‘The Bachelor’ finale recap: Matt’s doubts and Rachael’s controversy fuel awkward end to Season 25

The compelling, controversial and chaotic 25th season of “The Bachelor” came to a startling end as Matt James offered a non-proposal, which led into an awkward “After the Final Rose.”

At the outset, Matt contemplated his final week with Michelle Young and Rachael Kirkconnell. He said Michelle checks off a lot of boxes, but Rachael pushed him to tap into his emotions. Meeting with his mother Patty and brother John, he reminded them that he did indeed sign up to not only find a wife but to be ultimately engaged. He also felt confident in the decisions he had made thus far. “It’s exciting to see you so animated, happy and expressive” Patty said. “I can’t wait to meet the girls.” Patty felt it was a “long shot” Matt would be engaged at the end of the competition, but she still vowed to offer her opinion while trusting he’ll make the right decision.

Michelle met the family first. John pulled her aside to ask her what qualities she felt Matt had that would make her feel he would be a possible long-term partner. She said trust was the biggest factor. John also mentioned Matt had been very sheltered in the past, concerning his previous relationships, but seeing the body language between him and Michelle made him realize Matt indeed seemed happy, which was all that mattered to him.

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During Michelle’s chat with Patty, the conversation turned to the importance of family. Patty, in tears, mentioned how Matt always seemed to choose friends with strong families growing up. “For me, when I’m looking at Matt and how he grew up, it’s not seen as a disadvantage,” Michelle said. “I appreciate that about him because it makes him also grateful for other things that people might tend to look past. I am very much in love with your son. And for me to feel this deeply about somebody so quick is something that surprised me but it also doesn’t scare me because I’m very confident in what I feel for him.” “Talking with you Michelle,” Patty replied, “I see your sweet heart and how you are.”

Rachael’s appearance followed the same pattern as Michelle with John having the first chat with her. As expected, he asked her about which of Matt’s qualities she enjoyed. Whereas trust was big with Michelle, Rachael said Matt made her feel safe and comfortable. She also commended him for his sense of humor and ability to listen. When she met with Patty, Rachael reiterated how her her faith prompted her to believe Matt is the guy for her and that she was in the competition for a greater purpose. “My heart resonates because I hear you and your feelings and where they come from,” Patty replied. “It means a lot to me.” Rachael told Patty she really does love Matt and found him to be “incredible.”

With one final chance to chat with Patty and John, Matt said he still desired clarity before making his life-altering decision. In turn, Patty offered pivotal advice. “I know you don’t take love lightly and saying things lightly because when you want good communication — trust,” she said. “I know they both love you but feelings come and go. And to tell somebody you love them is big because it opens their hearts up. And just speaking from experience, there’s nothing like being in love, it makes life wonderful, but people fall in and out of love and love is not the end-all, be-all.” “I support you in everything that you do so whatever you decide to do I’m onboard,” John added. “But don’t feel like you have to jump into making a decision where you’re not ready.” At the end of their conversation, Matt felt more doubt.

Meeting with Chris Harrison, Matt expressed his doubts in detail. He simply needed more time, which could be three days or three years in his estimation. When asked by Chris if he didn’t want to be engaged, Matt ultimately said he needed to be open-minded.

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After rappelling down the side of the resort, Matt and Michelle had another chance to catch up, but Matt admitted he didn’t know where he stood anymore despite the fact Michelle was pouring her heart out. That evening in Michelle’s room, Matt revealed his doubts, telling her he didn’t think they could move forward. “It’s hard to think you have this connection with somebody and then with a flip of a switch it’s gone,” she said. “I don’t want you to think it was a flip of the switch,” Matt replied. “I put it all out on the table — that’s all I can do,” she said, reduced to tears on the floor. Tearful but not regretful about breaking up with Michelle, Matt spoke again with Chris, admitting it had been a long time since he cried and that he also was not in love with her after all.

