True Confession Time: The hometown dates episode is my least favorite episode. I like it even less than the Women Tell All, which is basically a clip show. When I tune in to the Bachelor, I want kissing, I want conniving, I want exotic locations and sharks and ninjas and hot tubs. I do not want dinner with the folks in Seattle, Washington. The hometown dates episode is probably the realest episode of the show, and I love the Bachelor precisely because it is so very unreal. Also, it's the same damn thing over and over again. The producers have been trotting out the same tired tropes for this episode since the dawn of Bachelor time. Just to prove my point, I have created:
The Bachelor Drinking Game: Special Hometown Dates Edition.
Drink twice every time a bachelorette greets Brad by running towards him, jumping up and wrapping her legs around him. (Audience poll: do any real people do this? I have never seen real people do this.)
Drink once every time Brad tells one of the girls how much he's missed her.
Drink twice every time we see Brad talking to a girl's mom, immediately followed by or preceded by the girl talking to her dad.
Drink twice every time Brad is forced to watch embarrassing photos/videos from a bachelorette's childhood.
Drink twice every time someone, clearly prodded by the producers, asks Brad a Tough Question about how he still has three other girlfriends.
Drink twice every time Brad reminds us HOW HARD this process is.
Drink once every time Brad says he likes a girl so much more now that he's met her family.
Drink once every time one of the women says she likes Brad so much more now that he's met her family.
Drink once every time someone reminds us what a BIG STEP this is.
Drain your entire drink when:
A girl's dad threatens to kill/maim/physically harm Brad if Brad hurts his little baby.
The producers play crazy clown music to make someone's mom/dad/entire family seem like complete nutjobs.
Drink a fifth of bourbon and bang your head against the wall in frustration whenever Brad reminds us that he's a CHANGED MAN.
Note that I wrote this all before ever watching the episode. We'll see how my predictions stack up. This week: I dreamed up a sangria with white wine, pear, cucumber, and blood oranges that will very soon make its debut on the booze blog. So what do you do when you have an entire pitcher of sangria all to yourself? You drink it while watching the Bachelor. As one of my co-workers once said: wine drunk is the best drunk.
Brad wakes up New York. He's been thinking a lot, which is unusual for him. And he's wearing a beret, cuz he's got that newsie rally at 10 AM, and then the dance with the chimneysweeps at noon. But first! A review of all the women, in case you've never seen this show before and just felt like tuning in for the most boring episode of the season.
Chantel is fun but emotional.
Ashley is happy and bubbly but resents the fact that Brad has three other girlfriends.
Shawntel is fun and unassuming and Brad wants to take the next step with her. I guess she doesn't get a But.
Emily has a touchingly dramatic life story that she just sold to the Hallmark Channel. Brad's worried about meeting her daughter.
Thoughtful newsie Brad reminds us that he is SO MUCH MORE INVESTED this time than last time. Take that, Deanna! Aaand he's off to Seattle. Let the snoozefest begin. I will occasionally break the dates down into pros and cons. It'll be like we're INSIDE BRAD'S HEAD.
Con: Chantal does a running hug but no leg-wrap. FAIL.
Con: Traveling to Seattle leads Brad to make the questionable wardrobe choice of this quilted vest.
Pro: Chantel has her own house.
Con: It is three blocks from her parents' house.
Con: Chantel drinks Corona.
Con: and has a ridiculous tiny dog.
Pro: Chantel's cats meet Brad and are like, meh, which makes them the only actual good judges of character on this show.
Con: This is SO HUGE.
Pro: I just took a drink. And maybe a little nap.
You guys, Chantel's parents have a McMansion straight out of the Sound of Music. Dinnahtime. Brad's lost the vest, at least. Chantel's dad pours red wine from a carafe into a glass of WHITE WINE and these are DEFINITELY the people you want picking out your husband.
Dad and his DIY rosè take Chantel outside. Chantel has That Feeling about Brad. I have a feeling, too. Nausea's a feeling. Dad takes Brad outside. (Damn! I lose again.) Brad and Dad bond over how they are both self-made men.
Dad: My first job paid 25 cents an hour.
Brad: Oh yeah? Well my first job paid NOTHING. And to get there, I had to walk. Barefoot. In the snow. Uphill, both ways. And I sold my kidneys for bus fare.
Dad: Wait, didn't you say you walked?
Brad: I knew we had a lot in common.
Chantel talks to her mom. Chantel's mom and her overplucked eyebrows tell Chantel to Follow Her Heart. Dad takes Brad to some kind of wine cellar and bestows his dubious blessing.
