The Best ‘Bachelor’ Recap You’ll Ever Read: The One Where All Of America Sharpens Their Knives

Welcome back to the best Bachelor recap you’ll ever read! Tonight is the night. Fantasy Suites. The night where we get to see Clayton play with the heart and souls of three women as if they were emotional Play-Doh. And on International Women’s Day, no less!

Last night was the second in a two-day, four-hour Bachelor event that literally no one asked for. Night one was the Women Tell All, in which the women told us nothing except the intimate details of their blinding hatred for Clayton. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grown man chastised in such a way that it felt like 20+ women were giving him verbal spankings all at once—but it did put years back on my life to do so. Thank you for your service, ladies. 

But if I was feeling even a little bit badly for Clayton, those feelings have all but evaporated after his rage-inducing performance on last night’s episode. One of the things I’ve struggled with this season is connecting to the storyline, to the women, and, especially, to Clayton. For the last nine episodes I’ve joked that Clayton’s existence is the result of a teen witch accidentally animating a stock image of “hot guy” and letting him loose on America’s most eligible women. I’ve compared his personality to whole milk, his deductive reasoning skills to those of a toaster, and his critical thinking skills to my dog’s daily debate on eating her own shit. What I’m saying is, I thought Clayton was just another hot, dumb jock who was going to bumble through his time as the Bachelor like he’s bumbled through every other aspect of his life. But last night we finally got to see the real Clayton, the guy behind those winning smiles and bland platitudes, and it was absolutely sinister. 

Let’s get into it. 

Rachel’s Fantasy Suite

In typical Bachelor form, the producers have all three remaining women staying in one hotel room where they’ll  get the pleasure of watching their competition walk of shame home after their dates with Clayton. Diabolical. Rachel is up first, and her date card has an ominous message about finding out how “deep” her love for Clayton goes. I have a feeling Clayton’s intentions are less about mining the depth of their emotional bond and more about mining the depth of her cervix, but carry on. 

It appears I’m wrong on both counts. Clayton was talking neither about their love nor about her vagina, but rather, about her impending death. They go spelunking through a dormant volcano (again, the sex metaphors abound) and this is the stuff of my nightmares. Seriously. I’ve seen The Descent and this is a plotline straight from that movie. Is he hoping that the vague threat of death will get her hot later? If so, I’m worried about the rest of what he considers “foreplay.”  

Rachel says that while the cave stuff is fine, she needs an “I love you” from Clayton if she’s going to put out. It’s the same ultimatum I gave my first boyfriend before he took my virginity, and that definitely didn’t end in me getting dumped three months later in the middle of a beer pong game. But, you know, good luck with that Rachel. 

Later, during dinner, Clayton tells Rachel that he’s been keeping this to himself but he thinks he really needs to tell her now: he’s in love with her. First of all, it should be illegal for the Bachelor/ette leads to drop the “L” word outside of the final rose. Congress may not have written up legislation on this niche issue yet, but it’s still, like, very morally frowned upon on this franchise. I especially don’t like it being used during the fantasy suites setting, a setting that emphasizes sex, when words like “I love you” could be interpreted as emotional manipulation to get someone to sleep with you.

And what do you know? It works! Clayton’s declaration succeeds in getting Rachel to sleep with him (or at least letting him do some very heavy petting that resulted in her saying “uh-huh, yeah, I definitely came” before distracting him with a hand job so she could just go to sleep). The next morning he leaves Rachel looking flushed and gooey, and he screams once more—on the very public streets of Iceland—that he’s in love with her. Like, are the other girls not staying in that very same hotel? He better hope they aren’t at the continental breakfast eavesdropping on the date when he made that daring proclamation. 

Later, Clayton contemplates if dropping the “L” bomb was kosher. He’s like, “I didn’t plan to say it to Rachel, it just happened” which shows just how little thought went into saying those words during the date. He’s not thinking through the emotional consequences of saying those words to a girl who may or may not end up being his wife. Clayton, repeat after me: I. AM. AN. IDIOT. SANDWICH. 

idiot sandwich gif

Gabby’s Fantasy Suite

Gabby’s up next and she’s especially excited for her alone time with Clayton. In her words, she says she hasn’t dated anyone for this long before without being intimate with them. This is fun because if you actually added up their alone time they have probably spent five uninterrupted days together—and even that seems generous. 

More than some alone time with Clayton, Gabby would just like some champagne and romance. She didn’t fly to Iceland for adventures. She flew to Iceland to put on a Shein bikini that she pretends is Revolve and to get drunk in the hot springs. It’s what we all want, really. 

WHAT GABBY SAID: I’m hoping for a whale watching cruise with strawberries and champagne.
WHAT CLAYTON HEARD: 

Wow, you guys are really speaking the same language these days. Totally on the same page.

