It’s the end of the line for Matt James‘ contentious, controversial, and crazy season on The Bachelor, and the hunky leading man has made his final choice.
But is it really happily ever after??
As viewers will no doubt recall, this season’s finale came down to school teacher Michelle Young and graphic designer Rachael Kirkconnell — the latter of whom has long been at the center of reality TV’s biggest recent racism controversy.
After a crawler of an episode in which both women were introduced to Matt’s mom and brother, nothing happened until the very last few minutes when Matt gave Michelle the heave-ho in a particularly emotional split. The breakup was so brutal that the leading man even canceled his date with the would-be winner, Kirkconnell, as he couldn’t decide if he could commit to her or not, either. Yeah…
Eventually, after some prodding from host Chris Harrison, the two met up in the woods (why not?!) and Matt announced his decision: he wasn’t going to propose to Rachael then and there, but he would make a commitment to her in real life, after the show, and thus was ready to give her a rose.
Ooookay?! So, Rachael won, then?
Well, Kind Of…
The finale itself wasn’t the big news of the night, as Rachael’s win has been leaked for some time. (Hell, we reported two months ago that she was the winner!!) No, the big news came as host Emmanuel Acho opened up an eerily quiet After The Final Rose post-show wrap-up in studio. Sans live audience due to the pandemic, Acho first sat with Young, who dutifully gave her reactions to the on-air blindside breakup she endured.
The real story was with James and Kirkconnell, though. With it, the former college football player revealed what we all figured: he’d broken up with Rachael not long after they left the Bachelor set, after those old social media pics of her at an antebellum plantation-themed ball began to surface.
At first, when those racially insensitive photos were initially leaked, James gave Kirkconnell the benefit of the doubt. He explained why to Acho, saying (below):
“Before Rachael addressed anything or Chris Harrison spoke on anything, I’m trying to be there for her, and I dismissed them as rumors, 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.”
Yeah… But after the pics surfaced (and were verified), the 24-year-old acknowledged she “had to learn more about racial equality,” and it stirred something within Matt. He explained:
“I wasn’t okay because it was in that moment and the conversation that I had that — Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.”
That was enough to move him to say goodbye for good. Though James called the moment “heartbreaking,” the split was inevitable. And understandable!
Not long after the finale aired, Kirkconnell took to Instagram for her first post-series public message. To her credit, she sure said some of the right things — lauding her cast mates as “these beautiful women and their stories” and regretting how her controversy overshadowed the whole bunch.
Regarding Matt, she shared (below):
“i knew from the first night i met matt that he was something special, and i was praying to share something exceptional between the two of us if that’s what was meant to be. while i never expected this outcome, i respect his decision completely. of course i wish circumstances were different, but i still feel blessed for the time we did have together and the memories we made. i got to fall in love, and i truly believe he was the love of my life. he will always hold a piece of my heart. i’ll always be hopeful and believe what’s meant to be will be.”
She also addressed her unfortunate, racially insensitive controversy that kicked off this whole mess, writing (below):
“at the least, i hope tonight sparks conversations and a level of understanding. i hope it opens your mind to unlearning bias, to educating yourself, and gives you the push to initiate change. there are so many actions you can take, but i believe it starts within the small corners of your life, and having these conversations with those around you. it can’t happen overnight and will be a never-ending ride, but i encourage you to take the leap and make a difference. we can change the world, together. i love you all and here’s to new beginnings.”
Here’s her full IG post:
A post shared by rachael kirkconnell (@rachaelkirkconnell)
Like we said, it all certainly sounds good. But the damage has clearly been done — to the show and its host, and to the franchise and its future.
Seriously, Perezcious readers, where does Bachelor Nation go from here?
This was unlike any finale we’ve ever seen before on that show… and it feels like they still haven’t adequately addressed and/or remedied what got them into this situation in the first place. Thoughts?? Sound off with your reaction to last night’s finale and more, down in the comments (below)…
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