Jeff Daly / ABC

The Bachelor Breaks Out The Cheese Guns

The hometown dates fill Nick's calendar with fun activities like mudding, shopping, and church!

Let the stretching begin! Guys, we're only on episode EIGHT of this season, and there's already only four ladies left, one of whom is Rachel. And we all know that Rachel is the next Bachelorette, so she's probably going home tonight. Although I said that last week, and here we are with Lame Duck Rachel still hanging around. That means after tonight's episode, which according to the episode description on my TV includes the hometown fates, there are still FIVE MORE EPISODES. How can that even be possible? It's probably best if we all brace ourselves for a bunch of episodes where almost nothing happens. Unless the producers start bringing in fresh ladies to be sacrificed at the altar of indecision that is Nick. Ugh, he's the worst. And anyone who doesn't think he's the worst is on the wrong side of history. Period.

Down To Four

You might think the most overused sound effect on The Bachelor would be the sound of a zipper being unzipped, but this is not the case. The most overused sound effect is thunder. And when you hear thunder, you know a storm is brewing. Not literally, guys. But figuratively. A figurative storm, like of emotions and whatnot. Look, it's some pretty highbrow shit the producers and their editors are employing, so don't feel dumb if you don't get it.

"I wasn't expecting any more surprises this week," Vanessa says, referring to last week's summary dismissal of the Russian Spy. "Now I don't know where his heart is at with the rest of us." All of the other remaining four ladies spin in a similar fashion about what this all means. Could Nick possibly be sending another one of them home today? Like right now? In the same way he got rid of that Russian Spy? It's a false flag of course, as we all knew it would be. Nick returns with four roses. He gives them to the ladies, who all accept them happily.

"Nick shocks us…again," Vanessa says. It honestly blows my mind that anyone anywhere would view Nick as unpredictable. All you have to do to figure out what he might do next is ask yourself, "What would a turd do?" See? Simple.

After successfully avoiding another Rose Ceremony, Nick walks away from their room as if he's holding an uncooked egg between his butt cheeks. Has he always walked like this? Wait. More importantly, has he always had an uncooked egg between his butt cheeks? And why does he have an egg there? You know what? Never mind. I don't want to know.

Raven's Hometown Mudding

In Hoxie, Arkansas, Raven drives up to Nick on a quad-runner. As Raven puts it, "To have fun in Hoxie, you go mudding, you go frog-gigging, you climb the grain bins." Okay. Hang on a second. When we first met Raven, she said the three things you do for fun in Hoxie were: going mudding, shooting guns, and reading your Bible. Something about her experience on The Bachelor has made Raven forsake both God and guns. Can't say I blame her.

To fulfill the second part of the (New, Adjusted) Hoxie Fun Triumvirate, Raven takes Nick up to the top of a grain bin, where they will tell the bin some secrets or something? Maybe they'll make out on the hot corrugated steel of the roof of the bin? Tough to figure out what the ordinary activity is supposed to be. And we don't get to find out because the Hoxie police pull up to put the kibosh on the whole thing. Such a surprise! It will be even more of a surprise when we find out the cop(s) are longtime friends of Raven's, I'm sure.

"What are you all doin' on the grain bin?" says the cop who was driving the cruiser. He hassles them a bit, asking them for ID, which neither has for some reason. And then he reveals that he's Raven's brother. This is a complete shock given the awkward fakery of the moment. The award for best acting in this scene definitely goes to Raven's brother, who did a great job playing a cop. Probably because that's his real job.

Nick pretends to have fallen for this prank of Raven's. "She got me good," says Nick, because he is an idiot. I'm sorry. That's not fair to Nick. I know that he already knew they were planning to have Raven's brother show up, that the producers likely briefed him on that. So he's not an idiot for not figuring out they weren't actually in peril. He's an idiot for many other reasons, though. So I guess I'll let the comment stand.

Then Raven takes Nick mudding, the second Hoxie Fun Thing. They drive their ATVs through a water-logged field. They get wet and dirty. Then they stop and Raven strips off Nick's shirt. He doesn't return the favor, though. They chase each other and lie down in the soggy field. They kiss in the certainly unpleasant-smelling water of the field. "I've never dated an amazing man like Nick," Raven says. To which I add: Hoxie has a population of 2,780.

