It’s the most wonderful time of the yearrrrrr! And, no, I’m not referring to those unhinged enough to already be dousing their homes in holiday cheer. I’m talking about the most wonderful time of The Bachelor year: Hometowns. It’s a pivotal time in the men’s relationship with Michelle, a time when she can look around at her four remaining boyfriends and judge for herself who is ready for marriage and who is still letting mommy cut his meat for him. Fun for the whole family, really!
Last week, Michelle whittled her men down to four: Brandon, Nayte, Joe, and Rodney. I had high hopes that this season might allow for Hometowns to exist again in places like a home or a town, but alas, for the fifth season in a row we’re going to be watching families interact in a sea of beige conference rooms. Boooooo.
I cannot emphasize this enough: the Bachelorette needs proper Hometown dates if she’s going to make an educated decision about her future. The Bachelor? Not so much. He just needs to see which of his girlfriends has the best-aging mom and the least psychotic brothers and he’s good to go. But the Bachelorette? This date is crucial to seeing how the sausage gets made. Literally. And without a childhood home to fact-check if she’s been dating an actual human being and not just a pile of loose-leaf garbage masquerading as a human being, that likelihood gets slimmer and slimmer. I mean, how else is she supposed to find out which of these guys still masturbates to their high school yearbook quote if we don’t get a decent look at the house that built them? Hmm? How?!
Speaking of Hometowns, Brandon’s is up first. We’re told he is allowed to bring his mother, father, and brother into the hostage situation. I say “hostage situation” because I’m not convinced Brandon’s family came of their own free will. My god, in order for the brother to be able to attend this sad little event he had to delay going into the Navy. The Navy! Imagine telling the Navy that you’re too busy to report for duty, you’ve got to support your brother on The Bachelorette. He’s either set himself up for a lifetime of mockery or his presence on my TV isn’t of his own volition. Watch his hands, people. See if his fingers start quietly tapping out Morse code for “help me.”
Before Michelle gets to meet the family, Brandon takes her to a place that feels like home to him: the skate park. Okay, how old is this guy? Aren’t skate parks for, like, the shitty kid you babysit and guys in their 20s who think living in a van is a personality trait?
I think my problem with Brandon, and what makes it impossible to root for him, is that he looks too fresh-faced to be taken seriously. He’s got poreless skin, good intentions, and a positive outlook on life. That would exhaust me. In fact, I know I would look absolutely haggard standing next to him at all times.
MY COMPLEXION DATING BRANDON:
When we finally meet Brandon’s family they are just as poreless and good-intentioned as their offspring. The star of the show, though, is not Brandon or even his parents—the people who instilled Disney Channel-level ethics into him—but his brother. I just can’t stop thinking about the fact that his existence on my television screen came about because he told the US freaking Navy that his start date wasn’t sitting right with his energy. And what a lewk he has about him! Like, are we sure he’s in the armed forces? Or does he just have a TikTok account that references the US Navy in its handle? I’m gonna need some clarification here.
Right off the bat, the brother grabs Michelle to “talk.” It’s less of a civilized conversation and more of a verbal assault of questions. He wants to know why Brandon is different than the other guys she’s dating and I do hope she mentions Brandon’s willingness to be semi-erect whilst wearing her father’s intimates. If that’s not a complete display of devotion, I don’t know what is.
As the brother keeps relentlessly quizzing Michelle, I just keep thinking about all the questions I have for him. Like, how long are you allowed to ghost something like the Navy? Do you already get a demerit for ditching basic training to participate in the saddest part of humanity, reality television? And will you be able to wear that chain during basic training? These are the things that keep me up at night.
Brandon’s dad also seems like a fun guy. He certainly seems to have more chemistry with Michelle than his son does. They’re both talking about drinking beers and Sunday Funday and I’m like, okay, should we get these two a room?? I mean the tension is practically palpable.
Overall, Brandon’s family has a good showing. It’s really too bad that she’ll likely dump them all for someone taller and with more commitment issues. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, kids!
You poor, stupid fool.
Joe is the only guy actually able to bring Michelle to his hometown as he’s the only one actually from Minneapolis. It almost feels like production withheld normal Hometowns not for safety reasons, but so that this front-runner could have a clear home court advantage…
Whatever the case is, Joe needs all the help he can get. Instead of taking Michelle someplace special, he takes her on a tour of his old high school. WHY?? Not only is this an essential regifting of Michelle’s date idea from last week, but what is attractive about a high school exactly? Is it the stench of disinfectant and Axe body spray? Or the irrational fear that a 15-year-old in Uggs might verbally assault you if you even cross the threshold? Hmm?
The date gets even worse when he plans a two-person prom in the school’s gym that has all of the creative vision of a Party City clearance section. This is an absolute no from me. If a guy led me into an abandoned high school and surprised me with this manifestation of my nightmares, I would not only suspect the date to end in a Josie Grossie moment that involved me at the receiving end of an egging, but also, possibly, an untimely death. I’m telling you, nothing good can come of a prom!
