Matt James sets the scene by reminding us that he has two girlfriends left in an ITM. He tells the camera that Michelle is everything he is looking for in a wife, and also he is attracted to Rachael.
Michelle and the Family
We meet Matt James’s Brother for the first time this season. He is a rapper and is named John, AKA John The Scorpio:
Not what I expected, but he’s got some talent and the James boys like their skateboards.
John the Scorpio, Matt James, and Matt James’s mother Patty are meeting Michelle first. Patty gets through most of her first question to Michelle (“tell me about yourself”) before tearing up, perhaps at how excited she is to be Michelle’s mother-in-law. John the Scorpio asks Michelle the Teacher what she likes most about Matt James. Michelle says that she trusts Matt James. Michelle tells John the Scorpio that her last relationship ended in January. That was two months before the whole world kinda shut down. That is around the last time I could be in the same grocery store with someone who is coughing and not have a panic attack.
John the Scorpio says he is going to be happy with Michelle assuming his mom likes her. Matt James’s mother notes that Matt James always chose friends with “very strong families” and then tearfully admits that she felt badly that she could not offer Matt James a strong family. Michelle says that he does have a strong family, and in fact helped to make him the man that he became. It was the right thing to say and Patty is smitten.
As they are leaving, Michelle says “oh, I forgot something” before bending down to grab a snowball. They have a brief snowball fight. It is cute, though Matt James takes it too seriously.
Rachael and the Family
We see Rachael and Matt James going to meet the family. There is no evidence of the snow on the driveway and sidewalk that Michelle pelted Matt James with, so this is either before the Michelle meeting or a lot of it melted. I am pretty confident that this was presented in the order it was filmed, so everyone has probably met Michelle already. It makes a difference because Patty did not cry while trying to ask Rachael a question.
John the Scorpio asks Rachael the Problematic Social Media if she has been in love before. Rachael says she is very much in love with Matt James now. Patty tells Matt James that Rachael “is cute” which is better than not being cute. But not as good as what she said about Michelle.
Patty asks when she fell in love with her son, and Rachael says it was “that first one-on-one date.” Rachael tells Patty that it really meant a lot to her that Matt James prayed that first night. Rachael tears up, saying she “felt it in her soul” and that it was God’s plan that put them in each other’s path as they were unlikely to meet outside of the show. I mean, Matt James was not invited to some of the parties Rachael famously attended. Patty tears up at this as well, and Rachael says “I truly love your son” and “Matt is the most incredible man I have met in my whole life.” Rather than a cute snowball fight, Matt James and Rachael kiss passionately like some people who are pretty in love with each other.
After Rachael departs, Matt James checks in with his family. Patty says “it was fun to meet your prospects” and says she likes both Michelle and Rachael. Patty asks if Matt James could get engaged and Matt James says he could. He also says he has “no idea” what he will do, which is good for the narrative. Patty asks Matt James if being “in love” means he will get engaged. She seems to be team: “just date, okay?” I mean, she knows her son, and seems pretty dubious that Mr. “never really been in love” is going to get married to one of these ladies he has known entirely in a resort in Pennsylvania for less than two months. Patty says “speaking from experience, there is nothing like being in love” but also “sometimes love fades.” John the Scorpio and Matt James look tense, like two dudes whose mom is about to talk about her own love life on television.
Matt James tells the camera that he is wondering if he is “ready” to get engaged. He references MJD, his father who Matt James notes “was not ready.” Clearly the narrative they are going for is “will he actually propose?” Matt James is going to seek advice from someone “who has seen this process play out” and it is… Chris Harrison! Remember him? He used to host this show!
Chris Harrison, not realizing this is one of his final conversations with a lead about some likely-doomed relationship he does not care much about, listens to Matt James detailing his worry that his feelings could fade as they did between MJD and Patty. Chris Harrison tells Matt James that Patty is full of shit and that love doesn’t always fade. Coming from a divorced guy who has a vested interest in Matt James getting engaged on television, this is probably not objective advice. But Chris Harrison at least lays out the issue. “What you are saying is: you don’t want to get engaged?” Matt James says that yes, it seems like a bad idea to get engaged if he doesn’t feel ready.
