It's the end of a truly exhausting season of The Bachelor in every sense of the word. So, will Matt James choose Michelle Young, a woman he responds to with “positive smiles”? Or will he choose Rachael Kirkconnell, a woman who Matt has admitted he’s falling in love with and who was so passionately defended for past racist actions by the host of this show that it seemed obvious she would be the winner. A real head-scratcher here.
The episode begins with Matt meeting up with his mom, Patty, and his brother, John. Patty says in her confessional, “I think it’s a longshot that Matt would be engaged at the end of this,” but she’s excited to meet the women. That’s a reasonable mindset!
When Michelle arrives to meet them, Patty gets teary-eyed immediately. It seems like this process is just very overwhelming for her. Michelle tells the family, "[Matt's] a world changer, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.” I still love that she loves that about him, and also wish we got to hear more about his career.
Patty notes to Michelle that it sounds like she came from “a very cohesive family,” and explains that coming from a divorced family, Matt often chose friends who had “very strong families.” And then she just starts crying about how much it means for her son to be happy.
Matt and Michelle agree that things went well and have a quick snowball fight before she drives off. “I’m continuously pinching myself that someone like Michelle is here. How is she not swooped up?” Matt says. Well if you don’t swoop her up, someone will… on The Bachelorette? Not so fast. Our big Bachelorette announcement is coming later.
Rachael’s family meeting is similarly emotional. Patty’s really a crier. John asks about relationships and Rachael says she hasn’t had that many serious ones — no surprise, she’s only 24.
In her conversation with Matt’s mom, Rachael says she knew she would fall in love with Matt from night one. She was impressed with how he prayed with the group at that first cocktail party, because her faith is so important to her. Patty, unsurprisingly, is very moved by this.
After Rachael leaves, Matt tells his mom and brother that he feels like he could propose at the end. Meanwhile, Patty and John are both concerned that Matt is going to propose too quickly, rather than just choosing to continue a relationship in the real world. Patty even says “love is not the be all end all” because feelings come and go. This hits Matt hard.
Because Matt is having doubts after the conversation with his mom and brother, he says he needs to talk to someone who’s seen the process play out “for better and for worse.” And it’s Chris Harrison. This all was filmed before Chris took a “step back” from the show, and it turns out this conversation actually was important to keep in the edit, because Matt isn’t so excited about getting engaged anymore.
“You’re silly if you don’t get new information or have a new view or perspective on something, if you don’t have a change of heart,” Matt says of his mom and brother’s advice. That sentence could speak volumes about everything going on with this show. Chris points out that the new perspective was Matt’s mom saying, “‘Don’t worry, love ends?’ What kind of greeting card is that?”
It’s not really that simple. Matt does believe in love. Matt’s mom does want him to be happy. Matt just doesn’t want to get engaged as fast as this show asks. “The right decision for me is taking my time and not doing something because that’s what I should do,” he says.
Next up, Matt has a date with Michelle, and suddenly I feel very claustrophobic about them still being at the Nemacolin Resort. Instead of picnicking on a sunny beach, they have to rappel down the side of the hotel. Just like on the skydiving date, Matt shows off the fact that nothing scares him. Except proposing too soon, I guess.
That evening, Michelle and Matt meet back up. She gives him two jerseys — one that says “Mr. James” and one that says “Mrs. James” — because she can’t imagine another teammate besides him. He gives her some bad news.
When it comes to Michelle, it’s not just that Matt isn’t ready to get engaged, it’s that he is ready to break up with her. “This is the first time I felt anything outside of wanting to be with you forever,” he says of his “doubts.” Michelle doesn’t know what that vague sentence means. “Am I supposed to fight for you? Am I not supposed to fight for you?” she says. “I don’t think I can get there with you,” Matt responds. They both cry. Matt leaves.
This is when we get the much-teased clip of Matt crying while sitting on a curb with Chris. Matt is still shook about his mom saying “feelings fade.” He says, “I can’t speak for Rachael, but I refuse to put her through what my mom went through.” He’s very nervous and very much getting ahead of himself, but he doesn’t want to disappoint Rachael by admitting he doesn't want to propose.
So, he doesn’t. The next day, Chris shows up at Rachael’s room (jeez, so much Chris), and tells her that Matt isn’t going on their date because he asked for some time to himself. Rachael’s obviously upset. As far as she knows, Matt doesn’t want to see her, Michelle is still there, and the proposal is the next day.
We get a bunch of voiceover from Matt as he gazes out at scenic Pennsylvania about how he’s not ready for marriage. Then Neil Lane shows up because that man doesn’t give up his screen time. Neil tries to give Matt advice while still showing him rings. Matt picks out one to hold on to just in case. In his confessional, he says that the ring can represent commitment, as well as his dad leaving his mom and “a lot of broken promises." Oof, this is a mess. Just don’t get engaged, Matt! It’s okay!
The next morning Rachael wakes up in her hotel room, still unaware of what’s going on, and receives a note card from Matt asking her to meet him at the lake.
