AKRON, Ohio — Akron's Michael Allio captured the hearts of Bachelor Nation on the latest episode of 'The Bachelorette' while opening up to Katie Thurston about the loss of his wife, and winning his third rose at the end of a coveted one-on-date.
Michael, 37, was selected for some alone time with the leading lady after the second rose ceremony was televised, where he formally received Katie's invitation to stay in the running for her love.
Of course, fans knew he wasn't going anywhere even before episode three started on Monday night, because preview clips for episode showed the two sharing a kiss in the desert, alongside a dune buggy.
It was after that romantic outdoor adventure that Michael opened up to Katie over dinner about losing his first love, Laura, to breast cancer in January 2019, which she was diagnosed with just seven months after the birth of their son, James.
“I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m ready to open up my heart,” Michael told Katie while they ate, before heading outside to stargaze. “I look at it as what a gift to be able to fall in love twice.”
Much like adoring fans of the franchise, Katie was enamored with the single father of 4-year-old James, saying to camera, through tears after their date:
“Tonight Michael and I went to a whole other level together and the way he spoke about love was just beautiful."
Earlier in the date, over glasses of champagne in the desert, Michael said that while people often say they hope their turn on 'The Bachelorette' ends in an engagement, "an engagement is where it starts," and that it's just the beginning from there.
Franchise fans and regulars, including Nick Viall who appeared in the episode to lead an ad hoc 'group therapy' style-session on Katie's group date, almost immediately started calling for Michael to be the next 'Bachelor,' if he doesn't end up on bended knee asking for Katie's hand in marriage at the end of this season.
Following his vulnerability on screen, Michael's social media following has grown overnight to nearly 15,000 followers on Instagram and counting, with fans commenting to show their support and sharing how touched they were by his openness and willingness to pursue love again.
The L4 Project is a "mission-driven apparel brand whose profits are given to individuals and organizations whom quietly serve others and enhance the community around them." The company is a passion project sparked by the death of Michael's wife, Laura. L4, according to the brand's Facebook account, stands for "Live Life Like Laura."
Katie shared a post from the L4 account to her 686,00 followers on her Instagram story, reminding women to do self-checks and advocate for their medical well-being, with the stark statistic that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes.
Before the season began, Michael's bio on 'The Bachelorette' website introduced him as a man who is now ready to find love after loss and is looking for "a witty woman with a funny bone and a self-deprecating sense of humor," and someone who "has strong convictions and stands up against ignorance."
You can tune in to watch Michael continue to woo Katie on this season of "The Bachelorette," every Monday night at 8 p.m. on ABC.