Gabby and Rachel are left reeling and in tears after Clayton confesses to having slept with both of them and being in love with both of them (and Susie, as well, for that extra sting).
The season finale of "The Bachelor" is so bonkers this year, it needs to spread across two nights and four hours. At least host Jesse Palmer wasn't exaggerating about how crazy it was going to be -- and we're not even done yet!
Clayton Echard "screwed the pooch," as his father put it tonight, but it's hard to say what would have been a better approach. Actually, we think Gabby might have summed up a better approach perfectly during that "Rose Ceremony from Hell."
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When the night began, Clayton was still reeling from that very heated and ugly breakup with Susie. And while we can't necessarily applaud the way he's been handling things since Serene's departure, when he decided to make it a love-a-palooza, we at least appreciate his thought going in.
Susie made it clear that she could not move forward knowing that he'd said he loves both Rachel and Gabby as well, and that he'd been intimate with both of them. What if Gabby and Rachel felt the same way? He felt it was necessary to tell them both.
But whose idea was it for him to do so at the Rose Ceremony? He couldn't have pulled them aside for a couple of one-on-one chats before telling them this detail with the other one standing there, everyone looking on and all the pomp and ceremony of something they anticipated would be pretty straightforward.
At the same time, we have to applaud Gabby for asking him a little later why he didn't just keep it to himself. Understand that for both of these women, the intimacy wasn't necessarily the big issue. It was the fact he's trying to get them to accept that he loves both of them -- and Susie, for extra measure.
That's not a concept that either of them appears familiar with, nor necessarily able to fully grasp as even possible. And so it may be that what Clayton feels is a deep infatuation and not "love."
We lean into that when he said that he would choose the one he said he loves "the most" at the end. Gabby was right to push back against that idea, too, because it's also odd to think of levels of love.
Of course, as Clayton said, it's impossible to understand unless you've been there. And he's not the first to express that he's in love with multiple of his finalists. But that doesn't make it any easier for the women to comprehend in the moment. They thought what they shared with him was special, and suddenly it wasn't.
But, as Jesse promised, things were about to get a whole lot worse.
Against her better instincts, Gabby decided to stick it out -- a decision promos lead us to believe she will very soon regret... and for very good reason. Rachel also toughed it out, and so it was that both of them got the chance to meet Clayton's family.
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Meet the Family
Again in an effort at total transparency, Clayton told his family what went down at the Rose Ceremony, as both women ran off and cried following his reveal of love and intimacy, and both of them considered leaving (Gabby even rejected his Rose the first time he offered it, but he talked her into staying).
All this did was make the meeting of Gabby just minutes later even more awkward. Maybe he could have had them meet the women first and then lay out his feelings and what was going on. At the same time, it did allow the family to check in with the women.
Brian, Clayton's father, was pretty blunt in telling Clayton that he thinks he may have screwed all this up. He stood up for Susie saying she couldn't move forward after what Clayton had done, and checked in with each of the women as he met them.
Clayton's family was actually pretty great, though we got very few scenes with his brothers. His mom and dad were very direct and honest with him about their feelings, and they were very open and understanding of the situation both Rachel and Gabby were in.
Both meetings actually went quite well, considering all of the drama of the Rose Ceremony. So Clayton decided to blow it all up himself.
Everyone hopes that meeting the family will bring clarity. It helps the contestants who make it to that point in the series, and it can help the lead when they're so close to making that final decision. But what if that clarity has nothing to do with who's left in the competition?
Admitting that he feels all in and believes fully in his love and relationships with Gabby and Rachel when he's with them, as soon as Rachel left, Clayton said that his heart soared toward Susie. And with that, we have a feeling he just blew up his shot at love.
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Second Best at Best
As soon as Clayton said that his heart was pulling him toward Susie, he should have sent Gabby and Rachel packing. In fact, he should have sent them both packing after he sent Susie packing, because he'd already told Susie he loved her "the most."
By his own words, that was the woman he was going to marry at the end: the one he loved "the most." Only she'd already left the competition. Anyone else he selected would be second best at best. And that's certainly not fair to them.
On the one hand, we applaud Clayton for acknowledging that it's been Susie all this time -- we've been calling her his front-runner almost since the beginning -- but on the other hand, to do so after so aggressively urging both Rachel and Gabby to stay is a huge slap in both of their faces.
They believed in the love they shared with him enough to do what Susie couldn't and didn't. And he doesn't care. He wants the one that got away. Is that why he wants her? He argued with his family that it's because he shut down and wasn't listening to her.
We did note to ourselves that as he walked out Gabby and fought for her to stay until she did, he did shut down and get angry with Susie when she wouldn't budge. The difference, though, is that Susie didn't budge. Clayton did try and change her mind, but she wouldn't change.
Maybe when she accused him of closing the door on them, that was his opportunity to hear behind her words that she wasn't completely ready to go. She just maybe needed to hear something better from him than what she'd heard before.
