‘The Bachelorette’ finale recap: Katie’s quest ends happily — and sooner than expected

After a roller coaster of a season complete with emotional meltdowns, startling exits and much more, Katie Thurston’s journey of love on “The Bachelorette” reached its dramatic conclusion.

The finale began with Kaitlyn and Tayshia reminding the studio audience of last week’s tumultuous events as Katie was prepared for someone to book her a flight home after Greg’s shocking self-elimination. Following a recap of events that led up to the finale, Katie joined the hosts on stage. Tayshia asked Katie how she was feeling having watched the footage of Greg’s departure. “In that moment, I was defeated,” she said. “I just finally recovered with Michael leaving and all of a sudden Greg is now leaving. It has you question everything. You open yourself up to fall in love and you want to believe that it’s going to work and you really start to question if it’s worth continuing moving forward.”

Kaitlyn asked Katie if any part of her felt that Greg leaving was her fault. “In that moment, absolutely,” she said. “I regretted not responding differently. I keep replaying in my head, ‘What did I do that was so massive for someone who is in love with me to then turn around and want to leave?’ In that moment, I completely blamed myself. I’m trying everything I can to make him stay. I’m literally on my f—ing knees begging this man to stay. And he’s telling me it’s not good enough. I never saw that side of him — I was very caught off guard.”

After Katie’s interview, the action shifted to the morning after Greg said goodbye. Contemplating Blake and Justin as her final two, Katie still wasn’t certain she wanted to go through with it. “Do I continue here or do I just leave now?” she wondered. “How do you even pick up the pieces and just move forward when you’re struggling and heartbroken?” Next, Kaitlyn and Tayshia arrived to tell Blake and Justin that Greg left the show. However, the good news was that their journey would continue. “I still feel on edge, but I’m glad she made the decision to stay because this is the week that solidifies whether or not she’s going to be my fiancée,” Blake said. “And I have no idea what to expect but I just hope she’s going to be in a place that she needs to be to move forward and make this work.”

SEE ‘The Bachelorette’ episode 9 recap: Another guy self-eliminates, sending Katie into an emotional spiral

Katie’s final date with Blake allowed her time to finally catch him up on the events of the past week, beginning with Michael’s self-elimination, followed by Greg’s. “I probably underestimated the amount that she cared or thought about him,” Blake said regarding Katie’s relationship with Greg. “It confirms Greg meant something to her. But that was the first time I was completely off from where I thought her head was at. Tonight’s an important night because an engagement is a two-way street and there’s still more things to learn about her. So, there’s a lot to talk about. I love Katie, I love her at lot, but if Katie is still hung up on Greg and if she can’t match that then there’s no point in getting engaged if she’s having doubts going into an engagement.” Overall, Blake was most nervous because Katie said she felt she’d probably leave because Greg left.

“I would never tell you that I was falling in love with you and then get up and leave,” Blake told Katie that evening. “I don’t play games with love. … Love doesn’t come just because everything seems perfect. Love comes with feeling.” “I couldn’t be happier that you’re here,” Katie replied, offering him an invitation to stay in the fantasy suite. “I get to go into a fantasy suite with a guy that I love,” she added. “I have not felt this happy in a long time. All I’ve ever wanted was to find someone who loved me for exactly who I am. And with Blake, I feel he completes me.”

When Katie met with Justin, she told him she felt like quitting when Greg left but also admitted she told Blake she was falling in love with him. Having made such an admission, she felt she couldn’t continue with Justin. “You are someone I wanted to explore things with, but given how I now feel about Blake, knowing I am in love with him, it wouldn’t make sense to have us move forward and go on this date,” she said. “It wouldn’t make sense to have you meet my family. And that’s where I’m at.” “I think the world of you,” Justin said. “I think everything I’ve said is 100 percent true. I just hope you know how special you are and what you bring to the table. I hope he knows what he has in you and that he doesn’t take you for granted.”

With the action shifting back to the studio audience, Tayshia asked Justin for his thoughts on his emotional goodbye. “It hurts just as much now as it did then,” he said. “I know how strongly I felt about Katie in that moment and kind of just how blindsided I was by that. Katie knows how hard it was for me to get to that place where I could open up and be vulnerable and put myself out there. When you get to that point where you’re seriously considering proposing to somebody, you have a lot of love for that person, right? For it to all come to a screeching halt and your heart just gets stepped on… no one wants to feel like they weren’t good enough.” Having watched the season, Justin told Katie he felt like he was only there by default. But Katie disagreed. “I do hope you know based on everything you’ve gone through that you were there for a reason. We did have a huge connection. There were so many unseen moments that we shared.”

