By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 15, 2022 at 2:01 PM

With great power comes great responsibility. I think some superhero said that once – I forget who, but they should make a movie or eleven about that character. And then, most importantly, you should show that movie to Clayton Echard while all the contestants from this past "Bachelor" season sit around and glare at him until he realizes what he's done. 

Here's the thing: In the bizarre and depraved worldview of "The Bachelor," Clayton has done nothing wrong. (Well, minus be VERY boring and let Shanae stick around for seven million episodes.) His cardinal sin is that he had sex with everyone and fell in love with multiple women ... during Sex With Everyone Week on Falling In Love With Multiple Women: The Show. As the star of the show, he's able to – and, in the former's case, encouraged – do these things. There may be unwritten rules about what you're ACTUALLY supposed to do, but as has been very clear over the past several episodes, no one bothered to pass those along to Clayton – a guy who didn't even get close to making it this far as a contestant and knows nothing about being on the other side of hometowns or fantasy suites. 

The thing about these unwritten rules, though? NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO FILL YOU IN ON THEM. No one should need to inform Clayton that, "Hey, just a heads up: Sleeping with multiple women after you tell all of them you love them is sociopathic and cruel." But this man is "Bachelor"-ing too hard, getting so lost in playing his role that even Jared Leto would be like, "Hey man, maybe take a step back." He's thinking so much as "The Bachelor" that he's forgotten how to think or behave like a normal human being – and, worst of all, forgotten that there's other normal human beings on this show impacted by his thoughtless and selfish actions.

Lo, he's spun himself stuck into a terrible web like some sort of ... man spider? Yeah, that sounds right – no notes. 

So night one of our two-part finale extravaganza begins not in beautiful Iceland but in the "Bachelor" live studio. And while Harrison may be gone, promises of the most dramatic, most controversial, most emotional, most mostest finale are very much still present thanks to Jesse Palmer. "I hope the kids are in bed and the pets are safe," the host warns. JESUS, IS CLAYTON BECOMING A SERIAL KILLER ON THE RUN AT THE END OF THIS? Fair enough: That WOULD be the most dramatic "Bachelor" finale of all time. 

All's well: Clayton's actually just in a gorgeous church in Iceland, listening to a dramatic choir that they conveniently had around to sing poignant arias to a doofus. Here, we finally get the big line: Clayton needs somebody to help him because ... HE'S SO BROKEN! Wait, here I was spending this entire season thinking that moment was Clayton realizing that he's made mistakes and that he's hurt people as a result ... but it was actually him just being self-pitying about how he bitterly dumped his third girlfriend because she wasn't super-pumped that he slept with two other women and told them all he loved them in practically the same exact way, rendering those meaningful moments meaningless? OH, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORD BROKEN YET, YOU DINGUS! Just wait until these women get their hands on you at the end of this ... 

Before then, Jesse Palmer shows up to help Clayton. "Where do I go from here," our lead asks. As if he DOESN'T HAVE TWO OTHER WOMEN ON STANDBY THAT HE ALSO SUPPOSEDLY LOVES! GAAAH! This man's behavior is driving me insane; I'm amazed this recap is technically legible, because it's really this close to becoming a raging stream of consciousness that would make "Ulysses" seem like "Goodnight Moon." Anyways, Clayton decides that if sleeping around and dropping the L-word on other women was a deal-breaker for Susie, he should make sure it's not a deal-breaker for Rachel and Gabby too – so he's going to be honest and tell them everything at the upcoming rose ceremony. I'm sure this is going to go great. 

So we cut to the rose ceremony, taking place in some gorgeous glowing blue cube place. Whoever did the location scouting for these final episodes is the only person who deserves to stay on for the next season. If we're going to be stuck in a building watching the saddest and most aggravating treatment of supposed loved ones – all to the soundtrack of echoing tears – might as well be a visually appealing building!

I'm getting distracted. Rachel and Gabby arrive to not a normal rose ceremony, but instead Clayton giving a long speech, ending with him revealing that he slept with both of them and told both of them – as well as Susie – that he loves them. Cue everything falling apart. Gabby and Rachel both start looking at anywhere in the room that isn't Clayton, then meander off in loud tears that resound throughout the entire set long after they leave.

