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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: To Die by Your Side Is Such a Heavenly Way to Die

Michelle shows off her teacher side and Serena brings Canada to Matt—but what could be more romantic than NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES?

Getty Images/ABC/Ringer illustration

Skydiving isn’t a great date. You can understand the romantic logic behind it—you’re taking a leap of faith!—but you can’t spend your time in free fall hugging or staring at your loved one or else you’ll splat into the ground at terminal velocity. You can’t really be intimate in any way, because there’s a whole stranger strapped to your back the entire time.

Monday night brings us The Bachelor’s first-ever two-on-two date between Matt, Rachael, and the two guys attached to them in midair. Before jumping, Rachael tells Matt that if she dies on her jump, at least she died with Matt, which, aside from being a wild thing to say, isn’t even true—Matt and Rachael aren’t really in this together. Matt has his Skydiver Guy and Rachael has hers.

The Skydiver Guy strapped to Matt’s back was apparently more competent than the guy strapped to Rachael’s. While Matt ends up having a smooth, butt-first landing, Rachael slams into the ground pretty hard, and primarily with her face. Matt sprints over in a dramatic moment, but after a single cut, Rachael seems to have dusted herself off, brushed her hair, and been cleared of any actual damage from bracing a 10,000-foot fall with her head. A near-death experience is apparently exactly what these two needed: Matt comments on how seeing Rachael experience physical injury made him contemplate what it would be like if he lost her, and how sad the thought made him. Rachael seems touched by the fact that Matt clearly cared whether she died. It’s the emotional crux of the episode, and probably the season as well. (I’m pretty confident Rachael will win—it’s the best explanation for why the show was so quick to excuse her relatively extensive history of racism.)

Stunningly, Rachael wasn’t the first contestant to casually tell Matt they would welcome death if it came at his side—Bri and Sarah also said it on dates earlier this season. And Bri repeats the sentiment Monday night, saying that she hopes to flip her Jeep while off-roading with Matt.

What is going on here? When did The Bachelor become a death cult? Clearly, the show has decided that Almost Dying Is Romance. Nothing can match the emotional tornado stirred up in someone’s soul when it seems like another person is in genuine danger. (Is that why people choke themselves while th—never mind, let’s move on.) I thought The Bachelor was legitimately trying to kill someone this season, but it turns out they’re just trying to spark the Most Passionate Love Story Ever.

The only thing preventing this romance from really taking off? Those two guys strapped to Rachael and Matt’s backs. Not only did they prevent Matt and Rachael from making out mid-free fall, they limited Rachael’s injury to something that could be cleaned up in a single edit. Next season, someone needs to jump out of a plane without a parachute, clinging to the Bachelor like Keanu Reeves clinging to Patrick Swayze. Now that’s romance.

Best Hometown Bit: Canada Jokes

Monday night was the hometown episode of The Bachelor, but once again, nobody went to their hometown. The last season of The Bachelorette made up for this quarantine-mandated snag by making the final four men plan out hometown-themed dates—Ben took Tayshia roller-skating around “Venice Beach,” Zac took Tayshia in a fake taxi around “New York, ” and so on. But The Bachelor more or less ditched that requirement. Bri and Rachael went on dates more related to death than their hometowns—unless Rachael’s unfortunately named hometown of Cumming, Georgia, is famous for its skydiving. Michelle’s date, meanwhile, was almost hometown-themed—she hopped on a Zoom with the middle school class she teaches, and then she and Matt drank juice boxes together.

But only one contestant truly went all out with her hometown date: Serena, who sent Matt to Canadian bootcamp. She quizzed Matt on Canadian history and slang, introduced him to various Canadian dishes—including the first unappetizing plate of poutine I’ve ever seen—and then they ended the date playing hockey on the same rink where Serena and Matt ended their one-on-one date. (Sloppy planning by The Bachelor to build a whole ice rink at Nemacolin and use it twice for the same woman!) I don’t know why the show assumes Canadian women would be hockey experts, since as we all know, Team USA defeated Canada in the women’s hockey final at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and are therefore the reigning hockey champions of the world. (Today is actually the three-year anniversary of that game—congrats on the silver medals, ya hosers!) But I still appreciated the show leaning into Serena’s Canadian background.

The Bachelor has a funny relationship with our northern neighbors. There was a Canadian edition of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, though that appears to have been canceled after the 2017 season that featured former MLB pitcher Chris Leroux. But even while The Bachelor was making its own Canadian show, Canadian contestants appeared on the regular American version—like Quebecois Vanessa, who won Nick’s season, or eventual Bachelorette Kaitlyn, who was third place on Chris’s season. (How did they decide which hot Canadians made the cut for the Bachelor big leagues and which were relegated to all-Canadian Bachelor? I have never gotten a solid answer.) There were also reportedly plans to film the next season of The Bachelorette exclusively in Canada, until the country’s COVID-19 restrictions got in the way.

Overall, The Bachelor seems to think of Canada more as a personality quirk than as a separate country—no one on the show has EVER had an honest conversation about the logistical implications of getting engaged to someone who lives in a different country. Instead, the Canadian contestants who make it to the American show are just subjected to the same eight jokes about Canada over and over again. On Bachelor in Paradise, Daniel’s intro involved him chugging maple syrup and spilling it over his rippling abs; meanwhile, it sure seemed like Serena was going to make Matt follow in Daniel’s footsteps and do shots of maple syrup:

Screenshots via ABC

Eventually, Serena’s family shows up, and her dad hits the “boot” in “aboot” at 200 kilometers per hour. Suddenly, she starts talking with a mild Canadian accent, the way people with lapsed accents do when around their family. She says “doubt” so many times. By the end of the date, it actually did feel like we went to her hometown. The Bachelor has struggled with hometown dates in an era of no travel—but it really hit the mark with the Canada Date. Just like John Shuster hit the mark in the curling semifinals at the Olympics!

