Islands in the Stream: The Final Episode of More to Love

By | September 16, 2009

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The prologue.

I’m calling shenanigans.

Not the shenanigans that we want to see, in this genre. Not fun reality-TV shenanigans! There has been no surreptitious peeing in the other laydees’ shampoo bottles, no pushing each other into the pool fully dressed, no hair-pulling, no death threats. There hasn’t even been much garden-variety lying and/or sabotage, at least not after we lost our beloved Saint Bitch Lauren. A surprising number of the “This season, on More to Love!” preview clips we saw early on never appeared again. What happened with the shrieking laydeez and the flower-bouquet-throwing incident? What about the shot of a laydee pretty much straddling Luke in the limo at some point (I now think this was Mandy, but I GUESS WE’LL NEVER KNOW)? I am led to believe that standard reality-TV dramaz did happen, but we’ve been robbed of their entertainment, with the standard schadenfreude-driven dating-show format never quite taking shape, and in its stead we got an often painfully-dull show about sad fat women.

My suspicion is that somebody up there thinks they’re protecting us. I suggest that somebody, at some point in this process, decided they wanted these laydeez to be sympathetic characters the whole way through (Bitch Lauren excepted) and cut the show accordingly. After all, this is a show about fat laydeez and given their representation is already limited enough in mainstream media, it’s just possible somebody didn’t want to contribute to more fat-hatin’ and thus tried to make this a show about nice people. Except nobody wants to watch television shows about nice people. This is reality TV: if there’s not dramatics and histrionics and general insanity, then why am I here? If they really, really wanted to make the fat laydeez the heroes of this show, I almost wish they had done what a lot of folks erroneously predicted early on, and brought in some skinny broads to serve as counterpoint and villain. This is not to say slender women should be demonized any more than anyone with any body shape or size should be demonized–but at least then we would have had something compelling to watch. What this show has lacked is any real dramatic tension that wasn’t manufactured out of creatively-cut-together confession clips.

As things are, we got a collection of (mostly) nice (mostly) young laydeez who are very sad and very lonely and in varying stages of self-loathing and self-acceptance. And at the center of it all, like a supermassive black hole of suck, has been Luke, our lumpy hero, the literal object of the laydeez’ affections.

The distance from there to here has been traversed, and what a long strange ponderous trip it’s been.

Part one.

Last time: there were three laydeez. Now there are two.

Luke’s back home in… Southern California, so this looks pretty much the same as everywhere else we’ve been. He calls his hometown “blue collar” and plays with his adorable dog, Max. I think this show would have been worlds better if Max had had a bigger role. We get a REMEMBER MALISSA? montage with an hilarious vignetting camera effect, like she’s dead or something. Malissa was HOT! Luke was worried Malissa “was just a pretty face and a smokin’ body,” but he later discovered that “Malissa is a deep person.” It’s a shame we didn’t get to make that discovery too. Luke thinks it would be “such a smooth transition, to have Malissa come into my life” and indeed, heaven forfend that Luke’s very important life be disrupted! REMEMBER TALI? She was mysterious! And then she wasn’t! They had content-free conversations and some WITH content as well! Then Luke said, “I am falling for you” and I went AWWWW!

The laydeez are descending upon the town that vomited Luke upon this earth like a scourge of sleaze, for the purposes of meeting Luke’s family. Tali’s first, and as she limos along the streets of Lukeville, she confessions that the Hawaii trip was “a huge stepping stone for our relationship.” Is this code for THE SEX? Tali says she could see herself living in Luke’s town. When she arrives, Luke and Tali sure do greet each other like folks who’ve done the deed; there’s a long intimate hug and some kissing. They take Max the dog for a walk. Tali asks if she’s going to meet his parents now, and Luke says she’s going to meet his dad, who is, according to Luke, “a one-of-a-kind person; they really did break the mold after my father.” I’m surprised we don’t get a DUN DUN DUNNNN music cue here, as Luke laughs nervously, because this sounds like it could be bad news. Luke confessions that his parents divorced when he was nine. Hey, mine did when I was six; ugh, I don’t want to identify with Luke. That said, this is just the kind of personal information that might have made the last eight weeks much more interesting.

