Raise your hand if you’re still feeling the secondhand embarrassment from last night’s episode of The Bachelorette. The third episode of Clare Crawley’s season might have been one of the top five most cringeworthy things I’ve ever seen in this entire franchise — and I watched Ashley Iaconetti get dumped on an island. Clare may have officially become the worst enemy of her own journey this time around, but her contestants weren’t exactly helping. They almost made it too easy for her to gravitate towards Dale Moss, especially by spending all of their precious time talking about him.
If you haven’t noticed already, Clare likes Dale. Like, a lot. She likes him so much that he’s always on her mind; when she’s alone in her room, she smells his pants, and she’s got Dale on the brain even while on dates with other men. As a result of Clare’s barely concealed crush, Dale’s high standing isn’t lost on his fellow contestants, and it’s starting to make them feel like maybe they’re wasting their time. Spoiler alert: They totally are.
During the second group date of the night, Clare gathered her beaus (and her real boyfriend Dale) for what was meant to be a lighthearted roast, hosted by comic legend Margaret Cho. But the date quickly went left as the men set their sights on the man who had casually stated that he was "best suited" for their Bachelorette. One after one, the contestants roasted Dale as if he was the star of the show; they talked about how much he ran his mouth, his short-lived career in the NFL, and even his sense of style. Bennett Jordan (aka "Harvard" or "Daddy Warbucks") went the hardest on Dale and read him for filth while their fellow contestants cackled and howled in support.
The experience was uncomfortable for Dale — this whole episode proved that he really doesn't enjoy being disliked by people— but it also infuriated Clare. What was supposed to be the men's way of changing Clare's mind about Dale and shifting her attention away from him had the opposite effect.
Let's be clear (heh): Clare is being a wastewoman at the moment. Despite the fact that she has 18 mostly good guys who spent weeks in quarantine just so they could get the chance to date her, our Bachelorette is currently experiencing a bit of tunnel vision. It's not entirely fair, and it isn't fun to watch. However, the men aren't doing themselves any favors by incessantly talking about him, especially in front of Clare. Bachelor Nation has watched enough episodes of this franchise to know that there is one cardinal rule of any iteration of this show, and that is to spend your precious time with your lead talking about yourself and only about yourself.
All's fair in love and war, and on a show like The Bachelorette, you have to play the game strategically. One of those key strategies is knowing how to redirect the lead’s attention away from your competition and towards yourself. There will always be a frontrunner, but you have to possess the ability to make yourself stand out from the pack somehow, even if the object of your affections is one-track minded at the time. And the way to do that is to focus on yourself. Unfortunately for this group of men, they're playing into the narrative of Dale being the frontrunner.
Was anyone shocked that the cocktail party following the roast-gone-wrong was all about Dale, who was comfortably resting in his LaQuinta suite a few feet away? As Clare interrogated the men about their "harmless jokes," they realized that their plan to show her their light had actually worked against them — she was concerned that their comments may have had some truth to them, but she was also insulted by their talking badly about her man. And Clare's decision to not give anyone the group date rose after her investigation was the nail in the coffin. It's a case of the self-fulfilling prophecy; by unintentionally learning into their insecurities about Clare finding her match in Dale, the men only pushed the fledgling couple closer together.
After last night's debacle, however, Bachelor Nation is offered a glimmer of hope, and her name is Tayshia Adams. At the very end of the preview for the next episode of The Bachelorette, Tayshia emerges from the pool looking every bit of a model, and I'm not ashamed to say that I knocked over my bowl of popcorn in my excitement. It's only been three weeks, but Clare as the Bachelorette has been a lot. Let's hope that Tayshia's run goes much smoother — and that the remaining men regain their competitive spirits.