Matt James Episode 9 – The Women Tell… Are We Still Doing This? Okay.

The women are here to tell all. Though really it is only some women, and they will probably only tell some. The women present are: Abigail (with the cochlear implant), Anna (with the unsupported prostitution allegations for her housemates), Brittany (not actually an escort), Chelsea (the runway model), Jessenia (she had a two-on-one date with MJ), Katie (we like Katie!), Khaylah (we mostly remember Khaylah!), Kit (she is very young), Mari (she left pretty early), MJ (she had a two-on-one with Jessenia), Pieper (she is a grad student who almost made it to hometowns), Ryan (she’s a dancer, Victoria called her a “ho”), Serenas P and C (one of them dumped Matt James, one of them is waiting to meet Matt James), and Victoria (she was pretty awful).

This show is an opportunity to rehash (and perhaps squash) some beefs, and should cover such topics as:

Victoria – She was The Worst, huh?

Brittany – Remember when Anna called her a prostitute? That was pretty fucked up.

MJ and Jessenia – Remember when they fought? Probably not. 

Katie – What exactly made her so awesome?

We should also get some screen tests for potential future Bachelorettes conducted “in the hot seat” by our lame-duck host. 

Talking about Matt James and his on-screen search for love seems a bit like watching the earthquake before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series without acknowledging that it might be about more than whether the Giants or the A’s are going to win. 

I mean, this is a Bay-Area Baseball Blog but, you know, bigger things are afoot. After all, the defining relationship of this season doesn’t involve Matt James. It is between the show and its many critics. Or, perhaps, between its (former?) host and the woke police. 

In most seasons, the (wo)men tell all is of minimal importance. This season, the episode is entirely inconsequential. This blog is, ostensibly, about the show. While we occasionally stray into social and/or political commentary, we try to focus on the show. Do we? I mean, we could definitely try harder. That is going to be hard to do in this recap when nothing that happened in the Women Tell All even makes the top three list of the biggest things happening right now in “Bachelor Nation.” First, the franchise announced this weekend that Emmanuel Acho will host ATFR in what is likely a tryout to replace Chris Harrison. Second, the continued hate directed at apparently the chief of the “Woke Police” – Rachel Lindsay – led Rachel to deactivate her IG feed, which is a pretty big deal in influencer-land. Chris Harrison should have worried less about the woke police and more about not dragging Rachel Lindsay into the middle of a full-blown culture war. And third, news broke that the Woke Police can apparently arrest its own – as one of the Woke Police’s most prominent sergeants, former Bachelor contestant Taylor Nolan, was revealed to be decidedly un-woke, racist (and other -ists) and hypocritical. All these developments – flowing from Rachael-ghazi – have swallowed up the show and its commentary. So much so that watching the episode feels like rewatching a college basketball game from February 2020 and listening to announcers dissecting the tournament seeding implications. I wonder – did Duke finish its conference season strong enough to grab a top two seed? 

But because this is a show recap blog, I’m going to focus on the show as much as I can – with one observation at the outset. This episode showed exactly why Chris Harrison is a replacement-value host even before the Extra interview. He will never decline an opportunity for a cheap laugh, and never accept an invitation to ask more probing questions. I’m excited to see what Emmanuel Acho, the creator of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” can do. 

Speaking of Chris Harrison – even the show knows that Chris is aging like already-expired milk. The opening shot is accompanied by a disclaimer I’ve never seen on a WTA episode – though this episode has always been previously recorded.

Even Andrew Cuomo is marveling at the speed of Chris Harrison’s fall from grace. 

After introducing the dozen or so women there who were willing to go through quarantine for some more IG followers, Chris first has MJ and Jessenia air out their grievances about JV-gate one more time before pivoting to the Victoria-focused toxicity in the house. 

