By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Nov 23, 2022 at 6:26 PM

Between the basically plagiarized Casa Bache-mor twist, an over-stretched 16-episode run with plenty of Jared-and-Ashley-based filler and thoroughly frustrating contestants, this "Bachelor in Paradise" run has been less than a paradise for viewers. Credit where credit is due, though: The finale kinda crushed it, delivering true romance along with a true cringe-tastrophe. 

So we begin night one of this two-day extravaganza with ... Wells recapping everything we've already watched this season. Listen, I'm here. I've been here this entire season. I don't need a refresher. We're not talking "War and Peace" plot complexity. But the producers clearly needed to fill ten minutes of programming, so here we are. Congratulations to Wells for being a human loading screen. 

After that, we FINALLY get to begin the finale proper with the final cocktail party and rose ceremony of the season. But first, Mara decides that – unlike the show – she's not going to waste our time and self-boots herself from the beach before the evening's festivities since she knows there's no one for her to even attempt to steal away. That leaves us eight guys and eight girls, a rose guaranteed for everyone ... soooo where's the drama going to come from? Oh, Aaron and Genevieve – obviously, duh. Indeed, the most turbulent thing to hit ABC's airwaves since the "Lost" plane crash is at it again, as Palmer announces that they're jumping straight to the rose ceremony and Genevieve JUST CANNOT BELIEVE that Aaron walked five feet ahead of her after the announcement. I'd say this is the most ridiculous fight of the season ... but "itching versus pain" was just last week so I guess this takes a close silver medal. 

Other than that, though, the ceremony goes mostly without a hitch. Michael gives his rose to Danielle, Brandon locks in one last time with Serene, and Johnny hands off his carnation to Victoria. He does so, however, with a "I'm not sure what the future holds for us" statement and talk about how she makes living in the moment so fun – which SURE SOUNDS LIKE MORE HEDGING FROM THE KING OF NON-COMMITMENT! Friends, I am concerned. Elsewhere, Tyler gives his rose to Brittany, and Aaron gives his to Genevieve. Hold on, you're telling me Genevieve may have read way too much into Aaron's aloof bro-y behavior?! WHY I NEVER!

The Christian Yelich twins successfully give their carnations to Flo and Shanae, leaving just Logan and Kate. The Pete Davidson of "Paradise" gives a seemingly earnest and passionate speech to Kate about their relationship, while Kate stares up at him with a face that screams "Bless your heart, I'm about to stab-murder your emotions." And indeed, after Logan's soliloquy, Kate proclaims that all of his issues with her criticisms and dramatic behavior are just projections – and yeah, she's gonna pass on that rose. Cue everyone in the cast and crew doing their best impression of the (*pretends to be shocked*) meme:

Kate happily heads off to her SUV of freedom, giddily talking about how she wants to be with someone more dry hump-able with a bigger ... man business, in all meanings of that phrase. Comes off great, no notes. Logan, meanwhile, leaves probably texting "u up?" to Lyndsey. 

So we're left with our final couplings, who are instructed by Palmer to have some serious conversations about what's next – because "Paradise" is done and now it's time for fantasy suites and engagement talk. Serene and Brandon, in a true shock, are totally happy and on the same page. While everyone else has been dating around and dipping into drama, these two minded their own business and had all these chats already – so they're staying for the fantasy suite. When Serene returns to the ladies with the news, Brittany asks "Did he say the L-word!?" Come on, Brittany: He probably said that on, like, night two. That benchmark was hit months ago. 

Brittany's got the L-word on her mind, though, because she really wants to hear it from Tyler if they intend on staying together beyond the show. And while at first he sounds like he's preparing for a breakup speech, he quickly changes course and tells her that he's falling in love with her ... and also that he's not ready to get engaged but IS ready to see what their pairing can be in the real world. They leave together, and we love to see it – an MVP ending for this season's MVP. SURELY NOTHING WILL MAKE ME REGRET THESE WORDS!