It’s this moment that crystallized, for me, the fact that the Franchise picked the wrong lead. To be sure, Matt James has a lot of the qualities you would want in a “first” – he’s poised, approachable, and authentic. But what he isn’t is something that’s critical to a successful season lead – relationship-mature. This means someone who has navigated enough romantic relationships to know what s/he wants and doesn’t change their mind when they suddenly realize that their single mom was in a relationship that didn’t work out. Matt did a ton of work on the show to connect with his own marital compass – talking things out with his dad, his mom, his brother, and, dammit, even Chris Harrison. But none of those conversations suggest that Matt was someone who was prepared to chart his own path to find a love that he needs – and that preparedness is what separates the “successful” leads from everyone else. You can’t blame Matt for his unpreparedness – he was getting ready to go on Clare’s season (remember her?) when social-justice summer happened and the Bachelor panicked.
Matt James takes Michelle up to the roof of the chateau to look at their outdoor dining setup, which is quite far in the distance and way down on what appears to be an airstrip. Keep in mind it is cold enough that there is snow on the ground, so this is going to be a lot of work for an uncomfortable dining experience.
Michelle and Matt James will be rappelling down the side of the tall chateau. There are some suitably vertiginous camera angles and it probably really helps that these are two quite-athletic people. Victor and I would have died approximately forty times trying to make this descent. Notably the Bachelor producers blurred out the logos of the rappelling company, so I guess they actually paid them and didn’t let them dangle 67% of their remaining contestants off the building for “promotional considerations.”
I bet that skydiving company was hoping its logo got blurred out two episodes ago given that they almost killed a contestant – and a pretty important one at that.
At dinner, Michelle and Matt James discuss the meeting with Matt James’s family. Matt James notes that Michelle was a hit with the fam, and Michelle reiterates that just because Michelle’s family is awesome, she knows that Matt James’s less-traditional family is also awesome. After the cold airstrip meal, they retire to… a hotel room. The show is really going all out on these dates! Michelle asks Matt James “are you able to get to a spot emotionally where you need to be?” This may have been well-produced, because it is both a logical question and also EXACTLY what the “is he ready?” narrative calls for.
Matt James tells the camera that Michelle is “pouring her heart out and telling me how sure she is and I don’t know where my heart is at.” Michelle tells the camera “I am genuinely happy and Matt James is my person and that’s what I want.” Gotta love that someone finally adopted the RRR style guide practice of using “Matt James” every time the lead is mentioned by name. I will note about half of the contributors to the blog fall short on this front regularly.
If I’m typing 5,000 words every night, I’m not going to waste my energy typing “James” 25 times.
The evening portion of the date is Michelle saying she is “in love with” Matt James and “I can’t imagine having anyone else as my teammate.” Jocks, amirite? And kudos to Michelle’s alma mater Bradley for making the tourney after defeating Missouri St with an unorthodox strategy of having a positive covid test on the team that convinces the other team to forfeit. Michelle gives Matt James a present. It is a #1 Mr. James jersey. Which, cool? She also has a #2 jersey that says “Mrs. James.” I suppose if things don’t go the way they want, they can try to sell these jerseys to LeBron and his wife?
While I was contemplating the aftermarket for these cheap props, the music changed. Michelle asks Matt James what he is thinking about and he says “I don’t know” and “everything is becoming real for me.” He says he’s “having doubts” and he shouldn’t be. Unclear if these are doubts about Michelle or doubts about getting engaged. Though he keeps referencing Michelle, suggesting that they might be Michelle-specific doubts.
Matt James says “the easy thing to do would be to tell you what you want to hear.” “Do that, then. It would be easy!” Michelle doesn’t say. She kind of pulls away and asks for clarity, saying “am I supposed to fight for you or am I not supposed to fight for you?” Matt James says “I don’t think I can get there with you.” Okay then, it was about Michele. Also, ugh. Michelle, Matt James, and America all do some crying. Michelle says “I put it all on the table, that’s all I can do” and laments that it feels like “the flip of a switch” that changed everything. Matt James says “I don’t think it was the flip of a switch.” Because I assume we were all concerned that we might get the wrong metaphor for him dumping Michelle. A tearful Michelle kind of crumbles in the doorway to the hotel room that Matt James just vacated and a cameraman who I hope feels bad about his job at that one moment just films her.
