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The Bachelor Fantasy League, finale: love is gross, and it wins

Goodbye forever, until next week

Love’s a game and this year we’re playing. For the full rules and intellectual justification of The Verge Bachelor Fantasy League please see this explanatory post.

Kaitlyn: Good morning and oh my god. The 21st season of The Bachelor has come to a close, after a mere 1,100 hours of primetime television that could have been used for anything but were instead used to follow one arguably terrible man’s quest for love. And guess what — he found it, for now. Goodbye forever, Nick Viall... until we see you in six days on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Lizzie: I’m happy that Nick found love, but only because now we won’t have to watch him do it ever again. The winner last night was Vanessa, and who could have predicted it, except for anyone who had ever watched The Bachelor before? Nick’s date with Raven was sweet and carefree (Nick described it as “playful” several times) while his date with Vanessa was serious and complex, which, if Bachelor history has taught us anything, is a sign that a big, fat diamond ring is not far behind.

Kaitlyn: The winner, who was Vanessa, was indeed predictable and just about everyone in Twitter’s Bachelor Nation seemed to know it. It was especially clear when Raven announced, “It’s such a relief, I have all the faith in the world that it’s going to end the way I want it to end.”

Not only was Vanessa a predictable choice (who posted a photo on Instagram referring to one of the Bachelor producers as her “secret keeper” hours before the finale...), she was a very boring person to watch and the two-hour finale seemed like it would crawl on indeterminately, possibly forever. We sat through Nick’s family cautiously approving of both Raven (+15) and Vanessa (+15) in the rare moments that they took a breath from explaining that Nick has been dumped on TV twice before. We sat through Chris Harrison giving interstitial color commentary on the heinously boring events of each segment — in the rare moments when he wasn’t explaining that Nick has been dumped on TV twice before. We sat through Nick explaining, shortly after stumbling into Santa Claus in the woods, that he has been dumped on TV twice before.

We also sat through Vanessa explaining why it’s not very romantic to be proposed to mere hours after you were competing with someone else for your lover’s heart, to which Nick replied without flinching, “That’s just a matter of perspective.”

Lizzie: As we’ve mentioned before, Nick is a seasoned pro at this, meaning that where Bachelors past may have stumbled and stuttered, Nick just adjusts his turtleneck collar and coolly states some facts in a way that may or may not come off as mature and romantic. I think Chris Harrison and Nick’s parents were contractually obligated to remind us that Nick has “been down this road before” at least 37 times each, as a way to convey that Nick, more than any other man in Bachelor history, has a sweet, amateurish tendency to get his heart stomped on. But this isn’t little Nick Viall of Bachelorette seasons 10 and 11, this is Nick Viall The Bachelor, the man whose heart is locked in a steel trap of self-doubt and whose brain is stored in a laboratory in Chris Harrison’s basement.

All this means that yesterday’s season finale was missing the classic “man, torn up inside, pacing around on a balcony, putting his head in his hands” montage of previous Bachelor finales. Despite admitting the decision between Raven and Vanessa was a difficult one (another probable contractual obligation) Nick seemed to have no real trouble making it. When Nick apologized to Raven for keeping her around for so long, it felt like he was actually apologizing for the rules of The Bachelor: you can’t have a season finale without a winner and a loser.

Kaitlyn: The proceedings were a little chilly, but does it make me sound crazy if I say I’ve come to expect this from Nick and even find it a little comforting / charming? Probably!

Raven, for her part, took the gut-punch (-10) from Nick in stride — one tear rolled down her cheek as she walked out into a snow drift without her coat. She also told Chris Harrison at the “After the Final Rose” special that she will be thrilled to appear on this year’s Bachelor in Paradise and look for love all over again. Maybe, though Raven didn’t win Nick’s heart, she could be Nick’s protégé?

Anyway, we should talk about what we came here for. After 11 weeks of complaining about extreme boredom, bad editing, and Nick’s horrible personality, we finally saw two people say “I love you” and embrace and promise that they are definitely going to get married (+30) even if maybe or probably they aren’t. Love is gross, and it’s also irresistible, and I was happy for Nick and Vanessa in spite of all my better judgment and everything I told myself during the miserable two hours they had just put me through.