If you're curious why Raven doesn't take Nick frog-gigging, and thus complete the Hoxie Fun Hat Trick, you might take a moment to Google "frog-gigging." I'll wait. Done? Good stuff, right? Yes, there are plenty of odd activities that masquerade as romantic adventures on this show, but I'm not certain stabbing frogs with tiny pitchforks would qualify. I mean, it's metaphorically right on message, but still probably not Bachelor-worthy.

On the way to her folks' house, Raven reiterates her dad's cancer story, setting the stage for her mom to break the good news that while Raven's been gone, her dad got the good news that he's now cancer-free. Raven says having Nick there for the news made the moment more special for her, which seems weird to me. Not frog-giggin' weird, but close.

Okay, I'm not a monster. I am not without human feelings. And Raven's dad is pretty adorable. And him and Raven shedding tears and hugging and just generally being happy is very sweet. It's just too bad that it's a moment surrounded by everything else on this garbage show. Raven's mom is pretty sweet too. Both she and Raven's dad fully trust Raven's judgment and support her completely.

"I was worried that he was going to be kind of arrogant," Raven says about Nick to her mom. "That's what I thought," her mom says. But they were both surprised he wasn't. "I'm gonna be probably real frank," Raven's dad says to Nick. "I didn't expect to like ya. But you're a very likeable guy." It's at this point in the episode that my wife and I come to the conclusion that her dad resembles a bee-stung David Cross.

The visit goes well, and before Nick leaves, Raven tells Nick, "It gave me some reassurance and hope that something really special could come out of us." That's a bit of gross statement. Not sure what "special thing" could "come out" of the two of them, and whether it would be a solid, a liquid, or a gas. This is another time I'm pretty certain I don't want to know the answer. Raven tries to work herself up to telling Nick she loves him, but she chickens out, a decision she regrets deeply as she watches Nick drive off.

Rachel's Racials

Next up is Rachel's hometown visit. Since we all know Rachel's future, we know that something's gonna go sour down in Texas. It's just a matter of what exactly, and when. "My chemistry with Rachel is probably the most explosive chemistry I have with any of the women," Nick says, admitting his difficulties with nerve-induced diarrhea, I'm assuming.

"I want to show Nick my version of Dallas," Rachel says. "Nick better get his rhythm together. He'd better be ready to snap, clap, stomp." She takes Nick to church. Ha ha. Oh, man. This is the thing that sends her packing, right? Has to be. As Rachel wonders whether Nick can be comfortable in a predominantly black church, we see Nick standing with her, barely clapping, and looking around nervously, a forced smile on his dumb face. I guess the answer is: super-comfortable. "I've never felt as close to Rachel as I do in this moment," Nick lies in a confessional moment. Then he tells Rachel, "I'm very comfortable in a place of worship." To which she says, "You were great. You were great."

Before they head to meet her family, Rachel informs Nick that her dad won't be there because of work obligations. Mmm hmm. Work obligations like being a part of this shitshow just doesn't "work" for him? That kind of "work obligation"? Got it. Rachel sets the tone of the family visit by mentioning that Nick has never seriously dated a black girl, and she has never seriously dated a white guy. Their first stop as a couple is to chat with Rachel's older sister Constance and her husband, who is also white. They ask him if he's ever dated a black woman. Rachel's mom asks him that as well.

What's interesting is that Nick actually does well on this hometown date, so it's fascinating that this relationship doesn't work out. I was expecting to watch this unfold, waiting for the trigger moment that destroys it all. But that never came. "I hate to use the word perfect, but today was perfect," Rachel says at the end of their date. Oh, but Past Version Of Rachel, it wasn't perfect. I'm sorry to tell you that despite how great the date went, despite how "fun" it was to go to church, Nick will give you the boot. But then you'll be offered the chance to become The Bachelorette and you should definitely turn that shit down. Do NOT say yes to that. Under any circumstances.

Oh, crap. Why didn't Past Rachel listen.

Miami Nice

We see Corinne primping in front of a mirror that bears the inscription, "Who is the most beautiful?" It's a tossup whether that's a thing the producers found for her to do, or something Corinne actually has in her house. Corinne greets Nick in the traditional way -- wrapping her arms and legs around Nick like a Ridley Scott alien attaching itself to the face of its new egg-host.

"I enjoy the finer things in life," Corinne says. "Shopping and me go hand in hand. I mean, we're like white on rice." So, for her date with Nick, Corinne takes Nick shopping at one of the most exclusive malls in Miami. "Every time Corinne walks into a store, it's like Christmas morning to the people who are working in the store," Nick says. "I think that's a good thing?"

