And so we arrive at the last night of this winter of our discontent, assembled to watch a clueless narcissist select one of two shades of blonde to be his lawful wedded TV wife. There will be family! Dresses! Scowling! Sobbing! Who could ask for anything more?

We open with an unusual preface from Chris Harrison, standing in a studio surrounded by fans waiting to watch “After the Final Rose.” He recaps the somewhat checkered history of our bachelor, and asks, “Will he propose to someone tonight? Was he really on the show to find love at all?” Harrison seems to be setting us up for a “he doesn’t pick anybody!” moment, but I think he doth protest too much. Apparently JP told us he would have a surprise tonight on ATFR. I shudder to think.

Cut to St. Lucia, where JP is lounging in another gorgeous resort, this time with his whole family, including Camila. Clare is up first for the home visit, and he explains to Camila that he’ll be introducing someone to her that day. He tells his daughter that Clare is from Sacramento, and the girl repeats “SacraMENto!” in a charming accent, even to my child-hating ears.

Clare enters with the requisite flowers for mom, and greets the rest of the family. After hugs, she sits on the couch with JP and Camila runs in to say hello. She high-fives Clare, but then is shy and clams up. Clare chats with the rest of the family, and we hear that although her whole family is Mexican and speaks Spanish, she does not. Is she much younger than the rest of her household? I don’t really get why she isn’t bilingual.

Now Clare is having a tete a tete with JP’s mom, telling her that she thinks JP “gets her,” and that she loves him. She asks Mom a good question: “Is there anything about his personality that I should know that he wouldn’t tell me?” Mom says that JP is “super hyperactive,” ever since he was little. They started him in soccer basically to tire him out. Mom, in turn, asks how she feels about their communication, and Clare says she thinks it’s great, citing their “disagreement” over the course of the  show. (Note that she doesn’t say what it was about.) Mom is blunter and says, “Sometimes he’s very rude.” Yeah! You tell her, JP’s Mom! (That said, you raised him…) Clare is now apologizing for JP being a jerk–oy. And once again, she recasts the conversation as though they’d had a heart-to-heart that confirms her love for him. She is seriously nuts.

Now Cousin Braceface is having an interview with Clare. (That’s mean of me–he seems very nice; I just can’t remember his name, but we met him in an earlier episode in Miami, too.) His demeanor is that of a police officer trying to get someone to reveal that they’re being held hostage; he asks if she’s strong enough to hold on when things get rough and JP tries to walk away. Wow, when even your family makes you sound like a jerk, the producers must hate your ass.

When Cousin B reconvenes with JP, he seems stunned at how devoted Clare is. “I’m not saying she’s begging for it, but…she’s ready,” he says to JP. Oof. Cut to JP’s dad, who just oozes charm. I am smitten with him at first glance, and he is lovely and kind to her. I vote for JP’s dad for the next bachelor! Oh, except he is not a bachelor. Hmm, I think I felt that way about Andi’s dad too. Is this a pattern I need to investigate?

Time for the smooching! Clare tells JP how much she loved meeting his family, and how she can tell that he was raised right. (Even if he’s rude and hyperactive.) Even in a talking head, she’s not shy about saying that “Juan Pablo has my heart, and now, so does his family.” Girlfriend is all in.

The next day, it’s Nikki’s turn. You may recall that she’s already met a few of JP’s family members, including Cousin B. Nikki tells us she’s nervous because she knows how important family is–she, too, is bringing a spray of flowers and some little present. We don’t get an official Camila intro this time, maybe because Nikki already met her? She’s just there with her dad while Nikki chats with the family. (I think she could have done a little better in wardrobe for this one–she’s in a pretty casual beach maxidress, but at least she doesn’t look like a casino waitress.)

Nikki starts out her interview series with JP’s dad. He seems a little less into Nikki than Clare–he talks about how it will be challenging, because JP is “not an easy guy. He’s focalized [sic] on what he wants.” How did this jerk come from such lovely parents? I’m confused. In the end, JP’s dad says that he thinks Nikki is honest (read: stubborn) enough to hold her own with JP.

With JP’s mom, Nikki talks about what life might be like for Camila. To me she sounds a little naive as she talks about trips to the pool, and games at night–but I think children are terrifying time-sucks whom you can psychologically damage at a moment’s notice, so I may not be completely unbiased here. I didn’t really follow this conversation; it feels more job interview-y than a real “meet the family” moment. Mom tells her that JP is a simple guy who mostly wants to just get up, have breakfast, watch TV with Camila…I don’t really hear “go to work” anywhere in there, but that doesn’t seem to concern Nikki. Mom tells us in voiceover that JP is charismatic, but not easy (again with the “not easy”?) and that Nikki seems “very strong” and that if JP proposes, she thinks Nikki will say yes. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Now it’s her chance with Cousin B, and she tells him, “I don’t think I have to know everything about a person to know that I love them.” Maybe not, but I think you should be a little further along the spectrum from “nothing,” don’t you? Cousin B asks her about how they would disagree, because JP can be a jerk, basically. Nikki laughs and thinks they would “fight well.”