Luke and Tali stumble across a prepared picnic. Surprise! I’m starting to think Luke has a Yogi Bear-level of fixation with picnic baskets. Luke and Tali have one of the more natural conversations we’ve seen yet, mostly because it seems to be very lightly edited. Damn y’all, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to see two people just talking. Luke tells Tali she will probably render his dad speechless–Tali’s still gorgeous, like in case you forgot–and then Tali asks, somewhat reluctantly, whether Luke’s dad is going to ask her about the fact that she ain’t down with the whole Jesus-is-Lord trip. Luke pauses and his awkwardness is palpable, though interestingly, it seems to stem from Luke’s wanting to be honest that it probably will come up, but he also doesn’t want to scare the pants off Tali. Or maybe he does. Pants off!

Luke says his family “is all devout Christians” and they’ll probably have some “concerns” that Tali will turn Luke into a nonbeliever on an express bus bound for hell. Well, this should be interesting. Luke wonders in confession if Tali is more nervous than she’s letting on, and then says “Tali is the type to be calm, cool, and collective.” My notes here say: GAAAHAHAHA LUKE YOU OAF. There’s a fat joke in his misuse of “collective” but I haven’t found it yet. We get more confessiony build-up that makes it sound like Luke’s family is going to attempt an exorcism on poor Tali before the day is through.

Luke and Tali turn up at the house for a family barbecue, Tali with a cake in hand. Tali meets Luke’s brother, grandma (who gives her a big hug), and his dad. There is lots of meat and Max the dog is there. Yay Max! Tali and Grandma go off to sit down and chat, and Grandma is awesome. She asks Tali where she’s from and when Tali semi-nervously states she was born in Israel, Grandma seems surprised and delighted. Grandma says to Tali, “I think it’s great, to experience other people’s cultures.” Go Grandma! Grandma asks Tali’s favorite thing about Luke, and Tali says it’s Luke’s genuineness. Grandma says her answer “makes me feel good about you.” I love Grandma!

Meanwhile, over at the table piled high with meat, Luke, his brother, and his dad are drinkin’ beers and talking. Luke’s dad asks “So where is she from–I mean, where’s her hometown?” This distinction between “where is she from” and “hometown” is pretty obvious: the first is what a white person asks of someone whose racial or ethnic background is mysterious to them, and the second is what a white person asks of another white person. I don’t know if it’s good or bad that Luke’s dad sort of checks himself halfway through this inquiry. Luke says she lives in New York right now, but in answer to his dad’s real question says that Tali moved there on her own from Israel, four years ago, “with twenty bucks in her pocket, and determined to be successful.” See, why didn’t we hear this earlier? That is INTERESTING.

Prior to eating, Luke’s dad announces that their family has a little “tradition” in which they “give thanks” before eating, and part of this involves holding hands. Luke’s dad seems to be making the Saying-Grace Announcement very pointedly, and it’s uncomfortable to watch. I grew up with this myself so it’s probably overly familiar to me, but I’d also expect many folks know what grace is even when they’ve issued from a family of deluded heretics who don’t Know Jesus, like poor Tali. (I’m kidding, if that wasn’t obvious.) Dad says grace, and he sounds kind of like my dad, only my dad’s not a bigoted Jesus-imposing jerk. Luke’s dad is also a bit of a jokester, and cracks wise about having church instead of dinner (IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE TALI’S JEWISH, YOU SEE) and getting corn stuck in his teeth. He’s sort of awkward and I can’t decide if he’s endearing or off-putting, or both. As I’m watching Luke’s dad, it’s as if a curtain is lifting over my series-long befuddlement over whether Luke is earnestly awkward or painfully skeezy. This is where he gets it from. Oh man. Dad is obviously a little weirded out the cultural difference but seems to be behaving himself, so far.

