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Did the best woman win on ''The Bachelor''? Not by a long shot, says Jessica Shaw, but the ultimate pairing was beside the point

The Bachelor | HIS INTENDED Alex chose Amanda on the ''Bachelor'' finale
Image credit: The Bachelor: Byron J. Cohen
HIS INTENDED Alex chose Amanda on the ''Bachelor'' finale

Did the best woman win on ''The Bachelor''?

''You have got to be kidding me.'' Those words came out of my mouth so loudly (even though, I might add, I was watching home alone with a Tasti-D-Lite) that I believe I scared my neighbors. Like it wasn't bad enough that Bachelor Alex dissed the extremely promising Trista for moron Amanda? Then he dangled a Harry Winston diamond in front of the 23-year-old party planner ''on the baby train'' (as Alex's sister described her), but then didn't even propose? We watched all these episodes of build-up for this?

It's been hard not to get riled up about this ABC ''docu-drama.'' From the show's premiere, any woman who was hooked (and it seems like every woman I know was tuning in to see which pathetic bride-wannabe would score a rose from the ever-irritating Alex) on this series had to defend her feminist standing. Why were we watching a show so demeaning to women? Did we all secretly want to marry an Ivy League-educated businessman? Do all women just love to get our claws out when it comes to judging other women?

Sure, the initial obsession with the show was more of the ''train wreck'' variety. I could not believe 25 women -- some actually of passable intelligence -- would compete for an engagement ring. But by the last couple of episodes, ''The Bachelor'' became classic drama, not a political statement about the disenfranchised gender in the dating industry. We had the guarded beauty. The bubbly imbecile. The seemingly perfect man who, beneath the surface, was an emotional Superfund site. These characters were far better than anything I've seen on film or on the stage in the past several months.

Of course, they weren't characters so without a script to blame, it's hard to believe the outcome. Trista started off so icy you practically had to put on a sweater while watching. Gradually, she warmed up to Alex and we watched them get to know each other as two ''normal'' people should -- okay, minus the puking in the helicopter part. She didn't throw herself at him or sexually attack him. She didn't claim to have the deepest of emotions she didn't quite have. Still, it was impossible not to see the connection growing stronger between these two as the weeks went on.

Amanda, on the other hand, played the game as if the only books she ever read were ''Cinderella,'' ''Sleeping Beauty,'' and ''Snow White.'' This girl signed on looking for Prince Charming. She seduced. She flattered. She pledged eternal affection. And, if we learned anything from Alex, it's clear that an ego boost can be the ultimate aphrodisiac.

By the last 10 minutes when the music swelled and Amanda, all cleavage and dopey eyes, was weeping while ''I went to Harvard and Stanford'' Alex tried to pretend as if he hadn't made the worst choice of his life, the show went from being water cooler fun to simply a bore. The best woman didn't win mostly because the man was so far from being a prize himself.

The fact is, after watching the lame losers and horrible winners, it's difficult to get excited about seeing a second installment. Maybe if Trista had gotten the final rose and turned down the marriage proposal, we would have felt satisfied. At least it would have been a genuine moment. I turned off my TV tonight willing to bet the roof over my head that as Alex and Amanda do the talk show rounds this coming week, they'll have been long broken up. ''Happily ever after'' never looked so unappealing.

Did the best woman ''win''?

Originally posted Apr 26, 2002