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. 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:
- Serena Pitt
- Rachael Kirkconnell
- Bri Springs
- Michelle Young
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?).
Sadly, things went downhill from there. Reality Steve reported that James broke up with Kirkconnell at some point after the season filmed and before it aired, potentially in connection to the controversy around Kirkconnell that swallowed James's season. When it began airing in January, 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 for good.
It appears 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 during the "After The Final Rose" thereafter. Former NFL player Emmanuel Acho will be hosting in lieu of Harrison.
Which brings me to my next question: Will James try to rekindle things with one of his other frontrunners, now that things are over with Kirkconnell? The most likely pick would be Young, if we assume that she came in second and therefore had the deepest connection with James aside from Kirkconnell.
If it did happen, 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.
Who will be The Bachelorette next season?
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."
But then, another twist: Reality Steve reported that Thurston won't be the only Bachelorette in 2021. And no, this isn't another "two Bachelorettes, one season" situation, thank God. There are going to be two separate seasons of The Bachelorette this year, according to Reality Steve. One will be helmed by Thurston, and the other by fan favorite Michelle Young.
And who will be the host, I hear you ask? Well—hosts, plural. Kaitlyn Bristowe, the former Bachelorette who won this past season of Dancing With The Stars, will co-host alongside Tayshia Adams, the last Bachelorette. Bristowe wrote on Instagram in response to a comment: "Truthfully we are there to support the new bachelorette, We aren't 'replacing' anyone!!!"