'The Bachelor' Season 26 Finale: What Happened to Clayton?

‘The Bachelor’ Season 26 Finale: What Happened to Clayton?

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the March 15 finale of ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

Clayton Echard’s run as “The Bachelor” has been less than smooth. His season’s conclusion was no different.

During Monday’s penultimate episode, Clayton attempted to salvage his relationships with finalists Gabby Widney and Rachel Recchia. He confessed that he loved and had slept with them both, which had everyone in hysterics and nearly caused Gabby to self-eliminate.

Despite the dramatic rose ceremony, both women stuck around and met Clayton’s family in Iceland. But the meet-the-parents turned out to be moot, as Clayton decided in a cliffhanger to pursue third runner-up Susie Evans.

The second half of the two-night finale began with host Jesse Palmer and the live studio audience, then pivots to Susie in Iceland. Jesse approaches her in her room and offers a chance to talk to Clayton one more time.

She agrees and arrives to see Clayton and his parents, who she awkwardly greets then speaks to Clayton one-on-one. She confronts him on their last fight and addresses how he turned on her, how the exchange made her feel and her embarrassment. She equates the experience to feeling like a “stray dog” that was “shooed out.”

“If you have love for me as a person, how can you treat me like this?” she asks. “I’m so humiliated. You made me feel wrong and bad. That to me that was the heartbreak.”

The exchange left Clayton in tears with little hope for their future. Despite that, he definitely decides his heart is with Susie, and has no choice but to end things with his remaining two contenders.

Clayton meets with Gabby and Rachel in their hotel. He says he saw a future with them, but it’s not feasible for him to love three women equally and dumps them both at once. He asks for forgiveness, but is met with a speech by Gabby that prompts rousing reactions from the live studio cam.

“You asked me to stay because you were pissed [that Susie left] and your pride was hurt,” she says. “One time it was going to be my decision [to leave], which you didn’t want it to be. And now it’s your decision so it’s easier.”

She continues to challenge him and the way he handled the situation, including breaking up with her and Rachel simultaneously. Her time in Iceland ends by leaving him in the hotel after she declines his invitation to walk her out.

Back during the live “After the Final Rose” segment, Gabby continues to process her exit with Jesse before Clayton joins her on stage. Clayton touts his honesty from their final days in Iceland, but Gabby counters: “Your transparency had conditions.”

She says watching back, it was clear he had stronger feelings for Susie. He told Rachel and Gabby he loves them, despite already knowing his feelings were stronger for someone else. Gabby felt led on, and that, while he wasn’t malicious, he was irresponsible with his words and the women dealt with those repercussions.

Gabby reminds Clayton that love is protecting someone and his inability to treat each of the three finalists as separate people with separate needs is clear evidence that he didn’t love them equally.

After Clayton’s conversations with Gabby in Iceland, he addresses Rachel individually.

She sobs to him, and shares the one-sided nature of their relationship. “I was the one who fought by myself – for you,” she says. She was resilient in her commitment, as evidenced by staying after his confession during the final rose ceremony.

“You never fought for me,” she tells him. “You didn’t give me anything and what little you did give me I hung on to.” Clayton was statuesque, and was an unemotional wall in contrast to her tears.

During the live meeting, she shares that she no longer has feelings for him, and that he doesn’t deserve to speak to her. “None of these emotions are for you… I became collateral damage.”

After he apologizes on stage, Rachel rejects it. “I just don’t believe you.” Her anger was palpable and contagious, spreading to her parents, who remained quiet when Jesse throws them in the audience.

Clayton and Rachel’s final time on stage together is tense, as she asks if he said “I love you” in an attempt to sleep with her. He vehemently declines the charges and Jesse pivots. “Clayton is about to throw the biggest Hail Mary Bachelor Nation has ever seen.”

Back in Iceland, in a last-ditch effort to save his relationship with Susie, Clayton thinks her a letter. She meets him in person, and he once again tries to reiterate his feelings. “I am this serious about us,” and flashes a ring box.

She responds. “I don’t feel that the kind of love I have for you right now is the kind of love that you have for me right now,” she tells him. “You have an unconditional love of somebody that you want to spend a lifetime with. And that’s not where I’m at. I have made the decision to leave Iceland alone.”

For the first time in Bachelor history, a Bachelor is rejected during his last day.

“It doesn’t make it an easy decision,” she tells him. “It’s devastating if I’m being honest. But I’ve thought this through and I don’t think I’m your person. And I don’t think that you’re mine.”

In one more attempt, he asks if she’d consider a future with him later. And she definitely says: “I feel like it’s over.”

But turns out, that adamant answer isn’t so concrete. Live in Los Angeles, Susie reenters the picture during “After the Final Rose.”

She joins Jesse and Clayton on stage. “That’s my boyfriend,” she says pointing to Clayton giggling. Looking back, the two needed the time apart to ultimately come back together. They both recognize that people might not be rooting for them, but they are happy together and looking forward to the future.

Jesse sets up the opportunity for a proposal. Instead, Clayton says that he’s moving to Virginia to live together with Susie. And while he doesn’t offer Susie a ring, she ultimately accepts his final rose.

And Susie and Clayton aren’t the only ones with happy endings, as Gabby and Rachel are getting their own. The two premiered as the next leads, as they’ll be sharing the upcoming season as co-Bachelorettes.