Over the course of my first full season of watching ABC’s “The Bachelor,” I have been studying Mizzou’s own Clayton Echard. Fans in the #BachelorNation have given him a lot of grief over the season for being boring, criticizing his (admittedly) questionable character judgment skills and wondering why the series went from the first Black Bachelor to … a man whose defining character trait is his desire for marriage.
A part of me does feel for the guy — there’s a lot of vulnerability at stake when you put your search for love out there in front of the world, which can be as cold and unforgiving as, well, Shanae. But another part of me can’t help but notice the innate inequity of what Clayton is asking of the nine women who remain.
What happened last week?:Mizzou football alum Clayton Echard grows closer to Susie, Rachel during trip to Croatia
We have watched these women open up to Clayton about their family lives, body dysmorphia, sexism in the workplace and various other personal traumas and insecurities. But aside from one moment early in the season of honesty about his own body image issues, Clayton isn’t as much of an open book. He responds to every confession from every women with the same sentence:
“Thank you for being open/honest/vulnerable.”
If I had just bared my soul to a man I hoped to someday marry and I heard that, I would be questioning.
I suppose that’s just the nature of the show. At the end of the day, Clayton is embarking on nine simultaneous relationships. It’s not an even power dynamic, and the show doesn’t pretend it is. But as we forge ahead into the show’s endgame, I can’t help but wonder how equipped Clayton actually is for the future he so desperately desires.
More:5 things to know about Clayton Echard, former Mizzou football player
More:Ryan Ferguson competing on ‘The Amazing Race’ with fellow Columbia native. Here’s what to know
Let’s dive in!
What happened on ‘The Bachelor’ this week?
After last week’s wild end, Sarah is determined to prove herself and send “liars” home, and she’s got an attitude about herself now. Returning to the hotel in Hvar, Croatia, Sarah asks the others who put a target on her back. Mara admits that she felt that Sarah getting another one-on-one was unfair since she is ready for an engagement. Sarah tells her that her machinations were for nothing.
I’m torn. I feel like Mara’s “readier-than-thou” attitude is pretty unearned considering she seemingly doesn’t know Clayton all that well. She’s not entitled to a relationship just because she feels ready.
The cocktail party
Clayton pulls Serene aside, having been moved by her talking about the death of her cousin. He gives Serene two jars with twinkly lights, their “fireflies,” just like she remembered catching with her cousin. It’s one of the first times I’ve been genuinely touched by a gesture from him.
Talking to Teddi, Susie and Rachel, Clayton feels excited by the depth of the connections he’s formed. He says the night is going … too well. Cue the drama!
Mara pulls Sarah aside and says she acted insensitive and ignorant. “You’re getting a little sloppy, and it’s showing,” Mara says, telling her to tone down her cockiness. All the while, the other women watch through a window, which is patently hilarious, and Rachel admits that Sarah’s “her and Clayton versus the world” demeanor makes the others uncomfortable.
But it looks like Sarah wins the day, as Mara and Eliza are sent home after the rose ceremony. Mara, in tears, hopes to find her “person” while Sarah declares that Clayton is on her side. I stand by my declaration that Mara is ready for a marriage, not a relationship with Clayton — I do think her going home is what’s best for her. But it’s still a bummer seeing her head home.
Kiss counter: 0
Solo date: A fairytale date in Vienna, Austria
Welcome to Vienna, Austria, everyone! The beautiful land of Mozart is the host of our final week before hometown visits begin. Susie gets the solo date, much to Genevieve’s chagrin.
Clayton first takes Susie shopping at a posh Vienna shop, holding clothing and rooting for her as she tries dresses on. Next, they arrive at Austrian designer’s headquarters so that Susie can try on actual princess dresses. And yeah, she comes off as a Disney princess. Susie gushes about how fortunate she feels to get to have these experiences and grow closer to him, how giddy he makes her feel. She’s cute. Protect her at all costs.
In her new red ballgown, Susie is taken to meet a suited-up Clayton at an actual palace. Clayton tells her that he enjoys spending time with her, and how much he admires her humility. Susie says that she’s never been treated this way — part of it is her independence from going up in a humble home. She wants to stand alone and make her parents proud. Clayton is absolutely awestruck in her presence. Of course she gets a rose. They slow dance and kiss to the musical stylings of Chris de Burgh.
This doesn’t surprise me at all. Clayton has been the manifestation of the heart eyes emoji for Susie since the beginning. I think she’s a serious contender.
Kiss counter: 5
Group date: Counseling, a classic date choice
Sarah, Teddi, Genevieve, Rachel and Gabby are reading a Sigmund Freud quote (uh… weird) for a reason, folks. The girls are going to go through couples counseling with Clayton. You know, as opposed to a shopping spree.
Gabby, up first, opens up about growing up not understanding the concept of unconditional love. Her father has always supported her and her mother made her feel like her love had conditions. The therapist determines that Gabby needs stability in her relationships, and Clayton is convinced that he can provide that. Teddi says that she has been more open than she’s been before, and has growing feelings for him.
