It may not have been the most dramatic season finale ever, but Matt James' last episode as The Bachelor certainly yielded some surprising twists and turns.
For starters, we learned that Matt and Rachael Kirkconnell have broken up, a development that received a very mixed response from the denizens of Bachelor Nation.
On top of that, guest host Emmanuel Acho (filling in for the exiled Chris Harrison) revealed that for the first time in franchise history, two Bachelorettes have been cast at the same time:
Yes, Katie Thurston and Michelle Young will both assume the role of rose-master general in 2021, with Katie clocking in first (her season is currently filming in New Mexico), and Michelle picking up the mantle in June.
(Michelle is still a schoolteacher, after all, and we respect her for continuing to shape the young minds of Minnesota.)
So right now, it seems that the schedule for the remainder of the year is as follows:
Katie's season, followed by Bachelor In Paradise (which is actually happening!), followed by Michelle's season.
After that, we assume the men will take over again, and the speculation among fans seems to be that we're in for two back-to-back seasons of The Bachelor in 2022.
Yes, it's a long way off, but it's never too early to start making guesses about which lucky gents will be handing out roses next year.
And already, two front-tunners have emerged as the odds-on favorites.
First, we have Ivan Hall who made it all the way to Tayshia Adams' final four.
Fans fell hard for the literal rocket scientist, but he and Tayshia parted ways over their religious beliefs ... or lack thereof.
Tayshia is a devout Christian (which seems to be requriement for Bachelor Nation stardom -- sort of weird for a franchise where stars are encouraged to have sex with different people on consecutive nights), while Ivan describes himself as agnostic.
There was a time when producers might have considered that a deal-breaker, but in this new, more inculsive version of The Bachelor, a non-believer like Ivan might pass inspection.
Next up on the list of fan favorites is Ben Smith.
Ben also stood out from the pack in Tayshia's season, making it all the way to the hometown round (where it was revealed that he's friends with celebrity chef Antonia LoFaso!) before being eliminated.
Smith is an Army vet who's had a difficult past that included an eating disorder and two suicide attempts.
Ben earned praise for his candor, and calls for him to be cast as the next Bachelor began immediately after Tayshia handed him his walking papers.
These days, it seems that Bachelor producers are more receptive to fan feedback than ever before.
Perhaps they learned their lesson after casting the likes of Colton Underwood and Peter Weber, both of whom turned out to be duds.
And with the precedent set by Katie and Michelle, producers now have the option of pleasing both Team Ivan and Team Ben by announcing both leads on the same day.
Seems like an obvious decision to us -- but then again, this is a franchise that prides itself on surprises.