Clayton is not exactly a great decision-maker. Already this season, he has tweeted an apology for a decision (picking Shanae over Elizabeth) and immediately rescinded another one (giving a rose to Cassidy). And on Monday night, when he has to make an obvious choice on a two-on-one date between Shanae and Genevieve, he becomes so flustered that he has to walk away for several minutes and leave the two of them stewing. He is also constantly calling upon the show’s new host, Jesse Palmer, for advice and/or clarity on the show’s rules, including an instance on Monday night when he sought out Jesse to deal with the show’s newest beef. Luckily, Jesse is delivering.
Monday night’s feud is a pretty typical old-versus-young beef between Mara and Sarah. (Thank goodness there are no Karas, Laras, or Taras—that Royal Rumble would be impossible to commentate.) Thirty-two-year-old Mara is the oldest contestant left on the show; Sarah is the youngest at 23. We pretty much know who is going to prevail between them—at this point, 28-year-old Clayton has eliminated 20 of the 24 contestants aged 26 or older (that’s 83 percent) while four of the five contestants aged 25 or younger (that’s 80 percent) are still standing. Mara may have a point when she thinks Clayton is unfairly prioritizing younger women … but that’s probably not going to make him stop.
Mara and Sarah’s feud was hinted at last episode during the stand-up comedy date—Sarah made some jokes about Mara being old; Mara responded with some jokes about Sarah being young before closing by simply calling Sarah “a desperate bitch” and walking off stage. For some reason, everybody laughed at the “desperate bitch” line, as if it were a brilliant closer and not an incredibly mean thing to say that also clearly signaled some deep-seated bitterness and animosity. But the feud officially became impossible to ignore on Monday night. Mara, who has yet to receive a one-on-one date, loses her cool when Sarah, who’s already had a one-on-one date with Clayton!, gets picked for another one.
How could that be possible?! We, the viewers, know how—a few weeks ago, Sarah told Clayton that she once peed her pants while clubbing with Busta Rhymes. Many animals use urine in their courtship rituals, and Sarah’s story has the same effect, a mysterious and fascinating anecdote that clearly left Clayton wanting more. If Mara wants more time with Clayton, she needs to fight fire with fire: Make up a story about pooping in front of Ja Rule.
Unfortunately, Mara has no crappy rapper stories. Instead, she pulls Clayton aside and tells him that some of the younger women are openly talking about how they’re not ready for marriage. (What a convenient thing for them to chat about! Unfortunately, such discussions have not been captured on camera.) After Mara makes it explicitly clear she’s talking about Sarah, Clayton starts to fret that one of his faves doesn’t like him back.
So, naturally, he seeks out Jesse. Jesse provides Clayton with exactly 21 seconds of advice. (I counted!) He draws upon his own experience as a Bachelor—which, lest we forget, ended with an almost instant breakup—and pumps Clayton up a bit. He tells him to trust in his ability to make the right decision, and ultimately encourages him to take matters into his own hands. “It sounds like you need answers,” Jesse says.
See, that’s good hosting. Instead of sitting Clayton down for a lengthy heart-to-heart that goes nowhere, he pushes Clayton to be proactive. This forces the action of the show: Clayton skips past the “activity” portion of his date with Sarah to confront her about Mara’s accusations. She cries and they leave sharing a good understanding of each other—but most importantly, Sarah now knows that Mara is on a warpath. And now we’re set up for a good next week.
Appearing on screen for less than two minutes and spending the rest of the time enjoying life in exotic European locations has always been the main job description for the host of The Bachelor. Needless to say, Jesse Palmer is picking it up quickly.
Roughest Edit: Croatian Food
This week’s episode is in Croatia, an excellent value pick if you’re in a “most beautiful countries in the world” draft. Specifically, they’re in Hvar, a gorgeous island harbor town with centuries-old stone architecture and towering castles rising over the lush Adriatic Sea. The Bachelor often has to work hard to make its not-so-inviting filming locations look like romantic tourist destinations—but not with Croatia. Hvar looked heavenly … except for one thing.
The episode’s group date has the women attempting to become “Croatian knights.” They are asked to engage in hand-to-hand combat while wearing suits of armor, and to compose a speech that convinces Clayton of their honor. Then, they have to prove their bravery by eating “Croatian food,” which turns out to be a Fear Factor–esque assortment of horrifying animal organs—pig’s brains, cow’s stomach, and fish heads.
Surely, this isn’t actually what Croatians eat, or what someone would eat if they were on vacation in Croatia. Why did The Bachelor have to throw Croatian cuisine under the bus like this? Isn’t the point of the whole arrangement between the show and all of those tourism boards to make the places look as appealing as possible? Why did they even have to label a bunch of joke food gathered solely to be a part of a fake contest on a reality show? Surely, they could have included some appetizing-looking dishes to sell Americans on Croatia as a tourist destination. Now, let me just Google Croatian foods…
You know what? The Bachelor may have tried its best here.