They go inside to eat the cake Tali brought, and now Dad gets into the Israeli/Jewish thing, asking Tali about the weather in Israel. Did you know Israel is very humid? Me neither! What about near the coast? Oh, it’s humid there too! It’s clear Dad is going to use this to segue into the religion question, and he does. Tali says, point-blank, “I’m Jewish, he’s Christian, and we’re going to have to work it.” There’s something compelling about Tali’s bluntness and self-assured tone and refusal to apologize even a little bit, which would be my worry in the case of a less confident laydee who might be prepared to sacrifice recognizing differences in hopes of forcing a “win” for Luke’s heart. When Luke’s dad gets into the inevitable BUT SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN question and asks how their kids would be raised, Tali’s response really is awesome: “I’d like my kids to know their heritage and to obviously know where there dad came from, and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem to teach them both, and as long as they know that they need to be good people, and respectful…” Luke’s dad interrupts to say BUT THERE WILL BE CONFLICT and Luke jumps in to agree that it’s not something that would stop him from pursuing a relationship with Tali. Luke then confessions that he tried to interject so Tali didn’t have to take all the heat alone. Tali then has a total Ebony & Ivory moment talking about two cultures and religions living together in perfect harmony, side by side on her piano keyboard, oh lord, why don’t we? Clip below.

The pain is over soon enough and it’s Malissa’s turn. They’re going to play pool, and then off to meet the folks. The pool choice was pretty brilliant on Luke’s part, as it affords him many options to look down Malissa’s top as she hoses his ass. Eventually Luke says, “I guess I better sit down,” because Malissa’s not giving him a chance to take a shot anytime soon. Though I have never been a Malissa fan, it’s pretty excellent to watch, and in this sequence I like her a lot. Malissa confesses that Luke thought it would be fun to take Malissa to do something he enjoys, “but what he doesn’t know is, I’m really good.” That much about you we already know, Malissa, even if your billiard skills are new to us. Luke misses what was apparently an easy shot and tries to cover with, “It’s the straight shots that mess me up.” HAAAA. This is worth watching repeatedly.

They finish playing, and sit down to eat. They’re eating pizza. The conversation? Is about pizza. Malissa likes pizza. This is her kind of pizza, because it has a lot of cheese on it. Malissa likes to eat pizza once a week. This is followed by a feeble joke about needing glasses so she can watch what she eats. Oh lord, please tell me the editors just hate Malissa and that their conversations really aren’t all this vapid. Eventually Luke’s all “so tonight you meet my parents!” but we get no extended anxiety-buildup for Malissa like we got with Tali.

And they’re there. Luke’s dad waits approximately five seconds after meeting Malissa before starting to flirt with her. He hugs her and when they sit on the couch, he tells her she has Irish eyes. Even Malissa’s not sure what to make of that. Y’all, Luke is making SO MUCH MORE SENSE TO ME having met his dad. If this was one of his primary guy role-models, his bizarre fusion of sleaze and earnestness makes so much sense. Grandma asks Malissa the same question she asked Tali: what’s her favorite thing about Luke? Malissa says Luke’s “just an all-around great guy”. At dinner, Luke’s dad does the “we say grace in this house” thing again, and Malissa–no kidding–actually says, “Oh I love that!” Malissa, STOP KISSING UP. NOBODY “LOVES” SAYING GRACE. DAMN.

Luke’s dad asks about their first meeting, and Luke says he was originally into Malissa because she’s hot, but then he got to know her, and he liked her anyway. Luke’s dad is clearly, almost embarrassingly enamored with Malissa. There could be cartoon hearts floating around his head right now. In his own confession, he states that Malissa would fit right into their family, no problem. This is probably true. Later, the boys are drinking beers outside and Luke’s dad says to Luke that it’s an “easy decision”. Luke’s dad is all about Team Malissa. I will forgive him, because it’s obvious he just hasn’t heard the Good News about Our Savior Tali yet, and Tali would want me to resist any unChristian urges to call him a slack-jawed ignoramus, as my husband has chosen to do.

In the meantime, Grandma is chatting with Malissa, whom she seems to like a whole lot. Grandma tells Malissa she seems “so well-balanced” and asks for a hug. Aww, Grandma!

