A graphic of Bachelor Clayton Echard (Hustler Multimedia/Alexa White) (Alexa White)
A graphic of Bachelor Clayton Echard (Hustler Multimedia/Alexa White)

Alexa White

Here for the Wrong Reasons: Episode 2 of ‘The Bachelor’ Season 26

A recap of the second episode of the latest season.

January 15, 2022

 

Editor’s note: This piece contains mentions of sexual assault, suicidal ideation and eating disorders.

Welcome to “Here for the Wrong Reasons,” where each week I’ll be recapping all of the champagne-guzzling and petty “Can I steal you for a second?”s of the 26th season of “The Bachelor.” Nothing boosts your confidence about your own love life like watching a bunch of desperate 20-somethings competing for a stranger’s affection! Check in every Wednesday for episode recaps and updates on Clayton Echard’s journey to become an Instagram influencer find love. 

As all of Bachelor Nation predicted, Clayton’s season of “The Bachelor” is shaping up to mirror the season’s lead: extremely white and incredibly boring. In the past couple of years, the franchise has made a push for racial and ethnic diversity—in 2020, Matt James was the first Black Bachelor; Michelle Young had the first entirely non-white final four just last month; former host Chris Harrison resigned after a racially insensitive remark; and, last summer during “Bachelor in Paradise” (BIP), Riley Christian and Maurissa Gunn made history as the franchise’s first Black couple to get engaged (although rumor has it that they’re headed for Splitsville.) Plus, historically speaking, the bulk of the contestants on each of the franchise’s shows have been white, and contestants of color have been eliminated earlier, two trends which have begun to head in the opposite direction in favor of a more diverse cast. Clayton’s season, however, has swung the pendulum back in the traditional white-washed direction, with at least half of the 31 women being white or white-passing.

While it may be a little early to dub this season boring just yet, it does feel reminiscent of seasons from several years ago, which is code for “stale.” The most glaring example of this was the second episode’s treatment of mental health. In recent seasons, there have been conversations about addiction, suicidal ideation, sexual assault and eating disorders, among other important mental health-related topics. This foray into topics with actual, you know, depth was a big move by this admittedly vapid franchise, and I was disappointed to see the way that Shanae shamed Elizabeth for having ADHD this past episode and how the show did not address nor rectify the harmful things that were said. More on this later.

 

Birthday party group date

Nothing screams “first date” like hanging out with a bunch of kids! One of Clayton’s plotlines this season is about how much he wants to be a father and have a family, so the season’s inaugural group date is a kid’s birthday party at a Beverly Hills mansion. Here, Teddi, Ency, Melina, Gabby, Kira, Mara, Sierra, Genevieve, Serene and Cassidy are put to the test to see just how good they are with children. This date is hosted by none other than Lizzie McGuire herself, Hilary Duff, whom the women are way more excited to see than they are Clayton. She gives the women various party prep tasks, putting Genevieve in charge of cake decoration, assigning Gabby and Cassidy to dollhouse construction duty and making poor Melina dress as a clown (which she is a better sport about than I’d have been). 

The main drama during this date comes from Cassidy, who shirks her dollhouse building duty to make out with Clayton by the pool. Over the course of the date, she makes a bunch of remarks that make it clear that she is there for the wrong reasons, including oohing and aahing over the luxurious mansion, acting buddy-buddy with Hilary Duff (who is visibly repulsed) and being downright rude to the kids. Case in point: “​​I got to have a conversation with Hilary Duff in Beverly Hills, and I got to make out with Clayton twice, so I’d be surprised if he has his eyes on anyone but me for the group date rose.” Furthermore, she bluntly tells the kids that she generally tries to avoid children, before remarking to the camera, “Screw the kids.” 

When it’s time for the party to start, Cassidy grabs Genevieve’s cake to serve it, and promptly drops it on the ground. As an alleged aspiring father, Clayton should be doing damage control, but instead lets Cassidy tug him over to the pool to wash off the cake. It’s abundantly clear that he’ll let a flirty girl monopolize his attention even when he has bigger, better, Bachelor things to do. Cassidy, for her part, calls herself a frontrunner, making the title of this column all too fitting.

