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    ‘The Bachelor’ Finale, Pt. 2: Did Clayton Find His Happily Ever After? (RECAP)

    Clayton Echard‘s Bachelor journey has officially come to an end. Night 1 of the Season 26 two-night finale brought the Bachelor some clarity after the “rose ceremony from hell” and introducing the women to his family. But with that clarity comes terrible heartbreak for Rachel and Gabby.

    It took Clayton losing Susie during their Fantasy Suite date to realize that she is “the one” for him. But could she possibly return his affection after what he said? And what does that mean for his relationships with Rachel and Gabby?

    Host Jesse Palmer had several surprises in store for the show’s live studio audience, from emotional reunions to a new relationship and the announcement of who will lead The Bachelorette Season 19! Get your wine and tissues ready, and find out how it all ends down below!

    Susie’s Second Chance

    As he discovered after introducing Rachel and Gabby to his family, Clayton’s heart is still set on Susie, and he is willing to risk it all for the chance to make it up to her… if she’ll let him. Jesse arrives to chat with Susie, who is still very emotional from her breakup with Clayton. He tells her how Clayton feels the same and regrets where they left things off, encouraging her to go speak to him later that day.

    Back at his family’s Airbnb, Clayton’s parents are unsure if their son’s move is the right one and wonder if she will show up for their meeting. To their surprise, she walks in and greets them before taking Clayton outside to talk. She is still upset but has accepted what happened, no matter how shocking the way he treated her was. She compares her emotions to feeling like “a stray dog” that he was trying to shoo away. No man should ever make you question your self-worth, even if he is the star of The Bachelor.

    Regardless, Clayton is remorseful for his words and actions, as he was just as thrown off by the night as she was. His fear overcame him, causing him to act differently than he intended. “If you do walk out, I will lose everything,” he tells her. He believes their love is worth fighting for and hopes she can find it in her heart to give him a second chance. Though she’s still unsure, she appreciates his sentiment and apology and leaves to decide her next move. “I have to just follow my heart, and my heart is with Susie, and I will do anything to make it work,” he says in a confessional. Now with his heart and mind solely focused on Susie, it’s time to break the news to Rachel and Gabby. Uh oh, things are about to go down!

    Gabby & Rachel’s Dual Breakup

    As with every Bachelor season, there comes the time when hearts must get broken, only this time, they already have been. Clayton heads off to put the final nail in the coffin of his relationships with Rachel and Gabby, knowing that it’s what has to be done (but does it?). We’re dreading this moment as much as Clayton is, but it’s definitely going to be interesting.

    You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. He sucks it up and does the deed, ending things with both. He wants them to be with someone who will give them their full heart, and that is no longer him. The Susie revelation comes as a surprise, as they believed she went home, and Clayton hopes they can one day be able to forgive him for what he’s put them through.

    Gabby Fires Back

    Gabby is not having it and quickly exits into the next room. Clayton follows after her, leaving Rachel teary-eyed and confused. “I actually don’t know who you are, at all,” she fires at him. “I can’t believe anything you say, not one thing!” She questions why he kept leading them on all this time instead of talking things out. “You sound actually ridiculous because you don’t want to admit that you were wrong!”

    She is holding nothing back, calling out all the ways he could have gone about the situation differently. “Your actions speak way louder than words, and that’s the truth.” Nothing Clayton can say will change how big of a mess he’s made. When he asks if he can walk her out, she straight up replies, “No,” prompting applause and cheers from the live studio audience on the bottom of the screen.

    Back in the studio, Gabby joins Jesse on the couch, but not before hugging her emotional grandpa (we love him!). Watching the show back has been hard, but it’s given her the closure she needed following her Iceland departure. Seeing more of Clayton’s side of the story helped put some pieces together, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. She hoped for the best-case scenario (getting engaged to Clayton) but was always preparing for the worst, which ended up happening. Her anger and hurt were real, just as much as her feelings for Clayton were real. She loved the person he was when he was with her, but that all changed in Iceland.

