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Alright folks. With Hometown Dates this week, there’s definitely a light at the end of The Bachelorette tunnel. This is always a momentous week in the season. Think about it – introducing a significant other to your family is a stressful event. Now, imagine that this (imaginary, at least in my life) significant other is someone that you’ve only known for, let’s say six weeks, and have gone on approximately 2.69 dates with – all while they’re very obviously seeing other people. Sounds like a great plan, right? Your mom is going to be so excited for you. I mean, what could go wrong? Literally everything. Compound all of that with the added pressure that if they don’t totally hate your family and you get a rose after this date, there’s the implication that you’ll be bumping uglies with your new boo in the Fantasy Suite the following week – except you don’t know if you’re getting the first, second, or third ride on the Bachelorette Train of Fluid Exchange. Oh – and all of this is aired on national television so your grandparents and future grandchildren will be able to watch it over and over and over again. Fucked up, right? That’s why we love it. Let’s break it down.
Hometown Date with Eric
In case anyone had forgotten, I don’t care for Eric. Rachel’s first hometown date takes her to Baltimore, so thankfully we’re getting the shittiest part of this episode out of the way early (…or at least so we thought. Stay tuned.). As she sees Eric, she mounts him in greeting and they spend some time walking around Baltimore. “Now sweet thing baby girl,” Eric starts, as I choke on my margarita in disgust. “This is the nice part of town. I’m going to take you to where I’m from now.” I feel uncomfortable.
Eric and Rachel get out of his car and he checks three times to make sure it’s locked before walking Rachel to an outdoor basketball court. “This is where I used to ball every day,” he tells her before he forces her to play one-on-one in wedges. While they’re playing, a dude comes onto the court and Eric greets him with a hug. Turns out this dude is Eric’s cousin (unclear if it is the drug-dealing cousin he has previously mentioned) and the two of them catch up.
When Eric’s cousin departs, and Eric takes Rachel to meet the rest of his family. They are met by a large group of mostly women who are clearly overjoyed to see Rachel. As they sit in the living room and Eric explains how he feels about Rachel to his family, everyone gets so excited they start a synchronized chair dance. Seriously – swaying and clapping of the impromptu nature. You can’t make this shit up, and it was impressive. Our family gatherings mostly consist of us staring at each other in silence until someone nuts up and unmutes the television, or if we’re feeling particularly zany, breaks out Catchphrase.
Rachel’s first conversation is with Eric’s Aunt Verna, who is without a doubt the MVP of this episode. Talk about a ray of fucking sunshine, and I mean that in the best way. She’s so excited for Rachel’s journey as The Bachelorette and they talk about the pressure being the first black lead in the series. She also tells Rachel how happy Eric seems – and how happy she is to see him feel that way. She’s just a bubbly, perpetually happy life cheerleader. There should be more Aunt Vernas in the world.
Meanwhile, Eric talks to his mom, who is most definitely not a ray of fucking sunshine. She is the opposite of a ray of sunshine. She is like “basement room with no windows at midnight” level of gloomy. They talk a bit about their relationship, and she confesses that she knew Eric didn’t feel particularly loved by her, but that was her parenting strategy to make him into a strong person in hopes that he would turn out better than some of the other men in their family. I think it worked, but damn lady, probably could have done it in a way that didn’t emotionally cripple your son.
As Rachel prepares to depart, Eric tells her “I’m starting to feel feelings of love,” and while I don’t understand exactly what that means, Rachel seemed to buy into it. “Eric has never been in love before,” she tells the camera. “So for him to say he’s ‘starting to feel feelings of love’ is a big deal.” I’m calling bullshit. Just because I think I may start to feel hungry soon doesn’t mean that I’m actually hungry. It means I’m bored. Try again. This is stupid. Regardless, they make out, Rachel leaves, and I pray to everything holy that Eric gets sent home at the next Rose Ceremony.
Hometown Date with Bryan
As Rachel rolls into Miami (bitch), Bryan strolls up to meet her wearing a red golf polo with a V-neck T-shirt layered underneath. She greets him with her standard mounting before he takes her to a dirty park where old men gather to play dominoes. Quite honestly, I’m shocked that Rachel was able to resist the urge to rip off her panties right then and there. After Bryan lets Rachel get her ass kicked in dominoes, he walks her down Calle Ocho. “Calle Ocho actually means Eighth Street,” Bryan mansplains to Rachel. “That’s so interesting!” Rachel replies. “Living in Texas, going to college, and getting a law degree never would have prepared me for figuring that out on my own. What would I do without you?” I don’t know, live happily ever after?
