Oof. Just. Oof. Wow. Why. OOF. I don’t think we should be watching this. Matt James is like a zoo-raised panda. He’s just a cuddly bear who enjoys the simple things in life: walking idly in the woods, eating delicious foods, and hanging out in hot tubs. But instead of just living out the rest of his life in captivity (read: hanging out with Tyler C. in New York), his dumb ass has been unleashed in the Serengeti. There are too many things out here that are willing to kill you and eat you alive, buddy. The decisions and suggestions these people are giving you are not in your best interest, li’l guy. We’re watching a lead who has not had a long-term relationship race headfirst toward an engagement. We should not be doing this.
Because having Matt bring his father to the Fat Bird resort to try to solve a lifetime’s worth of familial issues and then airing the whole mess did not seem like it was for Matt’s benefit. Sure, he said it was his idea and he seemed to get something from the exchange, but as someone who completely lacks the critical distance to comment on this conversation, this is something that definitely should have happened in private with one or both parties consulting some sort of mental-health professional. Because as Matt James tweeted, there are numerous issues and pitfalls when it comes to unpacking the trauma of an absent Black father and THIS IS A SHOW WE ALL KNOW ISN’T EQUIPPED TO NAVIGATE THIS TACTFULLY. And on top of that, there haven’t been a lot of Black father figures on this show period. The last time we even got close to something this emotionally fraught in recent memory is Dean having a complete meltdown over his dad’s conversion to Sikhism. And again, the framing of that hometown visit was that Dean’s family was eccentric and weird. And now, we end up with a show that hasn’t shown any interest in authentic representation of Black families setting up a conversation between a Black man and his father to deal with his father’s infidelity and abandonment.
Let’s get to it.
Morning in Nemacolin. Chris Harrison dropping off the first date card. The women staring out across the rolling hills of the resort thinking about how this week is going to be the most important week yet. Blah blah blah. MATT’S DAD IS HERE.
Matt says he has had a hard time in relationships and never let himself get deep and has run from difficult conversations in the past. This all bodes well for the inevitable finale. But instead of journaling or reading some self-help books, Matt decides he wants to work through his emotional issues with his dad and how his dad is the reason he’s 28 and his longest relationship lasted four months. It is very clear that Matt’s dad either doesn’t know why he’s there or has absolutely no interest in dealing with these issues. He just keeps saying he’s there to celebrate Matt’s success! He’s made it to the fantasy suite dates and only 33.33 percent of his final women have a history of casual racism! What a success!
Matt explains that he hasn’t been able to open up or move forward in relationships and he wants to know why his father made the mistakes he did so Matt doesn’t make the same mistakes. Hoooooo boy. This is something you don’t get to the bottom of in one conversation, and unless his dad is doing a lot of work on himself, he doesn’t fucking know either.
Here’s why we shouldn’t have seen this: Matt doesn’t seem to know exactly what he wants from his dad or how to get it from him. He wants some kind of closure or clarity from his dad about his childhood. But does he want his dad to explain why he cheated? Does he want his dad to accept responsibility for Matt’s difficult childhood? Does he want his dad to allow him space to talk through his feelings? Does he want his dad to admit that he’s a piece of shit and Matt’s mom was right to leave him? Unclear! Any and all of these questions are things a child raised by a single parent and a parent who cheated would want to know, but trying to accomplish all these things in a tidy seven-and-a-half-minute segment between commercials is A LOT. And I don’t blame Matt because he’s obviously a person who still carries a lot of hurt and confusion about his upbringing and he shouldn’t have to navigate all that alone. And he shouldn’t expect his future wife to sort through all that for him (which he doesn’t ask anyone to do, thank God), but holy shit, was this a bad idea by production. Matt and his dad end up saying they can’t let their relationship deteriorate this much again in the future and they hug it out. Matt’s deep-seated issues with commitment are solved? Yay?
It’s apparently Michelle’s fantasy suite date immediately after this? Sweet Christ. When I have a therapy session where all we talk about is whether Kenya Moore from RHOA is a narcissist, I have to take 30–40 minutes to lie down silently and recuperate. I can’t imagine confronting the father that abandoned me as a child and then going on the first of three fuck dates. But Matt is able to remember he’s a different human than his father so there’s no reason to think any of his dad’s issues with commitment would affect him. He said it, so it must be true!
Michelle meets Matt at a barn on the Fat Bird resort grounds for a spa day. He says he knows how hard she works as a teacher, so he wants to treat her to a Pennsylvania Dutch–inspired spa day. They both walk into a room set up for them like they’re walking into one of Jigsaw’s torture chambers. A tub of milk? A basin of oatmeal? A pile of butter? What horrors await us here …
Michelle tells Matt she’s realized her parents have strived to show that they love each other every day, and she muses out loud about how she and Matt might stay in love. If I were Michelle, I’d be looking for Matt to express some tiny fraction of how he might “stay in love” with me, but Matt just goes, “This idea has potential and let’s come back to that later.”