The date isn’t a total bust, though—the kids teach Teddi how to do the floss dance, and Clayton and elementary school teacher Serene have a bonding moment over how much they like kids, with Serene noting that her students give her life meaning. Clayton’s life, on the other hand, is given meaning by the screaming horde of plastic surgery “after” pictures fawning over him. 

At the afterparty, self-centered Cassidy refuses to hear any criticism from the other women about her monopolization of Clayton and non-team member attitude, barely stopping short of screaming, “Me! Me! Me!” like an attention-starved toddler. As she tells the camera, “Tonight is going my way. I mean, the girls are spending more energy talking to me about everything I did wrong today than they are talking to Clayton about how they feel about him.” At the end of the day, this is an every-woman-for-herself game, but to start off the very first date of the season with that attitude? Homegirl had better watch her back. 

The date concludes on a frustrating note, with Clayton giving the rose to Cassidy over Serene. I hate to say it, but Clayton is giving me major Pilot Pete vibes by rewarding Cassidy’s bad behavior. (He also gives off some Matt James vibes with his unattractive kissing techniques—although Clayton’s fish-like tactics are more palatable than Matt’s open-eyed smooching.)

 

One-on-one with Susie

Hannah Brown look-alike Susie, a former Miss Virginia like Season 23’s Caelynn Miller-Keyes, gets the coveted first one-on-one date of the season. She and Clayton take a picturesque ride in a helicopter, which cruelly flies over the mansion to rub it in the other women’s faces. They land on a yacht, make a champagne toast and go swimming before changing for dinner. Susie wears a gorgeous silk slip dress, while Clayton opts for the Silicon Valley tech bro dress code in a zip-up hoodie. As any member of Bachelor Nation knows, one-on-one dinners would more appropriately be called “Trauma dumping time,” so Susie shares that her dad got really sick last year from organ damage, and while he eventually recovered, this led her to realize the importance of family, et cetera. They are really going in on this “family values” trope. Per usual, the pair dances to a nobody singer, before Clayton gives Susie the date rose, saying, “Your true colors are so beautiful.” 

Wordsworth, who?

 

“Red flags” group date

For the second group date of the season, Clayton tests whether Marlena, Elizabeth, Kate, Sarah, Lyndsey, Rachel, Tessa and Shanae are here for the right reasons. Comedian Ziwe leads a game of “Never Have I Ever” to assess whether the women have any relationship red flags, including whether they have ever cheated, sent nudes or faked an orgasm (all the women say they have, which former Bachelorette Katie Thurston would be incredibly disappointed by). Elizabeth sits in the seat next to Clayton, and the two are so flirtatious that Ziwe notes that they deserve a green flag. Shanae—who has dubbed herself “Shanae-nae”—is disgruntled by Clayton’s attention to Elizabeth and resolves to make this episode all about herself.

After “Never Have I Ever,” the women compete in an obstacle course that leads to a huge cardboard cutout of Clayton. (Surprisingly, none of the women run in the opposite direction.) They do a slip-and-slide, chug dairy milk (*gasp*), jump across fake slices of bread in a nod to the shady dating tactic of breadcrumbing and tear down an “emotional wall.” In a shocking defeat over literal Olympic track runner Marlena, Sarah wins and gets to pop champagne with Clayton as her prize.

During the breadcrumbing leg of the race, Shanae resorts to physical violence and pushes Elizabeth over, foreshadowing the drama at the afterparty, which inexplicably takes place at Big Daddy’s Antiques. Shanae-nae gets pissed that Elizabeth pulls Clayton first, so she takes the opportunity to spend her own time with Clayton bad-mouthing Elizabeth, accusing her of ignoring her and not making eye contact during a previous conversation.

When Clayton confronts Elizabeth, she appears genuinely confused. Then, Shanae and Elizabeth take the drama outside, where Shanae calls her “two-faced” and a “mean girl” for not making eye contact with her during an earlier chat between the two of them and Ency. Elizabeth explains that this perceived slight is due to her ADHD, saying that it’s hard for her “to have multiple auditory inputs because I can’t process the information. I have ADHD, I’ve had it really bad since I was a kid.” Shanae does not respond appropriately to this disclosure, instead going on again about how Elizabeth is two-faced and ignored her, to which Elizabeth replies, “Babe, you pushed me today. If we’re talking about two-faced, if you really feel like we’re tight, you probably shouldn’t be pushing me.” Classily, Elizabeth tries to end the chat there, as it’s clear that it’s not going to be productive since Shanae isn’t listening to a single thing she’s saying.  