Because Minnesota isn’t a real state, a legislator introduced a bill to bar Arie from Minnesota after he dumped Becca K. I assume we can expect another such bill soon. Clear the legislative calendar!
If Amy Klobuchar watched that, she probably threw a salad and her comb at a staffer and told the staffer to start drafting the bill.
Chris Harrison joins Matt James outside the hotel, and asks if he is okay. Matt James says “no” in a clip we have seen many times this season. And now we know it is because Matt James dumped Michelle. Chris Harrison says “part of you loved her” and Matt James says “but I wasn’t in love with her.” Ehh… I think he probably can’t split hairs here. He claims to have never been in love. So, you know, maybe he’s not the expert?
Matt James reminds us that his mother told him that “feelings fade” and, while I like Patty, I gotta say “feelings fade” is not a groundbreaking insight. You mean sometimes people fall in love and then break up? Matt James tells Chris Harrison that he is not sure he can do the same thing to Rachael that his father did to his mother.
Matt James tells the camera he is not sure what to tell Rachael, then tells Chris Harrison “to be honest Chris, I just need some time.”
Rachael is preparing for her date and there is a knock at the door. It is Chris Harrison. Chris Harrison relays to Rachael that Matt James said “I just need some time” and apparently that means “there’s not going to be a date today.” Chris Harrison just cancelled this date like it was Chris Harrison. It is unclear from what Chris Harrison said if it was Matt James who cancelled the date. If he did, it was a real dick move, because Rachael’s reaction is predictable. She thinks he doesn’t like her, OBVIOUSLY.
Neil Fucking Lane
Neil Lane shows up with his briefcase of gaudy rings and, as Amy noted, does the job Chris Harrison is failing to do. Matt James starts in on being unsure and Neil Lane is like “yeah dummy, love is hard.” In minutes he accomplishes what Chris Harrison couldn’t, somehow conveying to Matt James that no loves are guaranteed to last but it probably won’t be easier if you dump everyone and never give out big gaudy rings. Or, you know, cancel your last date together to hang out with your diamond guy. Neil Lane says “we can look at rings and take it from there, but I won’t make you get one.” Neil Lane convinces Matt James to select a pear-shaped ring and Matt James says “I’m gonna hold onto this.” One of this blog’s ring consultants (Amy) is not pleased with this ring. But it shows Matt James is very suggestible that Neil Lane said “this is my favorite” and Matt James just went with it. He didn’t even want to get engaged and Neil Lane talked him into taking his worst ring!
Rachael is very-predictably distraught that her final date was cancelled. She sits awkwardly on a couch in her bathrobe while a camera person films her. There is a knock at the door and Rachael finds an envelope under it. She sighs like a person who thinks she is embargoed while her ex-roommate gets engaged to her ex-boyfriend. Only, it is a card from Matt James saying “you deserve answers, meet me at the lake.” Amy says “let him wait for a while.” Yeah, wait an hour and then send Chris Harrison to be like “she’s on her way… maybe.”
Chris Harrison meets Matt James at the lake and asks if Matt James is okay. “Nervous” is the one-word response. Matt James says “I still have some uncertainty stepping into today.” Basically we get a rehash of the whole episode of Harrison-James interactions. Matt James does say “I love Rachael” and a smile kind of bursts forth from him. I believe he does love Rachael in that moment. Chris Harrison says “say a prayer and get your thoughts together.”
I guess the Franchise wanted to give Chris Harrison a decent sendoff given his 25 seasons on the show because he is getting a TON of airtime – INCLUDING VOICEOVERS FOR THE AFTER THE FINAL ROSE THAT HE’S NOT HOSTING. You would never know watching this finale that Chris Harrison may have hosted his last show. I’m not going to go back and track his screen time but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got more airtime than either Michelle or Rachael in the finale – and the last time I checked, Chris Harrison isn’t waiting for a proposal from Matt James during this episode.
