No matter what happens on Monday night's finale of "The Bachelor," Charlotte's Emily Maynard will emerge a winner.
The 24-year-old hospital event planner has not only survived the season to end up a favorite for bachelor Brad Womack's heart, she managed to do so with her dignity intact.
Maynard made a huge impression on "Bachelor" fans in the premiere episode when she revealed her tragic back story: She was engaged to NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick in 2004 when Hendrick and several family members were killed in a plane crash. A week after the crash, Maynard discovered she was pregnant with Hendrick's baby. She's now the single mother of a 5-year-old daughter, Ricki.
Maynard's story might have won her sympathy votes early on, but she really earned America's love with her Southern charm and by being three things rarely associated with the show: poised, dignified and graceful.
One of her rivals for Womack's attention described Maynard this way on the show: "She's like this itsy-bitsy Barbie doll, with the soul of Mother Teresa. So you want to hate her, but you can't because you can't hate Mother Teresa, you've got to love her. So no one hates Emily. Great. Awesome."
On a show where backbiting and subterfuge are practically de rigueur, that's saying something.
From the start, Womack, a bar owner from Austin, Texas, has seemed smitten with Maynard. He pawed at other bachelorettes and did his share of making out with them. But around Maynard, Womack appeared as nervous as a teenager, desperate to show how respectful he could be, struggling to put his feelings for her into words.
Say what you will about the show and the improbability of two people actually falling in love under such circumstances: By season's end Maynard and Womack had admitted to each other that they were, indeed, falling. Maynard has said she hopes Womack will choose her in the finale.
But another woman is in contention for that proposal: Chantal O'Brien, a divorced executive assistant from the Seattle area and the daughter of former Seattle Seahawks football player Mike O'Brien.
Womack seems to like her a great deal (even if she does cry quite a bit). But viewers have noted that Womack seems much more serious about Maynard, and online spoilers predict Maynard is the one he will choose.
But spoilers have been wrong, and "Bachelor" producers are known for editing the show to fool fans. So viewers will have to tune in Monday night to see what happens.