This post discusses events from last night’s episode of The Bachelorette.
There’s been a ticking clock on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette since it began. We reported way back in August on the rumors that she pulled the plug on her stint incredibly early, when word that Crawley gave her final rose after only 12 days of shooting were already essentially confirmed. And ABC has been teasing the abrupt shift since the premiere. Last night on The Bachelorette it finally came to a head: Crawley professed her love for contestant Dale Moss, he reciprocated, and by the end of the episode they were engaged.
Not only that, but after departing the resort at which they were all quarantined, producers told the remaining 16 men there was a new Bachelorette, ready to start the process all over again with them. Tayshia Adams, an alum of both The Bachelor and Bachelor In Paradise, will begin the quest for love anew. But there are questions aplenty about how this could’ve happened—and why. A.V. Club staffers Gwen Ihnat, Randall Colburn, and Alex McLevy certainly have a few opinions, and they’re far from in agreement about what fans just watched.
Alex McLevy: Okay, bear with me, because I have a theory. Actually, that’s not entirely true: I have Bekah Martinez’s theory. The former Bachelor contestant, (she was on Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s season) who now co-hosts the podcast Chatty Broads with Jess Ambrose, has insight into the behind-the-scenes process of shooting the reality competition series, and for the past few episodes has been railing against The Bachelorette’s depiction of Clare, and with good reason: The show has been going out of its way to make Clare seem unfair, unreasonable, and even flat-out unlikeable. That’s not how The Bachelorette is supposed to work. There’s a clear compact between producers and their star—the title person is the hero of the story, no matter what. But the producers have chosen to essentially make Clare the villain.
Just look at how her edit was assembled from the start. On the first night, Dale is shown as the last one to arrive, after which Clare says, “I think I just met my future husband”—the implication being she met Dale and then said that. In truth, Dale was introduced to her right in the middle of the pack, meaning she didn’t say that until after she’d met a bunch of other men, too. But we’re being groomed to see her as some single-minded zealot who picked her man out before giving anyone else a chance. (And honestly, she wouldn’t be the first: Bachelorette star JoJo Fletcher has basically confirmed she knew from the first night that her eventual choice would be winner Jordan Rodgers, among numerous other men and women who knew but have played coy about it.)
Normally, the show wouldn’t put an obvious frontrunner in the spotlight, as it negates the anticipation. But in deciding to pivot and push Clare through the process as fast as possible, the producers end up revealing moments that depict her in an unflattering light. “Can we move this along a little quicker?” she says about one cocktail party, obviously bored with the men on that date, none of whom are Dale. As Martinez stressed, “Just about every Bachelor or Bachelorette ever has said that. I guarantee you.” We just don’t see it, because it makes them look bad and uncaring. And actions like not giving out a group date rose? Contestants don’t simply do that, even if they want to—they signed a contract, and there are strict rules.
No, everything she did that seemed to torpedo the season could plausibly only be done with the eager egging-on of her team of handlers on set, whispering in her ear about how she could break the rules, just this once, if she wanted. Similarly, all the men complaining about how Clare didn’t seem like she was there to take them seriously? Contrast that with the Stockholm syndrome contestants normally get, where they can’t imagine a world where the Bachelorette (or Bachelor) is anything but perfect. Again, whispers in the ear, sowing discord and discontent. They thought it would make for good drama to tank Clare’s season.
And it did! I had a ball with this abbreviated journey with Clare. But here’s the thing: By throwing her under the bus, no future Bachelor or Bachelorette can ever trust the show again. That compact has been broken, and I don’t think the producers’ short-sighted plan to give Clare the boot really took into account the long view. (And they knew they wanted to rush Clare in and out of there very early on: Martinez has confirmed that Tayshia Adams had quarantined and was brought to the set long before the Clare situation started to go off the rails. Producers are very, very good at manipulating people, as anyone who’s seen UnReal can attest.)
But I’ve prattled on far too long. Randall, Gwen? What do you think? Do you buy the theory the show pulled a fast one on Clare, rushing her to the point she would tank her stint and bow out early? And far more importantly, was it fun to watch?
Gwen Ihnat: You are obviously a much nicer and more optimistic person than I am, Alex, because my main takeaway from last night’s episode was just a giant cringe-fest. I don’t understand what The Bachelor and The Bachelorette’s preoccupation with proposals is. I mean, by my count, Clare and Dale have known each other for an extremely short period of time and have gone on fewer dates than I have fingers on one hand. Host Chris Harrison seems like a reasonably well-grounded person; as Clare kept gushing about how in love she and Dale are, he admirably tried (although failed) to keep his incredulity in check. So I was actually kind of surprised when he then immediately started pushing the proposal: What’s the matter Chris, ya pregnant? Okay, maybe a Bachelorette without a proposal at the end is like a Bachelorette episode without a rose ceremony or cocktail party (ohhh… wait), but in these unusual circumstances, couldn’t the Bachelorette powers-that-be have sent the brand-new couple off to a new quarantine pod somewhere to work out their feelings? (Then again, one of my favorite lines from the night was from Joe, commenting on Clare’s engagement with something like, “Hey, it’s 2020, why the hell not.”) But Clare going on and on about “the man of my dreams” made her sound more like a teenage BTS stan than a grown-ass woman who is supposedly ready for a real relationship. And does anyone else see all those Dale comparisons to her deceased father as ginormous red flags? Or is it just me? And Dale seemed a bit taken aback by the news that he was now basically being forced to propose.
