Last week’s “Bachelor” episode was the “Women Tell All” special, for which ABC invited back some of the women rejected by Raleigh native Matt James, to give them a chance to ask him “what happened?!” and of course, argue among themselves.
So it’s been two long weeks since we got any on-screen advancement of the story of Matt’s quest to find a wife.
In the episode that aired two weeks ago, Matt met the families of Rachael Kirkconnell, Bri Springs, Michelle Young and Serena Pitt, and was then dumped by Serena.
This week, Matt and the three remaining women go on what the show often calls “fantasy suite” dates — but considering most of the dates this season seem to take place in the woods, that term doesn’t seem quite appropriate.
Typically, the real draw of the “fantasy suite” date episode is that this is when the “Bachelor” star and his prospects decide if they want to spend the night together (spoiler: they pretty much always do), so these dates are also sometimes called “overnight dates.”
But tonight we get the added drama of Matt’s confrontation with his father, Manny James. We know from previous episodes that Matt has described himself as being raised by a single mom, so the presumption is that dad wasn’t around much. And from the show previews, we know Matt asks his father why he left the family, and his dad looks pretty annoyed.
We’re definitely not at Chuck E. Cheese
Before we get any dates, Matt tells us that he’s feeling conflicted because in past relationships he’s had trouble “going deep,” and that he has a lot of fear about what a long term relationship looks like based on what he’s seen in his family in the past.
“And that’s not healthy,” Matt says. “It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to the women that I’m pursuing.”
To move forward, Matt says he needs to have a conversation with his dad.
Matt’s dad comes in and they have a hug (Matt’s about a foot taller than his father) and it starts out kind of light.
“It’s been a minute,” Matt says to him, referencing how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other.
Matt tells his dad that he’s worried about commitment and his dad is encouraging, and tells him he’s going to be great.
Matt presses on, telling him that when he needed him, he wasn’t there, he was off “starting other families.” Matt tells him, “That affected me.” He tells his dad he wants to know where his head was at so that he doesn’t make the same mistake.
His dad, seemingly surprised by where the conversation is going, starts to get a little defensive, telling him that he could have asked him about this stuff anytime in the past.
“I would have talked to you,” he tells Matt.
Matt tells him there was never a time to have that conversation because, “I needed it, and you weren’t there.”
Matt’s dad responds that he didn’t have a father either, because his dad died when he was five. He said he’ll take “some of the blame for not showing up as a father figure much,” and then seems to try to blame the family breakup on Matt’s mom, because she left him.
“Who wants to be with someone who’s not faithful to them?” Matt asks his dad.
“Nobody’s perfect, son,” is his dad’s response. “I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect yourself.”
Matt responds: “I thank God that she had the courage to stand up for herself and do something because of the situation you put her in.”
His dad is quiet for a moment, then tells him he’s not here to talk about his relationship with Matt’s mother, he’s here to “celebrate” Matt’s success.
“This isn’t a celebration,” Matt tells him. “This is a journey for me that I’m going on and I’m having to address these demons that we’re talking about right now. These are the hard conversations that we haven’t had that I’m ready to have. That’s why you’re here.
“If we wanted to go celebrate, we’d go to Chuck E. Cheese,” Matt says. “I wanted you here because I want to have a relationship with you going forward and to have that, you need to know where I’m at.”
They cut to Matt talking to the camera at a different time, possibly before his father’s visit, and he talks about not seeing his dad growing up. This is tough stuff.
“Growing up he’d come around every now and then, drop off some shoes, buy us pizza.”
Matt trails off and starts to cry, the pain still very real.
“I didn’t need shoes, man. I didn’t need any shoes. I didn’t need any pizza. I needed a dad.”
Back to the conversation with his dad, Matt tells him that he doesn’t know what it was like to grow up in Africa without a dad, like his father did, but he knows what it’s like to grow up here without a dad.
