Clare-ical Error: Thoughts on The Bachelorette, S 16


I love when an episode of The Bachelorette reminds us just how insane the show really is.

Here’s what normally happens during a typical season: It lasts for about three months, our lovebirds spend maybe a grand total of 30 hours together (if they’re lucky), and then they get engaged and we are all sappy piles of goo on the floor. Sure, we can pretend to resist it. We can “hate watch.” We can troll the show on Twitter. But in the end, as the music swells and the pretty people cry and the giant Neil Lane rock gets tremulously placed on the Bachelorette’s finger, we suspend our disbelief and just go with it. (Indeed, I have cried during Bachelor proposals when I already knew the couple had broken up. Such is the manipulative power of television.)

Anyway, last night, Clare—beautiful, new agey, old-as-Methuselah-in-Bachelor-years Clare—did something unprecedented. She fell for Dale—that hunk of burning love with the rock-hard abs and elfin ears—right out of the gate, never wavered, never looked back, and basically didn’t even pretend to give a shit about any of the other men. (“That’s my husband,” she said on episode one, which is the equivalent of the private eye saying, “The nanny did it” in the first scene of a murder mystery.) Now, I’m sure there have been other leads who have fallen for someone on day one, and went through the motions of dates and one-on-ones, just to keep up appearances. But never have we had a lead who literally just checked out: I’m good. I’m done. I call game.

We were all spoiled so we knew what was coming next: Chris Harrison gravely entering Clare’s hotel suite, getting moist-eyed as Clare gushed about how Dale reminded her of her dead father (actually, he led the witness there: “Does Dale remind you of your dead father?” he asked), and then saying, famously, “You just blew up the Bachelor.”

Here’s what we didn’t know: That he was about to insist that Dale propose.

Wait, what?

Sure, it’s one thing when the couple has spent 30 hours together—that’s almost two full days! But THIS, now this was positively absurd!

Of course, dear readers, both things are absurd, maybe this only slightly more absurd than the normal premise of the show.

And yet, it all felt extra ridiculous.

Every once in a while, as I’ve written before, Chris Harrison goes into automaton mode. MUST SAY MOST SHOCKING EPISODE EVER. Bleep bloop bleep. MUST SAY FOLLOW YOUR HEART. Bleep bloop bleep. MUST HAVE PROPOSAL. Bleep bloop bleep.

Because there is absolutely no reason why, just because Clare picked and sticked with Dale, the poor bastard had to propose to her on the spot. They could’ve, I don’t know, gone on a second date. Found out each other’s middle names. Discussed what political party they belonged to. And yet, it’s the Bachelor script and they are not budging from it. Proposal it is.

And boy did Dale look like a deer trapped in the headlights when Chris told him his fate.

Here he was, a guy who went on a reality TV show maybe to meet a girl, but definitely to up his Instagram follower count and be on TV, and he was clearly doing well in the competition, which was sweet, but who figured he had a solid 12 more weeks of television before he had to do anything other than look good in a suit.

A day ago, he was thrilled to get a little one-on-one time during a group date, and now Chris Harrison was all, “Propose, peasant!”

But…unlike Clare, who deviated from the script, Dale dutifully played his part, picking a giant ring from Neil Lane (who is apparently on 24-7 Bachelor standby) and unsteadily getting down on one knee, like a gallant giant, and professing his love. He seemed to gain confidence—to believe his own lies, as it were—as the proposal went on, to the point where he was almost convincing by the time they kissed in celebration of their blessed, joyful, and DEFINITELY NOT DOOMED TO FAIL impending nuptials.

And, whereas the final proposal of a given Bachelorette season is usually heart-stoppingly romantic, this was—well there’s no other way to put it—creepy as hell.

Look, I’m not going to deny the fact that Clare’s overall CLARENESS led to the sense of ick. She seemed way too into Dale, in an obsessive, stalkerish way—always smelling his pants and never managing to complete a single sentence without the word “Dale.”

Typical conversation between Clare and another one of her bachelors (and I’m not even exaggerating here):

Clare: “Let’s talk about you!

Bachelor (thinks): <Finally!>

Claire: What do you think of Dale?”

She all but wore a tee-shirt that read, “I’d Rather Be Kissing Dale.”

(And for those who get this reference, Clare managed to be both Elisabeth Olsen’s flower child influencer AND Aubrey Plaza’s obsessive stalker in Ingrid Goes West.) (If you haven’t seen that movie, you must.)

So yeah, Clare’s manic love made it feel weirder. But then whole show is weird! As are most romantic movies, for that matter! Have you watched The Notebook lately? This was just an accelerated version of the basic weirdness of the show. So in a way, Clare didn’t so much “Blow up the Bachelor” as remind us how messed up it truly is.

Bring on Tayshia!

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