Congrats to Clare Crawley, Speedrun Champion of The Bachelorette.
Speedrunners are gamers who make it their lifelong mission to defeat games as quickly as possible. The goal is not to become the best player of a game—I highly recommend this absolutely fascinating 37-minute video explaining the quest to play the fastest round of Wii Sports Resort Golf, in which players are devastated if they hit holes-in-one because it triggers a brief replay animation. Instead, Speedrunners deconstruct the games they master, highlighting the quirks and glitches accidentally left in the game by their creators and utilizing them in a quest to do what they want as quickly as possible—which is pretty much what Clare did this season.
In just four episodes, Clare has beaten The Bachelorette, finding her man and accepting his proposal. It was pretty clear from the beginning—and unsurprising, if you’d read any spoilers—that she had eyes for only Dale, and now they’re engaged. On Thursday night’s episode, she admits that she doesn’t care about anybody else on the show, and ditches the Bachelorette Bubble with her new man.
Surprisingly, this unprecedented episode is stunningly straightforward and drama-free. Dale, as he always does, smiles and agrees with whatever Clare says. When he’s given an ultimatum by Chris Harrison that he must propose to Clare that night—as if there are any rules anymore—he simply smiles and then does it. Chris Harrison FaceTimes celebrity jeweler Neil Lane (to make sure celebrity jeweler Neil Lane gets his mandated on-screen appearance, pandemic protocols be damned); the rest of the men briefly talk to Clare, and remain generally courteous even though she’s dumping them and potentially ruining their chance at television fame; they all pretend to be bummed about losing Clare, and then immediately get excited about meeting their Replacement Bachelorette, Tayshia.
The only mild source of drama in the episode—trailers for which were extremely misleading—comes when the rejected men grouse about how Clare is making her decision too quickly. How could she decide in just a few short weeks that she’s in love with somebody? And, I mean, fair. Clare has spent only a few short hours with Dale at this point. Here are a few things she probably doesn’t know about him:
- His favorite movie
- His favorite genre of movie
- Whether he likes movies
- Sex stuff???
- Whether he acts like a normal person when watching his favorite sports team
- How neat or slovenly he is
- What types of foods he likes
- Whether he treats waiters nicely or gives bad tips
- Whether he’s genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap
I can’t imagine falling in love with someone without knowing this sort of stuff. But then again, it’s not like you would necessarily find out all this stuff on a full season of The Bachelorette, which mainly consists of traveling the world while splitting your time between dozens of suitors. Even in a typical season, the winner spends only a few hours on a handful of dates with their person. The guys who are criticizing Clare’s method are the same ones who have allegedly dedicated themselves to a process with an abysmal romantic batting average. (We are down to five active couples from 39 combined seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, seven if we count the two guys who are still with their runners-up.)
Plus, Clare feels like she knows Dale—because, as she finally admits in a sit-down conversation with Chris, she checked out everybody’s social media before the show, and became infatuated with Dale’s looks and vibes before the show even started. (She swears she didn’t have any communication with him, despite plenty of rumors to the contrary.) It’s a breach of the way the show is supposed to work, but so is seemingly everything else Clare has done. And quite frankly, the Bachelorette should get to look at her guys’ social media accounts before dating them. Would you date somebody in 2020 without googling them? It’s an ideal way to learn how a potential romantic partner presents themselves to the world, and provides a sense of what they’re into and what they’re about. (And it lets you see whether they have any Bad Tweets, which has historically been a problem for Bachelorette men.)
Clare showed that she didn’t need the whirlwind world tour or the months of high-drama rose ceremonies to find love. She just needed a phone and a few in-person meetups—you know, like how normal people in the real world do it. (Maybe she wanted to cut to the chase because this weird season didn’t involve any potential trips to Italy.) Considering how ridiculously unsuccessful The Bachelorette and its associated franchises are at actually producing happy couples, Clare’s success could be a rebuke of the entire Bachelor franchise.
The show’s purpose is hypothetically to help its leads find love. But what makes it entertaining is all the stunts and the gimmicks. Clare, though, just proved what us normal people already knew—that people can fall in love pretty easily without any stunts or gimmicks. And so the show had an awkward choice: Should it celebrate Clare for taking the shortcut to the show’s stated goal? Or should it burn her for disproving the entire premise of the show?
If I were in charge of the show, I would’ve burned her. Clare has become famous through The Bachelor franchise, appearing on four shows as a contestant (The Bachelor, two stints on Bachelor in Paradise, the one-off spinoff Bachelor Winter Games) and now as the Bachelorette on The Bachelorette. When a pandemic came and dismantled society, the show quickly reworked things so Clare could have her time to shine, making backup plans and building a bubble featuring hundreds of employees. All Clare had to do for them to make a TV show was pretend to be interested in the guys—and instead she broke the rules and picked her guy before the show really started, forcing another complete reworking of things.
