Following the absolute disaster that was former Bachelor lead Clayton Echard's dual-breakup rose ceremony, in which he told Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia that he was pursuing Susie Evans despite having been "intimate" with both of them during fantasy suites, Bachelor Nation wondered which of the two humiliated contestants would be chosen to lead of the next season of The Bachelorette.
In a very "most dramatic moment in Bachelorette history" kind of way, host Jesse Palmer revealed that both Windey and Recchia would get another opportunity to find love — this time on their terms. However, since the premiere of the 19th season of The Bachelorette, it seems their dual-bachelorettes' journeys to love have been anything but.
Despite their pool of eligible suitors being larger than usual (32 men in total) the men have seemed to relish being able to choose between two amazing women, a fact that was made alarmingly clear when the premiere episode showcased clips of the pre-chosen contestants watching from home as they learned that they would by vying for two bachelorettes instead of one. Their reactions mimicked those of athletes on draft day, complete with high fives from their friends. For the first time in Bachelorette history, the men seemed like the lucky ones.
Palmer later revealed that producers had no plan for how the two women would date a single pool of men, leaving it to the leads to decide how the season would play out.
What would happen if a majority of the contestants were more interested in one woman over the other? How would the show make sure that these women, both recently hurt by the experience of dating the same man, wouldn't experience the same heartache all over again?
Under the guise of allowing Windey and Recchia to control otheir journey, producers washed their hands of these kinds of questions as well as all responsibility for the well-being of their recently heartbroken leads.
The first few episodes have seen the show highlight the men as they try to decide which of the leads to pursue. Unsurprisingly, there were many who opted to "play the field," resulting in both Windey and Recchia questioning their worth as these men savored the chance to date both leads.
In one instance, both women connected on the same night with Logan, a 26-year-old videographer from San Diego. For him, the experience was a total win, but for the women, it was a preview of what was to come — a journey filled with competition and comparison.
In that case, Windey stepped aside after realizing Recchia and Logan had hit it off. The move solidified that the bachelorettes' ability to care for one another would be the last line of defense against experiencing the same trauma and embarrassment of Echard's season.
Since then, the hits to both leads haven't let up. At one point, a contestant literally danced side to side during a confessional, singing about how he was moving from Windey to Recchia. In another, a contestant was asked by one of the other men whose rose he received, and he replied that it didn't matter.
Most cringeworthy have been the moments that happen right in front of the bachelorettes. During an uncomfortable rose ceremony, multiple men outright rejected roses from Recchia in hopes of pursuing Windey. Meanwhile, another man told Windey that she was too "rough around the edges" for him and that he preferred Recchia. Another told Windey he wouldn't be able to continue on the show if she was the sole bachelorette.
As more men have rejected one woman or the other, and others remained reluctant to choose, it began to dawn on the leads that this journey was not what they were promised. At one point, Recchia said to Windey, "They have the control... And they know it." Windey responded, "This is my nightmare."
Eventually the pair made the wise decision (with no help from producers) to split the men into two separate groups in hopes of creating a competition-free environment, but thus far it hasn't worked. The women are still comparing themselves to each other and men are still playing both sides.
In a recent episode Recchia wondered out loud, "How am I supposed to fall in love when no one gives a sh*t about me?" As for her own insecurities, Windey said, "My expectations are so high I'm terrified."
In last week's episode, Recchia nearly hit a breaking point, telling the producers in a confessional, "I don't know why I feel more insecure, more desperate on this side of being on The Bachelorette than the side of being a contestant on Clayton's season." She added, "I don't know how I'm supposed to fall in love when I'm having mostly bad days. I don't feel like I deserve to be the bachelorette."
With more to come this season, one can only hope things improve. But it's sad to see the show's leads missing out on the most basic feelings of being seen, valued, and deemed worthy.
The women have been set up for failure — promised a fairytale love story only to find out that the reality of their co-lead season would give them the same feelings of the heartbreak they came on The Bachelorette to forget. In just a handful of episodes, the bachelorettes have used the words "cruel," "humiliating," and "a f*cking mess" to describe what was supposed to be their redemptive journey to love.
It's enough to make one wonder whether ABC and the show's producers ever actually hoped the pair would find love, or whether they — like Echard and the men playing both sides on this season — felt that the humiliation of Windey and Recchia on national television was a small price to pay for self-gratification.
The Bachelorette airs Monday nights at 8 PM ET on ABC
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Kirstie Renae is a writer, blogger, and Austin-based actress with a penchant for binge-watching TV with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter @KirstieRenae.