We knew it was coming, but it didn't hurt any less.
The series said goodbye to Paula when they treated us to a bittersweet montage of Paula and Mike's short, happily domesticated life together on the opening of The Big Leap Season 1 Episode 10; then, she collapsed and passed away before the opening credits.
But via video recordings she left with Wayne, we got a few more glimpses of her as she left messages to Mike, encouraging him to carry on and not fall into the familiar depression hole he was in before he met her. Of course, interestingly, Nick's been having a difficult time, and the show crumbling before his eyes is only part of it.
We have to give it up for Piper Perabo. She made Paula one of the most endearing characters in this series and brought many characters together unexpectedly.
The montage was sweet. Mike and Paula didn't have long with one another, but they made every second count. Your heart ached for Mike when he kept crying out that they were supposed to have more time together.
Time passed quickly. Similar to how we're at the end of this sweet series, The Big Leap's final performance is here.
And so many changes have happened in that time frame. The realities of how these series don't instantly change every aspect of how its contestants' lives play out were front and center when we saw Gabby returning to the same job she had before she tried out for the show.
Reggie is back on the team again, and Brittany is still trying to stand up to her mother and find her path. But in other ways, the contestants have been irrevocably changed.
Justin has the opportunity of a lifetime now. They're all close friends akin to family. Mike found and lost the love of his life, and everyone handled that differently.
For Mike, with the support of The Big Leap family, he's able to carry on without Paula in a way that he maybe didn't have the strength or emotional maturity to manage when he first arrived on the series.
His friends aren't allowing him to disappear into himself again or slip into a deep depression. He's given the space to grieve openly and people who will enable him to do that, and it's a beautiful thing.
But even though Paula and Mike didn't know each other long, they knew each other well. Paula's "P.S. I Love You"-style messages were ingenious, and it showed how great a read she had on Mike.
Even in death, she was saving and looking out for his best interest, and his devotion to her would have Mike doing whatever Paula wanted and expected.
All of the messages were sweet, but the final one was the most emotionally impactful. I appreciate that Paula didn't have something traditionally profound to say in those moments because it felt more realistic that way. Yet her words carried all the gravitas it needed anyway.
Only on The Big Leap did we come for the Gabby and Reggie love story and end up equally as invested in Mike and Paula like this.
Despite everything Mike was going through, one feels proud of him for getting through it and leaning on others when he needed it. The scenes hugging Joel, the adorable one when a ridiculously tall Wayne enveloped him in a hug, holding hands with Travell, or sipping juice boxes with the kids Paula inspired -- were all memorable moments.
Whatever his special dance during the performance will be, it's going to be an uplifting, sweet display.
Hi Mike. This is it! I assume it's just before curtain. Listen, baby, all of our friends, everyone on that show, they're helping us go through something so hard. So even if you don't want to go out there tonight, do it for them. Do it for me. Most important, do it for you. Be a part of something and then keep being a part of more things, I wish I had something more profound to say but that's all I got. Just keep doing stuff with people because that's what life is. My beautiful husband. Break a leg. I love you so much, and I want you to dance like I'm watching because I am.Paula
And Gabby and Monica joining forces to change the choreography last minute are a sight to behold.
I love that Gabby has leaned more into orchestrating dances of her own. She's gifted, and this competition provided her the opportunity to explore a talent she didn't realize she had.
And it was adorable how Justin and Monica both encouraged her to get recognition for the hard work she deserves.
Her version of Swan Lake is much better, and given that they lost a dear friend, it has a much better message. You could sense that Gabby saw herself and wanted to apply the things she's learned over her course of being on the series.
In the end, it shouldn't be about finding love and losing her life if her love story doesn't involve a man. Of course, the messaging is that you fall in love with yourself first.
Self-love is the most important of them all, and it's something that translates better and is applicable on this series about second chances that had such an unlikely brood of individuals from all walks of life who took a chance.
Monica and Gabby have come a long way in their relationship, and it was a gratifying moment that Monica can respect and view Gabby as a peer and fellow visionary.
Maybe they can find something where they work together when this show ends. Gabby and Monica feed off one another creatively in fascinating ways. The group of dancers should perform in their various areas of expertise.
The beauty of it all will be how this mishmash group can make something beautiful by contributing their unique offering to an overall dance.
Monica embracing all of this shows she's cast aside her ballet elitism. It's incredible growth for her.
But in regards to Gabby, despite this reviewer's status as an avid Gabby and Reggie shipper, maybe it's a good thing that Reggie's having a hard time making it to the studio in time. He should make a grand gesture, and ideally, we need to see him dance with Gabby one final time before the season concludes.
But a part of me wonders if it'll undercut Gabby's moment about falling in love with herself. I'm excited about her confidence.
The pressure is on for Reggie as he seems to have more difficulties performing on the field when his heart and mind are with Gabby.
