On last night’s episode of The Bachelor, the producers finally crowned a front-runner. No, it wasn’t Sarah, our hero from last week. (The same Sarah who tearfully defeated another contestant who decided that Sarah, at 23, was too young for an engagement.) Instead, in a stunning reversal, Sarah got the axe (!), and Susie (?) sailed to the front of the pack during a Cinderella-style one-on-one date that seemed to eat up the rest of the show’s budget for the year. How did this happen?
First, let’s talk about the date. Susie, a 25-year-old wedding videographer, got the front-runner edit, floating through a Pretty Woman–esque shopping spree and a private serenade in a Viennese castle. Perhaps you recall that Susie got the first one-on-one date of the season, making this her second solo outing with Clayton (or third if you count that off-book clock-tower rendezvous in Croatia last week). Clayton and Susie tell each other they are falling in love, and naturally, Susie gets a rose. Clayton is going to meet her parents in Virginia Beach next week! But what about Sarah?
Well, things were looking up for Sarah at the start of the episode. Bachelor Clayton hosted a rose ceremony wearing the worst tie of the season so far, and that is saying something. (It was a strangely wide purple patterned monstrosity that only barely matched his equally upsetting pastel dress shirt.) There, he dispensed with Mara, the 32-year-old “entrepreneur” from New Jersey who last week accused Sarah, the wealth-management advisor from New York City, of being ill-prepared for a lifetime commitment to Clayton, a relative stranger she has known for a few weeks. In that moment, Sarah won, and her ticket to next week’s hometown dates seemed all set — until a Freud-themed group date sent her on a path to ruin.
It was one of the worst group-date ideas in the show’s history: a series of couples’-therapy sessions administered by a Freudian psychoanalyst named Dr. Katherine. While the other assembled women are horrified by this plan — poor Genevieve hates the idea of doing on-air couples therapy with a man who is dating six other women so much that she shuts down and goes home, which is the only correct response — Sarah, strangely, is invigorated by the idea. She claims to love therapy and seems eager to prove how good she is at getting it. Meanwhile, the other ladies are starting to let it slip on camera that Sarah is not the sweet front-runner she previously appeared to be. Rachel says Sarah has been sharing “intimate details” of her relationship with Clayton in order to manipulate the other women into thinking they don’t have a chance with him. Uh-oh.
After Sarah’s tearful therapy session, in which she tells Clayton the other girls are simply too jealous of her, Dr. Katherine makes a shocking claim to the rest of the group. Someone, she says, is not being honest. “Let’s call it performative,” she adds, in a line written by producers that she executes beautifully. Everyone knows she’s talking about Sarah — except Sarah. “We were all shocked,” Sarah says at the cocktail party later, “because I can’t imagine who she could be referencing.”
At this point, the other women band together to help Clayton connect the dots. Unsurprisingly, he is also “shocked” to hear Sarah has been manipulating the other girls by telling them how much Clayton likes her. Surprisingly, he actually does something about it, exhibiting a rare smidge of personality in the process. “Sarah’s been saying things that simply haven’t happened,” he tells the camera. “I just can’t believe it.”
Naturally, he confronts Sarah, who immediately starts crying. But this time, she doesn’t seem to be able to produce as many real tears as she did last week. Clayton cuts her off, issuing his first fully formed opinion of the season. “I’m just going to be real with you — I really felt like you were trying to fake-cry to me,” he says. “Like, it didn’t feel genuine at all. I felt like you were trying to force the tears out … I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe you, and I think we’re done.”
Now it’s Sarah’s turn to be actually shocked, as she gets into a limo to take her back to NYC, where her wealth-management advisees are surely awaiting her expertise. After another one-on-one date with Serene and a brief rose ceremony, Clayton narrows the field to the four women who will get “hometown” dates: Susie, Rachel, Serene, and Gabby. Susie, of course, is now the front-runner, but if the producers have taught us anything this week, that designation can change in about 20 minutes.