There’s always a lot we don’t get to see on The Bachelor, and this season, even more than usual was left on the cutting room floor, often to make way for pointless, damaging drama like “Queen” Victoria’s insidious reign of terror and false rumors about a contestant working as an escort. Group dates were cut out altogether; moments we were promised in the season’s extended trailer never aired. But last night, there was far too much we didn’t get to see — including a sit-down between Michelle Young, the runner-up (and future Bachelorette!) and winner Rachael Kirkconnell.
Although they didn't end up engaged, Kirkconnell won Matt James’ final rose by the end of the season. Since, their relationship has disintegrated after fans on Reddit and TikTok unveiled photos and screenshots of the frontrunner attending a plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018, liking pictures with the Confederate flag, and sharing QAnon-related infographics. Kirkconnell’s racist behavior, and host Chris Harrison's defense of it, sparked a franchise-wide reckoning, and also played a big role in last night’s “After the Final Rose” special.
Stand-in host Emmanuel Acho (taking over for Chris Harrison, who has temporarily stepped aside) interviewed Young, James, and Kirkconnell. But even though fans agree Acho addressed the reasons behind the breakup much better than Harrison would have, Kirkconnell still got off relatively easy. Acho pressed James about his decision to end the relationship over “an action from three years ago,” and didn’t push Kirkconnell when she evaded a question about the work she was doing to unlearn racism and educate herself. He even suggested that they hug at the end of the special, and asked whether there was a chance for reconciliation. Kirkconnell said, both on-screen and in an earlier Instagram post, that she isn’t the victim in this situation and shouldn’t be viewed as one. But the fact is, she got a victim edit. Just take a look at her Instagram comments compared to James’.
Viewers are speculating that the unaired conversation between Kirkconnell and Young might not have fit the narrative that last night’s episode was going for — one that highlighted Kirkconnell’s heartbreak and white guilt over the horrifying revelation that James had to explain why her behavior was hurtful. In a photo from the talk, the contestants are entrenched in what looks like a serious conversation, with Young explaining something and a solemn Kirkconnell listening.
But it’s also possible that the talk went well. After the episode, Kirkconnell congratulated Young and fellow future Bachelorette Katie Thurston on Instagram. “They are so deserving and I know they’ll do wonders with the role,” she wrote. “So happy for you two and sending so much love and so many prayers your way.” Still — because nothing gets past Bachelor Nation — sleuths have noticed that Young doesn’t follow Kirkconnell back on the app. This might not mean anything, though, since she's still pretty new to Instagram.
Whether the conversation was positive, negative, or just uneventful, viewers deserved to see it. In fact, we deserved a longer ATFR, even if it came at the cost of the two-hour finale. With over 30 minutes solely devoted to James’ anxiety over marriage and commitment, it almost isn’t surprising that hordes of ignorant followers are flooding Kirkconnell’s comment section with claims that he was just looking for an excuse to dump her.
There’s a lot that wasn’t covered in the special, including how the Bachelor franchise will dismantle its deep-rooted racism problem, what James is up to now, and how third-place contestant Bri Springs is doing. (According to a press release, she also attended the ATFR and sat down with Acho, but we didn’t see her once.) But this isn’t anything new. The Bachelor producers know what they’re doing when they choose what to air, who to highlight, and most importantly, what the audience doesn’t get to see. Release the deleted scenes from the vault.