A sudden change of heart. Clayton Echard was determined to follow his gut during part two of the season 26 Bachelor finale on Tuesday, March 15, but acknowledging his lingering feelings for Susie Evans meant facing backlash from Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia.
Susie returned at the top of the episode, and though she was not ready to decide whether she should give Clayton a second chance, he believed he had to be honest with Rachel and Gabby and break up with each of them. Clayton went to the hotel to tell Gabby and Rachel at the same time that his heart was still with Susie and he realized he could not be in love with all three of them.
Gabby stormed off, with Clayton following her. She accused him of asking her to stay because his pride was hurt after Susie’s exit and not caring about her at all. Gabby told Clayton that he still couldn’t admit that he was wrong. “You sound actually ridiculous,” she said as he attempted to explain his side of things before noting that he couldn’t fix the situation but would answer for it. Gabby left after refusing to let Clayton walk her out.
Clayton then returned to address Rachel, who was in tears. She told him that he would regret letting her go and claimed that she was the only one who fought for their relationship. Clayton said that he saw their journey ending differently, but Rachel wondered whether he ever even loved her since he showed no emotion as she left.
Clayton previously begged Rachel and Gabby to stay after admitting during a rose ceremony that he was in love with all of his final three women and had been intimate with both of them. While emotions ran high following the revelations — and Gabby initially declined a rose from Clayton — the final two women ultimately agreed to stick around and meet his parents during part one of the finale, which aired on Monday, March 14.
However, after introducing Rachel and Gabby to his family, the lead confessed that he was still in love with Susie, despite eliminating her during their fantasy suite date. The two had a blowup fight during the dinner portion of their outing after she learned that he had slept with both Gabby and Rachel and expressed his love to them. At the end of Monday night’s episode, host Jesse Palmer informed Clayton that Susie was still in Iceland after the Bachelorette season 18 alum revealed that he wanted to give his romance with her another shot.
Prior to the finale, Clayton exclusively told Us Weekly that he was “petrified” by how the final episodes of his season played out. “I went in there hoping that I could make it as seamless as possible,” he explained. “And I think, honestly, it was the closest thing to a trainwreck.”
The former football player insisted at the time that he “tried [his] best all the way through” the journey, but things did not work out how he expected.
“I took the actions that I took thinking that they were the right actions to take at that time,” he shared. “I since found out that, looking back at it, I should have asked more questions and made sure that all the women were on the same page.”
While Clayton was apprehensive to reunite with Gabby, Rachel and Susie at After the Final Rose, he believed it was necessary. “It was a mess and I feel terrible and it hurts me, but I know I have to talk to these women and we all need our closure,” he told Us. “I’m not looking forward to [it] because it’s going to be very emotional.”