The Bachelor: 3 Women Go Home Ahead of the Rose Ceremony and Matt James Decides His Hometown Dates
Matt James also made a decision on Monday's episode about whether to keep Heather Martin around after she showed up unexpectedly
This post contains spoilers from Monday's episode of The Bachelor.
The Bachelor returned Monday following news that host Chris Harrison would temporarily step away from the franchise due to the way he responded to contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist actions. At Nemacolin Resort, Bachelor Matt James was confronted with issues he had to deal with. First and foremost: whether he should let Heather Martin, who competed on Colton Underwood's season, stay after she showed up unexpectedly.
After crashing the cocktail party and Matt's conversation with Pieper, Heather explained that she came on the show this season at former Bachelorette Hannah Brown's suggestion that Heather and Matt would make a good match. "The more I thought about it, the more I learned about who you are and your heart, I was like, 'I have to meet this guy,'" Heather told Matt. "It would kill me if I didn't try. I booked a red-eye on my own."
Matt welcomed Heather with a hug. "Obviously I've never met you but we share a similar best friend and Hannah is someone who I love and I trust and speaks very highly of you," he said. "But it's not a lot of time to make a very important decision."
As Matt took some time to ponder whether Heather should stay, she joined the group of women, who, unsurprisingly, did not give her a warm welcome. "You're just Bachelor hopping," Pieper said to Heather.
Rachael felt like, if Matt kept Heather, everything he said about being able to see his wife in the preexisting group of women would've been a lie. But Matt told Chris that Heather "checks a lot of those boxes," based on what he knew from Hannah.
Still, Matt felt confident in his connections with the other ladies. He told Heather: "Hannah wouldn't send you here without knowing that you could be someone that I could be with. And that's why this is hard for me because with where we're at, being this deep in the process, I don't know how it could work."
Heather understood, and when Matt walked her out to her minivan, she told him, "I really hope you find your person, truly."
Then Matt apologized to his remaining suitors, who sat before him on a couch. "I was just [as] caught off guard as y'all were about that. There's not going to be anyone joining this journey that's not on that couch," he assured. "My heart's here. You all give me energy and again, I wanted to apologize to you all for taking that time away from you all tonight. Pieper, I apologize. We were in the middle of a conversation and that was extremely rude and I'm sorry about that."
Matt invited Pieper to continue their conversation and the women thoroughly appreciated Matt's apology. "That was so hot," Chelsea said.
Will you accept this rose? Sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly Bachelor Nation newsletter to get the latest news on The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and everything in between!
Eventually, the time came for Matt to hand out roses. Michelle and Pieper entered the rose ceremony with roses already, and Matt chose Bri, Rachael, Serena P., Kit, Jessenia and Abigail to stick around for the final week before hometowns. That left Chelsea and Serena C. exiting.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH SERENA P.
Serena P. fared much better, receiving the week's first one-on-one date, her second of the season. For their date, she and Matt practiced tantric yoga, which Serena did not enjoy. "I just was very in my head the entire time kind of waiting for it to be over," she said in an on-camera interview.
And she told Matt as much. "I think that was a first and last for me when it comes to tantric yoga," Serena said after their yoga session. "I think I will never have to do that again."
However, Matt said he "loved" the experience. "I felt naked," he told Serena of the moment the two embraced face to face. Their differing views made Matt question in an on-camera interview whether he and Serena were "on different wavelengths in terms of our relationship."
During the evening portion of their date, though, Matt concluded that he liked that Serena felt comfortable enough to express how she truly felt. "I like you a lot and going forward I would want your family's approval," Matt said to Serena. "It would be important for me that I was someone that they would want in your life."
Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.
Serena felt ready for the next step, too. "I am falling for you and I am wanting you to meet my family," she said. "It is bizarre, but I'm ready to have you meet them. I would want that."
Matt offered Serena a rose and they ended the night ice skating. "The more I've gotten to know about her, I could 100 percent see myself falling in love with Serena," he said to cameras.
RELATED VIDEO: The Bachelor's Chris Harrison Apologizes for 'Speaking in a Manner That Perpetuates Racism
The final group date of the season consisted of Pieper, Michelle, Rachael, Bri, Kit and Abigail, who felt "defeated" for never getting one-on-one time with Matt after he gave her the first impression rose.
At the date — basically, a more intimate cocktail party — Matt encouraged all of the women to open up to him about any concerns or thoughts they were having ahead of hometown dates. First, Bri spoke with Matt about having to quit her job as a communications manager to stay on the show.
"A few days ago, I did something really big. I had to resign from my position to be here," she told Matt. "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. I knew it was going to be a really hard decision."
As the daughter of a single mom, Bri saw her mother make sacrifices all the time. "When I think about my mom being a single mom, she had to make a lot of sacrifices for me to have a better life than what she had," Bri continued. "And so my work wasn't just a job to me, it felt like a dream. But being here with you makes it feel extremely worth it."
