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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: We Officially Have a Front-runner

Your ears better perk up once the lead starts buying a contestant fancy designer gowns

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The musicians who show up on The Bachelor are almost always forgettable. You have never heard of them, and they are performing a song that you’ve never heard before. These artists are there to be promoted; The Bachelor is bigger than they are.

But sometimes, that calculus is flipped. When the show is down to its last few contestants and the scene has shifted to a beautiful foreign country, The Bachelor will reach out to an actual famous musician to perform their most famous song at a perfect moment. They once got the Cranberries to reunite in a Dublin cathedral to perform “Linger.” They got, uh, the Baha Men to perform their romantic classic “Who Let the Dogs Out” on a beach in the Bahamas. And on Monday night, they outdid themselves by flying in Chris de Burgh to perform one of the worst hits of the 1980s.

Don’t know who Chris de Burgh is? That’s fine. I didn’t recognize the name either. I had to Google it. But by the time he started singing, I knew who he was—and why The Bachelor brought him in.

Last week, I hypothesized that The Bachelor’s producers were giving Susie a favorable edit. It seemed like the show was setting her up for one-of-a-kind moments that’d vault her ahead of the field. And I don’t always feel obligated to point out when I’m extremely right about something, but I have never been more right about anything in all my years of guessing about what will happen on this reality TV show. Monday night, The Bachelor gave Susie the one-on-one date to end all one-on-one dates, an extravaganza that made her look like a literal fairytale princess. The show’s producers must be ridiculously confident that this woman has never tweeted any racial slurs in the past, because they are pulling out all the stops to put her in position to win.

Monday night’s episode takes place in Vienna, home to at least 11 fantastical castles that appear in the episode. (For a family whose romances often involved intentional inbreeding, those Hapsburgs sure knew how to build a palace that would look good in a televised romantic competition.) There, Susie is bestowed with The Bachelor’s highest honor: the Pretty Woman date, an annual tradition in which one lucky woman is escorted around in an expensive car and given the show’s corporate card to spend on designer clothes. (The Pretty Woman date is a solid indicator who will win a given season—past recipients include Rachael Kirkconnell, Becca Kufrin, and Hannah Ann Sluss.) Clayton and Susie’s shopping spree ends at the boutique of an Austrian designer named Eva Poleschinski, who presents her with an absolutely massive show-stopping red gown.

Now, I may not be an expert on when a dress becomes a gown, but trust me—this was a gown. While Susie brings most of her purchases back to the hotel suite by herself, the gown is specially delivered by a dapper Austrian butler, who parades it past all the other contestants before dropping it off with “fräulein Susie.” Susie then changes into the gown for the dinner portion of her one-on-one with Clayton, and it’s so large that nobody else can fit in the back seat with her.

The dinner takes place in the Schönbrunn Palace, one of Vienna’s most iconic landmarks, and perhaps the only building in Austria with rooms large enough to fit Susie’s gargantuan gown. They dine amid the finery, and Clayton gives her a rose that signifies she’ll be around for next week’s hometown dates. At that point, he reveals that the night isn’t over, and escorts her into a ballroom, where a man is playing the piano. That man is Chris de Burgh, whose name sounds passably Austrian even though he grew up in a castle in Ireland. As Clayton dances with Susie and her gown, de Burgh begins to sing his signature song: “The Lady in Red.”

Like I said earlier, I didn’t recognize de Burgh at all—but I started cackling when I realized what had happened here. The Bachelor flew in the Lady in Red Guy to sing “The Lady in Red” while Clayton danced with a Lady in Red. And that’s how you know Susie is winning this season: They gave her a gown, a castle, and a song—all of which combined to create a moment that nobody else will be able to match.

Worst Luck of the Draw: Serene

Clayton is into Serene. Monday night, he demonstrated that by giving her a meaningful present.

Earlier in the season, Serene had told Clayton about the death of her cousin, a close friend. As kids, they would run in the fields of Texas and capture fireflies (cute!) and then kill them and crush them and smear their fluorescent firefly juice all over their faces and bodies (less cute!). So Clayton gave her a mason jar filled with “fireflies”—tiny lights, like the type you’d put on a Christmas tree. It’s a sweet moment.

Later, Clayton invites Serene on a second one-on-one date. They waltz with random Viennese strangers in the street and sit down for a fine dinner in the Belvedere, a palace turned museum in Vienna. Unfortunately, she shows up wearing … red.

Poor Serene! She’s doing so well—she’s headed to hometowns, and she got a picture-perfect dinner date in a Baroque beauty of a building. But that dress just hammers home that she got the same date as Susie—except the second-best version of it. No clothes were purchased for her, and Chris de Burgh couldn’t stick around an extra few days to sing her a fitting song. Susie got the episode’s iconic date; Serene got the second-best red dress and a jar of fake fireflies. She deserves better!

