Does Clayton wind up with Susie or Rachel or Gabby or no one at all?
It was hard to imagine how things could go worse after the "Rose Ceremony from Hell" on Monday's episode of "The Bachelor," but Clayton Echard was just getting started.
The controversial Bachelor had more terrible choices and behaviors up his sleeve before the night was going to be through. Plus, he would subsequently share the hot seat with each of the three women still mired in the chaos of his season as the night began.
Clayton's journey ended with a first for Bachelor Nation, so does that mean he got his happy ending? And then, Jesse Palmer revealed the new twist for the upcoming season of "The Bachelorette," and it's a franchise first, too. The times, they are a-changin'.
One of the biggest changes is that the producers must have liked what they saw from the former "Bachelor" in his inaugural run as host for the franchise, because one of the big things he revealed about the upcoming "Bachelorette" season is that he'll be there.
That certainly sounds like a farewell for co-hosts Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams, who helmed Katie Thurston and Michelle Young's back-to-back seasons. Should we read too much into their removal from the franchise? Of course we should, but alas, we found no answers tonight.
We did get all of our answers about how Clayton's journey would end. We just needed to get through him continuing to make the worst possible decisions on how to handle each moment as it comes.
We weren't at all impressed that he decided to drop the bombshell that he'd slept with Gabby and Rachel and was in love with both of them, and Susie, at the Rose Ceremony in front of Gabby and Rachel. By this point, Susie had already walked.
How is that not a big enough bombshell that it deserves the courtesy of a private conversation? Was he afraid of that initial reaction, so thought it might go down easier if the women were together to hear it? What it did was create a beautifully supportive bond between his Final 2 -- against him.
That said, both women did decide to stick around and both women went on to meet his family, but that's when Monday night's episode dropped the final insult to both of these people who had poured their heart and soul into this experience.
After fighting for them to stay and tough it out despite him being an insensitive bonehead, Clayton decided he couldn't stop thinking about Susie. So they needed to be all in for him on this journey, but he'd already decided who he loved "more," as he told Susie during their not-so-Fantasy Suite date.
That's where things were left and so that's where things picked up, with Clayton deciding that he needed to get a second chance with Susie. And as she was still in Iceland, that was going to be possible, after all.
To her credit, while Susie did arrive where Clayton was hanging with his family, she first pulled him outside for some real talk. There she told him that he had her questioning herself at every turn, making her feel like a "stray dog that had come into your home."
Clayton continued to avoid directly answering tough questions, instead leaning on blanket apologies and pivoting quickly to how genuine his feelings are and how he's made mistakes and never intended to hurt anyone. How about owning one of them directly?
Don't hold your breath, because there was a lot of show to go at this point, and he hasn't gotten any better at owning the mistakes he made either accidentally or intentionally.
The big one that hangs over our head is that whole thing where he already knew he loved Susie "more" by that "Rose Ceremony from Hell." He'd told her as much. And we weren't the only ones who remembered that particular morsel of intel, either.
Ultimately, Susie said that she would take his words at face value, but she was in no position to make a decision right now. Instead, she left him to consider her decision. And that's when Clayton made his.
Look, we're not going to fault the guy for following his heart in pursuing Susie. If that's where he was, then that's it. What was horrible is how dismissively and shitty he treated Gabby and Rachel over and over again.
As if taking a note from his own playbook from the aforementioned Rose Ceremony, Clayton came into the hotel room where Gabby and Rachel were both wondering why he'd skipped the final date opportunity with both of them and dumped them.
He did it with them together. He did it without a word of compassion for either one of them, really, it was just about him following his heart and that leading to Susie. He didn't consider what he'd just put them through, the emotional journey they were on.
He didn't even give either of them the respect of a one-on-one conversation -- again! And this time, he didn't even have the courage to tell each of them face-to-face, one-on-one that he was done with them. That all he'd said about seeing a future with them just a few days back was bullshit. That it was over.
The women had very different reactions to the whole thing. Gabby, who'd been on the verge of leaving at the Rose Ceremony, was clearly already thinking something was up when he skipped out on the date. She had her heart emotionally protected a bit and one foot out the door already.
Remember, he told her that he would leave with whoever he loved "more," which rubbed her the wrong way, so she was giving him a chance by sticking around, but there were already red flags waving.
Gabby left the room and Clayton followed her, where she proceeded to eviscerate him for how he'd treated her. Of course she felt like she was the consolation prize in his mind at the Rose Ceremony, he thought the one he loved "more" was gone. How should that make her feel?
