What Kaitlyn Bristowe did with sex on the last "Bachelorette" cycle, Ben Higgins did with love on "The Bachelor" season that wrapped Monday: They both broke the series' unwritten rules.
Alas, the lady's rule-breaking — having sex with a suitor outside the confines of the fantasy suite — was more interesting than the gentleman's. Or at least made for better TV.
The finale peaked early, opening with Lauren Bushnell and JoJo Fletcher both declaring their perfect happiness and their absolute love for Ben, who along the way (oops) had told both women he loved them.
More than once he'd told them that, so maybe it wasn't exactly an oops ...
"I can't believe that Ben just told me that he loves me. It just feels so right. More right than anything ever has in my whole life," said Lauren, 25.
"I've always said that I believe that fairy tales can happen and that that type of love is real, and I think this is the first time that I'm living that," said JoJo, 24.
Ben said: "I know that I meant it when I said it both times."
Gotta love those mixed feelings.
The 27-year-old bachelor and his two loves all enjoyed their final dates and their visits home, including a visit with his parents. Fortunately, neither one told Ben's mom and dad that her "lifelong dream" was to be an NFL cheerleader, as babbling twin Emily Ferguson had done with his mother before getting unceremoniously dumped at the end of a date earlier in the season. Like Ben himself, it was all as perfect as it could be.
Even the looming threat of an on-the-spot wedding in the post-game show, with all the parents in the house, as well as Ben's pastor, couldn't generate much authentic tension, no matter how many times the pastor flipped through his Bible. And, no, the wedding didn't happen, though the couple said they intend to get married "soon." Perhaps after dating a bit.
JoJo and Ben did get real at one point in the finale during their last date, as she pressed him for a weak spot in their relationship (other than the fact that it was unfolding on reality TV).
"What is it about you and I that you struggle with, that you see as a doubt or concern in? Honest. Please be honest," she implored, presumably fishing for something she could hit with a last-minute repair.
"This isn't going to help. I don't have one," Ben answered. "Don't roll your eyes. I don't have one, and I wish I could, and I've tried to find something with either relationship that would make it clear. There's not a concern."
(C'mon, reader, don't roll your eyes.)
The two wound up moving from the couch into the bathroom, trying to continue the conversation in whispers, behind closed doors, which we all know from Kaitlyn's mics-still-hot liaison with Nick Vialle doesn't help one darn bit in the privacy department.
"I'm losing my mind," JoJo said.
"Look at me," Ben said. "I'm sitting here on a bathroom floor with you tonight .... What I'm telling you tonight is exactly where I'm at, but ... "
"But what?" JoJo said. "But you love her too. Am I right?"
"And, you said that to her?"
Ben awoke the next day without the clarity he'd been hoping for, then found it suddenly while picking out a big fat diamond engagement ring — one with a $95,000 price tag — and chatting with series stalwart jeweler Neil Lane.
Meanwhile, Lauren, while getting ready to helicopter in to face Ben on judgment day, acknowledged that yeah, the "love of her life" could "potentially be in love with JoJo too."
Ben wound up assuring JoJo that he was in fact in love with her. "I found it with you," he told her as they stood hand in hand. "But -- I found it with someone else more."
He didn't want to let go, didn't want to say goodbye, because "even on a day like today there's still no question that I love you." Ben then put the cherry on the mixed-message sundae by explaining to JoJo that there was actually no point where things had gone wrong, and that his feelings for her hadn't changed.
"JoJo gets the raw end of this deal ... ," the Bachelor explained to the camera before moving on to propose to Lauren. "I don't deserve JoJo."
Lauren took Ben's hands with a bit more confidence, telling him, "Before coming into this, I didn't know love like this existed. I thought it was a nice idea." Now, she said, she'd found her "person."
After revisiting his "I'm unlovable" complex, Ben quite efficiently popped the question. Of course, when he got down on one knee, she said yes (did we mention it was a $95,000 ring?) to the proposal and to accepting the final rose. Mushy talk ensued, and Ben carried his fiancee over the threshold of the helicopter.
And they lived happily ever after. Or at least through the post-game show.
Props to JoJo, incidentally, for rocking a lovely cry-face in the limo and shedding only a dignified amount of tears as she was chauffeured away from her crushed hopes and dreams.
In "After the Final Rose," girlfriend was named the next "Bachelorette," which might wind up being more fun for her than getting married to Perfect Ben anyway.