Worst Performance: Shanae
Sadly, supervillain Shanae’s run on the show ended after Monday night’s two-on-one date with Genevieve. After winning virtually every encounter she’d had on the show, Shanae made a pivotal misstep, which lost her the date and caused her to be abandoned at Niagara Falls.
Genevieve handled her time with Clayton like a normal person, talking about the strange experience of being on The Bachelor and how nice it was to spend time with him. Mostly, she struggled to form full sentences—ya know, like a person who might get flustered in front of cameras, or a guy they like. In contrast, Shanae handled her time like someone whose only goal was to win a reality TV show, launching a full-scale offensive against Genevieve. The logic was sound: One of the two of them was going home, so why try to win over Clayton’s heart and mind when she could just get the other woman eliminated?
Unfortunately, Shanae made a critical mistake. She said that Genevieve was simply acting in all of her conversations with Clayton—and furthermore, implied that she was a professional actress. (Not a bad guess—she’s a bartender from Los Angeles.) Clayton seemed taken aback by this, particularly by the word “actress.” When he confronted Genevieve about this, she seemed more confused than anything—not like someone pretending to be surprised, but like someone genuinely shocked to hear themselves classified as a thespian.
Funnily enough, Shanae is the one who’s been delivering an Oscar-worthy performance. Literally: Last episode she favorably compared her acting skills to Meryl Streep’s. And two weeks in a row now she has applauded her ability to cry on command. But in accusing Genevieve, not a very good actor, of acting, she made Clayton see what good acting actually is. After a lengthy think in a random park near the (very loud) waters of Niagara Falls, Clayton gives Genevieve the rose and puts an end to this season’s villain story line.
Shanae was an all-time Bachelor villain. Ultimately, though, her greatest flaw was projection. She was a great actress—just not good enough to convincingly accuse other people of acting without someone catching on.
Best Celebration: Gabby
After Shanae gets eliminated, we get a glimpse of the women back at the hotel, who celebrate harder than the Los Angeles Rams did on Sunday night. They start running around the hotel room, shedding actual tears, and popping bottles of champagne. Things only escalate from there:
This is a terrible way to consume champagne—the sheer bubbliness makes chugging from even one bottle difficult to execute; two guarantees a Stone Cold Steve Austin–level booze-to-mouth inefficiency ratio. Then again, her ability to evoke Stone Cold Steve Austin is exactly why Gabby is the best contestant on this season.
Easiest Letdown: Niagara Falls
Normally, two-on-one dates abandon losing contestants in far-flung locations: from thick woods to desert islands to actual deserts. But Shanae’s fate was pretty decent. She got left in a publicly accessible park with lots of foot traffic. And instead of being hurled over the Niagara Falls—which actually seemed like a potential option for a bit—she was allowed to take in their majesty from the safety of a boat. While other villains have been left to wither in some of the most inhospitable terrains on the planet, Shanae was left in a place where she could get a bite to eat. She won’t have any trouble making it to Bachelor in Paradise.
The Producers’ Pick: Susie
Normally, Bachelor date cards are sent from the Bachelor to contestants, but Monday night, Clayton receives a surprise note as he returns to his hotel room. It simply reads “meet me at the clocktower”—easily the most ominous thing an unsigned note could read. (“Clock tower” has to be a top five most ominous place to demand a meeting; ”the docks” rules the leaderboard.) Clayton is worried, presumably fearing that he’s been invited to some sort of duel or séance. Luckily, it’s just a date with Susie, who apparently took the initiative to invite him. They climb the clock tower—it’s pretty short, no skyscrapers in Hvar—and make out while overlooking the town.
Hypothetically, Susie’s date threatens the entire structure of The Bachelor! If random contestants can summon the Bachelor to appear at midnight in the prettiest location possible, the whole show falls apart. Who the hell needs to wait for date cards? Why not just sideswipe the whole thing and start inviting the Bachelor to scenic soirees from the very start?
Obviously, we know what’s happening here: The Bachelor’s producers are stacking the deck and making sure he gets face time with Susie. Susie, who looks exactly like Hannah Brown, checks all the Bachelor boxes: She was prominently featured in one of the premiere intro videos; she has a romance-centric job (“wedding videographer”); and, like so many successful Bachelor contestants, she is a former beauty pageant winner (the former Miss Virginia USA.) After this week, I’d make her the betting favorite to win the show—you know, if you were actually allowed to bet on The Bachelor. FanDuel won’t take my bets because it’s actually filmed months ahead of time and it’s fairly easy to find out who wins if you go to the right websites.