Here for the Wrong Reasons: Season Finale of ‘The Bachelorette’ Season 17
A rundown of the latest season and recap of the finale.
August 12, 2021
Editor’s Note: Mention of sexual assault
Welcome to the summer edition of “Here for the Wrong Reasons,” where I’ll be recapping the best champagne-guzzling and petty “Can I steal you for a second?” moments of the 17th season of “The Bachelorette.” Nothing boosts your confidence about your own love life like watching a bunch of desperate 20-somethings compete for a stranger’s affection! Follow along for updates on Katie Thurston’s journey to
become an Instagram influencer find love. Make your picks in Vanderbilt’s (very un)official “Bachelorette” Fantasy League.
The summer has flown by, and so has Katie’s whirlwind journey to find love. It’s been a doozy of a season—see: Blake’s late arrival, multiple self-eliminations, new hosts and mandatory abstinence from self-pleasure—and I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go. It was almost with resignation that I sat down each Monday night to watch the dramatic (and incredibly horny) antics of this season’s cast of characters. While there were plenty of entertaining moments and dates, they couldn’t suppress the feeling in my stomach that it was all leading up to a lackluster finale. (Turns out, I should definitely listen to my gut more often.) But before we dive into the finale, let’s take a quick look back at the most ~sex-positive~ season yet.
The “Bachelorette” producers should pat themselves on the back for casting the least problematic array of guys I’ve seen on this show. Not to say that there weren’t some bad apples, but on the whole, there were a lot of decent guys. Emphasis on “decent,” because none of them *quite* did it for me, but I genuinely believed that most of them were there for the right reasons. Plus, with the exception of the “villains,” who I’ll address next, there was significantly less toxic masculinity this season than usual. Case in point: after single dad Michael A. tearily admits that his wife died from cancer, Greg begins to cry. Oh, and when Greg and Connor B. were cuddling on the couch. On a group date, Christian even gamely waxes Tre where the sun don’t shine. We LOVE to see it, ABC.
At the risk of sounding like a boomer, “Bachelorette” villains just aren’t what they used to be. This season, we got Thomas and Karl. Big whoop. In what could only have been a shoutout to this column, Thomas admitted that he was there for the wrong reasons…namely, that he went on the show with the plan to possibly become the Bachelor one day. Let’s be honest, virtually every contestant who goes on this show has “Paradise” or becoming the next season lead in the back (if not the forefront) of their mind, but learn the rules, Thomas! You do not allude to being there for anything but the rightest of reasons under ANY circumstances, plain and simple. Anyway, Katie quickly finds out that Thomas is toxic (thanks in large part to her very gossip-y cohort of suitors) and sends him packing without waiting for the next rose ceremony.
Onto Karl, the “motivational speaker.” I can’t tell if this guy was trying to push everyone’s buttons or if he’s just plain delusional. After Thomas’ exit, Karl took on the role of the instigator, telling Katie that there were still men who weren’t there for the right reasons, although he refrained from sharing specific names like the weasel he is. At first, Katie had a little bit of Post-Thomas Stress Disorder, telling the guys, “If you are not here for me, if you are not here for an engagement, then get the f*ck out.” She then sends Karl home at the next rose ceremony, but not before he has the opportunity to (dis?)prove his motivational speaking chops. On a group date, the guys have to show Katie how they’d be the “Greatest Lover of All Time” (maybe start by not going on this show?). Naturally, Karl goes on a long-winded ramble about virtually nothing…a speech as prolonged and anti-climactic as Karl in bed, I’d wager.
The alleged sex positivity
Hey Siri, define “sex-positive,” because I’m pretty sure that Katie forgot what that means. A few episodes in, Katie (and by Katie, I mean the producers) decide to implement the “WOWO,” or Week Off Whack Off Challenge, in which the guys are forbidden from, you know, self-pleasure for a week. Besides this being totally out of pocket, it’s also really confusing for a season that is allegedly soooo sex-positive. Bachelor Nation could definitely use some destigmatization around the topic of sex, but having the guys police each other’s ~solo time~ is not it. Plus, using euphemisms like “a little friendly handshake,” “Friday night lights,” “solo hockey” and “Saturday morning balloon races” instead of just straight-up saying the word masturbation is really, well, beating around the bush here.
Futhermore, in a highly ironic twist for this “sex-positive” season, there was only one. freaking. fantasy. suite! I don’t know about you, but watching the cameras film each couple awkwardly making out on a hotel bed and hopscotching around saying the word “sex” is the exact brand of delicious schadenfreude that I signed up for. And yet, all we get is Katie and Blake—unsurprising, since they’ve been throwing themselves at each other since his late arrival—and it’s simply so…boring. Katie claims that Blake is very talented in bed, which I can only chalk up to the New Mexico desert making her extra thirsty. Do NOT ruin Sully from Monsters Inc. for me, Katie.
The deep sh*t
Continuing last season’s trend of discussing things with actual, like, substance, Katie opens up about being sexually assaulted. She reveals that after being violated at a New Year’s Eve celebration about a decade ago, she had a difficult relationship with sex and her sexuality for several years. This, we learn, is why she leans into sex positivity so much: “It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now in being open and comfortable talking about it and loving myself and accepting things I can no longer control,” she said. “That is something really big that has happened in my life that in some ways has really shaped me into exactly who I am today.” I was really impressed by Katie’s vulnerability about such a complex and personal topic, and I hope that the franchise doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations like these in the future.
