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 the finale of their season of The Bachelorette and the premiere of 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 suggested 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 this 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 make it to hometowns were: Serena Pitt—not to be confused with Serena Chew, the other Serena on this season; the aforementioned Rachael Kirkconnell, Bri Springs, and Michelle Young.
Here's Rachel 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 ultimately 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?).
But Reality Steve reported that Kirkconnell and James broke up at some point after the season filmed and before it aired—something RS says is clear from James' statement on Feb. 22, in which he calls Kirkconnell's actions "incredibly disappointing."
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.
Also, we learned some...weird details from an interview between the owner of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Page Six: "Sometimes there’s some hanky-panky going on where it should not have been, but I can’t tell you everything that was going on. We are on 3,000 acres. So there’s a lot of land, and a lot of woods out there. There were things going on inside and outside of the hotel all the time...We actually found a used condom in the tree branch.” (Reality Steve confirmed that, yes, these comments are weird, and no, James did not have sex in the forest.)
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 then Thurston 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." Of course, RS is referring to the controversy over Kirkconnell that led to Harrison stepping back from the show. He added: "If “Bachelorette” does film as scheduled, filming would start in about a month. That may seem like plenty of time, but that’s if everything was running smooth in the franchise. Which it isn’t. At all."
When it comes to casting for The Bachelorette, ABC typically selects its next lead from the batch of contestants in the last season. But they broke with tradition to cast Matt, and it's anyone's guess whether they plan to return to form with a contestant from Matt's season, or pick someone else entirely. If ABC does go with someone from Matt's season, the most obvious choice would be 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 may be setting them up to be the Bachelorette. Two more contestants from this season that have become fan favorites are Abigail Heringer and, of course, Katie.
But in recent years, ABC has broken with tradition—think Arie, Clare, and of course Matt—and picked a fan favorite from a previous season instead. If they do that, Kristina Schulman is a top contender, and fans have suggested that now-single Kelley Flanagan and past Bachelorette Andi Dorfman could be considered for the role.
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 the season—if there is a 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: "Chris Harrison, while no doubt the face of this franchise, can be replaced."