This season of The Bachelorette was always going to be unconventional: Production was delayed for months because of the coronavirus, and some contestants were even recast in the interim. But all of those changes didn’t end up being the half of it.
After filming began in July following weeks of quarantine, there was another reported twist (spoilers ahead!). Just 12 days into filming, the Bachelorette, 39-year-old hairstylist Clare Crawley, had apparently fallen for one of the contestants. Because Crawley — who also happens to be the franchise’s oldest Bachelorette ever — was interested in pursuing a relationship with 32-year-old former professional football player Dale Moss, she didn’t want to continue with the rest of the season.
Crawley’s choice to leave the show left Bachelorette producers with a slew of single men looking for love and no Bachelorette to love them. Enter Tayshia Adams, a popular contestant from the 2019 season of The Bachelor (starring Colton Underwood), whom the show is rumored to have cast as its new leading woman.
As such, the program’s 16th season will be the first ever to feature two different starring Bachelorettes. (A previous season included a competition between two women for the title, though only one went on to star on the show.) And Tuesday’s premiere certainly set viewers up for the drama that is yet to come.
Warning: There are some spoilers ahead.
If the pre-season reports are to be believed, Crawley appeared to do what many past cast members haven’t been able to: She not only genuinely found love, but she also did it on her own terms. “I know what I want,” she emphasized on Tuesday’s episode.
In the premiere, we see Crawley’s first meeting with all of her bachelor options, including Moss, which clearly indicated that the two hit it off. “Oh, man. I definitely feel like I just met my husband. I’m shaking!” Crawley said after their first encounter. As the leaks suggest, Crawley and Moss ended up feeling so strongly about one another that she decided to leave the show to be with him, and only him — an unprecedented move in the history of the franchise.
While Crawley and Moss haven’t publicly commented on their relationship status, a Reality Steve report indicated that the two are now engaged, which seems to suggest that her willingness to take a risk ended well. “Congratulations, you just blew up The Bachelorette,” host Chris Harrison says to Crawley in one preview.
Winner: The Bachelorette bubble
Because of the, you know, pandemic, The Bachelorette had to be put together a little differently this year.
Before filming began, the contestants and crew were required to quarantine for two weeks and take multiple Covid-19 tests, a process that was featured prominently in the opening of the premiere. Instead of the cast starting out at the familiar Bachelor mansion and then setting out to various destinations around the United States and the world, contestants spent the entire season holed up at a resort in La Quinta, California. Nobody was allowed in, nobody was allowed out. Filming of the season wrapped in September.
The all-in-one-place setup isn’t entirely ideal. The Bachelorette compound recalls the NBA “bubble” at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, where fans appeared virtually in the stands of the game to create an artificial sense of a crowd. That conceit felt a little awkward, and the dates this season with everyone in close proximity will be, too.
But also like the NBA’s bubble, The Bachelorette’s bubble seems to have been a success from a precautionary perspective, at least. Thus far, there haven’t been any reports of cast members this season contracting Covid-19. That’s a big win for health and safety. The next season of The Bachelor, starring the show’s first Black Bachelor, Matt James, has already begun filming with a similar bubble approach.
In a world where the White House hasn’t been able to keep the novel coronavirus at bay, The Bachelorette’s ability to do so is impressive, especially given that a good portion of the show is people making out. The producers have demonstrated a level of organization and discipline that much of the highest tiers of government in America have not been able to muster.
If any show were ever poised to be a superspreader, it might be the Bachelor franchise. And it managed to be not that.
While the show has had its rough patches this year, the anticipated switch-up in Bachelorettes is, in fact, the very type of drama this franchise thrives on.
After rumors about Crawley’s decision to quit the show began to circulate earlier this summer, fans seemed to come up with a new theory daily about how the franchise would replace her. While one of fans’ main guesses was that Tayshia Adams would be cast as the new leading woman, another idea was that multiple Bachelor alumni would come back to find love. And some of Bachelor Nation even thought that Bachelor in Paradise was filming at the same time after more familiar faces were spotted on set.
All these theories only served to build the very kind of buzz that heightened anticipation for a new season. With little still known about how The Bachelorette is going to handle some of its big surprises this cycle, the ongoing mystery and messiness around how the expected Bachelorette switcheroo will all play out only adds more novelty to the drama.
By the time the season premiere aired on Tuesday, you knew something weird was going down. The teasers made that clear way ahead of time, thanks to Chris Harrison congratulating Clare on “blow[ing] up The Bachelorette.” When the season kicked off on Tuesday, Harrison promised viewers would “find out the truth about the rumors Bachelor Nation has been buzzing about.”