The rest of the night follows the same script Clayton acted out with Rachel almost to a T. He takes Gabby to dinner, tells her he’s falling for her, then he fucks her in a yurt. Swap out the girl, the yurt, and the dinner menu, and this was his exact date with Rachel. Almost the same words, even, were said to each girl. The next morning, just like the morning after with Rachel, Clayton loudly yells: “I’m falling in love with you!” followed by a little “whoop” that shrivels what’s left of my libido. If you’re looking for a tally, that means Clayton has now told not one, but TWO women he’s in love with them and bragged to the cameras about being physically intimate with both. Vomit.

It’s only after he’s put some distance between himself and the dates that he starts to wonder if having sex with two women two nights in a row will come back to bite him in the ass. You think?? These aren’t NFL groupies looking for a wild story and sex with the benchwarmer. These women came here looking for a lasting relationship with a mature man. They didn’t give you any sex ultimatums, but they were probably hoping you would save something for your potential wife—if not “I love you,” then at the very least, your penis. 

Susie’s Fantasy Suite

Susie and Clayton at their fantasy suite date

Which brings us to Susie’s date. You can tell Clayton is hoping to recycle his wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am script one last time. Third time’s a charm and all of that. What he didn’t account for is Susie being more in the mood to drown herself in the hot springs than to entertain his horny ass. 

All week Susie has been spiraling. She’s been watching girl after girl walk into their suite with goofy grins and sex hair. She’s got working eyes and ears. She knows what’s going on. To the cameras, she confesses that she’s worried Clayton slept with the other women—or worse—said “I love you” to them. Welp. She can read him like a book and it’s a sad, sad story.

SUSIE: I’m so all in with Clayton
ME, ALONE IN MY LIVING ROOM:

Never trust a man who shaves his chest, Susie!

Clayton tells Susie that he loves her too, because at this point why not? He’s already fucked himself. Why not make it a trifecta? But Susie is not following his script. Instead of crying or looking grateful, she asks him what he said and did with the other girls. How does she know she’s special? 

SUSIE: I can’t be with you if you’ve slept with other women or told anyone else that you love them. That’s my hard line.
CLAYTON: 

At first, Clayton dodges the question. He alludes that he’s expressed some romantic feelings to other women, which makes it sounds as if he was unsure about the feelings he expressed, when in reality he screamed his devotion on public street corners. Clayton tells Susie that she’s special, don’t worry, he’s the most in love with her. Again, I’m sensing an emotional manipulation is at play to get Susie to sleep with him.

I also feel for these other women. If a man fucked me and then screamed to the world that he loved me, I’d probably believe him. It’s an insult to those women that not 48 hours later he’s minimizing those actions in favor of salvaging his supposedly stronger relationship with Susie.  

Eventually, Clayton tells Susie that, yes, he slept with the other women and, also yes, he said “I love you” to them. What of it? He’s the Bachelor. It’s his journey. Get on board or get the fuck out. I’m sorry, but was this supposed to make her feel better about their connection? Susie takes a moment to collect herself and that’s when Clayton’s nice guy veneer completely disappears. His regret and frustration quickly transitions to anger at Susie for daring to question his process. 

The thing is, Susie is allowed to have these boundaries whether she’s voiced them or not. Should she have told Clayton her feelings before the fantasy suites? Probably. But she doesn’t owe him shit. If she wants to walk because he slept with other women, that’s totally her prerogative. Clayton can absolutely do what he wants as well. He can sleep with women, tell them he loves them, suggest they have a threesome if the final rose thing doesn’t work out, whatever. But he can’t demand they be on board with his polyamory. It’s not just that he slept with them, it’s that he told all three of them that he loved them. That’s kind of a big deal. What makes his connection special with any one of them if he’s having the exact same feelings about all of them?

It’s not even the situation that unfolded tonight that’s so upsetting to watch. It’s the way Clayton handled the situation. Susie is visibly crying and distraught. She apologizes multiple times for not telling Clayton her feelings sooner. “I know it’s too much to ask,” she says at one point. (Newsflash: It’s not). Clayton, meanwhile, screams in her face that she invalidated everything, that she should feel awful for the way she’s treated him. Then there’s the absolutely unhinged moment where he apologizes for yelling at her AND THEN BLAMES HER FOR IT. He’s like “this is so out of character for me… but you drove me to this.”

This is where we get to see the real Clayton. Not the Clayton who plays with puppies or gets sad notes from kids or smiles dumbly in front of the cameras. This is Clayton. A guy who is as likely to sleep with you as he is to scream at you.

His rage is scary. The way he strong arms Susie out of that building and into the car is scarier. There’s a moment when he’s yelling at Susie that you can tell she just shuts down. She stops crying and starts placating him. That is a survival instinct clicking into place, because it’s the moment when she realizes she isn’t safe in this conversation. That this could potentially escalate to violence. It was absolutely gut-wrenching to watch. This is the nicest man in America? The most eligible bachelor? If this is Clayton on his best behavior, I hate to see what he’s like in a relationship when cameras aren’t rolling.

