Somewhere in the Frank Capra Ballroom at the La Quinta Resort, an ABC executive is sweating through her blazer. She strips it off and throws it across the ballroom at a PA who is sanitizing rose boutonnieres. “We can work with this. We can do this. Okay. Okay. We just have to …” She starts pacing as she watches the monitors. Clare is asking another contestant if Dale whispers her name as he falls asleep. The ABC executive starts looking at her own Big Board. She starts tapping the faces of the contestants and they light up or disappear. “So if she gives a rose to Blake M. and tells him that it really turned her on when he texted her in the middle of the night, then we can make this work.” As she frantically taps the faces on the board, Dale’s still won’t flick off. “No. No. OFF. OFF! Why won’t his face turn off? Someone get Kornacki in here! This thing is fucking busted!”
She’s not tapping the faces anymore. She’s banging her fists on the screen now. Dale’s face is somehow getting bigger?
The ABC executive snaps her head to see the PA standing behind her.
“Maybe what, you buffoon?”
The PA clears her throat and steadies herself.
“Maybe. Maybe Clare doesn’t owe us anything?”
“Hmmm … Maybe Clare doesn’t owe us anything. Not the other contestants, the show, the audience, not even you. Even though she’s been such an integral part of The Bachelor–industrial complex, she’s still a hairstylist from Sacramento who came on this show to find love, and she did that, so maybe we should just get out of her way because she doesn’t fucking owe us anything?”
The ABC executive wipes her brow and smooths her hair. She takes a step toward the PA. “First of all, you’re fired for speaking to me that way. Second of all, kiss me you beautiful genius.”
If you’re looking for some analysis where I say that Clare broke The Bachelorette or that she is the Worst Bachelorette Ever, you ain’t gonna find it because THIS WAS THRILLING. This was the most thrilled I’ve been watching an episode of The Bachelorette in a long time. Sure, it was exciting when Hannah picked up the roses and moved them six feet away from Luke P., but this? This was sustained, long-lasting, call-your-doctor-if-an-erection-lasts-for-more-than-four-hours level of spectacular television. Honestly, this idea that Clare is a bad Bachelorette is fucking laughable. She got it done in a third of the time. Are you seriously telling me that someone walking out of there with a fiancé in three episodes isn’t ending up with her name in the Bachelorette Hall of Fame? This bitch is the Usain Bolt of finding love. And any criticism that she “did it wrong” supports the idea that following the script of the show is more important than actually trying to accomplish the goal of the show. She won! She won the television program! She did the thing we all want her to do! IN A THIRD OF THE TIME! She’s got the cheat codes! She beat the final boss!
As far as this episode goes, there really wasn’t much drama. None of the other contesticles put up much of a fight, and any criticism they had of her walked a fine line of entitlement and disappointment. This show operates at its finest when we get to see a love story. Usually that love story really unfolds from the hometown visits onward, with the lead finally allowing themselves to actually devote some time to the person they’re interested in and explore that relationship. By the hometown visits, anyone who was there to peddle a T-shirt or juice cleanse is definitely gone. But this season, we watched that from the moment Dale stepped out of the limo. We got four thick and juicy episodes of Clare falling in love. There weren’t any episodes of Clare going through the motions with someone named … I wanna say Cherp? Tonight ended with them on a happy couple visit doing the Dirty Dancing lift. If you don’t like that, maybe you hate love. Yeah, I fucking said it.
Plus … we got TAYSHIA. Fucking MEGABABE with a MEGAWATT SMILE. YES, YES, YES, GIVE IT TO ME. INJECT TAYSHIA WEARING THAT GOLD DRESS INTO MY FUCKING VEINS.
Let’s get to it.
The episode starts with the guys positively melting down in their summertime-casual outfits while Clare just scribbles “Mrs. Dale Moss” in her journal. The guys can tell that something is up and most of them are pissed that she’s not being honest. Uh … dudes, based on your reaction later in this episode, you don’t actually want her to be honest, do you? You just want her to tell you that you’re her favorite and that the Backstreet Boys cover band you manage is going to totally book Ribfest.
Chris Harrison comes in and is wildly unprepared to have a Tough Talk with the lead. He keeps asking her to “just be honest, no bullshit.” He’s trying so hard to be the good cop and the bad cop. Chris Harrison doesn’t even rise to the level of a good cop or a bad cop; he’s barely a security guard at J.C. Penney.
