It's finally over. If you felt a gentle breeze blow your hair back, it was my explosive sigh of relief traveling miles, state lines, countries, continents, galaxies.
Every season, host Chris Harrison promises that "this season of The Bachelorette/The Bachelor/Bachelor in Paradise will be the most dramatic yet," and he proves himself a liar most of the time. Not this time! Kaitlyn Bristowe finally made her choice, and it was in the most awkward, painful way possible. You played the runner-up real dirty, Kaitlyn. Reeeeal dirty.
Let's get into it, shall we? Huge spoilers are below, obviously.
Meet the ParentsI don't understand the timing of these meetings. Their point is rendered entirely moot just one hour later, when the Bachelor or Bachelorette makes their final choice, and they're often tedious. What are the parents going to do – kick the contestant out of the house? However, Kaitlyn's mom is a proper delight and deserves a special mention for calling both Nick and Shawn out on their nonsense. She was not pleased with Nick for how he behaved during After the Final Rose – you know, when he made Andi Dorfman feel like she was beholden to him for having sex with him – and she was also not thrilled to hear that Shawn was behaving jealously.
But was it really even simple jealousy? Ever since Nick joined the ranks, Shawn appeared to have been more focused on Nick than on Kaitlyn – and on winning rather than actually coming away with a girlfriend or fiancée on his arm.
But no matter – Shawn and Nick charmed everybody.
Shawn admitted to Kaitlyn's father that he "definitely struggled seeing her go off with other guys," because he "care[s] so much." To explain away consistently negative character traits that can have damaging consequences on a relationship as a symptom of "caring too much" is gross, but it's the finale so I'm feeling generous. Moving on.
The Flimsy Meat in the Bachelorette Finale SandwichSince this is the finale – and because this is my last Bachelor franchise recap for PEOPLE – I'd love to share some of the notes written during the time I spent waiting for the finale to get to the good part:
"Date on a boat"
"This is forever"
"Shawn saved a memory jar"
"Tees from the golf date"
"Notes he had written her"
"Rings from Neil Lane"
"Neil Lane Neil Lane Neil Lane"
"Omg this is borrrrrrrrring"
"Wearing a very lovely dress"
That … was pretty much it. The enjoyment that can truly be derived from this show rests on an even bell curve – with the full roster of suitors, it's complicated and messy and everybody looks the same. Not the most enjoyable. Once the show narrows down to six to 10 suitors – depending on the personalities involved – that's when the show hits its peak. It's all downhill from there, as the Bachelor or Bachelorette has long conversations with near-strangers that are meaningful only to the people involved.
However, I should more thoroughly explain that Neil Lane – truly the star of this episode – usually only shows up to the chosen one's house/hotel/general living space, while the Bachelorette shows up to the runner-up's dwelling of choice to explain that they're out of luck. Neil Lane visited both Shawn and Nick! Either Kaitlyn needs to move to a state without a law against bigamy or things are going to get awkward!
Kaitlyn Meets with Nick
Nick spoke first, which was a bad move. To be fair, however, she did not look like she was going to pipe up. Said Nick, in part: "I look at you and thinking about how in love I am with you and what you mean to me, I'm not ready to let you go and I don't want to let us go 'cause I am in love with you. And I look at you and I have such confidence in you and in us and I am yours forever, if you'll have me, and Kaitlyn …"
That trailing-off was Nick going down on bended knee, but Kaitlyn stopped him with her hands on his before he could get much farther than a slightly hunched set of broader-than-you'd-think-at-first-glance shoulders.
It was time.
"I know that we talked about, like, if I didn't feel this that I would let you know," Kaitlyn told Nick, adding that she really did need "every single second" to make her decision. "The only single explanation … I've looked for everything and I want to find something that has gone wrong and the only explanation that I have is my heart is just with somebody else."
At that, he kind of abruptly cut her off with an "Okay." Not even – a " 'Kay."
He said that he "wasn't trying to be short," but "I don't think there's anything you could say that would make me less confused."
To his credit, this was a terrible thing for her to do. I've spent this entire season defending Kaitlyn, but this was not a great look. To let the person down face-to-face, sure. To give them the opportunity to choose a ring and almost propose? Really rough. I don't even like Nick because I, like Kaitlyn's mom, don't forget. In that moment, however, Nick was living out his own personal Bachelorette-themed Groundhog Day and it was painful to watch.
Kaitlyn went on to tell him how much she really did love him in those moments they spent together, but, "Was it real?" He asked. "What I felt for you was bigger than a moment and you knew how I felt about you. … It's not fair for you to tell me what I feel, you feel the same. Because you don't. And if you did, you'd have a ring on your finger right now."
I should point out that he was half in tears this whole time. Not just following the rejection, but during the almost-proposal, as well.
In the rejection limo, Nick kind-of-hilariously ripped off the Claddagh ring he got with Kaitlyn in Ireland (holla back if you first heard about those on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and threw it away. "Obviously I do feel foolish," he told cameras. "I do feel like it was the best setup, you know, to actually hear her tell me she loves me more than once. It is like a f---ing joke. I am the world's biggest joke."
In the kindest possible way, that's … kind of true. But poetically so. A poetic joke. A Shakespearean tragedy of a joke. That played out almost exactly like – and yet worse than – his first time on The Bachelorette. I can't believe I feel sympathy for Nick. Won't somebody marry into his enormous family?
To cameras, Kaitlyn said that she'll "miss" Nick: "I did not like to see him hurt like that. How do you explain that to somebody?" However, she added that she has "no regrets" and that it was all worth it if she could end up with Shawn.
Kaitlyn Meets with Shawn
Anyway, Shawn told Kaitlyn that she's his "best friend, a partner in crime, my teammate, the love of my life," adding, "You have already made me the happiest guy in the world and all I want to do is make you the happiest girl in the world."
In return, Kaitlyn told him that she gave him feelings she had never felt before [insert dirty joke here] and that he lights her up, makes her laugh, and, "most importantly, you allow me to be myself. I know that this has not been easy on you. … I've made some mistakes. A lot of mistakes."
Shawn, smiling the whole time, nodded slightly in agreement, "Mmhmm"-ing at her. Not the time for you to be humming the "I was right and you were wrong / I'm gonna sing the 'I was right' song" in your head, buddy.
Then, Kaitlyn basically gave him the green light to propose, because they just shared the "two best months" of his "entire life." I know, intellectually, that these courtships take place in no time at all. Whenever it's spelled out, however, I am shocked. Shocked! Please have a long engagement.
A bended-knee proposal. She said yes. He slid a giant Neil Lane™ diamond ring on her finger. The end!
PEOPLE is the place to be for all your Bachelorette needs. Stay tuned to hear from the happy couple, and from the not-so-happy single.
For much more from Kaitlyn and Shawn, including exclusive photos, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday