'The Bachelorette' season finale recap: Rachel lives her best life

Kristen Baldwin
Editor-in-Chief

Warning: This recap for the season finale of The Bachelorette contains spoilers. 

Well, rose lovers, we — and our beloved bachelorette — have made it to the end of this “journey.” As for the happiness of the aforementioned ending … well, I think by now we’ve all learned to reserve judgment on that until at least six to eight months after the finale.

But before we can get to the proposal, first we must go to the Tealight Candle Thunderdome, where Chris Harrison and Team Bachelorette have compelled Rachel to sit on the stage and live-blog her own finale for our viewing pleasure.

Photo: ABC

“Can I leave?” asks the Bachelorette, not joking at all. Sorry, toots, but you’re stuck with us.

Now let’s go back even further — two weeks, to be exact, to Rachel and Peter’s emotional impasse in Rioja, Spain. “In the next, basically, week at this point, what if I’m not ready to say, ‘Will you marry me?’” Peter asks the tearful Bachelorette. She has no ready answer other than, “I’m trying not to cry.” Rachel needs a relationship that she knows will move past the “girlfriend-boyfriend stage,” and it does not look as though Peter will be able to give it to her.

Still, Peter urges Rachel not to let the focus on a televised proposal scuttle their relationship, which he says is “worth pursing.” It’s a nice, reasonable sentiment, but “nice” and “reasonable” are not at all what Team Bachelorette wants at this point — and they’ve successfully impressed their desires upon Rachel. So what is she going to do?

Photos: ABC

Give him the Fantasy Suite card, of course! After all, Rachel says she and Peter “have a lot that we have to talk about,” and what better place to do it than a luxury, camera-rree zone that also has room service? The Bachelorette is hopeful. “Maybe there will be clarity in the morning,” she says.

I’ll say:

Photos: ABC

That’s about as clear as things are gonna get, gurl. “I really feel like the time that Peter and I spent alone made our relationship better,” says Rachel. “But we’re still on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to a proposal.”

Make up your mind, girl! It’s time for the rose ceremony. … Wait, what’s this?

Photos: ABC

Omg, I forgot — we still have to get through Bryan’s overnight date! This season’s time-shifting shenanigans have me all kinds of turned around. [Heavy sigh.] All right, let’s just get this over with.

Rachel and Bryan ride on horseback through the vineyard to a rustic outdoor bar, where they stop for some wine and a strained conversation. Let’s listen in:

Rachel is clearly distracted, mainly because Peter “messed with [her] mind” and now she doesn’t have a clear handle on which guy to send packing at the rose ceremony. Over dinner, Bryan admits that their date “felt a little off,” because he felt “a different energy” than Rachel — but the Bachelorette apologizes and assures him that her spacey energy doesn’t have anything to do with him.

Photos: ABC

All right you crazy kids, off to the Fantasy Suite you go.

“We’re back on track. The chemistry is hotter than ever,” Bryan announces. “Any doubts we had about each other were all answered last night.”

Photos: ABC

Okay, okay, okay. Now can we get to the final rose ceremony, please? The windup is all about how Rachel knows she wants a proposal at the end, how she knows Peter might not give it to her, and how she has to just follow her heart, and so that means the last man to be sent to the Reject SUV is. …

Photos: ABC

Though Eric was ready to propose, Rachel says she doesn’t “personally feel like he’s ready for marriage.” By contrast, Peter is ready for marriage … he’s just not yet ready to propose — and for now, I guess, that seems like a better option B to Rachel.

On the Bye-Bye Bench, Rachel gives Eric the “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” speech, and his response is pure class. “I just want to say thank you for being open, for allowing me to be open. … Thank you for allowing me to get what I need, and God willing, I promise you, I know you’re going to get what you want,” says Eric. “And truth be told, I will always love you.” As Rachel puts it, “No bitterness, no hate, no regrets. And that’s why Eric is such an amazing and beautiful person.”

Photos: ABC

Just a thought.

After sending Eric home, Team Bachelorette — embracing the “let’s make this the Before, During, and After the Final Rose” concept — brings Eric on stage to reunite with Rachel and discuss their breakup. What could have been a tense encounter is once again completely cordial, as Eric remains gentlemanly and mature about the situation.

“You had to do it,” he tells Rachel, asking her whether she’s happy. Of course she says “yes,” and turns the question around to him. Eric assures her that he’s “phenomenal ” — and Rachel isn’t kidding when she says, “You look phenomenal!” Just look at him:

Photo: ABC

Back to the show: Now that we’re down to the final two, both Bryan and Peter know that Peter is the underdog. “When Rachel said she wants a proposal, she looked directly in my eyes,” admits Peter. “Why can’t I be ready right now to propose to this woman?”