Do I think Clayton is abusive? That’s hard to say. What I am saying is that this was the first time I saw any real emotion from him and it was unleashed anger aimed at a woman. Whatever respect I had for Clayton (and that was slim to begin with) is gone. I suspect I’m not alone in this feeling as I distinctly heard all of America sharpening their knives immediately after this episode ended. Good luck to you, buddy!

Images: ABC (4); Giphy (5)

The Best ‘Bachelor’ Recap You’ll Ever Read: I Want My Money Back

Happy Hometowns, hooligans! I thought my day was rough when one of my students decided that an acceptable excuse for missing my class was “Buffalo Wild Wings had a special and now I’m horizontal and regretting my life choices,” but I think having to introduce Clayton—Clayton!!!—to the people that raised you might have me beat. Lol, can you even imagine?

That’s right, kids: Hometowns are here! This is the first real Hometowns we’ve had since COVID wreaked havoc on our world order—and by “world order” I mean our reality TV blueprints. The day has finally come where ABC gets to sub out La Quinta Inn conference rooms and papier-mâché state capitals for real homes and real towns. I’m sure to make it happen they only had to sacrifice their least favorite intern to a God of Old in the bowels of ABC studios. But was it worth it?? Absolutely not. 

Historically, Hometowns are one of the more dramatic episodes of the season. It’s a time when the Bachelor gets to explain to the friends and family of the woman he’s dating that he’s seriously dating this woman… as well as three other women. And the cognitive dissonance the families must experience! Their blessing from this date basically results in their child traveling  to an undisclosed location where they’ll play a game of “just the tip” with Clayton.

CLAYTON THIS WEEK: I will take such good care of your daughter. She means the world to me.
CLAYTON IN ONE WEEK: 

So, yeah. Tensions are usually high. Usually. But during Hometowns this week, the messiest thing to happen on a date was watching Serene psychologically torture Clayton with an obstacle course. Where were the tears? The mothers getting drunk off Chardonnay? The fathers alluding to having favorite places to hide bodies? The jealous sisters trying to sabotage the favorite child’s happiness? Instead we got to watch four well-adjusted families and their well-adjusted daughters make small talk with the human equivalent of burnt toast. Boooo. Let’s get into it.  

The Biggest Snooze Fest: Susie’s Hometown

The biggest disappointment this week was Susie’s date. I say “disappointment” because all 12 minutes of footage ABC allotted to Susie’s hometown were about as visually stimulating as watching blades of grass grow. Susie invites Clayton to join her in Virginia where she wants to find out if Clayton “likes to be choked.” Lest we all forget that Susie has a personality, and it’s Jiu Jitsu. I hope your grandmother finds that joke as funny as you do, Susie. 

You can tell Clayton is relieved that the only choking he’ll have to do is to that nice-looking sensei over there. Clayton looks like the type to spank a woman in bed and then immediately apologize for it. In fact, I suspect that could be his kink: uncontrolled apologies. 

Susie and Clayton on The Bachelor during Hometown dates doing jiu jitsu

Later, Clayton meets the family, and they’re cute but boring. That’s great for Susie’s well-adjusted-ness as a human but bad for our viewing pleasure. The only moment of tension we really get is when Susie’s father talks to Clayton one-on-one. He explains that when he was sick, Susie never left his side. That’s just the kind of girl Susie is. I think it’s fun that he’s emphasizing the importance of loyalty to a man who’s playing tonsil hockey with a small pledge class of women.  

Susie’s mom is the only voice of reason. She tells Susie to proceed with caution—remember, Clayton has never actually said he loves you!—and Susie nods resolutely. She will definitely keep that in mind when Clayton asks to do butt stuff next week. 

Hometown Winner: Gabby’s Grandpa

Every Hometown has its winners and losers, and this week’s winner was hands down Gabby’s Grandpa John. Personally, I’ve never understood the appeal of Gabby. Clayton, and America, seem to think that she is some sort of comedy savant. Well, this week watching her hike in what can only be described as a Euphoria x Dick’s Sporting Goods collab—I’m skeptical.

CLAYTON: Everyone knows that Gabby is the funniest woman alive
ME, A SELF-PROCLAIMED FUNNY GIRL: 

I worry that Clayton has associated “humor” with just girls who laugh…

But you know who I do understand the appeal of? Gabby’s Grandpa John. John is, in short, a national treasure and should be protected as such. When Gabby’s family asks her what their first impressions of each other were and she has to admit that her first words to Clayton involved her asking him to sit on her face AND GRANDPA JOHN LAUGHS?! 

Look, I’m not saying Clayton should propose to Gabby solely because he would get to do family dinners with Grandpa John, but I’m not not saying that, either. I mean, talk about a man who understands comedic timing. This man should have his own Netflix special. I’d watch it. Case in point? These iconic lines from the episode:

“You like Gabby? She’s always been a dingbat”

“What do I think of Clayton? He’s full of shit. Anybody who likes you is obviously full of crap!”

