On last night’s episode of The Bachelor, Clayton finally dispensed with this season’s villain, Shanae, on a two-on-one date overlooking Niagara Falls with her nemesis, Genevieve. For all the buildup to this moment the producers insisted on giving us, the expulsion itself was quick and easy: We barely even saw Shanae freak out afterward. Instead, without skipping a beat, we got the next big story line of the season: Who’s Ready for Marriage?
Over the course of two one-on-one dates, a group date involving medieval knight play, and a surprise rendezvous at a Croatian clock tower (yeah, I don’t know), Clayton — with the obvious aid of the producers — attempted to suss out an answer to this question. Determining marriage readiness is a time-honored Bachelor tradition and a close cousin of the old “right reasons” trope. But how do you really know if someone is ready for marriage? And what does that mean in the context of this show? Clayton is currently dating nine different women whom he has known for about five weeks. If one is ready to marry him, what does that make her? A freak, unfortunately. But in the world of The Bachelor, we must suspend our disbelief and fall into the show’s familiar rhythms. Some ladies are ready for marriage, and some are actually little babies who are not.
That’s how Mara, who, at 32, is this season’s oldest contestant, puts it during the aforementioned group date. After Clayton leaves Shanae in Toronto, the remaining ladies travel to Hvar, Croatia (why not?), to explore the city’s old fortresses. Clayton takes Teddi on a one-on-one date, during which she confesses to him that she’s a virgin (there’s one every season). Susie surprises him with a declaration of “falling in love” at the clock tower. And on the group date, the gals compete in several “knight” activities that include pushing one another around with shields, eating fish eyes, and reading poems. Mara comes into this experience feeling especially competitive because she hasn’t gotten a one-on-one date with Clayton yet. Sarah, though, who, at 23, is the youngest competitor in the mansion, is about to get her second one-on-one date. Can you see where this is heading?
After the medieval competition, Mara (pronounced just like Sarah, for the record) pulls Clayton aside to be “100 percent honest” with him. “I’m just surprised,” she coos. “You’ve been adamant about saying that you’re looking for a wife and looking for children and long term, but the roses that are given out, the one-on-ones that are given out, don’t reflect that.” She then makes it crystal clear that she’s talking about Sarah, that local member of Gen Z who wouldn’t know a Neil Lane engagement ring if it hit her in the eye. Why is Clayton spending so much time with these younger women? Mara asks. And she kind of has a point: As The Ringer notes, Clayton has so far eliminated 83 percent of the contestants who are 26 and over and kept 80 percent of the contestants 25 and younger. Clayton himself is 28, and based on these decisions, it does seem as though he wants to end up with a younger woman. But will that younger woman be READY FOR MARRIAGE? Of course, Clayton must find out.
Before his one-on-one date with Sarah, Clayton quickly huddles with host Jesse Palmer (remember him?) who encourages him to “get answers” from Sarah about her willingness to commit. And so, like the natural conversationalist he is, Clayton brings up Mara’s accusation right away, prompting Sarah to burst into tears. At this, Clayton walks away to “clear his head,” a.k.a. ask the producers what he should do. After Sarah cries to another producer for what seems like quite a long time, Clayton comes back and assures her that he believes she is ready for marriage. “This journey can be scary,” he says in his usual monotone. “I have to be careful with navigating through all this, and I want to make sure I’m making the right decisions … But I don’t question your sincerity.”
In the end, Sarah gets a rose. And based on the teaser for next week, she will almost certainly confront Mara about her crimes, and Mara will almost certainly lose her mind.
So what have we learned? Simple: The younger you are, the more willing you are to sob uncontrollably about marriage, which means you are ready for it. Hopefully, Clayton keeps this in mind as he continues his journey to find love.