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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: Let the Rain Fall Down and Wake Clayton’s Dreams

If only he could go back … back to the beginning … before he met Hilary Duff, let Ziwe host an obstacle course race, or got involved with a woman who has a friend with benefits

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

For a few hours there, it felt like Cassidy had figured out the perfect strategy. Through a combination of brashness and nonchalance, she had managed to maximize her Clayton time and her screen time while avoiding participation in the tedious fluff that all Bachelor contestants must power through. She even got to have an extended conversation with Hilary Duff. Unfortunately, Cassidy made a terrible decision to “Come Clean” (absolute banger by the way), knocking herself out of contention with one of the worst unforced errors in the show’s recent history.

On this week’s first group date, in which about 10 contestants were asked to throw a party for a bunch of children who were all clearly child actors instructed to act as annoying as possible for as long as cameras were rolling. In response, Cassidy took one of the hardest anti-kid stances by a blond woman since the gold-digging stepmom in The Parent Trap. She was openly hostile to the children, telling one “I spend as little time as possible around you small people.” She did not dress up like a clown or decorate cakes or build a dollhouse. And while we’ve often heard contestants say they’re not on the show to make friends, Cassidy debuted a new line: ”I’m not here to hang streamers.” When confronted about her lack of participation by other contestants, she rightfully pointed out that “they’re not paying us.” Yes, Cassidy! Know (clap) your (clap) worth!

Instead, Cassidy focused on talking to the important people: Clayton and Hilary Duff, who Cassidy claims was her favorite artist growing up. She got in some extended makeout sessions with Clayton and let Hilary know that she held up a sign with a picture of her face on it at one of Duff’s concerts. She then proceeded to tell Hilary all about her strategy for winning Clayton’s heart—although Hilary, a self-professed Bachelor fan, didn’t seem too interested in hearing a non-famous person speak at length about reality dating show game plans:

Cassidy ended up getting the group date rose, which absolutely infuriated all of the contestants who’d been tricked into unpaid party prep. Genevieve seemed genuinely distraught that she spent an hour decorating a cake, only for Cassidy to pick it up and present it to Clayton as her own before accidentally dropping it to the ground and smashing it. Mara confronted Cassidy as well, and when Cassidy got rewarded for her lack of effort, Mara was moved to tears. But no skin off Cassidy’s back: Rose in hand, she proclaimed, “I think Cassidy might be a front-runner!”

But Cassidy made a massive blunder. She told Sierra that while she was quarantining before the show, a guy she’d casually hooked up with for a few years FaceTimed her and told her that when she’s done filming the show they should hook up and watch the season together. Suddenly armed with a “Send a Contestant Home” card, Sierra instantly snitches and tells Clayton about Cassidy’s “friend with benefits.” Distraught, Clayton then calls over Jesse Palmer to ask whether he can rescind the rose he gave to Cassidy earlier in the week. Palmer is caught off guard—he’s just two episodes into his career as The Bachelor’s host and doesn’t know all the rules yet. The episode ends as Palmer prepares to dive into The Bachelor’s rulebook—or rather, as the show’s producers decide whether keeping or ditching Cassidy would be more dramatic.

The “contestant is still hooking up with someone back home” plotline comes up on roughly half of Bachelor seasons. But accusations like this are normally anonymous hearsay. It’s rare to see a contestant foolish enough to actually admit that they are still romantically involved with somebody else while mic’d up and on camera. What were you thinking, Cassidy?!

I’ll miss Cassidy, whose time on the show will soon be “So Yesterday.” (Not as big a banger as “Come Clean,” but still.) She seemed to have the deftest strategy out there, and her success was literally driving her opponents to tears. Then she threw it all away. It’s too bad she’ll soon be watching this season on the couch with her sex pal from back home.

Worst Prop: Jesse Palmer’s Wife (Who He Didn’t Meet on The Bachelor)

At the beginning of Monday night’s episode, new host Jesse introduces himself to the contestants, who don’t seem to know who he is at first. They obviously don’t know him as the host of The Bachelor, and there doesn’t seem to be much crossover between “Bachelor contestants” and “viewers of ESPN’s College Football Final.” Also, none of them recognize him from his stint on Season 5 of The Bachelor, which aired in 2004, when this season’s contestants were as young as 6 years old.

Jesse attempts to spin his appearance as the Bachelor as evidence that The Bachelor can result in long, lasting love. “I know how this thing works,” he says, “and I know that it can work.” At this point, Cassidy—she really had a standout episode—interrupts and asks, “Are you a happily married man now?” Jesse thanks her for asking and confirms: “Yes, I am a happily married man.”

Jesse! This is a complete misrepresentation of the nature of your relationship with your wife!

