With Tayshia Adams out due to Covid exposure, Kaitlyn Bristowe and the live production respond in real-time to viewer concerns about its own Covid precautions.
If ever there was proof needed that the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant is beginning to majorly disrupt production in a way reminiscent of early 2020 Covid precautions, one need only look at the live response to viewer concerns during "The Bachelorette" finale.
Even before the "After the Final Rose" special, Kaitlyn Bristowe was helming a live broadcast as we all watched the end of Michelle Young's journey to find love and choose between Brandon Jones and Nayte Olukoya.
As the show began, Kaitlyn was flanked by the usual smiling faces of Bachelor Nation in the studio audience. About 40 minutes in, though, we came back from commercial to see Kaitlyn surrounded by masked faces.
She explained that everyone there had tested negative, but in response to online chatter as they were broadcasting live, they opted to mask up. After 40 minutes without masks and in such close proximity, would it really matter?
Across three hours, viewers were treated to much more than the impact of the pandemic on audience faces. They got to see two guys madly in love with Michelle. They got to see her utterly devastate one before getting engaged to one another.
Then, they got to see the heartbroken man return for "After the Final Rose" to talk about his journey, and seek answers from Michelle. Then, Michelle's fiancé came out to make their engagement officially official before she and her man received an unprecedented and incredibly generous gift from the show -- hopefully, no other Bachelors or Bachelorettes were tuning in!
Finally, Bachelor Nation got their chance to sit down with the unexpectedly controversial choice for their next "Bachelor" ahead of his January 3rd premiere. Not controversial because of anything negative, but because people just find Clayton Echard boring and apparently unattractive and all kinds of other mean and nasty things.
We got a hint of the online vitriol because Kaitlyn took a page out of Jimmy Kimmel's book -- since his show is off this week -- and had Clayton read some of his "Mean Tweets" live on the air. Luckily, he was a good sport about it.
The ugliness didn't seem to phase him much, as he said he's certainly read worse. But it's definitely an interesting response to the next lead of the franchise. Usually, Bachelor Nation is excited about it, but after two back-to-back "Bachelorette" seasons, they definitely have had other men in mind.
Remember Michael A., Greg and the lovable Andrew Spencer from Katie Thurston's season? And how about fan-favorites Rodney, Rick, and Olu from Michelle's season, not to mention her runner-up, who clearly had his own fanbase in the studio audience?
Despite his smile, Clayton seems to be feeling the weight of that fan rejection of him before his season has even begun to air. He's definitely hoping that BN gives him a chance, with Kaitlyn doing her best to assure them that she knows they're going to fall in love with him.
But before we can start Clayton's journey, we need to wrap up Michelle's. As the show began, she was either in love or falling in love with both of her finalists. Both Brandon and Nayte had already declared love for her. All that was left for them to meet her family and go on one final date each.
Talk about a biased edit, though it wasn't a production slant. Michelle's parents, Ephraim and LaVonne, as well as her sister Angela, made no pretense of hiding their preference when it came to Michelle's final two suitors.
In defense of her parents, they'd already met Brandon when they came home early to find him in their pool ... in Ephraim's swim trunks. Adorably, as part of his gifts to the family when meeting them, he brought Ephraim a new pair of trunks.
While he'd never met Angela before, Brandon's visit felt more like a reunion after some time apart than a first meeting. There was already an ease in his talking with Ephraim and LaVonne. And they'd already grilled him pretty good at the house.
At the same time, we can't take away from how genuine and honest and heartfelt he was in expressing his feelings for her, his willingness to relocate to Minnesota and support her dreams of getting her Master's and becoming a principal.
That's something that didn't come as easily to Nayte, who's struggled all season to open up his heart and express his feelings. He already came in with a handicap as a genuine stranger to Michelle's 'rents, so when you add in his more reserved emotional responses, it's easy to see why they weren't as taken with him.
LaVonne said that she heard him saying the right thing, but she couldn't feel them coming from him, while Angela pushed him on his readiness to stop adventuring and settle down into the real world with Michelle and support her in her life's journey and wasn't thrilled with him having not really thought about the party stopping.
Ultimately, LaVonne asked him if he was ready to propose, and she wasn't buying what he was selling. Concerned for her daughter, she told Michelle as much. This after she'd already told Brandon the day before that she hoped he was Michelle's pick and was ready to welcome him into the family (Ephraim said much the same).
These are the kinds of edits that turn us into Scooby-Doo going, "Ruh-roh!" It's a little too obvious, right?
As it turns out, despite these being her last two guys and despite catching feelings for both of them, Michelle still had some major developments she was needing to happen with Brandon and with Nayte.
First up, with Brandon, she said that while she was falling in love with him, it was important to her with a proposal around the corner that she be in love with him before that happens. So she needed this final date to help her get there, if it could be done.
