[Note: This post contains major spoilers for The Golden Bachelor Season 1 finale.]
Since Gerry Turner's first introduction as The Golden Bachelor, one thing has been abundantly clear: He wants a partner who will fill the void left by his late wife Toni. Whether he was opening up to the ladies about his grief or promising them that he really means "til death do us part," Gerry's most emotional moments of the season involved his relationship with Toni, his high school sweetheart and wife of 43 years, in some way. He even referenced her while stressing over his decision between finalists Theresa Nist and Leslie Fhima, telling host Jesse Palmer, "The only time I've ever felt worse in my whole life is when my wife passed away, and this is a goddamn close second!"
Just minutes prior, Gerry ended things with Leslie, a 64-year-old fitness instructor from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though Leslie revealed she was "blindsided" by the breakup during the After the Final Rose portion of the finale, the writing was on the wall. After introducing Leslie to his daughters and granddaughters, Gerry began to distance himself, and when Leslie said she loved him, he responded with a noncommittal, "That's such a special sentiment." Nothing says "I'm about to break up with you" quite like that.
Viewers may also have been blindsided by Gerry's decision, but all the signs were there from the beginning. On their first date, Theresa, a 70-year-old financial services professional from New Jersey, explained that she was finally ready to put herself out there again following the death of her husband Billy, the only man she had ever been with, in 2014. The similarities between Theresa and Gerry's experiences were impossible to ignore. Both married their high school sweetheart and had happy, decades-long marriages before their partners died of sudden illnesses; last week, they even admitted to discussing their current relationship with their late partners. Over time, the two bonded over their sense of loss, and by the finale, comments about them having "the same story" became the norm — in fact, it's why Theresa won over Gerry's daughters so easily during their brief conversation at the beginning of the episode.
However, that seemed to be Gerry and Theresa's only visible point of connection. The couple spent so much time reminiscing on their marriages that Gerry didn't bother to ask Theresa about her job until Fantasy Suites, a major oversight considering how passionately Theresa spoke about her work and what a large role it plays in her life. They went on to have a transformative night together, but with the cameras shut out, viewers weren't able to see them discuss their "hopes and dreams," as Gerry described, which would have gone a long way toward helping viewers understand why they're interested in one another beyond their shared grief.
As Gerry explained to his daughters in the finale, Theresa has always been "a safe choice." The twice-divorced Leslie was a wildcard; she's funny and vibrant and maybe even dated Prince (or so she claims). When Gerry dumped her, Leslie didn't just take it on the chin. She called him out for misrepresenting his feelings — "Everything you told me the other night was a lie," she said — and for embarrassing her in front of millions of viewers. It's hard to imagine mild-mannered Theresa, whose "birthday suit" entrance proved to be her most memorable moment of the season, sticking up for herself in a similar situation, let alone sticking it to Gerry in such an effective way.
In Theresa, Gerry has found his equal, someone just as bland and committed to her late spouse as he is. If Leslie represented a chance for Gerry to move forward and shake things up in his 70s, Theresa allows him to keep one foot firmly rooted in the past, because that's exactly where she'll be, too. The engaged couple has the potential to change that with their upcoming Golden Wedding (set to air January 4, 2024 on ABC), but after spending the past nine weeks with Gerry and Theresa, the odds of them diving headfirst into their new future seem slim.
The Golden Bachelor is streaming on Hulu. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.