Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' Recap

Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' Recap
(Screen Capture from ABC)

Like the most capable of Formula One pit crews, the Bachelor producers pulled out every conceivable trick in the book for last night’s finale. They brought in Ben’s mother, a cross-examining answer to Barbara Walters. They imported Ben’s poncho-wearing sister, whose known model prejudice seemed a shoo-in for a Courtney face-off, then crowned her with a Fair Isle beanie for comic effect. They reunited Lindzi with Swiss horses in a bid to ignite her fighting spirit. They even outfitted the contestants in countless examples of monochromatic knitwear, commandeered Swiss airspace to make way for the show’s legion of helicopters, and filmed the Matterhorn from myriad angles. It was a heroic, no, super-heroic mission, and to underline it, they put their leading ladies in capes. Capes!

Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' RecapBut in the end, it felt less like a dramatic race to the finish, and more like a Herculean effort to close the gap with frontrunner Courtney, whose car had time to do a victory lap before crossing the finish line with a purr. (Speaking of purring, we’d be remiss not to mention this bonus special effect from the show’s intro: an overt camera pan to Courtney petting a stray European cat, as if to prove she doesn’t kill everything she touches after all. Subtle.)

Yes, there was an air of inevitability to the whole thing, like the return of Ben’s very own Jaws theme song, “This Year’s Love.” Then there were his endless aviation-as-relationship metaphors (“We’re flying over the Swiss alps, and I’m hoping our relationship is progressing to new heights”). And by they way did you know Titanic is out in theaters again? In 3D? You may have gleaned that information from watching the Bachelor a couple of times.

Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' RecapOf course, they had two hours to fill, so everyone dutifully went through the motions. Ben had to break into Lindzi’s emotional fortress before rejecting her. When she finally did submit with the “I love you” she was withholding, she was rewarded with Ben’s cult leader–like approval: “Thank you for opening up, and getting to the point where I thought you could get to,” he praised, stopping short of adding, “when the spaceship comes, you’ll be approved to board.”

Newly devout disciple Lindzi responded in kind, by thanking Ben for his patience, because, you know, the guy is practically a saint for waiting a few weeks for Lindzi to profess her undying love to a near-stranger who will answer with “thank you” at best, all the while sleeping with multiple other women. “It’s the first time I’ve been this sure of something,” Lindzi confided, leaving the audience to question how she even selects a cereal at the supermarket if the most confident she’s ever been about anything is 50-50.

Soon, it was Courtney’s turn for a snowglobe–themed date, and after a thrilling toboggan session, she seized the opportunity to put it all out there with a thoughtful boxed gift. “It’s heavy,” Ben exclaimed, allowing a flicker of concern for Lindzi’s safety, (and the fear that this might go the way of Seven) to pass his brow. But newly ordained angel Courtney had only sweet nothings to offer in her present, including a card detailing the profound nature of her love (with a P.S. about the mix CD she’d included). So moved was our Bachelor by her open-hearted display, that he responded with a tepid, “That was really nice.” After a less-than-confident goodbye, it was time for Ben to reunite with an old friend.

Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' RecapLooking as West Palm Beach–tan and reality TV–ready as always, Ben’s personal jeweler arrived on the scene to answer his proposal call. Ben greeted his familiar visitor with more passion than he’d shown either of his lady loves, an unspoken, “Neil, you old dog, we meet again” hanging in the air. But back to the diamonds. “When I look at these rings, I can’t help but think there’s only one woman I want to propose to,” Ben confided, like an eager puppy who’d learned a new trick.

Finally, the time to dress like a Jedi warrior going to the opera had arrived. Lindzi left behind her unremarkable staple tank top and jeans combo, for a navy Tadashi Shoji silk-chiffon gown, with a cascading confetti skirt. The look was topped with a green velvet cape, which felt out of place with the dress, as green velvet capes are apt to do. (We’ve all been there: You try it on in the Renaissance Fair and think it will go with everything, only to bring it home and find it’s deceptively challenging to implement.) After taking her heartbreak like a champ, Lindzi made her helicopter escape, and it was Mountaintop Proposal O’Clock.

Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' RecapEnter Courtney, who’d traded a scene-stealing Navajo wrap sweater for a pageant-friendly black sequin cut-out gown by Alberto Makali, accessorized with an ivory cape (very Gwyneth at this year’s Oscars). There were also full-length black evening gloves, the better to try on that shiny new rock with… oh wait, maybe that wasn’t entirely thought through. No matter. We all knew her answer. With Ben and Courtney’s “forever, ever, ever…” echoing from the Alps, the camera swung back for a Sound of Music style fadeout, and the moment we’d really all been waiting for was upon us.

Cue the most highly-anticipated After the Rose in Bachelor history, aka Let’s Bask in the Inevitable Breakdown of this Fictional Relationship. But where it was Courtney who’d been on trial for the Women Tell All episode, this time around it was Ben who had a lot to answer for, namely those tabloid photos of him groping other women.

So what did our floppy-haired hero have to say for his fall from grace? A less than airtight defense, which alternated between, “those are my friends from San Francisco” and “those are pictures from the past.” Or maybe they were friends from the past who’d returned to haunt his Bachelor present? It was all very confusing.

Primetime Fashion: 'Bachelor' Finale and 'After the Rose' RecapMore confusing still: Suddenly, we found ourselves sympathizing with Courtney, who’d not only been abandoned by Ben in her hour of need, but whose hair had grown so glossy, such a hyper-rich shade of brown, that it left us utterly transfixed. Wearing glittering silver stilettos, and poured into a sparkling white cocktail dress with cap sleeves, the beautiful villain had turned teary victim. And the camera was loving it. “I’m sorry, I hate crying,” she apologized to Chris Harrison—the man who introduced her as “the woman the country loves to hate.”

“That’s okay, I know it’s not easy,” he answered, trying desperately to conceal the That’s Why It’s So Awesome! sentiment running through the ratings reader of his mind. He then slipped seamlessly into the role of corrupt couple’s counselor, stoking Courtney’s trust issues and bringing Ben to the brink of tears before forcing the shaky couple to recommit themselves to a wedding. Considering Courtney was uncertain as to whether she and Ben were still together at the show’s opening, things had come a long way in the span of an hour. But as true fans of the series will know, the first rule of Bachelor is that no one talks about calling off the wedding until they’re casting for Bachelor Pad.

(Screen Captures from ABC)