Worst Representation of a Historically Significant Austrian: Sigmund Freud

As the show moved to Vienna, someone on The Bachelor’s staff was given the unfortunate task of figuring out how to create a Freud-themed date. How could the show make clear which of these women Clayton is being subconsciously driven toward by his repressed id? Should they analyze Clayton’s dreams? Maybe they could make all the contestants dress up like Clayton’s mom, see which of them looks most like her, and give her a group date rose?

The contestants receive a date card with a quote from one of Freud’s letters to his fiancée: “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved!” It feels like a quote pointed at Sarah, the only contestant to get two one-on-one dates with Clayton. After all, Monday night’s episode starts with the conclusion of a beef between Sarah and Mara. Mara—who never received any one-on-one dates—warned Sarah that she was becoming too cocky about her relationship with Clayton, and that it would behoove her to tone it down. (Yes, she used the word “behoove,” a word used only when people are really serious about something.) A bunch of other contestants were shown spying on the conversation and quietly agreeing about Sarah. So even though Mara was eliminated, her point is echoed by the date card: Sarah feels “sure of being loved,” and has become “bold.”

After receiving the date card, the contestants proceed to meet with an Austrian psychologist, who directs them to couples therapy sessions with Clayton. These sessions turn out to be the end of the line for multiple contestants. Genevieve is nervous because she’s never done therapy before and doesn’t handle the setting well: It quickly becomes clear that she’s unwilling to open up in front of her TV boyfriend, her TV therapist, and the millions of people watching at home. Clayton determines that if Genevieve can’t “let her walls down,” their relationship won’t progress, and Genevieve seems to agree. Clayton goes on to explain that he “found clarity with Genevieve,” which is an exciting new euphemism for “I dumped Genevieve.”

The rest of the contestants, though, are willing to open up—specifically, about their uncomfortable relationship with Sarah. They explain that Sarah has spent the whole season telling everybody how much better her relationship is than theirs. Some say that they have considered going home, because Sarah seemed to have the competition so thoroughly defeated. Rachel tells Clayton that Sarah told the group that on her one-on-one with Clayton, he had broken down in tears—which Clayton instantly begins to refute. He’s very upset that someone is going around lying about him crying.

After Clayton does sessions with all the women, the therapist addresses the group. She thanks them for sharing their stories—but announces that some of them were being “performative” rather than honest. In addition to being a startling departure from typical therapeutic strategy, this changes Clayton’s thinking. He pulls aside Sarah, who says she’s being honest and that everybody else is lying—but she’s lost Clayton. He accuses her of faking her tears and says that he just can’t believe her explanations anymore. He tells her he can’t meet her family if he doesn’t trust her and sends her home. He doesn’t specifically mention her lying about him crying, but it’s clearly a factor.

The “therapy” exercise reshaped the season, resulting in two of the final seven contestants being sent home, including one who seemed like a potential winner. But more importantly, it feels like a pretty bad representation of therapy! Therapy isn’t something that’s won and lost—but Genevieve clearly lost. And the stuff you say in therapy shouldn’t be used like a cudgel against you—but the therapist listened to Sarah, decided that she was being “performative,” and then called her out in front of everybody! I guess there’s no patient-client confidentiality on TV.

Second-Worst Representation of a Historically Significant Austrian: Gustav Klimt

During their date in a museum, Clayton leads Serene over to its signature painting: Klimt’s The Kiss, a painting that launched a million art school dorm-room posters. It shows a pair of lovers in a field of flowers, their passionate embrace wrapped in gold like a holy halo. Clayton asks if they can recreate the painting—slick move, pal.

But they don’t attempt to recreate the painting at all! They could’ve had some fun attempting to mimic the specific and iconic pose of the painted pair permanently frozen in love behind them—but instead they just made out!

Probably a missed opportunity.

Worst Timing: Eliza

The week before hometowns is cutdown day on The Bachelor. The episode started with nine contestants and finished with four, all of whom will introduce Clayton to their families next week. We’ve already talked about Mara, Genevieve, and Sarah. There was also Teddi, who bowed out before hometowns despite being the recipient of this season’s First Impression Rose. The Bachelor’s men have proved time and time again that they are incapable of figuring out who they like the most in the first 20 minutes of the show.

The least notable departure was probably Eliza, who had barely been mentioned all season long—no one-on-one dates, no significant role in the plotline, nothing. Finally though, her time to shine had come: basically the one piece of information we knew about Eliza is that she had split her life between the United States and Germany and that she was fluent in German—and they kicked her off the show right before they went to a German-speaking country! So rude! Eliza didn’t even get the chance to tell Clayton he was hot in German!