In the backyard, Luke is taking on his dad’s anti-Tali sentiments. His dad is basically telling him there’s no comparison between Malissa and Tali, and Luke rightly asks him to not compare them, but instead to give his opinion as if Luke was only dating Malissa right now. Dad feels like he got Malissa right away, like he’s “known her my whole life”, and Luke says yeah, Tali’s a little more introverted, but he likes that about her. Then his dad says, quote: “Whoever you decide is going to be the one for you in your life, it needs to be someone like Malissa,” in other words, someone who’s ethnically white and non-Jewish, like us. Luke’s face right now speaks volumes. Dad says, “I just want you to think about it, I’m not trying to cram it down your throat” at which point Luke interrupts to say he doesn’t know how else to take that. Luke seems sad and uncomfortable here, even when he laughs. Poor Luke.

Wait, did I just say “poor Luke”? Clip below.

Luke and Malissa part ways, and Luke confesses that he’s really looking forward to the laydeez meeting his mom, because he’s really close to her and “she knows me better than anyone else in my life.” Luke is sort of overwrought in this confession, running his hands through his hair and taking his trademark Deep Breaths. He says, for the millionth time, how hard this decision is. Well yeah, kinda, except you get to be the guy with every assurance that the laydee you choose isn’t going to turn you down.

And now we return to Flabby Manor. Malissa tells Tali she’s not happy to be back in that bedroom with her, “but no offense”. She confesses that she and Tali are like “night and day” but she’s still feeling extremely confident. Baaaad sign for Malissa, folks. If there’s anything we’ve learned from this show, it’s that it loves to punish confident women.

Suddenly, Luke’s mom is at the door! And the laydeez are still in their jammies! How embarrassing, and even Mom confessions that she felt bad about it. They let her in and make her coffee. When they sit down in the kitchen, Malissa starts talking about being in school for interior design (again, this would have been interesting if we’d heard it earlier) and it seems she talks without stopping for quite a bit, while Tali sits quietly and looks vaguely uncomfortable. Then, Malissa says, “I said this to his dad and his brother yesterday, but I wanted to say it to you too: thank you so much, for raising such a great guy!” Oh Malissa, can’t you just be genuine and not a total suck-up for once? Mom looks… slightly unimpressed, and maybe even a little amused. Mom then says that all that is really “in Luke’s fabric as a person” and that she can’t take credit for it. Hmm. I might like Mom, in spite of her Sarah Palin glasses. Malissa then confessions that Luke’s mom “had, um, a different way about her, than the rest of the family. It’s really hard to figure out what she’s looking for.” I’d hazard a guess here that Mom’s looking for you to be not overly concerned with satisfying what you think Mom’s “looking for”, but for you to be honest and authentic even if what you have to say may not be what Mom’s expecting or even wanting to hear.

With the threesome still sitting at the kitchen table, Mom moves on to Tali. Tali’s disclosure about being from Israel gets a delighted smile from Mom. Then Mom asks Tali what she’s doing for work, and Tali says she started modeling a year ago…… and suddenly Malissa feels the need to mumble something, get up, and go start messing with a tray of giant mutant biscuits baking in the oven. This totally cuts Tali off in mid-sentence and redirects everyone’s attention back to Malissa. Mom pointedly asks Malissa if she needs help, or something, and starts to stand up, and Malissa says no, she’s fine, she’s going to put this here and that there and blah blah blah. This whole sequence is edited to make it look like Malissa’s totally Mom-blocking Tali and trying to keep the attention on herself. I ain’t saying that’s what happened; I’m saying that’s what it LOOKS like happened. Malissa confesses that showing her “nurturing” side to her “future mother-in-law” is good politics. Aw man, Malissa, I don’t know if you’re being unfairly cut to look unlikeable, but you really are unlikeable right now. Tali volunteers to Mom that she’s not so great in the kitchen, so she’s told Luke that she’ll do the dishes if he cooks. “Teamwork!” says Tali. Luke’s mom smiles and says, “Hey, if a woman can get a man to cook for her, she’s doing something.” Malissa butts in awkwardly and says, “Well, I enjoy cooking, so I’m sure him and I would take turns.” Mom’s expression is pure “UM, OKAY.” Clip below.

