Let’s not beat around the bush. Rudi Aliza, of San Antonio, and her partner in song and romance, Matt Ranaudo, of somewhere in California, did not win The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart during last night’s season finale. At least, they did not win the top prize, whatever that is (even host Chris Harrison is being coy about the actual details of the prize package). But they managed to do something no other bachelor or bachelorette has been able to accomplish in all one million seasons of this toxic franchise: they made me feel something. As Harrison might put it, for the first time in Bachelor history, my cold, cold heart was filled with an emotion that wasn’t just rage.
You know those uncomfortable conversations we have in adulthood from time to time, the ones where you confront someone that you care about and tell them something that’s both hard to say and hard to hear? It hurts. But instead of bailing at the first sign of rejection, both parties see the conversation through honestly because you care about each other. To act any other way would be a fatal blow to the integrity of the relationship. Relationships take work, and a relationship’s longevity—whether between friends, lovers, colleagues, or anybody—is dependent on its ability to weather inevitable storms and work through these conversations.
Y’all! That happened on last night’s episode of The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart. Rudi and Matt had that conversation, and it was terrible—in the best possible way. Harrison often promises that finales are going to be the most surprising thing ever, but I really was shocked by how much Rudi and Matt’s frank semi-breakup genuinely moved me.
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For those of you who haven’t been watching, here’s what went down. Rudi and Matt were already on shaky ground, at least compared with the other couples. Chris and Bri, who ultimately won, are still dating and in it for the long haul. And Jamie and Trevor had said they loved each other. Although Rudi confessed to Matt that she was falling for him, he told her he wasn’t at that place yet. If they were in the real world, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. After all, they’ve only known each other for a few weeks. But this is Bachelor Nation, and in this hellscape you can’t continue if you don’t at least pretend to be in love.
Matt wasn’t willing to do that. So after wandering the halls of their Nashville hotel and sadly staring out of various windows, he told Rudy he just wasn’t there, meaning the vague “next level” of the relationship that Harrison had said they needed to reach. The lack of clarity was frustrating. My friend Katherine, who was watching along from the comfort of her own home, texted me: “What exactly does Matt think Chris Harrison is going to make him do at the end of this? Get married?” But the threat didn’t have to be explicit for Matt, a real human man, to get freaked out. Making it to that level of the competition means you’re accepting the “true love” box that the fandom will put your relationship into, and all of the expectations that will come with that, which will inevitably destroy your relationship.
So Matt “broke up” with Rudi, which means both of them left the show before she got to absolutely destroy the Whitney Houston song they were assigned for the final concert (“Saving All My Love for You”). But it’s clear that Matt wanted to continue some kind of relationship with Rudi after the show was over, and this awful conversation was his way of keeping things intact. Whether or not that relationship is strictly romantic, strictly professional, or some combination of the two, it’s clearly important to him. Even Rudi—who at first bargained, then cried, and ultimately saw the conversation through to a place of acceptance and respect—acknowledged from her departing Escalade that this was the most confident she’s ever been in how much Matt cares about her. It’s just not the sparkly, clean, linear (and usually bullshit) romantic narrative that Bachelor Nation rewards.
I don’t know where #Mudi stands going forward. On Twitter last night, Matt said the duo “shall play on I promise.” Rudi just tweeted that she was “really sad rn ngl.” Whether or not they still talk is for Bachelor fans more invested than I to uncover. But they’re still connected professionally, and Rudi has already been able to capitalize on that. She dropped a single during the finale last night, “I Hate LA,” about a failed romance that makes it hard for her to appreciate the city where—as Refinery 29 was quick to point out—The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart filmed the majority of its episodes. Inviting fan speculation into the real-life inspiration for your song has been extremely profitable for pop musicians in the past: Taylor Swift more or less built her career on the practice, and it’s not a coincidence that Selena Gomez’s only number one single to date is the one that everybody assumes is about Justin Bieber.
Rudi’s taking a page from that, and has a strategy for her career going forward. This is what she “won” from the reality show she subjected herself to. Plus, she has the talent and personality to turn more cynical viewers like me into forever Rudi stans. She’s in a really good spot—and that’s the ultimate power.