Matt appreciated the gesture. "That you did that to be here with me is everything," he told Bri.
In an on-camera interview, Matt shared that he felt assured by Bri's commitment to him. "I've heard all I need to hear from Bri," he said. "She's here for me."
Throughout the night, Matt heard how the other women felt about him. Pieper told the North Carolina native, "I am falling in love with you and I do want you to meet my family."
Michelle shared, "I'm 100 percent committed to you."
Abigail, however, didn't feel as sure. "I think we want a lot of the same things. We kind of share a really similar perspective on life and I'm just really excited about you," she told Matt. "I was kind of thinking about it the other day of, you know, when you kind of have had the picture in your head of, okay this is what I want. You're like, okay, I want to be married, I want to have a family. I've just kind of started picturing you in that and it's scary because I can see the possibility of a future with you. I just want to know, can you see that possibility with me?"
Matt revealed that, unfortunately, he couldn't see a future with Abigail.
"It was a no-brainer that I'd give you the first impression rose and I was so comfortable in our relationship that I explored other relationships," he said. "And in exploring those relationships with other women and going on those one-on-ones, I did grow strong feelings for them. And being honest with you and following my heart, my heart's pulling me in another direction. I apologize. The last thing I want to do is lead you on and lie to you."
Matt walked Abigail to the car, and once she got in, she cried. "I just feel like I'm just constantly the person that makes men realize what they want next, but they never want that with me," she lamented to the cameras. "So, it's just a hard pill that I'm going to have to swallow."
Inside, Matt informed the other women that Abigail had left and that he didn't want "to lead anybody on."
Rachael proceeded to tell Matt that her only doubt in the process came from potentially not ending up with him. "I feel like I've been searching for what feels like my whole life for this and now I feel like I finally found it," Rachael told Matt. "But I don't know if I'm going to get it. The only worry is that I just don't get you at the end of this."
Matt assured her, "Where I'm at with you is, when I'm not around you, I'm thinking about you. And you just make me smile."
Kit wanted to find out where she stood with Matt, too, and laid out that at age 21, she didn't want to start a family just yet.
"That means being able to finish school, being able to travel and just kind of figure out my career path. So I want someone who's going to be my cheerleader and who's going to help me through all of that and who's going to kind of allow me to grow in my own right," she told Matt. "That means getting married and creating a family together, eventually, will be pushed a little longer than probably most of the other women here. I wouldn't want to have kids until I'm 25, 26. So I'm a long-term investment."
That didn't bother Matt. "I don't have this five-year growth trajectory of where I want to be," he responded. "I just want to be living life and progressing forward with the right person."
Following all of the honest conversations, Matt awarded a rose to Rachael. Then the two of them closed out the evening at a private Aloe Blacc performance of the singer's new song "I Do." "I am head over heels in love," Rachael said in an on-camera interview. "Get on one knee right now. It's a done deal."
But Matt told the cameras he hadn't yet honed in on one woman. "I don't have my mind made up by any stretch of the imagination but my head's in the right spot," he said.
When Matt arrived home from the date, Kit knocked on his door.
"After our one-on-one I said that 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 and in such a short time," she began to Matt. "And I thought I would have the clarity I needed going into hometowns but hometowns isn't a figure-it-out sort of a situation. It's a rest-of-your-life sort of situation. And you deserve somebody who is 100 percent sure about you getting down on one knee tomorrow and that's not me."
Matt protested a bit. "The fact that you're so sure of why you are and what you want, what you know, and you don't care about what other people think about you is why I'm so attracted to you and why I've been so excited to spend time with you and why I'm happy when you're around," he replied. "I like you a lot and I want you here."
But Kit stood her ground on her decision to leave. "I am unwavering in this because I know what you deserve and I know that it's the right thing for both of us," she insisted.
After Matt walked Kit out, she confessed to the cameras, "I'm scared that I'm making the wrong decision."
ONE-ON-ONE WITH JESSENIA
Jessenia scored her first one-on-one and spent the day hitting the racetrack with Matt under the direction of professional drifter Tony Angelo. The duo crashed through a bunch of obstacles and banged up the car. "If this is a glimpse into what life could be like with Matt, I couldn't ask for anything more," Jessenia told the cameras.
During the evening portion of their date, Jessenia opened up to Matt about her feelings. "As I told you night one, I came here for you and I want to be a rock for you. And with it being so close to hometowns, definitely makes it hit a little different," she said, adding, "I do want you to know that I am falling in love with you."
But Matt didn't feel the same. "There needs to be that intangible love and connection that's driving us towards an engagement and I don't think I'm there yet," Matt told Jessenia. "And knowing that you deserve unwavering love and respect and knowing that I can't give you that love right now, I can't give you this rose."
Jessenia said she felt "blindsided."
With Jessenia gone and Rachael and Serena having already received roses, that left two more spots for hometown dates. At the rose ceremony, Matt gave them to Michelle and Bri, sending Pieper packing.
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.