Elsewhere, Christian Yelich twin one and Shanae venture off to have their important conversation. He's convinced that they're on the same page and that they're a legitimate relationship; meanwhile Shanae's immediately crying and shoving her face into the cushion to hide. So yeah ... I'm thinking this isn't going the way you think, Joey. Indeed, Shanae tells him that they're done – but REEEEEAL messy, constantly saying that he's not enough of a man and that he makes too many TikToks. Let's just politely ignore the TikTok slander – which, as some internet sleuths discovered, is nonsense since he's made exactly one TikTok over the past year – and jump to the man talk. Now, like with Kate, I get what she's saying here: He's very young, very living with his parents and very unestablished. He's not someone who feels like he knows how to spell "mortgage" much less how to apply for one. But say it with me now: "We're just in two different places in our lives right now, so I think we should break up." SEE HOW MUCH BETTER THAT IS?! It's accurate – and also not mean! Still, despite failing to stick the landing, Shanae's image has gotten a real rehab this season, going from "all-time hated villain" to "everyone's favorite messy friend" over 16 episodes – so we'll call it a win. 

Joey is less in a winning mood after the breakup – especially because he can't stand that, while his heart's getting broken, his twin is just so in love. OOPS, looks like he misread that situation too: Smash cut to Christian Yelich twin two and Flo agreeing that they've got nothing real together and pleasantly hug goodbye in about three quick sentences. Looks like we can tell who got all the self-awareness and room-reading abilities of the twins. 

Off to Victoria, Johnny and Johnny's cornucopia of sighs – which can't be a good sign. Sorry, considering how his time with Gabby ended at the last minute, I'm ... dubious of his commitment talk, especially when it comes so cushioned with wishy-washy words and vague certainty. That being said ... THE MAN MIGHT ACTUALLY BE COMMITTING! So much so that the two don't leave the beach but instead stay to see if a televised engagement is in the cards. I wouldn't bet on it (and not just because I'd read the spoilers) but I'm strangely rooting for it. 

As for things I'm not rooting for, it's Genevieve and Aaron's turn to have a serious conversation. Considering they can't even discuss the difference between a pain and an itch without someone packing their bags and wanting to leave the country, I have a hard time believing a discussion about an actually important topic will go well. LO AND BEHOLD! Aaron starts with a bunch of pleasantries – albeit all in the past tense, like "I fell in love with you," which is a clue this ain't ending well – but eventually gets around to saying that he doesn't like how their fights always get so explosive and that she struggles to talk to him when things get tough. In conclusion, considering this is the easiest life will ever get for them – which ACCURATE – he thinks they should break up.

Genevieve's response ... is no response, just silently staring. So, after a minute of awkward quiet, he calls it a day, wishes her the best and walks off to probably hang with his true love – his chill bros – one last time. Genevieve heads in the opposite direction to leave – but while we're all resetting our "it's been __ days since Genevieve's packed her bags" signs, she realizes she's not gonna let Aaron get the final word on their relationship, stomping away to find him and have one final fight for old time's sake. She lets him know that it's crappy that he put their relationship's failings on her and that he prolonged their pairing for seemingly no reason, before hopping into her SUV of freedom and dropping some final "big facts" to the camera. She definitely had those lines saved up for a few weeks now.  

Much of the internet's worked VERY hard to decide who's the villain of this relationship – but the real villain is just their relationship in general. They're just a terrible pairing: Genevieve is a ball of anxiety who overthinks everything while Aaron doesn't seem to think about his words or actions much at all. That's a great recipe for a tire fire – especially when we've seen Aaron aloofly bail on relationships to hang with his friends before and, earlier than that, get himself involved in whatever arguments he could. (Thought we'd forget that with all the "chill brah" rebranding, dude?) It's just a classic case of a poor pairing bringing out the worst of its two partners rather than the best – not terrible people, just a terrible arrangement. I'm glad they're done – and I think they'd happily agree. 

As for significantly less terrible arrangements, we get to our final Big Chat of the episode: Michael and Danielle. She's a little nervous, which seems odd considering their tight connection – but last time Michael seemed locked into a relationship, he broke it off immediately after LITERALLY GETTING GIFTED A CONSTELLATION, so I get the hesitance. Thankfully, though, Michael doesn't bail this time, giving a speech about a special compass that he feels led him to her. (For Sierra's sake, he smartly avoids a "following my North Star" reference.) They're not going to get engaged right away because obviously they have much to unpack and figure out still – but they do leave the beach together, profoundly happy and, in Danielle's case, profoundly horny. 

