In the final week of his Bachelor "journey," Matt James begins second guessing this whole "getting engaged on TV" thing.

By Kristen Baldwin
March 15, 2021 at 10:00 PM EDT
S25 E11

Well, rose lovers, this season of The Bachelor was truly about the "journey," not the destination. Though 11 weeks with Bachelor Matt James brought us no proposal, no engagement, and ultimately no relationship at all, it did prompt a lot of uncomfortable (though necessary) conversations about race. But first, "romance"!

Let's recap!

Part 1: The "ladies" meet Matt's family

It's a snowy day at Nemacolin. Matt tromps over the river and through the woods to reunite with his loving family.

The Bachelor frame grab
John and Patty James
| Credit: ABC

Welcome, mama Patty and brother John! "There's nothing I want more than for Matt to find love from a woman that truly cares about him," says Patty. Still, she adds, "I think it's a longshot that Matt will be engaged at the end of this." Moms, man. They always know best.

Michelle is first "lady" to make the pilgrimage. Patty is immediately overcome with emotion, so John pulls Michelle aside first for a one-on-one. "I'm gonna just keep it real," he tells us. Though he seems a little nervous, John and Michelle have a good conversation; they talk about Michelle's last relationship ("it became unhealthy") and Matt's history of being closed-off about his feelings. With Michelle, John believes that "Matt has found somebody that is a good match for him."

Great, but we all know who's REALLY in charge here. It's Patty time! She and Michelle talk about Matt's visit with her family, and mama gets emotional again thinking about how Matt was always looking for friends with "strong families" growing up. "To see that he's grown up to be who he is makes me feel so proud," says Patty through her tears. Michelle says she's "very much in love" with Matt, which is a testament to the man Patty raised. "Talking to you, Michelle, I see your sweet heart and who you are," says mom, wiping away tears.

When Patty sits down with Matt, she gives Michelle her stamp of approval. "I love seeing you happy!" she says. "What more could I want?" Awww, hug it out, everybody!

The Bachelor frame grab
John James, Michelle Young, Patty James, and Matt James
| Credit: ABC

"Today couldn't have gone any better," says Matt. Great! How about we end the episode here, then? Please…?

Ugh, fine. Rachael, you're up! "This is the last really big step in our relationship before that engagement," she says, with hope. When she and Matt sit down with Patty and John, the Bachelor brings up the awkward conversation they had before their overnight date; it's proof, says Matt, that he and Rachael are able to talk about hard things. (Maybe I'm just old or old-fashioned, but it still makes me squirm a bit when Bachelors or Bachelorettes talk about Fantasy Suites with their families.)

The Bachelor frame grab
Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James
| Credit: ABC

Once again, John goes for the first one-on-one chat with Rachael. He wants to know how many serious relationships she's had during her 24 years on this earth (just two), and whether she's ever been in love. (Answer: Not until Matt!) Rachael praises Matt for being "so funny" and "understanding" and "a great listener."

Later she tells Patty that love is what's going to fulfill her life, and Matt is the one she's found true love with. "My faith in God is like a very personal, important thing," Rachael continues. "He came in [on night one] and the first thing he did was pray over us… I, like, truly felt it in my soul that this is where I was supposed to be." It's an emotional moment for Rachael and for Patty, and pretty soon they're both dabbing away tears.

After Matt sends Rachael off for the day, it's time to hear what Patty and John really think about both of his final two "ladies." Mom says they're both "amazing" and she has nothing but "warmth" in her heart for both of them. Still, it's clear both Patty and John aren't sure that Matt should be putting a ring on a finger anytime soon. "When you say you love somebody, does that mean, 'Oh, automatically I'm going to become engaged,' or does that mean, 'I feel comfortable enough to see where this is going to go down the road'?" asks Patty. "There's nothing like being in love… but love is not the end-all, be-all."

Testify, mama! Now it's John's turn to remind Matt that getting engaged after a whirlwind TV romance is maybe not the best path in life. "Whatever you decide to do, I'm on board," says big brother. "But don't feel like you have to jump into making a decision [when] you're not ready." That is correct, John!

Their words of caution seem to have the intended effect. "I'm just thinking to myself, 'Am I ready?'" says Matt. "Or [am I] just doing something that I'm not ready for?" Oooh, oooh, I know the answer! But let's not get ahead of ourselves, rose lovers.

Part 2: Matt takes a therapy break

The next day, Matt is still mulling things over. How did he suddenly wind up in a position where he's expected to propose to someone while cameras roll? How could this possibly have happened? It's all a mystery. And so, Matt does exactly what any Bachelor having relationship troubles would do (in the before-times, at least):

The Bachelor frame grab
Chris Harrison and Matt James
| Credit: ABC

He calls Chris Harrison, Bachelor Nation's currently-on-hiatus love guru. Matt tells the host that he can't stop thinking about his conversation with his mom — especially how she said that love isn't all it takes to maintain a healthy marriage. "That commitment to me is everlasting," he says, "and the more information that I'm learning about myself… the more I'm starting to pump the breaks on, is it something that I'm ready to commit to now?"

Harrison says he's taken aback by Matt's newfound doubts — "This is not the same guy I was talking to a week ago" — and I hate to say it, but he kind of throws a little shade Patty's way. "Mom says, 'Love changes, love wilts, feelings change.' Like, 'Don't worry, love ends'?" scoffs the host. "What kind of greeting card is that?" A REALISTIC ONE, SIR! Also, Patty wasn't trying to tell her son that all love is doomed to die — she was simply saying that the butterflies-and-hormones phase fades, so you better have a real foundation underneath if you want your marriage to work.