Chantel loved Brad before and she loves him even more now that mom and dad are on board. Aka: foot off the brakes, full speed ahead to CRAZY.
Next up: Ashley's hometown of Medawashnughslabughsha, Maine. The tourism board bills it as the MOST NORTHEASTERN TOWN in the COUNTRY, which can only mean one thing: there is nothing better to say about this town. Ashley and Brad: running hug, but no leg wrap. You're killing me. Maybe they're saving it for the fantasy dates?
Con: Every single thing Ashley says is so saccharine I want to wash my mouth out with lemon juice.
Con: I miss Ashley S.
Pro: Brad could totally see himself living in Medawahnuughasha because he likes lifestyles that are slow and will accommodate his halting manner of speech.
Medawashnashuja is French-Canadian, and they have a special dish called "poutsin". Brad looks intimidated and the producers helpfully play the OMG SO WEIRD music, but then it comes and...it's cheese fries. With gravy. Which sounds kinda awesome, actually. Why did it take Canadians to think of this? Brad thinks his relationship with Ashley is GOOD, but it needs to be GREAT. Ugh.
Con: Ashley says "disconnected" a lot. Mostly in reference to Brad. Mostly after he makes out with other girls.
Pro: Ashley can't help saying "disconnected" because she is an Open Book. She just has to talk about her FEELINGS.
Con: Ashley and Brad have been wasting time reassuring each other about their Connection when they could have been eating CHEESE FRIES.
Dinnahtime! We're getting lobster cuz we're in MAINE!!! Lest you forget. On the way to mom and dad's, Ashley takes Brad to a roadside vegetable stand where you pay by dropping your money into a box, because people in small towns are BETTER THAN OTHER PEOPLE. Or, they have no time to man their vegetable stand because they are also the doctor and the high school drama coach and the entire police force.
At mom and dad's: Ashley is so cute! Her family is so cute! They are so happy! And so excited! To meet Brad!!! Squeeeeee! BRADDD!!!!
Ashley's sister Chrystie has some kind of serious tattoo. She can tell that Ashley is so proud and so happy and so excited about Brad and it is so so amazing. She thanks Brad, on behalf of the whole family, for choosing Ashley to be one of his top four wives. They look forward to dinner and her potential deflowering in South Africa.
Ashley's dad has a chat with Brad. Turns out Ashley is still in dental school. Verrry sneaky, producers. Shouldn't her profession be "aspiring dentist"? Ashley's brother asks her: if he would propose to you, right now, what would you say? Ashley says: there's still a lot to learn about Brad. I have a moment of warmth toward Ashley because this is like something a normal person would say.
Brad's suddenly worried that Ashley wouldn't want to accept a proposal since she has Goals and shit. Because no married women have careers. Holy crap, Brad. Ashley, blithely unaware of Brad's latent anti-feminism, thinks the hometown date has taken things to the Next Level and that she and Brad are Meant to Be. Aw, honey. I imbibe deeply. Ashley's mom invites Brad to sleep over, so maybe I should've said: drink twice every time parents on this show display seriously questionable judgment. Ashley's excited to see what the future holds.
In commercials: James Franco and Anne Hathaway are hosting the Oscars. I wish they were having BABIES together, because you just know their children would be so, so beautiful.
Also in commercials: An ad for Shawntel's family's funeral home! Because I guess abc.com thinks I live in California. And am dead.
In Chico: Shawntel works at a funeral home, you guys. Her life is all about death. (Deeeep.) Shawntel is cool with it, because she's cool. Brad cannot handle it. He plans to own bars forever and never die. His life ambitions include appearing on The Bachelor for the 72nd time when he is 500.
Brad says: it fascinates me that you embalm people. I think here "fascinates" means "scares the shit out of". Shawntel gets Brad to lay down on the embalming table and tells him, with a wicked gleam in her eye, how she would use some tools to drain out all his blood. Is it just me or does Shawntel kinda love freaking Brad out? I LOVE SHAWNTEL. Crazy music abounds. If I were sticking strictly to that whole "drain your whole drink every time they play the crazy music to make someone look insane" thing, I would've finished about 2.5 pitchers of sangria.
