‘Bachelor’ fans react to Clayton Echard’s first rose debacle

the bachelor clayton
The Bachelor/YouTube

Season 26 of The Bachelor kicked off Monday night, featuring 28-year-old Clayton Echard, a former NFL player and medical sales representative from Eureka, Missouri. Echard’s casting initially rocked Bachelor Nation, as The Bachelorette season 15’s runner-up Tyler Cameron and season 17’s second runner-up Greg Grippo were widely speculated to lead the current season — and Clayton came in only eighth place on last year’s 18th season featuring Michelle Young.

And perhaps, this lacklusterness led to Echard getting rejected by the first woman he showed interest in, making for a rocky start to the season.

During Monday night’s premiere, Clayton attempted to give a rose to Salley, a 26-year-old previously engaged spine surgery robot operator who sees herself as a “real-life Meredith Grey looking for her McDreamy.” However, Salley — a woman who willingly went on a popular dating reality series following an evidently tumultuous breakup — claimed that she wasn’t in a good place emotionally to start a new relationship because she was supposed to have been married that weekend. (Sure, Jan.)

As such, Salley confronted Clayton in his room to talk about potentially going home, hours before the limo arrivals even commenced.

“This weekend has been extremely hard for me. I was engaged in the past and I was supposed to get married yesterday,” Salley admitted, according to People. Part of me is being pulled home but I didn’t want to fully come to that decision until I met you. And you’re really good-looking. I’ve heard nothing but great things about you. I feel weird being here the weekend of my wedding.”

“I thought I was ready for something like this and I don’t … I don’t know if my heart is ready,” she tearfully added.

Undeterred, Clayton told Salley he understood, but that thought there was still “potentially something there” between them. After stepping away for a moment, he returned with a rose behind his back.

“Truthfully, us talking, there’s definitely chemistry,” he told Salley. “It really makes me feel like there could be something special and so I really, really want you here. So much so that I want to prove that. And so Salley, will you accept this rose?”

“Am I allowed to take a minute?” Salley asked. “I’m sorry, I’m just freaking out.”

In an interview segment, Clayton said he thought Salley was genuine, kind-hearted, and seemed special. “But, she’s hurting. I’m hoping that the rose gives her that confidence that she needs, and if she says ‘No, like, this isn’t for me,’ I’ll be hurt,” he continued, over footage of Salley crying on the phone in the other room.

When Salley returned, she informed Clayton of her decision to leave, hugged him, and then took off (and almost definitely won’t be back as some kind of midseason shocker).

“That was tough,” Clayton lamented after Salley left. “The first rose that I have given out as the Bachelor was rejected. This is not the way that I was hoping to start my journey to find love.”

Well, as much as this sucks for Clayton, it goes without saying that Bachelor fans were living for the drama. Many viewers wondered why Salley would even agree to the show if she wasn’t ready to date, including outspoken fan Brett S. Vergara, who tweeted his confusion at the plot development.

The popular Bitchelorette fan account imagined dialogue starting with Salley saying, “Hey I know I’m a complete stranger but I was supposed to get married yesterday and I don’t want to be here.”

“Imagine a stranger knocking on your door to break up with you,” added another perplexed fan.

“If red flags was a person,” joked another user.

Yet another fan sarcastically wondered how much say the show’s producers had in the whole mess.

And as one user pointed out, it was probably for the best that Salley left on her own accord, because she would have instantly become persona non grata with the other contestants.

Meanwhile, Joe Amabile, a 14th season contestant on The Bachelorette and the 7th season winner of Bachelor in Paradise, just wants to know how Salley got a cell phone. “I’ve been on this show five times,” he joked.

That is an excellent point and doesn’t suggest any behind-the-scenes shadiness whatsoever. Did we say Salley definitely wouldn’t be back as a midseason shocker? Well, you can start holding your breath now, Bachelor Nation.