You know how you can see a movie with a big twist at the end, and kick yourself for not figuring it out sooner? That's a bit how I felt watching the end of this season of The Bachelorette, in which Roberto Martinez proposed to Ali Fedotowsky, and she ended up accepting. All of this drama, male preening, getting of tattoos, and tours of basements with dead animals in them led up to what was in retrospect the only conclusion this season could have had: Ali picking Roberto.
The truism on The Bachelor/Bachelorette is that it's never the one who seems obvious right away -- after all, there's a full ten weeks of show to do, and if you make it obvious right away that your hero/heroine truly has eyes for only one person, you're going to have trouble getting viewers for those last nine weeks. But Ali pretty much admitted on Monday that it was love at first sight, and certainly those signals were there all along. Roberto received the "first impression" rose. He was the first person to get what amounted to a second solo date (during their shared cameo in The Lion King). Ali was always more physically demonstrative with Roberto than with any of the other men.
The only factors that might have led one to believe that she might not pick Roberto were either a case of huge misdirection on the part of the producers (who I suppose deserve credit for subverting the most vocal spoilers about this season), Ali acting on her frequently stated fears that Roberto was just too good for her, or simply deciding at the end that she wasn't ready to accept a proposal. But once Frank left (the only other person Ali could have plausibly been thinking of as a winner), and once Roberto finally admitted he was in love with her, the drama was over, despite the producers' attempts to sow a little doubt up to the very end.
I've gone this far without mentioning Chris, who had the tough luck of getting the "I like you ... just not in that way" speech much later in the process than most men on The Bachelorette. He comes out of the show with his reputation enhanced, and a ready-made storyline for being the next Bachelor if he chooses to go that route (and this is just a guess, but I see a possibility that he might turn such a gig down if asked). But in the end, he turned out to be very much a supporting player in someone else's love story.
The first portion of the season finale proceeded as it always does, with the two final contenders meeting the bachelorette's family. Ali's parents, sister, and camera-shy brother were flown to Bora Bora for the occasion. Roberto came across as respectful but somewhat low-key, and when Ali's father responded to Roberto asking permission for his daughter's hand by saying "I don't see a problem with that," it was a bit puzzling. But Dad used the same words later when Chris made the same request, and he clearly got along better with the ex-jock. The rest of Ali's family came across more as fans of Chris, bonding with him over his Massachusetts background, and in Ali's mom's case, over his recovery from the death of his own mother. There were none of the awkward moments we've seen on this day in the past, but there were a few little hints that by this point, Ali was almost having to remind herself that Chris was still in the picture.
Roberto was up first again for his final date before the final rose, and it was a day that illustrated their shared love of adventure and fast vehicles. At one point Roberto was actually playing with a stingray while Ali stayed in safety behind him, which practically made me fall in love with the guy. He came across as nonchalant and coasting on his incredible looks for most of this season, but Roberto pulled out all the emotional stops on the date, embracing Ali in the surf as rain fell on them, and finally telling Ali he loved her later in their suite. For the girl who has doubted all along she could ever land someone as hot as Roberto, this was like touching a match to gunpowder. Ali was in love with him too! But she still had one more date with Chris! Er ... right?
Not quite. And here's where all those "Ali breaks the rules" teasers we've been hearing come into the picture. When you sign up to be the Bachelor/ette, part of the deal is that you sort of have to pretend to be equally interested in everyone still on the show, up till the time they no longer get a rose. Obviously, real life does not work like this, and it was at this point in the process where Ali announced she wasn't going to string Chris along for one more date and what would surely be a heartbreaking rejected marriage proposal, when she had already made up her mind.
The hard part would be breaking the news to Chris, who had also had a tough time opening up emotionally at first, but by now basically could not shut up (at least in voiceover) about how much he loved Ali and how wonderful their life together would be with Cape Cod babies all over the place. Ali arrived for what Chris thought was their date, and began rambling on about how much her family liked him, and then got to the point, or close enough to it for him to get the message: that sometimes being a great guy isn't enough. The look that came over Chris's face when he suddenly realized he was getting dumped was heartbreaking, but giving the male perspective here: Ali's instincts were exactly correct; this direct and honest approach was the best way she could have handled it, and kudos to her for not going through with the program and pretending to the camera that she loved two men when she didn't. Chris pulled himself together to thank her for being awesome, and then he saw a rainbow, thought about his mother, and America melted in a big ol' puddle.
Of course, Roberto did not know any of this was happening, so even as the suspense had been ended for viewers and even as he picked out his engagement ring, he was still doubting he would be the final choice. And because the rumors about a shocking finish had been so insistent, there was still the stray thought that Ali might dump Roberto at the last minute and announce she was moving to Chicago to become a love slave to both Frank and Nicole. But no: all the delay was merely so the female viewers could get their proposal porn at the end. Roberto got on one knee, Ali gave him the rose, and they're going to live happily ever after, or at least until Ali listens to a GPS instead of her fiance.
The "After the Final Rose" concluding hour wasn't all that interesting, apart from the news that Frank did not show up for his promised closure with Ali. Frank never came across as someone who would voluntarily turn down a chance to be on television, so perhaps he really has turned over a new leaf. For Nicole's sake and the sake of all the women in Chicago, let us hope so. Aside from that, we witnessed Chris continuing to be all mature and adult about coming in second, Roberto and Ali gloating about the glory of their endless love, and Chris Harrison patting the franchise on the back for not starting off another month with a former couple screaming at each other on the set.
We know how these stories almost always end once the excitement fades, but for now, let's congratulate the happy couple, and hope that their wedding vows can avoid the word "amazing," without which everyone on this season would have been mute.