In ordinary times, I avoid reality show spoilers like, well, the plague. I’ve never been persuaded by the argument that knowing what’s going to happen helps you appreciate how the show manipulates viewers in order to present them with a coherent narrative. I want to be surprised by the twists and turns.
But these are not ordinary times. In March, the real world had stopped. Sports had been postponed. I wondered if The Bachelorette would be canceled, too, like everything else. The future looked grim.
So I found myself reading the hugely popular Reality Steve blog in early August, enthralled as Steve tried to make sense of the confusing, borderline-nonsensical rumors that had leaked out of the bubble. I became obsessed with Clare’s defection and the possibility of a second (and even third?) Bachelorette emerging on this upcoming season.
There was something bracingly, wonderfully normal about this gossip in those most abnormal of days. Rather than ruin the fun, the spoilers bore a promise: No matter what else is going on in the world, The Bachelor franchise will always be itself. The only constant is drama, with every season beginning with the potential to be the most dramatic ever.
2020 was the year that I, at long last, learned to stop worrying and love spoilers.
Loser: The guys who are not Dale
Obviously, almost every contestant on The Bachelorette winds up a loser — after all, only one person can get that final rose. But usually, most contestants get a chance to at least compete. Not this season. Halfway through Tuesday’s premiere, Clare declared she believed she had found her husband before all the men had even exited their limos to meet her.
When she met Moss, a former pro football wide receiver, Clare was clearly rattled. “I think I just met my husband,” she said, exclaiming that she was shaking. Host Chris Harrison approached her to ask what was up. “Every other guy I felt confident with, but with Dale, everything else went dark around me,” she said.
Harrison reminded Clare that there was at least supposedly a long road ahead of her, but Clare … seemed to not be super interested in the prospect. After some time alone with Dale in the mansion, she said in a voiceover, “I know what I’m looking for, and I’m big on energy and vibes.”
For the 30 non-Dales cast on Clare’s season, this is probably not what they envisioned. It’s true that many past Bachelorettes have wound up choosing the men they gave their “first impression” roses to at the very end, but none have demonstrated this kind of tunnel vision. (Clare, obviously, gave her first rose to Dale.)
On the one hand, you like what you like, and Clare clearly likes Dale. On the other hand, first impressions are not always right.
These guys have put their lives on pause, quarantined, and undergone multiple Covid-19 tests (about which they whined very much). Think of poor Bennett, the New York City wealth investment manager who obnoxiously rolled up in a Rolls Royce, or Yosef, who was allegedly messaging women on social media in the lead-up to filming. Both were on a potential path to be the season’s villain — a path that might not be taken.
Tuesday’s season premiere was pretty standard, ending in the first rose ceremony, so technically we’re not supposed to know what happens. But we probably know: Clare and Dale exit the show early together, and the other contestants are just out of luck. Maybe some stick around for Tayshia, but it’s not really clear if that’s the case.
While nabbing the first kiss with the Bachelorette or Bachelor is often one of the most coveted moments of the season, the simple act of the hug also got the love it deserved on Tuesday.
Available in much shorter supply these days because of social distancing and the ongoing pandemic, hugs were roundly celebrated in the premiere for how rare they are now. “It’s hard coming out of quarantine when I haven’t even hugged anybody for months,” Crawley said, tearing up.
Loser: Tyler C.
In the Bachelor universe, there is no more potent attack against one of your competitors than accusing them of not being there for the right reasons. But it’s a card that must be played wisely.
Tyler C., a West Virginia lawyer, thought he would get the upper hand against Yosef, a medical device salesperson from Alabama. He told some of the other guys that he had heard from women who live in his hometown that Yosef had messaged them over Instagram during the Covid-19 quarantine. He confronted Yosef about it, all but promising to take that information to Clare.
But Tyler C. got outmaneuvered.
Yosef went straight to Clare and told her he wanted to clear the air. With a veteran like Clare, familiar with all the Bachelor tropes and none more than “being there for the right reasons,” it’s always better to look like you’re trying to dispel drama rather than introduce it.
Tyler C. seemed to realize during their three-person sit-down that somehow the tables had been turned. He looked like the bad guy, whatever the truth was about Yosef’s DMing habits. He also got burned, with Yosef unforgettably calling Tyler C. a “mini-McConaughey.” It was a rapid fall from grace for a guy who seemed promising during his first interaction with Clare.
And that proved out in the rose ceremony, when Yosef was granted the last rose and Tyler was sent home. Nothing may be normal during this pandemic-tinged season. But some of the old rules still apply.