Sharleen Joynt on Episode 3 of The Bachelorette

The former Bach contestant, podcast host and FLARE columnist shares her insider's POV on the third episode of Clare's season

Presented by SkipTheDishes

Oh my. Where does a recapper even begin? In all my years of watching and analyzing this show, I am certain I have never found a single episode as painful to get through as this one. I have been entertained by episodes and bored to tears by others. I have felt indifferent to some and have been left frustrated by others. Some episodes are agonizing, and the occasional one angers me. But never have I ever been left feeling quite so…uncomfortable as last night’s episode left me.

I said last week that power suits Clare. I’m not sure I still feel that way. It’s not that I think power doesn’t suit her, but rather, it doesn’t always suit her. The statement is evidently not evergreen. Clare as Bachelorette is at once exciting, convoluted, refreshing, baffling and awe-inspiring. In one scene, my heart breaks for her. In another, I am cheering for her. (Her realizing the unfairness in Yosef not letting her speak—after she had dutifully listened to his complaints for 20 minutes—was a great moment.) I have frequently found myself rooting for and empathizing with her, wanting her to find her stride, her confidence and her voice.

However, last night there were too many moments that left me grimacing to ignore. Does Clare make decisions without thinking two steps ahead? Does the power go to her head? At what point does an “empowered” decision simply resemble a selfish one?

I’ve long been a proponent of authenticity on this show, and so I do appreciate Clare not faking it with men she’s not interested in. However, there’s a difference between not faking it and treating contestants like they don’t matter. As Clare herself put it, those men went through a LOT to be there. The lead is not going to build a romantic connection with every contestant (they never do), but they shouldn’t rob them of the factors that make being on this show a fun, bizarre, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Cancelling a Group Date activity with zero explanation or apology just isn’t fair to the people who clocked out of their real lives to be there. Now, I’m the first person to blame a blip like this on production, and I get the impression the day portion spent talking with DeAnna Pappas took longer than expected. However, don’t then promise the men an “extra long” Cocktail Party, only to make them scramble for the scraps Dale leaves behind. (She and Dale really are in sync: That’s the same breed of bait-and-switch Dale used on the men, promising he’d only take “five minutes” with Clare. Why even “promise” anything?) Clare inviting a “lost” Dale back in to make out some more was the coup de grace; after already having monopolized the evening with each other, this move was indefensible.

I must confess that first Group Date make-out moment—where the minutes ticked by and the men (and likely the producers and crew) sat staring at their watches—brought me back to Vietnam on my own season. We were on our Week 5 Group Date and let me tell you, it was a LONG one. It was extra long not only because it was a large group of women to begin with, but because (as I would discover watching it back on TV), Clare and Juan Pablo made out in his hot tub for ages. Later, after we’d returned to our rooms and fallen asleep, she would visit his room and they would spend further time in the ocean together.

Now, I have no issue with people—especially women—“going after what they want.” It’s obvious that, just as Clare and Juan Pablo had phenomenal chemistry, Clare and Dale want to ravage each other. That much is obvious. My issue is that there’s a time and a place for extended sexy time. I can’t even fathom making out with someone endlessly, knowing other people are quite literally waiting on that and that alone before everyone’s lives can move forward. There were many times where Juan Pablo and I kissed briefly on a Group Date and cut it short because we both knew he had other duties—time with other women, ITMs—to attend to. Some might say I just didn’t get as into it as Clare, but I know I didn’t allow myself to get as into it. The only time I made out with true abandon on my season was on my own 1-on-1 dates. And, truthfully, even then I was conscious of the fact that producers sat on standby while we went at it.

The reason I bring up Vietnam at all: It never bothered me in the slightest when I discovered Clare had nabbed extra time with Juan Pablo after that Group Date. It didn’t bother me because, at that time, WE WERE SLEEPING. But it always bothered me that she and Juan Pablo had made out for well over an hour while a dozen of us ladies sat boozing out of boredom and counting our split ends. It bothered me because, at that time, WE WERE WAITING. Like I said, there’s a time and a place for extended sexy time. Whether or not she means it to, Clare’s unbridled make out seshes on these Group Dates screams to everyone else: My time is more precious than yours.