So that leaves two final couples on the beach: Brandon and Serene, along with Victoria and Johnny. And as the lone survivors, they earn a fancy dinner – with real food and everything! Even crazier: THEY EAT IT! What a coup for this show's chefs! They've wanted this for so long. The two pairings reminisce about their favorite memories and moments from the season thus far, all while Johnny looks like he has a lot of thoughts on his mind. Maybe he's just trying to forget that, as Victoria recalls, their first memory together was him calling her the wrong name. 

Or maybe his mind is on the next day's big event: fantasy suites. Brandon and Serene are perfect, admiring their two-story living quarters before admiring one another in private. JUST LET THEM LEAVE THE BEACH AND GET MARRIED ALREADY! 

It's less simple for Victoria and Johnny, who feel like they're in two different worlds during the fantasy suite date. She's all loose, fun and giggly while he's seemingly scared stiff. He talks about how he usually hates himself in the mirror, battling serious self-esteem issues that normally implode his connections. It's all painfully sincere and sad to hear somebody have these serious self-confidence issues ... but there's a part of my brain asking, "Hold on, didn't he say these same things before bailing on Gabby too?" I'll guess we'll find out sooner than later, because the two head off to the fantasy suite – and seemingly not for sexy times but for intense conversations about the future. 

We'll find out if things end happy – or if they end like Rachel and Zach's disastrous fantasy suite night. But first, we have a live studio show to establish on Tuesday night. Truly ALL THE STARS are out for this special event – even Mari and Kenny! You remember Mari and Kenny, right? Totally memorable couple? Definitely existed on this show? Palmer introduces the cast members for the Contestants Tell All portion of the night – including Logan, who's dressed like he's working VERY hard to look like a grownup. But honestly, the turtleneck and jacket combo gives less "I'm An Adult" vibes and more Elizabeth Holmes cosplay ones. 

It's really his only misstep of the night, though. Otherwise Logan somehow comes away from his Pete Davidson-esque world tour of this season's female cast members pretty well. It helps, though, to be compared to Kate, who during YET ANOTHER RECAP seems to realize that her big final tell-off to Logan wasn't a good look.

Unfortunately, she doesn't do any better Tuesday night, apologizing to Logan not for constantly criticizing him for being young and not wealthy enough ... but because he heard her mean criticisms. "Oops, I didn't think you'd hear that" IS NOT AN APOLOGY, GIRL! Logan then officially buries her with a speech about how he moved out to California and worked whatever jobs he could to get by and pursue his dream – and if that makes him seem low to her, welp, sorry. He just wishes she'd told him her issues sooner so he could've pursued someone who actually respected him – like maybe this blonde woman in the crowd ENRAPT by his story. 

OK, so he's not a bad guy – but anonymous emotional fan in crowd: This man will dump you for another woman. But still, imagine coming off worse than the Pete Davidson of "Paradise." Congrats Kate: You lost this season. Somehow Kira came off better – and she literally stole somebody's vibrator and kidnapped a man away from the show. About that, though: Kira and Romeo are maybe still dating? I refuse to read too much of the gossip because any more investment into the Bachelor Nation Cinematic Universe will make my brain rip out of my skull and find a better owner – but the two were quite handsy during their segment, yes? Weirdly enough, I say good for them. 

Speaking of good for them: Jacob and Jill! Good for them! Jacob's asked to explain why he got so flaky at the end of his run on the show – and he apologizes to Jill before walking up to her and asking if she would be open to trying out a proper relationship in the real world. And she says yes – a happy ending for Jill, who just had the worst time otherwise this season. See how much better life is when you're not on that cursed beach!?

Anyways, we move onto Eliza and Rodney ... and apparently not Justin because, even though he's right there in the room, the show NEVER addresses him as a part of this plotline. Don't worry, Justin: You'll make your impact later.

For now, a heartbroken Eliza tries to explain herself to Rodney, saying that it was always supposed to be Rodney and that she made a mistake. Hold on a second: Isn't this basically the same speech and excuse you gave Justin in Baltimore? Welp, second time's not the charm because it doesn't work on Rodney either – especially because she STILL says that she wanted him to tell her not to go on the date with Justin, something RODNEY SAID! I know because I JUST SAW IT RECAPPED FOR THE 44TH TIME JUST TEN MINUTES AGO! At the start of this love triangle, Eliza said she'd never been in this kind of romantic situation before – and considering how this all went down, yep, we can tell. Better luck next time.

