By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 14, 2022 at 12:56 PM

Clayton didn't have to become a villain.

After weeks upon weeks of hype, actually watching how the disaster went down, you could very easily make the argument that his much-ballyhooed crime – having sex with multiple women on Have Sex With Multiple Women Week – is more the show's sin than Clayton's. Call me old fashioned, but I've always hated fantasy suites week – its callous sleaze clashing with the show's swoony old school traditionalist fairy tale vibe, needing to choose a lane but instead trying to sell Sleeping Around Week as romantic and meaningful – and Tuesday night often felt more like the concept reaping what it sows. With all of that, we could've come away last night thinking that Clayton – though by no means faultless – wasn't actually this awful villain but instead just a part of some very faulty communication and an even faultier reality show concept. 

But no. It wasn't the "crime" itself – literally effing around and finding out – that made Clayton look unredeemably terrible on Tuesday night. It was everything he did around it – the absent-minded carelessness before, the bitter blame-shifting after – that was his true fall, landing him near the bottom tier of "The Bachelor" leads. Well, that and his general boringness. And the Shanae of it all. And maybe everything.

So we're off to Iceland for the fantasy suites episode – the land of mountains, lava, waterfalls, puffins and, for Clayton, no walls. After weeks of not reciprocating his final contestants' proclamations of love, the man's done with being guarded and careful; he's GOING FOR IT. And by "it," he apparently means "the utter and complete loathing of viewers nationwide." So after Jesse Palmer explains the concept of fantasy suites week – potentially breaking news to Susie – the first date goes to Rachel and her newly returned vocal cords. Already a winning week for her. 

For Rachel's fantasy date, the two are heading off on a helicopter ride – because is it even a season of "The Bachelor" if there is not at least one chopper ride. Anyways, it's utterly wasted on these two because they spend pretty much the entire scenic experience making out with one another and making the poor pilot feel very uncomfortable. HOW DARE YOU IGNORE THE GORGEOUS ICELANTIC VISTAS LIKE THIS!? They have no choice to enjoy Iceland, though, as their next stop is inside a volcano. Well that sounds cool – or literally the opposite of cool! Unfortunately it's not an actual volcano in any way, which as a result looks just like a cave. BUT A NIFTY CAVE! While there, Rachel tries to nudge him into finally busting out the L-word with her, but for all his talk about opening up, he's still keeping that big moment close to the vest. 

OR IS HE? As it turns out Clayton has a plan for how he's going to proclaim his love to Rachel – and it's apparently the same plan he has for Gabby and Susie too. CAN'T SEE HOW THIS MIGHT REFLECT POORLY ON YOU, CLAYTON! Yes, at the dinner portion of the evening, he talks about how he's been guarded but now, finally, he can say that he's falling in love with her. This speech will sound very familiar by the end of the night's episode. He also notes that, "I haven't felt this way in a relationship in a long time." OH, SO A FEW HOURS AGO THEN!? SINCE THE LAST TIME YOU WENT OUT WITH GABBY AND SUSIE!? This is the true start of Clayton's downfall: these "I love you" declarations which, when said back to back to back almost verbatim, don't come off like emotional moments but instead like cold, unfeeling, coordinated scripts. Also: Just don't do it! Did Ben Higgins' season teach you NOTHING?!

Anyways, Rachel doesn't know all that, though, so her heart is warmed, thinking that she's special, and they head off to have sex. And then the next morning, Clayton wakes up and thoughtfully heads out to have sex with his other two girlfriends. ROMANCE! Again, it's sleazy as hell – but again, it's also the premise of the week. What makes it worse, again, is the proclamations – quite literally at the end of the day, when he yells from the street, "I love you TOO, Rachel," another Clayton move that will get very upsettingly familiar as the episode goes along. Listen: There's no good way to tell three separate women you love them, then sleep with each of them. (No wonder this show's success rate is lower than my calculus test scores.) But treating them all identically, giving them pretty much the exact same speeches and big gestures, and making these emotions feel utterly rote and conveyor belt impersonal? CERTAINLY ONE OF THE BAD WAYS!

