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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: It’s All Clayton’s Fault

Somehow, he managed to make things even worse in Part 1 of the finale

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

There’s that famous saying about how if you run into an asshole in the morning, you got unlucky and ran into an asshole—but if you keep running into assholes all day, it’s not bad luck. You’re the asshole, and all the assholes you keep running into are normal people being totally rational in their furied responses to your assholery. Someone needs to translate this saying into Icelandic for Clayton, since nobody on the island can believe his aggressively bad decision-making down the stretch of The Bachelor. (Well, everybody except Jesse Palmer, who is contractually obligated to remain calm while repeatedly calling Clayton “brother.”)

Last week, Clayton angrily ripped into Susie after she didn’t respond well to his revelation that he was in love with all three of the final three contestants and had had sex with two of them. But that anger evaporated on Monday night’s season finale, as he got the same response from the two remaining women, Gabby and Rachel, as well as his own family.

Everybody is now mad at Clayton, instead of the other way around. How could he be in “love” with all three? (You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.) We’ve heard of love triangles, but what the hell is this? A love rhombus? And why did he have to tell everybody he loved them, filling their hearts up just to break them? As person after person explains to Clayton that he was making a mess of things, he slowly realizes that he couldn’t scream the same zings he directed at Susie at all of his assembled lovers and brothers.

Gabby initially tries to leave after hearing his story. “Saying the woman I walk out with is the woman I love the most … wrong fucking answer,” she says. “Love isn’t measured.” Her departure sends Rachel into tears, realizing that she’s now the only woman left and has apparently won The Bachelor by default. They’re not happy tears. “I’m the last one here,” she weeps, “and not because he chose me.”

But miraculously, Clayton coaxes them both back from the edge. He chases Gabby down and gets her to come back. When he asks her if she’ll accept a rose, she lets out a dejected “Yeah,” the least enthused rose reception in show history. Then everybody clinks champagne glasses sadly.

Both women agree to meet with his family, and things go smoothly. His parents are empathetic with Gabby and Rachel, both of whom seem glad they gave Clayton a second chance, and both of whom seem to feel closer to Clayton after a warm welcome from his family. For a second, it looks like things really might work out for Clayton.

At the end of the episode, Clayton tells his family that he has made his decision. They are eager to find out which of these two beautiful, charming, and brave women he has picked—and he tells them that his heart belongs to Susie, the girl who dumped him last week.

Clayton’s parents are baffled. “Clayton, when someone walks away from you, they’re walking away from you and they’re done,” his dad says. “I think you’re too caught up in the one that got away.” Clayton tries to explain that Susie actually does like him, because “she could’ve walked away at any moment.” His mom jumps in. “She did! She did walk out!” It was truly a stellar performance by both parents, who couldn’t believe that their big stupid son had gotten two women as wonderful as Gabby and Rachel to fall for him—but really couldn’t believe that his heart was set on a different woman.

And this is what makes Clayton the dumbest boy on the planet. Gabby and Rachel fought for him, which is something he said he was looking for while ripping Susie apart last week. They pushed through one heartbreak and risked a second for him. They wept explosively for Clayton. Susie didn’t do any of that. She voluntarily left, wasn’t particularly interested in being persuaded to return, and didn’t seem that moved. Maybe she was heartbroken and hid that hurt on camera, or maybe she just doesn’t like Clayton and this was an easy way out of the relationship.

You could read Monday night’s episode as a malicious scheme by Clayton. He strung Gabby and Rachel along, but ultimately used them to work through his feelings for Susie and test out his ability to bring a weeping woman back from the brink. But I don’t think Clayton can think ahead like that. Have you seen this season? Does he seem like a planner? Does he seem like a guy who thinks things through? He seems more like a Labrador retriever: He tells everybody he meets that he’s in love with them, and if he poops in somebody’s shoe he kinda thinks it’s their fault for not being clearer up front that shoe-shitting was off limits.

