11/08/2012 01:33 EST | Updated 01/08/2013 05:12 EST

Big decision: TV bachelor Brad Smith prepares to hand out that final rose

SIDNEY, B.C. - One bachelor, two women, one big decision.

That's what it comes down to as "The Bachelor Canada" heads towards that final rose.

After weeks of criss-crossing Canada on fantasy dates that also extended into romantic getaways to Paris, Mexico and New, Canadian bachelor Brad Smith is about to announce his big decision.

After speed-dating his way through 25 contestants, indulging in horseplay and hot tubbing, he has narrowed it down to 28-year-old Bianka, a nurse from Mississauga, Ont., and 24-year-old Whitney, an administrative assistant from Calgary.

Smith, 29, has caught passes before. The CFL "free agent" wide receiver has played for Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton. His dad is former CFL commissioner Larry Smith, now a member of the Canadian senate.

With roots in football, Smith seems more All-American than many U.S. bachelors.

"Hockey's really my passion," he protests. "I just happen to be good at football."

Much of the dating hijinks were shot last summer. Earlier this month, production shifted to this picturesque seaside town near Victoria, B.C. for the taping of next week's "Women Tell All" outing (airing Nov. 14 on Citytv) as well as the "After the Rose" episode (Nov. 28). Fans will learn if Smith chooses Bianka or Whitney — or neither — on decision night, Wed. Nov. 21 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

The studio audience was as shocked as many viewing at home this Wednesday when Smith eliminated second runner up Kara, a grad student from Delta, B.C. A softball player who earned a scholarship to a Florida college, Kara shared Smith's passion for sports.

When it came down to the final two, however, he wouldn't play ball.

"I wish there could have been that spark because it could have been perfect," she said later.

The taping at the Mary Winspear Centre is filled with around 300 young women, many as glammed up as the bachelorettes themselves.

Between set ups, a floor director coaches the audience through a series of fake reactions to be edited in later.

"On three — give me the eye roll," he commands as cameras sweep past.

Other shots record the audience shaking their heads disapprovingly in unison or bursting into "ooohs" and "awwws."

Sixteen of the original 25 women are back for the "Tell All" segment. They're perched on bar stools on a black-and-white set that could pass for Austin Powers' love pad

Gabrielle is a crowd favourite. The diminutive law student from Oakville, Ont., stood out on the series for speaking her mind.

"She's got some fangs on her," observes Smith. If she were to do something like this again, Gabrielle says later, she'd learn to "filter her thoughts." Kara disagrees, saying, "the other girls loved her just the way she is."

Most of the women seem to be pulling for Bianka to get the rose, with Whitney emerging as the villain of the series. She did herself no favours with on-camera quips such as "Brad's mine" and, "I know what I want and I know how to get it."

How much of that is scripted has always dogged the original U.S. "Bachelor," which began handing out roses 10 years ago. Smith, during the "Women Tell All" taping, sounds as tech savvy as a veteran TV producer with phrases such as "ITM" (for "In The Moment" scenes).

There's no question "The Bachelor Canada," like all so-called "reality" shows, is carefully cast. This version has its heroes and villains, with strong characters such as virginal Chantelle, a pastor from Sylvan Lake, Alta., and Melissa Marie, a Playboy model from North Vancouver, played off one another for fun and drama. The two even joke about a "Playmate and the Preacher" spin-off.

None of the women were paid for their participation and there is no cash reward at the end. Bachelor Smith did receive a salary while on the series.

Gabrielle, for one, says she wasn't scripted or miss-represented. "What ever I said, I said."

"The Bachelor Canada" has drawn a steady, if not spectacular, audience for Citytv. A call on ordering a second season is expected shortly.

If bachelor Brad does announce that he's found a mate and then marries her, that will immediately distinguish this series from the U.S. version. After 16 editions, none of the U.S. bachelors has married the woman who got the final rose (although one did later marry a runner-up).

That bit of reality does not deter contestants like Kara.

"Some people just want fame or they want their 15 minutes and that doesn't work," she says of the search for true love on TV.

"What this takes to work is two very real people who are down to earth and there for the right reasons."

Cut to the audience going, "Awwwwhhhhhhh."


Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont. While in Victoria, he was a guest of Citytv.