The proposal area is an outdoor fireplace. Rachael steps out of the van in what she assumes is her getting-dumped dress. Chris Harrison greets her with “hey Rach” and “soon I will lose this job over my defense of a dumb party you shouldn’t have attended in 2018.” Rachael tells the camera “I’m going to pour my heart out to him one last time. Then he’s going to break my heart.” Rachael honestly should dump Matt James for letting her think he dumped her. Also for not giving her his jacket, since her dress is completely open in the back and it is fully autumn. It snowed this week!
Rachael shivers and tells Matt James she felt bad for Matt James and that she couldn’t “be there for [him] when [he’s] hurting.” She says “I’m not going to run just when it gets tough” and “I don’t know if you still want this, but regardless I feel so unbelievably lucky just to have felt what I felt for you.” Rachael says “I just know with all of my heart that I love you and I will choose you every day from this day on out. If you will let me.” She sort of sighs through this part, as she assumes she’s getting dumped and he is just missing her cues on when to interrupt her.
Matt James again says “the easy thing” would be “to make you happy and propose today.” He has to stop telling his girlfriends that making them happy is easy and he won’t do it. Matt James says “I couldn’t live with myself if I put you through what my dad did.” Then he says “that’s why I can’t propose to you today.” There is a long pause and then he says “but that doesn’t mean I want to lose you.” The music suggests this is a happy ending, and Matt James says “the truth is that I love you.” Matt James says “I do love you, I see you as my wife, and I see you as the mother of my kids.” Umm… does Matt James know what an engagement ring is for? Because it seems like this would be the person to use it on if all of those things are true. Not saying I disagree with the decision not to get engaged. I mean, most people should go on multiple dates and, I don’t know, leave Pennsylvania, before getting engaged. But it seems like Matt James was ready enough for a fake TV engagement. These are not binding engagements, you can still break up. Most people do. But if you can pretend to be engaged long enough, you can keep the ring and I guess sell it on to some gaudy-ring aficionado.
Oh, yeah. That’s the end. Rachael gets the final rose but Neil Lane gets his ring back.
By the time I was nine, I was a big basketball fan living in China. I’d watch games and highlights every time they came on TV – which was once every two months because there were three channels to choose from. The games usually featured China against some other team from Asia. I could spot the good guards from a mile away – those were the guys who could make accurate passes and, occasionally, some of those longer shots. I could also spot a good center – those were the tall guys who could jog pretty fast up the court, scrap for rebounds, catch passes, and make short shots or sometimes even do cool things like finger-rolls around the basket. On rare occasions, they even blocked other players’ shots.
And then we moved to Houston, and I started watching the Houston Rockets and Hakeem ”The Dream” Olajuwon.
What does this have to do with the Bachelor, you ask?
I was reminded of my first time watching the Dream tonight when I watched Emmanuel Acho host the Bachelor after decades of watching Chris Harrison. Without a studio audience and while dealing with some weighty subjects, Acho brought a presence and an energy level to the show that was levels beyond anything that Chris Harrison was capable of. In my view, he showed everyone something I knew all along, Chris Harrison is a replacement-level host. Let’s just bask in what a real host brings to the table, shall we?
Emmanuel opens in a (too) slim fitting suit and dives right in – this is the most shocking ATFR because he’s hosting instead of Chris Harrison and he will get into all the controversies. There is no studio audience and that’s honestly better – because the focus is squarely on the conversations, as it should be.
Yeah, the difference is pretty stark. I think it took about 30 seconds to realize that having someone who is trying is pretty nice. It is notable that Chris Harrison isn’t exactly Oprah, and having someone known for interviews and not like the daytime version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is a welcome change.
Also and oh-so-unrelated, Hakeem Olajuwon lives in Jordan. I assume because of a high-stakes bet he made with Michael Jordan.
Michelle is up first and she tells us that she was ready to be engaged and that breakup conversation with Matt was not one that she saw coming. She then drops some serious shade on Matt when she reveals that she was not okay after the breakup and, while still at Nemacolin, asked to speak to Matt for two minutes for closure (and not to interfere with his “other relationship”). But Matt did not want to have that conversation. Put another piece of evidence in that “Matt isn’t relationship-mature” folder.
Matt James seems like a very-attractive guy who would be very hard to date. I suppose Rachael understands what she is getting into since he basically blew off her date and sent Chris Harrison to tell her he was too busy to hang out with her in the resort where they were quarantining with his other girlfriend.