When Clayton and Susie’s relationship fell apart, Clayton blamed Susie. Then his relationships with Rachel and Gabby fell apart for the same reason. He doesn’t get what love is, which is why he tells everybody he’s in love with them. He doesn’t get that telling everybody he loves them is going to make everything harder for him and hurt everybody’s feelings even more than the show already demands. And worst of all, he doesn’t seem to get that two women love him and one doesn’t. He’s the guy who keeps running into assholes all day, and it doesn’t really matter whether that’s because he’s genuinely malicious or just too stupid to realize that his actions have consequences.

Biggest Loser: The Bachelor Rules

If you win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, you get a million dollars. If you win The Price Is Right, you might get a new car. If you win The Bachelor, you get a guy, which isn’t as good of a deal. What if the guy isn’t great? What if the guy hurt you? You can sell a car if you win it on TV, but you can’t bring a guy down to a used guy dealership and trade it in for a new one. The Bachelor’s prize is strange, because the winner has to love the person back.

Susie doesn’t want to play the game. She bristles at the concept of the fantasy suites, a long-established part of The Bachelor. As we wrote last week, she’s playing by the rules of regular society, not the rules of the show.

Gabby and Rachel also have issues with Clayton’s behavior—but not the sex thing. In fact, I don’t think either of them took much offense to the sexual element of Clayton’s love trapezoid. (Still figuring out the geometry here.) They’re significantly more upset about the fact that Clayton loves everybody. Gabby says that it was fine for Clayton to explore other relationships, but adds that “exploring is not loving.” And even if Clayton did love everybody, why did he have to tell them? Why couldn’t he “save it” for later? Rachel is equally devastated: “I was waiting to hear it from you for so long and then I did and then the next time I see you, [you’ve said it] for two other people.”

But in addition to Clayton’s poor decisions, they also seem to take issue with the very format of the show. At one point, Gabby angrily tells Clayton that “I’m not in the business of competing with anyone for love.” I mean, I’m on Gabby’s side here, but … yes, you are! You’re a contestant on a dating competition show! You are literally in the business of competing with other people for love! And when Gabby self-eliminates, Rachel seems legitimately devastated to have won the show by process of elimination, collapsing to the ground when others might celebrate. Everybody seems furious at the way this show is shaped.

I think the disastrous way things went down here will be a turning point for the franchise. I suspect we’ll see people be a lot clearer about how they handle fantasy suites and what’s expected of them beforehand. And I think it’s going to be a long time before anybody tries telling multiple people that they’re in love.

But maybe the bigger problem is not the format of the show so much as the prize. Nobody wants to win a guy who has hurt them. If Clayton had handled things well, this wouldn’t be a problem—but future Bachelors are going to try really hard not to screw things up this badly.

Episode MVP: The Bachelor’s Location Scouts

Almost the entirety of Monday night’s episode takes place in three buildings. The first is a beautiful Icelandic farmhouse on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful meadow, where Clayton’s family is staying. “My mom found it on Airbnb,” Clayton’s brother says on two separate occasions. Really? Did she? Did Clayton’s mom find this perfect house on Airbnb? Did The Bachelor really leave the process of identifying a place to film up to Clayton’s middle-aged Midwestern mom? Or was this some clever sponcon?

Because I’m pretty sure The Bachelor has people who pick out buildings to film in. For example, they filmed a scene in Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic 245-foot-tall church that is probably Iceland’s most famous building. The Bachelor also got an Icelandic choir to sing sad music while Clayton sits and mopes about Susie with a monologue that includes the “I’M SO BROKEN” line that has been featured in promos all season long.

But the greatest choice of building has to be for the rose ceremony, which is held in Reykjavik’s recently constructed concert hall, Harpa. The building’s unusual architecture makes for a perfect venue—the contestants must walk up long staircases flanked by the building’s distinctive glass facade, and the ceremony itself appears to be held on some sort of stage. But the building really shines when the rose ceremony becomes a catastrophe and Gabby and Rachel seek privacy to vent about Clayton. They think they’re crying in private—but they’re in a concert hall. The acoustics are phenomenal and ensure that Clayton can hear Rachel’s and Gabby’s hysterical sobbing as he stands alone on the grand stage of the ominous venue. I think Rachel hit some soprano high notes between tears. It may be the greatest venue choice in the show’s history—and the most memorable moment of the season.