Certain pockets of the Bachelor Nation fandom have picked up a single rallying cry over the internet: Bring back Chris Harrison. It often drips with paranoia over “cancel culture” (aka consequences) and the whitewashing of racism after the longtime host’s many controversies earlier this year, which led to his June exit from the franchise. You can find the demand for his return on Change.org with at least one petition that boasts over 20,000 signatures. That call is scribbled all over ex-Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay’s Instagram comments due to misattributed and misguided hostilities over Harrisons own actions. You can even find it in the comments section of Refinery29.
While Chris' replacements, former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe, have put in a valiant effort to fill his shoes, Katie Thurston’s Bachelorette season has felt unquestionably different without its usual host — a man who had previously emceed over 50 seasons of Bachelor properties. Tayshia and Kaitlyn giggled through limo arrivals, giving the often over-serious premiere event the air of a sleepover party. They recognized the ridiculous and flimsy machismo on display at “Men Tell All.” Some saw this unapologetically feminine turn as a win for viewers — others, unsurprisingly, were infuriated.
It was only in Monday night’s hometowns episode that the unquestionable appeal of having someone like Kaitlyn and Tayshia — two women who have been in a lead’s shoes — was put on display. Coincidentally, Monday also marked the day that the pair was officially announced as the co-hosts of Michelle Young’s upcoming Bachelorette season 18, which will air this fall. After Katie’s “Week 9,” it’s clear the decision couldn't have come at a better time. The Bachelorette (and The Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise) no longer needs Chris Harrison.
For the first 97% of “Week 9,” it’s easy to forget The Bachelorette has a host. Katie escorts herself into her hometown dates (this is normal for this stage of the competition). She doesn’t turn to either Kaitlyn or Tayshia for a heart-to-heart walk around the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort, which has become a tradition this season. Tayshia never appears in the episode. But, Kaitlyn does when Katie needs her most: following Katie and “frontrunner” Greg Grippo’s confusing breakup.
Katie locks herself in her hotel bathroom following Greg’s inscrutable self-elimination. Kaitlyn approaches and asks Katie if she wants to talk. After weeks of producer interviews and in-the-moment requests for soundbites, Katie assumes she is about to interviewed in the midst of her lowest point. “What questions do you have for me?” she chokes out between sobs. Kaitlyn doesn't have any questions and instead assures Katie she simply wanted to come “see her and talk to her.” When Kaitlyn tells Katie, “I totally understand,” it’s literal. After her own difficult season of The Bachelorette, Kaitlyn is one of the few people alive who can directly empathize a shattered Bachelorette.
“There was one point that I cried into my salad, and I said I was done,” Kaitlyn reveals. “It gets to such a hard point right now.”
With that nugget of honesty, Katie and Kaitlyn have enough trust to get into what happened between the Bachelorette and Greg. It’s unclear if Kaitlyn leads the conversation because producers need it for filming or because she actually wants to help (it could be a little of both). Either way, the chat does seem to allow Katie to work through her emotions and fears. Soon enough, she opens the door and lets Kaitlyn in to talk — and then immediately shuts it to cameras, leaving the pair alone inside.
From the little viewers witness from the interaction, Kaitlyn seems to hug Katie when she enters the space. The rest of their minutes-long conversation is captured from the other side of the door, as the women huddle in an enclosed bathroom together. It’s an emotional moment built on years of probable trips to the ladies' restroom with friends between Kaitlyn and Katie. Chris Harrison could never.
“This is the hardest part. Especially when stuff happens,” Kaitlyn counsels Katie. “I am just so blindsided right now. Like today I am heartbroken, and defeated,” Katie responds between continued tears, unloading her concerns that she “literally shouldn’t be here” on set. The camaraderie between Kailyn and Katie is obvious.
During this section of “Week 9,” a friend joked to me that Chris would never let this kind of drama happen. That is untrue. As a longtime executive producer, Chris was deeply involved with maintaining the narrative of the show — and therefore stoking its drama when necessary. "I'm there as a confidante. I'm there as a friend, maybe I'm there to stir things up or to push a situation I think needs to be pushed, and it's not flowing along as much as it needs to,” he admitted to Insider in October 2020. In that same interview, Chris confirmed that when he’s not on camera, he was in a “control room somewhere, watching and listening” to everything unfolding with the cast. It's that kind of constant observation that likely helped Chris “push” a tense button when necessary.
We can see flecks of this dedication to keeping the pot stirred in countless modern Bachelor Nation turning points, like the moment Chris urged Dale Moss to propose to Clare Crawley. While Dale seemed surprised at how quickly his relationship was meant to move along — it’s easy to assume Dale wanted to leave The Bachelorette by dating the women met mere days earlier — it made for great TV. So it happened. Chris similarly tried to keep the Bachelor circus moving after Colton Underwood infamously jumped the fence in season 23. In an effort to quickly motivate the Bachelor back into filming, Chris reminded an obviously distraught Colton that he still had Hannah Godwin as an option. Chris had no idea Colton had been lying to production about his preferences to protect his relationship with Cassie Randolph.
Kaitlyn and Tayshia might not be perfect — but at least they’re not executive producers in a smiling host’s suit.