Lizzie: Few reality shows have been as sincere about the prospect of love as both an elusive and an inevitable thing as The Bachelor is. In love, there are no rules (except chain-dating and ABC-sanctioned proposals) but in the Bachelor Fantasy League, there are rules. A steamy make-out is not just the joining of two mouths, but seven points. A proposal is not just the joining of two people, but 30 points. Watching The Bachelor as source material for Bachelor Fantasy League made the rigid structural constraints of the show and the producers’ wily interference all the more obvious.

The rose ceremonies this season were all over the place, either at the start of an episode or entirely non-existent, which meant elimination point loss was always a week behind. The BFL scoring system also favored crying and fighting, which meant an episode could pass with very little point accumulation for promising contestants. It also meant that Corinne was basically enough of a points-earner to be a one-woman team.

Kaitlyn: I put all my chips on Corrine, the one-woman points tornado, and she kept me in first place for most of the season. But she could not get me over the finish line, and in the end our league champion is Chris Plante, who was in last place for several weeks and whose original team happened to include both Raven and Vanessa. If you just glance at the scoring system, it seems to favor people like Corrine, because there is a long list of bad behavior that nets you points. But the high-scoring items are all for things that actually matter — parental approval, making it to the fantasy suite ooh-la-la, saying “I love you,” getting a ring on that finger. You only get one point per cuss, but you get 15 for morning-after innuendo. That’s some free advice, and you can print that on a Hallmark card if you want but I expect royalties.

Is Chris Plante a genius? Or did he win because he, like Nick Viall, is the only who has played this game before?

Lizzie: I had no strategy at all and I came in second place, so I would say BFL, like love, presents itself as a game of planning, cunning, and effort, when it’s all mostly just dumb luck. But you could also point out, if you wanted to, that Jake lost very badly because he was a complete newbie to The Bachelor franchise and refused to put in any effort. So then I would say that up to a point strategy matters, and after that, it’s the winds of chance and the whims of producers. Still, a lot like love.

Kaitlyn: Since we have no conclusions, I guess we should ask ourselves if this was worth it. In my opinion? You guessed it — yes!

What makes The Bachelor worthy of comment in an era where you can watch reality TV about basically anything (real estate, fashion design, Mormonism, cake decorating, ghosts) is the fact that viewers, despite a plethora of options and 15 years to get bored, have still chosen to watch this show. Millions of them! Every week! Including your jaded The Bachelor recappers, who hated most minutes of the experience but couldn’t look away. I have one guess at an explanation for this bizarre ongoing phenomenon, and here it is. The Bachelor has remained essentially unchanged since its start, with the very simplest formula: unlucky in love and looking for love. At the risk of being corny — what’s more human? Despite the literal frills — the prom dresses, the three-piece suits, the ponies — The Bachelor has none of the thematic or structural gimmick extras of its competitors. It’s artificial in a lot of ways, but it has actually produced a pretty high percentage of happy endings for what it is — a high-stakes dating gauntlet that gives you a grand total of maybe 30 hours with someone before deciding if you should get married. It would be stupid to believe what it presents is 100 percent real, but it would also be unfair to say that it’s 100 percent false.

Sometimes people fall in love before your very eyes, and I actually think it’s really nice to rally around the TV and invest this kind of time in hoping for a chance to see that happen. Even for Nick, whom I hate.

Lizzie: That’s a good point Kaitlyn, and yet, people on Twitter seem to agree that this was the worst season of The Bachelor of all time. I will go so far as to say that I didn’t love it, based on what The Bachelor says love should feel like. But if nothing else, we can sleep easy tonight knowing this one thing: we’ll never have to write another word about Nick Viall. (At least not for a few months.)

THE FINAL SCORES

Chris Plante: 1st place, 402 points

We asked Chris Plante, in the winner’s tent, “Are you happy for Nick?”

He said: “I wish him the best, but I can't say I'm convinced this will end well based on this season and the three seasons that preceded it. So no?”

Lizzie Plaugic: 2nd place, 374 points

Loren Grush: 3rd place, 355 points

We asked Loren Grush, our third place finisher, who slipped from first place just two weeks ago, “Did you predict the winner?”

She said: “I did,” even though her final contestant actually was Raven.

Kara Verlaney: 4th place, 324 points

We asked Kara Verlaney, a consistent middle-of-the-pack player and serial drafter of women named Danielle, “What did you learn about competition?”

She said: “Cheese pasta fuels dreams.”

Kaitlyn Tiffany: 5th place, 267 points

Jake Kastrenakes: 6th place, 198 points

We asked Jake Kastrenakes, “Did you watch the finale?”

He said: “You can probably guess by my score that I did not.”