Luke is home! And he all but RUNS into his mom’s arms in the kitchen, saying “MOOOM!” Everyone sits down at the kitchen table again, and Luke’s mom tells them that when Luke was little, “he was so beautiful that everyone thought he was a girl. And they’d say, ‘Oh, your little girl is so cute!’–” Luke interrupts here to say, “This is so embarrassing,” and I am embarrassed too because I HAVE THE SAME STORY except in my case everyone thought I was a boy. I don’t like having things in common with Luke! They move on to the all-important question of Tali’s not being Christian. Mom asks her the how-will-you-raise-your-kids question again and Tali answers in basically the same way she did before, saying she thinks it’s mostly important for kids to grow up believing in something greater than themselves, the unspoken extension of this line of thinking being that the form it takes is malleable. Tali then asks Luke’s mom straight-up whether she thinks it’s possible for two people of different faiths to spend their lives together and Luke’s mom says, “I do, I do believe it, I’ve seen it.” Tali’s relief is palpable, and written all over her face. Luke’s mom asks them about why they each chose to come on this show. Tali says she did it as much to demonstrate that “love comes in all shapes and sizes” and “it’s very important to me to put that message out that there is love for everybody, and people should just respect you for who you are.” Nice, Tali! Now you, Malissa: “For me, I did it on a whim–” OOOOH, WE GET A SPOOKY MUSIC CUE HERE! “–You know, everything just happened so fast, I got caught up in the excitement, and here I am, one of the final two…” and Malissa refers to herself and Tali as the “main characters” which sounds as if she doesn’t realize this show isn’t a movie. The shot they use of Mom here is one that says I AM NOT IMPRESSED. At the end, Malissa tacks on, “But really I did it for the experience!” Malissa confessions that it’s pretty plain that Mom likes Tali better.

Mom wants to talk to Tali privately, and off they go so Luke and Malissa can talk about their favorite toothpaste, or whatever. Tali tells Mom the story of arriving in New York, getting off the plane, putting on her best outfit and heels and taking forty copies of her resume and walking around NYC for nine hours looking for work, and it’s damn compelling. It’s hard not to respect Tali for that. She says she likes modeling because she can be a role model for teenagers, which is kind of awesome given the lack of real size-positivity in this show so far. Mom may be edging into Team Tali at this time.

Then it’s Malissa’s turn for mom-time. Malissa mentions that her mom died when she was ten, and Luke’s mom is all “but she’s always with you,” and it’s sort of sweet. Malissa basically spends this conversation waiting for Luke’s mom to say something about Luke so she can then talk about how much she likes that thing. Mom confesses that Malissa seems like “a well-rounded woman” but that “thinking of her as a future daughter-in-law seems premature to me, at this point.” TEAM TALI FTW!

Now Luke gets to sit down with his own Mom. Luke loves his mom! He holds her hand and his whole body relaxes. It’s adorable and hilarious. This is another instance in which Luke, placed in the company of a smart woman, becomes momentarily likeable and relatable. Mom has great things to say about Tali, and calls her “awesome” and says she’d be “an asset” to our Luke. She describes Malissa as “lighter-hearted” which is incredibly diplomatic. Luke asks Mom what she thinks would be “different” about him and Malissa being together, and his Mom gives him a hearty serving of silence, eventually smiling at him like a Mom does when she’s got a strong opinion but is resisting the urge to force her will upon you. Haha, nice. Way to say volumes without speaking a word, Mom.

And thus concludes the first hour of this preposterously long finale.


Part two.

Tali preps for her final date with Luke. She’s wearing a gold satin dress with a wide black patent dress and capri leggings and heels. I’ve not been thrilled with a lot of the fashion choices on this show, but this isn’t so bad. Whilst they limo to the restaurant, Luke confessions about his worries that his family’s scared Tali off, and Tali confessions that she’s still holding back her feelings from Luke because she’s been burned so many times before. It’s sort of difficult to believe this is the same woman who was pretty much invisible for the first six episodes or so.

