"I want you all to think long and hard about that commitment before you accept a rose tonight," says a shaken Matt at the following Rose Ceremony.
Another week, another woman walked away from Matt. Hometown visits are always a season highlight on "The Bachelor" franchise, as we get to see the people that helped shape our contestants, and this was certainly no different.
It also puts the entire process of the show into stark perspective for those same people, perhaps taking away the rose-colored glasses that these weeks sequestered away from any sense of normalcy can put on.
At the same time, you can't help but wonder if their outside cynicism and concern (coming from a place of love, obviously), doesn't get into the heads of their loved ones and possibly cause them to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
Yes, it's fast. Yes, there are other people competing for the same person. But you also have to consider that this show has worked and continues to work. Does it work for everyone, no. But it has created lasting relationships.
And that timeframe thing is misleading because while on this show, these people are in a love incubator. They eat, sleep and drink their thoughts about this person and the time they do get and this developing relationship. That doesn't happen like that in the real world.
What we're saying is that while we get the hesitation from families about how fast it is and that Matt James is dating other women, we've heard it all before. Just tell us you have no idea how this show works and we'll all move on.
Surprisingly, one of the Hometowns ended in heartbreak for Matt, as one of the family's was totally successful at getting into the head of their loved on. She was also grappling with residual fallout from a previous relationship, but it's still sad to think her chance could have been sabotaged by well-meaning fear from them causing her own insecurities to surface.
We still think insecurities and fear of rejection is why Kit high-tailed it out of the competition last week, and possibly Sarah (the bullying was a huge factor for her, as well) weeks ago. This is a hard process that's going to challenge your sense of confidence, and if that's shaky, you might not make it.
Previews for the next installment show those same types of insecurities rearing their heads again as Fantasy Suites bring out everyone's worst fears and imaginings. Maybe we can concede that knowing how the show works in concept is at least a little different than living it.
Ms. Young easily had the sweetest Hometown Visit planned for Matt, introducing him to several of her students via Zoom. We loved the tough questions they asked, and that she got their seal of approval.
But mostly, we adored how genuine her affection was for them and how clear it was that they loved her right back. We imagine Ms. Young is a stellar teacher, well loved by her peers, her students and their parents alike.
As for her own parents, her dad was pretty tough on Matt, pulling the classic it's-too-fast, there-are-other-women card every parent pulls. We've decided that no parent can approve of their child being on this show, with parents of daughters far more skeptical of it.
In the end, Ms. Young revealed to Mr. James that she was falling in love with him, indicative of how well the evening ultimately went after her family shared that they would support her no matter what. In response, Matt kissed her. He's just not there yet.
In fact, the only one he seems to be in love with right now is our front-runner -- and the subject of this season's racist outrage -- Rachael. Theirs was the scary skydiving incident date, with Rachael and Matt loving their tandem jump ... and then not both sticking their landings.
We also thought the jump itself was sweet, and enjoyed that their dive partners lined up their parachutes so they were coming down together. Alas, Rachael's partner botched the landing a bit, causing a pretty serious hit and tumble face first through the grass for Rachael.
It was seeing her like that, battered and bruised with no real indication of how she was at first, that helped Matt realize just how deep his feelings for her were. Perhaps he should have had the dive instructor slam the other three into the ground (that would be awful!).
Rachael spoke confidently with her parents about where she stands in the house, correctly determining that she does rank higher in Matt's heart than the other three ladies. She was a little disappointed Matt didn't go ahead and ask her dad for his blessing to propose, but there are three other women here.
Matt was actually being more respectful by not asking, as it might look more like he was checking a box with each of the ladies -- as he'd have to do it four times -- rather than declaring his ultimate decision definitively with that move. This was the first glimpse at Rachael's insecurities bubbling up.
Even Matt had to admit that he's just not quite there yet with Bri, despite bonding with her about both growing up in single-parent households. Theirs was certainly a fun date, with her taking him off-roading for revenge after their one-on-one ATV accident, but it wasn't one where romance sparked.
That's been the problem with Bri all season, she just never really pops off the screen and Matt doesn't really have that glow when he talks about her. He enjoys her, but more in that Katie way (cool chick!) than in a romantic way.
Props to Bri's mom, though, for being the coolest of all the parents we saw. She was tough on Matt, demanding truth and honesty from him (which he delivered), but then offered her daughter the truest advice she could give her.
Whereas most parents caution their kids that it's all too fast and they can't possibly be falling in love and don't even think marriage makes sense, Lauren told her daughter that the worst-case scenario of this is "we are mending a broken heart together, but we'll survive."
If you don't put your heart out there and take chances in life, you can never reap the rewards. Yes, there is also risk, but what is the point of walking safely through life when you've only got one shot at it. Live fully, love fully and just be prepared for a few broken hearts along the way.
Coming out of that empowering conversation, Bri finally told Matt she was falling in love with him. In response, he said thank you. Let's see, that's only slightly less what you want to hear than when he kiss Michelle after she told him.
The start to Serena's Hometown Visit was one of the most joyous things we've ever seen. She was so giggly and excited and even awkwardly loud in the most adorable way, we found ourselves drawn in just as Matt has been all season. She is such a joy-filled person, it's infectious.
The biggest difference for Serena and the others, though, was that she's actually not feeling as much for Matt as he is for her. He hasn't told her he's in love with her, but she is the only one who got two one-on-one dates this season, which says a lot about his feelings for her.
Unlike Bri's mother, Serena's family gave her no such encouragement to get out of her own head and take a chance on love. Instead, they fueled her doubts, with her sister telling her she's in her own head.
Her mom tried to navigate it with her, but Serena can't put her finger on what it is. She's just in her own head and apparently in her own way.
Ultimately, after she told Matt about some of the uncertainties in her head, he told her to trust him and they could have those conversations. But that was apparently the wrong answer, as it only further fueled her doubt.
Sensing the conversation needed to happen sooner rather than later, Matt sought her out and she'd apparently been more and more talking herself out of being there or continuing their journey together. In the end, she told him he just wasn't her person, admitting that the doubts only started after talking to her mother.
And so, Serena walked Matt out, saying she'd never see him again ... but not so fast!
Next week is "The Women Tell All," and there is so much baggage to unpack. Not only do we need to see if Serena has any doubts about the decision she just made, but there's everything that went down in the house this season.
While bullying has always been a factor in this franchise, it really seemed to hit a peak this season, with Matt escorting several of them out. It looks like after watching the season play out on television -- at least until this was taped -- the "mean girls" have done zero self-reflection.
Instead, they're still playing at deflection. Once again, we see several shots of Katie -- the lone ranger who stood against them on behalf of everyone -- calling them out and really uncomfortable moments (or looks) with the likes of Anna, Victoria, MJ, Serena C and the rest of that motley crew.
Honestly, we could probably watch three or four hours of this. And while speculation is that there will not be an announcement about the next Bachelorette in this special, it could still happen. And if not, we can still choose our favorites and see if anyone steps ahead of Katie in our hearts (we love you, Abigail, but Katie is still our person).