Reggie's post-game interviews were hilarious, with everyone asking about Gabby and The Big Leap instead of the game.
And while he had every right to be pissed at Jessica and the show, he needed them to get to this point where he could put it all out on the line for Gabby.
Nick was over the moon with that news, and you know it wasn't solely because it made great TV.
Nick has developed a conscience and moral scruples while working on this series. He doesn't know what to do with that.
Nick: It can't be panic attacks. Do the thing where you yell at me again and call me a stupid bitch.
Monica: You're not dying, you're grieving. You're sad about Paula and you're afraid of wasting your life being a snake in the grass. You stupid bitch. Sometimes things happen that require us to stop and reflect and feel, Nick. Paula died and no one is okay, including you. It seems to me that you can either make something beautiful in her honor or continue to produce garbage to chase ratings.
You could tell that his reaction to everything was because of Paula's death and the unexpected impact. Again, who knew that he developed such an attachment to her? She sneaked up on him, but many of the contestants on the show did.
He didn't anticipate any of this, and the series gave him a second chance at becoming a better person, and he has.
He didn't want to memorialize Paula because it hurt too much, and her death reminded him of the fragility of life. It made him reevaluate his path. After the death of someone like Paula, it would make a person wonder how they'll be mourned or remembered.
What will you be remembered for after you're gone? The existentialism of it all prompted Nick to suffer from panic attacks, and Monica was there to kick his butt in gear and hit him with some hard truths.
Henri did the same, and it's evident she's always been there to encourage her father to be better.
Nick has always been the guy who is calm under pressure and unfazed by things that happened.
We minimize her.... people tune into reality shows to be sad about someone getting broken up with in a jacuzzi, not to be sad about a woman who was nice to everyone and finally found love but died of cancer way too young because that is a reminder that life is crushingly unfair which is exactly what people tune into these shows to forget about, okay? So we minimize her.Nick
We saw on The Big Leap Season 1 Episode 2 that he barely showed hints of a heart when his last gig fell through and people died. Now, he's having panic attacks about Paula's death, and he's taking stands against the studio for the sake of the contestants.
Nick cares, and he's struggling with the fact that he does. The final scene where the show is falling apart now that the lights have gone off and everything is a disaster moments before everyone goes onstage prompts another scary panic attack.
Nick felt he had a heart attack, and panic attacks definitely feel that way, but is it possible he has one for real? The events leading up to open curtains are so stressful!
Adding some levity to the situation were Julia's experiences with her family. She and Linus are having a jolly good time doing the horizontal tango, and it's what Julia deserves.
Kevin's attempts to make up for his misdeeds are ridiculous, but hopefully, now he can refocus his attention on his daughters instead of Julia and leave it at that.
He's a lousy husband, and he explained as much, but he doesn't have to be a bad dad, too.
The four of them bonding and mending fences while painting over Olivia's feminist vagina graffiti was hilarious.
But Simon self-sabotaging his relationship and breaking up with Justin was not. He's both proud of Justin for achieving a dream and jealous, too. He also has zero faith in their relationship, love for one another, and the ability to maintain a long-distance relationship.
Monica: When you auditioned for the show I thought you were just a dreary little office drone.
Monica: But I see how badly I misjudged you because you might be a genius.
It sucks that the twins' mother screwed them up so much that they can't trust the good things in their lives. Justin is devoted to Simon no matter what, and Simon can't see a world where that's possible while Justin is in Paris. And he doesn't want to hold Justin back or keep what he feels is the inevitable thing from happening.
Simon's breaking up with Justin before the performance sucked, though.
Once his mother showed up, you knew both the twins would have a hard time. The woman angling for this Whorelando reality show with Brittany was ridiculous.
But all of that took a backseat to Brittany realizing that she's freaking pregnant!
Maybe it's only a scare, but if it's not, does this mean that she's pregnant with Reggie's baby, or is there someone else Brittany was with whom we're unaware?
And if it is Reggie's, how is it going to affect things with Reggie and Gabby? We're in for a hell of a finale!
The hour lacked something special by not having one of those signature dance performances.
I guess we're supposed to count Paula's heartbreaking tap routine where the lights literally went out on her, but while beautiful, it didn't have the same effect as the hotel dance number or the dance battle, you know?
The group routines are the show at its best, and thankfully, there is so much to love about this series outside of dance. However, those routines have become a special treat.
What is happening?! We were supposed to have more time!Mike
Hopefully, they'll deliver on that in the finale since everyone is building up to their new rendition of Swan Lake with a blend of dance styles.
Over to you, Big Leap Fanatics! Do you think Brittany is pregnant with Reggie's baby? What are your thoughts on Nick? Are you bummed about Paula? Hit the comments!
If you want to relive this series before the finale, you can watch The Big Leap online here via TV Fanatic.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.