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.