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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: Whoops, Clayton Fell in Love With Everyone

Welcome to one of the messiest Fantasy Suites episodes in series history

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

For the first eight episodes of this season of The Bachelor, Clayton seemed like a pretty solid guy. He smiled and chuckled a lot, and generally seemed like a cuddly romantic with massive muscles. He tried his best to do right by every contestant, and publicly apologized when he made mistakes. Host Jesse Palmer described him as “the most genuine Bachelor ever,” a claim which is kind of meaningless and unverifiable—but the point was clear. Clayton was nice. Clayton cared.

But after Tuesday night’s fantasy suites episode, Clayton has dramatically fallen down the “most genuine Bachelor” power rankings. For an hour and 45 minutes, Clayton set himself up to fail—and when the time came, he failed in shocking fashion, saying the meanest things possible to a woman with whom he claimed to have the strongest relationship.

Like a jacked Brick Tamland, Clayton spent Tuesday night’s episode saying he loved every woman, person, and inanimate object he saw in Iceland. After his first date, he told the Floridian flight instructor Rachel that he was in love with her. After his second date, he told the fun-loving nurse Gabby that he was in love with her. To be clear, he didn’t just tell these women that he loved them—after having sex with each of them in the famous “fantasy suites” which define this annual episode, he twice made a show of walking outside, turning around, and screaming “I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU!!!” He was intentional about broadcasting his feelings—and broadcasting them in the strongest terms possible. While it might be traditional for Bachelors and Bachelorettes to have sex with all the remaining contestants during the Fantasy Suites episode, it is not normal to express all-out love for each of them. In fact, it’s unprecedented.

As his postcoital certainty wanes in the stark Reykjavík daylight, Clayton understands he is in trouble. “I’m realizing that I told two women I’m in love with them,” he says. “1000 percent, I’m absolutely going to shatter somebody … I just didn’t want to fall in love with multiple people.” He seems surprised that it’s possible to fall in love with three women simultaneously, and seems to lament the fate that has befallen him. Of course, it’s all his fault. He’s the one who decided to be on a TV show that demands he choose one woman from a pool of 30 beautiful, interesting women; he’s the one who deliberately spun around and professed his undying love on the street like a rom-com character; he’s the one who went against 25 seasons of established protocol.

Unfortunately, his third date is with Susie, who spent the majority of the episode worrying that Clayton might be having sex with Rachel and Gabby—or worse, telling them that he loves them. After a pleasant trip to an Icelandic sauna, Clayton halts dinner to once again proclaim that he’s fallen in love—but Susie isn’t on board with polyamory. She explains that she wouldn’t be able to move forward with Clayton if she found out that anything had happened with Rachel or Gabby. She acknowledges that it’s messed up to retroactively spring this ultimatum on Clayton, but says that in her mind, if she’s the one for him, he wouldn’t even consider engaging either of them—physically or emotionally.

Clayton becomes panicked: not only has he had sex with another woman and told her he loves her, he’s done both of those things twice. At first, he tries to salvage the situation. He admits to having sex with another woman, and says “I’ve expressed feelings towards someone else of falling in love,” a tortured phrase which makes it sound as if he was hesitant and ambivalent about his love when in fact he screamed it loud enough for all of Iceland to hear. He assures Susie that he’s more in love with her than anybody else.

But it quickly becomes clear that this isn’t working, so for some reason, Clayton decides to specifically tell Susie that he didn’t have sex with the other women on a horny whim, but because he actively loves them. “Nobody told me I had to go sleep with somebody,” he says. “I was having feelings of love with this person, and I slept with them because I love this person so I’m gonna see how the physical connection is.” I … I think that makes it worse, right? It certainly does not make Susie feel better, and soon after she steps away from the dinner table.

“I don’t believe in anything anymore,” Clayton tells Jesse on his way out of the building, as if losing the ability to have sex with all three of his TV girlfriends with no pushback has threatened his entire existence. And that’s the weirdest part about this whole interaction: Clayton quickly moves past regret or despondence and on to anger—not with himself, for getting into his own personal love trapezoid, but with Susie, for taking issue with it. “She just tore me apart,” he screams. “She completely destroyed me.”

