The Bachelor Finale Gave Chris Harrison The Mic After All

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.

After he faced backlash for defending a contestant's racist actions during an interview on Extra with Rachel Lindsay, Bachelor host Chris Harrison apologized and said he would be "stepping aside" so as not to distract from the rest of Matt James' season. That included not hosting a Bachelor finale tradition, After the Final Rose. But come finale night, Harrison's presence hung over the last episode of James' season like a spectre. 

Right from the top of the show, Harrison's voiceover came on to narrate what was about to happen in the episode. It was clearly recorded after his Extra interview and subsequent apology, because in the voiceover, he introduces the series' temporary replacement host, Emmanuel Acho. We have become used to dealing with Harrison's omnipresence throughout the season and via the Women Tell All, during which the series barely acknowledged how uncomfortable it was to see Harrison hosting the pre-taped special. At the time, the show ran a disclaimer at the start to let fans know the episode was recorded on an earlier date. But the finale episode made little attempt to downgrade Harrison's presence — and in fact doubled down on Harrison's ownership of the show by having him record that final voice over.
The series effectively gave its voice and authority to someone who showed his cards in the Extra interview on February 9, and in the finale scenes recorded prior to that segment. Particularly jarring is the finale scene in which Chris lectured Matt for being brutally honest about his fears and feelings around getting engaged. During the moment in question, Matt tried to explain to Harrison that he wasn't ready to propose, because he'd seen firsthand how badly a relationship can go when both parties aren't fully invested. He was haunted by his mother's words about how love can fade in a previous scene, when she expressed concern about his hasty connections. Harrison's response to this openness was indignant and judgemental: "What kind of greeting card is that?"
The host was visibly frustrated that Matt had changed his mind over the course of the show from once "seeing his wife in the room" a few episodes prior, to then not being able to propose in the finale. The show may be built on speedy engagements, but Matt's far from the first Bachelor to question the process in the eleventh hour. However, Harrison had none of the patience that he's extended to past leads when they've expressed doubts.
Even if Harrison hadn't made the comments attempting to excuse racism on Extra, this conversation was somewhat disqualifying on its own. Harrison is shown aggressively pushing for an engagement at all costs — even over what the Bachelor felt was right for himself. Matt had so many valid reasons to feel the way he did, and Harrison instead blatantly pressured him and guilted him. Asking anyone to get engaged after just a few weeks is already a lot, but when that person is still processing his feelings about his own parents and their effect on his relationships, great care is needed. Pushing someone to share that trauma and quickly push past feelings like this isn't guidance, it's blatant producing.
Between Harrison's looming presence in these important moments and Harrison's voice guiding the entire episode, the message was clear that The Bachelor still sees Harrison as the literal voice of the show. It makes Harrison stepping aside look less like a consequence for his actions, and more like damage control. His finale narration could have easily been recorded by Acho or another well-known Bachelor Nation personality, but The Bachelor went out of its way to give Harrison the mic.

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