Most Surprising Turn: Dumped Matt

After going “home,” Serena decides to go home. During her meeting with her parents, her mom starts pointing out that her last relationship left her heartbroken; her sister tells her that she’s “in her head.” And when you tell someone on The Bachelor that they’re “in their head,” they get super “in their head.” It’s over for Serena: Matt comes to visit her ahead of the rose ceremony, and she tells him that he is “not her person.”

Matt clearly had a strong bond with Serena—she was the only contestant to get two one-on-one dates, and they always seemed to be laughing together. I thought she’d make it far, and so did Matt, apparently. He seems kinda stunned that she broke up with him after he ended 30 relationships to get her into the final four. He fights off tears in an interview, and in a real twist on the show’s tried-and-true format, Serena walks Matt to a limo, in which he sadly rides away.

This is possibly the first time we’ve seen any sort of emotion from Matt besides light chuckles. It’s honestly remarkable how little we know about him eight episodes into the season. There are two main explanations for this: Firstly, because he wasn’t on a prior season of The Bachelorette. But he’s also been pretty far removed from the show’s actual plots, almost all of which have been centered around in-fighting within the show’s women. My knowledge of him is mostly limited to the fact that he has a cool roommate and that he likes ordering dessert as an appetizer, like an absolute weirdo. For most of the season, he has avoided all emotional conversations—when someone tells him anything, up to and including “I love you,” he simply responds, “Thank you for sharing that with me tonight” and moves on.

I get the sense that the last few episodes will actually require Matt to show some emotion—he cries a lot in the promos. Monday night gave us the first glimpse at what that might look like.

Best Moment: Shooting Hoops With the Youngs

Serena’s one-on-one hockey game with Matt wasn’t the best sports matchup of the evening. After Matt’s hometown visit with Michelle, the couple plays a quick game of hoops with Michelle’s parents. Hometown meetings are generally stilted, formulaic, and uncomfortable. It’s rare to see everybody having as much fun as this group did watching Michelle’s mom comfortably drill 15-footers.

I really love how far Michelle, who played basketball at Bradley, has made it this season. She’s got a sense of humor (she knocked out pushups after a rose ceremony last week) and she’s connected with Matt in unique ways (like their bonding over a Maya Angelou quote, which was cute even if it was a fake Maya Angelou quote). But I really genuinely appreciate the fact that she played college sports!

The show loves casting male athletes—Matt played football at Wake Forest, where he was teammates with Tyler Cameron, not to mention former football players Colton Underwood and Dale Moss and Jordan Rodgers and Jesse Palmer … the list goes on. A breakdown on the NCAA’s website found 31 former male college athletes on the show … but just one former female college athlete besides Michelle: Mandy Clemens, a pro soccer player who was eliminated on the second episode of the 2004 season of The Bachelor. (WWE wrestler Devin Taylor, competing under her birth name of Brittany, was on Chris’s season of The Bachelor, but she got eliminated on the first night.) The lack of female athletes seems weird because they’re so obsessed with male athletes and guess what? Lots of male athletes date (and often marry) female athletes. It makes sense—they have similar mindsets and similar experiences. (It actually felt like the athletes at my college hung out only with other athletes.)

Women who play sports are unfortunately often objectified or judged by their appearance instead of their talents. Thankfully, The Bachelor hasn’t done this with Michelle—she’s just a woman who used to play sports, in the same way Matt is a guy who used to play sports.

Biggest Mystery: Bri and the Stuffed Rabbit

Traditionally, the Bachelor shows up at the hometown date with a bunch of camera operators and some gifts for the family. I feel confident saying that close to 100 percent of the time, that gift is a bottle of wine and a bouquet of flowers. You know—like a normal boyfriend brings to his girlfriend’s family’s house for the first time. (Although normally, the idea is that the boyfriend thoughtfully picked out the flowers, whereas it’s quite obvious that these flowers have been provided by some ABC gofer.)

Matt did bring the traditional flowers to Bri’s mom’s hotel suite but … overshadowing the petals was a much, much larger gift: A gigantic stuffed rabbit.

And yet, at no point in the visit is the giant rabbit ever mentioned. And Matt doesn’t bring giant rabbits to anybody else’s house—the other three families get flowers and gift bags that are never opened on camera. I also can’t recall Bri ever talking about stuffed rabbits. For a second, I thought the giant rabbit was the prize Matt won at his one-on-one date at a carnival, but then I remembered that that date was with Pieper, not Bri. I guess it’s possible that Matt decided to bring an additional gift because Bri’s mom recently gave birth to a baby sister—but that’s a terrible present for a baby. Babies can’t play with toys that are five times larger than them!

The Mystery of the Giant Rabbit has completely broken me. Why give one family such a huge gift and never explain it? The Bachelor doesn’t leave loose ends like this. It’s so mystifying that I haven’t been able to focus on the fact that Bri’s best friend, who joined Bri’s mom on the hometown date, was also named Bri. Where did the bunny come from, why was it there, and where did it go? Did it ever even exist?