Jesse is, in fact, happily married—but he did not meet his wife on his season of The Bachelor. He broke up with his season’s winner, Jessica Bowlin, slightly less than a month after his season finished airing; they are one of the shortest relationships in Bachelor history. Jesse met his actual wife at a boxing class in 2017. She apparently didn’t even realize that he had been on The Bachelor until people came up to him on a date.

Maybe Jesse is arguing that simply appearing on the show emotionally prepared him to one day find love? That feels like a stretch on his part. The wild thing is: Jesse has now brought up his current wife as evidence of the fact that The Bachelor process works twice in just two episodes! His credibility is totally eroding. Now I can’t even believe him when he says things are “dramatic.”

Worst Leaker: Clayton

A great Bachelor will go 10 full episodes without displaying any personality traits, and so far, Clayton is teaching a master class in the art. We don’t know what his hobbies are or anything about his personality. We know that he used to play football, as demonstrated by the fact that he has a football in his hotel room. I’m not even sure he knows how to formulate his own thoughts.

The second group date of Monday night’s episode featured an obstacle course overseen by the iconic Ziwe. As always happens on The Bachelor, the winner of the obstacle course was not primarily decided by superior athleticism, but rather by who could cut corners without detection. A milk-drinking portion of the course saw most contestants pour the milk on the ground, and Ziwe arbitrarily disqualified contestants whenever she felt like it. However, after the contest, Clayton approached Marlena to comment that he noticed that her running was impressive. He noted that it seemed even better than collegiate-level running, and asked whether she had ever been to the Olympics. Sure enough, Marlena won several ACC championships in the 400 meters at Clemson, and went on to represent Haiti at the 2012 Olympics, where she reached the semifinal in the 400 meters.

This means one of two things happened: Either Clayton legitimately noticed during the obstacle course (which was not, in fact, running-related) that Marlena was fast and is so keen at eyeballing the speed and form of women’s 400-meter competitors that he could tell she was an Olympic-level runner. Or a producer just told Clayton that Marlena was a former Olympian and he should work it into conversation if he found a dull moment. Ask yourself which seems more likely.

Ultimately, Clayton’s inability to turn other people’s thoughts into his own words causes conflict. For reasons that don’t quite make sense, Shanae decides to start beef with Elizabeth after the second group date by approaching Clayton and telling him that Elizabeth is “two-faced.” A man of no tact whatsoever, Clayton immediately goes over to Elizabeth and asks to talk to her, which instantly tips everybody off to the fact that Shanae had probably said something about Elizabeth to Clayton. But Clayton doesn’t tell Elizabeth the source of his information. “It’s been brought to my attention that there’s some tension between you and Shanae,” he says. “What I was told was that someone said you had been coming across as two-faced.”

It’s unclear why Clayton tried to act as if a third-party whistleblower had tipped him off, but it’s an incredibly weak attempt that fails dramatically. Much in the same way it’s clear a producer told Clayton to ask Marlena about the Olympics, it’s pretty obvious that Clayton’s words are directly out of Shanae’s mouth. After all, nobody knew Elizabeth and Shanae were beefing until Shanae got bored and decided to invent a beef with Elizabeth. Elizabeth instantly knows that Shanae bad-mouthed her to Clayton and immediately confronts Shanae. The two proceeded to get into a fight in which Elizabeth was surprisingly amicable while Shanae repeatedly made fun of her for having ADHD (It’s pretty tough to vault onto the list of “Worst Bachelor contestants ever,” but a few more jokes about another contestant’s mental health oughta get Shanae pretty high up.)

It’s clear Clayton suffers from Ron Burgundy Syndrome. If it’s on the teleprompter, he’ll say it. He’s not here to come up with thoughts for himself—the best he can do is repeat something another person tells him and pretend it’s his own idea. That makes him an almost perfect Bachelor—but he probably should avoid handling informants in witness protection.

Greatest Return: Big Daddy’s Antiques

The first group date on Monday night ended with a cocktail party at an antiques store. Fine, cute, whatever. The second group date on Monday night also ended with a cocktail party at an antiques store. But not just any antiques store …

That’s right: Big Daddy’s is back.

The Bachelor has used this random antiques store as a location for dates going all the way back to 2016. Before the show hit the road in 2020, Big Daddy’s was featured on three consecutive seasons. They weren’t able to use it while filming at resorts where the franchise could make COVID-compliant bubbles, but now that the show has returned to Southern California, it’s antique time again. “Maybe he loooves antiques,” a contestant about Clayton, apparently unaware that (1) Clayton probably does not love antiques and (2) she is appearing on a show that is obsessed with filming in the vicinity of secondhand goods.

This season, The Bachelor has celebrated its return to the mansion in multiple promos, yet it tried to sweep its repeated use of this antiques store under the rug. But real Bach enthusiasts know that both locations are essential. The show isn’t always glamorous and well-planned—sometimes, it simply needs to hope nobody notices that different fights are happening under the same kitschy advertisements and vintage lamps.