It’s time for the evening portion of their date and Matt talks about why he doesn’t have a girlfriend, which is what every girl who has told a guy she loves him wants to hear. He explains that he had time to meet with his dad and they had a conversation and now Matt has no issues with commitment or marriage! It’s just that simple! Michelle asks a follow-up question and that’s how Matt knows she cares. They decide to head to the fantasy suite together while Rachael gets to have a voiceover about how difficult this week is for her.
In the morning, Matt says he’s 11 out of 10 on the happiness scale with Michelle and he feels like he could share his life with her. He goes out on the balcony to watch her walk away and blows her a kiss. I wrote in my notes, “Just pick her, dummy!”
Bri and Rachael wait for Michelle to come back from their date and somehow this whole week is about Rachael now. Very cool. Michelle is explaining that they rubbed each other with butter and Rachael is full-on weeping. It’s time for Bri’s date!
She’s excited to see Matt but she’s reading a lot into the fact that she was the third rose given out. She’s putting a lot of pressure on the date, so it would be a good sign if Matt planned a fun, romantic date for them. Oh fuck, they’re just walking in the woods. That’s the whole day portion of their date. Oh, I forgot, they build a tent together and Matt pretends they’re going to sleep there. I felt for Bri when she said she’s not an outdoor cat. They head to the evening portion of their date and Bri wants to know where Matt’s head is at. He finds a way to bring up his conversation with his dad and assures her that because of one conversation with his dad, he’s not afraid of commitment anymore. Again, a completely reassuring thing for your sorta-boyfriend to be telling you. In my experience, the more a man says he’s not afraid of commitment, the greater the likelihood of you getting dumped via text. Bri relates to being raised by a single mother who sacrificed for her and how she thinks her father would be proud of the woman she’s become. Bri also tells him she’s in love with him. They head to the fantasy suite. Bri says she wants Matt to wake up the next morning thinking he’s waking up with his wife. I know the kind of work that kind of thing requires, and I hope Bri did her yoga that morning. In the morning, Matt says they connected on the deepest of levels and he can see a life with her too! He also talks about how hard it’s going to be to send someone home. Please, just pick her, you sweet, gentle dummy!
Bri comes back from her fantasy suite and sits down with the other two ladies and somehow, this is all about Rachael again! In pre-pantaloon times, did the fantasy suites happen with no days in between? Did the Bachelor even have time for a wipe-down between each contestant?
Well, it’s finally time for Rachael’s fantasy suite date and she gets up to get ready, goes behind a pillar, and cries. Oh no. Oooooh no. Hasn’t Rachael not had much relationship experience either? We’re about to watch two emotionally fragile people with absolutely no relationship experience try to navigate this very tricky situation. And honestly, if I wanted to see that, I’d go to a frat party and hang out outside the bathroom. All the good relationship drama goes on by the bathroom. If you time it just right and give Amy a hair tie before she pukes, she’ll probably ask you to proofread some texts to Ryan.
Rachael is GOING THROUGH IT and not even the flimsy metaphor of a ceramics instructor can make her feel better. Rachael has to COMPLETELY STOP the moderately sexy pottery activity to talk to Matt. She can’t wait around for heartbreak. Lady, that’s basically the premise of the show. It could be the log line. The Bachelor: You have to wait around for the heartbreak. She takes Matt aside and says she totally knows that he has to “keep” “dating” “the” “other” “women,” but she’d love just a teeny bit of reassurance. Of course, Matt is totally willing to do that for her and only her. He reminds her that when she totally landed on her face at the parachute jump, he thought she might die and that’s when he thought about what life would be like without Rachael. Not, like, in an “if we break up” way but in an “if I witnessed your untimely death, I would be bummed about it” way. He tells her that he’s falling in love with her and oh lord, it’s over for everyone else. Rachael tells him she’s in love with him. They resume the sexy pottery making.
On the night portion of their date, they both agree that communication is important and Matt brings up his whole thing with his dad. He says he views communication and commitment totally differently than his father. What way would that be, exactly? I’d love even one bit of detail on that topic. Oh? What? Nothing. Okay, very cool. Rachael says that Matt is who he is in spite of his dad not being around and he’s learned a lot. What has he learned exactly? Again, would love just one bit of detail there. Nothing? Very cool. Matt thinks Rachael is beautiful, smart, articulate, and sexy, and she says if he had a ring right there, she’d say yes. These two completely naïve doofuses are so ready to risk it all for each other. Hearing a woman with no relationship experience and no life experience talk about how she’s just ready to be his wife is A LOT — OOooooh! Fireworks! These other ladytestants are doomed.
Time for the rose ceremony. Matt walks in, doesn’t do a little preamble, and gives roses to Michelle and Rachael. Matt walks Bri out and they sit on a bench while Matt stammers through trying to comfort her. He somehow manages to tell her that there’s a feeling you have when you’re with somebody, but it has nothing to do with her. Is it possible he’s not only a man who has never been broken up with but has never dumped anyone? Bri says she can’t be angry or upset, but she’s just sad and disappointed. Bri looks up into the night sky to wipe away a single tear and she’s honestly one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever laid eyes on. Dear God, a MODEL, honey. Bri for Bachelorette or Bri for Revlon! Whatever comes first and whatever’s easier for her.