'The Bachelor' recap: Clayton Echard ousts Serene Russell and determines his Final 3 bachelorettes
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/01/2022
The Bachelor featured Clayton Echard eliminating Serene Russell after she said, "I love you," and introduced him to her family as one of the Final 4 bachelorettes' hometown dates during the Season 26 episode Monday night on ABC.
Clayton denied Serene, a 26-year-old elementary school teacher from Oklahoma City, OK, a rose at the Rose Ceremony that followed hometown dates.
"I'm shocked," Serene said in her final words. "I literally told the man I was falling in love with him and in love with him, and if that doesn't do something for him, then there's nothing I can do. It sucks, it really does. And I wish it were different."
Clayton therefore determined his Final 3 bachelorettes: Gabby Windey, a 30-year-old ICU nurse from Denver, CO; Rachel Recchia, a 25-year-old flight instructor from Clermont, FL; and Susie Evans, a 28-year-old wedding videographer from Virginia Beach, VA.
The Bachelor broadcast began with Clayton traveling to Poquoson, VA, for Susie's hometown date, and she taught him some Jiu-Jitsu moves.
Clayton learned "shrimping" -- which brought back bad shrimp memories of Shanae Ankney -- and was choked by Susie's thighs, which he didn't seem to mind.
The couple also enjoyed a little picnic by a boardwalk. Susie said she always wanted to get away from where she was raised but end up with a man like her father, who set a standard of what her partner should be like.
Susie said Clayton meeting her father, whom she dreamed and hoped would walk her down the aisle one day since he's currently sick, was a really big deal, and Clayton hoped to live up to the expectation and enjoy his meeting with such a well-respected and admired man.
Clayton met Susie's mother Gene, father Tom, sister Barbara, and best friend Lauren, and he specifically hoped for Tom's approval.
Clayton told Susie's family how it felt like they had been dating each other for over a year on their first one-on-one date because their connection was so natural.
Susie's father shared how he was expecting good results from his MRI the next day, and Susie, who melted into tears when speaking to her dad, shared how her relationship with Clayton felt special.
Tom therefore told Clayton that he had Susie on the line and just had to reel in her. Tom gushed about Susie's good heart and how she had stayed by his bedside and slept there all night when he first got sick. Tom deferred to his daughter's judgment and said the family would love Clayton and accept him, as long as Susie loved and cared for him.
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But when asked if he loved Susie, Clayton couldn't say "yes." Clayton explained how he had "very, very strong feelings" for Susie and being in love was a "sacred" thing to him.
"I kind of guard myself because I don't want to fall in love with four people doesn't make sense, but when I look at Susie, there's no question in my mind that I will get there," Clayton told Gene.
Clayton was afraid to fall in love with more than one person, but he knew how he didn't want to hurt Susie. And Susie could tell her family liked Clayton and would embrace him; she just hoped he could "get there" with her.
Clayton then moved on to Denver, CO, for Gabby's hometown date.
Clayton called Gabby the "funniest woman alive" before they went for a hike.
Clayton appreciated how Gabby was trusting and opening up to him, and he said their relationship was skyrocketing. After kissing on the edge of a mountain, the couple hopped in a hot tub together, and Gabby intended on telling Clayton that she was falling for him at the end of her hometown date.
Gabby was disappointed, however, because her father wasn't going to be able to attend the hometown visit since his girlfriend of 10 years had been diagnosed with cancer and didn't want to risk traveling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But Clayton was going to meet Gabby's grandfather John, aunt Julie, uncle Rich and cousin Kira.
Once Clayton introduced himself to Gabby's loved ones, John set out to discover if Clayton was good enough for Gabby and if he really cared for her.
Clayton insisted that he knew what he had in front of him, and John advised the Bachelor to take his time and not rush into an engagement. He liked what he saw in Clayton at first but admitted there was still time for him to change his mind.
Gabby said she felt like Clayton could be her life partner, and everyone liked how Gabby was herself around Clayton and he could goof around with her.