If Clayton thinks this is going to slide, he's about to be dearly mistaken as, during all of this, back at the weird hotel fantasy suite holding pen (why do we shove these women in the same room for all of this? Why must we make this even more awkward and dehumanizing?), Susie's having a hard time with everything. While Gabby feels fine and comfortable with him exploring other women, Susie says she's going to have a hard time moving foward with Clayton if he sleeps with someone else this week. WELP, I GOT TERRIBLE NEWS FOR HOW "SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE ELSE WEEK" IS GONNA GO FOR YOU AND CLAYTON THEN!

While Susie continues to spiral – quite literally, walking down a spiral staircase, because "The Bachelor" knows other shows that use subtext and they're all cowards – it's Gabby's turn with Clayton. She's rooting for just a cruise with strawberries and champagne, but instead she gets driving in the dirt in an ATV, another "Bachelor" staple. No matter the place, no matter the time, "The Bachelor" wants to drive an ATV over it.

Anyways, the date's pretty unremarkable – especially when we reach the dinner portion and Clayton busts out A VERY SIMILAR SPEECH WITH GABBY ENDING WITH THE LOVE WORD BEFORE IT'S BUSINESS TIME. COMPLETE WITH ANOTHER WEIRD AND AWKWARD YELLING THING AT THE END. Really, the only difference is that this time, it all happens in a fancy techno-yurt situation. In Clayton's attempt to make these women feel special and loved, he's making them feel indistinct and routine. I know you wanted to open up, but there has to have been a happy medium between indifference and dropping loves (and trousers) on command.

Anyways, back at the fantasy suite holding dock, in case Susie wasn't spiraling enough already, Gabby comes back with such a comical case of sex hair that she might as well have come into the room with The Lonely Island's "I Just Had Sex" blasting from a boombox. So yeah, Susie's having a rough go of it – but luckily it's finally time for her date with Clayton and a chance to get some clarity. 

Even Mother Nature, though, is like, "STAY AWAY, GIRL!" Right off the bat, Susie tries to walk over to Clayton but the Icelantic winds are trying to blow her in any other direction. TAKE THE HINT! But no, she endures – and her reward for surviving "Twister"? WATERBOARDING. OK, not actually, obviously – but their fantasy date is basically variations of water torture, with Clayton and Susie stripping down and going through different cold water enhanced interrogation tactics experiences to purify the skin and soul. There's cold misting, there's cold pools, there's just ... swimming in the ocean, where apparently Susie has to do the heavy lifting and drag Clayton around in the water while he rides her like a dolphin, I guess.

Yet somehow, despite this all – and despite the fact that they haven't had a conversation about anything yet – Susie's actually feeling much better about the situation. Maybe the torture's causing her to disassociate and go to a happier place in her mind? Clayton, too, is feeling great and is going to tell her that he loves her – proably with the same Mad Libs speech he used on the last two women and proably capped with some painful yell from the SUV door as he goes off to have sex with someone else. 

WELL, WAS RIGHT ABOUT THE FIRST PART! Indeed, at the dinner portion of the date, he starts to talk to Susie about (*everybody say it with him now*) how, when she said she loved him, he hadn't felt that in a long time and he kept his guard up but now he wants to truly open up to her and say that he's in love with her too. Truly a moving third attempt at a romantic speech. Wouldn't you think – after telling three women in a row that you love them and sleeping with two of them basically overnight – that an alarm would go off in the back of your head saying, "Hey, this is sociopath behavior?" It's like Ben Higgins' season crawled and faceplanted so Clayton's season could run and trip down the stairs. 

As it turns out, it's Mayan pyramid's worth of stairs as things start to unravel from here on out.

After Clayton's big heartfelt speech (take three), Susie tells him how she's feeling, that she'd be very uncomfortable moving past Clayton sleeping with the other two women or sharing his love with them. Not even the Clayton Meaningless Word Salad 5000 has a response at first to this revelation. Eventually, after rebooting, he explains that he thought she had told him to explore his relationships with other women ... but yes, he has slept with another woman and yes, he did tell another woman that he's falling in love. (He starts by just saying it was one, but that eventually reveals to be both as the argument goes along.) 

At this point, really, Clayton's mostly just guilty of poor form. Obviously, telling three separate women that you love them – via speeches so close to one another you could basically make them sing-alongs – and sleeping with said women is callous and sleazy behavior ... but that IS what fantasy suite week is. Sure, it may have its "unwritten rules" about how much you should ACTUALLY participate – and sure, it's sleazy of Clayton to basically tell each of these women they have a special connection when it's really not all that special if it's with EVERYONE. But this is the intention of the week: sleeping with the three final contestants. And while the physical is an important part of a relationship, put that on "The Bachelor" then for dealing with it in this fantasy suite form, with its potentially crappy and dehumanizing behavior in soft-focus, weirdly chaste romantic light.

