"The Golden Bachelor" star Gerry Turner appeared torn between the final two women after intimate overnights with each of them in Costa Rica.
The 72-year-old widower filled his first so-called "fantasy suite" date with Minneapolis fitness instructor Leslie Fhima with big statements, telling her "you could be the one."
But he left his camera-free overnight with New Jersey widow Theresa Nist making similar declarations.
"With each of them, I can see a life together," Turner said during Thursday night's episode of the hit ABC-TV reality series. "Life with Leslie would be a very exciting life. But Theresa and I have this bond. We know what the other person is feeling. We know what they've been through."
Over dinner, Fhima and Turner — who lives in Indiana but grew up in Iowa and graduated from the University of Iowa — discussed where they'd live. Because her three kids and three grandkids are in Minnesota, "I don't want to leave Minneapolis forever," she said. "But at the end of the day, I love you, and I want to be with you...
"Instead of bicoastal," she suggested, "we can be bi-Midwestern."
On their date, Fhima and Turner rappelled 170 feet down a cliff to a waterfall. Fhima revealed a fear of heights but quipped: "I've given birth three times. I should be able to do this." Turner promised her he'd be by her side.
"Gerry makes me feel safe," she said, "whether it's jumping off a cliff or sitting around drinking coffee on a Sunday morning."
Turner will make his final pick during the Nov. 30 finale. Since filming the series in August, its participants have had to remain mum about the outcome. Fhima's family and friends have thrown watch parties, cheering her on.
Attending one of them was Betsy Weiner, who first took Fhima's dance class at Lifetime Fitness a dozen years ago, instantly loving Fhima's energy. She's an excellent instructor, skilled at breaking down the steps, Weiner said. But it's more than that — "she embodies it."
"She gives you permission to move and be free in your body," Weiner said. "When I'm dancing with her, I'm smiling."
Weiner, 53, has watched with admiration as Fhima has opened herself up to love on national television.
"It's super brave," Weiner said, to show up as your whole self, shrugging off any backlash. The series has spotlighted how fun she is, how funny she is, how authentic she is. "What you see is really her."
With Turner, Fhima has been open about her romantic past, including two divorces and a propensity to pick the wrong guy.
"As long as I've known her, she's had that real desire to be seen and loved and appreciated," Weiner said. She has plenty to give, but the men she's given herself to "haven't, dare I say, been as deserving as they could have or should have been."
Fhima is ready for partnership, in a rooted — rather than desperate — way, Weiner continued. "She is someone who really wants that deep, loving connection."
The dates in Costa Rica during Thursday night's episode highlighted the contrast in the final two women's romantic histories.
Over dinner, Fhima shared that she's been searching for what Turner had with his late wife — "'til death do us part" — her whole life. Each year, on her birthday, she vows to find a partner.
"And every year, it's like Groundhog Day," she said, her voice shaking. "I'm alone on my birthday. And I don't want to be alone anymore."
After spending the night together, both Fhima and Turner praised their connection.
But the next day, Turner rode horses with Nist. At first, he was quiet, distracted. "I'm looking at Theresa going, 'My God. What is wrong with you, Turner? She is the ideal woman for you,'" he said. "But at the same time, I'm thinking, 'What's Leslie doing right now?'"
He pushed himself to focus on Nist, and the two connected over dinner about continuing to communicate with their late spouses. Nist had been married to her high school sweetheart, Billy, for 42 years before he died. Turner said he still checks in with his late wife, Toni, every day.
The next morning, Turner seemed smitten.
"I feel like it's the first day of the rest of my life," he said. "I realize we understand each other on a fundamental level."