Matt James' Bachelor journey continues on screen as the franchise is engulfed in controversy off screen. The real estate broker's budding romance with Rachael Kirkconnell has made headlines amid her resurfaced racist actions, which she apologized for in a statement on Thursday.
However, Rachael -- who is still in the running for Matt's heart on The Bachelor -- isn't the only one who issued an apology. On Wednesday, host Chris Harrison apologized for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism" during an interview with Rachel Lindsay about the scandal.
Bachelor Nation continued to speak out against Chris' remarks, and on Saturday, the host again apologized, announcing that he'll be "stepping aside" for awhile, and will not be joining Matt's After the Final Rose special.
That special is still weeks away. First, Matt must decide which women to move forward with -- and it wasn't surprise arrival Heather Martin.
Multiple fan favorites said goodbye to Matt on Monday night's episode -- and one made a self-exit. ET was live blogging along the way. Scroll down for minute-by-minute updates.
We don't usually care for these blooper scenes at the credits, but this week we have to call out our girl Michelle for being a back-cracking, push-up loving hoot of a gal.
Next week -- hometowns.
Rachael's family is skeptical, Michelle is crying, Serena P. doesn't seem smitten and Bri gets a warning.
"There's going to be hard times in a relationship," Matt says. "Everything I was working towards is starting to crumble."
Pieper, Michelle and Bri are waiting for roses.
Bri gets the first one, then Michelle. Our gorgeous gal -- inside + out -- Pieper gets sent home. Ugh we love her.
Matt walks Pieper outside, and she hops in the car.
"I put my weakness and my happiness on the table for literally nothing," Pieper cries. "This is not me. I am not someone who just blindly follows feelings and emotions. Like, I really should have stuck to that, because ... [it feels like] your entire soul is being stomped on."
It'll be OK girl!
S T U N N I N G
It's time for the rose ceremony, and the ladies are wondering where they stand.
Wow, Pieper is looking S T U N N I N G. And honestly, so is everyone else.
"You all look gorgeous tonight," Matt observes. WE SAID IT FIRST.
He only has two roses to gives out, as Serena P. and Rachael already have one.
"I owe it to you all to follow my heart... and that's what I'm going to do tonight," he adds.
Love You, Girl!
Jessenia is "blindsided" as Matt walks her out.
"It hurts to hear Matt admit that he can't really be that person for me. I felt more for him than he felt for me. But getting to see his heart and be vulnerable with him, I'll always cherish that," she says in her car ride home.
Love you, girl!
Jessenia tells Matt she's falling in love with him, and he thanks her for sharing that. Oh boy.
"We're missing that compatibility," he tells the camera. "We're missing the love I need to feel going into the hometown week."
Matt picks up the rose (WHY DOES HE DO THIS WHEN HE'S SENDING SOMEONE HOME? DOES THIS ENRAGE ANYONE ELSE?!) and praises Jessenia before sending her home.
"I don't think I'm there yet," he tells Jessenia. "Knowing you deserve unwavering love and respect... I can't give you this rose."
Will She? Won't She?
Back at the house, Rachael puts on her glasses and speculates Matt will send Jessenia home.
The other women agree they haven't seen a connection -- but that doesn't mean it's not there.
It's time for the night part of the date, and Jessenia is feeling good. She's also looking great, and gah we just love her. Five stars for Jessenia.
Matt leads Jessenia into a room of Christmas lights, and toasts to an "incredible dinner." Nothing else you could have toasted to, Matt?
Jessenia tells Matt her journey with love hasn't always been easy. "I came here for you, and I want to be a rock for you. And it being so close to hometowns, definitely makes it hit a little different, but I feel happy being here," she says.
Hello Matt, Pls Do This
Jessenia and Matt bond over how thrill-seeking they are.
"To see that side of him come out today was so exciting!" she gushes.
Jessenia basically instructs Matt to make out with her on the hood of the car, and we admire her boldness. "I'm happy. I'm really happy," she beams.
Jessenia Goes For It
Matt pulls up in a flashy red car (sorry, not car enthusiasts here) and Jessenia is impressed.
Tony Angelo, a professional drifter, is here to show Matt and Jessenia how it's done.
"There's a lot on the line today," Matt tells the camera, praising Jessenia's patience. "Knowing that I'll have the whole day with Jessenia... is critical."
He wants all gas, no breaks -- and Jessenia goes for it.
The next morning, the ladies talk about Abigail and Kit's shocking departure. Things are getting real.
"At this point, if you're not falling in love with him, why are you here?" Rachael asks the camera.
Jessenia, meanwhile, gears up for her date. "Honestly, anything could happen," she tells the camera. "I'm excited to see where our relationship could go."
Matt tells Kit that she means a lot to him. He praises Kit for being so sure of herself.
"I like you a lot, and I want you here," he tells her.
"You saying that makes this even harder for me, but I'm unwavering in this because I know... it's the right thing for both of us," she replies.
With that, Matt walks Kit out.
"He deserves to move forward with people who know for sure he's their future husband," Kit tells the camera. "I still do have seeds of doubt. It's not just breaking up with someone. It's breaking up with someone who could be your entire future. I'm scared I'm making the wrong decision."
Matt gets home and he's feeling like a rockstar.
Then Kit arrives to pay him a surprise visit. "I have to speak to you," she says.
They sit down on his couch, and she lays it all out.
"After our one-on-one, I said I could see myself falling in love with you, and I never thought I could let my guard down as much as I have with you. ... I thought I would have the clarity I needed going into hometowns, but hometowns isn't a figure-it-out situation. ... You deserve someone who is 100 percent sure of you getting down on one knee tomorrow, and that's not me," she says.
It's time for Matt to hand out the group date rose, and it goes to Rachael. No surprise there.
The surprise is that he and Rachael are going to get some alone time while the other women sit there rose-less.
"I feel like I could rip my stomach out right now," Bri says, as Kit confesses she feels like her face is "tomato red."
Matt and Rachael slow dance to a private performance by Aloe Blacc.
"I am on top of the world. ... I'm head over heels in love. Get on one knee right now. It's a done deal," Rachael tells the camera.
Literally every other woman is crying while Matt makes out with Rachael.
"I don't know how much longer I can go through this," Kit admits.
Get That Rose
After Matt's assurance, Kit says she's falling in love -- and thinks Matt feels the same way.
"I'm going to get that rose tonight!" she exclaims.
Kit sits down with Matt, and tells her there are things she won't compromise on -- like finishing school, traveling and figuring out her career path.
"That means getting married... will probably be pushed a little longer than the other women. And I wouldn't want to have kids until I'm 25, 26," she adds. "So, I'm a long-term investment, I would say."
Matt giggles. "Thank you for sharing that," he says, revealing he doesn't have a 5-year plan. "I would never put pressure on you."
Matt Wants to Meet Rachael's Family
Matt asks Rachael about meeting her family.
"When I'm not around you, I'm thinking about you, and you just make me smile," he says.
They kiss. They are probably in love.
Rachael Loves Matt
With that, Matt pulls Rachael aside for a chat.
She confesses to the camera that she LOVES him. That was fast.
"For me to lay it all out and for him to come back and say he doesn't see it, it's just kind of eating me alive right now," Abigail tells the camera.
She feels like she's always the woman that makes men realize what they want next. "It's a hard pill I'm going to have to swallow," she adds.
Matt then tells the rest of the women that he walked Abigail out. "At this point in the process, I'm not going to lead anyone on," he explains.
Matt tells Abigail that he explored relationships with other women after giving her the first impression rose -- and his heart is pulling him in another direction.
"You deserve someone who is going to put you first," he tells Abigail.
"I really do appreciate you being honest," Abigail replies, before Matt walks her out.
Matt continues to connect with the other ladies, while Abigail worries it may be over between her and Matt. If she makes it to hometowns, she'll be the only one in the group who didn't get a one-on-one date.
"I love would to introduce Matt to my family... I guess I'm just in my head and overthinking things," she tells the camera, before finally sitting down with the Bachelor.
She's speaking with Matt about all they have in common, but he doesn't look like he's feeling it. "I can see the possibility of a future with you -- I just want to know, can you see that possibility?" Abigail asks. "I'd rather know now."
Bri Takes a Big Step
The ladies don't even get a day part of this date -- just a night rendezvous. ANOTHER SNUB!
Matt sits down with Bri, who is wearing A++ boots. Great look, girl!
He tells her he's trying to make the right decisions, and Bri opens up about things she wants to tell him.
"A few days ago, I did something really big. I had to resign from my position to be here. I knew that was a decision I was going to have to make, but after weighing what this journey could mean for me, to give me that opportunity to find love with someone, with you specifically, I thought it was worth it," Bri says. She says the decision was hard, especially with the sacrifices her mom made for her growing up.
Her job felt like a dream -- "but being here with you makes it feel extremely worth it," she tells Matt.
Matt thanks Bri. "The fact that you did that for me is everything," he says.
Matt is back on his Peloton as he gets ready fort he group date -- during which he'll probably part ways with our girl Abigail.
Why does he keep snubbing her? We just don't understand!