As they stroll down Calle Ocho, they stop and get some local eats, and we hear a voiceover from Rachel saying that “Miami is a city of passion – it’s a city of romance…” The audio trails off as Rachel does work on her burrito; if she’s not careful Miami is going to turn into a city of diarrhea for her real quick like. On second thought, it may be prudent for her to have a rapid exit strategy for dealing with Bryan’s nut job of a mom later on in this date. No one is going to argue with the Hershey squirts.
This brings us to the crème de crème of their date: Olga. Olga is Bryan’s helicopter mom, who stares straight daggers at Rachel as soon as Bryan leads her into their house. Brian mentioned last week that his most recent relationship ended because his then-girlfriend hated his mom so much, and within moments it’s easy to sympathize with that poor girl’s feelings. Olga is without question batshit insane. She proposes a toast to Bryan and Rachel, saying that “Bryan is my life. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me!” As they raise their glasses, Bryan’s father appears in the corner of the screen, his dead eyes reflecting a soul that was broken decades ago. If I were Rachel, I’d be concerned about the contents of that glass and also the fact that this woman just described her son as her entire life while her husband and other child are in the same room. This is not normal, folks.
Olga and Bryan break off from the group to talk privately. Bryan starts off the conversation by telling his mother, “I know this is going to be hard for you to hear,” which is always a sign of a healthy relationship. “I think Rachel’s the one. I know that she’s the one.” Olga opens and closes her mouth, emitting the silent screams of a dying fish removed from water. “I don’t understand!” she exclaims. “You have been with so many girls! Now you go on the show and you fall in love? Why do you do that? Am I not enough for you?” The last bit may have not been exactly the words that came out of her mouth, but the intent was there.
All season we’ve wondered why Bryan was still single at age 37, and folks, we’ve found our reason. Hellbent on ensuring her position as the most important woman in Bryan’s life, Olga corners Rachel. “There are a few things you need to know, bitch,” Olga starts. “The most important thing is that Bryan is happy. If you make him not happy, I will kill you.” The two stare at each other for a moment before Rachel starts laughing. Olga does not laugh. Olga does not make jokes. Olga makes promises.
Rachel attempts to make an appeal to Olga. “Family is very important to me too – I would definitely want my significant other to be a big part of my family, and I would hope that I could be a part of yours too!” Olga scoffs. “You do not understand. I don’t care if you or anyone else is involved with our family, and I don’t care if my precious boy is a part of your family. The only thing that matters is that my precious stays with me forever. He is mine.”
Even with that bucket of steaming hot insanity, Rachel and Bryan’s date seemed to go fairly well. Tears welled up in Rachel’s eyes and mine rolled so far back in my skull I thought I saw my brain at the end of the night when Bryan confessed he was falling in love with her. She was ecstatic. Whatever, girl. If you want your own version of Josh Murray with the over-involved family, live your life. If you pick him, you better buckle up for Olga’s three-year-old in a Toys ‘R Us style meltdown the first time you try to get BryGuy to spend a holiday with your family. Just don’t write a book about it two years later and expect anyone to still give a shit.
Hometown Date with Peter
After her date with Bryan in Miami, Rachel jets off to her next destination, which is almost as exciting: meeting Peter and his family in Madison, Wisconsin. Rachel and Peter’s date is so normal that it gets approximately sixteen minutes of screen time, including commercials. Peter takes Rachel to a farmer’s market, which is apparently a place he frequents every weekend because he lives in Wisconsin and is also a better person than the rest of us and isn’t a hungover piece of shit prior to noon on most weekend days. You go, Glen Coco.
After they try some organic, free range, gluten free, cruelty-free, free trade honey straws, Peter takes Rachel to a bar, where he informs her she’s going to be meeting a few of his friends. Two couples walk in, and two things immediately jump out at me. The first is that Peter is way better looking than his friends. You know how most people tend to run around with a crew that’s relatively the same level of attractiveness? For example – I’m like a solid 6.5 on a good day (growing a beard helped) and honestly most of my friends are probably better looking than me, but at the same time, no one that I hang out with is totally hideous either. (To my friends, y’all are welcome, btw). That is not the case here. The second thing that stands out is that the two dudes he brought to introduce to Rachel are both black, and they show up with their white girlfriends. I’d really like to think that Peter didn’t plan this just to prove that he really is cool with interracial dating, but I also can’t be totally sure of that either. It makes me feel weird inside.