    Clayton joins the pair on the couch, reuniting with Gabby for the first time since their breakup. Jesse opens up the floor to Gabby first, who states that she felt misled throughout the last weeks of watching it back. She feels betrayed, and Clayton can do nothing but apologize over and over for his actions. She knows he’s not a bad person, but the chances she gave him to be open and honest weren’t taken. Instead, he withheld his true feelings to get her to stay.

    She never wanted to compete for his love and felt she and Rachel were the consolation prize. “When you say ‘love,’ when you say you ‘love’ someone, you’re assuming responsibility to protect them, to care for them, and to not hurt them. And you didn’t do any of those things,” she tells him. “I don’t think you know the weight your words carry.”

    Clayton states that he didn’t regret telling the truth to Rachel and Gabby at the rose ceremony, but she echoes Nick Viall‘s words from last night, saying that she never knew that Clayton loved Susie “the most.” He apologizes for not realizing his wrongdoings until after their journey was over and hopes that she can forgive him.

    Not too messy of a reunion, but now let’s see how Rachel took the breakup!

    Rachel’s Tearful Goodbye

    Back to the breakup in Iceland, Clayton returns to talk with Rachel, who wants to discuss what his definition of “love” is. She knew the moment she was falling in love with him and believed that their love was one that doesn’t come often in a person’s life. All of that changed after the rose ceremony. She continued to fight for them after his reassurances, only to be left blindsided and hurt. “And I promise you that when you look back at this, this is gonna haunt you, the fact that you let me go,” she cries. “What little you gave me, I held onto.”

    Clayton doesn’t deny how he felt about her, but can’t help that he’s not 100 percent in. “You gave up on us,” she barely manages to get out as he walks her outside. “I cannot believe you’re gonna put me in the car right now.” If we could reach through the screen to give her a hug, we would. Rachel deserves better than this (perhaps a chance to find love as the Bachelorette?). She rides away a wreck, devastated but glad she finally has an answer. Clayton was not the man for her, and might not even be the man for Susie. It’s up to her to decide.

    Rachel Calls Clayton Out

    Rachel is teary-eyed on the couch with Jesse, having watched it all play back for the first time. It’s hard knowing how in love she was with him and how hard she fought for them, only for Clayton to throw it all away. She kept going because he made her believe she was the one, but he just kept breaking her heart. She is crying because of everything he put her through, not because she still cares for him. Jesse even asks if she is still in love with Clayton, to which she says “No,” and is rewarded with applause from the audience (she deserves it).

    Now it’s time for Rachel to drag Clayton through the mud! She starts by clarifying that none of her emotions are for or about herself and her old feelings. “I became collateral damage in your journey for love,” she tells him. The way he ended things was disrespectful, period. He apologizes, but his apologies won’t make up for what she went through. “I just don’t believe you,” she claps back. Funny how he was always calling for transparency when he was the one lying about the truth! She even questions if he ever loved her at all (ouch!)

    Her parents are in the audience, and neither have any good things to say, choosing instead to be the bigger people and hear out Clayton’s apology. He knows that he has to live with the consequences of his actions, and hopes that she and everyone will be able to realize that, as well. Getting the final word from Jesse, she throws Clayton an unexpected question: “Did you tell me that you were in love with me because you wanted to sleep with me?” He didn’t. His feelings were real at the time, but she still doesn’t believe him.

    Ouch, that was rough. What more drama could there possibly be?

    Clayton’s “Hail Mary”

    As Jesse says, Clayton prepares to throw one last “Hail Mary” with Susie and will do whatever it takes to win her back. Is he planning to propose? Yes, he is. But is that really the right move?

    Jesse delivers a handwritten note from Clayton to Susie, pouring out his heart and soul to her. “Without you, I am nothing, and with you, I have everything,” the note reads. He is waiting for her in a house in the countryside, and little does she know what decision is ahead of her. This moment will make or break everything.

