“Thank you both so much for coming in. I want to thank you both for taking time out of your busy day because it isn’t always easy. Let me start by saying we are really encouraged by Clayton’s progress. He’s getting really great at doing and undoing buttons. Almost too good, in fact. But still, that is a milestone reached. What we’re more concerned about is that your son is … how do I say this …”
“He’s a complete fucking schmuck with little to no regard for other people and his extreme desire for external validation leads him down emotional paths and has him making promises that are completely untenable because he’s unable to see or consider a universe beyond himself and his desire to never lose publicly is so powerful he ignores any and all advice he receives?”
“Well … I’ll be damned. Yes. Yes, that’s it. Um … and the fact that he keeps throwing away half-full milk cartons and when he tosses them in the trash can, it splashes the other kids.”
“Oh gosh, that won’t happen again.”
Let’s get to it.
Before we go any further, though: I thought that a petri dish of moss connected to a set of electrodes that conducts enough energy to mimic an EEG could host this show, because the previous “host” did nothing. I realize now there is a level below nothing, and that level is Jesse Palmer. We gotta get somebody in there with some personality. I don’t care if they’re a wild card; that’s extremely preferable to this. What’s Katt Williams doing?
But an even bigger issue is the Bachelor Cinematic Universe has got to stop installing leads who have never made it to Hometowns. I’m sure there’s some example from years gone by, but my mind can only hold eight big buff boys and nine sponcon babes looking for romance in my head at a time. If it happened before I started recapping this show, you’re wrong, no it didn’t. Three of the last four leads haven’t made it to Hometowns, and they’ve all been rough seasons. There are plenty of reasons why a contestant who hasn’t made it to the high-stakes moments of the show is a bad fit for the lead: lack of empathy for their contestants, unrealistic expectations, being a simple and naïve child who’s easy to trick. And each of those is a terrible flaw that we’ve seen in recent leads, but I think this type of lead’s real downfall is their desire to prove themselves.
Katie’s desire to prove herself more intelligent and levelheaded than everyone else ultimately led to her crying on a bathroom floor in New Mexico. Matt James’s desire to prove that he’s different from his father and his mother’s ultimate protector led to him being utterly confused about what was asked of him in the role (and to taking back a woman who attended antebellum-themed parties after loudly denouncing her). And now we’re here with Clayton’s need to prove himself desirable and capable of Doing a Relationship, resulting in a lead who’s willing to “play the game” set out by production if they tell him he’ll get a Lady Prize at the end.
The lead having no mission beyond “date 30 people, travel to some European country you’ve never heard of, and bang one to two hotties” strips all the romance and passion and, honestly, JOY out of the season. It can feel like an endless slog, like watching someone do a series of Wordles in an alien language that does not use our alphabet. You do not possess the tools nor the skills to get this task done, and I feel like a win would mean nothing to you.
And any momentum we got toward this season just ending already was completely undermined by Clayton trying to figure out how to undo any rejection he experienced. Gabby won’t accept the rose! “Can I ask you to take it day by day?” Clayton’s family knows what he should do and tells him! Repeatedly! To his face! “It’s a little bit more special with Susie.” Goddamn it! Let’s just examine each part of this nightmare and think about what fresh hell might be next.
First up is Clayton sitting alone in a church where an Icelandic choir sings him the song of his own death. This was perfect. Incredible imagery. No notes.
Next up is the Rose Ceremony from hell. The horror on Gabby and Rachel’s faces as they realize Susie isn’t coming was like two people realizing that the phones are dead and the killer is inside the house. Then Emotional Pennywise himself appears to explain to Rachel and Gabby that yes, he told all three women he loved them; yes, he had sex with everyone; and yes, he is a naughty, naughty boy and you should punish him. Rachel is full shook. Gabby’s mouth is completely agape. Clayton tells the women that he promised to be completely transparent and he’s ready to answer whatever questions they have, like he’s a CEO announcing a recall.
Rachel can’t look at him and Gabby just walks off. She’s fucking pissed. Rachel walks down the stairs and apparently this big glass hall is one of those museum exhibits where you can whisper in a corner and through the magic of acoustics, it can be heard at full volume across the room. Rachel’s sobs are ringing out throughout the room while Jesse is calling Clayton “brother” and offering no useful advice.
THINGS ARE FALLING APART. Rachel loses a nail! She needs to unzip the neck of her dress! Gabby is pacing around the room! Gabby is preparing a line of questioning so devastating I don’t know how anyone recovered!
Gabby talks to Clayton first and she takes him apart during cross-examination. She tells him that when she encouraged him to explore every relationship, she didn’t mean to fall deeply in love. She doesn’t know how to rationalize what he’s telling her and the potential that she goes home. Here Clayton commits a sin by revealing his metric for choosing his fiancée: He’s taken each of their pictures and placed one bean for every unit of love he feels. Completely normal. Gabby says that Clayton hadn’t considered what it might be like for her to walk out of here without him and where is her love supposed to go? HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND BECAUSE HE’S NEVER BEEN THROUGH IT. He basically says that this will all work out for everyone because he’ll walk out of here with his one true love. Gabby says, “This is bullshit.”