I enjoyed Clare immensely in the first two episodes. But as this becomes a one-man show, and as the chasm between Dale and the other men grows, her actions have begun to ooze a certain entitlement. Just because this is the Bachelorette’s “journey” doesn’t give her carte blanche to disregard the experiences of contestants with whom she doesn’t feel a spark. It doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to her. And I’m not talking Bachelorette rules, I’m talking societal rules. Interpersonal dos and don’ts. Treating others as you’d wish to be treated. It’s about not leaping to condemn those who misunderstand you (or whom you misunderstand), and not dismissing those who don’t communicate an interest in you in the specific way you deem legitimate. It’s about giving everyone the benefit of the doubt until they give you reason not to. A huge part of being the lead on this show means being fair, being a sort of arbiter of justice. It requires recognizing the contestant experience is every bit as valid as the lead’s, and that it is heavily shaped by what the lead does and doesn’t allow. Clare’s glaring preference for Dale has a domino effect on the men and, no, I’m not talking base “jealousy.” I’m talking about how, in addition to just waiting around even more than usual, those contestants are being made to discuss Clare, Dale and the two of them together 24/7, to rehash it at every turn. Even the world’s most patient person would be bugged by this confluence of frustrations, and I guess I’m just disappointed Clare of all people wouldn’t be more sensitive to that.

Look, most contestants know the “connection” isn’t there early on. I’m not pretending the Jays and Joes and Eds think they stand a chance of “winning” their season. But there’s nonetheless a symbiotic relationship between non-frontrunners and the lead. The lead knows the show doesn’t exist without those contestants, and contestants know the lead is responsible for their experience. Even if unwittingly, they scratch each other’s backs and feed off each other.

This is why I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong of the men to “bro out” with one another. I certainly have my issues with Yosef’s (alarming) language and verbal attack on Clare. However, when Clare zeroed in on Yosef’s complaints about her outburst at that first Group Date, and she took issue with the guys “bro-ing out,” I had to wonder what she felt they should be doing instead? The friendships have long been the true love stories from this franchise, and based on what we’ve seen, Clare has given them little reason to put even one egg in her relationship basket.

You know by now I always try to recap with consideration of the puppet strings. We know producers are in the wings, orchestrating an ebb and flow of events that will elicit our—the audience’s—reaction. I’m hyper conscious of the fact that Clare is only a cog in that greater machine. Was she told cancelling the first Group Date was no big deal, or was it even encouraged? Was she instructed to take Zach J on a 1-on-1, even if she wasn’t interested (which she certainly didn’t seem to be)? Was she egged on in being offended by Dale’s “roasting,” and perhaps nudged to seek answers from the men (instead of spending that time getting to know them)? Was she not only supported in, but perhaps even encouraged in not handing out that Group Date rose (one of the week’s biggest slaps in the face)? I have no doubt one or two theories are warm, but at the same time, I must heed the adage I so often reference: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

There is a lot of smoke surrounding Clare right now. This isn’t just about the Yosefs and the Brandons; ALL of the men (save Dale) are visibly (and understandably) frustrated. There were multiple conversations and ITMs showing the men’s growing irritation not only with Dale, but with Clare. There’s too much footage of Clare asking man after man about Dale for it not to have happened, just as there’s too much footage of the men discussing Clare’s judgement and her lack of fair treatment for this to be chalked up to an unflattering edit. Looking further back in time, I can’t remember a season Clare has been on, whether it be Paradise or Winter Games or my own season, where smoke didn’t surround her.

Clare has expressed favouring the “bold,” and she certainly has played that role herself. But after last night’s episode, my resounding question is: Where does boldness end and insensitivity begin?