By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 23, 2020 at 6:26 AM

In retrospect, it shouldn't have been surprising that this season was a mess.

Before Tayshia had even walked through the door and before Clare had even met Dale (allegedly), "The Bachelorette" was trying to cobble together a season pushed and postponed by COVID-19. It was already a lost season, then Clare just made it even more so by deciding a few episodes in that she'd had enough and already found her man because she could sense the Packer-ness radiating off of him. And then Tayshia arrived to salvage the scraps of this already scrappily assembled season, and while she did better than imagined, lo and behold, we got an conclusion that was just kind of a clumsy bore as Harrison and company clearly were trying (and failing) to find drama after rushing to the end. 

On Monday night, Harrison made his usual overdramatic statement that Tuesday's finale would be "an ending you won't believe." And he was actually right: I had a hard time believing this dragged-out and dull damp squib was the ending.

As is always, I preface this all by saying that, in the end, the show was a total success because its star – or stars, in this season's case – found love. Say what you about Clare, but she knew the person she wanted to be with and got out before things got needlessly complicated. And now Tayshia found her guy too, albeit in kind of dull fashion. If you wanted trash television and fun drama from "The Bachelorette," this season wasn't quite it; if you wanted emotionally intelligent decisions made by fairly mature people putting smart relationships first, oddly enough do I have a program for you! No wonder the show typically casts young twenty-something Insta-dummies; these darn grown-ups are too thoughtful and complex to make fun bad television!

Onto the show, where to reference an entirely forgotten Julia Roberts-starring indie drama and Oscar play from 2019, Ben is back. After getting dumped and silently accepting it, swallowing his feelings about love, Ben dropped back in to make his proclamations about love, perplexing Tayshia. "We have a rose ceremony tonight," she confusedly complains to a producer – though I'm still confused about how this is particularly different from Bennett aka Patrick Bateman's last-minute return as well. I'm even more confused about why we're watching this from a camera outside the hotel room when we know there's a camera in there. Anyways, sure feels like the producers knew their final three rose ceremony suddenly had no third person and therefore no dramatic elimination, so Ben was re-summoned. (And that's before you realized one of those two remaining people was apparently now a compatability problem for Tayshia, meaning only one guy was truly left – but more on that in a second.)

Ben makes his love confession, Tayshia asks if he'll emotionally run away again when things get tough and, in the end, she sends him away – but not without a big final kiss, one that Tayshia immediately gets mad at herself for doing because it might be passing along false hope. Meanwhile, I guesss Ivan and Zac are just twiddling their thumbs, talking about how they've enjoyed their stay at the La Quinta. 

It's now time for the rose ceremony – now with bonus Ben, which is not a thrill for Ivan and Zac. Tayshia explains that Brendan left and now she essentially traded out Ben for him – and while she's there, could she quick talk to Ivan. Well, this doesn't bode well – and worst of all, I predicted that he would win last night, so clearly he's doomed. And indeed, Tayshia takes Ivan aside to break up with him because of ... concerns. No, really, that's kind of all we get. You see, apparently Ivan and Tayshia had a conversation about religion at some point likely in the Airstream, and they must've realized that they were not on the same page. I don't know, maybe one's devout Catholic and one praises ALF.

This all makes sense as a reason to go separate ways – but what doesn't make sense is that WE SAW NONE OF THIS! This wasn't some random handsome stubble getting bounced; this is one of the final three contestants! And he gets eliminated for something we never got to see or hear about? Where's the drama – and more so, where's merely the coherent storytelling?! It just kind of blindsides and frustrates me that a key relationship on the show ended for reasons that the audience had no way of knowing, which makes the decision feel like a little bit of a cheat. And speaking of a cheat, sure is convenient that Ben's here now! Just having Zac remaining at the end after Brendan self-eliminated himself and somebody's ALF religion blew their releationship up sure would end things on an anti-climactic note! But now we handily have two guys again! What a coinky-dink!

Meanwhile, Ivan makes a prediction that Tayshia will end up picking no one, Zac clearly would've rather faced off against Ivan than Ben, and Ben probably is wondering if he can still get a fantasy suite date. After all, they've probably got a really fancy yurt still set up in the La Quinta parking lot that Brendan didn't use. 

