Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia’s The Bachelorette season 19 is already in full swing, and Clayton Echard’s reputation may be the primary casualty for better or worse. Clayton is under fire after falling in love, sleeping with, and leading on multiple women, including Gabby, Rachel, and his now-girlfriend, Susie Evans. In The Bachelorette season 19 premiere, Gabby, Rachel, and the season 19 men were coming for Clayton, but the question is whether it’s deserved. As the season progresses, it’s clear that Clayton and his disastrous The Bachelor season might be gone but not forgotten. Clayton and Susie felt the bashing went too far, and Bachelor Nation alumni empathized with Clayton.
Gabby and Rachel will attempt to keep their past with Clayton on the periphery, but it will inevitably keep sneaking up. Gabby said she wanted to be with someone who knows how to make a decision and knows what they want in a partnership. She also said Clayton reinforced that “men have rightfully earned not being able to be trusted.” The season 19 men also didn’t cut Clayton any slack. However, as the night went on for Gabby and Rachel, falling in love with multiple people became more understandable. In episode 2, the men also started questioning what might happen come fantasy suites.
Quincey Williams said, “based on everything that’s happened to you. I’m someone that’s really intentional,” before sharing that he hadn’t had sex in a year and a half and wanted it to be meaningful next time. Jason Alabaster said he “had something in common with Clayton,” joking that he was in love with his mom, sister, and dog. Once things got creative, the Clayton bashing took on a new life. Johnny DePhillipo came through with a poem, and Alec Garza brought a whole children’s choir for a rendition of “Clayton Sucks.”
While Gabby and Rachel didn’t seem to have any problem with the creative Clayton commentary, alums of Bachelor Nation swooped into his defense. Joe Amabile, otherwise known as Grocery Store Joe, said, “First they have 7 year olds make Clayton tear up on Michelle’s season, and now they have 13 year olds singing Clayton sucks #TheBachelorette.” Former Bachelorette hostess Kaitlyn Bristowe agreed with Joe’s comment. Katie Thurston cemented, “I’m actually not ok with the Clayton slander at all… disappointing #TheBachelorette,” before commenting, “So much for protecting your lead and their mental health.”
It’s possible that the bashing is both deserved and damaging simultaneously. Clayton and Susie are understandably unhappy. From the jump of promos for Clayton’s The Bachelor season, fans and alums of the franchise alike suggested he did not seem emotionally mature enough to navigate the show. Reality TV, especially Bachelor Nation, is a highly competitive and often toxic environment. Producers ask leads to manage their emotions and those of their prospective partners. Clayton was a kind-hearted and wholesome individual, but he was woefully unprepared for The Bachelor. Is this his fault? Yes. Is this also the producer’s fault? Of course.
ABC set up Clayton for disaster. However, regardless of manipulation tactics and Clayton’s good intentions, when people mistreat people, they are ultimately accountable for their actions. The negative feedback may be harsh, but letting Clayton off the hook isn’t realistic. Simultaneously, fans, producers, and alums should acknowledge how constant negative media attention takes an immense toll on leads. Everyone is responsible and accountable for Bachelor Nation’s pit-falls, and The Bachelorette will inevitably have its own.