As far as Clare becoming the villain, I dunno. I guess the power of Dale was so strong that soon Clare even wasted time in her conversations with the other guys by… talking about Dale, like she did last week after the roast. When she didn’t give a rose to anyone else (but herself, nice), that was pretty much the death knell for her time on the show. But hey, she got what she wanted, even if it didn’t fall into the usual Bachelorette timeline and seems like unhealthily light speed by typical relationship standards. But the show has done to this other leads before: Alex, you wrote a whole essay about the horrible way Arie duped Becca, and I think people still see him as the villain there. Colton’s fence-jumping. Hannah Brown coming back to mess up the beginning of Pilot Pete’s season. I believe The Bachelorette is less interested in showing its leads as admirable people than it is in stoking the drama, which Clare “I will not apologize for love!” Crawley provided in spades.
What do you guys think about Tayshia stepping in? So happy to finally see another Bachelorette of color, and she had the good taste to date the adorable John Paul Jones on Bachelor In Paradise, so I am hopeful. Honestly, the 15 guys left seem so nondescript that I still have a hard time placing them (and let’s face it, they individually got about a tenth of Dale’s total screen time), but hopefully one of them will step up. Maybe Eazy, he seems like a vastly under-appreciated potential suitor so far.
AM: You’re right to call out the Arie situation, Gwen; but The Bachelor itself never stopped being on his side, even after that debacle—witness his kid-gloves treatment on the live aftershow. It took viewer response to turn the tide on that one. Colton’s fence-jumping? Treated as a fun little joke—and not given one-tenth the criticism Clare’s been receiving (from The Bachelorette, let alone fans!), even though Colton literally tried to flee the program. Hannah B’s Pilot Pete stuff was drama, but she was never once given a crappy edit intended to make her look bad. And while yes, Clare’s insecurity occasionally led to some bad decisions on her part, they were 100% reinforced by the producers steering her in that direction. Randall, back me up here!
Randall Colburn: Alex, I absolutely agree that production’s been underhanded as hell in how they’ve portrayed Clare. On a recent episode of the Bachelor Party podcast, former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay echoed Martinez’s “move things along” observation. To act as if that kind of relatable behavior is unique to Clare is most certainly disingenuous. It also, however, doesn’t negate the fact that Clare’s comically obvious disinterest in the rest of these dudes is historic. As you mentioned, JoJo played the game despite knowing that Jordan Rodgers was her guy. She opened up and made out and played the role of emotional availability because that’s what she signed up to do. And that’s fine! That’s comforting and entertaining and romantic. Clare’s season, meanwhile, has been a maelstrom, yet another manifestation of the chaotic 2020 energy that most Bachelor viewers long to escape. Which is exactly why I like it.
The franchise has been prepping us for this, too. Kaitlyn Bristowe’s taboo tryst with Nick Viall (and the torrent of hate she received on social media in the aftermath) shook the foundations of the insular, fastidiously produced fairy tale ABC longed to create. A combination of social media, spoiler culture, and smartphone transparency forced it, like several of its contemporaries, to break the fourth wall and acknowledge the machinations working behind the scenes. Clare, however, has not only forced production to show their hand, but she’s completely rattled the show’s entire premise. She found love, she just found it too quick and was literally incapable of smothering her emotions so as to give lip service to the other dudes. And these hot, beefy men put their lives on hold to quarantine in Palm Springs and get completely ignored. That is hilarious.
It’s also given the show new textures, allowing us to view these guys through a lens not usually offered by reality dating: universal dejection. Some handled it better than others, wishing Clare the best with Dale. Others acted like petulant children, furious at her for being unable to mask her googly eyed affection. The bond that arises between them is fascinating, and it was oddly sweet to watch their spirits rise at the news that a new Bachelorette was on the way. I love the shift in dynamic; dudes who were previously relegated to the background might now become frontrunners. That’s an exciting concept!
I’m less interested, honestly, in Dale and Clare. Is it absurd that Chris Harrison essentially forces Dale to propose after only a week? Absolutely, but only a little more weird than forcing contestants to propose after a few months. The forced proposal is easily the most dated thing about this entire franchise, a truth made utterly clear by the lack of long-lasting marriages to actually emerge from the show. Will Dale and Clare last? I hope so! My cold heart melted a bit at the stars in their eyes. I’m more jazzed to see how Tayshia, a woman who’s very different from Clare in temperament and taste, changes the dynamics within the house.
Chris Harrison wasn’t lying. Clare blew up The Bachelorette. I offer my thanks.