Meanwhile, Clayton just stands there – not looking sad or remorseful, but actually kind of peeved! Almost like he cannot believe these women are doing THIS to HIM! The man simply does not grasp that the responsibilities of being "The Bachelor" do not exempt you from the responsibilities of being a decent person. These women are in a profoundly vulnerable place, in a wholly imbalanced relationship dynamic falling for a person who can do, say and remove them at any time for any reason. The only thing they have is the trust that he won't hurt them more than necessary – and he has utterly shattered that trust. 

Eventually Jesse comes to check on him, asking how Clayton's doing. WELL GOSH, JESSE, I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF MY TWO GIRLFRIENDS HOWL-CRYING ABOUT MY CRAPPY BEHAVIOR, BUT OTHER THAN THAT, PRETTY SWELL! Again, Clayton doesn't acknowledge that it's because of his choices and actions, but because he opened up and became vulnerable. Yeah, no, THAT was DEFINITELY the mistake, smart guy. 

Eventually Gabby comes back to Clayton – not to take a rose, but to get a better and more thorough explanation about happened with Susie. She gets his version of the story, but Gabby ends up with more questions than answers – mainly how does he intend to send somebody home if you told them that you love them? Clayton says that he'll choose the woman he loves the most, an answer that earns a VERY deserved verbal side-eye from Gabby – and from everyone in the picture-in-picture box from the live studio audience. No one wants to hear that they're the person their future husband loves "the most"; they want to be the person their future husband loves, 100 percent, period, no silver or bronze medalists. So Gabby's not won over – though she's certainly winning over the audience, handling her teary heartbreak with impressively clear eyes and rational conversation. Not that it's breaking through with Clayton, of course. 

As for Rachel, she eventually comes over to Clayton as well, though mostly just to cry some more into his lap. Clayton decides the best way to handle this situation is to pull out his favorite card over these past two episodes: If you REALLY loved me, you'd stay and fight for this relationship. DUDE, IT IS ON YOU FIX THIS, NOT THEM! The only mistake these women made was trusting and believing you; YOU'RE the one needing to put in the effort here and show your work.

Alas, it works as Rachel returns to the rose ceremony podium – and so eventually does Gabby. BUT when Clayton offers her a rose, Gabby says she can't accept it and asks if he'd like to walk her out. SHE DID NOT COME BACK FOR A ROSE; SHE CAME BACK FOR A ROAST! On their way out, Clayton tries to explain himself some more and get Gabby to stay, but she responds with some perfectly pointed questions instead. Did he ever consider putting himself in their shoes, for instance, and think about how it would feel to know that your special moment, your love connection, was in fact not special at all? (Imagine how much more heartbreakingly vindicated she's going to feel when she sees that LITERALLY he said the L-word to them all in pretty much the same way, their individual magical moments rendered routine.) Anyways, the answer to her question is: No, Clayton did not ever consider that. Clayton hasn't considered anything that doesn't exclusively impact him. 

Meanwhile, back at the rose ceremony podium, Rachel's ... won? Watching her face slowly yet surely realize what's happened was ravaging – from being shocked that Gabby rejected the rose, to suddenly grasping that she's the only one left and therefore the victor, to feeling devastated that she's not won because Clayton chose her but because she's the only one left standing. She's not Clayton's one true love; she's Clayton's one by default. And the three little words every person wants to hear aren't, "Welp, you're it!"

Rachel's meaningless victory-by-forfeit is thankfully revoked, though, as Gabby eventually makes her way back to the podium and agrees to take the rose from Clayton. We're gonna have a proper finale after all – as if anything associated with Clayton right now could be considered "proper." The three take a cheers-free swig of once-celebratory champagne and hope tomorrow things will end. The good news: For the viewers at home, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN! WOOOO!

Before we continue, we head back to the live studio to analyze everything that's happened with supposedly "some of our favorite Bachelors and Bachelorettes" – which is weird because Nick Viall and Clare Crawley are there, and no one has ever said those words about either of them. Yet somehow they both say totally correct things that get the audience cheering in approval. And when Nick Viall and Clare Crawley are able to dunk on your season to Bachelor Nation's head-nodding approval, you've made some poor life chioces. 