Clare finally gives up the game and says that she’s falling in love with Dale. She admits that once the show had to go into quarantine, she started Instagram stalking Dale. Oh, man, I love it. Who hasn’t Googled a guy before a date, discovered he wrote a really cool academic paper, read the whole thing, and tried to slip it into conversation on the date so he’d think you were smart? But then you realized that in order to do that, you’d need to do a little more reading to have some context about the topic in case he asked you some follow-ups. So then you read a couple of the papers he cited in his paper? Y’know? That thing?
Chris Harrison turns an armchair backward and says, “Did you two talk before the season, and um … don’t … um … fuck with me?” Clare says she never slid into his DMs or anything. It was all just the irrational response of love at first sight. Well, that and the fact that Dale also lost a parent and has a sister who is in a care facility. Clare let herself be completely convinced that Dale was going to be the guy for her and their physical chemistry confirmed it. Then he was just not a dick to her and affirmed her feelings and boom! She’s in love.
She’s crying. Chris Harrison is crying. I’m having a great fucking time. She didn’t break the season by throwing a fit or being cruel. She did something even stupider: She fell in love with a guy eight years her junior in three weeks. Bless you, Clare. You did what none of us had the bravery to do.
So now what? Chris Harrison still has to get his amazing line off: “Congratulations, you’ve just blown up The Bachelorette.” Clare decides that all she wants is to spend as much time with Dale as possible. She needs to figure out if he feels the same way.
From this point on, no one stops her from doing anything she wants. No one on production fucks with her. She just gets to do it! For all the turmoil and hand-wringing leading up to the season, this all unfolds pretty predictably. There’s not even a talking head from Dale about him having doubts. It was the last 20 minutes in your favorite romantic comedy. If the lead is running through the airport or finding their way backstage at the Big Concert, they’re ending up together. So let’s fucking enjoy it.
Chris Harrison decides to communicate all of this information in the most opaque way possible. He sits all the guys down and tells them that they all have to sit quietly and think about what they did, but Dale gets to have three marshmallows and eat them in front of everyone else. The rest of the contesticles are also so dumb. If the guy you all think is the front-runner is getting pulled aside and there’s no rose ceremony, he’s getting special attention. There’s no principal’s office. There’s only Clare’s bedroom.
Clare is waiting for Dale in an amazing red lace and sequin dress next to the resort’s recycling drop-off. She’s finally getting her one-on-one date with Dale, and she’s going to tell him how she feels. She tells him that she sees the same qualities in him that she saw in her dad. What is with these Bachelorettes and their deceased dads? Just once, I’d love to see one of these Bachelorettes say, “You’re similar enough to my dad that I feel comfortable around you, but there’s enough personality deviation that I’m not worried about you repeating the toxic dynamics of my childhood.”
Dale is … hard to read. He’s just staring at her with those cheekbones and manages to squeak out, “I would like to get to know you better. What are your parents like?” He avoids blinking too much so he doesn’t subconsciously signal that he’s in love with her too early. Clare explains that her parents met, her dad hitchhiked possibly across the country, and they were married three weeks later. Dale’s parents met at a basketball clinic, because of course they did, and his dad hitchhiked to see his mom. These people are way too into their parents’ relationships, but both of these stories have obviously drilled into them that making a BIG GESTURE VERY EARLY is going to lead to a 40-year marriage. This is romantic-comedy logic, folks. Our brains have been addled by Hallmark movies and the oeuvre of Drew Barrymore.
Clare finally exhales and puts on her baby voice and tells him in one 200-word sentence that she’s falling in love with him. He’s the first person she thinks about in the morning and the last person she thinks about when she falls asleep. She loves that he wears his loafers without socks. She loves the way Dale takes 30 minutes to order a salad. He had her at “hello.” She knows she seems an insane person, but sometimes things are so transparent, they don’t need evidential proof.
Dale very diplomatically says that his heart is open and he’s not going to fight how he feels, and says that he’s been falling in love with her … during this process. They make out an alarming amount and Dale says, “It is what it is!” Clare says, “What is happening?” Dale says, “Life! Love!” Written by Nora Ephron.
