Every time I drive the I-5 up north and back, I take a moment to think about Trini, the original yellow Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, who died in a car crash on the same route.
In the hotel on Wednesday I watched the excrutiatingly lengthed Bachelor finale, this season being of particular car-crash interest because the producers decided to age the show. In order to secure an engagement and hopefully successful relationship by the end, contestants were bumped up by ten to eighteen years, and The Bachelor, Byron, was a fisherman who looked like he'd been leeched dry by the sun and the salt and the trout of the earth. Whereas on other seasons of the show it was quasi-fascinating to watch twenty-year olds declare that the bachelor was everything they'd be looking for since puberty, and that they were ready to switch colleges mid-stream and move to [insert bachelor's hometown], this season had the necessity of fate laid down upon it. The women, some having been through divorces and most having entered the era of the ticking clock, seemed to need Byron to be worth it in a way that superceded the "I'm ready to settle downness" of the previous younger contestants. This season's contenders were ready to make him destiny, simply by virtue of the fact, it seemed, that it had taken them some thirty-odd years to get to him.
And that's where Mary, eventual victor comes in. I've written before about what an impressively weird indicator of mass mentality and peer pressure it is that most all the women (or men, in the case of The Bachelorette) end up falling for the same (lackluster) person. So it's even weirder that Mary could fall hard for not only one unappealing Bachelor, not-so-funny-once-you-see-more-of-him Bob, but two in a row. What are the odds? I think the thought scared both Mary and Byron- that basically anyone could have been handing out those roses and she would have developed feelings- so fate was summoned to smoothe over the lack of specificity they were so nervous about. Even Byron must have been questioning his own path, since Mary showed up halfway through the show when producers decided to bring her and another former contestant in to piss off the women who'd been there from the beginning. Byron must have wondered at one point (I'm hoping) "If the season hadn't been so boring and ABC hadn't gone and grabbed Mary from Florida, would I haved ended up engaged to another woman in the group, just because of her being in the group and the show necessitating a choice?" With all these interchangeable variables floating in their heads, what else could Byron and Mary do but resort to the notion of fate having brought them together, having brought her past Bob and him past the thirty other women vying for him, until they were both here, on TV.
This is why I was sort of pleased during the final episode, when this season's untethered and sadly urgent declarations took a backseat to the cinematography at the last rose ceremony, where Byron proposed to Mary. The visuals suddenly grounded these two people, made them vulnerable and flawed in a way that they'd been desperately trying to cover up with indications larger than themselves. Byron, his upper lip beaded with sweat that glowed in the night, looked the haggard, weary guy that I suspect he is, and his hairline, slicked back with ever-wet gel, was like a slow tide receding. Mary showed up with her hair a disaster from a) over-drying (sorry) and b) the head thrashing she had performed on the way over in the limo, waiting to find out why Byron would say. She wandered over to the pool bedraggled, and when the camera came in for its close-up, there were her pores, too, and her sun damage, and disappointment nestled in the lines of her face. Let's say the lighting and camera angles did them no favors. When these two pressed their faces together, and I saw what a mess they were together, that they'd seemed to be the first ever couple in the show's history to forget the cameras were there while they proceeded to do unphotogenic-looking things like sweat and drip snot and make creepy faces and press one another's heads to their bellies, I thought there was a chance that they had come back down to earth and found out that they genuinely wanted each other.
This still might be true, but during the next hour (the third), the "after-show" wrap-up, they were hovering back up above humanity again. When the host asked Byron when he had figured out that Mary had been the one, I was hoping for a simple moment, an admission of the time she looked over her shoulder at him or a night when he couldn't sleep thinking of her. Instead, Byron pulled out his journal- a fucking journal!- and read to the audience. Unfortunately I didn't take down his words exactly because that would have required moving, but trust me when I paraphrase and say they were very similar to this: "I believe in guardian angels, and a few people close to me have recently died who I now believe are watching over me, and one day there was a spiritual gust of wind when I was with Mary, and I knew it was my guardian angels telling me that she was the one." Whoa, Byron, way to take accountability for your own romantic decisions. Had the wind not been gusting that day, it's disturbing to think that somebody totally different might have been sitting next to Byron on the couch. That's either a really gross way to run a life, or a really big insult to Mary, who should have warranted her own revelation, separate from the dead relatives.
Next season: un-engaged Firestone Bachelorette Jenn Schefft is back, and how did ABC manage to convince her (she seemed like such an easily embarrassed person when we last saw her) to act like such a tard in the promos?