Emmanuel then asks Michelle about her reaction to the controversy surrounding Rachael and Chris Harrison. To be frank, Michelle probably isn’t free to speak entirely candidly about the show given her upcoming Bachelorette season, but she does say that Rachael’s photos speak to her ignorance and lack of education, despite her “good heart.” As for Chris, Michelle described it as another thing that brings her to the point of exhaustion. Given that, at this point, Chris is still an executive producer of the show and not mathematically eliminated from hosting Michelle’s season of the Bachelorette, I’m not sure that Michelle can say more about Chris. Though if Michelle creates a Patreon channel where she’s going to tell us what she really thinks about Chris, I’m definitely paying that $2.99 per month.
Michelle & Matt
Emmanuel invites Matt out and he gives Michelle a cautious embrace. Michelle confronts Matt about not giving her an opportunity for closure and notes that she “crumbled” in her room after the breakup. Matt does not make any excuses and said that there’s no justification for not giving her an opportunity for a conversation. He adds that she was a breath of fresh air and that he cared about her and admired the composed way that she handled the controversies that swirled around the show during its airing. Emmanuel tells Michelle that she might not see Matt again and asks whether she has anything else to say to him. Don’t be so morbid and dramatic Manny! Michelle came with some lines prepared and delivered them with aplomb. Matt, please work on kissing with your eyes closed, and respond to affection by saying things other than “thank you for sharing that with me.”
Just kidding – the show forgot about Bri.
This segment was the linchpin of ATFR and demonstrated why, among dozens of other reasons, Chris Harrison couldn’t host the show tonight. Emmanuel talked with Matt through the racial dynamics of the show in a way that Chris simply couldn’t and didn’t in that season opening chat before the limo entrances.
When asked about the pressures of being the first Black Bachelor, Matt talked through the extra layers of scrutiny associated with the only Black man some of the show’s audience will welcome into their homes on a weekly basis. Emmanuel shared that he carries himself with the weight of racial representation because he may be the only Black man a person talks to that week. This prompts Matt to share his burden in representing Blackness during a time where the country and the show are undergoing racial reckonings. He confides that the experience is simply an amplification of what he’s done his entire life – conditioning himself to make people comfortable with his Blackness.
If at any point in the show, Matt seemed guarded in his emotions or overly cautious in what he’s saying – this is the reason why. He is acutely aware that how he acts and talks will not only be reflected in the judgments against him, but judgments against his Blackness. This is the weight carried by every racial minority, but amplified when representing the most historically-subjugated race in America.
I’m not Black, but I’m a racial minority, and that weight doesn’t leave you. It’s the reason I scrutinized my accent in high school to make sure I didn’t have a hint of “Asian” dialect. It’s the reason I double- and triple-checked my grammar and sentence structure in everything I turned in during college, law school, when I began work in a law firm, and when I started at the DOJ. I was paranoid about not representing my race and their associated ability to communicate in English. This was the case even though, if you just look at my resume, it may seem pretty clear that I’m capable of communicating in English fairly well. And what I carried is but a speck compared to the weight Matt had to carry as the first Black Bachelor.
As I think back to some of my criticisms of Matt in earlier blogs, I’m rethinking whether I took that experience and that weight he carried into consideration. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t done so adequately. And if you felt some type of way about how Matt presented himself this season, I hope you reexamine those feelings as well.
Back to the show, Emmanuel asked Matt about his relationship with Rachael, and Matt describes how he was drawn to her because of her authenticity, and the initial post-show period was an absolute honeymoon period. Emmanuel then asks about his reactions when the photos and other allegations surfaced.
Matt takes a pause, and then relates that he always thinks that he knows his person better than anyone else, and because of that, he dismissed the initial accusations as just rumors. But when he found out that they were true, it led him to question everything. He shares that those pictures took him to a place that he never wanted to be, and places where he wasn’t welcome. And because Rachael had gone to that party in 2018, Matt realized that Rachael might not understand what it means to be a Black man in America and that he needed to take a step back from the relationship.