They head to another part of the resort and stumble upon Bri and Chris from The Bachelor Presents Colon Listen to Your Heart. They get serenaded while continuing to make out aggressively. The rest of the contesticles still think Dale is in trouble. They head to Clare’s hotel suite for a night of passion. When they wake up they have that conversation that anyone who has ever slept with a co-worker has: “What did we do? What are we gonna tell people? Do you want to do it again?” The answer to those questions are: “Banged all night; take a lie-detector test so they don’t think we talked before the season; and yes, while the dogs watch.” Dale also thinks they’re going to finish the season. You sweet, gentle Spirit Halloween model. Chris Harrison visits Clare again to find out if everything went according to plan. Clare tells Chris Harrison that in every relationship she’s been in before, the moment she opened up to a guy or asked him to commit, he would run away, and Dale didn’t do that. She knew she couldn’t hesitate anymore when it came to grabbing her person.
Then Chris Harrison tells her that a proposal is next. Are you fucking kidding me? We don’t have to do this. They’re maybe 12 days into this relationship. There are so many ways to commit to your love without a proposal. One of them is to say they’re going to be exclusive with each other. Romantically and dramatically define the relationship. Post your relationship status on Facebook together. Get a set of mugs that says “Khal” and “Khaleesi.” Plus, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if we have to end the show with a proposal, LET CLARE PROPOSE. She’d probably do it.
But before any of that can happen, Clare has to break up with, like, 17 dudes, and I still have to wait for many of their chyrons to come up on the screen to know their names. Clare tells them that she’s found the love of her life and she got what she came for and that’s Dale. Who could be surprised? Whomst! The men are silent. After collecting their thoughts and seeing their opportunity to become influencers slip away before their eyes, most of the guys express that they’re bummed but they want what’s best for Clare. BUT NOT BLAKE M. He tells her that he knows she’s going to end up hurt. “How can you be so sure so quick!” Blake M., you don’t know what’s best for her, and if you’re trying to set up a situation where she could come crawling back to you once she ends up brokenhearted, chastising her when she’s at her happiest is the wrong move.
ALSO KENNY CHIMES IN. He asks if she talked to Dale before the season, and then asks Clare to apologize to the group. Say what, my good bitch? Clare says she will NOT apologize for love! She also says, “For what?” which is amazing and hilarious. He says she should apologize for wasting their time and faking it with all of them. She was in love with Dale on the first night. Hey, buddy? She doesn’t owe you anything. She was going to break up with all of you except one person. Plus, most Bachelorettes pick the guy they give their first-impression rose to. She’s been faking it with all of you for a while. It says a lot about you that you couldn’t tell before now. I’ll have what she’s saying. Romantic-comedy logic. She gets a few hugs from the guys and heads out into the sunset.
Chris Harrison calls Neil Lane, who drops in via helicopter to give Dale the ring. Clare heads to the brunch patio for the final rose ceremony. Chris Harrison tells her he’s proud of her, and that was very sweet.
Dale meets Clare by the omelet station and it’s time for the moment of truth. Will Dale propose to Clare? OF COURSE HE WILL. There’s a moment during his proposal where I wasn’t sure if he knew her last name, but he powers through. This whole proposal has “we are contractually obligated to do this and we’ll figure out how we feel about this later” energy. Clare says yes and tells him not to get up until she’s put the ring on her finger. She’s waited a long time for this. (Wasn’t she also engaged to Benoit?) One thing that’s encouraging is Dale says, “This was already exciting, but now we get to put in the work.” Clare won. She fucking won.
The next morning, the guys are packing up their bags when Chris Harrison tells them that if they choose, their journey isn’t over. They should meet him wearing their best suit and a great attitude because they’re going to get a second chance. Also, because Chris Harrison has no script for how this part is supposed to go, he ends up suggesting that they all got cheated out of a chance at love? Did they? Did they all? There seems to be some sentiment brewing that Clare fucked up and now all the guys have to move on from her bad behavior to be open to love again. Jason expressed a feeling to her and she didn’t marry him! She’s a monster!
All of the guys choose to show up for the cocktail party and the limo arrives, and out walks TAYSHIA in a green-gold dress. Let’s fucking do this.
To be continued …