‘The Bachelor’ 2022 Premiere: Clayton’s Journey Begins With a Rose Refusal (RECAP)

'The Bachelor,' Season 26, ABC, Clayton Ehcard, Jesse Palmer
ABC/John Fleenor

The Bachelor


Season 26 • Episode 1

After two seasons of The Bachelorette and the return of Bachelor in Paradise, The Bachelor is finally back after a year’s wait with a new host, new contestants, and a new leading man, Clayton Echard.

Sent home heartbroken on Michelle Young’s recent Bachelorette Season 18, Clayton is getting his second chance at love in the Season 26 premiere. “I’m a Midwest boy from Missouri that just wants to find love,” says the former Seattle Seahawks tight end, getting the chance to do so among the group of 31 contestants looking to earn his affection.

Returning to the feel of seasons past, the iconic Bachelor Mansion makes its triumphant return this season, ready to greet Clayton and his contestants alongside new host and Bachelor alum Jesse Palmer.

Which contestants caught Clayton’s eye and which were sent packing? Let’s dive into Clayton’s Bachelor debut!

Who is Clayton Echard?

'The Bachelor,' Season 26, Clayton Echard

ABC/John Fleenor

Relatively new to Bachelor Nation, Clayton was first introduced during Season 18 of The Bachelorette. A week before Hometowns, he went on a fun one-on-one date with Michelle. However, the night ended on a sad note, as she decided to send him home after confessing her stronger connections with other guys. With many fans already aware of his Bachelor casting, his ending came as no surprise, but his heartfelt emotion and desire to start a family warmed viewers’ hearts, perfectly setting up his upcoming season (even if some fans didn’t think it felt earned).

We get a better sense of Clayton’s personality during the premiere’s opening, as he surprises his family with his Bachelor news. “I came back to let you know that I officially am the next Bachelor,” he said, earning an adorable reaction from his mother.

Meet new host Jesse Palmer

'The Bachelor,' Season 26, Jesse Palmer

ABC/John Fleenor

Jesse Palmer has a plethora of hosting gigs under his belt, from Good Morning America, to ABC News, to The Ultimate Surfer, and many more. But, perhaps his time as the Bachelor during this show’s fifth season in 2004 makes him the most qualified for the job. “Yes, I was the Bachelor a long time ago on this show, but now, I’m a happily married man,” he joked during his opening introduction.

While many fans still hope for the return of former host Chris Harrison, Jesse promises he has what it takes, telling fans, “I’m ready to do all that I possibly can to help Clayton find his soulmate.” Will the man who ended his Bachelor season single be the right guy to help Clayton? Looks like we’ll have to wait and see!

Clayton’s women

Ahead of their arrival at the Bachelor Mansion, we get a first look at this season’s hopeful contestants, beginning with Shanae from the small town of Sycamore, Ohio. Next is lighthearted ICU nurse Gabby, whose NFL cheerleader background will certainly help her connection with Clayton.

From flight instructor Rachel to Yale law student Daria, to wedding videographer Susie, Clayton’s group of gals have a wide array of interesting occupations. Let’s hope this season’s drama is just as interesting as the women themselves!

Among the contestant introductions is Salley, who is looking for a second chance at love on what was originally supposed to be her wedding day.

While the rest of the women prepare for the cocktail party, Salley goes to talk to Clayton after feeling sad about her former wedding weekend. She confesses her uncertainty and worries if her heart is ready for the experience, and Clayton easily sympathizes with her situation. He feels for her so much that he presents her with the first rose of the season to encourage her to stay. In a surprising turn, she denies it after much contemplation, stating that her heart is simply not ready. Being the sweetheart he is, Clayton gladly accepts her decision, despite feeling disappointed.

Arrivals and Cocktails

Clayton pulls up to the mansion and meets Jesse for the first time, both nervous about their new roles. Down one woman, the 30 remaining contestants begin to arrive, with Sarah being the first out of the limo in a gorgeous, gold gown. Lyndsey follows suit in a similar dress, followed by Genevieve, who bonds with Clayton over their shared nervousness. Ency greets Clayton in both Farsi and Korean, while Susie pulls out a handshake shock prank, rounding out the women from the first limo.

Teddi makes an immediate impression on Clayton, lingering in his mind as he continues to greet his ladies. Halfway through arrivals, he breaks tradition and stops inside to share his excitement before returning to his greeting post.

'The Bachelor,' Season 26, Teddi, Clayton Echard

ABC/John Fleenor

The ball keeps rolling with Kate, who pulls two shot bottles from her bra in one of the most unique entrances of the night. Melina dawns some bejeweled moon shoes while Hailey asks for his help opening a pickle jar. The award for weirdest entrance goes to Jill, who presents Clayton with the “ashes of her ex-boyfriends,” threatening to add him to it if he “makes the same mistake.”

Another odd entrance comes from pilot Rachel, who uses 63-year-old Holly as a misdirection, joking that she was her “wing woman.” The remaining women pull out all the stops, with some showing up in bikinis and lab coats, another with a terrifying snake, and another not speaking a single word.

Running over a contestant’s toy car with her massive truck, Shanae is already radiating villain vibes as the final entrance of the night.

The First Impression Rose goes to…

Certain his future wife is inside, Jesse tells him to have fun as he goes to greet his contestants. “Guys, I’m nervous,” he tells them, still surprised being in his position. “We’re gonna have a hell of a time here!” Let the cocktail party commence!

Susie is the first to take him aside, and Elizabeth gifts him an old picture of her grandparents as a symbol of “everything happens for a reason” (hopefully she gets it back!). Clayton and Teddi get some time together, confessing that he was her favorite out of Michelle’s contestants. Clearly winning him over, he confesses to her, “I don’t know what it is. It’s something about you.” Stating she wouldn’t kiss him Night 1, she leans in and they share the first kiss of the season.

After Jesse drops off the First Impression Rose, each of the women scramble to get one-on-one time with Clayton. Claire sets up a football tailgate complete with a game of cornhole, only to be interrupted by someone waiting to steal him away. Back inside, she tells the others that Clayton is “not the vibe” and “too nice” compared to her usual type. Spoiling the night for the others by dragging Clayton, the other women decide to tell him about her unkind words.

He takes her aside to discuss the situation, ultimately walking her out in the first elimination of the season. “I don’t think it’s fair to have somebody here that doesn’t want to be here when there’s so many phenomenal women in this room,” he tells the group.

After heartfelt conversations with Genevieve and Rachel, Clayton rewards the First Impression Rose to the Teddi (no surprise there). Before he even gives her the rose, they recapture the magic of their first kiss, sending her straight into next week.

Who went home?

'The Bachelor,' Season 26, Episode 1, ABC

ABC/John Fleenor

With Salley and Claire gone, two more roses are up for grabs. Several women who didn’t get alone time with Clayton are rightfully worried about their chances, and unfortunately, many of their fears come true.

Daria, Hailey, Jane, Lindsay D., Rianna, Ivana, and Samantha are sent packing in the first cut of the season, narrowing down the pack to 22 women. Who will make it to the end? Fans will have to tune in and see!

The Bachelor, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC