Spoilers for The Bachelor ahead. If it feels like Tayshia Adams and Claire Crawley's season of The Bachelorette just ended, that's because, uh, it did. Just two weeks separated their season of The Bachelorette and Matt James' season of The Bachelor, which started on January 4, 2021 on ABC at 8 p.m. (hallelujah, we're back to that Monday slot!). Early spoilers for James' season from Bachelor Nation guru Reality Steve and other spoiler accounts made clear that this season was going to be soapy and dramatic (or "dra-MATT-ic," as ABC put it)—but controversy over the franchise's handling of race quickly marred James's season, leading to host Chris Harrison stepping down before James had even handed out his final rose.
As for James, he's unique for being both the first Black Bachelor and the first Bachelor in years that wasn't a fan favorite from previous seasons. Instead, James was plucked from Crawley's cast before he'd even met her—and the timing was interesting, to say the least, since a petition had just begun circulating that demanded a greater commitment to diversity in The Bachelor franchise. But James also ticks a lot of the boxes for the franchise: He's handsome, charming, best friends with Tyler Cameron, and committed to charity work. Who wouldn't want to date the guy?
Who wins Matt James' season and gets engaged to him?
The four final contestants who made it to hometowns were:
The frontrunner who has commanded the most attention, by far, is Rachael Kirkconnell. You can learn more about her and the controversy around her here:
And here's Serena Pitt (more on her here):
As for who wins the season and James' heart, Reality Steve says it came down to Rachael and Michelle as James' final two, with Rachael winning the season and getting James' final rose. If you needed more evidence that Kirkconnell won: @BachSleuthers discovered that James had been listening to one of Kirkconnell's playlists (I mean, do you listen to your ex's Spotify playlists?).
So are they still together now? The answer, it seems, is no. Reality Steve reported that Kirkconnell and James broke up at some point after the season filmed and before it aired. When the season began airing, people noticed that Kirkconnell had "liked" racist posts on social media—and the controversy hit breaking point when photographs of her at a plantation-themed ball, apparently dressed in an "antebellum"-style outfit, emerged. At some point, Kirkconnell and James split—something RS says is clear from James' statement on Feb. 22, in which he calls Kirkconnell's actions "incredibly disappointing."
It seems that the breakup was initiated by James. Says Reality Steve of the "After The Final Rose": "I know that [Rachael] didn’t want the break up to happen, so what mind set will she be in? Will Matt say something different on TV than what he told her during the breakup?"
We'll learn more about what happened between James and Kirkconnell during the finale of James's season on March 15, and the "After The Final Rose" thereafter. Former NFL player Emmanuel Acho will be hosting in lieu of Harrison.
So, will James try to rekindle things with one of his other frontrunners, now that things are over with Kirkconnell? It wouldn't be the first time a lead had ended up with a person they didn't give their final rose to (see: Arie Luyendyk Jr, who ended up with Lauren Burnham over Becca Kufrin, or Jason Mesnick, who broke up with his final pick on-air to end up with runner-up Molly). Plus, it would give James a happy ending, which is the least that James (and all of us) deserve after such a painful season.
But...apparently not. "Matt seems to be content on leaving this thing as a single man, and frankly, seems to be done with this franchise," says Reality Steve.
What else happens on James' season?
In I-feel-weird-about-this news: Matt James's dad, who wasn't around when James and his brother were growing up, will make an appearance. "I don’t know the outcome. If it was contentious, if Matt got closure, if it’s a touching moment, etc. Not sure," RS writes. What is clear is that James did not consent to his dad being brought on the show—which feels incredibly uncomfortable, frankly, but judging by the amount of press James has been doing around the show, we can assume he's not too furious about it.
Who will be The Bachelorette next season?
This is an interesting one. Reality Steve initially reported that ABC had chosen Katie Thurston, the contestant you'll remember for calling out Victoria and everyone else when you were screaming at the TV, but Thurston then posted an Instagram story that sent: "Reading my texts this morning like...news to me." She reiterated this sentiment on Tamron Hall: "Until I hear otherwise officially, again, it’s news to me."
Reality Steve then backtracked: "Now, I don’t see [Katie being cast as the Bachelorette] happening. Hell, we don’t even know if there WILL be a “Bachelorette” season." But then—I know, I can't keep up either—it turned out that Thurston was selected to be the Bachelorette after all. On March 8, weeks before The Bachelorette was scheduled to begin filming, Reality Steve wrote: "What I posted last week is now “official.” Katie Thurston was named the “Bachelorette” at this past Friday’s ATFR taping. For real this time."
When it comes to casting for The Bachelorette, ABC typically selects its next lead from the batch of contestants in the last season. If ABC had gone with someone from Matt's season, some other potential choices were Michelle Young, Serena Pitt, or Bri Springs, all of whom make it to hometowns but don't win the season. They've all gotten good edits, too—another sign that the show was setting them up to be the Bachelorette.
Another twist: Now that Chris Harrison is stepping aside following controversy over his comments about Kirkconnell (you can read more about that here), who will host Thurston's Bachelorette season? Will it be half Chris, half another host (JoJo Fletcher and Rachel Lindsay come to mind here) or another host entirely? And afterwards, would Chris come back? After all, to quote RS, guru on all things Bachelor Nation: "Chris Harrison, while no doubt the face of this franchise, can be replaced."
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