Maybe it happened when one contestant called another a “narcissistic, gaslighting biotch”—or maybe it was when host Jesse Palmer failed (for the second or third time) to regain control of the room. At some point early on during this week’s The Bachelor, it became clear that this “Women Tell All” is different from the norm. Dare I say, it actually might be the Most! Dramatic! Ever!?
Yes, they say that every year—but this time there were alleged DM slides and screenshots! There were callouts of random Bachelor Nation side characters! And yes... there was more talk about shrimp.
We appear to be living through a miniature Golden Age of messy reality reunions. On Friday, Netflix debuted Love Is Blind’s reunion, which found both contestants and hosts lambasting Season 2 heel Abhishek “Shake” Chatterjee. Vanessa Lachey, usually a mild force on the show, even got into it with the problem contestant in a clip that immediately went viral. But the name-calling and explosive resentment on display during Monday’s Bachelor was next-level. Beyond digging into one another, the women also made sure to eviscerate their ex, Bachelor Clayton Echard.
Some of Monday’s mess was entertaining reality drama, and some got a little ugly. The first major question of the night: Are women obligated to end things with all FWB’s before they appear on The Bachelor?
Such is the philosophical quandary surrounding the contestants’ first target of the night, Cassidy Timbrooks—a villain who emerged early this season through a combination of putting her foot in her mouth and also making out with Clayton more than the other women would have liked. As Cassidy’s competitor Sierra Jackson revealed to Clayton partway through the season, Cassidy had a friend with benefits back home—whom she’d not exactly cut things off with before leaving for the show.
Do we care? Given that 30 women appeared on this season and only one could ever leave engaged, I must admit I don’t. But Cassidy’s housemates sure did! Jesse Palmer, this season’s substitute for Chris Harrison, did his best to keep the room in order, but at multiple points the women shouted over him even as he tried to throw to commercial break.
Eventually the room found its next subject: Shanae Ankney, whom Sierra called a “narcissistic, gaslighting biotch.” If the treatment Cassidy received was harsh, what Shanae got was downright brutal—although as viewers undoubtedly remember and as highlight reels dutifully recapped, the anger radiating her way was not without reason.
It’s more than #shrimpgate, one of the silliest pieces of Bachelor drama in recent memory. Beyond the pettier game strategies typically used by “villains” on this show to monopolize attention, Shanae has also been called out for ableist mistreatment of a fellow contestant. Although Clayton has since apologized to that contestant, Elizabeth, for not being fully aware of what was going on in the house, the way Shanae accused another contestant, Genevieve Parisi, of being an actress despite openly admitting that she was putting on her own act for her prospective fiancé, rubbed people the wrong way. (As in: She literally compared herself to Meryl Streep. A fellow contestant called her a “budget-ass Meryl Streep” Monday night.)
When Shanae and Genevieve sat down together across from Jesse Palmer for a two-on-one interview, things got even more intense. While Genevieve tried to ride the tidal wave against Shanae, her competitor tried to knock her off course by claiming Genevieve had hooked up with a fellow Bachelor Nation member after she went home. (Again, I must ask: Why are we concerned with who these women are sleeping with off-show?! How is this our business?!)
But beyond her behavior against specific individuals, what appeared to animate the room against Shanae was her sheer, all-encompassing, unrepentant villainy. I mean, this is the woman who once crashed a group date to throw a trophy in a pond—an action Clayton himself called “indefensible” on Monday night. Either way, when asked for even a hint of remorse, Shanae pursed her lips and whispered “no.”
But speaking of which... Did I mention that Clayton wound up being among the biggest villains of the night?
As he spoke with Palmer about the experience of, in the show’s parlance, “watching things back,” our Bachelor admitted he might’ve made just a few (several) mistakes.
“I wish I would have done things differently,” he said. “But as far as it comes to regret, I did everything in those moments that I thought was best... I can’t really say I regret anything because I had all the best intentions.”
That statement didn’t sit well with Clayton’s exes, who understandably wanted to know why he kept Shanae around despite repeated warnings from multiple contestants.
“I’m not coming at you or anything,” Sierra said. “Just a true question: Why neglect all of the words that you’re hearing from all these wonderful women... We’re all telling you that Shanae is toxic, and she’s hurting the entire house, and she does this one fake apology, lies constantly, and you still believe her over all of us. Why?”
Added Lyndsey Windham: “Numerous of us said it, and I don’t know, it’s just frustrating to sit here and see you say that. I wish you would sit there and own the fact that you had a better connection with Shanae than all of us. Own it like a man.”
“I was looking out for you,” Sierra told the Bachelor. “I was like, ‘I don’t want him to make a stupid-ass decision,’ you know? You did that on your own. I tried to help you... I think you’re confusing love and lust. I think you really need to figure those two out.”
And finally, one more source of controversy: Did the Bachelor cry on his first date with Sarah Hamrick? Or did he not?
Once the women had finished feasting on Clayton for a while, Sarah tried to secure some goodwill for herself despite several contestants’ insistence that she was a lying game-player. She told Clayton that it was “ironic” that he ultimately sent her home and accused her of being disingenuous “because it feels like that’s what you were doing to me... I was already doing my best to navigate the drama... because I cared about you and our relationship. It feels like the person constantly putting me back into it and constantly stirring the pot was you.”
Ultimately the room did not side with Sarah. But fun fact: she and Genevieve appear to have shown up in the same dress!
But the final item on the agenda (after the requisite blooper reels) put Clayton back in the hot seat as Sierra hit him with one final question. She and other contestants shared that they already knew how this season ends—including, as widely teased, that Clayton tells three women that he’s in love with them.
“I want to know exactly who you are to act a certain way and treat these women a certain way and subject them to this kind of behavior of yours,” she said. “What did they do to deserve it?”
Teddi Wright asked a gentler but even more ominous question about the same subject: “Are you... OK?”
Clayton gave a tight nod as he murmured, “Yeah.”
The mess continues!