Sorry Ben, but actually it's time to meet Tayshia's family, who learns all about Ben's, uh, unconventional journey to the final two – which is to say he wasn't supposed to be there. "I'm more nervous than I've ever been," Ben says before meeting the clan. YEAH, WE CAN SEE THE BACK SWEAT, DUDE! These poor people must've lost so much water weight filming this show. Remember yesterday when they tried to convince us that sitting in an ice bath in this heat was actually super cold? Fun times. Anyways, Tayshia's dad isn't sure about Ben at first, not loving that he messed up so bad that his daughter originally bounced him and not wanting Tayshia to have to work that hard for her partner to seemingly love her in return. But after a nice talk, they're fine with Ben, and they celebrate their newfound connections with a scooter party. 

Then it's Zac's turn, who says all the right things about how Tayshia glows when she talks about her family and how he sees them happy in the future – WITH KIDS, he pointedly remembers to add, as he's just recently discovered he's a family man. He explains to her dad that he was married once before but wasn't mature enough to truly grasp the emotional commitment to the concept, which earns her father's trust and understanding, while Tayshia giggles a lot during their interactions. Seems like a good sign. Also a good sign? BEING THE ONLY GUY REMAINING WHO WASN'T DUMPED!

Seeing that Zac's the obvious selection since he should basically be the only one left on the show, Harrison sends in a last-minute drama grenade in the hopes of making something exciting happen: Tayshia's dad, who makes one final bonus drop in to remind Tayshia that this is an important decision and HE SURE HOPES SHE DOESN'T MAKE THE BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. The show's really trying to make it seem like now Tayshia's getting cold feet about picking a guy to be with forever; you almost get the impression that they SHOULD JUST LET THEM DATE AT THE END AND NOT FORCE AN ENGAGEMENT! But hey, gotta get those sweet, sweet Neil Lane product placement bucks. 

Anyways, we now have final dates, starting with Zac who gets dancing lessons with Tayshia. She's super distracted, though, by her dad's ominous warnings. Zac, however, loosens her up, helps her laugh and giggle, and celebrates nine years sober. (An earnest congrats!) Zac was rarely my favorite guy on the show, but he does seem like a genuine and good person who's truly in love with Tayshia, who, as she proved with her "Paradise" relationship with John Paul Jones, likes guys with a playful energy about them. Between Zac and Ben, the former definitely feels more like her speed. 

Tayshia apparently agrees, as Ben doesn't get a final date and instead gets a second breakup. THIS TIME, SHE GETS TO MAKE THE SURPRISE DROP-IN! Ben seems about as good about the situation as possible – after all, it's his second time in a few days, so he's used to it now – though it kinda sucks that it looks like he has to load his own luggage into the SUV. Somehow the sad ride back to society got even sadder. 

So I guess there's no big dramatic rose ceremony decision: It's Zac or nothing. Meanwhile, all I'm thinking is how undramatic this has all been, how haphazard the storytelling's gotten, how little intrigue there is since we've been shuffling guys in and out and barely establishing plot points, and how much we are just streeeetching this all out. No wonder we normally have the live studio segments; they allow the producers to cut out the boring bits. 

But hey, who cares? It's time to wander into the desert! Yes, the final locale is the desert hills, on a set surrounded by what appears to be dead grass and tumbleweeds. Ah yes, romance; it is in bloom – and it is the ONLY thing in bloom. Tayshia arrives and has to walk a mile to Harrison, where she seems worried about making her choice but Harrison's like "BE HAPPY; THE SYSTEM WORKS, DAMMIT! Now walk another mile over to those dead palm trees fronds."

Then Zac arrives, and something very important happens: I realize that Zac looks like Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.

Zac and Matt LaFleurX

A little bit, right? Oh, and I guess Zac proposes too, and Tayshia says yes. Oh, huh, would you look at that? Good for them. But OK, snarkiness aside, actually good for them; he seems super in love with Tayshia, and she seems rather happy as well. I wish them well; I just wish it came in a more exciting package that didn't feel like the show was rushing to the end and didn't seem clueless on how to best go about making drama during this unconventional season.

But seriously, how strange were these final episodes? They brought back Patrick Bateman ... just to immediately kick him off again. The final three guys swapped themselves in and out – one of them getting the boot for reasons the audience never got to see. When Tayshia first arrived, I was nervous that her season was going to feel like an afterthought, that it was going to feel like a cobbled-together plan B, and while Tayshia never made it feel that way with her onscreen charisma and chemistry with the cast, her "Bachelorette" does end up feeling half-baked, like something the show was just happy to get to the finish line after Clare bunged up their original plans. It's a forgettable ending to a half-season probably doomed to be forgotten – not a bad season or a good season, just an odd sidecar of a season that definitely happened. 

Here's to Matt, the first Black "Bachelor," turning out something more memorable come next year. I mean, he's got a great name, so how bad could it go!?

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.