Family time! Dad takes Shawntel aside and there's a big ol' con: Shawntel is poised to take over the family business, which is distinctly...not in Austin, Texas. This whole "I lurve Brad" thing is kind of ruining the plan. Brad talks to mom for a while. He mixes her an underwhelming drink and then they talk about how much they both care for Shawntel. Blah blah blah. (Edited to add: Chris Harrison said, in his Chris Harrison blog, that Brad "tried to" make Shawntel's mom a mai tai. Teehee. Gotta love those little Chris Harrison digs.)
Whole family gathering: Brad is the mayor of awkwardsville. Dad sez: if it's meant to be, we want happiness for both of you. Meaning: stay away from my daughter. There are dead people waiting, and they ain't gonna embalm themselves.
Outside, without those pesky parents: Shawntel has gone from Falling in Love to officially In Love, a distinction only made on the Bachelor. Brad kisses her hand awkwardly. Shawntel hopes this is her future.
In Charlotte: Emily's daughter Ricki sees her and does the leg wrap. Does that count? Then along comes mommy's nice friend from television. Despite the teasers having led us to think for weeks that RICKI HATES BRAD, here is what actually happens: Ricki's a little shy at first:
But then Brad wins her over with a kite and a couple of games of Candyland.
Little Ricki's bedroom is about the same size as my entire house. Also, Emily really comes alive when she's with her daughter. Watching them together, I thought - this is the most natural Emily's been all season. I sort of feel bad for saying she was boring last week. Maybe she's only boring around Brad.
Little Ricki goes to bed in her palatial room and Brad and Emily are chillin downstairs. Emily wants Brad to kiss her. Brad has some kind of madonna/whore thing going on and respects Emily too much to kiss her in the vicinity of a child. Or some shit.
Emily: It's fine. (It's totally not fine.)
Brad: OMG you're not buying this! (Most perceptive he's been all season.)
Emily: Uh...this is bullshit. I got NEEDS. If this thing works out, there's always gonna be a child in the vicinity. And I got NEEDS.
Brad: Uh...I gotta go.
Emily walks Brad to the door. Tiny temptress Emily finally succeeds, right on the doorstep, and they finally kiss and it's real sweet. I am deeply moved. DAMN YOU SHOOOW.
Chris Harrison is alive, you guys! He and Brad have a little chit-chat at the Ganseevort Park Hotel in New York (product placement!) about all that has transpired. Brad recaps all the dates, as if we didn't just see them like, less than an hour ago, and we're shown little clips but they're all blurred and cloudy like HEY THIS IS THE PAST. I get it, ABC. Brad is one step closer to saying GOODBYE to one (of the women) and one step closer to saying HELLO to THE ONE. I hope the writer who coined this little gem finds some higher calling.
After commercial: Chris Harrison: This is Big! Big step! SO HUGE! I drink a million times. We pan across all the ladies. Shawntel is wearing black, which reminds us of DEAD PEOPLE. One of you, sez Chris, WILL BE GOING HOME. Look, ABC, if you need somebody to dress dapper and say obvious things...I'm available. Here's Brad: Following my heart, finding love, finding a wife, you're incredible, blah blah blah...but I signed a very lucrative contract that says I must propose to one, and only one, woman at the end of all these shenanigans. Let's not mince words. ON TO THE REJECTION.
ASHLEY. EMILY. (I love her dress this week. Btw.)
CH: Ladies, Brad...LAST ROSE TONIGHT.
Chris, I have not had a math class since senior year of high school (2001, but who's counting?), so I cannot COUNT TO TWO. Blessings.
The final rose is for...Chantel. Brad has to say the last initial, because he pronounces their names the same, which I'm pretty sure is wrong. This means my sweet, black-humored favorite is headed home. So sorry, Shawntel. Shawntel gets hugs from all the other women and then Brad walks her out.
Brad gives Shawntel his version of the most succinct, more irrefutable rejection letter ever: he just wasn't feeling it. As he says this, his hand lingers lovingly on her knee and I'm like, stop it, you asshole. Look, we know Brad's a douche. He's the Bachelor, right? But this one move makes him look jerky and stupid. You rejected her, right? The time for seduction is past.
Shawntel felt like Brad was So Perfect and she deserves to be with someone who is So Good. You do, honey, you do! Someone who is NOT BRAD. Look, Shawntel is gorgeous. Even if she does spend her whole day touching dead people...her ass looks great in that dress. I wish you the best, Shawntel.
Next week...Brad and the sister wives go to SOUTH AFRICA. It's the ultimate DREAM ROMANCE ADVENTURE FAIRY TALE LOVE STORY. OF ALL TIME. Are you ready for this? I know I am. I'll see you next week.