So where does this leave Matt? Harrison asks him point-blank: Are you saying you don't want to get engaged to either one of these women? While Matt doesn't give a yes-or-no answer per se, he assures Harrison that he's not going to do the "easy" thing and just get engaged because a TV production is expecting him to. With that, he and Harrison exchange one of those one-armed bro hugs, and part ways.

Part 3: Last chance dates

Michelle is up first. "I'm ready to do the real world with Matt," she says giddily. But are you ready to rappel down the side of a building with him? Sure you are! Go ahead, Michelle — say it! You know the producers want you to. "Love does require a leap of faith," says Michelle. "As long as this leap of faith is connected to a rope and a harness… a safe rope and harness… that's gonna hold me…" Yes, girl. Exactly.

After a bit of a shaky start, Michelle and Matt start inching their way down the building.

The Bachelor frame grab
Michelle Young and Matt James

Fortunately, they make it to the ground unsplattered. Matt and Michelle cozy up on an outdoor couch for a heart-to-heart chat in the chilly wind. "Do you feel like you are able to get to a spot emotionally where you need to be?" Michelle asks. The Bachelor doesn't really give a straight answer — he says he's "thinking about everything he needs to consider" — and as it turns out, he's really starting to spiral inside. "Michelle's pouring her heart out to me," says Matt. "And I don't know where I'm at."

By the time night rolls around and Matt shows up to Michelle's room for their final conversation, he's palpably nervous. He pauses for a second outside her door and lets out a long, shaky breath. Oy, rose lovers… it's pretty clear where this is going.

But first, presents!

The Bachelor frame grab
Michelle Young and Matt James
| Credit: ABC

Michelle gives Matt his-and-hers basketball jerseys — and their team name as a couple is the "World Changing Warriors." The jerseys say Mr. and Mrs. James! It's just too cute, and too sad because Matt is about to do this:

Bachelor frame grab
Matt James
| Credit: ABC

With the proposal just two days away, says Matt, everything's becoming "real" — and it's freaking him the eff out. "The easy thing for me to do would be to tell you what you want to hear," he continues, but Michelle cuts him off: "That's not what I'm looking for." Damn right! You deserve everything you're looking for, and clearly Matt James is not it. Hang in there, Ms. Young!

Tears are streaming down Matt's face as he leaves Michelle's building. "It's not a good feeling to put somebody through that heartache," he says sadly. Rather than going back to his house, the Bachelor paces around outside until Harrison strolls up, ready to offer counsel for the second time in as many days.

Bachelor frame grab
Chris Harrison and Matt James
| Credit: ABC

Matt's jeans must be made of some kind of stretch fabric, right? There's no way he could sit on that curb if they weren't. Anyhow, the Bachelor tells Harrison that he's still haunted by the look on his mom's face when she talked about how feelings fade. "That scares me," he sighs. "The last thing I want to do is bring someone into a situation that I'm not ready for." With that, Matt says he "needs some time," and he heads off into the night alone.

Of course, the next morning Rachael is all smiles, feeling "really confident" about her last day with Matt before the proposal. So she puts on her best, skin-tight vinyl pants and prepares to… Knock knock knock! Who could that be at the door?   

Bachelor frame grab
Chris Harrison
| Credit: ABC

Again with this guy? Man, Harrison is doing more work this episode than he has all season. "I'm sorry to barge in," says the host. "Um… I was with Matt last night. He was emotional, and to be honest, lost. And the last thing he said to me was, 'I need some time.'" In other words, no last chance date for you, Rachael! She's understandably confused and disappointed. "It's, like, very blindsiding," she says with a sniffle. "Obviously he's having doubts."

Part 4: Contractually obligated (and completely pointless) Neil Lane visit

Really, Team Bachelor? Even Neil Lane's briefcase knows Matt isn't going to get engaged. What, is the jewelry salesman entitled to a product shot? Fine. Here you go:

Bachelor frame grab
Credit: ABC

Matt chooses a giant, pear-shaped diamond, and proceeds to stare at it with weighted intensity for several different shots. "This isn't just a ring," he says. "To me, it represents what my father couldn't give to my mother." Fair enough. Does it also represent enough screen time for Neil Lane and his baubles? Good. Let's move on.

Part 5: Proposal Day (minus the proposal)

Surely Rachael suspected that the day wouldn't end with a ring on her finger after she got this note from Matt:

Bachelor frame grab
Credit: ABC

"You deserve answers" is definitely not the most romantic invitation one could get. Still, when Rachael arrives at the Proposal Platform, she dutifully launches into her pre-proposal/rejection soliloquy. "I want to be there for you when you're hurting," she says. "I don't know what happened yesterday, but I do know I'm not going to run when it gets tough… I've never felt a love like this in my entire life." And so on and so forth. Rachael is ready to "choose you every day," Matt — what are you going to do with that information???

Bachelor frame grab
Matt James
| Credit: ABC

Yes, in the least-shocking finale ever, Matt James declined to propose to his final "lady," because, as he put it, "I couldn't live with myself if I put you through what my mom's been through." Instead, Matt hopes they can continue dating and getting to know each other like normal human beings. "I want to leave here with you, and I want to commit to you," says the Bachelor. "The truth is that I love you." Matt even goes so far as to say that he sees marriage and kids with Rachael down the road, and she LOVES it.

With that, they climb into a horse-drawn carriage and ride into the sunset. Congrats kids! Enjoy your few weeks of romantic bliss before everything hits the fan!

As always, thank you for taking this "journey" with me, rose lovers. Stay tuned for my full After the Final Rose recap coming soon.

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