When sitting down with Gabby after his chat with the Bachelor, John joked of Clayton, "I think he's full of sh-t. Anyone that could possibly like you is obviously full of crap."
Gabby cracked up with laughter and playfully punched her grandpa, who was actually excited for her. He just told her to "make sure before making that final step." John said he loved Gabby more than anything and every marriage has its problems but as long as she and Clayton could be flexible and forgiving, it could work out.
As the night came to a close, Gabby cried to her loved ones about how she wished her father could have been there. Then, suddenly, Gabby's dad pulled up in his car and beeped the horn.
While maintaining his distance due to COVID-19, he pulled a move from the movie Love Actually and showed Gabby a series of posters, which shared with the bachelorette how much he loved her and how she's the glue of their family and deserves the world. He said he'd be happy if Gabby ended up with Clayton.
Gabby was a puddle of tears and really appreciated receiving his blessing to be with Clayton.
Clayton felt like he was a part of Gabby's family, and then she told him, "I definitely feel like I'm falling in love with you."
"There it is! I have been waiting on that!" Clayton said with a big smile.
Gabby said she had been feeling that way for a while but seeing Clayton with her family solidified things. Clayton was giddy, which was reassuring for Gabby, and she gushed about her heart being "so full."
"I'm so ready to be engaged and share our lives together!" Gabby noted.
Clayton's next stop was Oklahoma, OK, to be with Serene.
Clayton told Serene that she looked more beautiful than ever, and the couple completed a terrifying obstacle course together. Clayton was much more scared than Serene, which allowed the pair to share a few good laughs.
Clayton was about to meet Serene's mom Sherri, her brother Roland and her best friend Melanie.
Serene's parents divorced when she was two years old and her dad was not going to be able to make it. She had been cautious about introducing men to her family because she didn't have a good image of what a marriage should look like growing up, so this was a big deal for Serene.
Serene hoped her family would see that she was falling in love and "really happy." It had been at least 10 years since Serene introduced a man to her family.
Once Clayton met Serene's family, Roland was shocked to hear Serene had opened up to Clayton about the losses in their family because apparently Serene even had trouble being vulnerable with her family members.
"The fact she told you about that is huge because that's still an open wound for her," Ronald told Clayton. "So that let's me know that you see something special in her. So please, be really careful. [She's] really fragile."
On the topic of a possible engagement, Ronald asked the Bachelor, "Do you love her?"
"I, umm, to tell you the truth, I haven't told anybody that I'm in love with them. I'm not there yet," Clayton replied.
But Serene was definitely falling in love and told her mother that she and Clayton had that famous "spark" and Clayton was a great listener who paid close attention to her. Serene also showed off the jar of firefly lights Clayton had gifted her.
Ronald broke down into tears because he didn't want his sister to get hurt. He recalled a time when Serene had cried on the phone with him until 3AM, and he was afraid Clayton was going to break his sister's trust. Ronald asked Serene to be careful and think everything through.
At the end of their date, which Serene thought went perfectly, she told Clayton, "I can say that after today, I'm not, like, falling in love with you -- I am in love with you. And seeing you with my family really solidified that for me, and I don't think it could've gone any better than that, at all."
"Man, I can't stop smiling right now!" Clayton replied in shock, before kissing the bachelorette. "There are just so many feelings, but it feels so good."
Serene wanted to leave it all out on the table rather than hold her feelings and emotions in for the sake of protecting her heart.
And Clayton's last destination of the hometown dates was Clermont, FL, where he reunited with Rachel.
The couple went to King's Landing and went kayaking in a kayak with a clear bottom down a spring. Clayton said he and Rachel couldn't keep their hands off each other and they had a very intimate relationship.
"I truly feel like Clayton could be my husband, and I hope my family sees the person that I see tonight," Rachel shared.