Luke asks Tali was she thinks of his mom, and she says, genuinely, “I love her,” and mentions Mom’s open-mindedness and down-to-earth-ness. Luke then brings up the difference between how his dad asked about her “background” and religion and how his mom asked, which really is a night and day difference. Honestly, I’m sort of bewildered that Luke’s parents were ever married, as they seem like such totally contradictory personalities. Tali is very diplomatic in her reply, saying that she needed to meet Luke’s mom in order to get the whole picture of his family. Luke proceeds to ask about whether Tali would consider moving to California from New York, and Tali is surprised that he’s still worried about this. Luke says, “Well, I don’t want you to give up your dream,” and Tali responds, “I’m not giving up my dream, I’m just changing the location and how I get there.” Well played, Tali. I still worry that Luke will struggle with having a career-minded laydee in his life but I am also an optimist and want to think he’s not beyond hope. YOU CAN FIX HIM, TALI! It’s the foundation for many a marriage!

They have an easy conversation, until Tali talks about knowing she can’t ask him questions about Malissa, and knowing that he can’t give her answers that’ll satisfy her. There is some quiet talking (I think Tali kept covering her mic, inadvertently or intentionally) about “the right decision”; when Luke asks who that would be, Tali reluctantly says, “She’s probably sitting right next to you.” After a moment, Luke goes in for a kiss–at least he held the moment!–but before we get there, Tali stops with her face an inch from his and says, incredibly quietly, looking deep into Luke’s eyes: “I love you.” It’s kind of intense; Tali herself is kind of intense. What’s more, Luke says, “I love you, too.” OH SHIT Y’ALL, IS SOMETHING HAPPENING? I feel like I just woke up! My heart’s beating again! There’s music playing! Tali then says, quietly enough to require subtitles, “I love you so much, I wanted to wait but I can’t…” I really wasn’t expecting this, and it’s really a very romantic moment–romantic enough that even a romance-challenged person such as myself can smile and think, awwwww.


Tali confessions, “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this. I’ve been in love before, but never like this.” After the kiss, Tali is practically giddy, and tells Luke, “I can’t believe this is actually happening.” Luke asks what’s happening, and Tali says, “Something I gave up on. A long time ago.” OH WOW Y’ALL IT’S LIKE THIS IS WHAT THE SHOW WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT. Clip below.

Now it’s Luke’s final date with Malissa, who’s wearing a very cute pink-and-red print dress. They limo to an outdoor eating location, and on the ride over, have more content-free conversation with lots of awkward pauses. Then they eat together and it’s more of the same. Luke says, “Don’t be bashful, tell me what’s in your heart,” and Malissa says “You are.” And there’s a pause, and Luke looks at Malissa kind of intensely, like he’s waiting for more, and Malissa looks back half-confused, half-sincere, like she just doesn’t get what he wants from her. Honestly, Luke’s usually-blank stare is looking kind of emotion-y here. Malissa goes on to say, “I guess what I’m scared about most is I don’t want to be wrong. I don’t want to be wrong about what I’m thinking and feeling, and tomorrow I’ll find out.” Wait, WHAT? Girlfriend, this is the part where you’re supposed to spill your guts out on the table and pledge your everlasting devotion, and you’re scared of being WRONG?

I think Luke looks disappointed, but I could be projecting. Malissa then, seemingly apropos of nothing, says “If you asked me to marry you, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.” Now Luke seems happy! Kissing! Then Malissa blabbers on about feeling special and stuff, and there is MORE NOISY KISSING. Malissa confessions, “When Luke and I kiss, it’s like weight, and everything, doesn’t matter!” It’s also like a thousand people people kissing at once, REALLY LOUDLY. Then Malissa tells Luke she loves him, and I suspect both laydeez were coached to make this announcement during the final date, as it seems like a set-up. Then Malissa, self-referential as ever, says like oh wow that’s such a load off my chest! Luke confessions: “I felt Malissa’s sincerity tonight on a whole other level.” It sure would have been nice if they’d shown us that part. Maybe the editors really DO hate Malissa. Clip below, including some noisy-smacky kissing.

