The Hometown Date episode: it’s everyone’s favorite—except for the premiere episode, the one with the fantasy suite, and the finale, that is.
First up: Nick and his ever-present, artfully-draped scarf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They go to a brewery, because Wisconsin, and sip an assortment of beers including one called “Nick & Andi.” No wonder alcohol is associated with an increased risk of vomiting. Next, it’s time to meet Nick’s family. Ten siblings and he still couldn’t figure out how to get along with others! But his little sister Bella sure is cute, especially when she’s sent to interrogate Andi with carefully recited lines, while Andi fumbles for kid-friendly answers. Finally, Nick has a heart-to-heart with his mom, and they both cry as they discuss Nick’s love for Andi.
Next: Arlington, Iowa, where Chris the farmer is waiting to greet Andi with open arms and one giant tractor. “Hottest farmer ever,” says Andi, like she really knows a wide array of farmers and can safely make such a conclusive assessment. The whole idea of urban, high-powered, professional Andi seriously considering making a home in Iowa is a joke, but a narrative that the show really wants us to believe in. “What would I do here for work?” Andi asks Chris. “There’s an opportunity here to be a homemaker,” jokes Chris—but is he really joking? They take a tractor ride and look gleeful (well, she is sitting on his lap) and then an airplane flies overhead with a banner that proudly declares: “Chris loves Andi.”
Chris introduces Andi to his family, and Chris’s mom—I now fully comprehend the meaning of the word homespun—steals the show with her straightforward country sass. “You need gumption to live on a farm, and you have it!” she tells Andi. “And you’d have such beautiful babies. I’ll baby-sit!” But this one is just silly: “There’s no limits for a woman on a farm nowadays.” There are limits for everyone on a farm, because it’s a farm. Still, Chris makes quite a lucrative living, and his sisters tell Andi how amazingly successful he is. The whole family gives off a really good vibe as they joke around with each other, and Andi loves it. “This is a great family,” she marvels to the camera.
On to Tampa, Florida, where Josh greets Andi with a friendly game of baseball. But really, Josh’s hometown date is defined by family and football, and his younger brother Aaron’s upcoming NFL draft fills about ten minutes of screen time. Josh quit baseball, apparently, to devote himself to helping Aaron succeed (an actual career is never mentioned). In fact, the whole family is determined for Aaron to succeed, and if I wasn’t a huge devotee of the best TV show ever, Friday Night Lights (sorry,Bachelorette!), I might find this family’s obsession with football a little weird. To the camera, Andi pretends to be annoyed at the prospect of watching Aaron play football every Sunday, but her face lights up when Josh’s dad asks her if she’d be willing to attend weekend games. “I’d love to!” she says earnestly. They all play a football game together outside, and it’s a little much already but gosh darn they do seem very affectionate with one another. I guess the family that punts together, stays together.
The final hometown date is Marcus’, in Dallas, Texas. Marcus takes Andi for a quick jaunt around town before stopping at an empty nightclub to reenact their first “date,” when the guys stripped for charity. For someone who claimed to be so shy before his first striptease, Marcus sure has grown surprisingly fond of the pastime. And Andi definitely loves it, though she does express some hesitancy about whether her feelings match the fervent emotions that Marcus declares. The seediness of this date is offset by the family portion of the evening, when Marcus introduces Andi to his mother and siblings. To match his striptease, Marcus lays his emotions bare too, tearfully thanking his brother for stepping up as a father figure.
Later, Chris Harrison gathers everyone at his own house to reveal some news. When the gang is assembled, he tells them about Eric Hill’s fatal accident. Andi breaks down; the guys sit there looking dumbfounded. After a moment of loud silence, Marcus has to go outside to collect himself, and Andi follows to comfort him. The whole thing is terribly sad, with shades of creepy voyeurism: I can’t shake the niggling feeling that the producers chose to air this segment because they knew it would pull viewers.
The following night is the rose ceremony, and after Andi takes a moment to collect herself at the beginning of the ritual, she chooses Josh, Chris, and Nick. Marcus looks stunned, and I don’t blame him: he seemed like a sure thing, at least from the way the show was edited. Andi leads him outside and cries, lamenting that she couldn’t keep him there knowing her feelings didn’t match his. Darn. I liked him, and looking at him.
Next week: the fantasy suite. Stay tuned for tasteful shots of rose petals on bedspreads, champagne on ice, and lights being turned off.
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Image: Matthew Putney/ABC