The next day, Chris met Rachael, who was preparing for her final date with Matt. He told her Matt’s plans had changed, which left her blindsided and emotional. Meeting with jeweler Neil Lane, Matt chose a ring but was extremely conflicted all the same. As Rachael arrived to meet Matt, she acknowledged she understood his confusion. “When you’re hurting, I’m hurting,” she said. “I don’t know what happened yesterday but I do know I’m not going to run just when it gets tough. I don’t know if you still want this but, regardless, I feel so unbelievably lucky just to have felt what I have felt for you. I’ve never felt a love like this in my entire life. At the end of the day, I just want you to be happy. But I just know with all my heart that I love you and I will choose you every day from here on out if you’ll let me.”

Matt told Rachael he was unable to propose to her but, interestingly, that didn’t mean he wanted to lose her. “When I think about the life I want to live, I think about living that life with you,” he said. “And I want to leave here with you and I want to commit to you and to every day building on what we started here. And the truth is — I love you. … I just want to be sure my love is enough for you.” Elated, Michelle accepted the final rose and both she and Matt seemed happy about their potential future.

In the wake of Chris’ departure from the franchise (for now), Emmanuel Acho hosted “After the Final Rose.” Michelle noted her disappointment in not receiving two minutes to chat with Matt to “say her piece” for the sake of closure. She also voiced her opinion about Rachael’s controversial photo at the Antebellum party she attended at the University of Georgia in 2018. “I started to feel hurt by what I was seeing,” she said. “That was a prime example of not understanding the history behind it, not being educated enough on what that actually meant, what her actions actually meant, how we see it. I feel like Rachael has a good heart — I do — but I think there’s a lot of learning. It comes off very inconsiderate.”

“It’s been a very rough past few months,” Matt said when meeting Michelle for the first time since their breakup. “I’m still processing everything and really trying to figure out how I feel.” “The moment you left, I completely crumbled,” Michelle said. “I had to walk away without closure and fill in the gaps of what our relationship really was. And I wasn’t OK. I wasn’t OK at all.” Matt apologized for not allowing Michelle her two minutes of closure but reminded her she was a “breath of fresh air” to the competition.

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When Emmanuel asked Matt about the pressures of being the first Black Bachelor, he spoke of heightened scrutiny. He also said he felt he had to “take on the weight” of hot topics not only across the country in terms of social justice but within the franchise in terms of diversity and inclusion. “We’re conditioned, as Black men [to] make people feel comfortable with [our] Blackness. To go above and beyond to show that, in stature and in personality, you’re not as threatening as you come of as. I don’t regret the experience at all because I was able to learn a lot about myself through getting to meet so many wonderful women who were there for love,” he said. “I’m just conditioned to sharing any type of emotion is weakness and this experience really helped me unlearn that. It was the first time I wasn’t afraid to cry, I wasn’t afraid to show emotions, and being able to tell somebody that you love them is liberating.”

As for Rachael’s insensitive photos, Matt said he initially dismissed it all as rumors, but he questioned everything when he found out they were real. “As somebody who grew up in the South, it takes me to a place I often try not to think about — events, people, places where I’m not welcome,” he said. “When [Rachael] spoke out and publicly acknowledged she would do better and she apologized is when I was finally able to take a check on myself and see where I was at. And I wasn’t OK. It was in that moment, in the conversation I had, that Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.” He then admitted he and Rachel broke up. “It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me you won’t understand.”

When Rachael was confronted about the controversial photos, she pleaded ignorance but stopped short of blaming her upbringing or regional surroundings. “I see someone who was living in this ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting,” she said. “I never once asked myself at any point what’s the tradition behind this? What does this represent? Why do we wear those dresses? I’m not going to sit here and say I didn’t know any better because I could have easily asked myself those questions. I never took the time to make that connection because if I would have taken the time I easily could have understood what was wrong with it.”

Speaking with Matt for the first time since their breakup, Rachael apologized once more. “Once I really tried to put myself into your shoes as much as I could, I really do think our relationship was very strong and the love we shared was very real. So, for you to end things, I realize that must have been really hard for you as well as to where you must have been hurting. I’m really sorry for not understanding that initially and I’m really sorry that I hurt you.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Matt replied. “It’s devastating. It’s just disappointing.”

Emmanuel ended the episode with the climatic announcement of the next “Bachelorette.” In a surprising twist, there will be two seasons: Katie Thurston will star in Season 17 due this summer and Michelle will follow in Season 18 later this fall. Let’s hope both seasons will be far from the hot mess of Season 25 of “The Bachelor.”

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