"After the Final Rose" guest host Emmanuel Acho puts Rachael and Matt under the microscope for their reactions to her Antebellum South photos.
It was a powerful and challenging three hours of "The Bachelor" on Monday night, with Matt James' season wrapping up with a final decision. And then, the most uncomfortable conversations in Bachelor history as guest host Emmanuel Acho tackled Rachael's problematic past.
We will say that it's very interesting that almost no one talked about -- or at least it didn't make it to air -- Chris Harrison's controversial defense of Rachael's pictures from an Antebellum South plantation party.
Emmanuel acknowledged that this was part of the overall situation, Michelle called it just another piece of what made it all so "overwhelming," but then it never came up again.
We get that there was a lot to unpack in that "After the Final Rose" special, especially with Rachael making it all the way to the finale, but this seems and important part of the conversation.
Especially as the special also introduced the future of the "Bachelorette" franchise. We can forgive that they didn't talk about former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe shepherding that journey, as the decision may not have been made when this was filmed.
But before we can unpack Emmanuel's conversations with Matt, Michelle and Rachael, we need to power through the drawn-out two-hour finale of his season, where the remaining women both met his family, and his mom rocked his world to the core with one comment.
Look, the truth is that the visits with the ladies is almost not worth mentioning, because they were basically both the same. Matt's mother, Patty, cried and said they were both wonderful. His brother, John, grilled them on why Matt. And both ladies left feeling more happy and confident than ever.
It was his mother sharing one of the most disillusioned perspectives on life and love that left him crawling back into his emotional shell. Based on her own experience with his father, Patty basically told him that love fades, and then what do you have?
It was a brutally specific perspective, based on her own experiences, but it brought back up all of Matt's insecurities, leading to one of the most intense and depressing conclusions in "Bachelor" history. We honestly expected him to just walk away from the whole thing, or dump everyone.
It certainly seemed like he was ready to do that, which was absolutely heartbreaking to watch. The poor guy is in this place emotionally that he's never been, more vulnerable and true to himself, and here's his mother basically telling him that long-lasting love isn't real, when it absolutely his. It just wasn't between her and Matt's father.
Matt was in his head through his entire final date with Michelle, to the point that by the end of it, he decided to just rip the Band-Aid off and tell her, after she gave him his-and-hers jerseys, that he couldn't see himself getting their with her.
And that was that, suddenly Michelle was dumped, crouched and crying on the floor and Matt was still not sure if he was ready to propose or really ready for anything. Was Rachael next? At this point, she was effectively the winner, if there was going to be one at all.
Both Chris Harrison and Neil Lane tried to give Matt some perspective outside of his mother and his own experiences with his parents, but it seemed to no avail. When he canceled his final date with Rachael altogether, it looked like he was going to slink away with his doubts and insecurities, a tragic end to be sure.
Instead, he told Rachael that he could not propose to her -- that was his mother's voice in his ear -- but he did want to continue pursuing a relationship with her. And so, they rode off happily ever after together, and it was the worst possible thing for him and the franchise!
Here we have the first Black Bachelor, and almost from the start of his season, his journey was overshadowed by these racist images of Rachael, as well as her liking other racism-tinged images on social media. And now, she's won his whole season.
The first-ever Black Bachelor chose for his winner the only contestant in his entire season that has a very public racism issue. That's a terrible coincidence, and definitely not a good look.
No matter how much you try to put a positive spin on that as an opportunity to have needed conversations or put in the work to educate ourselves on why this is problematic or how many times everyone involved apologizes, that's a taint that's frustrating. But it's also symptomatic of just how deeply this problem runs in our society.
While talking with Matt during the "After the Final Rose" special, the Bachelor broke down how hard it was for him to discover Rachael's involvement in celebrations of a time before racism was eradicated, even if she didn't necessarily understand what she was doing and why it was so upsetting to so many people.
And so, he revealed that he broke up with her over it, saying that she needed to put in the work. He admitted that he's still processing the situation himself, which is why he felt the need to step away, but Emmanuel challenged him on that.
"Couldn’t you teach her, couldn’t you grow with her?" he asked. "If you were judged based off something of three years ago, if I was judged based off something of three years ago, I that could be, to a degree, be callous, if we we were committed, by steps, by actions, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, to growth. So, can you still in 2021 condemn her for the actions of 2018 and let that dictate the love you all share?"
But Matt was reticent throughout the night, holding back the vast majority of his feelings while talking about Rachael. It reminded us of how he talked about keeping walls up to protect his feelings, as it tragically looked like this situation has again caused him to retreat into that cold comfort.
He did say that one of the biggest realizations he had with Rachael's ignorance was that she couldn't then truly understand him, if she didn't grasp why that would be offensive or upsetting to a Black man. How could that person be married to a Black man and bring Black children into this world? he asked himself.
