Calling in the experts! As Clayton Echard’s dramatic conclusion began on the Monday, March 14, episode of The Bachelor, several members of Bachelor Nation appeared live to weigh in on how he handled the end of his journey.
Monday’s episode kicked off with Clayton, 28, telling finalists Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey that Susie Evans left after informing the former football player that his sexual past with the other contestants was a deal-breaker. After very emotional conversations with both women, Clayton convinced both Rachel and Gabby to stay — but not everyone was impressed with how he made that happen.
“If I’m being honest, [he’s handling this] not well. Not well at all,” Clare Crawley told Jesse Palmer. “It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to be on our side of it. We all know what that feels like. But watching it is excruciating.”
Nick Viall added that Clayton “left out the most important thing” when opening up to Rachel and Gabby — he already told Susie he loved her “the most.”
“I feel like that would be something that these women would want to hear, especially Gabby when he was trying to convince her not to trust her gut,” the former Bachelor said. “Listen, I think Clayton might have the best intentions, but I think he never took the time to consider the position of power that he’s in as the Bachelor and he never took the time to empathize with these women and what it would be like to be in their shoes and unfortunately I think you’re seeing a guy who is focused on finding love for himself and not finding love with someone else. And it’s just, I think it would go a long way for him to have been more empathetic and just put himself in their shoes.”
Michelle Young, for her part, reiterated that there is “no handbook” being the lead.
“Being vulnerable is a really strong thing to do — to put yourself out there and give everything you have. But I think it’s just this huge reminder that when you’re in a relationship — whether it’s family, whether it’s friends, an intimate relationship — you have to handle it with care,” she said. “Both sides have to be willing to put in the same amount of effort and both sides have to feel heard and acknowledged and I think that’s the only way that, you know, two people can work past something like this.”
While a majority of the audience — and several alums — have slammed Clayton, Kaitlyn Bristowe, for one, previously defended the Missouri native’s fantasy suite actions.
“I’m just going to speak from personal experience — I can’t say if you’re in that position because when would you ever be in that position, but when you’re in that position, you are making a life-altering decision,” the season 11 Bachelorette said on Tuesday, March 8, via Instagram Stories. “You genuinely fall in love with more [than one] person, so why would you not be intimate with more than one person and when you’re trying to find the person to spend the rest of your life with? Why do we judge so hard on this?”
Clayton subsequently appeared on Kaitlyn’s “Off the Vine” podcast, addressing allegations that he was a “gaslighter.”
“I’m almost fuming at people using this term gaslighting. … I did not manipulate her,” he said during the Thursday, March 10, episode. “I allowed my emotions to attack her and I wish I wouldn’t have done that. I was very upset. And I let my emotions get the best of me. I’m 1,000 percent in wrong for that. And I really wish I would never have acted that way toward her. But I did not gaslight or manipulate her, and that is 1,000 percent a fact.”
During Monday’s episode, Kaitlyn weighed in again — after it was revealed that Clayton is still in love with Susie despite begging Gabby and Rachel to stay.
The second part of The Bachelor season 26 finale airs on ABC Tuesday, March 15, at 8 p.m. ET. Scroll through for everything the Bachelor and Bachelorette alums in the audience had to stay during Monday’s episode: