Sean McLaughlin Should Have Pursued Jess Girod

Sean McLaughlin, Jess Girod and Blake Moynes
ABC/Craig Sjodin (3)

While Sean McLaughlin was initially intrigued by Jess Girod when they met on Bachelor in Paradise, he waited too-little-too-late to lay his feelings out on the line.

“I think I definitely could have done things differently going into [the show because] I probably should have pursued it a little bit — actually a lot — earlier, but it is tough,” Sean, 26, exclusively says during the Friday, October 27, episode of Us Weekly’s “Here For the Right Reasons” podcast. “You get into these situations, you go through the show that it’s not easy to navigate.”

When Sean — a contestant from Charity Lawson’s season 20 of The Bachelorette — hit the beach spinoff, he was immediately intrigued by Jess, 24. Sean even tried to win her over on Day 1 by bringing up her love of Taylor Swift.

“I think Jess, she’s an absolute sweetheart in that I think her personality really shined through on Zach [Shallcross’] season, and I thought we’d mesh pretty well together,” Sean tells Us. “But also when I was always looking to find someone and leave with them, she lives in Florida [too], so the distance between us was a hurdle that we wouldn’t have to face. So, I probably looked at it too much ahead of the game where it’s like, all right, well if we make it through Paradise, it would be easier in the end, but that’s not really the way you want to go about it.”

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Sean further called Jess a “sweetheart” and a “gem,” who is funny, kind and as we know — “loves Taylor Swift.”

Jess, meanwhile, had her sights set on Blake Moynes. The pair were seemingly one of the most loved-up couples of season 9 throughout the first two rose ceremonies.  However, their connection was tested in the Thursday, October 26, episode, during a game of truth or dare.

Sean McLaughlin Should Have Pursued Jess Girod

Blake Moynes and Jess Girod on “Bachelor In Paradise”
ABC/Craig Sjodin

After Jess was asked about her No. 1 guy on the beach, she did pick Blake, 33, after a long pause. Blake — who was briefly engaged to former Bachelorette Katie Thurston in 2021 — started questioning their relationship status by the end of the episode.

Sean wasn’t too surprised to see Jess and Blake’s relationship falter. “Paradise is tough,” he tells Us. “It’s a difficult situation. Was I shocked? Not really, but truthfully, if I had that information about any of the couples there and they hit a rough patch, I wouldn’t be that shocked either. So it wasn’t just Blake and Jess.”

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With Jess no longer a dating option, Sean turned his attention to former Bachelorette Rachel Recchia. After giving her a rose at the first ceremony, Sean wanted to pump the brakes while pursuing Jess. The events soon spurned a blow-up fight with Rachel, 27, who didn’t like Sean’s alleged comments about her.

“The thing is with that is — I never said that Rachel was ‘more into me.’ So truthfully, looking back on it, [Brayden Bowers] didn’t even need to bring me up,” Sean explains to Us. “He probably could have just went off [to] Rachel and not even mentioned my name and they would’ve been good. So, it was just the way that he put it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. And we’re friends now, and I didn’t harp on it after when it happened at the beach, there’s nothing I can do.”

Rachel and Brayden, 24, went on a date of their own during Thursday’s episode, hitting it off.

“I think they’re both having fun,” Sean says. “They both got a little bit of crazy in ’em in a good way. So I think having filmed a while ago, I’m enjoying watching them together. They’re very entertaining.”

Bachelor in Paradise airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET. For more from Sean, listen to Us Weekly‘s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast.

Reporting by Sarah Hearon