For her part, Rachael did express true remorse for hurting Matt and did not try to justify her ignorance, or blame anyone else for it. But she also listed as the things she was doing only reading and watching and listening to things. There were promises that action was needed to really make a difference, but no specific indications of her efforts in those areas.
Perhaps she was waiting until this finale, as the show tends to want the couples to stay as quiet as possible to not spoil surprises (like Matt dumping her) until they can reveal them themselves on TV. So, giving her the benefit of the doubt, that work should start soon.
Once Emmanuel brought Matt out to talk to her, that coldness in Matt was still pretty present on the surface. When Emmanuel asked if the door was even slightly open for reconciliation between the two, Matt again reiterated that Rachael has work she needs to do on her own.
And when Emmanuel asked if the pair wanted to close things with a hug, Matt stiffened. Instead, he looked at her and said, "I don’t know if it’ll ever not hurt hearing those things." And that's where it ended for the two.
As for Rachael, she said that she believes the depths of their love was real, and so the hurt must have been enormous for Matt to choose to walk away from that over this situation. So all she can do is put in the work.
Our concern for Matt, though, is that he's so hurt and closed off right now, we hope he stays open to the possibility of finding his person and being open.
It's always dangerous to be open emotionally because it can lead to hurt, but it's also worth the reward when it finally works. Whether it's with Rachael or not, here's hoping Matt can find his way back to a place where he can put himself out there again.
Emmanuel wrapped his time by bringing out the two women vying for the position of Bachelorette. As long suspected, fan-favorite Katie Thurston -- who famously put up with no s--- all season long -- was one of them, with the other being Matt's runner-up, Michelle Young.
So who won in the end? The rumor mill has said that Katie was an early choice, but fell out of favor with producers as these diversity and racism issues cropped up. At the same time, she's such a strong, present person, she'd be an absolutely great lead.
At the same time, Michelle came in this season like a firecracker, so down to earth and immediately relatable to almost everyone. She's smart, savvy and knows exactly who she is and what she wants out of life, making her an exciting possiblity.
So what do you do?
"We're the Bachelorette!" the two shouted in unison, ending the suspense. But this isn't like the British version, where both women are competing at the same time in the same season.
Instead, Katie and Michelle will be filming separate seasons for back-to-back air this summer and fall, with Katie up first. At the same time, a few words had us wondering if the intention wasn't to film the seasons simultaneously.
The ladies talked about how much they loved the idea of being able to bounce ideas off of someone who knows exactly what they're going through. That type of filming schedule could also explain why both Kaitlyn and Tayshia have come on board to host, as there would be twice as much to juggle logistically.
Either that, or they're going to be filming them back-to-back. Regardless, reports are that the crew and hosts are currently quarantining ahead of filming on "The Bachelorette," so we're likely looking at another bubble season like we saw for Clare/Tayshia and Matt.
Honestly, we kind of like the intimacy of these seasons. It's allowed a little more room for intimate conversations and interactions when you're not jet-setting all around the world.
We'll see how it all plays out when Katie kicks off her journey this summer on ABC, followed by Michelle in the fall.
“Matt always chose friends that had really strong families, which was a blessing, because I felt like I couldn’t offer him that.” --Patty
“I’m continually pinching myself that someone like Michelle is here. Like how did she not get swooped up.” --Matt
“I shared with these women things that I’ve never shared with anybody, and love changed for me. Like, what I think love is now is different from what I thought it was. And not having ever experienced what I’m experiencing, this decision is going to be so hard, because I have things about Michelle that I could see her being an incredible wife, and then the same with Rachael.” --Matt
“People fall in and out of love and love is not the end all, be all.” --Patty
“Don’t feel like you have to jump into making a decision where you’re not ready.” --John
“The assurances I was looking for in those conversations was replaced with doubt.” --Matt
“After Michelle’s left, after Rachael’s left, my mom starts grilling me a little bit. She’s like, ‘Are you sure this is something you’re ready for? You know that feelings coming and go, Matt.’ And then I think about the look on my mom’s face when she was saying that. I can almost see her tearing up thinking about how feelings faded with her and my dad.” --Matt (to Chris)
“This is not the guy I was talking to a week ago, two weeks ago. There was a time when you believed in what you were saying about, ‘My wife’s in this room, I want to get engaged, that’s how I want this to end.’” --Chris
“You’re silly if, when you get new information and you have a new view and perspective on something, if you don’t have a change of heart.” --Matt
“And that perspective is Mom says, ‘Love changes, love wilts, feelings change. Like, ‘Don’t worry, love ends?’ I mean, what kind of greeting card is that?” --Chris
“Not a top seller.” --Matt
“The easiest thing for me to do would be to tell you what you want to hear.” --Matt (telling Michelle he has doubts)
“That’s not what I’m looking for.” --Michelle
“I just want clarity … am I supposed to fight for you, am I not supposed to fight for you. Tell me where you’re at, actually.” --Michelle
