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The Bachelor Finale: Clayton Makes Franchise History, But Did He Find Love?

Clayton Echard on The Bachelor
(Image credit: ABC)

Spoiler alert! This story reveals the ending of Clayton Echard’s season of The Bachelor. Proceed with caution if you haven’t watched both nights of the Season 26 finale.

There were quite a few notable moments to Clayton Echard’s journey to try and find love on The Bachelor. For instance, he had a woman reject a rose before they even reached Bachelor Mansion, when Salley Carson expressed regret about agreeing to be on the show. He also became the first person to ever take back a rose, after Cassidy Timbrooks lied about a relationship she had back home. Leave it to Echard, who had a rough road from the beginning, to make franchise history again in the season finale. But did he find love, or leave alone, as some predicted?

In Part 1 of the two-night Season 26 finale, which featured “The Rose Ceremony From Hell,” Clayton Echard came to the realization that he wanted to pursue Susie Evans, who he’d eliminated after some controversial Fantasy Suite dates. So Tuesday’s Part 2 saw Echard waiting, engagement ring in pocket, to see if Evans would show up after reading the heartfelt note that he’d written to her. She did show, but told Echard she’d made the decision to leave Iceland alone. Back in the studio, Jesse Palmer alerted the live audience to the historic moment:

For the first time in history, our Bachelor was rejected on the final day and he ends up alone … or does he?

Clayton Echard may have been the first lead on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette to get turned down by their final contestant, but Jesse Palmer had promised that nobody knew how Echard’s journey would end, and it turns out the Missouri native did find love.

Clayton Echard said after that devastating final day, after everyone had gone home, Susie Evans reached out to him to see if they could work things out. Sure enough, Evans joined the Bachelor on stage and confirmed: "That's my boyfriend."

Susie Evans meets Clayton Echard on The Bachelor.

(Image credit: ABC)

Susie Evans explained that she wasn’t able to leave Iceland with Clayton Echard, which made total sense, because they hadn’t spoken in person since their emotional breakup, but she said the time apart allowed them to re-establish their relationship: 

I just really had to choose myself in that moment [in Iceland]. I didn’t have all the answers that I needed. We were no longer in a place that could facilitate the conversations that we needed to have to re-establish trust and everything that we needed to have a strong relationship.

After everything he’s been through this season, it seems Clayton Echard no longer has any regrets about becoming The Bachelor. While the couple didn’t get engaged at the finale (which sounded like Echard’s choice, not Susie Evans’) the former football player revealed that the journey was “1000% worth it,” and that he had left his job and was moving in with Evans in Virginia: 

I couldn’t be happier. I’ve spent the last four months with her, and she just impresses me more and more every day and continues to give me reason after reason why following my heart was the best decision I could have ever made. And I could not be more in love with this woman.

The end may have justified the means for Clayton Echard, but Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia were unfortunately collateral damage along the way. They’re going to get another shot at it, though, because in another historic announcement, Jesse Palmer announced that Windey and Recchia would both serve as The Bachelorette(s) for Season 19. Stay tuned for more information on that and when it comes to ABC, and check out our 2022 TV schedule to see how you can fill the void left by the conclusion of this season of The Bachelor.

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.