This post reveals “plot” points of episode 10 of The Bachelor season 21.
According to the fabricated lexicon of The Bachelor, the show’s characters do not participate in a mere televised dating competition. They have been brought together, instead, on an emotional adventure that the show refers to, infallibly, as “a journey.”
The Bachelor’s insistence on its own vague Campbelliness is ironic for several reasons. The biggest is that, while the show does offer a kind of momentum—things proceed week after week, Rose Ceremony after Rose Ceremony, with romantic tensions inevitably mounting—its participants, for the most part, do very little in the way of their own development. There are characters, yes, but very few arcs. The Bachelor or Bachelorette in question might learn some things as the season proceeds, sure; for the most part, though, the contestants are who they are, and they stay who they are. The tensions come not as those contestants grow and change, but instead as their different facets are systematically revealed to the Bachelor(ette). Different sides of their personalities are glimpsed; people are kept around or kicked to the curb based on the facets of themselves that manifest as the Journey continues apace. The Bachelor, basically, is a show that offers a lot of movement, but very little evolution.
Which made Monday’s episode especially striking. First, because, at the Rose Ceremony at the episode’s outset, Nick “said goodbye” (another term of Bachelor art) to Corinne Olympios, the season’s appointed villain. Corinne, who is dramatic and zany and materialistic and Good TV in human form, had long been a front-runner both despite and because of her antics (as SB Nation summed it up earlier this month, “Oh God, Corinne’s gonna win this whole dang thing, isn’t she?”). Her ouster on Monday, right before the Fantasy Suite dates, was a shock—to viewers of the show including, but definitely not limited to, Corinne herself.
What was doubly striking about Corinne’s departure, though, was that she used the show’s elaborate farewell ritual to contradict The Bachelor’s dynamic stasis: While being broken up with by Nick and, by extension, Bachelor Nation, Corinne demonstrated that, against all odds, she had grown. As a person! Sort of! (I’d use another Bachelorism here, but of course, for this kind of thing, there is none.)
The Bachelor’s traditional departure scene—Woman, Weeping Alone in a Limo—typically involves the said-goodbye-to contestant crying, wiping away mascara-tears, and discussing how much she wants—really, how ready she is—to “find love.” Not so Corinne. The woman who had spend the season defying the show’s long-established norms had one more trick up her faux-fur-covered sleeve. Corinne, Weeping Alone in a Limo, told the show’s invisible cameras not about how sad she was, but instead about … how changed she was. The season’s villain and cipher and punchline and living, breathing conspiracy theory used her final moments within the Bachelor spotlight to talk about what she had taken away from her experience on the show. She used them to talk not about The Journey, but about her own.
It went like this: Nick did not call Corinne’s name at the New York City-based Rose Ceremony. He walked her out to the limo. “I’m sorry,” she told him, as they embraced. “I’m sorry if I ever did anything to make you upset.”
He replied: “You never did! Listen, you never did anything wrong. Ever. You have nothing to regret. You have nothing to second guess. Look at me—nothing. Not a thing. You need to know that. Okay?”
Corinne stepped into the limo. The traditional departure ritual began. She wept, as plaintive piano notes surrounded her. “Saying goodbye to Nick,” she told the camera, “is like, I feel like my heart is like, literally like—it’s never going to be repaired. I just want to feel loved—the way it’s supposed to be, like the normal way.”
It was all standard-issue Bachelor stuff, right down to the invocation of “the normal way” … until things—as they so often will when Corinne is involved—took a turn. “I’m trying to, you know, say things that men think are appropriate,” she said, as her tears gave way to a slow smile. “And you know what? I’m done. Done trying to show my men how much I worship them and I love them and I care for them and I support them. I need that! So if someone feels that way about me? They can come and tell me. And they can bring a ring to go along with it.”
It was … feminist? Sort of? It was also inflected with Corinne’s characteristic self-absorption and materialism, yes—and the probable result of some liberal editing, with that quick shift from weeping to grinning—but still. Corinne, with this, was rejecting the stuff of all those Cosmo stories offering advice on How to Please Your Man—and the stuff, for that matter, of a culture that tends to assume that women, and women alone, should do the work of making sure that men feel supported, and cherished, and, indeed, “worshipped.” Corinne had spend her season of The Bachelor myopically—even maniacally—focused on Nick. She had been, in Bachelorese, There for Nick and There for the Right Reasons and Not There to Make Friends. And in the end, if the aim is to be the woman before whom Nick “gets down on one knee,” it had all failed.
Corinne took all that and then did something that is rare and almost rebellious within The Bachelor’s gauzy confines: She learned a lesson. She took the show’s truisms about coupledom and transformed them into other clichés: Corinne will, she suggested, from here on out, Focus on Herself and Do It for Herself. Corinne will do Corinne. She will Make Corinne Great Again. “I’m going to be me,” Corinne told the show’s invisible camera, as its invisible piano played her off. “And whatever happens, happens. But I will never kiss up to a man again in my entire life.”