“So how is this going to work?” Those words have been uttered many times by many different people this season on The Bachelorette, all trying to figure out how ABC’s reality romance franchise is going to manage having two stars for the first time ever. Well, now that we’re three weeks into the season, we can safely say it’s not working. At all.
This season’s two stars, Gabby and Rachel, were already put through the emotional wringer on The Bachelor, forced into an unprecedented love rectangle when Clayton told both of them and eventual winner Susie that he was falling in love with them. (Yes, all three of them.) After being treated so badly by Clayton, these two women deserve a genuine opportunity to meet the man of their dreams, so we were happy to see them named as the next Bachelorettes. But instead, they’re being pitted against each other in a cruel twist that has managed to humiliate them all over again.
Gabby and Rachel are headlining this season together, picking from the same pool of 32 men, and at the start, everyone was playing nice and saying all the right things. But naturally, some men have pursued relationships with both women, even kissing both of them, and conflicts are beginning to bubble up. Several men have told one girl that they’re more interested in the other one — and not all of them word it in the best way. Hayden decided to tell Gabby she was too “rough around the edges,” for some reason, when he very easily could’ve just kept his mouth shut. A wounded Gabby ended up not giving out any rose at all on that group date, and host Jesse Palmer had to step in and reprimand the guys, informing them the women would be pursuing love separately from now on.
That led to this week’s truly bizarre and deeply uncomfortable trainwreck of a rose ceremony, with Gabby and Rachel taking turns offering a rose to a man of their choosing… and giving that man the chance to turn down that rose in favor of one from the other woman. And if he did that, the first woman would lose that rose and couldn’t give it to anyone else! What?! Who thought this was a good idea? Rachel lost a total of three roses by picking guys who preferred Gabby. Three! And one of them was to a guy named Meatball! Meatball!
What was supposed to be a celebratory girl-power season has turned into an emotionally fraught sobfest. Both Gabby and Rachel have already been in tears in the first three episodes, doubting themselves, unfavorably comparing themselves to each other and feeling like they’re not good enough — which is not how the star of this show should ever feel! (Do we really need to say this?) They should feel like the star of their very own fairy tale, but instead, they’ve been made to look like fools.
This is all the producers’ fault, of course. They were clearly trying to shake up the Bachelor/ette formula — which, to be fair, has grown a bit stale after two decades on the air — by giving us two stars this season instead of one. (And they’re probably hoping all of the controversy will just lead to higher ratings.) But in a show that has always had to balance authentic romance with manufactured drama, this twist tipped the scales decisively towards the latter. There’s a vaguely misogynistic air to all of this, too: Would they ever dare try this twist with two men? Or is it just more “entertaining” to mess with women’s emotions like this?
It’s a shame, because Gabby and Rachel are both likable and openhearted women who would make great Bachelorettes on their own. At least they will get their own separate journeys from here on out — but the shift is too little, too late. The damage has already been done. (And based on the trailer, the drama isn’t even over yet, with at least one guy regretting his decision and pining for the other woman.) We recognize that Gabby and Rachel were never guaranteed a happy ending; the track record for a lasting romance on the Bachelor franchise is not great. But they at least deserved a better shot at it than this.
Alright, Bachelor Nation, it’s your turn: What’s your take on Gabby and Rachel’s season so far? Hit the comments and make your voice heard.