Victoria-ghazi

While Victoria did acknowledge (as she must) that her name-calling and other actions were unacceptable – she (and occasionally her allies Chelsea, Mari and Serena C) made several excuses: other women (Ryan in particular) were too sensitive, Katie telling Matt escalated the situation, and that people were saying mean things to Victoria as the show was airing. All of this made her regrets seem less genuine, and no exchange better summed up Victoria’s “apology” better than her last exchange with Ryan (who Victoria called a “ho” and tried to explain to Matt that it wasn’t that bad if only he understood the context):

Victoria: I’ve been called a ton of mean things! People called me a “bully”!

Ryan: Maybe you were.

Yes Ryan! Except I would have just dropped the “maybe.”

Victoria probably should have skipped the WTA altogether and just retired as the GOAT villain in show history. Alas, she returned for this forgettable stint with the Wizards. She just couldn’t recapture the magic. 

Escort-ghazi

The show wraps up Victoria’s underserved fake apology tour to shine a spotlight on Brittany and Anna – who combine to conduct a class on accountability, making a genuine apology, and forgiving with grace. If you don’t remember, Brittany Galvan was one of the women who came in later in the season, and Anna quickly spread a rumor around the house that Brittany, a fellow Chicagoan, was a well-paid escort. Katie brought the spreading rumor to Matt’s attention, who addressed the house at the next cocktail party. Matt confronted Anna, who took responsibility for her error in judgment and was sent home. 

Back at the WTA, Brittany described how disappointed it was to be immediately confronted with a false rumor upon her entrance to the show, how difficult it was to even share her experiences with her family upon her return home, and how lingering the pain is that the public accusation now follows her thanks to the permanency of Google. She also mentions that Anna had not reached out to her prior to the WTA taping. 

When asked by Chris for her reaction, Anna again apologizes and reflects that, watching the show back, she realized that she did everything wrong. She repeats that there’s no justification for her actions. She understands that she spread the rumor out of anger and out of her own insecurities, and that she will need to work on them. 

Brittany then states that she accepts Anna’s apology and reflects that she has also made mistakes in the past that hurt the people around her – so she understands making mistakes and the ensuing remorse. She then adds that there’s nothing wrong with sex work, and that people should not let anyone denigrate them for what they do for their job. 

This struck me as a socially-beneficial-but-confusing clarification. After all, Brittany told Matt James it could “ruin her life” if people thought she was an escort. I think this is a situation where she might need to pick a side. After all, if Anna had accused Brittany of being an accountant, it wouldn’t have been a big deal to Brittany or led to Anna being summarily dismissed from the show by Matt James. 

Don’t you dare ever call me an accountant George. I’m a certified Bachelor blogger, and I’ll accept nothing less on my chyron if I’m ever unfortunate enough to be cast on a reality show. 

There are those who will say that Anna showed appropriate contrition in public to rehabilitate her image. While that might be true, what she (and Brittany) did here is so rare in WTA history. So many women (and men in MTA) have had opportunities to show remorse and apologize for their conduct (Yosef being the most recent – and awful – example in the past season of the Bachelorette), you can count on one hand the number who have accepted responsibility and accountability with a proper degree of sincerity and weight. In the low bar set by prior WTA/MTAs, Anna’s apology (and Brittany’s reaction) was sublime. 

Terrible Editing-ghazi

The segment that followed was very confusing. Chris Harrison introduced clips from three group dates that were never shown previously. All three clips got laughs out of Stephanie and me, and filled in quite a few gaps in the narrative this season where we noted that the day-time portion of the group date wasn’t shown. Instead, we got an episode-and-a-half of Matt struggling over whether to let go of Sarah (an exit that is less-than-irrelevant given developments since). 

I think if the franchise would ever admit that they made editing mistakes during the season – this is how they would do it. Hey guys, sorry we devoted three episodes to Sarah-drama and Victoria-drama and didn’t devote time to any of the women of color this season or even filling out the narrative. Here’s a clip of Kit wandering around in the woods. Are we even? Good. 

Next time, just show us the women of color and all the women upchucking pancakes and spitting out beers during the season, and even better if Ben Higgins is yelling at them at the same time. 

Finding out that we missed out on a Fear Factor-style date involving bugs, a binge eating/drinking portion of the relay race, and the swallowing of raw eggs before the boxing date was all pretty disappointing. This show has terrible editing and I live in a glass house because I regularly and ineffectively edit this blog. 

What is perhaps most jarring about the show and “editing” is that several reality-television shows have edited significantly around individual contestants. We suspected that Eazy was edited down a bit after accusations about past conduct came to light during the last season of the Bachelorette. Drag Race All Stars basically edited out Cherry Pie, who made it to the final. They filmed this before Chris Harrison’s career self-immolation and they could have tried to re-film it. They could have done a Zoom version of the show. It isn’t easy to excise Chris Harrison from an episode like this (unlike the regular show, where he is rarely more than a bit player), but the Bachelor chose not to try. They just threw in a disclaimer noting the day it was filmed without explaining why that might be relevant.

Bachelorette Audition: Katie

Katie gets her time on the couch near Chris Harrison and spends that time shooting off the waterworks. She tells us that she was so confident in her relationship with Matt, especially because Matt accepted her for who she is and her outsized personality. 

In a transparent question to set up Katie for the Bachelorette lead, Chris tosses her the softball “Do you feel like you truly know what you want now?” 

And Katie eyes that ball floating towards the plate and answers:

On February 4, 2021, the franchise probably thought that they had paved the path for the next Bachelorette. Chris Harrison wraps up the interview with “One thing I’ve always appreciated about you – you wear your heart on your sleeve, and you are undeniably always just you and there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos…” 

Wow, this really is a baseball blog now. 

Some notable quasi-spoilery background is that after the WTA filmed, it was reported that Katie had been chosen as the Bachelorette. It seemed like a really popular choice at the time. But things changed and the rumor now is that Katie may no longer be the choice, her tenure caught by a stray bullet fired by the woke police. Katie was the right choice three weeks ago, and if the rumors are true, she is no longer the pick. Though I suspect all of this remains very much in flux, and we could see anything from a new lead, Katie, or the whole show just disappearing and this blog switching over to curling coverage.

Abigail Hot Seat

We see a recap of Matt James and Abigail. Which is short because Matt James gave Abigail the first-impression rose and then… nothing. She told him her children might be deaf and then they never went on a date and he dumped her. Not saying that is related, but, you know… it is a correlation. Chris Harrison notes that Abigail’s time on the show was popular in the deaf community on social media. Abigail notes that she is profoundly deaf because she cannot hear anything without her implant, but because she has a cochlear implant and thus does not use sign language, she is differentiated from “capital D Deaf,” which based on context I guess means people who sign and are not able to easily speak and interpret spoken communication. This is some insight into a community that is interesting and appreciated. Other than laughing at Victor’s jokes in this blog, it is probably the only useful thing to emerge from the entire episode. Thanks Abigail!

Pieper Hot Seat

Pieper left right before hometowns and thus finished fifth on the season. She told Matt James that she was falling in love with him and they had the creepy abandoned amusement park date. In the limo Pieper called her experience “a complete waste of time,” but in an “upset about getting dumped” way. She was sad, it happens. People say things in tearful limo exits. Pieper, FWIW, is 23. So, you know, she has a lot of life to live. She is still in graduate school. And probably not graduating soon unless she skipped a grade or two.

Pieper tells Chris Harrison she didn’t mean what she said in the limo, and that she was “in love with” Matt James. Pieper has the traditional Bachelor conversation that amounts to splitting hairs about “in love” and “falling in love” and then kind of accuses Matt James of stringing her along a bit. Pieper says she was “glad” she did the show, and “will never settle again.”

Serena P Hot Seat

Both Serena P and Kit dumped Matt James, but it would seem Matt James was more annoyed when Serena P did. Not because she said “I don’t think that you’re my person,” but because he had just met her awesome family and seemed to really like her (including a “blooper” in which he is, uh, visibly aroused by Serena P in a hot tub and needs a robe before he can get out). Chris Harrison notes that Serena P dumped the lead pretty late in the game. Chris Harrison asks if the hometowns changed her mind, and Serena P says that her family liked Matt James and saw their chemistry. But, you know, she talked to her mom and then dumped him and has no regrets.