“If this isn’t forever, I’ll be really pissed. I’ll come back and haunt you.”

There is a point during Gabby’s hometown date where it becomes clear that I’ve had too much wine to deal with Grandpa John. He tells Gabby that the only person he’s loved more than her is his late wife and, y’all, I AM CRYING IN THIS CLUB RN. If I’m not careful this man is going to melt my cold, dead heart. 

Hometown Loser: Clayton

Where there’s a winner, there’s a loser… Hi Clayton!! Every season ABC tries to make the Bachelor out as the idyllic life partner and, boy, have they had their work cut out for them with Clayton. Overall, Clayton has been about as dynamic to watch as a Looney Tunes character—and I’m afraid that’s being unkind to the Looney Tunes. You would think that Hometowns would be a time for him to really shine. After all, ABC has been telling us from day one that he’s good with dogs and kids! Think again. With the families he’s bland and awkward. With the women he has less cool points than a fanny pack. 

Serene’s Hometown is a great example of this. From the opening moments of this date, I’m wondering what the hell Serene sees in Clayton. It’s like watching an earthworm try to court a gazelle. Because here’s the thing about Serene: she’s goddamn gorgeous. And Clayton is fully aware that someone as hot and smart as she is should in no version of reality want to date his measly ass. I don’t think Serene cares much for Clayton either.

This is particularly evident when she plans her hometown date for Clayton. Her dream date with him apparently involves making him wet himself on national television. Now I ask you, is that the kind of activity you would force upon a man you actually want to sleep with??

She’s like, “welcome to my hometown! Now, suit up, we’re doing an obstacle course that has only ever been completed by the at-risk teens in our town who got sent to wilderness camp.” Clayton looks hilariously horrified. He would like to go back to the time when the only obstacles he engaged in were self-made and involved him trying to hide his chubby from the cameras whenever Serene showed up to one-on-one dates in those corset tops.

I’m not sure what Serene was hoping to accomplish with this date, but it sure as hell wasn’t to induce any sexual feelings towards the man. She spends more time laughing at his terror than anything else.  

SERENE: Yeah, it’s funny I’ve never seen a grown man scream like that before?
THE GROWN MAN IN QUESTION:

You and me both, honey.  His screams will be forever imprinted on my brain stem. 

Most Dramatic (?) Hometown: Rachel’s Hometown

Rachel’s date proved to be the most dramatic, but again, I’m using the term “dramatic” loosely. Dramatics would require 1) any sort of plot twist, or 2) for Rachel to speak above the decibel of rustling leaves. 

The date starts out hot enough. The two go kayaking in a swamp (reminder: Rachel is from Florida so potentially being eaten by gators while they gyrate against a stump is probably a step up in the romance department from the other Florida men she’s dated). Eventually they happen across a kissing tree where the two proceed to make out in such a way that will definitely result in one or both of them getting a UTI. Ay yi yi. That tree said “kiss”, not fornicate!! 

There is a brief moment where ABC tries to tease us into thinking that Rachel’s father will not support their union. We learn that Rachel’s father is notorious for hating Rachel’s boyfriends and even once threatened bodily harm to an ex. Sounds promising, right? Nope. Very quickly even that drama gets squashed with a brief promise on Clayton’s part to always support Rachel’s career. ABC!! At this rate the Hallmark channel has more drama and tension than what I’ve witnessed on this screen.  

So, Who Goes Home?

Serene. During the rose ceremony Clayton chooses Gabby, Rachel, and Susie to advance to the Fantasy Suites. Your funeral, ladies. Clayton doesn’t really explain his choice except to say that he’s sorry, he had to follow his heart. Is it the heart thing or is it that you’re still trying to get the skid mark stains out of your drawers after that Fear Factor date? Be honest, Clayton. Either way, Serene gets to dodge a bullet sent home and we have to wait until next week to watch Clayton set fire to everything he knows and loves. I do love watching a man destroy himself. Until then!

Images: ABC/Craig Sjodin; Giphy (5); ABC

The Best ‘Bachelor’ Recap You’ll Ever Read: Too Old For This Shit

Welcome back to the best Bachelor recap you’ll ever read! As if it wasn’t already a blow to my ego to be single and 30 on Valentine’s Day, ABC wants to rub salt in the open wound by making sure my only viable plans for the evening are to sit shackled to my TV watching beautiful, college-educated women throw themselves at the human equivalent of whole milk. God damn you, ABC. God damn you. 

Let’s Get Ready To Rumbleeeee

If you were hoping that ABC would stick with the V-day theme and produce an episode that could actually convince people with fully-functioning frontal lobes to believe there’s a chance at finding love on reality TV—think again! This week starts with where we left things last episode: the two-on-one date. I can’t think of anything that screams “everlasting love” less than a two-on-one date. The rules are simple: two women enter, only one leaves. In any other reality this is the plot of a Dateline episode, but okay. 

