TV Article

Bait and Switch

On ''The Bachelor,'' the fisherman reels one in: Though the editing made us think Byron was hooked on Tanya, there was something about Mary

The Bachelor: Byron | PRIZE CATCH Will Mary be a trophy wife?
Image credit: Mary Delgado: Adam Larkey
PRIZE CATCH Will Mary be a trophy wife?

''The Bachelor'': The fisherman reels one in

As Pee-wee Herman said in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, everyone's got a big but. On The Bachelor, the alpha male usually reveals his big but in the season finale, when he's talking to Girl B about how crazy he is about her and how beautiful she is and blah, blah, blah . . . but he's not in love with her and he's choosing Girl A. This season, although Bachelor Byron never used the b-word when dumping Texan Tanya, he certainly followed the pattern. After a lot of blah-blah about how strong his feelings were and how he ''had no idea how beautiful you would be on the inside,'' he dropped the (ungrammatical) bomb: ''I've only had a problem with I haven't fallen in love with you.''

This entire episode was built around a big but, and it left me feeling just as deceived and strung along as Tanya. For much of the first 90 minutes, we saw Byron giving her googly eyes, kissing her, grabbing her. His friends said he looked happier than they had ever seen him. Byron even got up and offered a toast in front of his parents and Tanya's mother: ''Here's to Christmases in Texas.'' (Are ''breach of promise'' laws still on the books?)

Meanwhile, whenever Byron was on camera with Mary, he looked bored, distracted, or nervous — or was giving that sincere, blinking, blank look that he has used when talking to women he's about to dump. One preview shot of the final rose ceremony showed Mary bowing her head in what looked like despair. And Mary kept going on depressingly about not wanting to be hurt again. (Mary: Now can you give it a rest about Bob?) When she asked Byron how his date the day before had gone, he replied, somewhat testily, ''Yesterday was great. Yesterday was yesterday, but we're here now.'' For once, I thought, the show is letting us see how the bachelor really feels and not just setting up false suspense with selective editing.

Well, we got fooled again. Tanya was limoed back into the dating pool after what she later called her fastest breakup ever, and the emotionally overwhelmed Mary stumbled out onto the rose platform. Sprinkling his spiel to his Cuban American intended with what sounded to me like pretty decent Spanish (he either told her, ''You look lovely tonight'' or ''You see tuna this nacho''), Byron said, ''I cannot see myself spending another minute without you as my wife.'' (Never mind that they both knew that they would endure months of forced separation between the taping and the broadcast.) After Mary reminded him to pass her the rose, he said, ''This, Mary Delgado, is my final rose. I will honor you, I will cherish you, I will make you so happy.'' Aw. Given Mary's underdog status as a former rejectee and as a brunette competing against a much flashier and slightly younger blonde, the moment actually delivered on the show's promise of ''the most romantic proposal ever.''

So why do I keep feeling I have a big but? Partially, it's Byron. Even after he rejected Tanya and could presumably speak sincerely about Mary, the first thing we heard was ''I have feelings for her that ring truer and stronger than anything else I've ever known'' — in other words, more of the suspiciously overwrought rhetoric he's been using all along to talk about women he wasn't that into, delivered in the same monotone. Although in the post-finale hour, he looked nice in casual wear and with his hair gel-free and not slicked back into those Laura Petrie-style flips, he still couldn't feign sincerity. After he blathered on, trying to explain to Tanya all the nice things he had said to her while he was preparing to reject her, she gave him a gentle tap and said, ''It's like, 'Where's that off button?' '' (Someone should definitely have hit the off button before Byron shared the story of how he wrote in his journal that his guardian angels had come to tell him that Mary was the one. I'll bet the other guys on the bass-fishing circuit are going to have fun with that: ''Hey, Byron, could one of your guardian angels come over here and give me a tow?'')

Mary is a little worrisome too. As one of Byron's friends pointed out, it's sometimes hard to tell if she's in it for Byron or to make up for her past loss. It didn't help when she said after Byron's proposal, ''This is finally my fairy-tale ending.'' Well, the five previous fairy-tale endings on The Bachelor have quickly resulted in breakups.

The fact that Byron's own parents — who seemed like such easygoing people — are divorced was a little hint of how hard things are out there in the real world. When Byron Sr. asked Tanya why she wasn't married yet, Byron's mother said, ''Smart.''

What did you think? Did Byron make the right choice? Did Mary? Was the editing suspenseful or just plain deceitful? And was it the most romantic proposal ever?

Originally posted Nov 25, 2004
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