The Bachelor's Rachael Kirkconnell is facing the music during the After the Final Rose special.
After the graphic designer was revealed on Monday, March 15 as the winner of Matt James' season, she sat down with host Emmanuel Acho, and later with Matt himself. The conversations stemmed from resurfaced photos of Rachael attending an Antebellum plantation-themed fraternity party and the ensuing controversy that led Matt to end their relationship shortly after the season finished shooting.
When Emmanuel asked Rachael what went through her mind when seeing a photo of herself at the party, she explained that she now recognizes her previous "ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting. I never once asked myself at any point, 'What's the tradition behind this? What does this represent?'"
Rachael went on to say that she initially felt "confused" and "blindsided" when Matt called her to end their romance.
"I thought about how strong I thought our relationship was," she continued. "So for him to end things, he must have been very, very hurt by everything. It was hard, because I lost the love of my life, but in the process of that, I hurt him while doing so."
As for her current feelings, she shared, "I love him so much, and I always will. I do feel like I finally do know what real love feels like."
Matt then joined the conversation, and while he admitted it was "devastating" to see Rachael in pain, he said he wasn't prepared to wait for Rachael to take the time to learn why her actions were so harmful.
"The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset," the Bachelor said. "It broke my heart because this is the last conversation I thought we'd be having. I didn't sign up to have this conversation. And I knew that I had to take a step back for you to put in that work that you outlined that you needed to do. That's something that you gotta do on your own, and that's why we can't be in a relationship."
When Emmanuel asked whether there was a possibility for reconciliation, Matt told Rachael that the "feelings that I have for you don't go away overnight," and that he doesn't want people calling for her to be canceled. Nonetheless, Matt reiterated that the "work and the reconciliation that needs to be done is work that I can't do for you."
That led Rachael to tearfully tell Matt, "Since day one, all I want is for you to be happy, and I just want what's best for you."
During the ATFR, ABC announced that two of Matt's cast-offs, Katie Thurston and Michelle Young, will each be getting their own seasons of The Bachelorette, with both seasons scheduled to air later this year.
Former The Bachelorette leads Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams will replace Chris Harrison as the host of Katie's season, set to air during the summer. Chris, the longtime face of the franchise, announced last month he was "stepping aside" after he previously defended Rachael's off-camera actions.
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