Next, the action shifted to Blake’s meeting with Katie’s family, her mom Rhonda Lee and her aunt Lindsey, who didn’t think Blake would be strong enough to handle all of the women in Katie’s family. On the contrary, Rhonda Lee was much more supportive of Blake. After a visit with Felicia, a self-described energy healer, Katie and Blake purged negative thoughts and feelings in order to move forward. Tayshia then assisted Blake with the selection of the engagement ring. But when faced with the rings, he began to have serious doubts.

When Katie, stunning in a green gown, arrived to meet Blake, nervousness was in the air. Even Tayshia and Kaitlyn seemed nervous. “This could really be a fantasy ending for Katie or a complete nightmare,” Tayshia said. “Seeing him really battle with himself today was kind of scary for me. I know how sure he could be, but then when he’s second-guessing himself it’s a scary place to be.”

SEE ‘The Bachelorette’ episode 8 recap: Katie’s final four quickly becomes three and the men (kiss and) tell all

“I’m freaking out,” Blake said upon meeting Tayshia and Katilyn. “It’s all very real. As confident as you are, it’s just the magnitude and weight of today kind of overtakes everything.” “This is that moment that everyone is waiting for at the end,” Kaitlyn reminded. “The life-changing moment. It’s very emotional.”

“Blake, I always thought you showed up late,” Katie said upon his arrival. “But if there’s anything I’ve learned during our journey together, is that love shows up when it wants, regardless of time, tradition, expectations, and that’s why we’re standing right here at this very moment. You showed up exactly when you were meant to show up. And I’ll forever be thankful that you fought to be here. … The night that you said you loved me changed my life forever because I knew in that moment, I wanted to love you for the rest of my life. You and only you. You have made me the happiest woman alive. In a world of change, I want to be your constant. Love you today, tomorrow and forever, and I can’t wait for our adventure to begin.”

“It’s easy to look around and feel like we’re dreaming, living out what’s basically felt like a fairy tale,” Blake replied. “Since Day 1, it’s been a connection and an understanding that seemed too good to be true. But I knew. … You deserve the world and I’m excited to support you and be there for you every day moving forward.” And with that, Blake proposed and Katie accepted, leaving on horseback to start their new life together.

Shifting back to the studio audience, Greg was prepared to finally reunite with Katie. After she entered, escalating the tension, Katie immediately questioned whether or not Greg was ready to get engaged in the first place. She was particularly bothered by Greg saying he didn’t seem validated enough on the show when he actually received the first impression rose and the first one-on-one among other niceties. “I had every clear intention of getting engaged,” Greg said. “I wouldn’t have introduced you to my family if I didn’t. I understand you’ve found what you were looking for and I’m so glad for you.” “But that doesn’t take away the anger that I had watching this back and seeing the way you treated me,” Katie remarked. “Using me to get the experience, the exposure, dare I say, the acting practice, at my expense.”

Kaitlyn questioned where Katie’s acting accusations were coming from. Katie said after the show, she discovered Greg went to acting school. “You can be an actor and want to be on the show, that’s not a problem, the problem is if you’re acting with me,” she said. “What I’ve been hearing is Greg is not this ‘shy guy act’ that he was doing on the show, he’s actually this very confident, cocky boy from Jersey who knows that he’s hot sh– and this is an act. So paired with those rumors and acting school, I really don’t know if I actually know who Greg is.” Katie then accused Greg of gaslighting the situation. “I’m sorry you feel like that,” Greg said. “I’m sorry the way things ended between us. It was a tough environment to be in.” “My person was not Greg,” Katie told Kaitlyn and Tayshia. “And when he left so did everything I felt for him.” Ouch.

Reunited with Blake, Katie revealed that she didn’t tell her family in advance she was engaged. She also said the hometown date was the moment she knew she was truly head over heels for Blake. “Definitely my feelings were growing and I knew each time we saw each other it was just getting stronger and stronger,” she said. “We’re not even the same couple [from the show]. We are so much more already. We’re just really excited to start our lives together… 1,000 percent it was all worth it. [Blae] is exactly who I was supposed to be with. He fought to be here for me and chose to stay even when I’m telling him to his face I considered leaving. He was confident enough to hold both of us to the end. I’m just so lucky. I love him so much.”

Katie also thanked her hosts for their support. “Tayshia, for introducing me to Blake, I feel like I owe that to you as well,” she said. “Kaitlyn, when I was at my lowest point, you were there to pick me up. I truly from the bottom of my heart would not have gotten through this if it wasn’t for the support of you ladies. I just want to thank you.”

The episode ended with a “Say Anything” tribute as Katie and Blake took center stage to dance to Laine Hardy’s “Memorize You” as roses descended from above.

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