Well, she's going to get that chance apparently, as we see enough clips of her to get an indication that she at least hears him out. At the same time, it becomes clear in promos for Tuesday's big finale that the other two women also know Susie's back.
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If Clayton is being fully transparent and tells them that it was him who chased Susie down, then Gabby and Rachel will be done for good -- as well they should. It would then be abundantly clear that Clayton would have been settling for one of them or the other, since he couldn't get Susie out of his mind.
Then, you take into account the question Clayton's mother posed to him. If he told Susie that he loved her "the most," and clearly that's what he feels in his heart, then why the hell would he sleep with Gabby and Rachel? Our answer: because he could. His answer -- well, he didn't really answer it, did he?
Clayton has been more into Susie since almost the beginning of the season but he never turned down a make-out session with any other woman (even a lying, manipulative villain). He was all in for this process, surrounded by beautiful women vying for his affection, in the horniest way we've possibly ever seen from a lead. In many ways, he's made this bed -- and tried to get with as many women as possible in it.
Our prediction is that Clayton's season ends in absolute disaster. He'll brutally hurt Gabby and Rachel by telling them that they were only ever going to be second best (or third) in his heart, despite how hard he fought for them both to stay.
He also told them he didn't know how it was going to end, but somewhere inside of him he knew he would rather it have been Susie than either one of them. What a way to start a potential engagement!
If Susie does come back, she may not be able to handle how he's strung the other women along to this point, or how he winds up breaking their hearts. Or she may ultimately not be able to get over that he slept with them and said he loves them. The fact he could just dismiss them because her loves her "more" is also a possibility.
While it's possible Susie could come around and say yes to a proposal -- if it even gets that far -- we have a feeling not. That would explain Jesse saying during "The Women Tell All" that even he doesn't know how Clayton's journey is going to end. More than likely, all three women leave Iceland and Clayton behind.
Now, he may have been in touch with Susie beyond that finale's filming a few months back, but there's no way Gabby or Rachel would give him the time of day again, nor should they. Susie will also likely be there to confront him, so we'll get our answer then as to just what is going on.
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Next Bachelorette Speculation
Now that it's all but official that both Rachel and Gabby are going to walk away from Clayton after he brings Susie back into the fold, they're officially in the conversation for next Bachelorette. Our pick has been Gabby for a couple of weeks now because she has all the traits of a great lead.
The dignity with which she handled herself tonight, and the intelligent thought she put behind each decision she made, tell us she would be incredible in navigating these choppy waters with more compassion and empathy than Clayton has mustered -- and perhaps less sex drive.
Rachel is very sweet, but didn't ever stand out with personality traits as strong for us. Susie might also be a good choice, if she doesn't end up with him, as would Serene and even Teddi. But Jesse also said that if we think we know who it is, we're wrong. That gives us a new theory.
Considering how many more "Bachelor" cycles there have been than "Bachelorette," we wouldn't be surprised if they planed another back-to-back "Bachelorette" cycle. One would air early this summer before "Bachelor in Paradise," with the other coming right after.
It's notable -- or not -- that Kaitlyn Bristowe was on hand to chat with Jesse about tonight's craziness, but not her "Bachelorette" co-host Tayshia Adams. Could Tayshia be the next "Bachelorette," and then maybe Gabby or someone else from Clayton's season up next?
It would be smart for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is how poorly Clayton has navigated this season, which came shortly after he was dumped as a contestant. A little more breathing room from this chaotic season could only help whoever takes the lead be a little more intentional and grounded in their own decisions.