Peter and his friends break off to talk, leaving Rachel with the generic white chicks. One of them has crazy eyes like Jack Stone and for a moment I’m concerned it is actually Jack Stone is a wig, but the camera averts before I can make a proper assessment. As soon as he’s out of earshot, Peter confesses, “I really like Rachel a lot, but the thought of proposing to her in two weeks is fucking terrifying.” You know, normal feelings when you’ve only been dating someone for six weeks, but I’m afraid this may end up being Peter’s downfall. Time will tell. His friends give him some generic encouragement, saying, “If she’s the one, she’s the one.” Real helpful. Solid work.
Peter and Rachel’s time at Peter’s parents’ house reads like a page from the “How To Be Midwestern” textbook, right down to the couch with cup holders. As they sit in the living room, Peter roughhouses with his niece, and if you listened very quietly, you could hear panties across America softly hitting the ground as women everywhere imagined perfect Peter as their baby daddy. Also, I’d like to apologize for using the word “panties” twice during this recap, and again for repeating it just now. I’m not actually sorry, but I wanted to at least acknowledge it publicly.
Everyone in Peter’s family is pleasant and welcoming, but when Rachel sits down with Peter’s mom and asks if she thinks her son is ready to get married, there is a hesitation. “I know that Peter is ready to commit to you, but I don’t know that he’s ready to propose.” I’d like to reiterate that the way Peter is feeling is super fucking normal; however, Rachel tells the camera, “I came here to find love. I didn’t come here to just find a boyfriend.” I like Rachel, but she can be a real idiot sometimes.
Hometown Date with Dean
As I watched Dean’s hometown date unfold, I had no idea how I was going to make this part of the recap funny, and after a lot of thought and about half a bottle of Shiraz, I decided that my usual sardonic take on this segment of the episode wouldn’t do it justice. Family is hard. Family is messy. And family is something that can be intensely personal. Throughout the season, Dean was transparent with Rachel that after his mom lost her battle to cancer when he was just fifteen, his world fell apart. He felt that his mother was the cornerstone of his family, and without her presence, they all drifted apart. As a result, his relationship with his father was virtually nonexistent, in fact, the two of them haven’t spoken for nearly two years.
Because of all this, Dean’s hometown date was a lot less about his relationship with Rachel than it was about his relationship with his family. As Dean tried to prepare Rachel for the situation she would soon encounter, explaining that his father had converted to Sikh and changed his name, got remarried to a women Dean has only met twice before, and that tonight would be the first time in eight years his entire family would be under the same roof.
Dean also reiterated that he felt that the root of his strained relationship with his father was his feelings of abandonment following his mother’s death. After taking a moment to think, Rachel asked Dean a single question. “Have you ever told your dad that’s how you feel?”
I think the Bachelor franchise can make us pretty jaded because we’re expected to buy that what we’re seeing on television is authentic and unscripted, when in reality, we know that’s definitely not what’s happening. However, I don’t think that was the case with what ABC showed us in Aspen.
Dean was so uncomfortable it was palpable. To her credit, Rachel took everything in stride, doing anything and everything she could to be supportive of Dean in those moments. It would be easy to mock Dean’s family and the events that transpired during his date, but I’m not going to do that, mostly because a lot of it revolved around his father’s religion. Even with his eccentricities and peculiarities, it was abundantly clear that Dean’s dad was doing his best to be welcoming and hospitable to his family in a situation that was fraught with tension all around.
As the evening progressed, Dean’s dad asks to talk with him privately, and Rachel excuses herself to talk to the rest of his family. The conversation begins with some basic platitudes, including Dean’s dad complimenting him on his personal growth and apparently newfound boldness. However, it isn’t long before Dean brings up the events surrounding his mother’s passing, as well as the emotional toll of the following years. Dean’s dad agreed with the difficulty of that time, but was hesitant to rehash any of the buried emotions associated with that experience. “I don’t even want to think about it, Dean,” he says. Dean disagrees, essentially begging him to delve back into those feelings. “Dad,” he starts, “I want to have that conversation. We’re two adults, and we’ve never talked about this! Can we please just bring it out into the open and work through this?”
Initially, it seems like their conversation may break down some walls between them; however, that hope is short lived. As Dean tells his father that he didn’t step in enough after his mother died, his dad fires back. “I did the one thing I knew how to do! I went to work and made money.” Eventually, they reach an impasse. Dean’s dad ends the conversation by telling his son, “What’s the point in moving forward if you’ve got one fucking foot in stuck in the past?” With that, he stands up and walks away.
“Dad!” Dean calls out, causing his father to stop in the doorway, already halfway outside. “I just want you to know that I love you regardless.” Dean’s dad only pauses for a second longer, never meeting his son’s eyes with his reply, “Well, whatever.” With that he steps outside, shutting the door on Dean once again.
The rest of the date is downhill from there. Rachel makes an attempt to talk to Dean’s dad, but he shuts her down. He’s polite, but it’s clear he wants nothing more to do with Dean or anyone associated with The Bachelorette. Rachel finds Dean laying on the floor of the house crying when she comes back inside and lays down beside him to comfort him. He covers his eyes and tells her, “I’m really sorry. This is just hard for me. It’s all coming together at once and it’s a lot.” He rolls over to face her and says, “The one thing that I do know is that I’m falling in love with you.” Rachel looks at him for a moment before replying. “I’m falling in love with you too!”
With that, our glimpse into Dean’s life ends. We often mock reality television for being as far removed from reality as possible, but this week I think we actually got a dose of something authentic. I think for once, we got a brief glimpse of a young man who invited a woman that he’s falling in love with to meet his family, opening up his home and his relationship with his family to all of America in the process. And you know what? We didn’t know what the fuck to do when it happened. We saw a broken family with an attempt at reconciliation that failed. We saw real pain and anguish and it wasn’t the normal kind of mundane, producer-rigged situation that we’ve grown accustomed to on this show. What we see on this date isn’t something that you can make up. Dean gave us the most honest display of emotion we’ve seen on any Bachelor show in years. All I have to say is props to Dean – I have a hell of a lot of respect for you. For the rest of you – if you’re fortunate enough to have a loving, supportive family, give them a phone call and a hug because this is a good reminder that not everyone is that lucky. Alright, enough with the feelings. Let’s get back to your regularly scheduled shit talking.
As the four remaining dudes reconvened to see who will advance to the Fantasy Suite and become Eskimo brothers with Nick Viall, tension is at an all-time high. As Rachel walks out to greet her harem, she immediately starts crying. “I just want you all to know that the man I have to send home is truly an amazing person, and I regret so much that I have to do this. I just want you to know that I’ve meant every word I’ve said to you throughout this entire process.” I don’t think I’m prepared for this.
Rachel walks up to Lord Chris Harrison’s Altar of Roses. Picking up the first one, she looks down and closes her eyes before quietly announcing the first name.
No surprise there. Far away, you hear the sound of a shiv being sharpened. Jesus, Olga, you aren’t even in prison yet.
Rachel picks up the second rose, leaving just one left on the altar. The three remaining men look on stoically as Rachel calls out the second name.
Fuck. FUCK. Fuck this. Fuck everything. As Eric walks up to accept his rose, he whispers “My name is in your mouth!” into Rachel’s ear.
Rachel picks up the final rose as she meets Dean and Peter’s helpless gazes. How did it come to this? Dean vs. Peter? Compared to this, Sophie’s Choice was a no-brainer. I clutch my margarita glass so hard that I worry it might break.
With that, my heart shatters instead of my glass. I love Peter, but Rachel did Dean wrong here. After standing beside him through his hometown date and telling him she was falling in love with him, this had to have been a brutal rejection. He took it in stride, and I’m sure he will do just fine for himself in Paradise. I’m pulling for him to end up with Raven and if they aren’t together by the end of it, love isn’t real. That’s all I’m saying.
Thanks for those of you who played Hometown Dates Bingo – it’s always a fun way to stay entertained during these episodes. My apologies for forgetting to put “synchronized family dancing” as a bingo square; I’ll try harder in the future. Next week is
conjugal visits Fantasy Suite Dates, so keep an eye out for new bingo cards for next Monday. See you then. .
Image via Twitter / The Bachelorette