'The Bachelorette:' Is Clare’s Dale Obsession Unusual, or Just Unedited?

Have you heard? Clare likes Dale. Like, really likes Dale. Like, gonna-leave-the-show-early-for-him likes Dale (or so we’ve been told). But while ABC is tripping over itself to promise an early exodus for bachelorette No. 1, after night two of The Bachelorette, there hasn’t been a whole lot of evidence to suggest she’s ready to pack up and head back to Sacramento just yet. 

After a group date full of sensual hugging, it's Riley who gets the first group date rose while Dale looks on. And Jason's the lucky guy invited to talk about his long-repressed feelings in the desert as part of the inaugural one-on-one date slash therapy session. And Clare also decides it’s important that one man in particular puts any doubts aside before having to endure the agony of the season’s second rose ceremony, so she goes off script and dispenses an illicit early rose to Blake Moynes (not to be confused with the other Blake M., who’s lurking around here somewhere). And she’s certainly not turning down the chance to get some make-out sessions in.

Courtesy of ABC/Craig Sjodin

Which isn’t to say it’s not clear that Dale is number one; she practically falls over whenever he gets near her. But the only hint we get that he’s anything more than your standard front runner is in the confessionals, during which Clare talks to the camera as if uttering Dale’s name with enough gusto will summon him to the studio. 

“I’m so excited to hear from Dale,” she tells us breathlessly over footage of the men ad-libbing such poetry as, “I’m here for you,” “I’m excited to go on this journey with you,” and “You’re gorgeous,” while trapped in the dimly lit, 10x10 set of a high school play (Shakespeare is shaking. Coincidentally, so is Clare.). 

It’s enough to make you wonder: is the difference this season really that Clare’s feelings are so unusually strong? Or simply that we’re getting an unfiltered look at them? I’m inclined to believe it’s both, but with a strong bent toward the latter. 

Because, y’all, there’s always a front runner. Pilot Pete was so smitten with Madi that he brought her to his parents’ vow renewal on their first date. And if she hadn’t abandoned him in the Australian outback, there was no doubt it was her for whom he would have gotten down on one knee (and even the eventual winner, Hannah Ann, looked genuinely shocked to wind up — however briefly — with the ring.).

It’s not even unprecedented for a lead to have known a contestant prior to filming, which the other men begin to suspect during episode three, according to the trailer. Bachelorette all-time great Kaitlyn Bristow invited Nick Viall, with whom she’d corresponded before filming began, to join the group vying for her heart mid-season. And the hapless Peter Webber had previously hooked up (we assume) with contestant Kelley Flanagan, who he began dating after striking out with both of his final contestants.

But, you’re probably thinking, the lead has definitely never talked about the front runner like this befor— at least not this early. To which I say: You’re right. Maybe. What’s certainly true is that we as the audience have never been treated to such an honest assessment by a bachelorette of her men. But it doesn’t mean they haven’t shared these thoughts with somebody

Perhaps no one has been as open about the relationship between lead and producer like the fence-jumping bachelor Colton Underwood, who told This American Life’s Emanuele Berry that producers made him list his suitors in order of his preference every week. “They always asked to rank the girls,” he told her.

Which is all to say that there’s a lot of info to which we as the audience aren’t usually privy. And in most seasons, there’s an incentive from the producers to keep us in the dark; to keep us living in an imaginary world in which a woman might really sit down in a room full of men without any inkling as to which one she likes most. With this year’s bachelorette switch-a-roo looming, however, they’ve got to prepare us for Clare to ship-out sooner rather than later, and stoke some drama while they’re at it.

So the question I’ll leave you with is this: how many of Clare’s feelings are unheard of — and how many are usually just unheard?