To understand how this history-making season of the dating show happened, it’s worth revisiting the events of Season 26 of “The Bachelor,” which unfolded from January to March 2022. Both Windey and Recchia were part of the final three contestants, and party to a particularly dramatic finale.
The story begins last November, when ABC confirmed that Clayton Echard, first seen on Michelle Young’s season of “The Bachelorette,” would be the next lead of “The Bachelor.” The former NFL player was introduced holding a bunch of puppies.
The events of his March finale will come to mind, likely during the “Bachelorette” premiere in July.
So, in case you missed Season 26 or if you just need a refresher (after all, it’s been almost four whole months since the finale), here’s what you need to know about Echard’s season of “The Bachelor” and where he is now.
Recchia and Windey were among the early frontrunners
From night one, “Bachelorette” Recchia and fellow contestant Susie Evans seemed to bring out Echard’s giddy and playful side.
Evans received the first one-on-one date of the season (and Teddi Wright got the first impression rose). During the date, Echard took her on a helicopter ride that landed on a yacht.
As the episodes progressed, Evans and Recchia continued to receive validation and group date roses from the Bachelor. Following an emotional date in Toronto, Windey also emerged as a frontrunner.
But the events of Episode Seven were a clue into Echard’s feelings. Evans was given the so-called “pretty woman date" in Vienna, in which the lead showers a contestant with expensive outfits and other gifts.
According to Bachelor Data analyst Suzana Somers’ Instagram account, which uses statistics to track patterns on the dating franchise, contestants selected for this date tend to go far on the show.
The finale featured fantasy suite drama
To understand the finale drama on Echard’s season of “The Bachelor,” we have to go over an essential part of the show’s format. Once there are only three finalists left, the show’s lead can invite them to the “fantasy suite” for a night without the cameras.
Echard invited both Windey and Recchia to the fantasy suite. Third up was Evans — who dropped a bombshell. She shared that she could not accept an invitation to the fantasy suite if Echard had been previously “intimate” with the other women.
When Echard revealed he had indeed been intimate with Recchia and Windey, Evans was visibly upset. Evans and Echard argued and she left the show.
Recchia and Windey were broken up with at the same time
At the next rose ceremony, which host Jesse Palmer referred to as “the rose ceremony from hell,” Echard explained Evans’ absence to Windey and Recchia, resulting in a tearful conversation. Both Windey and Recchia wanted to make it to the end — but not by default.
After hearing the news, Windey told Echard she wanted to leave. Echard convinced her to stay. The process continued, and both Windey and Recchia met Echard’s parents and brothers.
Although the meetings went well, Echard said he could not stop thinking about Evans. He then broke up with Windey and Recchia at the same time. In response, Recchia told him that letting her go would “haunt” him. Windey called him out for not prioritizing her emotions.
The next day, Evans — conveniently still in Iceland — briefly met Echard’s family before agreeing to reconsider their relationship.
On the final day of filming, Evans told Echard that she wanted to leave the show single. She walked away from him and the bachelor ended up alone.
"What we went through with Clayton was torture, and we were strung along," Windey said during the intro to Season 19 of "The Bachelorette."
Recchia said, "I was really heartbroken but Gabby and I really picked up the pieces for each other."
Here’s what happened after cameras stopped rolling, and where Echard is now
Echard spent most of the “After the Final Rose” apologizing as Windey and Recchia confronted him for the way he handled their group break up.
After toying with the audience, Palmer shared that Echard had rekindled one of his connections from the show after filming ended.
Evans then strutted onto the stage as the crowd applauded. She revealed that she started talking to Echard after she left Iceland and the two fell in love.
Almost four months after the finale aired, the couple is still going strong and are living together in Virginia, Evans’ home state. They constantly post pictures and videos on social media that show off their shared sense of humor.
For the Fourth of July, Evans spent time with Echard’s family. He uploaded a video to Instagram of him leading a squat workout beside Evans and his mom.
It wasn’t a traditional ending, Echard’s actions make him one of the most controversial bachelors of all time. But, ultimately Echard’s season ended in a love story.