Since The Bachelor Season 16 finale probably surprised a total of no one, all eyes and ears were on the After the Final Rose special so viewers could hear directly from Ben Flajnik and Courtney Robertson on how they’ve been dealing with the train wreck of this season’s reception. Here’s a recap of the not terribly celebratory but practical, realistic and cautiously optimistic ATFR couples therapy session.
BEN AND CHRIS GET STRAIGHT INTO IT
Ben is still in love with Courtney. But the woman he saw on TV was not the Courtney that he knows. Chris Harrison thinks Courtney enjoyed turning the screws on the other women and the audience agreed. Chris said Ben got more “warnings” than anyone else ever got about anything. Why didn’t he listen? Ben said he did listen to the women — and his mom and sister — and still had doubts. But when he asked the bachelorettes for specific examples, they just said Courtney was “weird” and “different,” and he felt the same way about himself so that wasn’t enough. But he’s seen the full extent of her actions now.
Was he ever embarrassed of her and himself in what happened? “I was embarrassed in the moments but I was embarrassed because America didn’t get to see the entire side of the story.” Take that, editing! “That’s what was frustrating. I wasn’t being tricked. I wasn’t being fooled by this woman, this temptress. It was never like that.”
Chris said she was that person and said those things. (Yes, but so did all of the other bachelorettes.) Ben said he told Courtney in those moments that he wishes she had made things easier on him. Those are the moments that led to him and Courtney “not talking to each other” for a segment while the show aired. They had broken up. They broke off their engagement because of all the “negative energy” surrounding what happened.
The philosophy he wanted to have was “baby it’s you and me and screw everything” but “it became too much, so much I just cracked.” There were a few weeks that they didn’t talk. He needed to take a few steps back an re-assess and that was the low of the experience.
Chris brings up the Us Weekly story of him “cheating.” Ben says it’s not true. “On my father’s grave, I haven’t kissed another woman, I haven’t hooked up with another woman, I haven’t cheated on Courtney.” Those were friends from San Francisco and past photos. He’s not kissing those women in the photos. Ben said, to divert attention away from the negative coverage, Courtney went out and got photographed trying on wedding dresses. “You guys clearly are very weird,” Chris said. “You might be perfect together. This might just be odd enough to work.”
COURTNEY COMES OUT TO TALK TO CHRIS
And of course some people boo. She looks gorgeous, though, as usual. Courtney says she knows she bears a lot of responsibility for how this turned out. She’s got a lot of sass in her.
It was heartbreaking when Ben ended the engagement. She said they were happy for about a month before the show started airing. He had Thanksgiving with her family in Arizona. Then it was like a big storm rolled in. About a week before Valentine’s Day they broke it off. He didn’t even send a card or flowers on V-Day. There were days that she didn’t leave the house and just cried. “A lot of it, it’s all my fault.” Marriage means a lot to her. Ben asked for her dad’s permission and she took it all very seriously.
Was Ben supportive of her throughout? “He was initially, then he abandoned me.” She gave him space and tried to be understanding, but she needed him. Trust has definitely been lost, she said, and that’s always been an issue for her. She reached out to him during the show’s airing and he didn’t respond. She put her all into it and loved him as much as she could, just waiting for him to decide.
In her mind, are they a couple?. “Yes,” she says. “I think.” She doesn’t really know, she says, tearfully. She knows she loves him and she’s not ready to turn her back on him. She’s willing to try. Does she feel like they can move forward? There’s still confusion and pain on her end.
BEN AND COURTNEY TALK AS A COUPLE
Usually when the couples are “reunited” it’s a happy, bubbling-over-with-love moment. Not that that matters since even the blissful Bachelor couples usually break up within a couple of months. But Ben’s new scruff looks good.
Where do they stand now? “In a good place,” Ben says. “We’re engaged. We’re in a good place.” Now that the main part of the show is gone, it can only get better. (Hope so!)
Why did Ben go the other way when things got tough? He’s never faced anything like this before. Her behavior to the ladies, and their behavior back, was tough because he’s a no drama person and he knows she’s a no-drama person too. (The crowd titters at that.)
It hurt to know that, when the going got tough, he wasn’t there for her. There was no “stand by your woman.” Can she trust him again? She says “not completely.” (Well, wow. How can you be engaged to a guy without trust?) Ben said it’s going to be different when they can actually talk to each other in person. They have great communication, but it’s been tough when all you can do is call and text.
All told, this is actually the most realistic, practical ATFR discussion ever. It’s not fairy tale love. It’s real. They have doubts. They don’t sugar-coat.
Ben looks in Courtney’s eyes and says he wants to be with her and he won’t abandon her again. He apologizes for not standing by her. “I messed up in that regard.” So now they are even. She needs to forgive and forget since she’s asking a lot for him to forgive the way she made them both look bad on TV.
COURTNEY GETS THE RING BACK
They hold hands as they play back Ben’s proposal speech. They tear up watching it and she leans into him. Courtney says it’s a good reminder of everything they’ve been through. That was the happiest moment of her life and now it’s been tarnished by everything else. They are so hurt by the way everything played out. They knew it was going to be the two of them and that it was going to be dificult. Poor Ben. His feelings never left. “There was never anything wrong with us, there was wrong with everything that surrounded us.” They’ve talked about it a million times, he said. Their beautiful moment was “soiled” by the experience. In time they’ll remember how wonderful that moment was.
Chris mentions that there’s no ring on her finger. He’s been carrying the ring all day. It is gigantic. He said, for the first time, he had no idea how things were going to go that day. Are they engaged? Should she have a ring on her finger? Ben said he very much wants Courtney to have the ring again. He puts it on her finger. Does Ben think this will end in a wedding, truly? Ben says “I do. When? Who knows.”
ASHLEY AND JP GIVE A STATUS UPDATE
Ashley Hebert and JP Rosenbaum of The Bachelorette Season 7 show up to talk about how happy they are now. Because they are the only success story left, besides Trista and Ryan Sutter from 2003 and Jason Mesnick changing his mind from Melissa Rycroft to Molly Malaney.
Ashley recounts how viewers were so mean to her during her season, calling her ugly and stupid, but once the show was over people moved on. Ashley said she felt awful for Courtney ‘cause, if she didn’t have JP, she wouldn’t have known what to do. (Not that Ashley was supportive of Courtney in her own E! Online recaps.) JP said Ben has a good head on his shoulders and he’s got the right outlook: Forget about the negativity; they know what they have and hopefully the worst is behind them. JP was kind of in the Ben position, Chris said, because he read back all the anti-Ashley stuff and there was nothing he could do about it. But it all changed with a happy ending when she made a good call to pick Cupcake. Someone called him her “best accessory.” True!
JP and Ashley are approaching their one-year anniversary. Chris asks for an update and JP says that Ashley is pregnant, but then adds that it’s a joke. Ashley said that’s how rumors get started. (They are lucky we never ran with that one when Ashley and ABC exec Robert Mills were tweeting about it all last week.) Jash are getting more serious about wedding plans. She showed JP pictures of rings the other day. They are hoping to get married within a year. They have names picked out for their kids, but Ashley doesn’t want to share, lest anyone steal them from her. Chris says he’ll get ordained as a minister for their wedding. Hey, Survivor host Jeff Probst did that and he’s dripping with Emmys. Go for it, Rosemaster!