After Aaron and Genevieve have their first pleasant conversation all season long, agreeing with Yours Truly that they were just bad together and brought out their respective worst, we get to Tyler and Brittany. Oh yay, we get to see this happy cou ... wait, why is it just Tyler out there, looking all sad eyes? NOOOO! Indeed, apparently the two broke up – over FaceTime, according to Tyler, who explains that Brittany went on a big globe-trekking trip and dumped him over video along the way. Not since Aaron Rodgers' current season have I seen a former MVP's stock plummet this far. She tries to explain that she asked for a break from Tyler, and when he continued to be glommy afterwards, she was done with their relationship – which fair enough. But Tyler's still hurt, so much so that he wonders how much of their beach connection was real.

Oh no, does that imply ... that maybe ... PIZZA BRAT PETER WAS MAYBE RIGHT?! (*drinks until I can't remember that terrible thought ever existed*)

What was I talking about again? Michael and Danielle! Yes, wonderful – what a great topic that doesn't make me question reality and my sanity. Those two are thankfully still together – understandably not engaged or living together yet, but she IS moving to Akron to be closer to him so we're seeing forward momentum.

There is, however, some unfinished business in the room: Sierra, who we last saw getting dumped after literally buying a chunk of space for Michael. Now, if I wanted to bust out my tin foil conspiracy cap, I'd argue that this season was in the bag for Michael and Danielle, that the producers wanted to get those two – who were already chatting in real life – together and Sierra unfortunately got caught up in the preamble, unknowingly just serving as connective tissue to get Michael to Danielle. And honestly, I bet Sierra feels a little that way too and probably still a little bitter – but no one wants to rain on the happy widows' joy on television, so she basically says all good and wishes them the best. 

See, Sierra can read a room – UNLIKE CERTAIN UPCOMING GUESTS! Yes, summon me the lava-covered clown car that is the remains of Victoria and Johnny!

OK, first we have to actually SEE what happened to them. That's right: More than an hour into Tuesday's "Bachelor in Paradise," the show finally got around to, you know, FINISHING "Bachelor in Paradise," remembering that four people were still on that beach – including Johnny and Victoria, who wake up after fantasy suites startlingly happy! I was expecting some Zach and Rachel-level frostiness – but instead they're all cute and lovey-dovey, complete with Johnny going to Neil Lane to get an engagement ring and tell him that he's never felt this confident or secure in a decision. He's not blowing smoke, either, because there he is a scene later sweetly proposing to Victoria, who says yes. I DID NOT SEE THIS COMING!

And I'll tell you what Johnny didn't see coming: BAH GAWD, THAT'S GREG GRIPPO'S MUSIC! Wait ... Greg Grippo? The guy from Katie Thurston's terrible finale? Oh ... OK. 

Turns out Greg Grippo's about to become a "Bachelor in Paradise" main character despite never being on "Bachelor in Paradise" – because, as Johnny reveals talking to Palmer, they're not engaged anymore and Victoria's now venturing the globe with Greg Grippo. Greg Grippo: Man, that's a TERRIFIC Guy Your Significant Other Is Cheating On You With name. Sounds like Coen Brothers character – like if you told me that was Brad Pitt's name in "Burn After Reading," I'd totally believe it. 

Anyways, Victoria eventually joins Johnny on stage to litigate what went wrong – which sounds like EVERYTHING. In a very awkward sequence, the two try to explain their divergent explanations for what happened. Victoria says that, shortly after getting into the real world, they weren't happy and regularly fought; Johnny says that he was ready to commit whereas she wasn't, quickly seeing another guy that she may or may not have dated while they were still together. Credit, and my apologies, to Johnny: I really didn't think he was going to be the committed one!

It's already a tough watch – but then some ugly receipts hit the stage, with Victoria saying that Johnny called her a VERY BAD combination of words that knocks the studio audience out of their chairs. She also says he told her that she doesn't cook or clean or provide as a woman. Johnny tries to explain that the latter was in the context of a joke – and Tyler tries to interject and help, to no avail – but it is decidedly Not Great. Then again, neither is Victoria's alleged emotional cheating – maybe not dating Greg while with Johnny, but reaching out to him and texting him while her engagement was on the rocks. Apparently, it reached the point that Johnny had to be assured there wasn't cheating. Also: Not Great. 