Now, we have half an hour of show left to kill before the elimination. Luke wakes up in the morning and rolls out of bed. Apparently Luke sleeps in board shorts, which is seriously information I didn’t need to know. The laydeez get up too. Everybody goes through morning prep stuff. Coffee-drinking, hair-brushing. Et cetera. Over all this a really catchy tune is playing that I will have to look up later.

Luke is going to shop for engagement rings for his chosen laydee. This sequence is supposed to be teasing us, I think, but it just feels tacked-on and pointless. He tells the jewelry-lady at the jewelry-store that he’s actually shopping for two different prospective laydeez and the jewelry-lady has the wherewithal to not look appalled; of course it probably helps that she’s been prepped by a producer beforehand.

Meanwhile, Malissa is off to a salon for a haircut. Malissa walks in and responds to the cute stylist-guy like she’s never been in a salon before in her life; she’s sort of stiff and awkward. I wonder what that’s about. Back at the jewelry shop, the jewelry-lady is telling some dumbass story about the diamonds in one of the rings Luke’s checking out. Hey jewelry-lady, make sure you tell us how many people died for each diamond, too! That will totally add some extra romance to the situation. Tali is likewise getting her hairs did, but she’s a lot more relaxed under the hands of the cute and personable hair-cutting guy. This whole section of show is 100% grade-A prime padding. There is no new information and not even anything interesting to look at. It’s just filler. Why not just make this episode shorter? It’s to try to drive me insane, isn’t it?

I’m having a severe case of “Are we there yet?” as Luke limos back to the Borehouse. I can has elimination now? Nope. Not yet. Now Luke is sitting down for a chat with Emme. Emme, y’all, I feel like we’ve barely seen her. This conversation is mostly an excuse for Luke to tease us with his as-yet-unrevealed decision, and for Emme to look amazing in blue. Now it’s time for the final two laydeez to each stand in front of a full-length mirror checking themselves out. Malissa is wearing a gorgeous purple maxi dress, and Tali is in a watercolor-print maxi with shiny embellishment at the bust, which I find quite ugly, but whatever makes her happy.

They’ve built a special platform on which this execution is going to take place. And it is spectacular in the worst possible way. It begins on the house-side of the pool and leads to a stretch of yard via a path laid down with bright purple carpeting and festooned with purple chiffon bunting draped between evenly-spaced pillars, on top of each of which is a lit white candle. There is also a ton of hanging plastic crystals and bubbles and obnoxious faux flowers everywhere. It looks like a Pier 1 exploded.

Luke stands on the center purple platform, looking terrified, confessioning about something or other, but I’m not listening anymore because it’s all the same garbage. A limo pulls up out front and Malissa gets out, all beaming and full of hope. She makes the long walk through the house and out past the pool to the housewares clearance-sale extravaganza, and I’m wondering if they made the laydeez get into limos just so they could drive around the block and come back. Malissa meets Luke on center stage, with the real last finally-final ring in a box behind them. Luke is complimentary and kind and sweet, and he says “I do love you,” and Malissa says, “I love you too,” and then Luke says, “But… my heart belongs to somebody else.”

The parade of emotions across Malissa’s face is stunning. There’s despair, disappointment, disbelief, and all with a gentle undercurrent of anger. You have to feel bad for her. They stand together for a moment, and Malissa says, “I just want to go right now.” Luke walks her back to her limo and Malissa says again, “I gotta go, I can’t do this.” There’s no tearful goodbye, there’s just a short hug, and Malissa can’t believe she could have been so wrong.

Even in the limo driving away, Malissa doesn’t let herself cry until a few moments pass, and FINALLY she’s sort of relatable and likeable, all snotty and crying, like her guard just came down, just now, only too late. She says she didn’t expect to fall in love here, “but I did, and I was wrong.”

Back on Purple Mountain, Luke sits down on the purple carpeting and looks really sad. He may even be crying a little, it’s hard to tell. After a moment, though, he’s back on his feet and pulling himself together, as Tali’s limo speeds toward the mansion from wherever she was. Luke confessions that he’s in love and going to propose tonight, and says of Tali: “She loves me, and I feel like we could change the world together.” ARGH, that’s a really cool thing to say. Stop it, Luke. Our front, Tali gets out of the limo and smiles broadly and nervously, like she’s whispering “It’s magic time!” inside her head. She strides through the house and greets Luke breathlessly.

