Clayton Echard may have been a football player in a former life, but all those tackles couldn't have prepared him for the brute force that is Bachelor Nation.
As viewers gear up for hometown dates on The Bachelor, a source close to production exclusively tells E! News that Clayton is concerned about how fans will react to this season's ending. According to the insider, "Clayton is really struggling with the criticism he has taken for the decisions he has made on the show."
In recent weeks, the Bachelor was called out for sending Elizabeth Corrigan home instead of Shanae Ankney, who accused Elizabeth of lying about the extent of her ADHD. And while the star didn't witness the interactions between Elizabeth and Shanae, he apologized for assuming their feuding was simply "petty drama."
Additionally, Clayton drew backlash for his confrontation with Sarah Hamrick, leaving the 23-year-old contestant in tears after questioning if she was ready for marriage.
But it seems there's more drama coming down the pipeline, with a source saying, "He knows things could get worse for him over the next few weeks as fantasy suites come into play."
One can only assume what took place behind closed doors, but it seems those overnight stays had a major impact on the season finale. "Clayton does indeed fall in love with multiple women," the source shares, "and many hearts are broken in ways we have really never seen before."
So in anticipation of criticism, Clayton is turning to others for guidance. Who, you ask? According to our source, "Clayton is so concerned with how things will play out that he even reached out to former Bachelors Matt James and Nick Viall for their advice and support."
Of course, fans will have to wait and see the episodes to understand Clayton's apprehension. But he and host Jesse Palmer hinted that a storm was coming before the show even started.
In January, Jesse told E! News that even the producers couldn't predict the direction this season would take. "Viewers at home will see things this season that they've never seen in 20 years having watched The Bachelor," he explained. "Sometimes those decisions to a lot of people at home may feel like they're sort of straying off the beaten path. It's not as formulaic as what we've seen in recent seasons, but I think that's a little bit refreshing about him."
And as the one who actually experienced this firsthand, Clayton asked for a bit of grace from viewers at home. "You just don't know what to expect when you step into a role like this and you think, 'Well, OK, I'm mentally mature enough to handle this,'" he shared in a December interview with E! News. "Then, you get into it and you're like, 'How did I think I was going to be able to handle this? Dating this many women at one time.'"
See how things unfold when The Bachelor airs Mondays on ABC.