When prompted by Emmanuel, Matt confirms that he had broken up with Rachael. He says that his feelings for Rachael don’t go away overnight. Nevertheless, while Matt believes that no one is irredeemable, he doesn’t see Rachael’s learning about anti-racism as a situation where he could meaningfully help.
Emmanuel Acho asked a critical question, which was about whether Matt James shouldn’t have given Rachael the chance to show she had changed in the three years between the pictures and today. It is basically an eloquent version of what Chris Harrison asked Rachel Lindsay. He asked if there should be a pathway back from, as the show put it, “a history of racially insensitive behavior.” There is no reason to require that this pathway involve getting to date Matt James if he is no longer into it, but past ignorance is something everyone has and probably can’t function as a barrier to polite society.
I’m thankful everyday that there was no Facebook when I was in college.
Emmanuel goes with the handshake greeting for Rachael, and asks her how she’s doing. You could tell it’s going to be a heavy interview because Rachael knows that even an answer to an usually-innocuous conversation starter can’t be a simple, “I’m doing okay.” Emmanuel explains the controversy, explains what ante-bellum means in the context of slavery, and shows the picture of Rachael at the party on the screen and asks Rachael what she sees. “Two other girls who are incredibly relieved that their faces are blurred” she does not say. Instead, Rachael gives a good and authentic answer – “someone who was living in ignorance; and someone who didn’t ask the questions.” Emmanuel gives Rachael a door to excuse her actions on her upbringing but she does not take it – “my upbringing is not an excuse.” She says that even though others have told her that things like this are normal (in parts of society I suppose, and maybe even for 50 million people, Chris Harrison adds) that doesn’t make it okay.
Here, Emmanuel steps in with some context to humanize Rachael and create some connection with the segment of the show’s audience that’s against this “cancel culture nonsense.” He explains that history should be remembered, but not all history should be celebrated, and that there’s a difference between racially-insensitive or racially-ignorant, versus racist, which goes to intent. He makes clear that he doesn’t think Rachael is (or was) racist, only ignorant, a sentiment with which Rachael agrees.
Emmanuel then asks why it took Rachael so long to issue an apology – and Rachael says that she needed time to understand why it was so wrong and educate herself. Emmanuel asks Rachael how she’s doing that, and Rachael does not take the bait to plug Emmanuel’s book (or say that she’s been talking to Michael Eric Dyson), instead she says that while she could give a list, it will be her actions that matter.
When asked whether she was worried that her pictures may surface when she went on a show to date a Black man, Rachael says that she hadn’t thought about them because to her, those were just pictures with friends. And this is the most believable statement all night, and that’s saying something because, unlike in prior ATFR shows, everyone has been pretty authentic on the couch tonight.
Most people have a lot of pictures online and various other posts and whatnot tied to their names. A weird thing about the world is that a lot of people used Twitter to try to get on @midnight and now those tweets look really bad in retrospect and out of context. There was Ralph Northem’s yearbook but there are other yearbooks out there, and the aforementioned trove of facebook posts. And Rachael’s experience of not seeing this coming will be repeated countless times. I’m not a Rachael apologist, but she did notably apologize and tell people to stop defending her. And she is resisting the temptation to just join up with the often-shitty people who are springing to her defense, even though she could probably land a part in the DailyWire Gina Carano movie or whatever.
Finally, Emmanuel asks Rachael how she reacted to the breakup. Rachael shares that Matt called her to break things off. While she was initially blindsided, she realized that he must have been really hurt by what happened. She tells us that she’s lost the love of her life and that she’ll always love him. This show will be a tough watch for the future Mr. Kirkconnell. Or, in ten years, Matt and Rachael will share a laugh about that one time they dissected their break-up on national TV before getting back together two months later.
Rachael & Matt
The two share a hug full of tension you could feel through the screen. Rachael apologizes to Matt for hurting him. Matt stays silent, does not accept the apology and doesn’t speak until prompted by Emmanuel. He then says that it’s heartbreaking, devastating, and disappointing. Emmanuel waits a couple of beats, and then asks Matt to share more of what’s on his mind. And Matt stays silent so long that Stephanie asks whether they forgot to edit this episode. We cut to commercial, and Matt is still silent when we come back from commercial.