    All dressed up, she is welcomed by Jesse upon her arrival to the house and meets Clayton for their big moment. He takes her hands and confesses his feelings. “I don’t want anything else,” he tells her. He will never stop fighting for her and pulls out the ring to prove it, much to Susie’s shock.

    Susie was very touched by his letter, which reminded her of who his true self really is. She still loves him, but her love at that moment doesn’t match his for her. She chooses to leave Iceland alone, believing that they are no longer right for each other. He asks if it’s truly over, willing to wait however long she needs to make things right. “I feel like it’s over,” she replies before giving him one last hug. Welp, it’s official. Clayton is ending the season the way he started it: a Bachelor.

    “I wish nothing but the best for you,” he says before she drives away. He lost her once only to lose her again. The silence is deafening as they contemplate their choices, and we end the season with Clayton standing out in the rain, alone.

    Susie’s Surprise Return

    Things may have ended on a dismal note, but was Iceland really the end of Clayton’s quest for love? Before we find out where Clayton stands, Jesse asks how this journey has impacted him. “I wish I could take back the pain, but I did everything following my heart,” he states. “I think I’m a better person now from all the lessons I’ve learned.”

    Turns out, things didn’t end in Iceland! Someone reached out to him after filming commenced – someone that he never saw coming. He never expected anyone from “the world of pain” he created to reach back, hoping that he would be able to start anew. So who did Clayton reunite with?

    It’s Susie! She walks out glowing and gives Clayton a peck before joining the two of them on the couch. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here,” Jesse asks, and honestly, all of us at home are thinking the same thing. She did leave Iceland single and doesn’t regret her choice. Her decision was one she had to make at that moment and spending time apart post-show allowed them to press restart on their relationship. “That’s my boyfriend,” she cheers!

    Clayton continues, saying that they took things “one conversation at a time.” We know Clayton still loves her, and she confirms that her original pure love for him has returned. Given the strong social media reaction to their initial breakup, they each know that this news will come with some mixed feelings, but they have the best intentions at heart. “I could not be more in love with this woman,” Clayton tells Jesse. At the end of the day, they are both happy together, and that’s all that matters.

    With Bachelor jeweler Neil Lane in the audience, it seems a proposal could go down at any moment. But, Susie assures Jesse that no proposals will be happening tonight, joking, “If we were gonna do that, I’d be asking him!” Instead, they are taking the next step by moving in together in Virginia. Clayton left his job and sold his condo to give her his all, and honestly, good for him. It may have taken him a long time, but he finally is living up to what the title of “The Bachelor” should be.

    Ending things on a high note, Clayton asks Susie one final question: “Susie, will you accept this final rose?” She replies, “Yes, of course,” tying a bow on the end of the season.

    Who Will Be the New Bachelorette?

    Clayton’s journey may be over, but someone else’s is about to begin! Who will the next Bachelorette be? Jesse says this season’s decision was the hardest casting choice to date. And to some people’s disappointment, he previously stated that neither Rachel nor Gabby would be taking on the mantle… at least individually!

    Rachel and Gabby will lead The Bachelorette Season 19 together! Their casting will mark the first time the show will have two leads throughout the entire season, unlike Tayshia Adams and Clare Crawley sharing the role in Season 16.

    “This is insane, and I’m excited to do this journey with you,” Rachel tells her new co-star, and Gabby is just as excited. Soon, it will be their turns on the other side of the limo, awaiting dozens of doting men who will look to win their affection. Jesse asks if they worry about falling down the same path as Clayton, possibly falling in love with multiple men. Thankfully, being on the other end of that situation, they will be able to learn from Clayton’s mistakes and do better. “I’m ready for us both to get our happy ending,” Rachel says with delight.

    Not only will the new season see the return of Rachel and Gabby, but Jesse will take over hosting duties from Tayshia and Kaitlyn Bristowe. He really is cementing himself as the new Chris Harrison, whether die-hard Bachelor Nation fans like it or not.

    Well, that’s a wrap on Season 26! Until next time, Bachelor Nation!

    The Bachelor, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC

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