Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Clare Crawley is blowing up <i>The Bachelorette</i>, and we have thoughts

Clare Crawley is blowing up The Bachelorette, and we have thoughts

Graphic: Natalie Peeples, Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

This post discusses events from last night’s season premiere of The Bachelorette.

Bachelor Nation has been on a pretty terrible streak over the past few seasons. Recently it was announced that the winner of Colton Underwood’s season, Cassie Randolph, had to file a restraining order against him, making his over-the-top gestures during the show seem less romantic and more frightening. The last Bachelorette, Hannah Brown, ditched some very nice guys to end up with Jed Wyatt, who, as it turned out, had a girlfriend back home. The most recent Bachelor season featured pilot Peter Weber, who had not a drop of charisma, and at last report was hanging out with someone who didn’t even make his top three. The Bachelor Nation romantic success ratio has always been low, but lately it seems even worse than usual.

Which may be why the franchise powers that be decided to go with series vet Clare Crawley for the latest Bachelorette. The 39-year-old (her age was mentioned only 87 or so times during last night’s season premiere) presumably has a better idea of what she wants in a life partner than someone who’s only been drinking legally for the past few years. Then the pandemic showed up, which put Clare’s season on hold for awhile and, as shown in the premiere, a plethora of COVID tests were required to get started again. Now that everyone’s in the clear and the latest Bachelorette games are afoot, A.V. Club staffers Gwen Ihnat, Randall Colburn, and Alex McLevy chimed in on whether this could actually be the most dramatic Bachelorette season ever.

Gwen Ihnat: Clare mentions a few times during the premiere that she’s all set to meet “the man of my dreams,” which, frankly, does not sound like the grounded aspirations of a thirtysomething, but the wishful thinking of someone who’s been hanging out on the Bachelor ranch too long (she was the runner-up in Bachelor season 18, appeared in the first few seasons of Bachelor In Paradise, and actually got engaged on Bachelor Winter Games to Benoit Beauséjour-Savard, though they split two months later). But the previews for this season promise that Clare is going to blow up The Bachelorette, according to host Chris Harrison, and may even storm out altogether.

This makes all of her lofty hopes this episode poignant to say the least—especially when she meets Dale and tells Chris that she’s met the man she’s going to marry. Sure, physical chemistry counts for a lot—but it’s not everything, no matter how many love-at-first-sight rom-coms we all have digested over the years. Clare is so starry-eyed over Dale that none of the other guys in the group made that much of an impact—well, a positive impact, as Jay (a.k.a. the straitjacket guy) and Yosef, who started shit-stirring right out of the gate, immediately gave viewers new contestants to loathe. But there were no Tyler C.s or Mikes to root for, as in Hannah B.’s season, or guys like Jason and Blake from Becca’s. The lot—despite all the credit they kept getting from Clare for just showing up, setting a really low bar—seems filled with unnecessarily stoked drama: par for the course in the Bachelor world, but leagues away from actual romance. I know, I should probably quit thinking that that is the actual goal here.

But you guys are both more esteemed Bachelor scholars than I am (and it doesn’t help that the show seems so much worse without my friends to watch it with, eating chocolate and sipping rosé. At least my 13-year-old daughter stuck it out with me for awhile; her favorite was Kenny, the guy who put his dogs on his T-shirt. I liked Jordan C., even though he didn’t get to say much.) What do you think: Was this a by-the-book Bachelorette premiere, or does it look like things are going to be even worse than usual? I mean, that’s happening to everything else, why not The Bachelorette?

Gwen’s predictions

Shit-stirrer who will get a rose every week just to keep the drama going: Yosef
Most likely to get into a fight: Let’s say Jay and anyone else, just because that straitjacket thing bugged people so much.
Eventual winner: Without the previews, I would say Dale, as Clare seemed disturbingly all in on him immediately.
Dark horse candidate: Hey, give Kenny a chance, Clare: He’s a boy band manager in Chicago! Who loves his dogs! Also Eazy had a very fun personality, and will probably be around for awhile.
How many episodes until Clare bolts? Seems fairly early on. Maybe week five?

Alex McLevy: Since you already have the long knives drawn, Gwen, I’ll say something nice: So far, these guys have not annoyed me very much! Obviously, that might be a recipe for disaster, and judging by the previews for the coming weeks, it looks like disaster is very much on the horizon, but for now, I’ll just say that by the standards of a season opener, it was somewhat refreshing to be largely neutral to lukewarm about a group of Bachelorette contestants, rather than cringing every time one got out of the limo and said something no human should ever say as a pick-up line. (Yes, the lawyer who announced Clare was “guilty—of being beautiful” should be disbarred, from the show and possibly from life.)

And yes, Clare is sounding a bit like someone who has attended one too many self-help seminars and now is only capable of speaking in fake therapy language, like she’s a heretofore unrevealed character from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. But she’s also pretty strong when it comes to cutting the bullshit, as she immediately rounds up Tyler C. and Yosef when the two get embroiled in some “Yosef’s not here for the right reasons” nonsense. Rather than the usual Bachelorette tactic of ping-ponging back and forth between the two a half-dozen times, she grabs them both, sits them down, says, “Talk it out,” and leaves. I applaud the “Grow up, gentlemen” mentality, even though she obviously kept Yosef around because the producers saw an obvious villain in the goon from Alabama, and by that point Clare had already given roses to Dale and Blake Moynes, a.k.a. the only two guys who seem to have a shot (and even then it’s Dale’s game to lose, as you point out, Gwen).

So while I’m curious to see the circumstances that eventually lead to Clare’s departure—and I’m really hoping it’s not as pedestrian as “I like Dale, and you can’t make me like anyone else!”—I’m not ready to pull life support on this season just yet. Let’s give these guys a few episodes to get settled; surely there’s at least one secretly charismatic gentleman among them? And definitely a few more guys who will turn out to be as punchable as Yosef.

Alex’s predications

Shit-stirrer who will get a rose every week just to keep the drama going: Sadly, I agree, it looks like Yosef.
Most likely to get into a fight: I think Demar, who started talking shit about the other guys straight to camera within three seconds of walking in, is going to be a prime fight candidate.
Eventual winner: Clare has imprinted on Dale, Twilight-style.
Dark horse candidate: Boy band manager Kenny seems like more of a cartoon than a person, but let’s not rule out the immensely hatable Bennett, the Harvard grad and upper-crust snob who showed up in his own Rolls-Royce, ready to earn America’s undying disgust.
How many episodes until Clare bolts? Clare is unsettlingly fixated. I say week four, tops. With that kind of mindset, you have to hope in 20 years she’s still married to Dale and they have a few kids, à la Trista and Ryan. Otherwise, yiiiiiiikes.

Randall Colburn: Let me just start by saying I am so glad this garbage is back. If I don’t have a Bachelor/Bachelor-adjacent show to look forward to every week, I inevitably try to relax my exhausted brain with Investigation Discovery murder shows and give myself nightmares. And while I completely agree with your individual assessments of Clare and her “fake therapy language,” it’s nice to have a lead who’s so comfortable on night one. Right off the bat, she’s got the banter down, the heart-tugging stories at the ready, and as you noted, Alex, the knowledge of how to compartmentalize onscreen drama in a satisfying fashion. But what makes her truly special is that, for all her polish, she feels so hard and is utterly incapable of not letting it pour from her eyes like rainbow waterfalls.

Listen to any post-show interview with a Bachelor or Bachelorette and they’ll tell you they had a good idea of who they’d end up picking from night one; it’s why so many recipients of the First Impression Rose end up winning or running up. What separates Clare from her predecessors, clearly, is that she can’t hide it like they could. Her kiss with Blake Moynes and appreciation for his rule-breaking DM felt both perfunctory and rehearsed, a starry bit of night one romance, while her connection with Dale is fucking primal, so much so that there’s no way in hell the other guys don’t see it and start puffing their shaved, oiled chests. Knowing what we know about Clare’s “breaking” of the show and her ongoing fascination with Dale, I personally can’t wait to see her attempt to maintain the illusion of interest in the others that the show demands.

So how will the guys react? What wrath will they unleash on Dale? What tactics will they deploy to yank Clare’s eyes toward their own? And how will they react when the game changes entirely? These are not questions I typically get to ask about this show, and that, to me, is a good thing. Blow it up, Clare! Blow it to smithereens and force Chris Harrison to sift through the wreckage.

Randall’s predictions

Shit-stirrer who will get a rose every week just to keep the drama going: I hope it’s Bennett, who is one of the funniest characters I have ever seen on TV. He’s Waldo from The Little Rascals. I hope he keeps up the bit and wears ascots and eats caviar on every date.
Most likely to get into a fight: I get icky vibes from the boy band manager, who strikes me as someone who might run his mouth a bit too much after a cocktail or two.
Eventual winner: The guy in the straitjacket. Obviously. (It’s Dale.)
Dark horse candidate: Is Brandon still around? They don’t make ’em more handsome. Maybe he can puncture the Dale bubble?
How many episodes until Clare bolts? I’m going to say three. Clare is at the age where, if you know what you want, you latch on hard. And that’s just not sustainable in this format.