The visit is over, and Nikki says “I feel like I know them on a different level and it’s not a red flag for me.” Um, was that what we were screening for? And the repeated warnings from HIS OWN FAMILY MEMBERS that he’s a selfish jerk doesn’t constitute a red flag? Whatever, girl, I can’t help you. As JP puts her in the van and watches her go, he voiceovers about how his family will give him great advice, but in the end, it’s his decision…”Can I keep both?” UGH.

Harrison pops back in from the studio to point out everything I said above, and remind us that this is “the most controversial finale ever!” I refuse to recap the audience interviews because the questions are always stupid and planted. I ran out of Tivo-time when we got to the “ask the Bachelor alums” section, so I get to hear Kelly (with no Molly in tow) say that she’s concerned that neither Clare nor Nikki seem to be recognizing the warnings JP’s family gave them.

JP is overwhelmed by the decision he has to make, choosing from two distinctly different women with whom he is supposedly in love enough to propose. Uh-huh. Anyway, it’s time for the final dates, and again Clare goes first. She runs to meet him and basically clings to him like a limpet. Then it’s into a helicopter for an airborne tour of the island. The scenery is so beautiful that I take my TV off Standard and put it back on HD, even though I don’t have Tivo. And then…the shocker!

Clare tells us in an interview that, as the copter lands, there’s a moment where there are no cameras and no audio, and JP leans over to whisper in her ear. But instead of sweet nothings, she says that he said something about how he doesn’t really know her, and “something sexual that I’m not even gonna repeat. It was insulting. It was offensive” and it made her feel awful and disrespected. Maybe he’s not the man she thought he was. JP! What is your problem?

Clare is telling us this after the fact, but still wearing the same clothes as this date, and she seems cool (and a little grossed out) but not tear-stained. Meanwhile the video footage is showing JP leading her up a hill to a scenic vista. Her ability to talk herself into believing that they’ve resolved issues leads me to think that he will say nothing meaningful and she will decide it’s an apology. But it would be awesome if she left him and took the helicopter home.

We cut right to Clare in her hotel room alone, so we don’t see any more of the date. But Clare reiterates that he says, “I feel like we don’t know each other.” Is that really the upsetting part? You DON’T know each other! JP shows up at her suite (to pick her up for dinner?) and for the first time, she’s not leaping into his arms. Even JP notices the change as she lets him in but walks away, and asks, “Can I have besito, is that OK?” Um, read the room, dude. Clare is giving a class in Body Language 101, as she says, “Welcome to my place” [DID YOU PAY FOR IT, CLARE?] but sits on the couch and holds a throw pillow in front of her. JP won’t shut up about the stupid besito, but Clare just ignores him and tells him she wants to talk about their camera-free convo.

She seems to be trying to get him to repeat the conversation on camera like she’s an informant wearing a wire. She says, “Tell me again what you said to me this afternoon when there were no cameras.” He, sensing a trap, asks her to remind him, and then immediately goes into, “You tell me. What do you wanna know?” Clare implies that he was specifically talking about whatever sex/near-sex they had in the ocean that time, but only says that JP claimed they “had chemistry, but didn’t know enough about each other.” She’s trying to talk about it, and as is par for the course with JP, he’s interrupting to murmur whatever he thinks she wants to hear. He’s all, oh, so that’s why you didn’t kiss me (pouty face–ew). Clare is getting visibly annoyed as she says, “I just want to be able to talk about it” while JP tries to blow it off. Somewhere, Andi is watching this in comfy sweats and thinking “Bullet? DODGED.”

JP says, “The part that I know Clare, I like; there’s bunch of it that I don’t like.” Um, I think he’s saying that there might be things he doesn’t like, but he hasn’t met them yet? And then he goes into his “honesty” shtick again. Basically, Clare (in a talking head) tells us that if JP can’t say that he feels more than a physical connection, she’s outta here. (I don’t believe her.)

