The Bachelor Returns, Takes on Bullying and an Alleged Friend with Benefits

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We've seen a whole lot on The Bachelor over the years.

As we learned ust last night, however, we haven't seen everything.

The ABC franchise returned from a one-week hiatus this week in order to offer viewers something it had never, EVER given us before.

Not as far as we know, at least.

Clayton Echard and Nicole Egger

When we last saw Clayton Echard, he had learned that Cassidy had a sidepiece at home; some dude she had been FaceTiming from the hotel in which she was staying before shooting on Season 26 got underway.

A suitor with some sort of significant other off air isn't all that strange for The Bachelor, of course.

But here was the unusual twist:

Clayton had already given Cassidy a rose!

Cassidy Timbrooks

On this installment, therefore, Clayton pulled Cassidy aside to have a "straightforward" chat with her about her supposed lover.

Upon asking her whether she was seeing someone right before filming began, Cassidy denied the claim by saying: "No, I haven't. Absolutely not."

After some pushing and prompting, she elaborated as follows:

"There's a friend of mine that does not want a relationship. He thinks it's cool that I'm taking this risk and he supports me.

"He was like, 'Look, if it doesn't work out, I still want to be friends and whatever.' But I had no interest in resuming that relationship because I knew it wasn't going anywhere."

Clayton Echard suitor

After thinking about what to do for a bit, Clayton dropped the dreaded right reasons on Cassidy, said he had "too many concerns" about her and took back the rose.

Then, during the rose ceremony, Ency, Kate and Tessa were also eliminated.

Cut to the first group date (with Serene, Susie, Eliza, Mara, Marlena, Hunter, Genevive and Jill), during which Echard and the women engaged in a number of vulnerable conversations.

Clayton even opened up about his past struggles with body image and then decided he wanted to keep Eliza around.

"This rose goes to someone who makes it a point of emphasis to go above and beyond with every interaction," Clayton said before handing Eliza the rose.

From there, Sarah and Clayton were greeted by former Bachelorette Becca Kufrin for their solo date, and were instructed the pair to strip down to their underwear to partake in an "extreme" scavenger hunt across downtown Los Angeles.

They also had to make up a song.

"I don't think I could have done this with anybody else today," Clayton later told Sarah. "It's your personality. It's who you are."

Over dinner, Sarah said she was adopted her "family is white and I'm 30 percent Vietnamese, French and Irish" and that it took her a "while to feel that love and recognize that."

She also got a rose.

A Dirty Bachelor

On his second group date (with Gabby, Rachel, Kira, Melina, Lyndsey W., Sierra, Teddi, Elizabeth and Shenae), Clayton was joined by former Baywatch star Nicole Eggert.

The ladies went through lifeguard training, culminating at one point in Shenae walking up to The Bachelor and giving him a passionate kiss.

"Having Shenae follow up her slow-mo run with a kiss was very awkward," said Elizabeth, 32. "I think she's endeared herself to him through showing him her strong, aggressive personality."

However, Gabby, ultimately won the challenge, earning herself some extra one-on-one time with Clayton.

Clayton Echard Snapshot

During the second half of this group date, Shenae broke down in tears while speaking to Clayton and accused Elizabeth of bullying her.

"It's sad because I don't want to leave, because I feel something with you. I just can't move on," she said to Echard, adding:

"I thought we were moved past that last week and it's a week later, and it's still happening."

Shenae then bragged to the cameras that Clayton "believed" her.

Elizabeth

From there, Clayton went ahead and spoke to Elizabeth to get her side of the story; she was stunned by the accusation.

"I don't want any more time to be spent on this, but you can speak with anyone in the house and you will hear that that is not something that I am doing," Elizabeth replied.

"There's nothing that I have against her.

"There's nothing I have against anybody. I have been super kind to her in the house. I made her lunch the other day. I am kind and I am an adult."

Clayton Echard for The Bachelor

Eventually, the suitors chose to confront Sheane over her allegations.

In response, she stood by her claims that she was, indeed, the victim of bullying.

Elizabeth and Shenae continued to go back and forth in front of ladies before Clayton rejoined the group... with nothing really decided. Except for this:

At the conclusion of the group date, Clayton handed a rose to Gabby for her ability to "step out of [her] comfort zone."

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