Shanae is already gearing up to con Clayton out of choosing another perfectly normal girl to give his rose to. She knows that what Clayton truly wants isn’t someone who loves lazy Sunday mornings, drinking coffee in bed; it’s someone who will cut his brake wires after he forgets to load the dishwasher just once. Come on, it’s written all over your face, buddy!! 

SHANAE: I’ve been through hell and back for Clayton. I deserve to be here.
THE HELL:

 

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A post shared by Shanae Ankney (@shanae.a)

And, look, I know I shouldn’t, but is anyone else secretly rooting for Shanae? Yes, I know she’s vile and unhinged, but my god can the woman put on a good show. Like, imagine if she won the whole damn thing and Clayton is just watching this at home with her now in abject horror. I mean, we’ve endured six weeks—six weeks!—of the Shanae Show. At this point, her reign of terror has gone on for so long that I no longer want her to leave. I want this whole season to be Clayton just being obviously conned. Give the people what they want!

During the date, Genevieve tries her best to focus on her alone time with Clayton. If I were her, I would be wondering why she’s on this date at all. She’s had beef with Shanae, sure, but everyone has had beef with Shanae. Why pit her specifically against the gorgon? I get the feeling that Clayton just liked her the least out of the other girls and was deciding between boring and crazy. A question that has plagued the male species for eons. 

While Genevieve’s strategy is to play it safe, sane, and stable (booooo), Shanae’s strategy is to just continue creating chaos. It’s like Shanae’s foreplay demands role play, but the role play has to consist of her acting like the victim of middle school bullying. She tells Clayton that Genevieve is actually the unhinged one, that Genevieve was inconsolable at being chosen for the two-on-one and just “wanted to go home” already, and that Genevieve is the actress who’s been faking her way through her conversations with Clayton. Jesus Christ, this bitch is good. She could literally shit in her hand and tell Clayton it’s gold and he would believe her. You have to applaud the audacity. 

SHANAE: Getting this rose tonight is going to feel better than sex.

Yes, well. Certainly sex with Clayton

Clayton is putty in Shanae’s hands. He asks Genevieve—in front of Shanae!—what her secret agenda is. Is she an actress who’s been lying to him this whole time? Jesus fucking Christ. I’ve seen vegetable peelers with better cognitive reasoning skills than what Clayton’s displayed this entire season. Congratulations, Clayton. You’re one of the dumbest Bachelors in this franchise. And I say that having had to watch Chris Harrison explain penetration to Colton a few seasons back! 

Clayton, unsure of who to trust, asks for a few minutes alone so he can think things through. I’m not sure what Mother Willow over there is going to tell you that you don’t already know, but okay. At this point he has to know Shanae is sociopathic, he’s just deciding if that’s worth the tantric sex in the fantasy suites. Only if your orgasms depend on knife play, buddy! 

After wallowing by the falls for way too long, Clayton decides to give Genevieve the rose. Is it just me or does Genevieve not only look shocked to be receiving said rose, but also a little disgusted at having to accept it? If a man called me an actress and a liar to my face, never apologized for it, and then shoved a half-hearted rose at me as an “apology,” that rose (and his favored body parts) would find themselves at the bottom of Niagara Falls. 

With Genevieve in, that means Shanae’s out… for now. I get the feeling that roses are not legally binding enough to hinder Shanae from, say, using her passport of her own free will to show up at their next locale. Court ordered mandates are more her love language, you feel me?

Clayton: A Grower, Not A Shower

I wasn’t expecting a lot when ABC announced Clayton as their new Bachelor, but I was expecting him to have at least a few brain cells to rub together. Boy, was I wrong. There were multiple points throughout the episode where Clayton commented on his “growth” as a person, to which I feel compelled to ask: when and, like, how have you actually grown?? After Shanae’s exit, no one was prouder of Clayton than Clayton. The women were crying like their country had just been liberated, while Clayton basked in being the liberator. At one point he says something like this week has challenged him to grow as a person, and I’m not sure what he wants from us. A “congratulations” for not picking the girl that gets his dick wet? You’re looking for a wife, not someone to send you nudes in your DMs!

As if to highlight his new role as “mature” and “cultured” and “Patron Saint of Turning Down Blowjobs From Psychos For The Greater Good” Clayton tries to educate the women on their new travel destination: Croatia. Honey, they know where Yacht Week is. This isn’t amateur hour. Once in Croatia, ABC can’t help but contrast the “growth” Clayton was bragging about by cutting to b-roll of Clayton thinking deeply on a boat. Ah, yes, that’s so different from the Clayton he was in Toronto. And, of course, Clayton has the uncanny ability of making gorgeous Croatia look like the creek in his granddad’s backyard. It’s just the way he sits on that boat. 

Later, his growth is put to the test during his one-on-one date with Teddi. She reveals that though she’s hot and smart and not even a little bit religious, she’s actually still a virgin. She’s never been in love before and she wants to wait until she’s in love to have sex. Meanwhile, Clayton is looking at her like she’s the riddle he has to solve after meeting a troll under a bridge. 

TEDDI: I’m a virgin… does that worry you?
CLAYTON: 

He’s like “wow, you’re a virgin? But I’m actually attracted to you??” Yes, Clayton, believe it or not, attraction is not actually dependent on if someone has their hymen or not. Crazy! I truly can’t wait to see where this new “grown” Clayton takes us next!

Mara Is Too Old For This Shit

With production’s golden goose Shanae out of the house, they need to find a new evil to curse the contestants with. And what could be more evil than a woman in her 30s! That’s right: production has set their sights on Mara to be the new season villain. To be fair, Mara is having a hard time this week and it has nothing to do with the tangled web ABC wants to weave. It’s like she woke up and realized that she is 32 and on The Bachelor. *shudders*

The thing is, this show is not meant for us olds to succeed. I say “olds” not because any of these women are actually old, but because traditionally contestants who’ve aged out of their parents’ insurance plan don’t make it far. The Bachelor leads are quick to say that they’re looking for a mature woman to wife up and settle down with, and then promptly choose a woman whose most recent career achievement was putting together a pancake breakfast for the Alpha Delta Pi alumni event. So, I don’t blame Mara for looking around the room and asking herself wtf. No, actually, what the fuck

CLAYTON: When I look around this room, I see my future wife.
THE ROOM:

At 32, Mara is the oldest contestant on the show and the only contestant to be shut out of any one-on-one dates. When Sarah, a woman nine years her junior, receives a second one-on-one date, Mara’s head practically does a 360° spin around her body. 

This is not to say that I’m Team Mara by any means. I just understand how infuriating it is to watch dudes gaslight “older” women by saying they want maturity and then actively choosing the opposite. And it’s not that younger women aren’t mature or ready enough for marriage, it’s just that these women on this show aren’t mature or ready enough for marriage. They’re ready to quit their jobs to become full-time Instagram peons. That’s it. 

Later, during the group date, Mara confronts Clayton about his favoring younger women and wow wow WOW she is really laying it all on the table. 

MARA: It’s your journey, Clayton…
ALSO MARA:

Mara tells Clayton that Sarah is not ready for marriage. She implies that this is something Sarah said to her and not a personal observation of Mara’s. Mara, Mara, Mara. This is not the way to go about winning, honey! Going after Sarah feels like low-hanging fruit. You’re better than this.

Plus, I mean, the age difference between Clayton and Sarah is actually not that crazy. Sarah is 23 and Clayton is 28 (he has the maturity levels of a 13-year-old, but is still technically 28!). But I do see Mara’s point. Sarah was going to frat formals last semester and now suddenly she’s ready for matrimony? She literally still drinks jungle juice out of garbage cans at parties. Neil Lane cannot in good conscience adorn that Kool-Aid stained hand with one of his rings. 

Mara’s accusations cause Clayton to confront Sarah on their one-on-one date. I see his devotion to personal growth and thinking for himself is working out great for him! The rest of the episode is a pandemonium of sobs and wails. Sarah cannot believe anyone would call her young. She has a Linktr.ee with all her personal swipe-up codes on her IG handle, for god’s sake. They don’t just give swipe-up codes to babies, okay!! 

She survives the one-on-one date with a rose… but barely. And may god have mercy on Mara’s soul if Sarah ever finds out who threw her under the bus. Hell hath no fury like a woman-who-has-yet-to-need-Botox scorned. 

Roses & Eliminations

As always, ABC has left me with nothing but anarchy and fragmented story lines to make sense of for this recap. Narrative arcs are so 2021…

Roses:

Eliminations:

Images: Giphy (5); @shanae.a /Instagram (1)

The Best ‘Bachelor’ Recap You’ll Ever Read: Am I… Actually Entertained?

Well, well, well, here we are again. We are just days into this new year and ABC has already went and said “fuck your new years resolutions.” That’s right, a new year means a new season of our favorite American horror story: The Bachelor! It’s time to put all of your new year’s progress on hold (all three days of it) and indulge in last year’s trash. By “trash” I am of course referring to our new Bachelor, Clayton Echard, a man so bland and mediocre that even the audience base who still shops at Vera Bradley and measures the weight of their existence solely by the presentation of their monograms was like “ugh, this guy? Seriously?” Yes, seriously. 

By the time the episode’s opening credits roll, it’s clear that ABC is still working overtime to sell us on Clayton. What does this “overtime” consist of, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t consist of. Instead of asking Clayton any personal questions to capitalize on, finding out if, say, he has a quirky hobby like that he secretly learned Elvish during a college recruiting trip, or that he has some sort of fun interest in the art of charcuterie–they decide to double down on the shit we already hate about him. They tell us that Clayton is just a simple guy from a simple town and then show us footage of a town that could have doubled as the one that banned teens from dancing in Footloose

CLAYTON: I just want a soul mate to show my hometown to
THE HOMETOWN: 

My god there are so many white people in this town. And so many white people doing white people things! A middle-aged woman bleaching the shit out of her hair, teen girls somehow—in the year 2022—wearing Aeropostale’s spring line from 2007, two middle-aged guys manspreading in front of an American flag draped over a fire truck. Is this a real town or a manifestation of one of my stress dreams from when CNN used to show too much footage of Trump rallies?

Next up on ABC’s highlight reel for Clayton: his journey on Michelle’s season. Not sure you can use the term “journey” for a stint of time that’s shorter than a CDC recommendation for COVID quarantine, but okay. Clayton himself even jokes that he was only on the show for eight minutes. I worry that he doesn’t understand the actual joke he just made. The joke isn’t that you only lasted on The Bachelorette for a brief amount of time and then somehow landed a leading role on the next season. The joke is that ABC, knowing they had already picked you to be said lead, could not find more than eight minutes of footage to air about you. The most interesting parts of you amounted to a total of eight minutes. That’s how dismal the state of this season is. 

We are also reminded that even though Michelle didn’t love Clayton, kids loved Clayton. Kids also love eating dirt and leaving skid marks in their underoos. What’s your point, ABC? The producers took special care to air the footage of the “children” writing Clayton a pity note about how awesome he is after Michelle dumped him. This is the only evidence they have that Clayton is worthy of being our Bachelor. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it. Speaking of the “children,” the producer who had to write a letter to Clayton in the voice of a kindergartner probably has a tenuous grasp on his  mental health right now. Can we get someone to check on that guy? I’m worried. 

Despite the fact that ABC signed us all up to watch the consequences of drinking whole milk your entire life embark on a journey to find love, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the episode. Dare I say… I was even entertained? *immediately waits for God’s smiting* Look, just because I took mild pleasure in viewing this episode that doesn’t mean I was able to find any sort of narrative arc to adhere to this recap. Sorry. This first night had all of the structure and organization of some sort of demonic entity breaking down the gates of hell and it must be recapped as such. No, instead I shall touch upon the night’s highs and leave it at that. Let’s get into it:

The Girls Have Gone Wild Feral

I thought Matt had it tough last season when he tried to find love in the middle of a global pandemic. During his season the women were still getting human interaction through zoom happy hours and so seeing a real live human man—not just sending sexts through Snapchat to an ex or emotionally masturbating to the IG accounts of the cast of The Outer Banks—was like watching the unraveling of the human psyche in real time. But if I thought those ladies were unhinged and horned up, it’s nothing compared to the stock of psychos they found for Clayton’s season.   

 

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Normally on the first night we see a few kooks, but I am genuinely recommending a wellness check for every woman on this season. You can tell that half of these women have not been on a real date since March 2020 and the other half have been on dates and are appalled at the caliber of men the pandemic somehow left untouched. Take for example, Daria, a Yale law student, who says—looking directly at the camera with all of the feeling of someone who just crawled out of a bunker—to hell with getting an education, she needs a husband. I mean I think her exact words were something like “Clayton looks like the type to be a protector, a provider, and that’s really attractive to me” which is… sinister to say the least. Daria, sweetie, you were smart enough to get into Yale law but you want to hitch your wagon to a man who definitely answers spam calls and then, like, gives them the time of day? Put down the banana bread and let’s talk this out. 

And the gimmicks! Don’t even get me started about the quality of the gimmicks this season. The girls have not just gone wild, they’ve gone absolutely feral. One girl brings a boa constrictor, which has to violate several wildlife protection laws. 32-year-old Kate asks Clayton to feel her “nips” and then produces airplane bottles of whiskey straight from her bra. Kira, A DOCTOR, shows up in a lab coat and red lingerie. Gabby brings a pillow with Clayton’s face on it and says it’s because she wants to—and I quote!—“sit his face.” Another girl brings in her ex-boyfriend’s ashes and casually insinuates that she murdered him. Like, where are they finding these women? Under bridges selling their souls to magical trolls for passage?

Not only are the women going completely off the rails, but it’s clear that ABC will just be allowing the inmates to run the asylum. There are no rules anymore. Case in point: Salley’s storyline. Before we even get to limo entrances we’re introduced to Salley, whose job title is “formerly engaged.” Goddamn, these producers are ruthless. We learn that Salley recently broke off an engagement because of “trust issues”, which means her fiancé definitely cheated on her with the ex from high school he told her not to worry about. Not only was Salley recently engaged, but she was actually supposed to get married ON THE FIRST DAY OF FILMING?! We absolutely know that ABC rearranged their filming schedule to psychologically torture this girl for ratings. In fact, I think the producers might also be making her capture her tears in little airplane bottles so they might chug them before particularly grueling filming schedules to boost their life force. 