Back from commercial, Clare is trying to explain to JP (in very small words) that although it’s clear they both enjoy the kissing, etc., relationships are hard, and she has to know that they can work through stuff together. She kind of wants him to profess his commitment to her, which I’m sure the show won’t let him do, but I get what she’s saying–he needs to be all, “I love you for your ineffable Clare-ness” like the finest romantic heroes do. He doesn’t really get this, but says that her rule about no kissing after their one-on-one date was the best thing they could have done. (Um, did they have such a rule? I don’t recall them following it, that’s for sure.) But finally he catches her snap and starts listing off the things about her that he likes, but it’s too little too late. She’s basically, “What do you need to know in order to feel ready to propose?”

He starts going off on how hard the decision is for him, because he’s proposing for him and his daughter, and I think he even manages a glimmer of moisture in his eyes. Clare is falling for it, or at least lets him snuggle a little closer. He tries to convince her of his sincerity by saying, “Who met Camila? Who met my family?” but I believe the whole issue, JP, is that THEY BOTH DID. But then he says, “So you’re special to me. I know if I end up with you, we’re going to have a baby in like a year and two months.” Oops…I think the word “baby” has ensorcelled her. Once again, JP has promised nothing, but says “I feel great about you,” and somehow she thinks that they’ve had a meeting of the minds. My god, no wonder this woman is so often disappointed in love. She has serious verbal comprehension questions.

Throughout the show, by the way, we’re getting picture-in-picture of the studio audience, but because they’re all just sitting and watching, stony-faced, it’s pointless.

Back in the suite, JP whips out his phone and plays “their” song yet again, and I assume this Josh musician will propose to JP for getting him so many royalties. Clare giggles and says, “We should play it when we get married.” Oh, Clare, I fear life is going to smack you upside the head like a shovel. In her final voiceover she tells us, “I may not know him 100%, but I know we have something special.” You sure do, Clare! You are in the top 2 of 27 women he began dating six weeks ago!

Back to Chris Harrison, who’s practically rolling his eyes as he observes that Clare stayed with JP despite hearing something “offensive” in the helicopter. And…cut to Sharleen, whom CH says, “Seem[s] to know JP well. What just happened there?” Sharleen, not afraid of shaming the other women now that she got out, says she found it painful to watch Clare ignore her intuition while JP patronizes her and placates her with bland affirmations. Sharleen, are you auditioning to take over as recapper? [You totally can! Call me!] The consensus in the alumni box is that Clare got snowed and they all pity her.

Nikki’s turn! Think JP can go three for three and drive away another bachelorette? She arrives in a relatively restrained bikini to go yachting with him. Besitos a-plenty for these two…Nikki seems to have no doubts, but she tells us in a talking head that the only thing missing is hearing JP say he loves her. (However, unlike Clare’s neediness, from Nikki it sounds more like, “I know he’s not allowed to yet, but he will soon enough.”) JP asks her, “Do you have any concerns?” She says no, but then say that JP seems a little scared to open up. He says, “When I feel it, I will open up.” Um, doesn’t that mean you don’t feel it now? And isn’t that a bad thing if you’re expected to propose tomorrow?

They frolic on the beach, they smooch, and Nikki asks, “What’s going to happen when you don’t have private islands anymore?” JP responds, “Well, I have a bed…and a TV…” OK, you get one guarded “heh” for that, pal. Don’t get comfortable.

Night falls, and it’s time for JP to come see Nikki in her suite. Muchos besitos here as well, and we are rewarded with another stripper special from Nikki’s Wardrobe. This looks like a simple white maxidress from the back, but the front has a lacy inset like a peekaboo coat-of-arms. Oh, child. Anyway, they sit together and talk about how crazy it is that their courtship is coming to an end–or maybe a beginning, but Nikki doesn’t know. She’s pensive, and he’s blandly sympathetic without actual empathy. The picture-in-picture audience is unconvinced as well.

Nikki leads him into the bedroom, and at first I think they’ve added a second fantasy suite night, but it was actually so that she could give him a present–a photo collection from their dates, along with an “I love you” card in childish handwriting. He kisses her, but says nothing–but his last kiss, near her ear, is lingering, and perhaps he whispered something. The smacking noises are overmiked and squicking me out. He takes his present and says goodnight, while Nikki cries delicately. Oof, this is painful in an entirely different way from Clare’s date, and yet it’s just as bad.

Chris Harrison tells us that at last, it’s the moment of truth! But we still have 20 minutes left, so I don’t believe him. We’ve skipped the “pick out the perfect ring” segment–JP is just holding a product-placed Neil Lane box with a big honker of a ring in it. Both ladies put on their gowns and do some balcony brooding, and this whole segment feels rushed. Are we seriously heading to a “I choose no one” ending?

