The Bachelor finale may have ended in an engagement, but the three-hour live event was also full of tears, tough conversations, and apologies from Season 27 lead Zach Shallcross.
After Ariel Frenkel shared her feelings about the infamous Fantasy Suite Week drama, host Jesse Palmer welcomed Shallcross’ runner-up Gabi Elnicki to the stage to unpack her post-finale emotions and confront Shallcross about the nightmarish way he handled overnight dates in Episode 9.
As a brief refresher, Shallcross kicked off Fantasy Suite Week by imposing a “no sex” rule, which he upheld during his overnight with Frenkel, but didn’t uphold during his second date of the week with Elnicki. Shallcross was guilty for going back on his word, so he told Elnicki he needed to clear his conscience by telling “everyone involved” — aka Jesse Palmer, Kaity Biggar, and all of America, but apparently not Frenkel. By the end of the week, Elnicki — crushed that Shallcross betrayed her trust by making their private moment public — said she felt like she was “wearing the scarlet letter” on her chest.
“I have a lot of thoughts. A lot of feelings. A lot of emotions I didn’t know I had until I watched this all back. I’m sad. I’m hurt. I’m still hurting. I’m hurting even more honestly, with everything I’ve seen,” Elnicki told Shallcross during the live finale event. “I think what is challenging about this is that we had so many positive moments that day. And you know on the beach some of the reasons behind all my emotions, and what led me to that point. And you were so supportive. You said you had my back. And I felt so protected by you.”
Elnicki went on to explain that she was also disappointed in the way their physical intimacy was shared because the majority of the night wasn’t about sex. “The conversation about intimacy was five seconds of it. But we spent so much time talking about emotional health, mental health, our own insecurities…” she recalled. “It was a moment we shared together and we were happy about that, and it was consensual and what we wanted.[But] we decided that it was gonna be between us. We said it that night. And I remember I was brushing my teeth and you came up behind me, and you kissed me on the back of my head, and you said, ‘This is just between us.’ And I said, ‘Yes, this is just between us.’”
Thinking back to when Shallcross returned to her room later in the episode to discuss his desire to come clean, Elnicki says she was blindsided. “What I wish would have happened was that you warned me that you were gonna use my name, and you were going to tell everyone what had happened. Because I didn’t know you were gonna do that,” she explained.
“I didn’t know you had told everyone until I watched it last week,” Elnicki cried as live audience members gasped. “And so for me, to see that it was beyond a TV show for me. I feel ashamed from a moment that felt like love to me. And it’s very painful that I went through this then, and during that rose ceremony, and I said it to you before I met your family [that] I was confused. But you were only speaking to Kaity in that moment. Because Ariel didn’t know, and I didn’t know that until watching it back. And I wish you would have just sent me home and saved me all of the pain that just went on and on.”
Elnicki told the audience she feels like she’s living the heartbreak over, but described it as “way worse than it was” when she left Thailand because she’s “seeing it from a different point of view.”
“I thought it was between us. I thought it was love. I thought it was more than a TV show,” she said. “And I get it, sex sells. But now I’ve become a narrative. And it’s really painful.”
“The way I handled things was completely wrong. There’s no excuse for the way I handled things,” Shallcross said, reiterating his pure intentions heading into the week. “I felt like I needed to let everyone know that I went against my word. In reality, it hurt you, and in my mind, it was just this secret that I had to not have.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry. And our relationship that we shared is something I’ll never forget and I don’t want that to discredit it at all,” he concluded.