But Clare gets a pretty good edit. The show really tried to sell her love journey, even trying to explain that she was motivated to find her guy quickly because she’s older than the usual Bachelorette and knows what she wants. She got four episodes; I would’ve tried to get her out of there in one. There’s a moment at the end of tonight’s episode when Clare is waiting for Dale to come in and propose to her, and Chris Harrison pulls her aside and says “I have to tell you something” in the voice that generally implies doom. Instead, he just tells her, “I am so proud of you.” A pretty good send-off for someone who, best-case scenario, disproved the entire premise of the show. Long may her speedrun record reign.
Biggest Winners: The 16 Clare Survivors
Left in Clare’s wake are the 16 guys who hadn’t been eliminated yet. Clare did Tayshia some favors by weeding out some red flags (Yosef, yikes), but she also sent some guys home who may have had better luck with a more process-oriented lead.
On the other hand, though, all of these guys are now in a weird spot. Hypothetically, Clare chose these guys because they were suited for her—and now they must bond with Tayshia. Some of the guys are pumped. Kenny seems legitimately thrilled to be rid of Clare. He’s the guy who nearly organized a wildcat strike to protest Clare’s actions in the last episode, and in Thursday night’s episode, he aggressively grills both Clare and Chris Harrison about the Dale debacle. (Are we sure this guy is a boy band manager and not a prosecutor?) Zac is less worried about losing Clare and more worried the new girl won’t be hot—he explains that “physical attraction is important to me.”
But others seem pretty upset about Clare’s departure. Jason, the lone contestant who had a one-on-one date with Clare and didn’t get eliminated, says he established a firm connection on that date, and confided in Clare things he hadn’t told other people. (He said his parents maybe shouldn’t be together on national TV, and now the girl who got him to say it is gone!) Blake, the Canadian who reached out to Clare before the show started, is definitely torn up aboot things, and tells Clare he doesn’t think her relationship with Dale will work.
They’re walking an odd line, simultaneously complaining that Clare and Dale couldn’t possibly fall in love so quickly, while also worrying that they won’t be able to move on from their seriously established relationships with Clare. In the end, all 16 guys show up to meet Tayshia, and I have a feeling they’ll mostly do just fine. In these uncertain times, it’s heartening to see such a peaceful transition of power.
Biggest Surprise: Bri and Chris
Quarantine has screwed up my perception of time. I alternate between thinking it’s still April and thinking that I’ve been in quarantine for 50 years. It doesn’t help that I’m recapping The Bachelorette, a show that typically airs between May and August, in between watching football and the 39th consecutive day of election results. (I’m being told it has actually been only three days of election results.)
A prime example of this: During Thursday night’s episode, Dale and Clare are serenaded by Bri and Chris, the couple that “won” The Bachelor Presents: Listen To Your Heart, a show built around the premise that you can find love with a musical partner. That show ran in April and May. I watched all six episodes with my girlfriend (who begged week after week to stop watching the show) and recapped all of them for this website. And from the time I filed my last recap until the moment Bri and Chris appeared on screen Thursday night, I completely forgot that the show had ever existed or that I had ever watched it. I faintly recall it now—one guy did awful singing faces, and I think every single couple had to sing “The Bones” by Maren Morris at some point—but if pressed, I would’ve guessed that it aired in 2014.
When Bri and Chris won the show, they were promised a nationwide tour as a reward. They got onto a tour bus as the closing credits rolled ... and then a pandemic killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and prevented any and all musical acts from doing live performances for the foreseeable future. So instead of the tour, I guess Bri and Chris’s big prize was … having to quarantine at this resort in Palm Springs so they could sing a single song for Clare and Dale. I wonder whether it’s been the longest or shortest six months of Bri and Chris’s lives, although I’m still not sure for myself.
Sweetest/Most Confusing Moment: Dale’s and Clare’s Hitchhiking Parents
While Clare and Dale are certainly good at saying they’re in love with each other and looking extremely attractive next to each other, their conversations are still weird and stunted. At the end of the episode, we see a snippet of their post-show lives, when Dale excitedly compliments Clare on “cooking” a salad that, upon further investigation, is actually just a bowl of unadorned romaine lettuce.
At the big sit-down dinner when Clare and Dale exchange their love vows, Clare tells a story about how her parents met exactly one time before her dad decided he needed to be with her mom, promptly hitchhiking over to surprise her mom with a proposal. Dale begins telling his own story of how his parents met—and eventually explains that his dad, too, hitchhiked across Nebraska to meet his mom.
I don’t want to immediately discount this incredible coincidence of lovestruck hitchhiking dads. While I’ve never hitchhiked, or picked up a hitchhiker, or, to the best of my knowledge, seen a hitchhiker, I do get the sense that it was more common to hitchhike back in the day before cell phones existed. But I kinda think Dale is just plagiarizing Clare’s story in hopes of further connecting with her.
Clare and Dale are meant to be together, as the products of hitchhiking-based romances. I really do think they’re in love with each other, and I give them a better chance of succeeding than all the couples who were made by someone picking one of two people left standing after a three-month vacation. But I’m also glad I don’t have to watch them talk to each other for another eight episodes.