When it’s her turn, Genevieve quickly admits that she has trouble opening up and being emotional, and has a lot of trouble saying anything at all. She doesn’t know what she’s feeling, and she doesn’t know what Clayton can do to fix it. Clayton admits that he needs her to open up before he meets her family. I feel awful watching this — Clayton has not given Genevieve a single reason to feel comfortable opening up to a random therapist on national television. Maybe tell her something first? Relationships are two-way streets.
Clayton thanks Genevieve for being fun to get to know, then asks to walk her out, saying that they have simply run out of time. Get out of here. I’m mad again.
A very nervous Rachel feels like she has to lay it all out there in therapy. She says that she’s had her doubts because of everything that has happened, but she trusts Clayton, who says he doesn’t have reservations about her.
Sarah gushes about loving therapy and says as much to the therapist. She says it’s been hard to be “judged” by the others in the house for being the first to get two solo dates with Clayton. The other women speculate that she’s using her confidence to try to make the others feel insecure. Yikes, girl. Therapy is about yourself, yes, but it’s not just about affirmation. It’s about improvement.
The therapist points out at the end that some of the emotions at the sessions felt performative. Does she say who? Ha, of course she doesn’t. Does Clayton know automatically? Ha, of course not. At the after party, Rachel admits to him that Sarah has actively made her feel insecure by saying, for one, that they cried together. She and Teddi feel like they’ve been manipulated. Gabby and Teddi affirm as much, saying they’ve tried to steer clear from the topic.
Sarah bursts into tears when Clayton confronts her. Woe is her, it’s so hard to be young and beautiful. Clayton tells her that he feels like she’s forcing her tears, and he simply doesn’t believe her. He walks her out, and doubles down on not believing her when she protests. Whoa.
Clayton doesn’t give out a group date rose, saying that he needs more time to think.
Kiss counter: 5
Solo date: Serene wants someone to grow old with
Serene opens up their solo date by checking on how Clayton is feeling after the group date. Clayton appreciates her checking in. They take a carriage ride to get some freshly toasted chestnuts, and then they clumsily waltz to the music of a street musician.
That night, they get their own palace dinner date under a beautiful painted ceiling. Serene opens up that she doesn’t date a lot — she hasn’t brought anyone to her parents since her high school boyfriend, who she fears she wasted a lot of her younger years with because he was familiar, not because he was right.
Serene tells Clayton that she’s falling in love with him. He lights up, and though he doesn’t say it back in words, he does offer her a rose. They kiss in front of a painting called “The Kiss.” Good for Serene. She’s a relaxing presence and clearly makes Clayton smile. I’m excited to see where she comes from!
Kiss counter: 7
Rose ceremony: Who advances to hometown dates?
Clayton says that he’s following his heart. Only one woman among Gabby, Rachel and Teddi can advance to hometown dates. Someone is about to get their heart broken.
Rachel gets the first rose. unsurprising, considering his level of trust in her. The second rose goes to Gabby, who seems to be frozen in shock and relief.
This means saying goodbye to Teddi, our first impressions rose recipient. It’s crushing to see the heartbreak on her face as she warmly hugs the other women goodbye. Clayton walks her out, holding her hand. She’s blindsided and sad, and honestly, so am I. I hope she finds her Prince Charming. She’s been a gem this season.
“I want to be someone’s first choice,” she says. Don’t settle, Teddi! Your time is coming.
Who didn’t get a rose from Clayton Echard?
What’s next for Clayton?
It’s hometowns time! Get ready to meet the parents, friends, and experience all the drama that comes with it. It looks like these dads are determined to be scary — let’s go!
When will Season 26, Episode 8 of ‘The Bachelor’ air?
The next episode of “The Bachelor” will air on Monday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. CT on ABC.
How do I stream ‘The Bachelor’ online?
You can watch it on fuboTV with a 7-day free trial, on Hulu + Live or through YouTube TV. If you have cable, you can also stream the show on abc.com/watch-live/abc or on the ABC app available on iPad, iPhone, Android, Roku, Chromecast, Samsung SmartTV or Kindle Fire.
Who is Clayton Echard?
Clayton Echard, who has vanilla extract running through his veins, is a man finally realizing he put himself in a situation where he has to be ready to marry someone VERY soon.
The former Missouri football player has lived quite the life. After going undrafted in 2016, he signed a free-agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks. He played in all four of Seattle’s 2016 preseason games and made it past the first round of cuts. As NFL teams shaved down rosters to 53 active players, Echard was cut.
According to Echard’s LinkedIn page, he’s worked in sales for medical device company Stryker since July 2016. His first 18 months with the company were based in St. Louis, but he has been based in the Columbia area since January 2018.
But that’s the boring stuff. Here’s the stuff that actually matters:
- If you open up to him about your deep backstory, he will be very grateful, and thank you profusely.
- He has a soft spot for the simpler, more normal kinds of dates, clearly enjoying himself more on walks through markets and carnivals than big, flashy helicopter rides and the like.
Thanks for following along. I’ll be back next week, wondering how my own dad would react to being on reality television. See you then, Bachelor Nation!
Gabriela Velasquez is a planning editor for the Springfield News-Leader and Columbia Daily Tribune, based out of Columbia, Mo. Follow her on Twitter at @not_gabriela.