Matt tells Serena P. that he wants her family's approval -- and she wants him to meet them.
With that, Matt gives her rose. "I could 100 percent see myself falling in love with her," he gushes to the camera.
Back at the house, Abigail opens up about her lack of time with Matt after getting the first impression rose.
"I just feel really defeated right now," she tells the camera.
That's My Favorite Thing About You
Heading into the night part of the date, Matt notes he's worried about how he and Serena P. might not be on the same page.
He's grateful she was honest about being uncomfortable on the date. "I think that for me, there's no point in not laying it on the table," she explains. "If I were to lie and say, 'I love tantric yoga,' and you said, 'That's my favorite thing about you,' that's a terrible thing to build a relationship on."
"I left that time feeling a lot better and I feel like I moved out of that negative headspace," Serena P. adds. She's grateful for the time with Matt, no matter what they're doing.
A Date for Jessenia
Back at the house, the women await the next date card.
"We're all just on the edge," Jessenia says. Whoever's name isn't on the group date card will get the one-on-one -- the last before hometowns.
And it's Jessenia who gets the one-on-one. "Matt has all the characteristics I want in a partner," she gushes. "This one-on-one is definitely a gift."
Tried It and Done
Serena P. explains that Matt is much more into PDA than she is.
"That was a first and last for me when it comes to tantric yoga," she tells Matt. "I'm not an overly affectionate person, especially in public. It was just like, beyond my comfort zone. And a lot of my brain was like, 'tried it and done.'"
Matt was much more into it.
"I've never stood and stared at someone for as long as I did," he says.
Still, Matt wants Serena P. to tell him when something makes her uncomfortable. "Don't think that I'm not hearing that," he tells her.
Matt and Serena P. have a sexy date ahead of them -- tantric yoga! (Remember when JoJo did this with Chase on her season? How can we forget!)
"I'm just vibing right now. I left each pose that much closer to Serena," Matt tells the camera.
The next morning, the ladies get a preview of what's ahead: two one-on-one dates and a group date.
Here's a surprise no one but Serena P. is happy about: she's getting another one-on-one before Jessenia or Abigail has had one. Fun!
The group cheers for the week ahead -- the last one before hometowns.
"Matt has a lot of difficult decisions to make," Michelle observes. "The next few days are going to be super stressful."
Up ahead -- Matt doesn't want to lead someone on, and it seems he sends a woman home. "That could have happened to any of us," someone says.
A Rose For...
Bri gets a rose. Then Rachael. Kit gets one. Then Jessenia.
And our sweet Abigail!
Chelsea and Serena C. are out.
"Ugh, saying goodbye to Matt killed me," Chelsea tells the camera. "It sucks to get your hopes up."
"I feel like, rejected," Serena C. adds, with tears in her eyes.
Matt tells the women the "unexpected surprise" of Heather reaffirms how he feels about the remaining women -- well, most of them, as he's about to send several home.
He picks up the first rose...
"It's been a roller coaster of emotions tonight. I already sent Heather home," Matt tells the camera.
It's not easy to send home women he has connections with, but Matt's doing it.
Rose Ceremony Nerves
After Matt says goodbye to Heather, the women are nervous for the rose ceremony.
"I'm just hoping for the best," Abigail says. "I'm not ready to go home."
Matt tells Heather it's just too late, and she's crushed, but what did she expect?
"I'm honored that she flew out here and rented a frickin' minivan to meet me," Matt tells the camera."But we haven't spent time together. We haven't built those connections."
Is anyone surprised Matt didn't keep Heather around? Hometowns are right around the corner!
Poor Heather just wanted a chance and now all she's getting is a verbal lashing. She cries to the women, but they're not having it.
"Just talk about it in an interview, because I don't want to hear your tears right now," Serena C. tells her.
"If Matt wants her here, then it's over," Rachael hisses. Calm down, girl.
Matt admits that Hannah is "qualified to pick someone that she could see me with" -- but we're not sure that means Hannah is qualified to pick his future wife.
Matt thinks things over while Heather meets the ladies, and it does not go well. They ask her to "please leave" and accuse her of "Bachelor-hopping" after her appearance on Colton Underwood's season.
These ladies are ruthless, but we already knew that.
This week's episode is here, and we almost forgot about Heather.
Pieper is "literally shaking" while Matt welcomes Heather to Pennsylvania.
Here's our thing about Heather: Hannah brown couldn't have just... given her Matt's phone number if she thought they were such a good match?!
"Hannah Brown came to my house to visit, and literally the first things he said, she was like, 'Oh my gosh, Heather, like, you'd actually be really good with Matt,'" Heather explains to Matt.