With 26 seasons of The Bachelor now under our belts, you would think that we have seen it all. Yet this year’s bachelor, Clayton Echard, blew all of our expectations to dust with his explosive finale that will have Bachelor Nation reeling for weeks, months, and even seasons to come. Check out five important takeaways from all of the drama, tears, and yes, love, that ensued.
The Bachelor is about Real People with Real Emotions
It’s so easy when watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette to view it as an escapist form of fiction television. After all, it is a competition filled with drama and heavily edited to create further tensions. But if this finale taught me anything, it’s that these are actual men and women who have their hearts on the line throughout this journey.
The two-night special began with what was deemed the “Rose Ceremony from Hell.” Clayton revealed to his finalists Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia that he was in love with both of them, was intimate with both of them and was also in love with the third finalist, Susie Evans, who left earlier in the week. The pure heartbreak that these women experienced in those moments after the confession was evident in the pain in their faces. Both eventually decided to continue onto the next week with Clayton. But just when I thought it couldn’t get any more emotional, he decided to break up with both of them again a few days later, claiming that he couldn’t stop thinking about Susie. Rachel’s pleas of disbelief and tearful admission that at least she wouldn’t have to cry herself to sleep anymore nearly brought tears to my eyes. While The Bachelor is a certainly fun show to watch, we have to remember that these contestants are real people who put their all into this emotional journey.
Family is Everything
Give it up for Big Tony and Gabby’s grandpa, everyone! Meeting the families of the contestants and the lead are always some of my favorite moments from every season. I love watching how these women and men interact with those that know them best. This season brought some memorable family members, such as Gabby’s grandpa. He and Gabby have such a tender and loving relationship and it’s clear to see where Gabby gets her humor from! Rachel’s dad was another fan favorite and his intense stare will instill nightmares into Clayton—and viewers—for a long time to come.
Rachel and Gabby’s families made another important appearance during the finale. As Clayton rejected both Rachel and Gabby at the same time, live reaction shots of the audience, including their family members, were shown in the corner of the screen. Watching Gabby’s grandpa cheer her on as she stood up for herself and her self-worth was one of the most heartwarming moments out of the whole episode. Also, I can’t cheer on Tony enough—or fear for Clayton’s life more—after he stoically said that he had nothing to say to Clayton in regards to how he treated his daughter. No matter how Gabby and Rachel and their emotions were treated throughout the course of the journey on the Bachelor, it’s nice to see that they’ll always have family members in their corner supporting them every step of the way.
The Difference Between “Love” and “In Love”
Clayton, this takeaway is for you! As Clayton got down to his final three women, he expressed that he wanted to break down his walls and become vulnerable, eventually telling all three women during their individual dates that he was in love with them. While there are many ways in which he messed up from this moment all the way until the final rose ceremony, his biggest flaw is that he thought that he could be “in love” with three women. However, there is a very distinct and important difference between loving someone and being in love with someone.
I agree that he can and probably did feel some sort of love for the different women and the different qualities that they offered. But that sort of love is almost like the love you have for your best friend or a family member, where you genuinely enjoy spending time in their company and care about their well being. But being in love implies a head-over-heels passion and a commitment to a longterm romance. This requires the entirety of someone’s heart, not fragments of it split between people. While Clayton eventually realizes that the two phrases are not interchangable, it’s too little, too late, as the damage had already been done to Gabby and Rachel’s hearts.
The Real World is Better for Building Relationships
While I certainly am not leaving this finale as Clayton’s biggest fan, I am glad that he was able to eventually find love on his journey. As shocked as I was to see that it was Susie—for a moment, I truly thought he was reuniting with Shanae—I think their reunion showcases the innate flaws with building a longterm relationship within the bounds of the show.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this show and its drama and I do firmly believe that there are real moments of growth and emotion throughout each season. However, the set-up of the show, if the status of previous Bachelor couples is anything to go by, seems to push each couple towards failure. The fantasy suites are one of the most promoted episodes of the season as it encourages the lead to spend intimate alone time with their top three contestants. It’s a staple of the show, but it can be wildly unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many of the men and women who come on the show, including Susie, who expressed discomfort with him spending the night with Gabby and Rachel. Even worse is the pressure to get engaged at the end of the show, meaning that Susie had less than two weeks to decide if her feelings for Clayton were strong enough to overcome their brutal fight.
In real life, Susie and Clayton seem stronger than ever because they were able to step back, assess their emotions and reactions, and work together to build a strong platform of a real relationship not tempered by the expectations and boundaries of The Bachelor.
Two Bachelorettes are Better than One
Okay, maybe this one is more wishful thinking than a takeaway, but please let this be true! I can’t think of two better, more deserving women for the inaugural season of having multiple female leads than Rachel and Gabby! Usually, the contestants in the Bachelor franchise become close during their journey and take that friendship beyond the television screens, but Rachel and Gabby forged a bond deeper than most. One of the most powerful moments out of the whole finale was during the “Rose Ceremony from Hell” when Rachel and Gabby shared a hug and made sure to prioritize each other’s emotions. The fact that these two women found their strength in each other and were more concerned about each other’s feelings than they were about Clayton or even their own chance to get the rose shows a lot about the care, compassion, and camaraderie that Gabby and Rachel will bring to what will certainly be the most dramatic season yet.