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Did Zach J. Lean In To Kiss Clare? A ‘Bachelorette’ Case Study

- The Bachelor -
Did Zach J. Lean In To Kiss Clare? A ‘Bachelorette’ Case Study

It’s not easy to feel like you’ve been rejected – and Bachelor Nation star Clare Crawley seems to be more sensitive to it than most. During the Tuesday, October 27, episode of The Bachelorette, the lead had another awkward moment with one of her suitors when she felt like they weren’t really there for her. After inviting Zach J. to spend a day date with her getting pedicures and lounging around the pool, she thought they weren’t quite clicking. However, she wanted to give him a fair shot, so, as they were about to part in order to get ready for the evening portion of their plan, she went in for the kiss.

Unfortunately, that’s where things went disastrously wrong. While Clare leaned in for a smooch, her lips and Zach J.’s never quite made contact. Feeling the sting of that moment, she quickly went, “What? Oh, fuck,” and jerked away. Zach J. didn’t seem to realize what had gone wrong, though — and he tried to grab Clare in a rather aggressive way and pull her back so he could lay one on her. The interaction only escalated from there, culminating with her forcefully extracting herself from Zach J.’s hold, telling him it was OK and she’d see him at dinner, and then disappearing out of his life for the rest of time.

In a confessional, she explained:

“Zach just made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I go in for the kiss to Zach. He pulls away. And the second I just try to walk away, he grabs me. That kind of triggers me. And kind of scared me! I didn’t want to be near him in that moment. If I want to walk away because I’m uncomfortable, let me walk away. I might be a little extra sensitive about it because I have done all of the work these last few years on healing my traumas, but I don’t want to figure it out, I don’t want to ask, I don’t even want to talk about it. This is not something that needs to be discussed.”

When Zach J. showed up for dinner, his lady left him hanging. Instead, it was Chris Harrison who sent him home. But what really happened? Zach clearly believed he had made it perfectly clear that he wanted to kiss, but Clare thought he didn’t. So did he lean away — or did he lean in? I knew I needed to take a closer look at the tape to get to the bottom of what actually happened.

The Lean: The Scene

Let’s take the clip shot-by-shot. Standing on the steps of the pool, Clare was petting her dog Honey. “I’m actually going to take her inside,” she told Zach J., “but if you want to go get ready, and I’m gonna get ready, we’ll have dinner? Cool?” He agreed, she reached out to place her hand on the back of his neck, and then she leaned in to bridge the distance between them.

With one hand seemingly on her leg and the other hovering near her hip, Zach J. pretty much just stood and waited to be kissed. But that wasn’t enough effort for Clare, and that’s when she freaked out. As she turned and tried to leave the pool, he reached out to grab her by the neck (!), extending his arm across her chest in a move that clearly was trying to hold her in place. “No, why did you stop?” he asked. “I was right there. Why — wait, hold on. Why’d you stop?”

“Let’s get ready for dinner,” Clare said with an uncomfortable laugh, grabbing Zach J.’s hand and trying to remove it from her body, only for it to land on her stomach instead. As she tried to get out of the pool, he yanked her back. “Nothing, hold on,” she answered his question. “Let’s get ready for dinner.”

The Lean: An Initial Reaction

I have to be honest: When I first saw this scene, I was just as confused as Zach J. I didn’t understand what had happened, because it definitely looked like he was all in for the kiss and Clare was the one that pulled back. Did he secretly grope her but Honey blocked it from the camera’s view? Did he pop a boner at the idea of a smooch after months and months of quarantine and she freaked out?

It was only once Zach J. gave us the play-by-play in his own confessional that I started to get it. “Clare leaned in to kiss me, and maybe she was as far as she could lean?” he speculated. “And she thought I was trying not to? But absolutely not.”

The Lean: A Forensic Investigation

I had to go back to the scene of the crime to take a closer look at the evidence. Things had gone wrong during the pool date way before the disastrous UnKiss ever happened (these two absolutely do not pass the vibe check), but this specific moment went off the rails when Clare leaned about 90% in and brought her mouth almost all of the way to Zach J.’s. As if he were sleeping beauty standing up in swim trunks, Zach J. held almost perfectly still. But screenshots of the moment show there was actually a lean.

So which way did he go? Technically, he both leaned out — and in. Though he tilts one shoulder back (the one on Clare's right, the same side where she's reaching towards him), he actually tips the other forward. He also lifts his head and brings his hips ever-so-slightly forward. I’m not gonna do the math on the exact angles (not least because I don’t have a protractor on hand anymore, but also because I feel like you get it), but if you click through the frozen frames, it’s clear to see. Unfortunately, it's also clear to see that this only happened once Clare began to move back. It seems like the Bachelorette contestant forgot the cardinal kissing rule of Hitch.

The Lean: An Expert’s Advice

In the 2005 flick, Will Smith’s character taught Kevin James's would-be-romantic how to lay one on a lady. You don’t do it by grabbing her and smooching the heck out of her. You do it by leaning in 90% and letting your partner close that 10% gap. Clare did her part in initiating the kiss (though she could stand to work on her "wait," considering Hitch says you should hold your 90% as long as it takes) — but Zach J. didn’t do his. Instead, he left Clare to do all of the work in their embrace, leaving her feeling like he didn’t exactly want it.

The Bachelorette’s complicated feelings about pursuing-versus-being-pursued aside, we can see how she felt slighted by this slight lean away. Not only did he not take the initiative, he also didn’t take that tiny step to show he wanted to kiss her as much as she wanted to kiss him. The best makeout sessions happen when two people are on the same page (in 2017, Glamour writer Elizabeth Logan called the Hitch scene “one of the best definitions of consent” they’d seen on screen), and this moment clearly demonstrated that Clare and Zach J., well, weren’t.

The Lean: A Conclusion

Here’s the thing. If the rest of the date had gone great, I bet Clare would’ve breezed right past this speed bump. But things had been awkward and tense all morning, even as the Bachelorette tried her best to keep things light. Even in the moment before the UnKiss, though, it was clear the date was a dud. Zach J. looked more bored than anything as Clare tried to transition from day to night, and he wasn’t even looking at her when she promised she’d see him at dinner.

Things only got worse after that. While I initially didn’t get what the issue was, even I felt uncomfortable watching Clare get grabbed and yanked and pawed at as Zach J. tried to resolve the problem. According to him, he just wanted to figure out what went wrong and talk to her about it — and make it clear that he was just as interested in a kiss as she was — but the way he went about it was difficult to watch. After chasing her out of the pool, he followed her as she tried to walk away. Clare did her best to be graceful about the situation, but it didn’t help that he reached out to put his hand on her neck and pull her back in for take two when she was clearly ready to move on.

Whether it was the UnKiss or the escape, he was practically illiterate when it came to reading Clare’s body language and was more invested in how he thought and felt than how she thought and felt. I’m not going to say I called it when I said his Bachelorette bio gave me serious Luke P. vibes from Hannah Brown’s season but — oops, it looks like I just did.

Images: ABC screenshots

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