‘The Bachelor’ Recap: Conflict Arises as New Arrivals Vie for Matt James

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the Jan 25 episode of “The Bachelor.”

In the wake of last week’s departure of contestant Sarah Trott, Bachelor Matt James struggled. But while he concerned himself with what her exit said about him, some of the women were more than happy to see her go.

Season villain Victoria Larson remarked that “The trash took itself out.” Katie Thurston — the only one to stand up for Sarah after her exit — called out Victoria for her mean-girl behavior. In a recurring theme, Katie was forced to act as the moral compass for the contestants.

After the dust settled, seven women departed for their group date. While there was no daytime activity shown, the evening portion consisted of each woman getting a chance to talk one-on-one with Matt. Among the standouts was Chelsea Vaughn, a model from New York who had gotten relatively low screen time until that point.

In the conversation that was shown, Chelsea and Matt had an emotional conversation about Black hair — how Chelsea’s former long locks had since been cut entirely. She touched on the emotion that was associated with it, another racially-specific topic never broached on “The Bachelor” before. Matt rewarded her with the group date rose.

Meanwhile back at the mansion, Victoria confronted Katie about their conflict over Sarah. Victoria demanded an apology, only to be shut down. Katie continued to challenge Victoria’s mean-girl behavior and stood strong in her conviction, despite multiple attempts by Victoria to bully her into an apology.

The next day, three women were safe from the rose ceremony: Serena Pitt, from her one-on-one; Rachael Kirkconnell, from the previous episode’s group date, and Chelsea. While the others thought they were battling amongst themselves for the roses, they realized they were wrong as five new contestants arrived at the Nemacolin Resort.

Host Chris Harrison brought Matt outside to an approaching car, where Brittany Galvin, Michelle Young, Ryan Claytor, Kim Li and Catalina Morales exited. Brittany quickly made enemies as the first one out of the vehicle, who made out with Matt on the front steps of the resort during her first impression.

The original contestants (or the “O.G.” original group, as they called themselves) vocally resented the newcomers. They confronted them as a group with a clear intention to make them feel uncomfortable, blaming them for their shortened time with Matt.

Their fears seemed to be justified, as Matt kept four out of five of the new women. In addition to sending newcomer Kim home, Khaylah Epps and Kaili Anderson were also eliminated during the rose ceremony.

The new week started with a familiar visitor, as former Bachelor Ben Higgins arrived to host the first group date. After a brief conversation with Matt about the pressures and expectations as the franchise lead, the two joined nine other women for a fall-themed obstacle course.

Mari Pepin won the competition, which the contestants celebrated: “I’m so glad it was one of the O.G. girls that won,” Victoria said. The divide between the original contestants and the newcomers further deepened during the evening, where Anna Redman confessed that she was warned about Brittany before her arrival.

The two had crossed paths in Chicago, where Brittany had allegedly acquired a reputation for “entertaining men for money,” according to Anna’s sources. Once Matt had handed out the group rose to Bri Springs and left the date, Anna confronted Brittany about the allegations.

Brittany was rattled by the accusation, and issued a firm denial: “No, I’m not an escort. It’s so ridiculous to even say that — [to] have that come out of my mouth.” The tension continued to heighten between the old versus new on the group date, and carried over to the rest of the house when newcomer Michelle was selected for the one-on-one date.

Michelle and Matt spent their day on an extreme scavenger hunt, where they started zip-lining and ended in a hot air balloon. Their daytime portion was lighthearted, but their evening portion showed significant depth as Michelle discussed her responsibility as a Black teacher in Minnesota during the George Floyd protests.

They talked about their interests in closing the achievement/opportunity gap through Michelle’s education and Matt’s participation with his non-profit ABC Food Tours. They bonded over their passions for change and solidified their relationship with a rose.

The remaining women left for their group date, during which they had to physically fight for Matt’s love. The 10 faced off in a boxing ring (hosted by Harrison and former Bachelorette contestant Wells Adams). The women joked about blowing off some steam through their fight, but only four pairs went before Matt canceled the date in concern for safety. Serena P., who took a solid punch to the nose, was among the injured.

During the after-party, Katie stewed as the other women continued to gang up against the newcomers. While none of the new women were present during the date, they monopolized the conversation amongst the contestants.

Cameras cut back to the house, where Victoria and Anna continued to spew hate at the new girls together, calling them “serial killer weird,” “whores” and the “dumbest hoe.”

Only Katie vocalized the problematic nature of their mob mentality: “I get it, we’re entitled to our feelings. But at the end of the day, they live with us. I would hate to be on their side of this. The continuous digs… at some point, we’ve got to kind of get over it and welcome them into the house a little bit.”

Her cry for civility seemed to be brushed aside, so Katie took her concerns directly to Matt. After interrupting him with a gaggle of producers, Katie shared her concerns and asked him to address the bullying in the house. Without mentioning Brittany specifically, she warned Matt that some of the rumors could “literally ruin” girl’s lives, citing the toxic mob mentality.

Matt — who was oblivious to the culture in the house — vowed to get to the bottom of it.

“The Bachelor” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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