Corinne and Nick have a very Pretty Woman date, complete with a montage of trying on different outfits. Only this time it's the older man who gets bought things by the woman twelve years his junior. Nick should totally feel cool about this. "I always thought I had expensive taste," Nick says. "But then I met Corinne."

Watching this shopping excursion is excruciating. It's gross how happy Corinne is to show off how much she can spend. She gives out shopping advice to everyone watching, which is also not adorable. Because it's not advice anyone with a regular amount of money could ever follow. And of course there's all the footage of Nick preening about in the clothes she picks out for him.

"Nick was a little shocked at how much everything was. I wasn't," Corinne says of the over three grand she spent on him. As they walk away from the store, Nick tells her that he has hives, because he's normally a bargain shopper. Okay, so which is it, Nick? Do you have expensive tastes or are you a bargain shopper? You can't be both. Corinne tells Nick she loves him. Which seems redundant. I mean, isn't buying him three grand worth of dumb Miami clothes basically the same thing? "I do know how to treat a man," she says.

Over lunch, Corinne decides to say the words "I love you" to Nick. "I hope my family will love Nick as much as I do," Corinne says as they leave the restaurant. Oh, I'm sure they will, Corinne. That is to say, they'll fake an affection for him probably about as well as you have.

Nick meets Corinne's dad, mom, little sister, and nanny Raquel, of course. It's totally not awkward that Raquel is there also. Stop feeling embarrassed for everyone involved. It's totally cool. But look carefully as Raquel serves them all their food, and for a hot second you can catch Nick looking right at the camera. It's just a flash. But pause it and look right into Nick's dumb eyes. He knows it's weird. The whole family toasts with an olive, because the family is Greek. They're special marinated olives that Corinne's dad made, I guess. It's super-obvious that Nick did not like the olive. He takes forever to chew and swallow it before declaring that it's maybe the best olive he's ever had. Not convincing, Nick.

Corinne's dad pulls Corinne aside and they both hop onto her bed and lie on their sides facing each other, with their legs pulled up, just like two girlfriends. It's NOT WEIRD. One of the pillows between them is a fuchsia pillow embroidered with "shoes, handbags, jewelry." When talking to her dad, Corinne still talks about herself in the third person. "I see a person who cares about Corinne," she says. While this conversation is going on, Nick chats with Raquel. I wish I could tell you what they discuss, but I can't because I died from embarrassment right at the beginning of it.

When they cut back to Corinne and her dad lounging together on the bed with their wines, I'll admit, I'm a little disappointed they weren't making out. They both scratch their heads about what Nick will do for money after this show is over. It's a very good question. "He used to sell software?" Corinne says. They both shrug, then have a conversation that's basically, "Okay, so given that YOU will be the breadwinner…"

When Corinne's dad gets a chance to talk to Nick, he passes on to Nick that Corinne said she would totally be okay with being the breadwinner. Nick says it means a lot to him to hear that she said that. I would think that it would be an uncomfortable thing to hear from Corinne's dad. Like, "Hey, I know you won't be the main breadwinner." Feels like a possibly emasculating moment, but Nick rolls with it. Perhaps because he likes the feeling of being emasculated? Who knows what goes on in that dumb brain of his.

Phillippe Bosse / ABC

Phillippe Bosse / ABC

Oh Canada, Eh?

Speaking of emasculating, let's talk about the umbrella the producers give Nick for his Montreal trip, a clear dome umbrella. Sure, I guess it's cute that it matches Vanessa's umbrella, but couldn't they find something less masculine for him? Like a Rainbow Brite umbrella or something with ladybugs on it? As a contrast, Vanessa is wearing the Travelin' Vest, from the Conan The Barbarian collection. Not that it looks masculine on her. It doesn't. It just looks…well…like something Conan would proudly wear.

Vanessa takes Nick to meet her students first. Nick couldn't look more uncomfortable or bored. They work with her students to make a scrapbook of Nick and Vanessa's time on the show. Then it's time for Vanessa to take Nick to see her mom's side of the family. She hasn't taken anyone home to meet the family since some devastating breakup three years ago. So this is going to be a big deal. Also, there will be fifteen people at this meal. Siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends. It's a lot of people in a small space. It seems like it's going great right at the start, until Vanessa's aunt asks a very reasonable question: "Have you guys talked about where you might live after?" And when that room of people finds out that, as a couple, they really haven't discussed that, it flabbergasts them all. Then comes the parade of people worried about Vanessa, and afraid she'll get hurt.