Clayton goes to find Rachel, and … did anyone else get the sense that Clayton was working a lot harder to get Rachel to stay than he was to get Gabby to stay? He tells her he loves her, he tells her what they have is worth fighting for, and he asks her to trust him. Rachel seems to receive the message that he’s very into her and it’s all going to work out for her and she’s so in love with him. I want better for everyone involved.
It’s time for the roses to be handed out, and Rachel accepts her rose with a hug — c’mon, girl — and Gabby refuses Clayton’s rose. RACHEL IS FULLY SHOCKED. Rachel is realizing that she wants someone that nobody else wants. I’m not saying you should want other people to be going after your partner, but if everyone who meets them goes, “Well, as long as he makes you happy …,” you’re going to start to question some things.
Gabby continues to completely decimate Clayton by explaining that she’s not competing for his love. I mean, she kind of has been up until this point, but I get what she’s saying. Hearing the guy you’re competing for admit that he’s going to sit back and watch the drama unfold and just decide to give it to whoever has the most points in the end is demoralizing. What woman doesn’t want to hear that your boyfriend has compartmentalized his feelings for you! No! You want to hear a romantic declaration of love! An ode! A sonnet! Something that would be inside one of the really Jesus-y Hallmark cards! Gabby says it best when she says that the intention, volition, and excitement has been taken out of her week and Clayton’s “I love you” because he said it to two other women.
Listen, I drew a decent amount of heat in various corners of the internet when I said Clayton was right in his breakup with Susie. And I stand by the fact that Clayton is allowed to sleep with whomever he wants and he’s even allowed to fall in love with multiple people. But Clayton wants to do those things without any regard for anyone else’s feelings. The reasons some leads decide to hold back the I Love You is to prevent exactly what’s happening now. The reason some leads don’t sleep with everyone in the fantasy suites is to avoid exactly what’s happening now. And despite everything Clayton is saying about wanting the women to give him constructive feedback, the only thing he can tell anyone is, “I didn’t intend to cause turmoil and I don’t want to hurt anyone.” How did you think this would go, buddy? This dum-dum has such intense Main Character Syndrome that he’s convinced that everyone would be most invested in his happiness and his intentions are more important than his impact.
Gabby is somehow convinced by Clayton telling her they’re going to take it day by day (for the next two and a half days), but she does tell the camera that she was ready to go. Everyone accepts their roses.
Up next is a quick return to the studio to hear from a few former Bachelors and Bachelorettes who have just watched what the fuck has happened. Speed round! Clare? “This is cringey.” Nick? “He told Susie he loved her most!” Michelle? “Handle with care!”
Now, IT’S TIME TO MEET HIS FAMILY?!? Why?! Imagine, just imagine finding out your boyfriend just banged two other women on your romantic weekend away and now you have to go meet his parents?!? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING???
Why is Clayton smiling so much when he meets his family? Clayton should be collapsing in his mother’s arms and begging for forgiveness, but Isn’t This a Nice Airbnb? Everyone is too happy for what is about to happen. Clayton explains his situation to his family, and his dad is so pissed. Clayton really screwed the pooch! His dad says that these women don’t want to be second or third; they want to be first. Petition for Clayton’s dad to host The Bachelor after this. Clayton says he wants his parents to ask them the tough questions. Bitch, what are you even fucking talking about? You should be spending today thanking Baby Jesus in heaven that these two women are even entertaining being with you. Fuck meeting the parents. Take these women on a spa day!
Both women are excited to meet his family for some fucking reason, because like all of us, they believe things are going back to normal soon. Readers, they will not.
After Clayton sends Rachel and Gabby back to their Icelandic hotels, he sits down with his family again and is pissed that none of them are aware of the concept of something he calls “A Susie” and how he should throw everything away to go find one of these Susies. Clayton, you just put Rachel in the car. You literally put one girlfriend in the car, came back inside, and said, “There’s another third girlfriend who doesn’t want me and has possibly left the country and that’s what … er … who I want.” Clayton’s family is so tired of his bullshit. Clayton’s mom literally goes, “Clayton. She left you.” Clayton’s response is “it’s not that straightforward.” Clayton says that he stopped listening and Susie was willing to talk. She was willing to talk, but she wasn’t willing to change her mind. Upon hearing that Clayton can be manipulated further, Jesse materializes to tell him that Susie hasn’t left Iceland …
Finally, we get some advice from some more Bachelor Nation alumni. Another speed round! Kaitlyn? “Dear God. Don’t fuck this up.” Rodney? “Dear God. Don’t fuck this up.” Cassie?!?!?! “Susie. Run.”
See you tomorrow for the Final Finale and the New Bachelorette!!