Both of these women have to travel in a van, while JP gets a dramatic boat ride. I hope their dresses aren’t too rumpled by the seatbelt. Oh, now they get boated, too, which is surely messing up their hair. JP is standing at the tropical altar, looking as serious as he gets. The sweeping music climaxes and silences, with only the jungle birds for accompaniment. The first boat (St. Lucia limo?) arrives, and the lady stepping off is…Clare. In spike heels. Waiting to walk up the beach. Her awkward steps reveal that they were a bad choice. Chris Harrison escorts her through a big random gate and down a dirt trail to where JP awaits, still looking somber.

“One of the best feelings I get when I’m with Juan Pablo is him saying ‘Trust me, it’s gonna be OK,'” says Clare. Oh, you in danger, girl! Her dress, like Nikki’s, is slit up to mid-thigh, FYI. Clare is still monologuing as she approaches, saying that her dad would be proud of her for “opening up” and that “nothing [JP] said the other night said that he had any doubts.” Oof. At last, she arrives and takes JP’s hands.

He just stands there for a while and then says, “You look pretty,” like a 13-year-old at his first dance. Shape up, doofus! But that’s the cue for Clare to give her “My Journey” speech. Lady, this isn’t Notting Hill, spare us all the “just a girl” speech. JP now does the same, acknowledging their ups and downs, and says that she’s an amazing woman. But then he says (delightfully, if you’re a jerk like me), “I wish the earth sucked me today because this is such a hard decision.” Clare’s brow begins to furrow, but I don’t think it’s at his inelegant turn of phrase. Her smile has faded, and she’s now starting to look pissed. JP ends with, “I have to do what’s best for me, and I have to say goodbye to you.” He moves in for a hug, and Clare stiff-arms him, at which the studio audience shrieks and applauds. Hee!

Clare calls him out on telling her last night that he could see himself with her and not letting her go then. She is pissed and speechifyin’. She tosses Sharleen and Andi back in his face as examples of people who let him go when they knew they didn’t share his feelings. He keeps trying to interrupt her, but she won’t have it, and when he tries to explain his decision, she tells him, “It doesn’t matter. I’ve lost respect for you,” and WALKS AWAY. Good. I mean, she’s still a nutball who couldn’t see the glaring stop signs along the way, but no one wants to get dumped on national TV.  Ooh, and added bonus: she turns back to say, “I didn’t know what kind of man you were, but what you just made me go through? I would never want my children having a father like you.” And she’s out. The audience hoots in glee.

Clare returns to Chris Harrison for a comforting hug and an escort back to her boat…and now the tears begin.  Cut to JP, saying to “himself” (i.e. America), “Whew. Glad I didn’t pick her.” The audience howls for blood, and JP has sealed his fate. Clare tells us how disappointed she is, because he’s not the man he thought she was. (And because her crazy sister will have a field day with “I told you so” when she gets back home.) “Where’s that man who will fight for me?” she wails. Wow, has Clare done enough to unseat Andi from the “next Bachelorette” throne?

Only one lady left, but Chris Harrison sure wants us to think that JP might dump her too. Nikki arrives on the same boat that brought Clare, and has the same trouble with her shoes in the sand walking up to the gates. You’d think the show could have extended that boardwalk a little further for them. Nikki does another riff on her “there’s a good chance I’m getting engaged today!” speech, and imagining what JP will say to her.

JP has serious face on again while he waits for Nikki to deliver her speech. It’s been amazing, she doesn’t want it to end, yada yada, she loves him. When she finishes, JP just says, “Thank you.” And then he says, “I love so many things about you…there’s a reason I wanted you to be here. So much, because you’re like me.” I genuinely can’t tell if he’s trying to let her down easy, or if this is a profession of love. He harks back to the words of Nikki’s dad: “If you’re going to propose to my daughter, you have to be 100% sure.” And then he tells her, “I have a ring in my pocket, but I’m not going to use it. I’m not 100% sure that I want to propose, but I am sure that I don’t want to let you go.” And then he asks her, “Nikki, will you accept my final rose?” She looks a little disappointed as she parses this whole speech, but ends on “He likes me!” and says “Absolutely.” They seal it with a kiss. The audience is mostly quiet–I think a lot of them are still trying to figure out whether this is a good or a bad outcome.

Although she doesn’t get her ring, she does get a “yo quiero.” And he says, “Don’t get cranky now, because you’re hot. Don’t get cranky now. Later.” And she laughs through some tears and says, “OK.” Um…they lived happily ever after until the next commercial break?

We swing right into “After the Final Rose,” but I’m out! It’s been fun, and I wish final roses to every last one of you.