‘The Bachelorette’ Finale Recap: ‘It’s Love Or Nothing’

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Spoiler Alert!

Our “journey” is finally over. And while the “process” has been bumpy at times, Ashley has closed “the final chapter” of her love story thanks to her “open heart.” (Sorry, but has anyone else become fatigued by Bachelorette-speak, or is it just me?)

Alright, let’s get recapping! Going into this episode I’m sure we all had the same questions. Will Ashley Hebert choose Ben Flajnik or JP Rosenbaum? Who will her family like more? Will each guy propose? Why does her sister have so many tattoos? (Just kidding, Mean Girl Chrystie rules.)

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As Ashley greets her family, who’ve flown all the way out to Fiji for this spectacle momentous occasion, she’s practically bursting with information. She tells Mama Laurie, Stepdad Mike, Brother Elliot and Mean Girl Chrystie that she’s met a bunch of great guys and she has a “passion” for JP, but she has more in common with Ben. When her sister asks her point-blank if she’s in love, Ashley replies that she is, though she still hasn’t made up her mind. But she really values her family’s opinion (especially her sister’s) so she can’t wait to introduce them all.

First up is JP, who shows up nervous with a bottle of wine. Almost immediately, Ashley’s mom welcomes JP to the family (that was fast!) but Mean Girl Chrystie isn’t ready to open her heart so quickly. It’s time for Tough Questions, the first one being, “Does JP make you laugh?” Which, to be honest, wouldn’t have been a tough question at all, if Ashley hadn’t have taken a colossal pause before looking at JP and saying, “I think I’m funnier than you.” Eek! As warning bells start flashing in everyone’s head, Ashley cuddles up to JP again and blissfully sips her wine. Clearly, someone needs to clue her in, and Chrystie is just the woman for the job.

She takes Ashley into the house and tells her that she “just doesn’t see it” and that Ashley isn’t acting like herself around JP. “I just don’t think he’s the one,” she tells our stunned Bachelorette. “I think you’re too much for him.” Apparently, Ashley really does value her sister’s opinion, because she promptly dissolves into tears and starts hiccup-crying. “My heart’s a little broken, that’s all,” she says pitifully, as her sister sits across from her stone-faced. (Oh, geez. It’s getting to the point where a stiff breeze would make Ashley cry.)

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Mean Girl Chrystie has already made one person cry (and we’re only 20 minutes into the show), so let’s see if she can make someone else break down. She takes JP outside to sit him down for some real talk. After about half a second of pleasantries she drops some sisterly knowledge on him: “Usually I trust Ashley’s opinion, but I just don’t see it.”

As JP sputters in disbelief, Chrystie goes on to list the reasons why she just doesn’t see the lovebirds lasting: he’s “much older” than Ashley, she’s suspicious that he’s still single even though he’s so old, she doesn’t think he can handle how fun her sister is, and she thinks Ashley seemed happier around Bachelor Brad from last season. Um, ouch! She also tells him that there’s nothing he can do to redeem himself as she’s already decided that he’s not the one. Which, even in spite of my recent qualms over JP, is just too harsh and over-dramatic. First of all, JP is only 34 and Ashley, with all her self-doubt and sob-fests, just isn’t that fun. And Bachelor Brad? Tatts, please!

Plus, Chrystie’s known JP all of half an hour. Which is JP’s first line of defense before he dissolves into self-pitying anger. “I was expecting a little more out of her,” he snaps to the camera. As Ashley’s walking him out, he tells her how upset he is and he’s worried that Chrystie’s opinion will sully their relationship. Ashley doesn’t do much to soothe his worries, however, as she confirms that her sister’s approval means a lot to her, so JP left in a huff.

The next day, Ashley sits Chrystie down to straighten things out and this goes terribly. Chrystie continues to insist that Ashley wasn’t herself around JP and Ashley starts crying again. (Ah, family!) But there’s no time for an all out war, as Ben’s arriving to meet the fam. As he sits down, he seems relaxed and at ease, clearly oblivious to the tension between Ashley and Big Sis. But Ashley does act a lot goofier around Ben as the two begin out-weirding one another with their show of cutesy dog voices. (Yeah, I don’t get it either.) Then Chrystie takes Ben to the side for his round of Tough Questions, which also aren’t that tough. She asks him if he loves Ashley (he does) and why he loves her (“we’re like best friends”). Then she tells him that Ashley really acts like herself around him, which is a good sign. In the game of Family Approval, Ben just blew JP out of the water.

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Now it’s Final Date time, where the guys have one last chance to convince Ashley to say yes should they propose. First up it’s Ben, who Ashley thinks looks “so cute” in an orange T-shirt and straw hat. (Fashion note: Ben, your penchant for orange and sheer white shirts are doing you no favors. Trust me.) The couple then heads out in a helicopter towards what is apparently a mud bath, but looks like a swimming hole. As they hop in and start slathering one another with mud, their voice-overs keep assuring viewers that it’s “very sexy” and “erotic.”

Later that evening, the couple meets up in Ben’s room, where Ben is finally ready to tell her that he loves her. He also tells her that he’s asked her family for permission to propose. She kisses him and as the two snuggle up on his bed, Ben’s voice-over lets us know how confident he is that he’s the one: “Her walls are down, my walls are down. We’re just two kids in love.”

But we’ve still got a Final Date with JP to get through Ben, so don’t be so confident. JP and Ashley meet on a beach and then settle down for a relationship chat over bottled water (perhaps the champagne budget was being squeezed too tightly). JP starts off with more whining about Ashley’s sister and her quick-draw dismissal of him, which frankly just comes off as annoying. But as Ashley continues to express (totally justified) doubts about their relationship, he realizes he’s going to have to pull out all the stops. So he “takes that leap of faith” and tells her that he’s “madly in love with” her. After that, Ashley melts into him and they’re all smiles. Later that night, JP gives Ashley a photo album with a bunch of empty pages for them to fill up together and a super-sappy note that sounds suspiciously like the work of Chris Harrison. But Ashley is thrilled with her gift and JP is reassured that they’re back on track.

And now it’s the big day and OMG, guys, who will it be? Before we find out, the guys need to make a trip to meet Neil Lane for some gratuitous product placement engagement ring shopping. Surprisingly, Ben picks out what could reasonably be described as the most gaudy ring known to man. JP picks out a simpler, squarish diamond, but not before Neil Lane places one more seed of doubt in his head, asking him what happens “if she says no.” (Note to Neil Lane: probably not the best sales technique, buddy.)

And now we’re at our final stop, where Ashley will make her final choice. As she waits on the beach below, a sea plane circles above, teasing us over who could possibly be inside. Which guy is about to have his heart ripped out on national television? The suspense is excruciating. And when the mystery man finally steps out, we see that it’s… Ben! (At this point, I literally shouted at the television and threw my notebook, I was so disgusted.)

As Ben confidently walks towards Ashley, his voice-over tells us how happy he is to be adding Ashley to his family, especially after losing his dad four and half years ago. (I can’t take this!) He then greets her and as she starts to say something, he cuts her off. He then launches into how much he loves her and how confident he is in his feelings for her. He then gets down on one knee, pulls out the ring and says, “Will you marry me and make me the happiest man in the world?” That’s followed by a long pause, before Ashley says, “I’m sorry,” Ben stands up with a “wow, I didn’t see that coming” and he is clearly (and understandably) mad. As he walks away, she chases after him to tearfully tell him that she still finds him so “interesting”. He cuts her off, tells her that “good things don’t end unless they end badly” and walks away. He then boards a tiny fishing boat and heads back to his hotel, as JP’s plane flies over his head. (I may or may not have screamed at the television again at this point.)

But, there’s no time for waste when there’s a proposal afoot, so JP hops out of his plane and strides toward Ashley, who’s grinning like she didn’t just crush someone’s soul. As JP begins his spiel about being in love with her and being ready to “take a leap of faith,” Ashley pretty much cuts him off to say that she loves him too. He then gets down on one knee and flashes that Neil Lane ring, before asking Ashley to marry him. She says yes and REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” starts playing as she offers JP the Final Rose.

Now it’s back to U.S. where Chris Harrison is ready and waiting to lead us through the After The Final Rose special. Chris brings Ben out first so that he can confirm that he felt as awful as we suspected he did when Ashley “rejected his proposal” in front of “millions of people” (Chris Harrison’s exact words). As Ben says that he did, indeed, feel terrible, angry and heartbroken when Ashley turned him down, he also notes that in the end, he’s a more “complete person because of her.” Which is clearly the prerequisite line to being the next Bachelor, right?

But first he must confront Ashley and get some answers to his own Tough Questions. After they hug, he tells her “nice ring,” gesturing towards her Neil Lane wonder. Chris Harrison asks him if he’s still angry and he says that no, he isn’t, he just wants to know when Ashley knew it wasn’t him. (Fair enough question.) Ashley gives him the canned answer that she cared about him so much but ultimately had to follow her heart. (And to be fair to Ashley, what else could she say?) Sorry, Ben, it’s the end of your Bachelorette journey. Unless, of course, you’re already lined up to be the next Bachelor, which would surprise exactly nobody. (And if not, I have loads of single girlfriends who love wine. Just sayin’.)

And then, as we’re stewing in our defiant love for Ben, ABC decides to show an extended preview of some reality game show about making a fortune (ha, ha, yeah, because a reality show is a legitimate way to make life-changing events happen for yourself). But seriously, the preview is so long that a lot of you probably tuned out. (Unless you were in Canada, and then you got to watch an extra segment according to Chris Harrison’s Twitter feed. Canadians, what did we miss?)

If you were in America and you sat through the ridiculously extended preview, you got the pleasure of seeing Ashley and JP make out through the rest of the show. These two lovebirds seriously can’t keep their lips off one another. As they tell Chris Harrison how in love they are and how hard the tabloid criticism of Ashley has been, they stop every two minutes or so to suck face. It’s a bit nauseating, to be honest. But how else can they convince us and Mean Girl Chrystie (who’s in the audience) that they’re really in love? Ashley also tells us that she’s gearing up to finish dental school and then she’s moving to New York to fit into JP’s life start a new life with JP.

And, with that, we’re done. How do we feel, guys? Did love prevail? Was the journey worth it? Will Ben’s heart stay open? Do we even care? I, for one, am spent. Until next season, farewell.

Megan Gibson is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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