Out of all of the hometown dates, this is the first one where Nick really looks like he wants to get the fuck out of there. He talks about how it's a little tense, whereas the other three women's families seemed pretty open and joyful to meet Nick. Vanessa's family are kind of a downer by contrast. Vanessa's older sister tears up as she says she's scared for Vanessa. "I'm just really scared for her," she says. "I'll hate you if you break her heart. I really will." And that makes Nick cry. And then Vanessa's brother has a tearful conversation with Vanessa. Man, this family's got a LOT of tears to spare.

That said, they're probably the most realistic of the four families. Of course, here's the rub with this show. These types of conversations are what happen between two people in a relationship. But they're kind of a bummer. And this show isn't about how love can sometimes be a bummer. This show is about how love IS ALWAYS HELICOPTERS AND MUDDING AND SHOPPING SPREES AND JUMPING INTO THE WARM WATERS OF A TROPICAL ISLAND. Always. That's what it always is, or it doesn't qualify as love. So I'm afraid Nick's gonna dump Vanessa, because her family made him think about the hard questions, instead of just reinforcing the fakery of the show.

But wait…we still have to meet Vanessa's dad. The downer that is Vanessa's hometown visit continues with a subdued visit to Vanessa's dad's place. Nick sort of asks Vanessa's dad for his blessing, should the two of them decide to get engaged. Vanessa's dad doesn't play this game. He's like, I can't give you my blessing under these circumstances. He asks if Nick asked the other three women's fathers for their blessing as well. Nick gives a wishy-washy answer. Because the real answer is no. He didn't. But also this is a part of the show that's basically bullshit, this patriarchal tradition or whatever. It's either silly or gross, but it's definitely not anything in between.

Vanessa finds out from her dad that Nick asked the other women's families for their blessings -- which he didn't -- and he shares that Nick said yes he did. And this lands with the force of a cold slap on Vanessa's heart. This is a game-changer for her. Why if you think about it, him asking EVERY woman's dad for a blessing -- something that definitely did NOT happen -- really cheapens the fact that he asked her dad for a blessing. Indeed it does, Vanessa. But, I should point out that THIS HAPPENS ON EVERY ITERATION OF THIS FUCKING SHOW. The Bachelor always asks every family for their blessing. How is something like this news to you, Vanessa? This is like being upset to find out that Nick is dating you while also dating other women on this dating show. We're in Season 21. None of this information is new. It should not shock you.

A Moment Of Reflection

Nick retires to a penthouse in New York City to drink coffee and sort through his various feelings. Or his one feeling. Or to Google "feelings" and find out how he should be reacting. Each of the four women also come to New York for the Rose Ceremony, which will obviously NOT take place this week, since the second hour is almost up. But whatever with that, the women all face their doubts about what was said, what went unsaid, and how they all feel.

"I told Nick that I loved him," Corinne says. Then she says four statements in a row that sound like a multiple-choice quiz where you pick the statement that doesn't fit. "We laughed, we kissed, we giggled. I bought him a really nice outfit."

But before Nick leaves for the Rose Ceremony, the "mystery woman" promised at the end of last episode shows up. And it's Andi. Oh my god! Who could have predicted that she would show up with such IMPORTANT TIMING? Except everyone. This show, of all the reality shows out there, does the worst job hiding the string-pulling of the people behind the scenes. We immediately go to a TO BE CONTINUED… But I can guarantee that the meeting with Andi next week will be an anti-climax, just like everything that happens with Nick.

Bonus Scene

Vanessa gives Nick an Italian-to-English phrase dictionary. Then she tries to teach him a few helpful phrases. Which Nick's marble mouth cannot recreate, because his mouth is totally broken.

Verdict

Are you fucking kidding me that Rachel hasn't been sent home yet? Come on, man. We've known she's the next Bachelorette for two episodes now. It kind of spoils the fun when she's still here. Ugh, now I'm afraid she'll be on this show till the bitter end. Oh well, it was still an entertaining episode. But I'm getting pretty sick of Nick's dumb face. Gonna be a tough slog to make it to the end.

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