And then there were two.
Matt James’ season of “The Bachelor” – historic onscreen and controversial off camera – is coming to a close next week. But first, it’s fantasy suite time.
The three remaining women at the start of the episode – Michelle, Bri and Rachael – are sure of their own relationships with Matt, but still apprehensive about their rivals. Matt is still concerned about what a long-term relationship might look like, stemming from his own upbringing. As we learned at the start of the season, he was raised by a single mother and rarely saw his father.
Later in the episode, he’ll go on overnight dates with all three women. Rachael repeatedly makes it known how much she struggled while the other women were with Matt, but ultimately it’s Bri who says goodbye.
First, Matt gets a visit from his father, Manny: He believes it’s important to sit down with the man who left his family so that he can get to the bottom of the commitment issues.
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“For me to move forward, I need to address those demons in my life,” Matt says.
He tearfully opens up to his dad about feeling like he has missed out on life experiences because he guards his heart too closely, fearful of getting hurt by another loved one.
“When I needed you, you weren’t there to have those conversations. You started other families,” Matt says. “That affected me, and I need to know where your head was at so I don’t make those mistakes going forward.”
The Bachelor learns his dad shares these feelings: Matt’s own grandfather was killed when Manny was 5 years old and growing up in Africa. In a tense moment – the most we’ve seen a rise out of Matt all season – Matt argues his mother still had good reason for leaving: her husband cheated on her.
In the moment we’ve seen teased all season long, Matt breaks down in tears during an interview, recalling sporadic memories of his dad coming to visit every so often, bringing new shoes or pizza as a treat.
“I didn’t need any shoes. I didn’t need any pizza. I needed a dad,” he says.
Matt’s father tears up, too. In a turning point, he apologizes for hurting him and vows to do “whatever I can do to make it better.” Matt forgives him and says he wants to move forward and include him in his future kids’ lives.
“I’ll work on it, because I want you to be happy for the rest of your life and I want you to have a relationship that’s healthy and not like I went through,” Manny says.
Later in the episode, Matt opens up about the conversation, reassuring the women that he’s now ready for a major commitment (although a teaser for next week suggests he maybe isn’t, after all).
“I’m not the man my dad is, and just because I’m his son, it doesn’t mean I have to follow in his footsteps,” Matt concludes. He later tells Michelle that “in spite of all those things, here I am and I’m ready to make a decision and I’m not going to be (him). I want to be the man he wasn’t.”
“The Bachelor” finale and “After the Final Rose” special air March 15 on ABC.
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