The most shocking ''Bachelorette'' finale ever
Watching the first two hours of the Bachelorette season finale, I felt as if I were trapped in a movie theater that was playing the most inept, implausible romantic comedy ever concocted by a tag team of writers. The plot revolved around a stylish, attractive, and slightly neurotic heroine trying hard to choose between two guys even though she hadn't shared a single moment of genuine laughter, meaningful conversation, or intense chemistry with either.
But who needs a real connection when you've got music, lighting, and editing tricks to manipulate the audience into rooting for the only kind of ''happy ending'' Hollywood knows? The passionate kiss in a rainstorm. The mad dash from the altar and into the arms of Mr. Right outside the church. The . . . well, you've seen the movie.
That's why I just about fell off my couch when Jen Schefft, a woman who over the past eight weeks had seemed to grow increasingly self-involved and acutely aware of her position as a TV ''personality,'' grabbed a red pen and rewrote the Bachelorette script all by herself, choosing to be alone (gasp!) instead of entering into a sham marriage engagement with Jerry or John Paul. Whatever her reasons, Jen's sudden declaration of independence gave me hope if not for the future of love, feminism, and humanity, then at least for the future of ABC's reality dating franchise.
Not that ABC didn't try super hard to stick to its standard Bachelorette teleplay. The first of three (yes, three) hours nearly the same amount of time it took Martin Scorsese to tell the entire life story of Howard Hughes focused on the visits of Jerry and John Paul to Cleveland to meet Jen's parents and brother, all of whom appeared to deliver their dating-show home-visit banter from hidden cue cards. I especially loved it when Jen's dad calmly gave John Paul his blessing to ask for Jen's hand in marriage while his expression of pure panic said something completely different.
There wasn't a whole lot of drama chez Schefft, but the comedy made up for it. How about Jen's mom complimenting John Paul's decision to bring her a massive rust-colored vase instead of flowers because, well, ''Flowers do die.'' Cut to the next night, as Mrs. Schefft plunks Jerry's bouquet into John Paul's vase. And what was up with Jen sitting on her family's kitchen counter and placing her high-heeled shoes on the same surfaces where her cherished family members presumably prepare their meals?
I'm not sure Jen was laughing inside, though, when her dad revealed on national television that Jen is happiest with a man who, while not exactly dominating her, does manage to be in charge. Or when Jen's mom said she and Jen are similar because they both like to be taken care of, um, fiscally speaking. ''I like nice things,'' the hilarious Mrs. Schefft revealed. Hey, don't we all?
Not to worry: The suitors revealed plenty of embarrassing stuff about themselves, too. John Paul made it clear he thinks choosing a wife is kind of like choosing an automobile. It didn't bother me so much the first time he declared that Jen ''has all the qualities I would want in my wife,'' but by the sixth time he said it, I could almost imagine him going through a mental checklist of predetermined features: blond hair, small waist, ability to mingle at cocktail parties, wardrobe full of sparkly sweaters, independent suspension.
Not that Jen and Jerry's rapport seemed any more altar worthy. If you were days away from getting engaged to a guy, do you think you'd still have to ask him what exactly he did for a living? And frankly, would the following statement qualify as a sufficient declaration of affection from your future husband? ''The last thing I want you to question is whether or not I'm in love with you.'' Actually, Jerry, that's the exact kind of doublespeak that ought to raise a massive red flag.
Poor Jen! Not even her best friends, Abby and Michelle who smashed together would be the spitting image of Lizzie Grubman could manage to get real with her. (I wouldn't trust any friend who didn't acknowledge John Paul's weird lip thingy, would you?) Plus, seconds after Abby noted that there was ''something really wrong'' with Jen and that she was in a ''complete daze,'' they went ahead and took her engagement-ring shopping at Harry Winston.
This all turned Jen into to a tearful mess (not exactly her best look) while her friends told her how normal it was to contemplate getting engaged to two guys at once. ''I'm sorry I'm not somebody who just takes a leap of faith and goes with the moment,'' Jen sobbed into the camera, ''but I did that before and it [bleeped] me.'' Somewhere between this expletive-laced tirade and the point where John Paul bought a $50,500 diamond ring for Jen, I considered letting my television take its own leap of faith right out my fourth-story window. But can I tell you how glad I am that I didn't? Because otherwise, I'd have missed what ABC shockingly failed to refer to as the most shocking Bachelorette twist of all time.
You knew Jen (standing in that totally bizarre orange-and-purple room with the crop circles all over the floor and looking a little like Debbie Downer in a white evening gown) was going to reject John Paul when she kept saying her head told her he was the perfect husband but her heart told her she had a stronger connection with Jerry.
But suddenly, at 10 p.m., the show goes live and we find out that Jerry is backstage waiting for Jen to make a decision about the marriage proposal and big honkin' diamond he gave her several months ago. And then host Chris Harrison introduces a song written by Jerry and recorded by one of his friends, and on screen there's images of all of Jerry and Jen's sort of romantic dates.
What's that? Does Jerry's song literally say that the ''lucky boy and beauty queen'' belong on magazine covers and deserve their own TV show? All I know is that if this is Jerry's way of convincing Jen that he loves her more than he does the spotlight, he might've given more careful consideration to his lyrics.
No matter. By the time Debbie Downer (clad in a strange floral top and unflattering black skirt) hits the stage, it's obvious from the look on her face that she's going to reject Jerry, too. ''This is so awkward and awful,'' she says apologetically. Yes, but it's good television, so it's okay. While Jerry claims he's surprised, he couldn't be more gracious, thanking Jen for reintroducing him to lost portions of his own heart and defending her honor.
Smiles all around, right? Well, not exactly. Host Chris Harrison and the audience members don't believe in a Bachelorette's free will in love and marriage. Two guys propose to you, you'd better say yes to at least one of them! Maybe both you might need a backup! Harrison punishes Jen by asking if a lack of sexual fireworks doomed the relationship, and then demands to know if she's dating her boss. (With interviewing skills like this, the guy shouldn't quit his day job as an HGTV host.)
But Jen, if America hates you (and they might) and if Chris Harrison hates you (and he seems to), then remember John Paul's words as he pulled away in his limo, brokenhearted: The 25-year-old Oklahoman noted that someday soon you'll wake up and be 32 years old and still looking for a husband, and it'll be too late to get him back. Girl, if after all this, that's the worst thing you can say about your life, then let me be the first to congratulate you on a truly happy ending.
What do you think? Is Jen crazy to reject two perfectly acceptable guys, or did she do the right thing? Is 32 the new 40? Did you believe that Jerry was really shocked? And was that song segment actually his failed audition tape for the next season of The Bachelor?