Best Bachelor finale ever exposes the real reason why Juan Pablo is so hated

This season on The Bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis’ journey took him from being heralded as the first non-white Bachelor and the star of a pun-filled ad campaign to someone who’s being called the worst bachelor ever. But he also may be the best, having rejected The Bachelor‘s premise while being a participant. Brad Womack was shunned for reject
ing both women
, but in the eyes of the show and its fans, what Juan Pablo did was even worse, because he didn’t care enough about this dumb show.

Juan Pablo is hardly a sympathetic person, from his recent use of the r-word to his previous comments about a possible gay bachelor to what he reportedly said to Clare in the helicopter (constipated look on his face, and listening to him speak sentences that come from a D-student’s essay (not specific, generic, vague, pointless), it’s easy to see why he’s not loved. His cold rejection of Clare illustrated the lack of emotional and feeling he’s had all season, with the notable exception of his awful slut-shaming.

Despite all that, the end result was the best episode of the show ever, a live reunion in which he indirectly exposed the show for what it is: an empty, heavily orchestrated charade that makes no rational sense. The Bachelor may be entertaining and silly, but it’s a process people get really invested in. And while some hate-watch, others watch for the fairy tale, no matter how contrived or how damaging it is, with its reinforcement of outdated gender roles and, worse, its insistence on forcing a relationship inside an artificial context.

Juan Pablo wouldn’t let that happen. When he revealed to Nikki that he chose her, he did so in the most non-committal way possible, saying “I like you a lot” and winking creepily. But then he said, “I’m not 100 percent sure that I want to propose to you.” That’s perfectly reasonable, as were many of the things he was inarticulately saying during the After the Final Rose hour.

Juan Pablo and Nikki seemed to be saying: We need to start over as if we just met, so we can see if this is a real thing or not. Sure, Nikki definitely came off as far more invested, but she also pointed out that the show is “just not exactly realistic,” insisting “this is a real relationship to us.”

Watching The Bachelor‘s producers and ABC so desperately cling to the narrative–We must have a proposal!–was actually pretty sad, since they easily could have made this work in their favor. Considering their terrible track record of creating meaningful relationships, they could have used that to their advantage and celebrated Juan Pablo’s decision to not commit too fast.

But no: the audience demands a happy ending, the couple and their happiness be damned.

It was clear how producers wanted it to go when Chris Harrison kept badgering Juan Pablo to say “I love you,” as if that was the only possible indication of his interest. Juan Pablo gave instead embarrassment, perhaps as payback for all the stories about how terrible he is, how soon the producers hope the show ends. At one point, he said, “I’m sorry the show didn’t end up like you guys wanted it to.”

He made sure of that. The series’ creator, Mike Fleiss, all but promised there would be a marriage on live TV. Instead, there was an exchange so awkward that Chris Harrison fled the stage before the show even cut to commercial. It was the best moment of the evening:

Chris Harrison: “You mentioned to one of our network executives that you had a big surprise for tonight.”

Juan Pablo: “Did I have a big surprise? I don’t. I talked to the executives and I keep my secret well-done, and this is my secret: I’m here happy with Nikki, we’re very happy both of us, and we’re going to start a relationship from today on.”

CH: “So, no surprise?”

JP: “You’re talking about surprise. No.”

Juan Pablo couldn’t really say “fuck you, dude,” on live TV, but that had the same effect. There was a lot of hostility between Juan Pablo and Chris Harrison, which the studio audience was flabbergasted about since the host is usually super-friend-bro-buds with the bachelors.

Chris Harrison’s embrace of Clare after Juan Pablo dumped her was, as I first wrote here, as if she’d run out of a burning building and sought comfort from the arsonist who set it on fire. I may disagree with Jeff Probst’s decisions and value different things than he does, but I have no doubt he’s doing what he believes is right. Chris Harrison, on the other hand, rarely comes across as authentic or genuine, and it all seems so dirty–though last night, I finally believed his hyperbole when, at the end of the live reunion, he seemed shocked.

For the evening’s most disturbing reaction, though, we must look to Catherine Giudici, whose wedding was paid for and televised by ABC, and who told Juan Pablo, “Don’t slap the hand that fed you.” In other words: Shut up. Do what they tell you. Don’t question anything.

Juan Pablo may be a world-class twit, but he had the audacity and courage to challenge question the process. He opted in, tried it, and he didn’t like what he found, and that made for great reality.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.