The Bachelorette, Jojo Fletcher

ABC

When it comes to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, there is one key thing that makes the ABC siblings work, season after season.

OK, a few things, if you count the ability of millions of viewers to suspend disbelief, the insatiable public appetite for schadenfreude and/or the immense pleasure the average person takes in yelling at a TV screen. Oh, and the romance of course!

But the main thing is the suspense, which builds as the field of eligible mates is slowly whittled down to three, two… and then ultimately that one special person.

Because this business of handing out roses wouldn't work if we already knew who was getting one (or in some spectacularly awkward cases, not getting one) before the show even airs.

Or at least knew for sure.

Over 31 seasons of both shows combined (season 12 of The Bachelorette premiered last night, with JoJo Fletcher at the wheel), the art of keeping the final pairing a secret, as the series unfolds weekly in prime time months after being taped, has become more complicated than ever since the days of Trista Sutter checking message boards to see what the fans were saying.

"I will say that the way that everything played out and how it ended, I am happy right now, and I'm pleased with how the season went down," JoJo, who's either engaged or not engaged, told reporters last week.

And now the real game has begun!

The Bachelorette

ABC

It isn't so much whether JoJo is engaged or not ("I can't confirm that—or deny that," she told Kelly Ripa yesterday morning), it's whom she's head over heels for.

When a simple coffee run a deux could end up being a spoiler if an eagle eye with a Twitter account spies the happy couple, the TV makers—and the betrothed—know that part of the deal is keeping a Ft. Knox-strength lid on their bliss.

Or their issues, whichever. Every rose has its thorn.

After their After the Final Rose special aired, Ben Higgins and fiancée Lauren Bushnell told E! News that they couldn't wait to take the next step—as in, go outside together.

"I would fly up to L.A. and go to a house that was booked for us," Higgins divulged. "A car would pick me up that had tinted windows. She goes in a separate car and we hang out at the house all weekend. If anyone knocks we don't answer. The house is stocked with food. It was a good time for us to get to know one another. We had to entertain each other. "

Ben Higgins, Lauren Bushnell

Instagram

"We are normal, simple people," Bushnell added. "I can't wait to go on a date and be together. Like, go grocery shopping or walk in Central Park together holding hands."

Sounds like the stuff normalcy is made of!

Sean Lowe, Catherine Giudici

Instagram

Similarly, Sean Lowe reflected after his engagement to Catherine Lowe (née Giudici) was finally public on how he and his beloved only saw each other "once every couple of weeks" while they waited out the airing of The Bachelor's 17th season. He was also rehearsing for Dancing With the Stars in later weeks—yet another thing he had to keep secret before the big reveal (ABC at the time still in the habit of announcing the DWTS cast in one fell swoop).

The Bachelorette, Andi Dorfman, Josh Murray

ABC/Javier Pesquera

Andi Dorfman would wear a blond wig on visits to then-fiance Josh Murray in Atlanta and she told ABC 11 News in Raleigh, N.C., that she couldn't wait to ditch the thing. "The blond wig, need no more," Andi agreed. "No more sneaking around, so it's all good," Josh added. Alas, they broke up in January 2015—but for the record, their parents, who knew about their engagement in real time, are good secret-keepers.

Speaking of which, the engaged couple keeping a low profile is hardly the only covert-op move required these days. Maintaining the circle of trust relies on both the legal and tacit agreements of many—including the viewers at home!—who are committed to that finale being as much of a wait-for-it moment as possible.

First of all, there's the other woman or man. The one who got away. Or was incomprehensibly let go at the last minute before the true romance was free take its course.

After her time on The Bachelor, JoJo had to stay quiet—and while of course that's part of the contract, you can imagine that she's the one who really wanted to rehash what happened to her with not only her nearest and dearest but also… everyone, ever? The Amazon delivery guy. The customer service rep on the phone. Her Uber driver. Facebook. Let alone her best friends.

So the "runner-up" also has to be committed to the cause. And this past season, Caila Quinn had a lot to sit on as well, considering she was almost named the next Bachelorette before producers decided to go with JoJo at the last minute.

Caila Quinn, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette

ABC

As anyone familiar with love and war knows, we're dealing with a lot of feels here.

Then there's everyone who works on the show: the camera people, the lighting techs, the makeup artists, the hair dressers, the date wranglers, the lucky staffers who have to make sure the Fantasy Suite invitations are at the ready …

So many moving pieces in this thorny puzzle, and there's a reason why websites are inundated with spoiler information throughout the Bachelor/Bachelorette season.

Which is why the honor system that ultimately contains the big reveal is so impressive. Of course there are places you can go on the Internet to find out everything you want to know about TV (particularly The Bachelor franchise), but people largely don't because, frankly…

Spoilers suck. Or too much spoilerage, anyway.

They're fun and give you a hindsight-is-20-20 omniscience when you watch a show, but when was the last time you were truly happy about being  spoiled—even if it was for a finale that aired weeks ago and you're planning to catch it on demand and you know it's fair game, but… Still.

And while the actual love connections on The Bachelor are almost beside the point now, what with the increase in characters on hand to stir the pot rather than participate in matters of the heart, there still has to be an end game.

Could you have watched one more second of Juan Pablo Galavais knowing that all he did on the finale was basically just not dump Nikki Farrell? Or Brad Womack 1.0?

It's possible that Brad wouldn't have gotten away with his refreshingly human bout of indecision today—or at least without everyone knowing and despising him for it heading into the finale.

Or, worse yet, viewers could've just given up and stopped watching, knowing nothing was going to amount to anything.

Host Chris Harrison has acknowledged the sheer impossibility of keeping certain things a secret for long, but he just keeps his head down and goes about his business of mastering the ceremonies.

Bachelorette Premiere Dress, Season 11, Britt Nilsson, Kaitlyn Bristowe

ABC

Asked if he thought the result of the Britt Nilsson vs. Kaitlyn Bristowe stunt that was pulled on the premiere of the last installment of The Bachelorette would leak ahead of time, Harrison—who does everything from make sure the driveway is glistening upon arrival to officiate the success stories' weddings—told TVGuide.com, "Sure, it'll 100 percent get out."

He added, "It'll probably get out before the girls in the limo! The people that go on this show and the people of this generation live to tell things. If someone can't get through a meal without tweeting, do you really think they'll come away with this kind of information and not spill it? No, it's impossible. So it'll get out and that's the way we'll live and we'll have to think about it. Maybe we'll take that moment and announce it somewhere, but it is absolutely impossible to keep this a secret."

 Shawn Booth, Kaitlyn Bristowe, The Bachelorette, Halloween 2015

Instagram

Speaking of Kaitlyn, the disguise tactics are still alive and well. Shortly after Shawn Booth's proposal aired on TV, she posted a pic on Instagram of them wearing wigs, hats and sunglasses.

"Maybe the other week wasn't our first time out in public!!? #bonnieandclyde @shawn_booth18," Kaitlyn playfully captioned the pic, indicating that she and Shawn had really been living on the edge—by venturing outside together pre-finale.

And yet no couple has been caught red-handed and then exposed for the NDA-flouting lovebirds that they are. The Bachelor and Bachelorette's element of shock and awe (and awww) somehow endures.

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