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'The Bachelor': In which Jake puts a ring on it

March 1, 2010 | 10:29 pm
118741_610_pre Throughout its 14-season run, "The Bachelor" has endured its fair share of criticism, having been called scripted, shallow and exploitative.  All that may be true, but it doesn't make it any less fun to watch with a room full of friends after a long, boring Monday.

I'm not sure what it is about the show that gets us so invested, but tonight's season finale had my friends and I shouting at the TV, hiding our faces in second-hand mortification, and even pausing the on-screen action to finish up heated debates about whether Jake would choose Tenley or Vienna.

I can't say I was surprised to see Jake get down on one knee and propose to Vienna.  She may not be the most beautiful of the contestants, and she may not be the most elegant, but she was certainly the most polarizing.  Those who liked her were fiercely defensive of her honesty and devil-may-care attitude, and those who disliked her - including many of the other bachelorettes in the house - had no qualms about announcing their distaste. Jake's refusal to send her home even at the height of the scrutiny proved that he'd developed real feelings for her; perhaps beyond what viewers could perceive on-screen.

To help Jake make his decision, ABC flew his family down to gorgeous St. Lucia to meet the girls.  Jake was so delighted to see his family that he suggested they move the coffee table aside so that they could all make a "dogpile" and hug each other. There wasn't much time for that, though, because Tenley was on her way in to face the Pavelkas.

Tenley's visit with Jake's family couldn't have gone any better, really.  They didn't mind that she kept talking about her painful divorce. Jake's mother could see Tenley getting along with her other daughters-in-law, and Jake's father was so enamored of her that he couldn't turn off the waterworks.

In a private moment with his mother, though, Jake said of Tenley, "I'm not sure if she knows that if she puts herself on the edge of the pool, I'm gonna push her in!" On the other hand, two weeks ago Vienna had no problem being on the wrong end of his sword as he made her walk the plank into the ocean. 

Vienna's first meeting with Jake's family didn't go quite as smoothly.  She threw it out there right away that she's "brutally honest," but she came off as a little bit defensive and confrontational. She casually called Tenley a robot. An attitude like that might make her a great candidate to be Kristin Cavalleri's next sidekick on "The Hills," but it doesn't necessarily make her the ideal in-law candidate.

 She and Jake also seemed to be off in their own little world.  When Jake's mother asked Vienna questions during the meal, Vienna would address her answers to Jake, not to his mom.  Also, as my friend Ashley pointed out, it's interesting to note that Jake went outside to greet Vienna and walk her in - he didn't do that with Tenley.

The family did eventually warm up to Vienna.  When Jake's mom asked what Vienna would do if everything was going wrong but Jake was out of town working, Vienna gave the best answer imaginable: "I'd have you guys."  By the end, Jake's sister-in-law felt so guilty about prejudging Vienna that she cried.

When the family pow-wows were behind them, it was time for the "Last Chance" dates.  Jake took Vienna to the Soufriere Sulphur Springs, where they rolled around in "silky" mud all day.  Is it just me, or does every one of their dates end up looking like a scene out of "From Here to Eternity"? 

I also can't resist mentioning how incredibly hilarious it is that ABC digitally altered Vienna's bathing suit so that it covered more of her derriere.  That particular special effect looked like it had been done in Microsoft Paint.118741_226_pre

At the end of their date, Vienna gave Jake her promise ring.  Of course, Vienna's promise ring is a little different from Nick Jonas' -- she wore it to symbolize the promise she made to her father that she wouldn't rush into marriage again the way she did when she was "a stupid kid."  As opposed to now, when she's wise and weathered at age 23.

Tenley's date started off fantastically, with the couple watching dolphins play alongside their boat before taking a scuba dive through some beautiful coral reefs.  I have to say, I can't get what the girls said about Tenley last week out of my mind - that she dreams in cartoons and [bleeps] rainbows. She's just so perfect, with her impeccable curls and Disney princess voice. While she and Jake were exploring the deep ocean, I was half expecting Flounder and Sebastian to pop out and tell Jake he'd better kiss the girl.

Unfortunately, the end of the date didn't go quite so, uh... swimmingly.  Jake confessed that he felt a lack of physical heat with Tenley, and that despite their "hot" emotional connection, there wasn't any "crazy mad passionate love."  Ouch? Tenley looked absolutely crushed, and it was hard for the date to recover after that - though she did vow to show him exactly how much chemistry they could have.

Cue a long Montage of Pensiveness.  Jake pensively walking along the ocean. Tenley pensively sipping tea in her bikini top. Vienna pensively drawing hearts in the sand.  Finally, after a lot of thinking (thinking that required several venues and costume changes for all three parties involved) it was time to make his final choice.

Tenley stepped out of the helicopter looking (once again) perfect in her gold gown.  "How can he not be sexually attracted to her!?" my friend Jenny exclaimed.  "I'm sexually attracted to her." There's no denying how gorgeous Tenley looked, but I can't say she appeared particularly confident... and for good reason.

118741_324_pre "You're just perfect," Jake choked out, and Tenley shook her head, frowning.  It was clear that she knew  what was coming next.  "Where did we miss each other, Tenley?"

After all the seasons of "The Bachelor" I've seen, this had to have been the saddest goodbye ever. Jake was a wreck, and even Tenley, who smiled through all the painful stories about her ex-husband's betrayal, couldn't keep her face from crumpling. Finally, after a lot of pausing to sob and embrace, Tenley told Jake, "I loved falling in love with you."

Vienna didn't look terrible when she got out of the helicopter, but in comparison to Tenley, she sort of looked like she was late for a toga party, so she grabbed a curtain and her favorite Hot Topic belt.  That said, she seemed far more confident than Tenley did as she approached Jake.

As hard as I am on Vienna, I was genuinely happy to see how delighted she was to accept Jake's marriage proposal.  She really does bring out the best side of Jake and he's believed in her all along, despite all the forces standing against her. Hopefully, when she said "yes," she meant it... unlike the two other marriage proposals she's accepted in the past.

The "After the Final Rose" special didn't reveal too many new details about Jake and Vienna's romance - except, of course, that it's still going strong and they're looking forward to moving in together in Dallas and introducing their families.  My favorite part of the special was when Tenley, breaking out of her Disney princess shell, asked Jake how he could confidently propose to Vienna if his "heart still hurts" for Tenley.  Jake didn't have much of an answer.  As he said, he's never been good at articulating what it is that makes Vienna so special to him, but he's always felt it.

The evening ended with Jake and Vienna dancing as Jeffrey Osborne sang the season's theme song, "On The Wings of Love."  It was so ridiculously cheesy that I wanted to hide under my couch. Somewhere, Chris Harrison is definitely getting the last laugh.

Have at it, Showtrackers!  Let's all talk about Jake's decision in the comments below.  Do you think he made the right choice? And don't stop there - let me know what you thought about Jake's family visit, the super awkward "physical chemistry" discussion on the boat, that incredible ring weighing down Vienna's finger and more.  I'll catch you guys here next week to discuss "The Bachelor: Jason & Molly's Wedding."  Can't wait!

--Carina MacKenzie (catch up with me on Twitter @cadlymack)

Photos: Top - Vienna and Jake embrace after their engagement. Middle - the two Neil Lane diamond rings Jake chose for his would-be brides. Bottom - Jake and Tenley say goodbye. (All Credit: ABC)

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