And, apparently, this is the final rose ceremony. The note made it seem like they were just meeting up for a casual chat. Matt tells Chris that he loves Rachael, and that his decision is going to come to him when he sees her. Sure, dude.
When Rachael arrives she tells Matt in her speech — you know, the one the contestant has to give before the lead is allowed to talk — that not having the date confused her, but the worst part was knowing he was hurting.
Eventually, Matt says he found everything he was looking for with her. Her smile returns to her face. He also says he wants to be everything his dad wasn’t for his mom. I know Matt’s going through a lot, but his dad was willing to appear on this show, so it’s a little hard to see him talked poorly about quite so much. Of course, these feelings are Matt’s and Matt’s alone, but the edit of the show comes off sort of insensitive to that fact. (Matt has since had some thoughts on his dad's appearance, too.) He ends up telling Rachael that he can’t propose, because he doesn’t want to rush. But, he wants to continue a relationship with her and loves her. She accepts the final rose.
Matt did the right thing! (I mean, other than breaking up with Michelle.) He wasn’t ready to get engaged, so he didn’t do it. Now they can live happily ever after and totally drama free.
After the Final Rose
Host Emmanuel Acho brings up the “racially insensitive images” from Rachael’s past immediately. What a sudden transition.
First, though, we hear from Michelle. She feels like she didn’t get closure. She asked to talk to Matt for “two minutes” to express herself after the breakup, and he wouldn’t.
But it’s not time for Matt yet. Emmanuel asks Michelle how she felt about the photos of Rachael at an antebellum themed party. She thinks Rachael has “a good heart,” but a lot of learning to do. Asked about Chris’ scandal with defending Rachael, she says that it was exhausting. She’s over hearing apologies without people “actually changing anything."
Matt and Michelle and Matt’s new beard meet up on stage. She confronts him about turning down her request for a conversation. Matt says there’s “no justification” for that and apologizes. She concludes that she’s no longer in love with him, but that he’ll always hold a piece of her heart. She also jokingly calls him out for kissing with his eyes open and saying the phrase “thanks for sharing” too much.
Matt and Emmanuel have a one-on-one conversation next. Matt talks about the pressure of being the first Black Bachelor. He says he felt the weight of what’s been going on with social justice in the U.S., the weight of what’s been going on within the Bachelor franchise, and the weight of representing Black men to viewers who might not know Black men in their own lives. Can I just say, thank god, this conversation isn’t with Chris. Emmanuel can actually relate.
Moving on to Rachael, Matt says things were great at first. But, when he found out about her past he realized that she was very far removed from being able to understand his experience as a Black American. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I have to take a step back and allow her to put in that work,” Matt says, before confirming that he and Rachael are no longer together. “If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand, and it’s as simple as that."
Emmanuel asks if Matt couldn’t just teach and grow with Rachael. I don’t think that anybody’s irredeemable,” he says. “It’s just not a situation that I think that I would help.”
Rachael comes out next to talk to Emmanuel without Matt. Of the photos of her at the antebellum party, she says, “I see someone who was living in ignorance without even thinking who it would be hurting.” She doesn’t make excuses. She says she didn’t ask questions about what the party meant, but she could have, which would have allowed her to make the connection to the party being inherently racist. Of Matt, she says she understands that he must have been very hurt, because she knew how strong their relationship was otherwise.
When Matt comes out on stage, Rachael apologizes to him. He says, “The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset.” He’s heartbroken that she’s so far away from being able to understand him and his experience.
Emmanuel asks if the door is open for them to get back together. Matt says his feelings didn’t go away over night, but that he can’t do the work for her that she needs to do herself. He also notes that he doesn’t want her to be canceled, because she is dedicated to educating herself. So, yeah, Matt doesn’t straight up say “no” to a reconciliation, but it’s a no. The conversation ends with Rachael tearfully telling Matt that she just wants what’s best for him.
Okay, another harsh transition, because it’s time for the Bachelorette announcement. Emmanuel brings out Michelle and Katie. Oh no, not double Bachelorettes again, I think. But, instead they’re both going to be the Bachelorette on two separate seasons. That’s right, they’re just announcing two Bachelorettes at the same time. Given everything that’s gone on in the Bachelor world, it’s impossible to view this as anything other than the show reassuring us they aren’t only choosing white leads going forward. But, it also marks a change in the Bachelor schedule: Katie’s season will be this summer as usual, but Michelle’s will be in the fall. That’s right, we’re getting fall Bachelorette content again in 2021.
And that, at long last, is the episode. No relationship for Matt, but a couple of well made decisions on his part, and exhaustion for everyone involved.
Winner of the episode: It is impossible to choose a winner in the traditional sense with this one, so I’m going to just say all of us in Bachelor Nation won for getting to see a Black man host ATFR when it was more necessary than ever.
Losers of the episode: I feel like Katie and Michelle’s moment was just tacked on so quickly at the end. They needed more time to shine!