Bachelor Pad: An uncomfortable finale.... (spoiler alert)
Money can't buy you love, The Beatles said. I guess Michael Stagliano can attest to that.
Those seconds after he learned that the woman he was clearly still in love with was engaged to someone else were probably the most uncomfortable I've seen in the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise: worse than seeing Jake and Vienna's breakup interview, worse than seeing new Bachelor Ben Flajnik get rejected by Ashley Hebert on one knee with a ring in his hand.
The rumours were true: Blake and Holly had got engaged since filming Bachelor Pad, but nobody told Michael until Harrison brought it up.
"Holly, we obviously just heard some fantastic news about you and Blake," Chris began as Holly and Michael took their seats onstage, just moments after the studio and TV audience watched tape of Blake proposing to Holly. "Michael, do you have any idea? Have you heard?" Chris asked.
"No, he doesn't know," said Holly, which had people in the audience going "Ohhhhhh" and fellow Bachelor Pad contestants looking stricken.
Awkward silence greeted Holly's statement that she and Blake were engaged. Then Michael learned it had happened before the filming of the finale.
"I'm sorry, that's super awkward. I didn't know until I got here," said Michael. "I am shocked still, so maybe water would be great or a commercial break ... even like a letter would be great or an email prior, I don't know," Michael said.
"It was on Sunday. I was gonna call you," said an apologetic Blake.
Michael rallied enough to say he wanted Holly to be happy and "she said yes, that means she's in love and happy, and that's a beautiful thing. That's what I wanted for the rest of our lives so ... it's okay, it's okay."
Chris got the whole dog and pony show back on track and we got to see platonic partners Holly and Michael beat out Michelle and Graham for the $250,000.
Michelle Money and Graham Bunn are apparently still a couple, although it didn't look like Graham was getting down on one knee any time soon. Michelle gushed about Graham being there for her when her father died of colon cancer but was quick to add she didn't want any sympathy votes from the other contestants, who were voting to decide which couple would get the dough.
She didn't have to worry. Only Kasey, Vienna, Melissa and William voted for Graham and Michelle before Gia cast the eighth and winning vote for Michael and Holly. We never got to see how Kirk and Alli voted, but did anybody really care in Alli's case? I had forgotten she was even on Bachelor Pad until Monday's show.
The last part of the three-hour finale (three hours? really, ABC?) was a silly charade in which we were supposed to think there was a remote chance that Michael, outraged by news of Holly's engagement, would withhold her half of the money from her, or that Holly would do the same to him.
As if. If they were going to go the selfish route, they would have done it earlier in the game by taking Kasey and Vienna to the finale with them instead of Graham and Michelle.
Kasey and Vienna would have been the best choice for a virtual guarantee of winning. I think they'd annoyed enough people in the house to be denied a majority of votes (although Melissa would have voted for them because she still hasn't forgiven Holly for her romance with Blake and probably has a voodoo doll of her that she sticks pins in every night before bed; and Jake might have voted for them as part of his campaign to show the world what a nice guy he is).
But Holly and Michael took fast friends Michelle and Graham, despite fearing that it was like handing them the money. (Or perhaps they're cannier than we think and realized that Michelle and Graham's policy of avoiding all the drama in the house would make people think they were just coasting.)
And what of other nice guy couple Kirk and Ella? They were done in by a 100-plus-foot wall.
The final challenge for the four remaining couples at the top of the finale was to fly to Vegas and learn how to walk up and jump around a huge wall that was part of Cirque du Soleil's KA show. The judges for the challenge were the reigning poster children for the Bachelor/Bachelorette's spotty record of actual lasting romances: Trista Sutter, Jason Mesnick and Ali Fedotowsky who, still injured from a kayaking accident, was carried to her seat by fiance Roberto Martinez. Everybody say Awwwww.
There was talk of pants being peed, of wanting to vomit and of the challenge being worse than childbirth, but each of the four couples completed the 1-minute routine, which included 10 seconds in which they had to freestyle, strapped into harnesses and controlling their movements with joysticks.
For Graham and Michelle, freestyling meant doing weird motions with their arms. Ella and Kirk, who had real trouble staying in sync, threw some sort of confetti. Kasey and Vienna's routine had a faux-violent element, in keeping with their volatile relationship, with the two of them appearing to strike each other. Michael and Holly looked like a couple of pros on the wall and threw in some spins and a lift.
Once again, Kasey and Vienna's overconfidence was misplaced as Michael and Holly won the challenge. Kirk and Ella lost, which meant an immediate ouster from the game.
Ella cried and cried and cried and apologized to Kirk for letting him down. "That money was going to buy us (her son and her) a house," she said on the limo ride to the airport. "I just threw it away because of fear, what would happen if I failed, if he (her son) had no mommy. I knew how that feels and it just got me. I couldn't let it, I just couldn't let it go."