They enjoyed what looked like a riotous time on the water with Brandon's first jet ski experience, and proved over and over again how thoughtful he is. He even brought a "weird" memento for her as a gift; his sweatshirt that she stained during their Fantasy Suite breakfast food fight.
That's the thing about Brandon that fans have embraced so much, he is so sensitive and thoughtful all the time. Michelle said her favorite moment of the series was when he checked in with her prior to the last Rose Ceremony to make sure she was okay -- updating it to the moment he gave her the sweatshirt.
And through their day and evening together, she realized that she is in love with him, telling his as much.
With Nayte, it was never a question about being in love with him. He was the first guy out of the limo, she was immediately smitten and gave him the First Impression Rose. And he's stayed high on her radar ever since.
Clearly, she's incredibly drawn to him physically, because she has struggled all season long to get him to open up, let down his guard and be vulnerable with her. He couldn't do it with her family, and he couldn't even do it with a shaman helping them express themselves -- we loved the shaman calling him out on it, too.
In fact, it wasn't until the final moment of their date that she felt he finally opened up to her about his feelings, how much their relationship meant to her and made her feel what he was feeling for the first time. The fact he was able to struggle to make her feel this way and still make it this far is indicative of how smitten she was with him -- willing to give him far more grace than a lot of the other guys because she really, really wanted it to be him.
We'd been feeling that way for weeks, that Michelle maybe hadn't gone so far as to have already picked Nayte as her winner, but she was desperately trying to manifest it into reality. She wanted it to be him at the end, she just needed to make sure she could get him where she needed him to be by the end.
We saw it coming for the past few weeks, and definitely saw it coming tonight. Every talking head moment with Brandon he was so sure it was going to be him. He was so happy, so excited about the future. It was as if Michelle declaring her love for him erased all doubt.
Honestly, we can't blame him for that. If the woman we wanted to propose to finally told us she loved us right before that big moment was coming, we'd be feeling pretty confident it was us.
It was all set up for his ultimate heartbreak, and that's exactly what we got. We also could tell in his final declaration of love to Michelle on that beach, before she shattered all his hopes and dreams, that he knew it was coming.
He admitted as much in his "After the Rose" chat with Michelle, because she'd never been that good at hiding her heart in her eyes. He knew the moment he looked into them that it was all over for him. But he had to follow protocol, so he poured his heart out and then promptly got it stomped on.
In the "After the Rose" special, Kaitlyn shared a photo she took of Brandon in the immediate aftermath of that moment, sitting on the beach and looking off into a beautiful sunset. Even in his heartbreak, Brandon found beauty, seeing this as a reminder from God that things will get better.
Despite his own broken heart, Brandon continued to put Michelle's feelings first, deciding that her happiness was more important than his own. And later, when talking live about it, he still only wanted her happiness, genuinely wishing nothing but good things for her and the man she chose.
With Brandon eliminated, the only mystery left was whether or not Nayte would actually propose. But watching him pick out the ring and all the talking head moments really left no doubt there, either, so the whole ending wasn't nearly as "dramatic" as Kaitlyn promised after Brandon left.
After that it was just "Bachelorette" by numbers, as Nayte said his sweet words, Michelle said her sweet words, Nayte got down and proposed, Michelle said yes, Michelle offered him the final rose, Nayte accepted it and they screamed across the beach that they're engaged. It's the same script every time, when things go well.
Maybe had we seen Nayte's proposal first, we could have then all cringed as we knew what was about to happen when Brandon came out. Honestly, we're not sure which was better.
At least, "After the Final Rose" taught us that Michelle's parents have come around to Nayte and they love him now. They've also become close with his parents, with the moms sharing a special friendship now that's actually pretty sweet.
One of the biggest surprises of the night was saved for the very end, and it's something that appears to be unprecedented in Bachelor Nation history. Out of nowhere, after asking if Nayte was moving to Minnesota -- he is -- and if they'd begun house hunting -- they have -- Kaitlyn presented them with a gift.
It was a check for a down payment on a house ... to the tune of $200,000! That's a huge cash prize to come out of nowhere, and with very little explanation. Certainly both Michelle and Nayte were flabbergasted, with Michelle asking if it was real as the show cut to commercial.
It was. And despite the fan grumbling, it's also real that Clayton Echard is the next Bachelor. His "dramatic" journey shifts back to the show's usual Monday time slot, starting January 3rd at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
“They found 30 women desperate enough to date this guy? Where?! #quarantinegoggles.”
“Roses are red, violets are blue, Clayton is the Bachelor and I just puked in my mouth #ICanStillTasteIt”
“All I want for Christmas is for Rodney to be the Bachelor. #SantaSucks
“I hope Clayton uses protection in the fantasy suites, otherwise 9 months later there are gonna be a lot of baby Shreks running around.”