Photos: ABC

Fortunately for Peter, he still has the Last Chance Date … which is literally the last date, too, because Bryan is up first.

Photo: ABC

“If I had a ring, I would propose to Rachel right now,” Bryan reminds us. He and Rachel cuddle and smooch as they float over the gorgeous Spanish countryside in a hot air balloon — a vista that is made slightly less gorgeous by the sight of Bryan repeatedly jabbing his tongue into Rachel’s mouth.

Photo: ABC

Once back on the ground, the Bachelorette tells us that her “mind is not yet made up.” Perhaps sensing this, Bryan re-ups his sales pitch. “To be honest, I think it would be a mistake if you didn’t choose me,” he says. “I would be devastated. I would be the most heartbroken I’ve ever been in my life if I lost you.” And she loves it. When it comes time for the traditional last date hotel gift shop offering, Bryan gives Rachel a homemade Spanish dictionary, with personalized phrases such as “husband,” “wife,” “forever,” and “leap of faith.”

Can Peter top that? Let’s find out.

The color-coordinated couple meets outside the beautiful Monasterio de Valvanera, where they stroll the sacred grounds and explore the church and its statuary. Inside they meet a kindly monk, who inquires if they are “promised as a couple.” They respond with some mumbled “maybes,” so the holy man goes on to remind them that couples shouldn’t get bogged down in little things that are “not important” — like, say, demanding that your engagement meet a reality show’s accelerated timeline. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing that last part.)

Still, Peter knows he’s not ready to propose — but he’s also not ready to lose Rachel, either.

Photo: ABC

Honestly, Peter doesn’t have a good answer — other than he didn’t really expect to fall for the Bachelorette when he signed up to be on The Bachelorette. Peter reiterates that he only wants to get engaged once in his life, etc. — and he sure doesn’t sound convinced that he’ll be able to make a decision in 24 hours.

Photos: ABC

“It’s like, I’m forcing something to happen, and you just don’t want me in that way,” sighs our sad Bachelorette. “I’m so confused as to how you can see forever with me, but you can’t do the step that you have to get to forever. I don’t get it.”

Neither do I, TBH. Peter wants to settle down and go to football games and the farmers market and “wine night with painting” with Rachel. Even Peter’s mom said he would be comfortable having children with his partner before he’d feel comfortable getting married. In short: Peter, what is your deal?

It’s the same question Rachel’s been asking herself all along — and by the time night rolls around, she finally gets her answer. “I am in love with you,” Peter says. “But I don’t feel that I am ready to ask you to marry me tomorrow. I don’t want to stop being with you. …”

Sorry, pal, but Rachel stopped listening right around “tomorrow.”

Photos: ABC

“If I agree to date you … what guarantee do I have that it’s ever going to leave that stage?” she says, wiping away tears. “Because my past has shown that it won’t.”

Peter promises that he’s going to try — “like, really hard” — to make it work, but he simply won’t be browbeaten into proposing, even if it means losing her. In other words, he is behaving like a rational human being — but there’s no place for that kind of behavior on The Bachelorette.

Photo: ABC

Go, Peter, go! I’m not so much annoyed at Rachel for pushing him as I am proud of Peter for pushing back against the absurdities of this show. Yes, he went on the show knowing what it was, but why do producers need to insist that everyone fall in love the same way? Anyhow, Rachel replies with an exasperated, “I can’t answer that question,” and again our favorite couple is at an impasse.

Photo: ABC

And now Peter and Rachel aren’t just sad; they’re angry — at each other, and at the situation. Peter tensely suggests he “will make a sacrifice” and propose if she gives him a chance, simply to prove to her how important she is to him — but Rachel wants a coerced proposal about as much as Peter wants to make one. “Then there’s no other choice!” Peter snaps. “Then we just have to split, right here and now.”

They go around and around like this for a while longer, and continue to end up right back where they started:

Rachel: “If you don’t want to, don’t do it.”

Peter: “But losing you hurts more.”

The Bachelorette, rightfully, worries that Peter would one day be resentful if he were essentially forced to propose on TV — and Peter, rightfully, says he can’t promise he wouldn’t feel that way. “I will give you an amazing life and an amazing relationship,” Peter tells her, even if he doesn’t propose the next day. It’s a big promise to make — but not as big as the promise Bryan said he was ready to make on, like, day four.

And Peter’s promise isn’t big enough for Rachel. “I can’t do tomorrow and you tell me you just want to be my boyfriend,” she says.

Photo: ABC

Oof. Does anyone else’s heart hurt right now? “If you change your mind,” murmurs Peter, “you know where you can find me.” Ever the gentleman, a sniffling Peter helps Rachel with her coat and leads her to the elevator, where they share a long, sad hug and an even sadder kiss goodbye. “I love you, Rachel,” whispers Peter.

