Credit where it’s due for The Bachelor and its producers: Choosing to air Tuesday’s episode on International Women’s Day is the best gag this show has pulled in years.
We’ve known since the start of the season how Clayton Echard’s journey would end—and now, it’s finally happened. Our emotionally open Bachelor told not one, not two, but all three of his final contestants that he’s in love with them. Things went well enough for him the first two times around, but when Clayton got to his third date of the week, Susie Evans, things crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.
The episode ended with Susie sending herself home—but only after a petulant rant from the Bachelor, who might have just become one of the most hated leading men in franchise history.
“Tonight at dinner, I’m gonna tell Susie that I’m in love with her,” Clayton said as he prepared for the dinner portion of the two’s fantasy date. “There’s no doubt in my mind this is the biggest night of this entire journey.”
Mind you, this was Clayton’s third Fantasy Suites date of the week. And he’d already told Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia the same thing. So you can imagine how his face fell when Susie said over dinner that it would be “impossible” for her to get engaged to him if he’d confessed similar feelings to someone else. Or, say, slept with anyone else.
You could see the wheels turning as our Bachelor tried to figure out how to talk his way out of trouble. “I understand that thought process,” he said. “For me, I think the big thing that I’m shocked at is like, you did say to explore relationships. I thought, like, when we talked it was about saying, ‘I want you to explore, and I don’t want to be the default at the end of it.’”
After some stammering with an extremely strained look on his face, Clayton finally came out and said it: “To answer your question, yes.”
If this sounds familiar, that might be because the entire scene felt oddly reminiscent of another train wreck of a Bachelor. Just a few years ago, Peter Weber tried to smooth things over with Madison Prewett, his supposed top pick, after he ignored her wish that he decline to be “intimate” with other contestants.
Susie never actually asked Clayton to abstain from loving (or bedding) other women—a detail that seemed to ruffle our Bachelor the most throughout their tense conversation. But as she explained, she hadn’t known how strongly he felt about her or the other contestants and didn’t want to give him an ultimatum.
“I didn’t go into this assuming that it was going to be me at the end of this or even this week,” Susie told Clayton. “But I thought that certainly, if he knows… I hope that it’s Susie, I hoped that you would protect me in that.”
Clayton insisted that he was the “most” in love with Susie—a distinction he had not made previously as he professed his love for the other women during the episode. He also repeatedly told Susie that had he known this was her line in the sand, he would have behaved differently. “I ask for your forgiveness, because I don’t want to throw something away that I’m so sure about… I would hope that what we have is something that’s worth fighting for,” he said.
As the conversation dragged on, however, Clayton’s face got angrier and angrier—as did his words.
When an increasingly upset Susie got up and left the table to speak with a producer, he mimicked Colton Underwood’s infamous fence-jump with his own huffy exit from the night’s filming location, storming into the chilly Iceland night air and ranting, “I don’t believe in anything anymore. Everything is literally invalidated.”
Jesse Palmer, who stepped in as host this season after Chris Harrison’s exit last year, popped over to comfort Clayton while Susie tearfully spoke with the producer. When the two reunited to finish their discussion, however, things only got worse.
“I don’t even know who I’m looking at anymore. You just dropped a bombshell on me. And I don’t agree at all with how you went about this. I think it’s BS. I’m done.”
“I don’t even know who I’m looking at anymore,” Clayton said. “You just dropped a bombshell on me. And I don’t agree at all with how you went about this. I think it’s BS. I’m done.”
As the exes walked through the snow to the breakup car, Susie continued to try and smooth things over—but Clayton walked several feet in front of her and opened the car door as she spoke.
Rough breakups are a hallmark of the Bachelor franchise, but even by the usual standards this one was rough. Clayton said multiple times as the episode blew up that this was his exact fear—that he’d fall in love with The One only to watch her leave. But if that’s the case, and if he’d already decided Susie was That One, it’s hard not to wonder why he had so much trouble distinguishing the strength of that connection from the other two before she was sending herself home.
Put another way: How much did Clayton really have to “explore” with the other two women if, as he now insists, Susie was the only one for him all along? The Bachelor played all the greatest hits as Susie rode off into the sunset. (“It’s Over,” along with the old standby, “I’m Done.”) Susie, meanwhile, seemed surprised Clayton reacted so angrily.
“I just thought he would have had more compassion for me at the end, to be honest,” she said. “Regardless of what kind of love at this point, I just thought we would have been better at getting though that conversation kindly.”
This week’s two-night event precedes another two-night “live” finale next week. From the teasers we’ve seen all season, neither of Clayton’s other two contestants react much better to his antics than Susie did. Is there a chance our Bachelor could wind up standing in Iceland alone at the end of all this? Honestly, I wouldn’t hate that outcome at this point. After tonight’s episode, the question ousted contestant Sierra Jackson asked Clayton about his season’s ending makes a lot more sense.
“I want to know exactly who you are to act a certain way and treat these women a certain way and subject them to this kind of behavior of yours,” she told him Monday night during an unusually fiery Women Tell All reunion. “What did they do to deserve it?”