This is a classic Bachelor argument, in that both sides are right and wrong. Clayton was under the impression that falling in love with multiple people was part of the process—and historically speaking, it kind of is. But he still shouldn’t have told three women that he loved them, especially in a way that made it seem like he was saying those things to only one person. And if he really loved Susie the most, he shouldn’t have had all that sex with everybody else. Meanwhile, Susie shouldn’t have issued a retroactive ultimatum on something she knew Clayton would likely do. She went on the “have sex with multiple people” TV show and drew a secret line in the sand about whether it was OK to have sex with multiple people. (Veteran viewers will remember that Bachelorette mega-villain Luke P. did this same thing during Hannah Brown’s season, albeit in a much creepier, more controlling way.) Clayton is playing by Bachelor rules, while Susie is playing by the rules of real life. Both sets of actions are obviously flawed when you look at it through the other’s lens.

But whereas Susie apologizes and understands why Clayton did what he did, Clayton makes no effort to see things from her perspective and instead treats her like she just admitted to cannibalism. When Susie tells Clayton that she feels awful, he lets her know that she should feel awful, and seems dead set on making her feel even worse. “You invalidated everything we had,” he tells her. “I don’t even know who I’m looking at anymore.” He calls her opinion “BS,” and says that he “really did love her” but doesn’t anymore. At one point, he apologizes for screaming at her—but then blames her for it, saying that “this is out of character … but to have this ripped from me is why you’re seeing what you’re seeing right now.” He puts her into a car with a departing knife twist, saying that he’s looking for someone who will fight for him, and “I thought you were that person but you’re not that person.” Susie takes it all in relative silence; it isn’t until later in her car ride home that she says she expected Clayton to handle the situation with more compassion.

The Bachelor inevitably wrongs people. It’s the nature of a show in which a man dumps 29 women. Clayton gets that, and at the beginning of the episode, that seems to trouble him deeply. But instead of trying to minimize that hurt, he steered right into it. He let everybody know he’s in love with them when he could’ve massaged those proclamations and minimized heartbreak. And he treated Susie’s wounds with salt instead of salves, digging in when he could’ve let go. We all knew Clayton was dumb enough to fall in love with multiple women. The stunning thing is how quickly his kindness evaporated.

Greatest Love: Gabby and Champagne

Things are looking pretty bleak from here on out. The best-case scenario is probably Clayton going home alone. The other option is Clayton winding up with a woman who will eventually find out that she was one of three people who got the same love speech, and that she wasn’t the favorite. The previews for next week are pretty much everyone telling Clayton he’s a moron. (More on that in a bit.)

So let’s celebrate a love that’s sure to last. We all knew that Gabby loved champagne from the moment she double-fisted bubbly bottles to celebrate Shanae’s departure, throwing caution and carbonation to the wind. Tuesday night, she hoped that her fizzy friend would follow her to the fantasy suites. When asked to describe her dream date, she said she was hoping for an Icelandic cruise with “champagne and strawberries.” Iceland isn’t exactly famous for its cruises—really, she just wanted champagne and strawberries.

Unfortunately, she got a lousy dune buggy ride on one of Iceland’s black sand beaches. She remarks about how romantic it is, but her heart’s not in it. It looks like they’re filming B-roll for Dune: Part Two, Clayton seems determined to cause whiplash, and her bubbles are somewhere else.

But when she steps into the fantasy suite—a geodesic dome somewhere in the Icelandic wilderness—she immediately spots her true love. “STRAWBERRIES AND CHAMPAGNE!” she shouts. (The Bachelor producers are Santa-esque in some ways—they see you when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake, and they’re capable of granting some of your gift requests.) The good times extend to the next morning, when Clayton presents her with breakfast in bed—and a pair of flutes. “CHAMPAGNE!!!” she shouts again.