Gabby left hurt and angry, while Rachel left confused and devastated. She was utterly blindsided by the breakup, because she had not almost walked out on him. She stood by him at the Rose Ceremony, and almost won by default right there. Instead, he walked her out with her defiantly saying he would come to regret letting her go.
Rather than an "After the Final Rose" segment occurring after the season had formally ended, Jesse invited each of these Final 2 (so to speak) women out after their respective departures from Clayton, and ultimately Iceland.
As soon as Gabby refused to let him walk her out, to a great reaction from the crowd -- and they were loving her all night -- she came out to tell her story and face Clayton. Then, we switched back to see Rachel's tearful farewell before cutting back to the live stage where she did the same.
These women went through hell together in Iceland, cementing a bond and compassion that we saw when Rachel sweetly checked in on Gabby as she returned to the Rose Ceremony, and then again as they talked before Clayton broke up with them en masse.
While they were in vastly different places emotionally in Iceland, they were largely on the same page in Los Angeles. They're pissed. Watching it back only showed how deceptive Clayton was in concealing that he'd already effectively chosen Susie as his winner.
It was only after she left that he started to consider his other two finalists, and even then his heart wasn't fully in it. Maybe if he'd been fully transparent, instead of selectively transparent, they could have worked through and talked through it. He's not the first lead to have their front-runner leave the show and carry on.
Clayton handled everything about as poorly as he could, and that included owning up to his mistakes. He did so in a very general sense, again leaning on the sincerity of his intent. But he never gave a direct answer when confronted by both women about loving Susie the "most."
He would always pivot with a "Let me say this." He even at one point said he was sorry that the women felt the way they did before qualifying it that they had every right. It wasn't quite a non-apology -- we won't go all the way there -- but responding to specific questions with generalities reeks of evasion and avoidance.
He did deny one pointed question that we raised during the Fantasy Suites. We didn't like at all the way things were playing out, with Clayton declaring that he leaved each of the three women right before the Fantasy Suite dates. Was it just to get them to sleep with him?
We questioned it in our review of that episode, and Rachel questioned it to his face. He denied it, of course, and we honestly couldn't say for sure whether he was that diabolical or not. We can say the optics of the way things played out were terrible.
Ultimately, both women got to say their piece and it looks like they're at peace with the journey and how it played out. And as much as they have anger with Clayton for how he screwed up so royally being the Bachelor, they seem to hold no personal ill will toward him anymore. Hopefully, he really did do the growing and learning he said he did.
Back to Iceland, Clayton had taken the biggest risk possible at this point, dumping both Gabby and Rachel while he had no idea what Susie was thinking of doing. So he did what any sane and rational person would do. He got an engagement ring and prepared to propose.
He sent a letter to Susie to consider meeting him for the big dramatic finale that would have all his dreams come true and have all the pain he'd caused worth it -- for him. But would she show? Should she show?
To the shock of the studio audience, she did show up, and looked absolutely stunning. Clayton again vaguely owned up to screwing everything up, but reaffirmed that he was in love with her and could see a future with her.
We will argue that from the perspective of all the women, Susie is the one he had the most sincere and honest and truthful relationship with. It was always her, or at least had been her for a long time, so the hurt she feels isn't at all the same as what the other women feel.
Hers is more about him violating the sex ultimatum she didn't know about and declaring love for three women. On top of that, which can only be fully realized when you know he loved Susie the "most," there's the fact he slept at all with Gabby and Rachel when his heart was already devoted to Susie.
Was it just impossible to resist two gorgeous women he'd just told he loved? Considering he'd not resisted any women all season -- including the villain Shanae over and over again -- we're going to say that it was hard for him to justify ever passing up such an opportunity.
At the same time, he's hardly the first lead to sleep with multiple people during their season, so we're not faulting him that decision. It's more about whether or not he was disingenuous in presenting his feelings for Gabby and Rachel (in comparison to Susie) before sleeping with them.
After letting him say her piece, Susie dropped a bombshell of her own, telling Clayton basically that while she loved him, she wasn't necessarily in love with him. Certainly, she didn't feel she was at the same space as him.
Once again, as he did with Gabby before, he pleaded and tried to convince her to reconsider. He even told her he was willing to go at whatever pace she wanted, but if she says it's over, well then it's over. Guess what she said? It's over.
And so, for the first time in franchise history, the lead was left standing there all alone. And that's how everyone left Iceland -- alone.