In another demonstration of Peter Weber-level rewarding of bad behavior, Clayton nearly gives the group date rose to Shanae for being “open” with him about her concerns about Elizabeth’s alleged red flags. Thankfully, he at least has enough shreds of common sense to give the rose to Sarah, the obstacle course winner, instead. 

After being passed over for the rose, Shanae-nae is back with even more of a vengeance. In front of the whole group of women on the date, Shanae reveals that Elizabeth has ADHD and implies that this makes her two-faced, which is wrong on so, so many levels. Shocked at her behavior, the women stare at Shanae as she storms out, muttering, “ADHD, my ass.” Shanae is clearly trying to stir up pointless drama on purpose to get more airtime, which happens every season, but to use Elizabeth’s condition as the foundation for her alleged two-faced-ness and out her in front of the entire group is abominable. 

As I mentioned earlier, this flippant and insensitive treatment of Elizabeth’s mental health stands in stark contrast to Ben Smith’s admission to Tayshia Adams about his history of bulimia and suicidal ideation, which—rightfully so—garnered him lots of support on Twitter, and was backed up by ABC, who inserted a PSA providing the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I’m not trying to compare these two very different struggles, but I am interested (and disappointed) about the different ways that they were explained and received. To end the night, Lyndsey succinctly says, “Shanae is like, so stupid…It’s like, nobody cares.”

 

Cocktail party

Three women—Jill, Eliza and Hunter—did not get invited on a date this week, prompting Jill to sadly remark, “I left my family. I left my friends. I left my cat,” just to sit around the mansion. (This sounds like the preferable outcome to me, just saying. Somewhere, Connor the Cat from Katie’s season is hoping to meet her on the next season of BIP.) Eliza, aka Miss Giggles, decides to make her mark by giving Clayton a scrapbook for the two to make together—an old franchise stand-by—and Clayton notes that he likes her “positivity,” which can be translated from Douchebag to English as, “I didn’t even ask her on a date and she’s still falling all over me. Score, dude!”

Naturally, Shanae rehashes her problem with Elizabeth, telling her that she thinks she’s using her ADHD “as an excuse.” Thankfully, all of the other women rally behind Elizabeth and condemn Shanae’s behavior, who keeps blabbering on Elizabeth being mean and ignores the women’s request for an apology.

Luckily for Elizabeth, Lyndsey, me and others that are over Shanae’s bullsh*t, Sierra swoops in to steal her thunder and provides the episode’s juiciest drama. She pulls Clayton aside to tell him that she overheard Cassidy on FaceTime the night before filming began and the women’s phones were taken away. Turns out, Cassidy has a friends-with-benefits situation going on at home, who told her that he couldn’t wait to do “nasty things” with her once filming ended, when it would be “cuddling season.” (Try not to throw up.) Clayton is appalled that “there’s a woman here in the house that has a man on the side” and disappears to another room to mope about it. (I’m glad Cassidy’s getting her just desserts, but it’s kind of hilarious how Cassidy’s hookup of several years is the side hoe, whereas Clayton’s known her for like, two days.) Clayton is so upset, in fact, that he asks Jesse—Oh yeah, remember the new host? Me neither—whether anyone has ever taken back a rose.

 

This episode confirmed my initial disappointment when Clayton was announced as the next Bachelor. Besides his poor decision-making skills, he clearly loves attention from attractive women, so much so that he reminds me of a newly-initiated frat brother at his first mixer in the way he makes out with every. single. girl. that. he. can. As one of my friends notes, he’s got “semi-reformed frat boy energy,” which could not be more accurate—he claims to be obsessed with having a family and being a dad, but developmentally, he’s still in the, “OMG BOOBS” stage. Sadly for Bachelor Nation, there will be no new episode next week, so tune in on Monday, Jan. 24 to see if Clayton turns a new, more virtuous leaf and retracts Cassidy’s rose. But, she’s bottle-blond and made out with him not once, not twice, but thrice this episode, so I’m pretty sure Clayton’s barely-post-pubescent brain will end up turning into mush.

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