Photos: ABC

“Take a chance,” urges Peter, but Rachel is so terrified of ending up in an endless emotional holding pattern that she forces herself to say goodbye and walk away — leaving both of them miserable.

As if watching that breakup wasn’t brutal enough — “I cried my eyelashes off,”  Rachel tells us — we now have to watch an emotional Peter come out and see the Bachelorette for the first time … having just watched their tear-jerking goodbye from backstage.

Photo: ABC

“It was incredibly difficult,” says Peter of watching the scene. “I’m shaking like a leaf right now.” Though he doesn’t actually think something was wrong with him — or his relationship with Rachel — Peter does still regret not being able to feel comfortable about proposing just to meet the show’s timetable. “I watched you walk out the door and I knew that you were a person I could spend the rest of my life with,” he tells Rachel. “And I let you go because I couldn’t get to that same point when I needed to.”

Peter does regret saying Rachel would have a “mediocre life” with Bryan — and Rachel assures him that she’s living her “best life.” There’s clearly a lot of emotion and feeling between these two — Peter feels “attacked” by Rachel here in the Tealight Candle Thunderdome, while Rachel says she’s just “frustrated” with the man who was almost her fiancé. “I didn’t feel like you knew what you wanted,” says Rachel. Though she applauds him for being true to himself, she’s probably still a wee bit annoyed that he signed up for The Bachelorette in the first place.  “I just don’t think that this world, this process, this show — I just don’t think that it’s for you,” she says.

They part with a sad hug, and then it’s time for a commercial break.

Photos: ABC

And when we get back from the break, Rachel is back on track — though she does admit that her conversation with Peter “made me question if I’m rushing into this with Bryan.” (I think we can answer that for you, honey: yes.) “I just wonder if it’s too much of a turnaround from last night to be in the right headspace for today.” (Again, allow us to chime in: yes.)

While Rachel just doesn’t know whether she’s ready to accept a proposal after having her heart ripped out the night before, Bryan is champing at the bit to put this diamond monolith on the Bachelorette’s finger.

Photos: ABC

Given that we only have about 10 minutes left before After the Final Rose, something tells me Rachel’s gonna manage to get her proposal headspace right — and quick. And yes, by the time Bryan meets Rachel at the top of the (very) windy hilltop, she is ready to hear his ardent declaration of love — how their first kiss was like a “chemistry bomb” going off. How she’s everything he wants in “a woman, a wife, the mother of my children.”

When it comes her turn to speak, Rachel gives Bryan what sounds like (though was clearly not meant to be) a somewhat backhanded compliment — in the past, she’s gone for the “excitement” of “complicated” relationships. But now, she’s going with Bryan: “Right here, in this moment, standing with you, I see my forever.”

So you know what happens next:

 

Photos: ABC

“Yes! Give it to me!” demands our Bachelorette no more. (If you listen really hard, you can hear the sound of Bryan’s mom’s sobs, carried all the way from Miami by the wind.)

Photos: ABC

And we’re now at the Tealight Candle Thunderdome! For whatever reason, Bryan feels the need to propose to Rachel again. (Maybe he knows everyone was rooting for Peter?) Either way, the Bachelorette no more is glowing. “It feels good to have him with me and by my side!” gushes Rachel.

Photo: ABC

Harrison asks about the day of the proposal, and Bryan says he had “blind faith” that his love would be reciprocated, and it was. (Yay?) As for their future, Harrison presses them for details, but Rachel insists they’re “not rushing anything,” and they’re just trying to build their lives together “in a normal sense.” (Oh honey, that ship has sailed.) For now, Rachel and Bryan say their future consists of living a normal life — getting coffee, walking Copper, begging their families to accept that this is really happening, etc.

So … good luck, you two. Bryan may not be the guy that I (or a whole lot of Bachelorette viewers) wanted Rachel to end up with, but I hope it works out for her. (And when it doesn’t, I hope she finds a nice guy in the real world and lives happily ever after.)

Speaking of things that are unfortunate, the night end with an extended season preview of Bachelor in Paradise — notable only because it (partially) reveals how the show will deal with the production shutdown: By making it part of the storyline, of course!

Photo: ABC

But that’s a recap for another week. For now, rose lovers, tell me what you think of tonight’s Bachelorette finale: Did Rachel make the right choice, or will she regret sending Peter packing? Should Peter be the next Bachelor, or should it be Eric? (Or someone else?) Post your thoughts now! And stay tuned for Chris Harrison’s behind-the-scenes blog, coming tomorrow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sleep for a week.

Bachelor in Paradise premieres Monday, August 14 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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