SALLEY IN THE LIMO ON THE WAY TO THE BACHELOR MANSION: 

And this is not even the most shocking part of the Salley storyline. The most shocking part is that Salley is allowed access to Clayton BEFORE THE LIMO ENTRANCES. That’s right, they give Salley Clayton’s room number and then encourage her to breach his safe space as if she is not a complete stranger. This is right up there with storming the Capitol in terms of violating the sanctity of our societal norms. 

Why does Salley need access to Clayton, a man she’s never met and only heard of a few days ago when her mother admitted that she accidentally sent her American Idol audition tape to The Bachelor instead? Well, Salley feels that Clayton deserves to know why she’s leaving before filming even started despite there being literally no need for this confession. In fact, if she never said anything to him, his life would actually not change at all because he didn’t even know she existed. That’s just facts, honey. 

SALLEY: *emotionally diarrheas on Clayton’s couch*
CLAYTON: If you don’t mind, could I step away for a second? 

Please tell me he’s leaving to go scream into a pillow. Anything else and I’ll think less of him (if that’s possible). ABC, he asked for a wife, not a head case!!

Here’s how I know Clayton is too simple to be our lead. After Salley, a stranger, shows up at his door and delivers the plot line to a Lifetime movie, he handles the situation by *checks notes* giving her a rose?! Okay, this is the wild fucking west now. They aren’t even at the Bachelor Mansion yet! You can’t just give out roses off the premises unless you want to enact a centuries-old witch’s curse! Everyone knows that! And Clayton, the answer to this woman’s deep-seated emotional trauma is not gifting her a rose you stole off the housekeeping cart mere moments before. My god, read a book. 

To no one’s surprise, Salley declines his pity rose and goes home early where (hopefully) she can take her pain and channel it into something more productive. Like, carving her name into her ex’s car. Good luck to ya, girlfriend!

 

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Senior Superlatives: Bachelor Edition

My bar for being impressed this season seems to rely on two factors: one, the absolute willingness of these ladies to debase themselves and their reputations for our viewing pleasure; and two, watching literal stars be born. Mark my words, Clayton deserves the human equivalent of low-fat yogurt for a romantic companion, but in the process of giving him that ABC has actually found some genuine talent. Let’s reflect on the biggest wins of the episode:

Most Grounded: Susie. Never did I ever think I would associate the word “grounded” with a girl who spells her name with an “ie”—and the “i” most definitely had heart over it for the majority of her life. As the rest of the girls gamely asked Clayton to lady and the tramp uncooked sausages with them, Susie watched on in abject horror. Throughout the evening you could see her mentally calculating how she ended up in this hellscape and recoiling at her unfortunate life choices. I’m awarding her most grounded because she seems cute and super judge-y. A winning combo, IMO. I’m sure she’ll go on to get the villain edit (as all the best hoes do) but for now I’m truly enjoying her presence on my screen. 

Best Vibes: Teddi. Teddi reminds me of every character Mindy Kaling has ever written about herself—the smart and charismatic horny virgin. Clayton is immediately gobsmacked by her presence and even ends up giving her the First Impression Rose. I already can’t wait for Fantasy Suites when production layers audio of her whispering “okay, but only the tip!” over footage of discarded khakis (Clayton’s) and a half-drunk bottle of champagne (Teddi’s). 

Most Deserving Of A Purple Heart: Claire. Last night I watched a hero be born in the form of Claire, a 28-year-old “spray tanner” from Virginia. We all have our origin stories, I suppose. Claire had the audacity to say what we were all thinking out loud, which is that Clayton ain’t shit. It started when she put together a cornhole, tailgating moment for the two of them, and Clayton allowed another woman to derail their alone time by stealing him for a sec (FYI my master’s degree just physically recoiled at watching me write that sentence). Claire’s response? To down a chicken wing and drunkenly declare “I could never date America’s sweetheart.” Iconic. Thank you for your service. 

Most Romantic Gesture: ABC, for capping the episode at just two hours. That’s right people, despite rumors of a three-hour opening episode, ABC actually showed they do understand the concept of self-restraint. This episode clocked in at exactly two hours, and, dare I say, all 120 minutes were actually enjoyable? Is this me eating crow?

And that’s all she wrote, kids! The trailer for this season looks positively delicious. If I thought the women seemed emotionally unbalanced on night one when they knew absolutely nothing about Clayton, that appears to be nothing compared to the emotions we’ll witness later in the season. You know what they say: There’s nothing like a mediocre white man to bring out the worst in women. Until then!

Images: ABC/John Fleenor; Giphy (2); @bachelorettewindmill /Instagram (1); thebetchelor /Instagram (1);  @Schitt’s Creek /Netflix (1)