Michelle Young has found her happily ever after.
The 28-year-old college basketball player-turned-elementary school teacher’s journey on “The Bachelorette” introduced her to plenty of villains, a man from her hometown, a not-so-secret next “Bachelor” star, and two very different finalists.
Tuesday night’s finale had her choosing between Nayte, a 27-year-old bad boy-type from Austin who won the first impression rose, and Brandon, a 26-year-old from Portland who has worn his heart on his sleeve all season. Last week, Michelle told both men she loved them.
But it’s Nayte’s proposal she accepts, despite a nail-biting first two hours.
“You were the first person to step out of the limo (and) you were also the first impression rose,” Michelle tells him. “You also get to be the last person to accept this rose.”
Last week’s fantasy suites recap:Michelle tells all 3 finalists she’s in love with them
But before either man had the opportunity to get down on one knee, they had to meet the parents.
Brandon is the family’s clear favorite – Michelle’s father thinks he has a lot in common with the finalist and says they would “gladly adopt” Brandon into their family should his daughter choose him.
“I just want to marry her so bad,” Brandon says. Michelle’s mom feels like he’s already part of the family and says she would be “so happy” if it was him in the end.
But we should have known it was too good to be true.
Michelle makes a point to note her family has picked up on red flags in her past relationships, so their thoughts on Nayte are important.
“With Nayte, there’s a different vibe than what we saw with Brandon. Brandon was definitely a warmer person initially,” Michelle’s dad says. The family is most concerned Nayte won’t be ready for an engagement, despite him promising otherwise.
On their final dates with Michelle, Brandon is a steady, loving presence who has no doubt Michelle is his “future wife”; while Nayte redeems himself from the uncertainty he left Michelle’s family with.
“All I do is think about life with you,” Nayte says. The conversation with Michelle’s mom lit a fire under him, making him realize he needed to better vocalize his emotions. “As crazy as it is for me to get down on one knee, I am more than ready to do that for you because I want this to be forever.”
“I trust my heart and I think my heart is telling me this is my person,” Michelle says.
Brandon’s tear-filled exit: ‘I’m so broken’
Proposal day arrives, and Brandon steps out to join Michelle on the beach first – you know what that means.
He gives a loving speech about knowing Michelle is his missing piece and not wanting to spend another second of his life without her. Unfortunately, he’ll have to.
“It’s not that I don’t love you, because I do,” Michelle says through tears – and against waves crashing so loud, it’s nearly impossible to hear her. “It’s just that my heart is pushing me in a different direction and I have to go with what I feel.”
“I’m so (expletive) hurt,” Brandon says later, sobbing. “I gave everything I had. I’m just so broken. … The worst part is knowing there’s truly nothing left you can do about it.”
Nayte’s electric proposal: ‘I don’t ever want to let go’
Nayte is ready for this proposal. He’s beaming as he joins Michelle on the (still very loud!) beach.
“The very first night I met you, I knew right then and there we had a connection that I wanted to hold onto,” Nayte says. “The second night we were together, we talked about running away together. I’m standing in front of you now and the feelings are the same: I want to run away with you.”
Michelle concurs: She felt a connection the moment Nayte stepped out of the limo night one.
“It was this kinetic moment where I was feeling things I didn’t know were possible to feel,” she says. “Walking into this, my fear was that I would not be loved as much as I loved the other person. Through our conversations, there were moments when that fear started to creep in and this has not necessarily been a smooth ride. But I’m also not willing to face that fear of walking away from this without you, because I have never felt a love like this before.”
Nayte vows to never let Michelle go before getting down on one knee. She says yes!
“We just got engaged. This is my fiancé,” he addresses viewers directly. “And this is my soul-Nayte,” Michelle jokes. “Nothin’ but Nayte,” her fiancé adds.
After the Final Rose: Michelle’s parents love Nayte; Clayton addresses ‘Bachelor’ backlash
The “After the Final Rose” portion, hosted solo by Kaitlyn Bristowe after co-host Tayshia Adams was “recently exposed to COVID” in New York, featured a sweet and still heartbroken Brandon before publicly introducing the happy couple for the first time.
Michelle, joined by her fiancé, says behind the scenes Nayte really was “challenging himself” and showing real emotions, and says he’s “so vulnerable and gives so many affirmations.”
And don’t worry: Not only are Michelle’s parents “absolutely in love” with Nayte now, but they’re “besties” with Nayte’s mom, too. Michelle and Nayte also reveal they’re house-hunting in Minnesota, and receive a surprise gift from the show of a down-payment check for their first home.
Upcoming “Bachelor” star Clayton Echard also makes an appearance, in part to address the controversy over the choice to make him the franchise’s next Bachelor – the 28-year-old with a past brief stint in the NFL barely made waves on Michelle’s season before getting sent home in an overly-emotional exit that set up his future plans a little too unconvincingly.
“I read everything,” Clayton says. “I really hope that people give me a shot because my journey is authentic and I did give my very best.”
Clayton reads aloud some social media commentary a-la Jimmy Kimmel’s mean tweets segment, though the chosen posts largely sidestep the reason some fans are upset about his casting: That a relatively unknown white man was chosen from a pool of one of the most diverse casts in the franchise’s history.
“All I want for Christmas is for (fourth place finalist) Rodney to be the Bachelor,” one tweet says. Clayton says that’s his wish, too.
“There’s no saying he couldn’t be down the road, though, right?” he adds. We can’t tell if that’s an actual hint, or just a very brief acknowledgment to the many fans who hoped for the next Bachelor to be a person of color.
Clayton’s season of “The Bachelor” premieres Jan. 3.
Previously this season: Michelle makes ‘Bachelor’ franchise history with her final four men