Luke says: “I know life has made it difficult for people like you and I to find love. Over time, I’ve been able to watch your confidence grow. You are such a beautiful, curvy woman.” The Luke gives her the fake-out, telling her they come from different worlds, and that if they were together there’d be obstacles to overcome. But then he recalls the original “promise” of the rings. He says, “You make me a better man.” And it just might be true. We can hope so, for Tali’s sake. Luke gets down on one knee, Tali starts shaking, and Luke asks her to marry him. She whispers yes. And they embrace! And it’s lovely, in spite of the insanity and horror of this revolting show. Even my husband says, “The payoff was worth it.” They kiss and hug and Tali squeals and Luke swings her around, like a MOVIE about FAT PEOPLE who fall in LOVE! Here’s the final reveal, in full:

Tali parts from us, standing with Luke on the mansion’s front steps, saying, “This is for all the big girls out there, who thought they can’t find love, I’m the living proof.” And it’s fitting that an underdog would win a show about underdogs, and I find myself wanting them to be happy, because take away all the Fat Pain and the boredom and these are just people who don’t want to be lonely.

The epilogue.

Since day one, this show has reliably lodged a series of goofy love songs in my head, some of which I’ve shared in my recaps. But the one song I’ve associated with the recapping experience from the very beginning was the sublimely-campy 1983 duet between Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream”. It’s amusing how fitting–in a snarky, pun-filled way–the lyrics turned out to be, particularly the first verse:

Baby, when I met you there was peace unknown
I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb
I was soft inside, there was something going on
You do something to me that I cant explain
Hold me closer and I feel no pain
Every beat of my heart
We got something going on
Tender love is blind
It requires a dedication
All this love we feel
Needs no conversation
We ride it together, ah-ah
Making love with each other, ah-ah

With time it became more and more difficult to keep up the humor and bite in these recaps. For one, as those of you who’ve actually watched the episodes know, things got excessively boring about halfway through. For another, as more laydeez got cut, it was ever more challenging to be as hard on the ones that persisted. And I didn’t want this to be exclusively about beating up on these women or on Luke in the hope of getting laughs. I wanted to do these recaps not because I didn’t think anyone else would, but because I wanted there to be an option in which the sneering and the disgust and the fat jokes came from a fat person with an investment in size acceptance.

“Islands in the Stream” is a song about people who fall in love, not a song about fat people who fall in love. And More to Love, in the end, is playing the same tune, even if that wasn’t its original intention. Did we need the endless confessional crying to be made to feel something for these women? Did we need the gratuitous tales of Fat Pain in order to share in the romance and triumph of Luke’s final decision? No. Because fat people are just people. We fall in love and out of love, we’re hurt and we’re happy, we’re successful and we make mistakes, we’re occasionally right and occasionally wrong. Just like everyone else. More to Love was originally promoted as an antidote to the standard Bachelor cast of mostly size-two aspiring models, instead replacing them with a cast of mostly size-sixteen aspiring models. Has it changed us, or changed our culture or changed our world? Probably not. Has it changed the minds of even a couple of people? Maybe, though not in any truly marked way–maybe some folks now feel more accepting of women who are slightly fatter than the size they think most women should be. But this isn’t the revolution. The best possible message you can take away from More to Love is that you shouldn’t hold back on your life because your body doesn’t look the way you or anyone else seems to think it should. And I hope some folks do receive that message, because that will have to be enough.

My dear, beloved, long-suffering friends, I can’t thank you enough for accompanying me on this crazy, crazy journey, relieved though I am that it’s finally over. Watching and recapping this show was far more of a challenge than I ever expected, but I think it was ultimately worthwhile, my glee at knowing I won’t have to do it again anytime soon notwithstanding. This morning I had the joy of waking to find that the sun is up, the birds are singing, I have an email in my inbox from Longhorn Steakhouse advertising “bacon-wrapped steaks” starting at $11.99, and More to Love is finished. It’s going to be a beautiful fat day.

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