His dad is very uncomfortable. He tells Matt that he agrees with him and knows Matt is in a position where he has to make decisions about things that he never learned from him. Then his dad wipes away some tears and tells him that he’s sorry he hurt him.
“Whatever I can do to make it better, I’ll work on it,” his dad says. “I want you to be happy for the rest of your life and I want you to have a relationship that’s healthy. ... Because I don’t like this. And I don’t like it that you’re far away from me.”
Matt tells his dad that he wants him to be part of his life going forward — and part of his kids’ lives — and he forgives him. He tells him he holds no grudges and he just wants to move forward. His dad jumps up and hugs him, and it’s very sweet.
Walking out, Matt’s dad tells him that he loves him and that he’s proud of him and I’m not crying, you’re crying.
A Pennsylvania Dutch what??
Michelle, the Minnesota school teacher, gets the first date of the episode. Matt tells us he’s feeling good about his talk with his dad and he’s excited to spend some time with Michelle.
They meet in the rain and Matt holds an umbrella over them while they kiss, and he tells her they’re going to have a “traditional Pennsylvania Dutch spa day” — and neither of them know what that even means, but they’re ready for it.
Michelle doesn’t care what she’s doing with Matt, as long as she’s with Matt, she says.
They enter a very rustic looking room and there’s a giant tub of what looks like milk, a big wooden bin of something that Matt says looks like oatmeal, and a huge taxidermy bear in the corner. Matt sticks his finger into everything (except for the bear) to smell it, but they aren’t sure at first what to make of it.
First they soak their feet in the oatmeal mixture, then they melt butter and give each other butter massages, and then sit in the milk bath.
“It feels comfortable,” Michelle said. “It feels like home.”
Once they are showered and ungreased and in cozy sweaters by a fire, they talk about Michelle’s parents and how nice and loving they are with each other. Michelle tells him that it’s important to not just fall in love, but to work on staying in love.
There’s a dress-up part of the date — where they sit at a table with some place settings and act like they are going to eat (they never eat) — and this is where Matt tells Michelle a little about what’s been going on with his dad. He really opens up with Michelle about the issues he had with how his dad treated the family, and they seem very comfortable with each other.
Michelle tells him that she “feels completely right” with him and that she feels like he’s “her person.”
Will they go to the fantasy suite together?
Of course they will! They pop champagne and she tells Matt that she loves him.
The editing pops back and forth between Matt and Michelle making out in their fantasy suite and Rachael back at the hotel saying that her “worst nightmare is Matt spending the night with someone else.”
I’m thinking Michelle had not yet experienced her worst nightmare at this point, but . . .
After the commercial, we’re back with Michelle and Matt, the next morning, and they’re snuggling and kissing. Michelle says it’s something she could get used to.
Matt says the night was “incredible” and that it’s “almost unfair” to start off with such a great experience, because it sets the bar so high for the other dates. “She could be my wife,” Matt says as he watches her walk away.
Michelle walks back into the room just as Rachael is saying that she feels “nauseous” thinking about him with Michelle. Rachael asks what they did and Michelle tells them about the goofy spa part, and Rachael just stares down at her lap looking sour and depressed. Michelle reads the room and stops talking, and neither Bri nor Rachael are happy.
A(nother) date in the woods
Next up is the date with Bri, a communications manager from San Francisco, and they are hiking in the woods.
Matt tells her that she looks like Dora the Explorer, and tells her to use her walking stick to punch the ground a lot and scare the snakes away.
They work on pitching a tent and Matt says the secret he’s keeping from her is that he has never camped before. He tells her that they are sleeping in the tent that night, but he’s joking, and she is relieved.
We move right away to the “fake dinner” part of the date and Bri tells us that if Matt got down on one knee tonight she’d totally say yes.
Matt tells Bri that he’s thinking about her meeting his mom, and he tells her about his talk with his dad. Bri tells Matt that she’s in love with him, and he says it’s a great feeling. He thinks he could see himself spending his life with her.