Gabby loves champagne the way you’re supposed to love. When there is no champagne present, she’s thinking about champagne. When she has had champagne, she still fantasizes about more champagne. And when she is actually presented with champagne? It makes her day, she brightens up like the sun. She doesn’t drink rosé and tell rosé she loves it before chugging a can of White Claw and telling the White Claw that she loves White Claw, waiting until way later to down a glass of champagne and tell it that she actually loves champagne the most. If champagne told her to stop drinking other beverages, she would probably understand. And if champagne broke up with her, she probably wouldn’t tell champagne that she doesn’t even recognize champagne anymore.

Most Surprising Character: The Icelandic Airlines Industry

Surely, you or somebody you know has gone to Iceland, a country whose popularity as a tourism destination skyrocketed in the 2010s. But why? Iceland doesn’t have big cities, or famous cuisine, and even the beautiful parts of it are somewhat terrifying. In short, Iceland has become popular because it’s in between North America and Europe. This means a couple things: for one, because the country is at the direct border between the North American and European tectonic plates, the island is geologically active, with volcanoes, geysers, and geothermal hot springs. But more importantly, it historically has cost about half as much to fly there as it does to fly to mainland Europe. You were able to go there and take exotic-looking Instagram pictures for roughly the same cost of flying to, like, Orlando. You could even use Iceland as a stopover en route to a more famous country in Europe. Iceland went from about 300,000 visitors per year in the early 2000s to 2 million in the late 2010s, which is pretty wild for a country with just 350,000 citizens. Massively helping was Iceland’s budget airline, WOW Air, which launched in 2011. Unfortunately, WOW went bankrupt in 2019 and Iceland’s tourism industry saw a severe dropoffas did the country’s economy.

Tuesday night’s episode shows all the reasons you should go to Iceland: Hot springs! Volcanoes! Aurora borealis! (No shots of food. Don’t show the food.) But most importantly, it showed Clayton’s plane ride. There’s a pretty lengthy sequence of Clayton arriving at the airport, being greeted by a blond Icelandair flight attendant and boarding a totally empty Boeing 757, where he is shown sleeping before waking up in Iceland. This is pretty clearly not how things actually went down: IcelandAir doesn’t fly to L.A.; it would be an absolutely horrifying waste of carbon for a jetliner to fly 15,000 miles roundtrip to escort a single guy; and if you look closely, the airport interior in the boarding scene is not LAX, it’s the Reykjavik airport.

I honestly can’t remember whether past Fantasy Suites episodes have included such extended airline ads—but not all countries are as dependent on international air travel for economic success.

Best Production: “Next Week on The Bachelor

The majority of the drama in Tuesday night’s episode was provided by Clayton and the three women he’s in love with, but I’ve gotta give some credit to the show’s editors and producers. Some of the brilliance was little stuff, like Clayton saying his relationship with Rachel was explosive as the camera cut to a shot of a smoking Icelandic volcano, or that he wanted to “go deeper” as they showed footage of a subterranean Icelandic cave. Sometimes, it was a little less subtle—like when Clayton told Susie that he’d slept with Gabby and Rachel and the music got significantly more dramatic at the exact moment he said “both,” like he’d just locked in his final answer on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

But the masterpiece was the episode-ending promo for next week’s season finale, which went above and beyond to demonstrate how aggressively Clayton is going to screw things up next week. Jesse Palmer explained that Clayton is about to do something that “NO BACHELOR HAS EVER DONE BEFORE, and that it will result in “THE ROSE CEREMONY FROM HELL.” Sample scenes included Gabby saying “That is bullshit,” and none other than Clayton’s dad telling him that he “screwed the pooch.”

Normally, promos vaguely hint that there will be some drama while leaving the possibility that we’re headed toward a happy, romantic ending—but this is when The Bachelor is at its finest. Clayton was dumb and bad Tuesday night, but clearly, he has the potential to be even dumber and worse.