As far as I know, Ella still doesn't have her house, but she has a new face and body thanks to five and a half hours of free plastic surgery from Erica Rose's father, Dr. Franklin Rose. She doesn't appear to have Kirk anymore, however. Chris tweeted after the show that they're "just good friends."
Not much else happened between Kirk and Ella's ouster and the studio portion of the finale, except that Kasey and Vienna had another argument because Vienna said Kasey was too intense with Michael and Holly.
I can report that I finished the season of Bachelor Pad with my dislike of Vienna Girardi intact, but I confess I have wavered a little on Kasey Kahl.
First off, he apologized to Jake for saying he wanted to punch Jake across the face for America and for being cold. He even gave Jake a handshake and a man hug while Vienna stared daggers at him.
Then, when Kasey got in the hot seat with Chris, he acknowledged what a jerk he'd been on the show.
"When I watched that piece right there, I don't see the nice, sweet, sensitive guy who loves everybody," Kasey said after watching a clips package of his time on the show. "Everybody thinks that I was shady and backstabbing when I wasn't. I was playing the game. I'm not like that person at all."
Breaking into tears, he said he was struggling to be happy again.
Kasey also told Chris after seeing his and Vienna's fights replayed that that wasn't the kind of relationship he wants. However, Vienna "has her moments, but she also is very sweet and she's loving, and those are the moments ... I want to spend the rest of my life with."
Erica gave the couple a vote of confidence, saying she had seen a different side of them when they stayed with her after the filming wrapped up. Chris was more skeptical. "I really don't know what the future holds" for them, he said.
Jake had an easier go of it in the hot seat. He had a sympathetic ear for his complaints about how Kasey and ex-fiancee Vienna were as "cold as ice" to him on the show, and how he only went on the program to find closure with Vienna.
And by the way, he's still apologizing for how he talked to Vienna in that Bachelorette interview. "I had my heart handed to me in front of America about a year ago and I had a weak moment. You don't talk to women like that. You don't do that. I was wrong."
Vienna argued that there lots of moments that the audience didn't see of she and Jake getting along. But Chris didn't seem to be buying it, and Erica and Gia weighed in, declaring that Vienna's behaviour had been hostile and hurtful.
Then Vienna fell back on her argument that Jake had a whole year to contact her between their breakup and filming Bachelor Pad. Jake says he tried to contact her several times and his messages were ignored; Vienna says he never called or emailed. Who knows which one is telling the truth? It was obvious that Chris and the studio audience believed Jake.
Blake was the final guy in the hot seat, so we got to see Melissa Schreiber in action once again. It's true that Blake didn't offer a credible explanation for why he kissed a woman he had no romantic interest in, beyond the obvious one, that he was playing Melissa. (Chris helpfully suggested they were just "making out.") But for Melissa to construct a romantic fantasy on a few smooches and the words "we are serendipitous" suggests she is not playing with a full emotional deck. And then she further strained credulity by insisting it wasn't jealousy that made her run around the house like a crazy person after Blake took Holly on a date instead of her; it was just about him betraying their partnership. Yeah, right.
Melissa should do herself and us a favour and stay off reality TV shows from here on in.
I'm sure it was a treat for her to hear Blake raving to Chris about how madly in love he was with Holly and then to watch the proposal footage. But did you notice that Jackie Gordon looked even more crushed than Melissa did? It's clear she still hasn't gotten over her rejection by Bachelor Pad amour Ames. Damn you, Ames Brown and your red pants. Ride in your own damn limo next time.
Chris rubbed a little more salt in the wound by telling Blake about his engagement, "I thought this might happen at Bachelor Pad, maybe Kasey and Vienna. Maybe even Ames and Jackie, who knows? But I didn't see you coming out of the blue wth a proposal out of all this."
Speaking of proposals allows me to segue into another part of the finale. To no one's surprise, Ben Flajnik was introduced as the next Bachelor, which included another look at the footage of Ashley rejecting his proposal.
But hey, his season doesn't start until January and Ben's already talking about his journey.
"It really was an amazing journey for you," said Chris when Ben, a 28-year-old winemaker, walked onstage after the clips package played.
"It was an incredible journey," agreed Ben. "I had a lot of issues that I didn't realize I had when I started the last show. I feel like I'm in a better place now than I was before. I'm a more complete individual."
Good on you, Ben. Guess we'll find out for sure when the season starts Jan. 2
I suspect we haven't seen the last of Bachelor Pad either. I thought this year was a little more entertaining than last, but once again it got boring when the power couples closed ranks and voted non-members of their clique out of the house. If it hadn't been for the bit of drama between Jake and Vienna at the finale, and the shock of poor Michael finding out that Holly was engaged it would have been a pretty boring episode.
What did you think? Did you watch the whole season? Were you glad that Holly and Michael won? Are you Team Jake or Team Vienna.
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(The photo of Holly and Michael is by Rick Rowell for ABC.)