He then breaks his silence and tells Rachael what was most disappointing was that he had to explain to her why going to an antebellum party in 2018 was problematic, and that it showed him that she didn’t understand what it meant to be Black and the world their children would face. Rachael tells him that he was the only reason she came on the show, and that she came on the show for all of him, including his Blackness. She says that, at this point, she doesn’t see that there’s anyone else out there for her. Rachael, check your DMs. I suspect a lot of people might disagree.
As Rachael starts crying, Matt says that he doesn’t want to be emotionally responsible for those tears, and that Rachael is strong and capable enough of doing the work on her own. When Emmanuel again comes in hot with his “you may not see Matt again, so any final words” question, Rachael says, “I want you to be happy and I want the best for you – and I’ll always be thankful for you.”
This was not a great season of the Bachelor, but it is the best ATFR of all time.
Emmanuel here drops the cringiest question of the night: “Will you two share one final embrace?” And here’s the pair’s reaction:
I guess not.
This was maybe not the best platform to announce this, but it’s almost an ATFR tradition now where the show reveals the next lead. And this time, there are two of them: Katie the Vibrator and Michelle the Minnesotan. I’m thankful that I’ll have a much lighter load this fall given our “George writes about all things Minnesota” rule.
Having Katie come out with Michelle was an interesting choice. At least they didn’t have the guys vote, which was a truly awful aspect of Kaitlyn’s season. I know they will not film and air concurrently, though I sort of wish it was simultaneous seasons. There would be an episode where they get to make trades with each other. “Katie, I will give you personal-trainer Marco because I think you guys will get along, but you have to take ‘Whaboom 2’ and also give me a future draft pick.”
You just gave birth to the most genius Bachelor(ette) idea of all time. The next Daryl Morey of Bachelorette is already plotting ways to hog high-ceiling contestants and pick-swap rights.
At least we weren’t subjected to a Chris Harrison-era trope where the leads meet the first five contestants of the season. That would have been a whiplash for the show emotion-wise.
This Season’s Legacy
A lot of the commentariat is characterizing this season as a lost opportunity, where the show fumbled away its chance to have a successful and historic season with the first Black Bachelor. In many ways, that commentary hits the mark – the show created negative controversy around the show, leading to a failed relationship and the (maybe) temporary departure of its long-time host.
But all is not lost – only by crapping the bed so badly can the show have a real reckoning about what type of show this is. The Bachelor(ette) is an entertainment program and ecosystem that caters to an audience. As with any consumer-centered program, the show must evolve with the audience, as audience tastes, societal expectations, and culture change with time.
To its credit, the show has evolved with time. The Bachelor that I first started watching is one that illustrated heteronormative relationship dynamics, and implicitly heralded the values of coming from “good” families, talked obliquely around pre-marital sex, lauded religious faith as a positive virtue, and took every opportunity to showcase the man asking the woman’s father for “permission” before the proposal. These were implicit endorsements that shaped many a Gen-Xer and Millennial’s views (including mine) of what proper courtship looks like. That show is no longer there, and hasn’t been for a few seasons. But for all its evolution to date, this season showed that the show isn’t changing fast enough, given its audience today.
This doesn’t mean that the next season should be a remake of a Shot of Love with Tila Tequila – but it does mean that the show should be more intentional about hiring and incorporating elements into the show that’s more reflective of this show can be. I’ve always believed that the Bachelor(ette) can be a fantastic vehicle to shape cultural conversations and provide insight into tastemaking culture of the 20- and 30-somethings. But it can only be that show if it better reflects what America is today, not what America was in 2000.
As for Chris Harrison – I, like Emmanuel Acho, believe in accountability. And I don’t think “cancelling” people is productive if what we’re hoping to achieve is an inclusive and gender- and race-conscientious society. Should Chris Harrison return as the main host. No. He lost that role by being bad at his job, as we explained earlier.
But I do believe that there’s a role for him to make occasional appearances on the show. He brings the wisdom of experience – one that’s shaped by his past indiscretions and present education. After all, it’s difficult to reconcile encouraging people to undertake the hard work of educating themselves about racial injustice, while at the same time, denying that person all benefits of doing that very work and any opportunities to show the product of that work.
That’s it for the season. Stay safe and healthy!