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- “She told me multiple times, ‘I want you to explore the other relationships fully.’” --Clayton (to Jesse about Susie)
- “And so you interpreted that as--” --Jesse
- “Fully.” Clayton
- “I will be a thousand percent transparent. And I don’t know how, after they hear that, they’re going to move forward. I know that tonight could be the end of this whole thing for me.” --Clayton (to Jesse about Rose Ceremony)
- “I think my biggest fear right now is he is falling in love or in love with Gabby or Susie.” --Rachel (ahead of Rose Ceremony)
- “I’m hoping he has finished figuring out exactly what he wants, and it’s me.” --Gabby (ahead of Rose Ceremony)
- “This could be the night that I failed at my journey to find love.” --Clayton
- “The person that’s standing in front of you right now is not the person that you were last with. What I’m about to say is not going to be easy to hear but it’s going to be very transparent and I owe it to you all. Yesterday, Susie told me that if I had told either of you that I was in love or if I had been intimate with either of you that she could not continue with this journey and that she felt that it was over for us. And so, it just had me questioning everything about what her and I had. And I felt like at the end of it, I really couldn’t even look her in the face and I didn’t even know who I was looking at. I didn’t want to go about it this way, but because it became a dealbreaker, I don’t want that to be a dealbreaker with us. This is the hard part to say, but, like, I was in love with her and I was in love with each of you, too-- I am in love with both of you. And I also was intimate with both of you.” --Clayton (to Gabby and Rachel)
- “He told me he was falling in love with me, and he told Rachel. That’s not fair. I don't want to end up at the end if it’s going to be like this to make it there. Like, I don’t.” --Gabby (to producer)
- He’s in love with all three of us? All three of us?! And he’s heartbroken that Susie left?” --Rachel (to producer)
- “They have every right to feel hurt. I knew that saying this was going to ... but they deserve to know. I don’t feel really good right now about where I think this is about to go, but I can’t go into relationships with secrets. I can’t.” --Clayton
- “How do you weigh your words and then the potential of, like, me going home?” --Gabby (to Clayton)
- “You mean like me sending you home? I mean everything I say.” --Clayton
- “But how do you back that up?” --Gabby
- “Because, ultimately, whoever I pick I love the most. That’s what I’m figure out is who is the best fit for me, who do I love the most?” --Clayton
- “It is, like, hard to hear. Like, why wouldn’t you just save it?” --Gabby (to Clayton)
- “Because I felt it.” --Clayton
- “[It’s] great if I’m at the end, but what if I’m not? Like, I’m just supposed to stop?” --Gabby
- “For him saying the woman I walk out with is the woman I love the most, like wrong f------ answer. Like, love isn’t measured. You can’t measure it. So, like, don’t say that.” --Gabby
- “I’m supposed to chance getting my heart broken in the hope he loves me a little more than the others.” --Rachel
- “I waited so long to hear it and then I did and the next time I see you It’s for two other people [as well].” --Rachel
- “Those reactions tell me all that I need to know, that I did mess it up. I’m in love with both of them and I’m hoping that I’ve done enough to convince these women to stay.” --Clayton
- “Everything I’ve said I mean and I stand behind. Will you accept this rose?” --Clayton (to Gabby and Rachel separately)
- “Yes.” --Rachel
- “I can’t. I’m sorry. Do you want to walk me out?” --Gabby
- “I feel like I’m being measured, and I’ve never felt that way until I’m standing right here. … It hurts.” --Gabby
- “Oh my God this is the worst thing that could have happened. Two people he’s in love with just left and I’m the only one left and that’s not fair to anyone. And it’s not fair to him or me. Do I stay? Like, how do we move past this? … I’m the last one here, not because he chose me.” --Rachel
- “Are you okay?” --Rachel (checking in with Gabby when she returns)
- “Not that he changed my mind, but I think he allowed space for me to feel what I was feeling and did acknowledge what we do have is special and unique and I can trust that moving forward. I really love him, but I could kick myself next week.” --Gabby (about her decision to stay)
- “I think you’ve gotta step back and say they have a right to be upset with you.” --Brian (to Clayton)
- “I love you no matter what happens, but you screwed the pooch, in my opinion.” --Brian
- “For me, it’s going to be hard to talk to Gabby because it feels like she’s the consolation prize. I don’t know if the love of your life is gone or … I don’t know.” --Kelly
- “How are you doing?” --Clayton
- “Better, for sure.” --Gabby (arriving to meet Clayton’s parents)
- “I’m hoping they can give me the benefit of the doubt. Like, Clayton, she almost walked out only you last night. Are you sure you want to be with her? That’s what I’m most scared of.” --Gabby (about meeting Clayton’s parents)
- “In the end, I would like to see my son have his own clarity.” --Brian (after meeting Gabby)
- “I’m excited to meet [Clayton’s parents] but I’m also still feeling really hurt from the Rose Ceremony. … This is the first time I’ve seen him since he broke my heart.” --Rachel
- “Do you trust him? … It’s tough. I would have smacked him.” --Brian (to Rachel)
- “I’m realizing that through meeting my family, it didn’t stop me from thinking about Susie.” --Clayton
- “He’s not in love with them equally, there’s no way.” --Clayton’s brother
- “I wanna know hat his problems are.” --Brian
- “I got a lot.” --Clayton (walking in)
- “I’m just realizing my heart, where it’s at. My heart’s here with these women and now my heart’s out beyond these walls with Susie.” --Clayton (to family)
- “It was just a little bit more special with Susie.” --Clayton
- “She didn’t think so.” --Brian
- “But she left you.” --Kelly
- “Mom, it’s not that straightforward.” --Clayton
- “No, it is.” --Brian
- “Clayton, when someone walks away from you, they’re walking away from you and it’s done. They’re finished. I think you’re too caught up in the one that got away.” --Clayton
- “This was a once-in-a-lifetime woman.” --Clayton (to family about Susie)
- “But then you were intimate with these other two women. Why did you screw that up?” --Kelly
We'll find out who it is -- if it's Shanae, we riot! -- and all the fallout from Iceland when "The Bachelor" wraps it season Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.