At this point, it's hard to figure out who's truly right and truly wrong – seemingly both land in the latter category if they're both telling the truth on Tuesday night. But then, after Johnny leaves and vents to Tyler out in the parking lot, Victoria decides: You know what this touchy situation needs? MY NEW BOYFRIEND WHO I MET UNDER CONSPICUOUS CIRCUMSTANCES! I don't know who handled the relationship worse – but boy, I KNOW WHO'S MISHANDLING THE AFTERMATH!

Reading the room as poorly as I can read Klingon, Victoria brings out Greg Grippo to swoon over one another to the soundtrack of everyone's collective gagging. They clearly think they're Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard when they're more Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly. Like, good for you, happy for you ... but can you do this somewhere else? You're making us all cringe. 

But just wait: THE CRINGE HAS JUST BEGUN! The two try to explain their origin story, saying that they started talking while Victoria and Johnny were having troubles – and when that fell apart, they decided to hang out together. In Italy. Because I often take someone TO EUROPE for our first date. I, for one, am convinced. To complete the uncomfortable situation, the two reveal that they got matching gauche tattoos – saying "Ciao" – to cement their connection. And because it wasn't weird enough, Greg Grippo enthusiastically strips down to make sure everyone can see his very lame tattoo. The intensity of the cringe created by this whole scenario could fuel a small country. Hell, the sheer power of Justin's iconic cringe face alone could provide enough sustainable energy for months.

With that one look, Justin saved his season. The weird Genevieve and Eliza drama? All forgiven. You spoke for Bachelor Nation without a word on Tuesday night. 

Thankfully, after the two are done showing off their tattoos like they're vintage Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, Greg Grippo and Victoria leave the stage, probably never to be invited back. I'm sure they'll last forever and will totally never regret getting those embarrassing tattoos ... 

How about we end on a nice relationship, though – one that we not only think will last forever but that we're ROOTING for to last forever. That's right: It's Serene and Brandon. Palmer tries to tease that maybe it won't end as well as we think – to which the entire crowd wretches and yells HOW DARE YOU, PALMER! Thankfully, he's just being a bad taunt: Cut to the morning after their fantasy suite date, and they're still insanely in love. The man's so in love he almost accidentally pours espresso on his pancakes instead of maple syrup. You know Brandon's confident because he shows up to their proposal wearing just all of the magenta – and that is not an outfit an man with doubts can pull off. 

He's right to be confident: He proposes and Serene says yes, in just an explosion of overdue happiness. It's just so nice to see a functioning couple after a finale mostly filled with garbage fires. BUT WAIT: PALMER CAN STILL SCREW THIS UP! After they celebrate their engagement, the host dips in with a fun little update: He's actually ordained. So ... how about you get married right now on this beach, in front of a bunch of crabs, anonymous crew members and a former New York Giants back-up quarterback? 

The show doesn't even bother showing their reaction on the beach – which I imagine was just Serene and Brandon laughing at Palmer and chuckling his suggestion off the beach. Yep, back at the live studio, Brandon and Serene quckly explain that ABSOLUTELY NOT. His mom would kill him if they got married without their families – and I think HE would kill him if they did that too. Their relationship is too good and pure to be turned into empty overly polished and produced "Bachelor" content.

But really: This show loves talking about how certain couples are Bachelor Nation royalty – but Brandon and Serene are one of the rare pairings that ACTUALLY feel that way, like (and I can't believe I'm saying this) the process can actually work. When these two show up five seasons from now to co-host a 2000s-themed Sadie Hawkins dance with Old Man Wells, I'll actually be happy to see them – and when everyone's like "they're such an inspiration," I won't disagree. This season of "Bachelor in Paradise" was a long haul – remember Salley? This finale sure didn't! – but their earnestly in-love connection kinda makes it all worth it. Just keep Greg Grippo away from it. 

And now, we get a well-earned break before "The Bachelor" starts up on January 23. We got a preview Tuesday night, and it all looks pretty standard: Zach showering a lot, a few women falling in love, other women sobbing their faces off. Seems like another usual ... wait, WHAT'S VICTORIA DOING HERE?! This better just be a surprise random run-in on a group date to a tattoo removal shop ... 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.