‘The Bachelorette’: Rachel and Gabby Respond to Criticism That the Men Have Too Much Power

“The Bachelorette” is known for the drama, but this season has doubled the dose of, well, everything.

With two stars for the first time ever, the format of the dating show has been flipped on its head. The season’s leading ladies, Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey, are navigating uncharted waters, as well as their suitors, which has made for many uncomfortable rose ceremonies, rejection and plenty of tears.

Typically, the lead — whether male or female — is in the driver’s seat with 30 men or women pining after them. In other words, if there is only one star of the show (which has been the case for 45 seasons), every contestant is vying for one person’s heart. But now, the joint format has given contestants a choice, therefore putting some power into the men’s hands and leaving the two women up for the unexpected.

Last week’s episode saw Recchia get rejected three times in a row by men who turned down her roses for Windey at the rose ceremony. In her confessional, she said through tears that her time as a contestant on Clayton Echard’s season was better than her current experience as the star of the show.

Speaking to Variety ahead of this week’s episode, the two leading ladies agree that the format is messy, new territory. But they say to trust the process.

“It was definitely hard experiencing it, and something that we didn’t get to plan for. I don’t think anyone really knew how the men would react because they’re navigating this territory, just like we are,” Windey said on a recent phone call. “I think it kind of mimics real-life dating — women feel this way, not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the way that men make us feel. So, I think it highlights that, which is why people find this season so relatable.”

She continues, “It’s hard to watch for us. Nobody deserves to feel unwanted, but that’s just a fraction of the guys. Most of the guys are there for us and making us feel special, but I think we cling onto the lower moments.”

Below, Rachel and Gabby talk to Variety about the recent drama on their season, tease what’s to come and respond to criticism that the men have too much power.

Rachel, you faced a lot of rejection in last week’s rose ceremony. Did all of those moments actually happen in a row, or was there editing involved to condense the storyline?

Recchia: It definitely was multiple in a row. We weren’t really giving out that many roses that night. Ultimately, I don’t remember how many I had, but it did feel like one after another, and it was really hard for me to keep it together throughout the rose ceremony. Ultimately, I think that’s what needed to happen. No one could have predicted it, so we were just taking it as it came in the moment.

Do both of you think it’s fair that as the lead, you are not fully in control?

Recchia: I think Gabby and I were navigating new territory. No lead has never been in a position to face multiple rejections in a row, and I think ultimately what I would love is for people to give us a little bit of grace. Of course, being rejected is not a good feeling. You always want to be chosen in a relationship.

In real life, no one person dates 30 people who want them full-stop. So in a way, the format is more relatable to the real world because whether it’s dating apps or at a bar, people have options and everyone faces rejection. But I think in the context of a TV show, viewers are saying, “How could they put Gabby and Rachel through this?” How would you respond to the criticism that the men have too much power this season?

Recchia: In terms of the men having more power, I think we were hoping that the connections would fall naturally, and a lot of them did. But when it started getting to a point where they felt the need to compare us to one another, that’s where we drew the line in the sand and wanted to take everything back into our own hands.

Like with Hayden, who you sent home. Watching the episode back, what did you both think about Hayden’s behavior?

Windey: I think, ultimately, it’s just a man acting from insecurity. You know, this is reality television. We’re all human. And I think having two leads also brought up a lot of insecurities in the men — you don’t get to see as much of that because the show is about Rachel and I — but I think those actions just stem from somebody who’s insecure in themselves. It was really crazy to watch back. But I’m so proud of Rachel, and I think it’s pretty clear why she did those things. A lot of times, you’re able to give someone a couple of chances, but he was out for sure.

Hayden is a different situation because he spoke negatively about you two. But for some of the other men who are flip-flopping, do you empathize with where they’re coming from, given the format of this season, which ultimately gives them a choice? 

Windey: Yeah. I think it’s hard because Rachel and I were on the other side, so we don’t really know how the men navigated it because it is new territory. This experience really brings out people’s true colors. I think the more honest you are, the better you’ll get and I think that’s what we’re seeing. People are unsure themselves how to move forward, and for us — is it a game to you, or are you really here to pursue one of us? I think that’s really the underlying theme that we’re seeing.

Recchia: There were so many men, right off the bat, who were so respectful. And it is natural to want to pursue one or the other — of course, there are two of us. But I think that more often than not, they were very respectful and we completely understood. We were more than supportive of their decisions.

Speaking of flip-flopping, did Logan do the right thing by staying, or should he have spoken up to say that he had a change in heart? 

Windey: You’ll see what we’re thinking, because Rachel and I are so honest with each other. And then, you will get more insight on how we reacted, what we’re feeling and how it all happened. Again, I think it’s just us navigating a situation that was given to us.

The Paris dates were pretty incredible for both of you. Rachel, what would you say to viewers who are certain that Tino is your frontrunner? And Gabby, same question to you with Jason.

Recchia: First of all, thank you for asking about the amazing date in Paris. I think a lot of people are caught up on the really low moments, but those were some amazing dates and I’m really glad that was the first double date of the season, and everyone got to see those connections really start to blossom.

Windey: I agree. That is why Rachel and I are here — to really form connections, hopefully fall in love and have our happy ending. You get to see the building blocks of that in Paris. It really was so magical for both of us. For me, it’s when I really found my footing and thought to myself, “This can work.”

So it seems like the frontrunners are Tino and Jason, at this point. What would you say to viewers who think they know how this ends?

Recchia: Tune in at 8/7 central on ABC! [Laughing]

You’re very well trained.

Recchia: We have a long way to go! [Laughing] Seriously, we’re only half-way through.

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