So, is that how it ended? Well, that's how it ended in Iceland. And there were no dramatic flights to other cities to try and fight for love. Instead, Clayton came out and told Jesse he went back home alone to reflect on all he did wrong, try to grow from it and move on.
The last thing he figured is he'd hear from any of the women he'd hurt along his destructive journey to not find love. But that's exactly what happened. And for him, it was the best possible scenario. With that, Susie walked out.
They would have probably liked to build the drama and suspense of are they or aren't they, but Susie made it pretty obvious they're a couple, even if the camera quickly cut away when she kissed him.
It turns out that taking some time off and away from one another allowed her to reflect and ultimately she decided to give him a second chance. The sentiment of the whole season has never been that Clayton is malicious or evil in the terrible way he handled everything -- it's more that he just did everything wrong, and then did it more wrong trying to fix it.
But of all the women he wronged, Susie was the one he wronged the least. Their first breakup, where he lost his cool and said she negated their entire relationship by saying she couldn't move forward was about as bad as things got between them. If he had any hope of love from his season, that left Susie.
While there was no engagement, despite Jesse trying to set that opportunity up, Clayton did finally give Susie the Final Rose and revealed that he's quit his job and this weekend, he's packing it up and moving in with her.
With no suspense after Susie came out, Jesse double down on suspense for the big "Bachelorette" reveal. Before one commercial break, he spoiled for us by saying, "It's not Gabby." He then said, "It's not Rachel."
That left fans speculating about Serene, or even Tayshia coming back for a second go. But the truth was something far different, and something that's never been done in the American version of the franchise.
"It's Gabby and Rachel," Jesse announced, to everyone's surprise -- including Gabby and Rachel. It looked like producers might have told each of them that they were going to be the next lead, but not that they were going to be co-leads.
And it's not going to be like when Tayshia took over for Clare Crawley midway through a season, or when the guys chose Kaitlyn over Britt Nilsson at the start of Season 11.
Gabby and Rachel will both be the Bachelorette from start to finish. So will they be dating the same guys? How will that work?
Jesse said he had no idea, but that he'd be there with them to help them figure it all out. Can they both find love? The new season is set to begin filming right away, but isn't scheduled to premiere until July 11, so there's plenty of time to speculate.
"Although he found love with Gabby and Rachel he just could not stop thinking about Susie. And now, he's in trouble!" --Jesse (about Clayton)
"You don't realize what you have until it's gone, and that's what happened. I'm willing to risk everything just to talk to her again." --Clayton (about Susie)
"It's worth it to me to have another conversation and find out we can't make it work than to always wonder if it could." --Clayton (about Susie)
"The way you treated me, the way you turned; that's when my mentality on you changed. I couldn't even defend myself. I felt so vulnerable. I felt that night you made me question my inner voice, my intuition, everything. I felt like an awful person. I felt bad about what I did. It was humiliating if I'm being honest. I felt like a stray dog that had come into your home and you were shooing me out. I was already so embarrassed by the whole conversation, the whole topic, if you just have love for me as a person, how could you treat me like this? I felt so awful and you made me feel wrong and bad and that, to me, was the heartbreak." --Susie
"The second you walked out, I lost everything. If you do walk out, I lose everything." --Clayton
"My happiness is in Susie right now. Everything is invested in her." --Clayton
"Regardless of what happens with her, Gabby and Rachel did nothing wrong ... I owe it to them to tell them everything and ultimately break up with them." --Clayton
"I feel extremely guilty because a few days ago when I fought for these women, I was like, 'Either of you could be my wife.' And I really did believe that. Unfortunately, that has changed." --Clayton
"I won't fault these women for however they react. ... I do deserve it considering how this has all played out." --Clayton
"I realized it's not feasibly possible for me to be in love with three women like I said I was. Everybody deserves to have someone give them 100 percent of their heart. And unfortunately, I just can't be that person for either of you because my heart's no longer here. It's with Susie." --Clayton (to Gabby and Rachel)
"I really don't have anything to say. Thank you, I know it was hard to come here and tell us, but I think you were too late and for both of us, you could have thought about it before, putting yourself in our shoes. So that's it, I think, for me." --Gabby (exit stage right)
"I'm pissed because I spent the last two days away from my friends and my family who actually do give a s--- about me and you don't." --Gabby (to Clayton)
"You asked me to stay because you were pissed and your pride was hurt because Susie left. ... So why couldn't you talk to us about it instead of fighting for us to stay." --Gabby
"Because I didn't want you to leave." --Clayton
"But now you do! So what the f--- is the difference?" --Gabby
"One time it was going to be my decision, which you didn't want it to be and now it's going to be yours, which is easier." --Gabby
"Am I able to walk you out?" --Clayton
"No." --Gabby (epic look of disgust)
"What you put us through at the Rose Ceremony. And then, me choosing to stand there with you; I was the only one who chose to stand there. And you told me that you were willing to fight for this and that moving forward it would make us stronger, and I believed you. And I continued to fight for you with your parents when I was heartbroken and telling them how much I loved you. When you put me in this car today, I'm not gonna just stop loving you. And I promise you, when you look back on this-- This is gonna haunt you, the fact that you let me go." --Rachel
"I fought for this every single day and you never once fought for me. You never did. I was the one who fought by myself for you because I thought it was worth it." --Rachel
"Rachel, I'm so sorry." --Clayton
"You gave up on us. You gave up. I never gave up. I never stopped fighting for you. Ever." --Rachel
"I cannot believe you're gonna put me in a car right now." --Rachel
"He didn't even shed a tear. He didn't even cry. He didn't even cry at all. He just walked me out. I was in love, but he was never in love with me." --Rachel (in the car)
"I don't even know if she's going to allow me to fight for another day, but this is how seriously I take our relationship. Seeing a ring in front of my face, it just shows me, I believe that Susie is the one. There's hope here in this ring." --Clayton
"The love that I have in my heart is so real and I know that you have it, too. But I don't feel the kind of live I have for you right now is the kind of love you have for me. You have an unconditional love of someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. That's not where I'm at. I have made the decision to leave Iceland alone. It doesn't make it an easy decision. It's devastating, if I'm being honest. But I've thought this through and I don't think that I'm your person and I don't think that you're mine." --Susie
"I see a future with you, I see forever with you, but I also will take as long as that needs to get to that point, because, to me, it's not over until you tell me it's over." --Clayton
"After having watched it back, the first thing that comes to mind is I was just so misled. And I feel like I wasn't given all of the information even though you had all of the information at the times when I was making those decisions on whether I wanted to leave or not. That is something I didn't expect, I didn't know, so I think that really is what hurts the most for me. I truly feel betrayed." --Gabby (to Clayton)
"I am incredibly sorry that you feel that way, and you have every right to feel that way." --Clayton
"At the Rose Ceremony, you said you were being transparent, but your transparency had conditions. And when you told me that you were going to leave Iceland with the woman you loved the most and you saw my visceral reaction. The previous week you were telling Susie that you loved her the most, so you knew that that would be a deal breaker for me." --Gabby
"Watching it back, everything is so muddled and you were clearly pitting us against each other. It really seemed like a competition, which I had expressed to you that I didn't want to be a part of." --Gabby
"It seemed like you had your mind set on Susie way before you wanted to tell us." --Gabby
"When you say you love someone, you're assuming responsibility to protect them, to care for them and to not hurt them, and you didn't do any of those things." --Gabby
"To see just complete disrespect for me and Gabby in the sense that he couldn't break up with us separately." --Rachel
"I became collateral damage in your journey for love that was a completely selfish journey. I feel like watching that back, there was no empathy at all for me or Gabby. You not shedding a single tear and watching myself, I just can't even imagine how you could do that. And I just think it's so disrespectful." --Rachel
"I'm incredibly sorry, I really am. You shouldn't have had to go through any of that." --Rachel
"I just don't believe you. The fact that this is the first time I'm hearing any sort of apology on camera. ... You told us you wanted to give us transparency but you left out the most important part. You left out that you already knew who the one was, who you loved the most. We're gonna see that back. And that's why I just don't believe you, and I don't believe you were in love with me at all." --Rachel
"You told me that I was the first person you said 'I love you' to in six years. I had no reason to ever doubt you. So, did you tell me that you were in love with me because you wanted to sleep with me?" --Rachel
"I was reached out to by someone and it was the last person that I ever expected to reach out and, yeah, I just was shocked, absolutely shocked, that there was maybe something that came from all of it." --Clayton
"I don't want you to take this the wrong way. What are you doing here?" --Jesse (to Susie)
"Are you guys back together?" --Jesse
"That's my boyfriend." --Susie
"It's not Gabby. And it's not Rachel. It's Gabby and Rachel!" --Jesse (announcing the next Bachelorettes)
"For the first time, we will have two Bachelorettes -- the whole season!" --Jesse
"Wait, what? Do we date the same guys?" --Gabby (wanting to know how it will work)