Standing Between

f7341efd46aa972e3a7e95bc3f33a9985ef383fbShe stands in that space between ecstasy and agony, forced to make an impossible decision between two men who equally have her heart, or maybe not as equally as she’s led everyone else to believe. Because if it were as balanced as she has hinted at, then this, this would be impossible. But we, her impartial viewers, can see it in her eyes, the choice she has already made, and one man is about to be completely blindsided. One approaches now, shrouded in the shadows of all the men who have already exited, stage left. He is not the one, and we, her impartial viewers, can tell, by the tilt of her head, by the pursing of her lips. But he is coming, and he can’t know, not until the ultimate moment when she tells him not to kneel…

For me it all began with Kaitlyn, but if I’m going to be honest it happened long before that, because people have been choosing each others’ fates for eons. They just haven’t been doing it on TV all that long, which is the place where Kaitlyn and others of her ilk have existed for the past fifteen years or so, for as long as there have been Bachelors and Bachelorettes. Last night the most recent Bachelorette — JoJo — made her monumental decision on one of the biggest stages ever, in prime time. But yes, for me it all began with Kaitlyn.

Because, see, it was Kaitlyn, the previous Bachelorette, who stood there in that space between the two extremes, who had the impossible decision that really wasn’t as impossible as all that, between Nick, on one side, and Shawn, on the other. Nick was ice, and Shawn was fire, the one cool and unflustered, the other a roiling volcano of emotions threatening to explode at any moment. Yes, these were her choices, and up until the very end Kaitlyn kept her cards close to the vest. That’s what the show is all about.

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But Nick was always destined to be the bridesmaid, and never the bride. As he made that walk I saw the signs in the woman of his dreams — the tilt of her head, the pursing of her lips. She was going to break his little heart into a million pieces, and I was happy about it. Yes, I was happy about it, because I allowed myself to hate Nick, a man I have never met and will probably never meet. I hated him because of what he said about Andi, how he weaseled his way onto the next season with Kaitlyn, and how he snowed her the whole way to that remote location when it was down to the final two men. So I smiled as he approached, as he was so totally oblivious to what she was about to do.

He got down on one knee, and she pulled him back up. She literally pulled him back up. I laughed because it was so classic, and he was going to be spurned yet again. Then he exploded. He was neither gracious nor contrite. After all that he had done to others time and again (none of the other guys liked him in either season) he was getting his comeuppance yet again. I laughed because it seemed like the right thing to do, since he had been painted as the villain and I had eagerly arrived at the gallery to see the finished product hanging on the wall. And I’m ashamed now.

I’m ashamed because of what came after, something that had absolutely nothing to do with Nick, and everything to do with the cyclical nature of the show itself. Because, before she rejected Nick, Kaitlyn broke the heart of “good guy” Ben, who in turn was made the next the-bachelorette-with-jojo-fletcherBachelor. Then, barely four months later he himself stood in that same place making a major life decision that would lift one woman to the heights and send another one to the depths. The girl he didn’t choose was JoJo. The definitive cruelty was that he told her he loved her before the end. Ouch.

So JoJo became The Bachelorette, and she had her own moment in that same harsh sun last night, when she made the monumental decision between her own extremes, between Robby and Jordan. In dynamic fashion she too admitted to loving both of them (after only about 6-8 weeks of showtime), and she too broke one man’s heart, Kaitlyn-style. Except this time I could see things through the lens of the “other guy.” Robby did everything right. Robby loved JoJo the way she needed to be loved, but she fell for pretty boy Jordan, becoming the cheerleading captain to his letterman quarterback.

Now I know the difference, looking at the harsh look of despair in Robby’s eyes when he was cut loose, the utter shock of the moment, when she didn’t even let him get down on one knee, after he had poured his heart out to her. Either she’s some kind of sadistic bitch or she’s some angel who touched his life for a moment and then had to return to heaven. Because there’s also a harsh line of extremes in that moment for her too, not just in the selection she has to make.

JoJo, though, tried to be as open as possible to each guy up until the very end. Which is why, even though, with Kaitlyn, Nick seemed blindsided, it was obvious in his reaction that he

ROBBY, JOJO FLETCHER

wasn’t, not really. It was clear from his belligerent side after the fact that he saw it coming a mile wide, and he was trying to get his digs in late. It was obvious from the reaction that he never loved Kaitlyn. To Nick she was the sadistic bitch who turned on him instead of giving him what he felt he deserved, which was to win.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? That this is a competition first and foremost. I think Chad said it best. “I’m not here to be best buddies with these guys. I’m here to win.” He didn’t say he was there to fall in love, to meet the woman of his dreams, any of that. He said he was there to win, which is why reality dating shows ultimately only have a 50/50 shot of the couple working out in the end. When there is no longer a competition, when the Bachelor or Bachelorette has given out the final rose, when the proposal is over, what is left? Real life. That’s what. That’s the ultimate reality.

And I bet Nick is still pissed.

Sam

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