So again, though, it's mostly just poor form up to this point. In any real world situation, Clayton would SUUUUCK here – and he still SUUUUCKS here too, because he's attached real special emotional weight to these interactions that apparently aren't that real or special. But in a "Bachelor" world situation, he SUUUCKS a little less. At this moment – he'll get to SUUUUCK-ing a lot more shortly. 

But for now, mostly it's just a communication fiasco. Susie – who yeah, should probably know what show she's on – could've told Clayton before Sleep With Other Women Week to not sleep with the other women if that was such a massive dealbreaker for her in the context of the show and better explained what "explore the other relationships" meant to her. But she also didn't know Clayton was at a point of love, both emotional and physical, with her or anyone else on the show because Clayton was doing such a poor job of conveying where he was at with all of the women. Susie didn't think he was at this point with her – or anyone else – so she didn't think she had to set down an ultimatum (which no one wants to set down anyways in the first place, because you'd like to think your partner wouldn't sleep with other people if they're allegedly in love with you, even in this context). If Clayton just had a calm and humbled conversation here with Susie, they may have still gone their separate ways, but he wouldn't be the pariah he seems now. 

He did not, however, have a calm and humbled conversation. Instead, Clayton flies off the rails – and onto everyone's hate list. 

Instead of accepting that, yes, he has a role in this conflict and that Susie could be understandably upset knowing that the man she loves – and who told her he loves her in return – also said the same words to two other women before doing the dirty with them, Clayton digs in and in the process digs himself a grave. He starts on the defensive early, saying Susie told him to explore his other relationships – which may be true but also feels like trying to shift the blame over to her for his own actions. But then he also says that "I'm the most in love with you" – which, if that's the case, WHY'D YOU SLEEP WITH TWO OTHER WOMEN AND TELL THEM THAT YOU LOVE THEM TOO!? I know you can't pull a Claire and tell the show to call it a wrap because you've already got your person – but if you've seemingly got your choice, then DON'T HAVE SEX WITH OTHER PEOPLE! And certainly don't be all flomped and sad in your chair when you find out your girlfriend doesn't like hearing, "I love you the most of all the women I feel the exact same way about and also had sex with."

Clayton gets worse and worse throughout the night, sighing and sulking like a baby and massively shifting the blame over to Susie, who explains that she's confused and conflicted because she expected him to think harder about these big words and actions before committing to them. He man-splains relationships to her. He refuses to accept the gravity of what he's done and said to everyone here, saying that hey, when you're in love with multiple people, yeah, you gotta sleep with them all OBVIOUSLY! (Ah yes, because hearing "I didn't just sleep with strangers on a whim; I slept with people I love equal to you" should DEFINITELY make Susie feel better about the situation.)

Most of all, though, he pushes the blame onto Susie, saying that she's the one ending the relationship and that she's the one invalidating their relationship and emotions – no, not the sleeping around and the tossing around of the L-word. Again, both sides of this conversation are understanable – but it's Clayton who really blows up the situation, rolling his eyes at her and grumping at her, refusing to see things through her eyes and basically calling her a liar who was never actually in love with him, saying "I don't even know who I'm looking at." He utterly pushing all the guilt onto her for not talking through HIS missteps – and she's clearly feeling the weight of his deflected guilt, crying while Clayton just steams at her. Why does she seem to feel the worst of the two of them here when it's HIS CARELESS BEHAVIOR that got them here?

Anyways, it ends with him coldlessly walking her out to the SUV without any words, opening the door and practically nudging her into the vehicle. His only statement is some nonsense about how God put her in his path for the reason to find someone better, I guess? Much like the Katie and Greg at the end of "The Bachelorette," if this is how you handle conflict – by blaming, by sulking and by just honestly being terrible at communicating – then maybe the relationship you should be focused on is with your own self. 

In the end, Clayton's actions made him a careless doofus, but his words with Susie truly made him a villain. He didn't hear Susie during Monday's episode – but I think he's gonna hear her points a whole lot clearer after Gabby and Rachel have their say in all of this. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.