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The Bachelor: Why It Sucks To Already Know [Spoiler] Is The Star Of Season 26

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Spoiler alert! The following story identifies the reported Season 26 Bachelor, noting the lack of official confirmation from ABC.

Just days after reports that The Bachelor Season 26 lead would be someone from Michelle Young’s upcoming season of The Bachelorette, multiple sources are saying it’s been made as official as unconfirmed reports get. Clayton Echard, a 28-year-old orthopedic sales rep and former college football player, has allegedly been tapped for a second chance at love — over a month before we'll even meet him for his first journey. The Missouri resident apparently impressed producers so much that they were willing to make a super impatient fanbase wait a lot longer than usual to learn his identity. But the cat is out of the bag now, and you know what? It really sucks.

It should be noted that this news isn’t completely official until ABC releases a statement. The Bachelor franchise has done things in the past to fool the fanbase, including taking promo pictures of contestants who turn out not to be the lead, and producers have also thrown curveballs at the viewers. Remember when Kaitlyn Bristowe had to compete for the lead with Britt Nilsson on The Bachelorette Season 11 premiere? And more recently, during Matt James’ Bachelor finale, two Bachelorettes were announced at the same time in Katie Thurston and Michelle Young.

So we can never be 100% sure what the franchise is up to, and therefore we’re moving forward with a grain of salt. But in this show that values “the right reasons” so much, this was the wrong time and the wrong place for all of this information to come out. So let's talk out why it's not fun to know the details so early.

Clayton Echard Will Steal Michelle Young's Thunder On Her Own Season

My knee-jerk reaction to the news about Clayton Echard being named The Bachelor is that they’ve taken The Bachelorette Season 18, which features Michelle Young as the third Black lead in the franchise’s 44 seasons, and already shifted the focus to the white man. That might be painting with too broad a brush, but let’s be real. Viewers are going to be just as interested in Echard’s story as they are in Young’s. For as often as race has been a conversation that surrounds The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, it’s a shame that this information has been released in a way that will inevitably steal some of the attention away from Young.

Clayton Echard's Bachelorette Elimination Is Already Spoiled For Viewers

When we meet Clayton Echard for the first time on October 19, the audience will immediately know that he doesn’t make it to the very end of the season. Will it be a Grocery Store Joe situation? Joe Amabile, who is currently living out the cutest love story ever on Bachelor in Paradise, became a fan favorite on Season 14 of The Bachelorette, despite being sent home on Night 1. If that’s the case with Echard, then I digress. But if he becomes a front-runner and makes it to the Hometowns, or — even worse — to the final two, then the whole ending of Michelle Young’s season would be spoiled. There’s no way The Bachelorette would let that happen... Right?

Clayton Echard Will Be Under Intense Scrutiny During The Bachelorette

It’s often said among Bachelor Nation that someone is getting a “Bachelor edit,” meaning that the crew is cutting out anything that might cause a specific contestant to look bad in the eyes of the viewers. Well, they better be on point with Clayton Echard’s edit, as he’ll be under scrutiny arguably more than anyone else in Bachelor history. When The Bachelor producers say they’ve fallen in love with someone, it’s in the nature of the social media beast for a contingent of people who set out to find his flaws.

None of this is to say anything negative about Clayton Echard himself. I’m a pretty receptive audience, so if producers fell in love with his story and knew he was the right man for the job, it likely won’t take too much convincing to make me feel the same. I’m actually really excited and intrigued to learn what made Echard such an obvious choice. But I do think such sensitive information should have been handled better by the show's producers. If the powers that be didn’t want this information leaked, I have a hard time believing they couldn’t have found a way to keep the secrecy intact.

So when will we get official word from ABC? At this point there’s no way to tell. If Clayton Echard is, in fact, the Season 26 Bachelor, producers might still wait until his elimination from Michelle Young’s season before making anything concrete. Or maybe they’ll try to get back out in front of the news and make the announcement sooner. Producer Mike Fleiss, who has been making empty promises for weeks now about an official announcement, tweeted a seemingly substantial clue Wednesday, as media outlets began to run with the Echard news.

Another Major Announcement!!! His first name starts with the letter 'C.'

While we wait on that official word to come down from ABC, fans are also excited to hear who will host The Bachelor Season 26, following Chris Harrison’s removal from the entire franchise. Harrison was booted from his longtime hosting gig following his defense of Rachael Kirkconnell, Bachelor Matt James’ last woman standing who faced allegations of racism while Season 25 was airing.

Chris Harrison stepped away before Matt James’ “After the Final Rose” segment, being replaced by Emmanuel Acho. Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe have taken over hosting duties for Katie Thurston and Michelle Young’s seasons, while Bachelor in Paradise has been a rotating door of musical and comedic hosts. But with Season 26 of The Bachelor set to air in January 2022, ABC is expected to announce Harrison’s permanent replacement. Let’s just hope it's going better than the Jeopardy! host search, amirite?

As all of those pieces come together, Bachelor in Paradise continues to bring the drama, airing at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesdays on ABC. Michelle Young will commence her second chance at love on The Bachelorette Season 18 at 8 p.m. ET, starting Tuesday, October 19 on ABC. Be sure to check out our 2021 Fall TV Schedule to keep up with the premieres of all your favorite shows.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.