the News” on

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