Unhappy at her bachelorette and engagement parties, there’s something preventing Nikki from walking down the aisle. Watch the season 3 finale this Sunday at 9|8c on E!
Go figure it’s not Nikki or Brie or Kathy or any Bella, but Daniel Bryan who storms out of his perch in the background to sum up the central conflict of this season of Total Bellas just one episode before the finale. The setting is right before Bryan announces he’s been cleared to return to WWE, and he’s discussing why it was so hard to stomach retirement. It wasn’t because there was anything in particular he hadn’t accomplished; it’s just because he wasn’t ready for it to happen. There’s a big difference, he says, between doing something because you’re forced to and doing something because you want to.
If that sounds like a familiar sentiment, it should. This season has been all about Nikki Bella ostensibly coming to terms with her wedding, which has felt increasingly like an obligation ever since she got back together with John Cena. She’s inching, bit by bit, toward acknowledging out loud that it might not be what she wants anymore (taking on the full responsibility of planning it on a shortened schedule — plus the hint of some lingering tension over the issue of having kids — hasn’t helped), but she feels just as boxed in to keep quiet as she does about going through with the wedding. She also feels a very real obligation to put on a brave face during her bachelorette trip in Paris; nobody likes a killjoy, especially when you flew halfway across the planet to celebrate with her.
Luckily, Brie Bella is there to keep her sister out of her own head, organizing the masquerade ball and a burlesque performance featuring a dancer who Nikki thinks looks like Bo Dallas (Ed. Note: He kind of does) and a mime show with Lauren designed to prove that hey, moms can be cool, too. Nikki’s dueling excitement and apprehension about the wedding peek through in equal measure, but Brie’s party planning is enough to get her to live in the moment. (Of course, nobody but nobody on this show lives in the moment quite like JJ, who teams with his mother and her friend to prank the girls by TP’ing the chateau. Enfant terrible).
A similar story has been playing out Stateside, where Bryan has been working diligently to untangle himself from a major life decision he wasn’t willing to make. And Bryan inevitably gets cleared after his marathon of testing, returning to SmackDown LIVE to give his now-famous “fight for your dreams” speech. He’s now free to do what he wants and no longer has to sacrifice his dreams at the whim of external forces.
To be fair, there is no question of whether Nikki Bella is medically unable to get married, but the idea of doing so is proving unhealthy for her nonetheless. If she’s realized one thing from being single, it’s that she values the ability to do what she wants as opposed to what she has to do. Of course, in order to get what she wants, there is one more choice she’ll be forced to make. One more week until we find out if she does.
The Season 3 finale of E!’s Total Bellas airs Sunday at 9/8 C.
In one sense, a bachelorette party is a last hurrah as the clock to marriage winds down: One final time to cut loose before midnight hits and wedded bliss pumps the breaks on your wilder impulses. The big question of E!’s new Total Bellas — the first of a two-parter — is why Nikki Bella isn’t interested in any of that.
The answer, obviously, is just out of everybody’s reach or isn’t quite ready to be spoken aloud just yet: Thanks to the increasing physical distance between them, Nikki isn’t sure she wants to marry John Cena anymore, and those feelings have intensified to the point where her bachelorette jaunt to Paris feels more like a regular girls’ trip than a bachelorette party. She’s determined to plow ahead and not succumb to those feelings, though, and she’s in pretty good company. Everybody in this episode has blinders on, refusing to acknowledge some kind of issue bubbling just below the surface, some of which carry deeper implications than others.
Kathy and JJ, for instance, are along for the bachelorette party and aren’t really sure how they got roped into it — neither of them seems to think it’s appropriate (to her credit, Nikki doesn’t either). So, they have a mother-son day in Paris, despite some nervousness from Kathy that’s very well-founded: The last time she was in Paris, the terror attack at the Bataclan nightclub happened, and she no longer feels safe there. Of course, sipping wine on a Ferris wheel is all well and good to calm the nerves, but JJ is perfectly aware his mother hasn’t properly dealt with her feelings from the last trip. But between a conversation with a local who promises Kathy that the city will always be safe and a visit to the Bataclan itself, they finally confront the issue and put some of the trauma behind them.
This is more than can be said for Nikki and Brie. Nikki is muscling through the weekend and getting glummer by the minute, and Brie Bella has no idea why. Her interpretation of her sister’s mood is just that she’s down in the dumps and getting boring before her time, so she spends the episode trying to goad Nikki into wacky bachelorette antics. None of them gain much traction, save for a handful of dares that just end up being more embarrassing to Nikki than anything. Nikki makes her feelings clear to the camera after a FaceTime with Cena that leaves her oddly deflated (it’s not a bad call, just another reminder that she doesn’t feel as close to him as she wants to), but she crucially hasn’t said anything to her sister, who’s hell-bent on getting Nikki to drop the “boo-boo face” without figuring out why it’s there.
Her solution, literally, is to cover it up. Knowing that Nikki is a big fan of classy ballroom-type parties, Brie and Lauren arrange for a masquerade ball at the chateau they’re renting, but something gets a little lost in translation, and they’re presented with a risqué variety of “Eyes Wide Shut”-style clothing options. Now they’ve got a ball to plan, hours to spare, and, though they don’t quite know it yet, a bride-to-be who’s having some serious second thoughts. The clock is ticking, in more ways than one.
Watch part two of Nikki’s Paris bachelorette party Sunday at 9/8 C on E!.