After two of her final four men self-eliminate, Katie is prematurely thrust into the finale. Michael A., the widowed single dad, left after a FaceTime with his son, who said, “Maybe Daddy left because he doesn’t want to see me,” collectively breaking Michael and all of Bachelor Nation’s hearts. This is controversial, but if you ask me, Greg left because he wanted Katie to pull a “Clare and Dale” with him. I’ll get more into this in the next section, since there is a lot to unpack there. Anyway, Katie is left with Fake Blake—I call him this because A) this is his third Bachelorette and B) he’s an expert at using the show’s jargon and saying the right (phony) thing at the right time—and Justin, who is literally just here by default. Unprecedentedly, Fantasy Suites and the finale are combined into one episode, and Blake receives the first date. Katie spills her guts out to him about Greg, to which he thoughtfully responds, “That’s a lot,” before going in for the kiss. I’m positively swooning, Blake. Somehow, this works on Katie, so Blake gets an invitation to ~forgo his individual room and stay as a couple~ (even in a sex-positive season, the innuendos abound) and gladly takes Katie up on the offer. We then get a shot of the two waking up in the morning, and Blake feeds Katie some fruit. Consequently, I want to puke.
Then, Justin. Poor, sweet, expressive Justin. He practically skips on into his date with Katie, who quickly informs him that he’s not the one. His Fantasy Suite parade = rained on. Other than that though, I think the guy is relieved. Justin and Katie have the connection of two freshmen hooking up after a frat party, and that’s about it. Not the heartbreak you usually see from the runner-up, I must say.
Because there is literally one contestant left, the producers have to manufacture some drama. So, they force Blake to act like he’s waffling back and forth about whether or not to propose. It takes him forever to pick out a ring, and it was almost convincing enough to make me second guess whether he was going to take the plunge, until I remembered how this show works and how thirsty Blake is for that impending People cover photo. He chooses a ring, proposes on one of the franchise’s
tacky signature platforms covered in random baskets and geometric shapes, Katie says “yes” and I lose hope in the institution of marriage.
Call me a cynic, but it seems so obvious that these two are just using each other. Blake needs this engagement to get HelloFresh #ads, keep his blue check on Instagram and solidify his status as a full-time influencer (screw those wild animals, am I right?). Katie needs the engagement so she can stick it to Greg and prove that she’s soooo over him (spoiler alert: she’s not!). I will now be accepting bets on how long this couple lasts, and if you say over a year, you’re wrong. Unless their
platonic contract engagement actually works out.
The most confrontational After the Final Rose ever
Hosts Kaitlyn and Tayshia—oh yeah, remember them? Probably not, since they got a collective 20 minutes of screentime all season—are here to host After the Final Rose (ATFR), and they come dressed like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie circa 2002. I’m not hating, since they obviously both rocked the bandage dresses, but I’m starting the hashtag #FireCaryFetman because the “Bachelorette” stylist has legit been off his rocker the past few seasons. Anyway, the biggest confrontation of the night is between Katie and her number one choice, Greg. (I said what I said.)
A brief recap of what went down between the two, and I’ll try to be unbiased: after Greg’s hometown date goes swimmingly, he gets in his head and starts to freak out about whether his feelings are reciprocated. Katie doesn’t give him much reassurance, which is unfortunate, but Greg is acting out of pocket and is basically hinting that he wants her to leave with him right then and there. He accuses Katie of acting too much like the Bachelorette instead of Katie, but news flash: she is, in fact, still the Bachelorette. Since she won’t pull a Clare Crawley, he throws a hissy fit and leaves, Katie breaks down and cries in the bathroom, Kaitlyn goes to comfort her like Chris Harrison never would have and I posted a tweet about it that Kaitlyn responded to. Had to throw that in.
Flash forward to ATFR. Greg, looking like a downtrodden golden retriever, whimpers, “I’ve just been hangin’ in Jersey, laying low.” *Shyly tucks hair behind ear*. Katie comes onstage with more energy than a 5-year-old emerging from a candy store, and homegirl is out for blood. She eviscerates him, saying, “I feel like you were looking for the perfect opportunity to escape because you were never ready for an engagement. You spoke down to me. You didn’t even bother to say goodbye. You say you love me, but I don’t think you know what love is!” Then, she goes in for the kill, accusing Greg of only being there for the exposure (note to Katie: so was your now-fiancé, hon). She also accuses him of gaslighting her, which is a serious accusation, and is not really a fair one in this situation. Katie also brings up his acting history (he did, in fact, attend acting school in 2019), to which he responds, “as much as I wish I was, I’m no Meryl Streep.” News flash, Greg: literally zero people thought you were.
I was on Katie’s side before this, but now I’m fed up with both of them. Katie is so clearly not over Greg, and I almost feel bad that her fiancé, Blake, has to witness this, until I remember that he’s only here for the likes and followers. The rest of the exchange is just as icy, then Greg leaves the stage, Katie flips an inner emotional switch and we get a sickeningly lovey-dovey newly-engaged couple moment with Blake. Congrats to them, or whatever.
And just like that, this season is over. Will the show continue its emphasis on sex positivity? Will we ever discover Greg or Blake’s true colors? Will Tyler Cameron be the next Bachelor??? (I’m already planning my application, just in case.) These are just a few of the questions that Bachelor Nation is left with, but lucky for us, we might not have to wait too long for some answers. “Bachelor in Paradise,” a.k.a. reject headquarters, airs next Monday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. CDT, and I’ll be resuming my weekly episode recaps because it’s going to be a doozy. Plus, the Bachelor Nation gods have thrown us a bone and are giving us a second season of “The Bachelorette” featuring Michelle Young, the runner-up on Matt James’ season, as the lead. Tune in starting Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. CDT (yes, we’re back to #BacheloretteTuesdays. I’ll take what I can get.)
As much as this show reminds me of a toxic ex, I’m raising my glass to it because, damn, I still really love it. Cheers to Katie and Blake, and here’s to hoping that they are, indeed, here for the right reasons!