Will they visit the fantasy suite?
Of course they will!
More champagne is popped, and as they close the door to cameras, one can only imagine that Rachael’s nausea is increasing.
The next morning, Bri says the night together was “everything I expected, and a little bit more.”
They cook breakfast together (you can’t have too much butter in scrambled eggs, Matt tells her, and he has never been more correct).
Later Matt says it’s not going to be easy sending someone home after spending all that time together.
Then we cut to Michelle and Rachael sitting together and Rachael doing more whining about Matt being out with Bri. When Bri gets back, Rachael asks what they did, and then huffs and puffs while Bri answers. Michelle, we should add, isn’t loving this part, either, but she’s handling it OK.
Rachael goes off to a room by herself to cry.
Rachael: pouting and throwing pots
Finally, we get Rachael’s date. Rachael is the graphic designer from Georgia (the one who has been the subject of all the controversy after filming).
Matt is all smiles and happy to see her, but she’s sullen.
They go to a studio to throw pottery, and Rachael is quiet and pouts at the wheel.
She asks for a break to talk to Matt, and she tells him that the week has been “excruciating” knowing that he’s been spending intimate time with other women.
(Personal rant: Honestly, after 24 seasons of this, I can’t tell you how tiresome this is. It’s very clear before you go on the show that the Bachelor or Bachelorette dating other people is part of the deal. If you know that’s going to be a big problem for you, please do us all a favor and don’t apply.)
Matt tells her he understands, yada yada yada, and he’s falling in love with her (Rachael is the only person we’ve heard Matt say this to).
Now that she’s had some reassurance, she’s happier and they go back to the pottery studio, get clay all over each other and make out.
Then we get a twist on the “fake dinner” set-up, going for a more relaxed sofa-time deal.
They talk about how important communication is, and Matt tells her a little about his talk with his dad.
Rachael tells him if he had a ring in his pocket right now, she’d say yes. He has no ring, Rachael, but he does have a key to the fantasy suite. Will they go to the fantasy suite?
Of course they will!
Rachael says she hopes Matt goes to get a ring while she’s sleeping and that she wakes up with a ring on her finger.
HE DOES NOT HAVE A RING, RACHAEL!
Matt sends someone home at last rose ceremony
This is the last rose ceremony of the season, and one woman will go home.
Michelle is the first to arrive and she tells host Chris Harrison that she’s in love, but she’s scared about the rose situation. Then Bri arrives and tells Chris she feels good after the fantasy suite. She joins Michelle and the two briefly clasp hands.
Rachael arrives, tells Chris she feels nervous but has no doubts about how she feels about Matt. No hand-clasping is shown with the other women.
All of the women look great in black gowns. Matt is wearing a dark brown suit. He tells the women that he’s going to follow his heart, but this is the hardest decision he’s had to make.
Michelle (my personal fave) gets the first rose, and of course, Rachael gets the last rose.
Bri hugs Michelle and then appears to briefly touch Rachael’s hand before walking outside with Matt. She dabs at her eyes and Matt tells her that he’s sorry. He tells her he can’t point to any one thing, it’s just that his heart is leading him somewhere else. She says she can’t feel upset or angry, but she’s very sad. She tells him it’s hard to think that she’ll never see him again, but that’s how these things go.
He walks her to the SUV, gives her one final hug, and she’s gone. A dignified exit.
Next week, Matt’s journey comes to a “dramatic conclusion,” as Rachael and Michelle each get one more date apiece and meet Matt’s mom and brother. The preview shows a lot of tears, all around.
More about ‘Bachelor’ Matt James
James, who made news this past summer when he was named ABC’s first Black “Bachelor,” is 28 years old and works with a real estate investment firm in New York City. He is also involved in a program in New York that helps children affected by homelessness.
He is a graduate of Sanderson High School in Raleigh and played football at Wake Forest University.
We will recap the show each week.
Catch up on our previous Matt James coverage:
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