Earlier in July, I spotted two-time Bachelorette finalist Nick Viall skulking around the VIP section at Pitchfork Music Festival. I stomped up to him, plucked a pen from behind my ear, and began jotting down detailed notes about his demeanor and body language as I peppered him with questions about the reality show franchise’s inner workings.
I stomped up to him, asked if he’d pose for a picture with me, and told him that our meeting was the “best thing that ever happened to me.” Imagine what I’d do if I met a pseudocelebrity I didn’t think was a weepy wuss. Maybe if I’d known then what I know after this week’s season finale, I would’ve made a more honest effort to ask him something (anything). Like, how does it feel to be a reality show’s sacrificial lamb?
This season of The Bachelorette—the program’s 11th—got off to a gruesome start. Granted, the show is always trash (trash we all love rolling around in like dogs picking up foul odors), but it reached a new low by pitting Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson against each other and allowing the stable of male contestants to decide which woman was more desirable. If The Bachelorette was created to offset The Bachelor‘s tradition of subjection and humiliation, then the horned, pitchfork-toting creatures who make this show really blew it when they came up with that move. (And, for the record, I don’t believe for a second that Kaitlyn’s victory over Britt wasn’t planned in advance.)
And that wasn’t the only instance of the producers fucking with the formula to entertainment’s detriment. The rose ceremony, which typically takes place at the end of episodes, was moved somewhere near the middle. Without this logical closing, the episodes would meander until Chris Harrison shouted “Next time on The Bachelorette . . . ,” at which point we’d remember we were supposed to be watching a TV show and not checking work e-mail or scrolling through Facebook. And was the travel budget cut dramatically? Or were one or more finalists placed on some kind of terrorist no-fly list? These assholes barely went anywhere. If Ireland’s tourism traffic drops off for the next several months, it’s because we’re all sick of looking at the place. But the most egregious offense by far was eliminating hometown visits. Rather than sending Kaitlyn to meet the finalists’ families in their homes, the show arranged for everyone to engage in stilted chitchat at some sterile resort in Utah that looked vaguely like a retirement community. Families tend to act more bizarre in the comfort of their own environments. Why erase that possibility?
This season wasn’t a total bust. We got to meet Tony, who is ridiculous and got away with never explaining why he had a black eye. And, of course, Nick lost. For a second time. He was was smug and self-assured, and no display of confidence goes unpunished on this show. After a season so dull, all the producers could do to make it up to us was humiliate him again. Is all forgiven? they wonder, their bottoms lips jutting out. Eh, we’ll wait to see how good and gross this season of Bachelor in Paradise is.