 

Watching Chris Harrison handle the hot-seat interviews is a bit surreal. None of these people know it is likely Harrison’s last ride. The job isn’t exactly rocket surgery, but Chris Harrison has many years of experience doing it and it might be hard to drop a new person into the role. It is possible Chris Harrison is good at this job, in which case WTA would (will?) be even more unbearable without him. Though, as an experienced Bachelor watcher, I am very ready to let someone else try. 

I’ll note a rare disagreement with my co-blogger here: there are parts of the job that Chris Harrison is good at – moving shows like the WTA along, asking the right questions to certain contestants to solicit something that advances the narrative. But there are definitely things that he’s not good at. He’s not good at understanding the contestants beyond a superficial level, he’s not good at probling when contestants hedge in their answers, and he definitely sucks at representing the show on Extra. All you need to do is rewatch his sit-down with Matt James at the beginning of the season when Matt expresses his discomfort at meeting expectations. Will Emmanuel miss some of Chris’s polish at the outset – of course. But I’m willing to bet that he will be a better host than Chris Harrison by the next season of the Bachelor

I suppose it is notable that, according to some polling, “cancel culture” is not a term that means anything to 50% of Americans. If the recent CPAC conference is any indication, it is getting a tryout as the basis of a future GOP platform. So I suppose there is a world where a significant chunk of Americans find out about it from Chris Harrison, in which case it would be helpful if his replacement is awesome. Not sure how one would assess host-effectiveness and calculate VORH (Value Over Replacement Host) but I sure hope the acronym ends up being “T.R.E.B.E.K.”

Matt James Hot Seat

Matt James has not shaved in a while. Chris Harrison calls it a “James Harden” look and it is my first thought also. Meaning we both violated the Daryl Morey rule of never comparing someone to a player of the same race. Though in this case, it works. Both because of the beard and because Matt James will also leave Texas for greener pastures.

That’s a lot of work for that Texas joke George.

Fair point. And let’s be honest, it isn’t nearly as much work as was put in but whatever hero(es) sent a mariachi band to play outside Ted “Cancun” Cruz’s house to make up for the Mexico vacation he was forced to cut short:

Matt James tries to explain his strategy for the show, which was “listen to everyone, try to have empathy, and generally try to be nice.” Matt James does do the WTA ritual of re-dumping all of the women he dumped. In his case, Katie, Pieper, MJ, and Abigail get this treatment. Serena P kind of gets to ritually dump Matt James again, though notably Kit is not mentioned despite finishing sixth in the season and also dumping Matt James. According to Matt James, all of the women were great people, even Anna and Victoria. No, he is not regretting dumping any of them. Or getting dumped by a few of them. Matt James says he “knows [their] heart[s]” and they are all great. 

Somehow Victoria gets the floor, and talks about how hurt she felt about Matt James dumping her. Matt James says he has “nothing but good things” to say about Victoria. Notably they don’t really talk about when Matt James’s friend criticized Victoria’s appearance while Matt James was golfing with his buddies. But it probably undercuts the value of Matt James’s endorsement that even Victoria received it. 

I woke up from my nap here when I heard Matt James APOLOGIZING to Victoria. Why is a Black man apologizing to this Karen who (along with another Karen) completely fouled up what could have been a successful and historic season for this Black man. That only serves to validate Victoria’s delusional feelings that she was somehow denied potential love on the show. Matt – don’t you forget that this show’s motto is “to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” Oh wait. 

Chris Harrison reminds us all that Matt James kisses with his eyes open. It is weird! Everyone laughs about it. Matt James admits he didn’t know it was weird. Though, in retrospect, he should have noticed that the women he was kissing always had their eyes closed, because he was watching them. Fun fact: whenever I kiss someone, I open my eyes as wide as possible. Try it! 

The women have told all. Tune in next week to find out what happens, and probably to hear us talk about Chris Harrison some more.

 

 

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