Clare first says that Clayton made a massive whoops – which YEP! (Sidenote: Make fun of Clare all you want for barely lasting four episodes into her season, but she bailed on the show to basically avoid this kind of scenario, leading people on and hurting them more than necessary.) But Nick REALLY got my head nodding in agreement – which is a frankly alarming sentence to write. If I went into a time machine and told 2017 Matt that I'd vigorously agree with Nick Viall, I'd think Future Me had lost his damn mind ... which he has BUT UNRELATED! Nick brings up the key point that Clayton's never taken the time to empathize with the women and realize the power he holds – but also brings up that Clayton still wasn't entirely honest with Gabby. He didn't tell her that he'd told Susie that he loves her MOST – and whether that was true or merely a desperate play from a guy trying to keep her on the show, we can't imagine Gabby (or Rachel) appreciate THAT little detail conveniently escaping Clayton's memory. 

We'll get to that issue later. In the meantime, we're off to meet up with Clayton's family. And if Clayton thought he was going to find some sympathetic ears amongst the Echards, HE WAS SORELY MISTAKEN! Yes, as it turns out, to normal people who aren't "The Bachelor," "I can't believe my girlfriend broke up with me because I slept with two other women that I also love" sounds like a sociopath's rantings. Clayton's dad in particular is having none of Clayton's pity party, flatly saying that Susie bailing on the show and the other women sobbing away their anger totally makes sense. A SHAME THE ECHARD COMMON SENSE GENE SKIPPED CLAYTON!

Anyways, Gabby and Rachel each meet the family at the AirBnb and are each received lovingly. Hell, the women each get more empathy and understanding from the other Echards than they ever got from Clayton. They're so swell that both Gabby and Rachel walk away from the house feeling better about Clayton and about everything. Maybe Clayton dodged a bullet. Maybe he, despite himself, might get a happy ending out of this terrible season after all. Maybe the most upsetting part of this whole two-part finale will just end up being that trailer for the new Kardashians show that may or may not be a horseman of the apocalypse. 


Nope, as it turns out, Clayton's saving his most devastating and reckless emotional carnage for last – because after he says goodbye to Rachel, he reveals that actually he doesn't want either Gabby or Rachel ... but Susie. You absolute clod – actually, that's too kind to Clayton because that implies he's not smart enough to realize his actions. So: You absolute monster. You DARED to nag these women to stay, to plead with them that – despite his words and actions – you love them in a truly special and meaningful way, and now you're going to say, "Eh, as it turns out, you weren't enough after all. You can leave." 

I mean, I'm glad that Clayton finally realized that he stopped listening to Susie the other night and that HE was the problem that night, shoving the blame all on her shoulders before practically pushing her into an SUV. BUT YOU COULDN'T HAVE FIGURED THAT OUT BEFORE DRAGGING TWO OTHER WOMEN DEEPER INTO YOUR MESS!? BEFORE ESSENTIALLY TRICKING TWO OTHER WOMEN INTO TRUSTING YOU AGAIN!? You deserve every bad thing these women are going to say to you Tuesday night, Clayton.

Even his family can't go with him on this, as his dad points out that he's grasping at straws and his mom questions why he'd sleep with two other women if Susie was this supposed "once-in-a-lifetime kind of woman" according to Clayton. WE HAD ALL THESE GOOD ECHARDS TO CHOOSE FROM AND WE PICKED THE WRONG ONE TO BE ON TELEVISION.

Anyways, for those keeping score, Clayton has finally considered what it must've felt like to be Susie ... but has not considered what it's going to feel like to be Rachel and Gabby when he breaks this news. One step forward, 217 steps backward off a cliff, I guess. 

But we move forward as Jesse Palmer breaks the news to Clayton that Susie is indeed still in Iceland. A perfect (well, not PERFECT) natural cliffhanger ending to the episode ... that the show skips to chat with Rodney, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Cassie Randolph back at the live studio. Still it's actually worth it for Cassie – who knows about awkward finales with toxic men ALL TOO WELL – and her thoughts on the matter, hoping that Susie doesn't feel pressured to give Clayton, ABC or "Bachelor" viewers the happy ending that they want. Not that anybody thinks Susie and Clayton being together will count as a happy ending. 

God help Susie – and all of us, for that matter. We're only one episode away from never thinking about this mess ever again – but I still think we're gonna need a hero to get through it all. Maybe that one who knew about great power and responsibility, one with insect-related abilities. Ah, now I remember: It's Ant-Man. 

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.