‘The Bachelor’ finale was more wrenching than anyone could have guessed

Imagine someone actually scripting this:

A romantic reality TV series beset by claims of racism since its inception finally slots a Black male lead – and that man ends up with a woman with a racist past.

The host, in apparently some attempt to save the show, defends the woman on a podcast with the show’s first Black female star, ends up making the situation worse, and decides to exile himself, at least temporarily.

That writer would be laughed out of Los Angeles. And yet here we are:

A season that was supposed to be a victory lap for ABC, proof that it was truly committed to diversity and inclusion, turned out to be the greatest debacle in “Bachelor” history. Its stars, especially Matt James, seem bruised and battered by the experience.

The two-hour finale found Matt eager to get engaged to someone, until his mother threw in a monkey wrench that set Matt on an epic journey of self-doubt.

“Feelings come and go….Love is not the end all and be all,” she said.

Matt realized how much his mother had been hurt by her failed marriage to his father and feared he would make the same mistakes.

He ultimately chose Rachael Kirkconnell to be, not his fiancee, but his girlfriend.

Their epic makeout session in front of an outdoor fireplace was yet another reminder that Tayshia Adams was stuck with the Walmart season of “The Bachelorette.”

But the heartbreak came hard and heavy in “The Bachelor: After the Final Rose,” guest-hosted by Emmanuel Acho, who made it clear he was going to get to the heart of all those reports of Kirkconnell’s troubling posts on social media.

Matt admitted he felt the scrutiny of being the show’s first Black male lead. He wanted to project a good image, yet he also wanted to grow and be authentic in his interactions with the women.

His time with Rachael was like an extended honeymoon, until all those reports start surfacing, of her attending an antebellum plantation party, of her liking racist posts.

“You want to believe you know your person better than any other person,” he said.

Acho wondered if he could get past her behavior from 2018.

“I don’t think anyone’s irredeemable,” Matt said, but he wondered how anyone could be with him who didn’t understand what it was like for him to be Black in America.

Rachael had a lot of work to do, and he was going to give her the space to do it.

That was a refrain Matt shared several times that night, and here’s a rough translation:

“We’re done.”

Rachael made no excuses, but she didn’t explain what’s she doing to get herself educated.

She apologized for her past behaviors.

“Of course, I want to do better,” she said.

She never worried about the photos getting out. She never thought twice about them.

Acho made a distinction between racially insensitive and racist, and noted, “History is to be remembered, but not all history is to be celebrated.”

“I lost the love of my life, and in the process, I hurt him,” Rachael said.

Matt and Rachael’s reunion was difficult and strained. Matt struggled to find the words to talk to her, and at one point, just seemed to withdraw into himself.

Rachael apologized for hurting him.

It broke Matt’s heart to realize he was with someone who didn’t understand his blackness, and that was a conversation he never expected to have with her.

Rachael summed up her life right now: “I don’t see anyone else out there for me. At this point, I just don’t see how I could have these feelings for someone else.”

In easily the most awkward moment in the show’s history, if not the entire network, Acho invited the two to embrace one last time.

And both remained frozen on that couch, Matt looking as if he’d rather be on Mars than on TV.

Just think, ABC could have spared Matt and itself all this pain if it had only vetted its contestants. It wasn’t like Rachael had a dark web account. An intern with an hour would have found these offensive pictures all over her Instagram account.

Michelle and Katie will try for love again. (Photo: ABC).
Michelle and Katie will try for love again. (Photo: ABC).

Random notes:

No one needed to ask Matt if he was single. That beard told the world he wasn’t getting laid.

Matt broke up with Rachael on the phone. Dude, what?

Matt stroked his mother’s leg the same way he touched every woman on the show, so EUUIIIIII.

Not one but two bachelorettes! Runner-up Michelle Young and bully-blaster Katie Thurston will each star in their own seasons.