“I care more about Panini the Horse than Clayton. #TheBachelor”
“Hey, @BachelorABC, you heard us about the masks, now hear us about Clayton: we don’t want him! #ListenToThePeople”
“I’m trying to think of which order to ask my questions.” --Ephraim (to Brandon, laughing)
“No, you’re good. Just fire ‘em off.” --Brandon
“I want to be a part of your guys’ family so bad.” --Brandon (to LaVonne)
“I would be so happy about that.” --Lavonne
“I can’t wait to be a part of your family if I get the chance.” --Brandon
“They see things I don’t pick up on. I really hope things go well today.” --Michelle (clearly leaning toward Nayte)
“With Nayte there was a different vibe than we saw with Brandon. Brandon was definitely a warmer person initially.” --Ephraim
“Are you going to move to Minnesota if she asks you? I’m assuming you’ve talked about this.” --Angela (to Nayte)
“Her and I definitely had that conversation about moving. The thing about me is, I’m all about the adventure and, I mean, I’ve moved so many times in my life--” --Nayte
“Okay, maybe moving is easy. What about staying still and being content?” --Angela
“I guess I haven’t given that too much thought. Michelle and I have a bucket list of the adventures we want to go on.” --Nayte
“That’s great … but they can be a distraction to what your relationship is really all about.” --Angela
“I’m hoping that Nayte has the qualities that Michelle has seen that we haven’t seen. She’s the eternal optimist. She’s always thinking of what can go right and not what can go wrong.” --Ephraim
“I’m still not sure that at the end of this, you really feel like you’d be ready for an engagement.” --LaVonne
“Oh, hopefully I haven’t portrayed that.” --Nayte
“Honestly, that’s how I feel. I feel like you feel real reserved and I’m not sure you’re 100 percent in it.” --LaVonne
“At the end of this, if Michelle does choose me, I am very ready to get down on one knee.” --Nayte
“Nayte was very kind, he said all the right things, but I really wasn’t getting that feeling that he was ready for sure to propose to her.” --LaVonne
“Give me your honest instinct. Do you feel like he’s ready for an engagement?” --Michelle (to Lavonne)
“To be honest, no. I think that’s kind of why I was trying to push for what are you feeling because I wasn’t really feeling that.” --LaVonne
“I am really falling for Brandon. But I don’t want to be going into an engagement falling in love. I want to be going into an engagement in love with somebody.” --Michelle
“I don’t know if my family has ever liked someone that much.” --Michelle (to Brandon)
“You’ve been so open and vulnerable … I want to make sure you know where I am with everything. I am not falling in love, I feel like I’m already in love with you. You make me feel very loved and I want to make sure you know how much I care about you. I do. I really am in love with you, too.” --Michelle (to Brandon)
“Brandon loves so hard. I’ve never met anyone like that. That’s the love that I’ve been looking for, filled with chemistry and passion, and everything else in between.” --Michelle (about Brandon
“The next time I see Michelle is going to be on one knee. I’m going to marry this woman.” --Brandon
“I have never been this certain. Michelle is the one I want. And to know that that could be taken away at the end of this week? That would be heartbreaking.” --Nayte
“I can see something in your brain. There’s blockage there … little bit. You are so emotional but you pretend not.” --Raul (shaman to Nayte -- he sees it, too)
“I want to release the nervousness and the fear of the unknown. Is that good?” --Nayte
“During that ritual, I didn’t feel that I was getting enough from Nayte … If Nayte doesn’t continue to put in the effort, to keep those walls down, that’s a deal breaker. That’s a massive red flag.” --Michelle
“I came here with two suits.” --Nayte (prepared for the end)
“I just don’t want to lose you.” --Nayte (to Michelle)
“Me too. I love you.” --Michelle
“I trust my heart and my heart is telling me that this is my person.” --Michelle (about Nayte)
“I have two men and I am in love with them both. They have given me everything I asked for and tomorrow is going to be the hardest decision I’ve ever made.” --Michelle
“This is it, I feel like I’m going to get engaged today … This has got to be the most beautiful moment in my life. I’m going to marry this woman.” --Brandon (about that…)
“I would truly be the luckiest man to walk this earth if I got to walk it with you.” --Brandon (to Michelle)
“I promised myself that I would continue to follow my heart. And it’s not that I don’t love you, because I do. It’s just that my heart is pushing me a different direction. I have to go with what I feel.” --Michelle (to Brandon)
“I truly wish you nothing but happiness. I truly mean that. Even if it’s not with me … “You’ve been worth every second. Giving you my heart is something that I’ll never regret. I will always be here for you.” --Brandon
“If that picture isn’t the definition of beauty in the struggle, I don’t know what is. ‘Cause I realized, like, I’m sitting there, I’m crying, like, going through the emotions. It’s just a weird way of God telling me, look at this beautiful sunset. Everything’s going to be okay. You don’t see it now, but in the end, everything’s going to be okay.” --Brandon (looking at picture Kaitlyn took of him on the beach after heartbreak)