Rachel told the Bachelor that he'd be meeting her parents, mother Mary and father Tony, and best friends Sam and Nate. Rachel said her father never liked a man she had brought home and he'd probably be skeptical of Clayton and come off a little bit harsh and blunt. Clayton was prepared for tough questions and was optimistic her dad wouldn't dislike him.
Rachel's family could tell that she was glowing and they playfully threatened to hurt Clayton if he hurt the pilot.
Rachel told Nate that Clayton had never given her a reason to doubt him and he made her feel like she's the only girl in the world whenever they were together. Rachel was trying not to think about the other women, but Nate worried about who was going to pick up the pieces if she got her heart broken.
Sam didn't want to see Rachel get hurt and then lose her trust in people, and then Clayton sat down for a chat with Tony. Tony apparently offered to beat Rachel's ex-boyfriend up after an argument one day.
Tony asked Clayton what he knew about Rachel besides the obvious, and Clayton said he loved her passion, independence and ambition and would be willing to move anywhere, including Europe potentially, for her job in order to be with her.
Tony was also concerned about the three other women, and Clayton said the idea of hurting people made him sick and dating 30 women actually wasn't fun at all.
"I have no intention of hurting Rachel. I don't have a crystal ball as far as what it looks like at the end of this journey, but I do know that I see a future with her," Clayton explained to Tony.
"I've had thoughts and I've dreamt about getting down on a knee and proposing to her and what life would look like outside of this. If I didn't see a future with her, I would not be sitting her before you, and all I can do is keep taking steps."
Tony said he couldn't give Clayton his blessing until he heard from his daughter that she considered Clayton to be a really special guy or maybe even The One. Tony said if he heard good things from Rachel, he'd pat him on the arm at the end of the night as a sign of validation.
Rachel then shared with her dad how Clayton truly saw her and he would stand next to her in life instead of in front of her. Rachel gushed about how she was falling in love, and her conversation with her father resulted in the both of them crying.
Tony expressed how he was very proud of Rachel and liked Clayton, and Rachel admitted she was relieved that Tony was not mean to Clayton.
"If he's what you want, I'm all for it," Tony noted, adding how he had seen his daughter happier than she had been in a long time.
Tony ended up giving Clayton the pat on the arm, and Clayton was overjoyed.
When saying goodbye, Rachel assured Clayton that she felt even stronger for him and she was "falling even harder" for him after the family visit. Clayton could tell that Rachel was "all in," and he said, "Rachel could absolutely be my wife."
Once Clayton and his Final 4 bachelorettes returned to Los Angeles, CA, it became time for the Rose Ceremony.
All of the women seemed nervous and terrified to get hurt, and Clayton told The Bachelor host Jesse Palmer how the women had poured their hearts out to him. Clayton said he was initially guarded with walls up because he was afraid to fall for more than one person.
"But what I know is that I have very strong feelings. I am falling in love with all of the women in a different capacity," Clayton told Jesse. "I think I might be. It's exciting, it's scary and it's overwhelming -- but I don't want to hold back anymore."
Clayton said he wanted to allow himself to love and give the women his all because that's what they had been giving him. He didn't think it was right to protect himself going forward when the women had been so vulnerable with him.
At the Rose Ceremony, Clayton announced how this was the hardest decision he had to make yet in his journey but he was just following his heart.
Clayton proceeded to hand out roses to Susie, Gabby, and then Rachel.
When Clayton walked Serene out, she seemed bewildered, shocked and completely deflated. Clayton said, "I'm sorry," and then Serene -- somewhat speechless -- asked what changed because Clayton had told her that he had "no reservations" about them.
Serene asked if Clayton realized he didn't love her when she said, "I love you," to him.
"It wasn't that at all... It just came down to I had to sit back and reflect and ask, 'Where do I stand with my heart?' And I just have stronger connections," Clayton explained.
Serene replied, "Alright," and then gave Clayton a hug before leaving.
"Clayton was able to break down my walls and I gave it my all," Serene concluded, "so I can feel myself closing back up -- and that's why I have nothing else to say to him."