ME TO MY DOG: Mark my words, something wicked this way comes…
Despite the foreboding energy of this date (read: me screaming “the call is coming from inside of the house!!” and other melodramatic horror movie warnings as Michelle has a perfectly normal time), Michelle eats it up. I can tell that the idea of Joe manifests from some sort of high school wet dream that she’s been harboring for the last 15 years. It’s the only explanation, really, for how attached she is to him. I mean the man takes the trope of “strong and silent” to an unheard of level. Seriously, I cannot hear him at all. He never speaks. (Why won’t you speak?!)
It’s only after we meet his family that I understand exactly where Joe gets his quiet demeanor from. Michelle meets his mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law and, in that meeting, it becomes abundantly clear that the men in the family use mumbled single-syllable words and strategic eye glances as their primary mode of communication.
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The real star of the family is the brother’s wife. She is milking this experience for all it’s worth. I don’t think her husband, you know, the guy WHO’S BLOOD RELATED TO THE REASON WHY THEY’RE ALL THERE, has said more than two words all evening. Meanwhile the wife is like, “I don’t want to have to see her in the grocery store if this doesn’t work out.” Forget the rest of the guys, can we get a hometown date with the wife? I would watch two hours of Michelle trailing behind her in a grocery store, watching her passive-aggressively terrorize her enemies in the produce aisle. This is the content the people want!
Nayte is definitely the date production wants to hype as the shit show. There’s always one. One family that is so aggressively embarrassed to be on this franchise that they would launch verbal nuclear bombs at the family meet-and-greet so as to sabotage any chance of their offspring embarrassing them further by actually, like, legally binding themselves to someone who supports this marital farce masquerading as a show. Nayte’s family is not that. Seriously, if these are the biggest, baddest monsters production could dig up, no one is getting that Christmas bonus this year.
The worst that can be said about Nayte’s family is that they seem hesitant about his relationship with Michelle. Mostly because he’s never introduced a girl to them before. And they aren’t even dramatic about their hesitancy! They’re very calm, cool, and collected about it all.
MICHELLE: Do you think Nayte is ready for marriage?
THE STEP DAD:
Production would also like us to feel weird about the fact that Nayte doesn’t talk about his emotions with his parents, but sorry! I don’t think that’s weird. Who talks honestly and openly to their family about topics that aren’t what we want for dinner? I mean, my family expresses themselves entirely in movie quotes and passive-aggressive requests. In fact, if someone even discusses something remotely intimate, at least one of us makes an excuse about needing something from the fridge so that we can leave the room. What is weird about that?
My favorite is when Nayte gets emotional and tells his stepdad that he loves him for the first time and we’re all supposed to clap and feel things about this. If it took him this long to say “I love you” to a man who has been an emotional constant for almost the entirety of his life, I hate to see what that timeline looks like for Michelle. Perhaps he’ll be ready to drop the “L word” when their first born goes off to college!
You can tell ABC is desperately trying to sow the seeds of discord by using Nayte’s small amount of Hometown family drama to emphasize that Nayte isn’t ready for marriage and that Michelle won’t know who to pick at the rose ceremony. To that I say, no shit, he isn’t ready for marriage. But who cares! Commitment issues are female kryptonite. We’ve been conditioned from a young age to “fix” men, so OF COURSE his failure to drop the L word is getting her hot. Intimacy issues are better than foreplay. At the very least, she would like to see how this energy translates in the fantasy suites. Let the girl live!
Finally, let’s talk about Rodney. I, personally, am very interested to see the kind of stock he hails from. It would not surprise me, for example, to learn that Rodney is actually related to the Charmin Ultra Soft bears. He’s just got that kind of vibe about him.
RODNEY’S FAMILY, PROBABLY:
Look, let me say this. Rodeny is a cinnamon roll of a human, but you also don’t want to fuck a cinnamon roll. I’m getting big friend energy between the two of them, and it’s making me uneasy. I’m having the conflicting urge of both desperately wanting to meet the Charmin bears who raised this sweet specimen of a human and desperately not wanting Michelle to meet them at all, lest she crumble their son like a snickerdoodle cookie.
My initial suspicions about Rodney’s family are proven correct. No, they aren’t Charmin bears. Yes, they’re actual human beings (or at the very least, full-grown marshmallows wearing human skin suits). His family seems so fucking tender I might actually have to look away from my screen. They are way too sweet.
Knowing that his family is cute as shit does nothing to ease my dread. Michelle did say earlier in their date that Rodney is “definitely my best friend” which is how I know for sure that he’s going home this week. Look at the way they even describe their relationship to his parents:
RODNEY: She makes me happy. She’s perfect, she’s beautiful, she’s the future mother of my children.
MICHELLE: Yeah… it’s been fun.
It’s been fun?! I’ve seen more heartfelt emotion in my yearbook from a high school acquaintance’s half scribbled “HAGS.”
In the end, no amount of family cuteness can save Rodney’s fate. Michelle sends him home with a smile and a promise to stay pen pals (as all summer friendships end). Until next week, betches!
Images: Craig Sjodin / ABC; Giphy (2); @tvgoldtweets /Instagram (1)