“I don’t think I can get there with you.” --Matt
“Here I am just questioning was saying goodbye to her tonight, the right thing to do. I don’t know.” --Matt
“Part of you loved her.” --Chris (about Michelle)
“Yeah, but I wasn’t in love with her.” --Matt
“I’m definitely scared to think that this could either be the best conversation in my life or one of the worst.” --Rachael
“I’m really scared that I’m going to walk up there and pour my heart out to him one last time and he’s gonna break my heart.” --Rachael
“I’ve seen what rushing into a proposal or marriage can do in my family and it’s ugly. It’s not something I want for you, or us. And that’s why I can’t propose to you today.” --Matt
“But that doesn’t mean I wanna lose you … I wanna leave here with you and I want to commit to you.” --Matt
“For a lot of people, that was the first time having someone like myself in their home. A lot of what they take away from the show, and the way I interact with the women and carry myself, uh, like it or not, is gonna be their perception of how Black people move.” --Matt (on being the first Black Bachelor)
“It’s just what we’re conditioned to do as Black men, making people comfortable with your Blackness.” --Matt
“The moment you left, I completely crumbled. And I had to walk away without closure. I had to fill in the gaps of what our relationship really was, and I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay at all.” --Michelle (to Matt)
“You and me talking about it right now, I’ve honestly already put it down. [I’m] not in love like I was leaving the show, but it does help hearing that what you felt for me was real.” --Michelle
“I hope you find your happiness, and i hope you move on with kissing with your eyes closed, and I hope you come up with more phrases than just, ‘Thanks for sharing.’” --Michelle
“I feel like Rachael has a good heart, I do, but I think there’s a lot of learning. It comes off very inconsiderate.” --Michelle (about Rachael’s photos)
“You wanna believe that you know your person better than anyone else knows your person. And while all this controversy’s swirling around who Rachael is and things that she might have attended, pictures she might have liked, and people she might have associated with. Before Rachael addressed anything or Chris Harrison spoke on anything, I’m trying to be there for her. So I dismissed them as rumor, because that’s what they were to me. You hear things that are heartbreaking and you just pray they’re not true. And then when you find out that they are, it just makes you question everything. As someone who grew up in the South, it takes me to a place that I often try not to think about. Events, people, places that I’m not welcome. When she spoke out and publicly acknowledged that she would do better and she apologized is when I was finally able to check on myself and see where I was at, and I wasn’t okay, because it-- It was in that moment and the conversation that I had that Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.” --Matt
“If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand. It’s as simple as that.” --Matt
Couldn’t you teach her, couldn’t you grow with her? If you were judged based off something of three years ago, if I was judged based off something of three years ago, I that could be, to a degree, be callous, if we we were committed, by steps, by actions, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, to growth. So, can you still in 2021 condemn her for the actions of 2018 and let that dictate the love you all share?” --Emmanuel
“You can still really care about somebody and want them to do better. And I don’t think that anybody’s irredeemable. There’s a lot of processing that I need to do. It’s just not a situation where I think I would help is why I stepped back and let her do the work that’ she’s committed to doing.” --Matt
“I see someone who was living in this ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting. I never once asked myself at any point, like, what’s the tradition behind this. What does this represent? Why do we wear those dresses? I’m not gonna sit here and say that I didn’t know any better, because I could have easily asked myself those questions. No, I never took the time to make that connection.” --Rachael
“History is meant to be remembered, but not all history is meant to be celebrated. And also recognizing there’s a difference between being racist and racially insensitive and racially ignorant.” --Emmanuel
“The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset. And that’s why it was problematic, because when I’m in a relationship, it means that I’m committed to that person. And commitment for me, when I’m dating someone, is on track to get married. And so when I questioned our relationship, it was in the context of you not fully understanding my Blackness, and what it means to be a Black man in America. And what it would mean for our kids. And when I saw those things that were floating around the internet, it broke my heart. Because this is the last conversation I thought we’d be having. I didn't sign up to have this conversation. And I knew that I had to take a step back for you to put in the work that you outlined you needed to do. That’s something that you’ve got to do on your own. And that’s why we can’t be in a relationship.” --Matt (to Rachael)
“Is the door even slightly open?” --Emmanuel
“The feelings that I have for you don’t go away overnight. And seeing you like this hurts, but then I ask myself, like, I don’t wanna be emotionally responsible for those tears. Because the work and the reconciliation needs to be done and there’s work that I can’t do for you.” --Matt (to Rachael)
“I don’t know if it’ll ever not hurt hearing those things.” --Matt (after Emmanuel asked if they wanted to share one final hug -- it didn’t happen)