Chris and Lauren, thank you SO much for the Venmo motivation $$! Look, this is posted at lunchtime the day after the episode!! YOU DID IT!

Eric– BALTIMORE, MD

As the Hometowns episode opened with a wide shot of downtown Baltimore, my husband perked up. He lived there as a toddler, then again during grad school. Interestingly, both stages of his life involved a lot of stumbling down the streets of Baltimore in need of someone to stabilize him.

I don’t think Eric and my husband ran in the same crowd, which is a slight relief, but also a reminder that a giant gap in resources can exist within just a few blocks. I’ve been to the rough area(s) of Baltimore– that time people threw rocks at my car. It’s pretty intense. This Hometown really highlighted a part of our country not normally unveiled on glitzy reality television, and for that, I applaud producers for diving in. A far cry from all the mansions we usually see during these family visits.

Rachel tries to jump and straddle Eric as they greet, but her jeans are too tight. She should’ve asked where JoJo shops.

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Eric has become more and more likable as the season progresses, especially as we learn how inspiring he is. He doesn’t come from a home full of strong parental examples, but instead watched his father, uncle, etc. face prison time for selling drugs on the streets. His mother is stoic, and admits that she never showed him much attention. Instead of following the path set before him, he got straight As in school, and chose to keep a positive outlook on the world– all the while never harboring bitterness toward his family for depriving him of basic needs and structure. His love for them is obvious, and such an incredible example of personal responsibility and selflessness.

After some one-on-one basketball in the court holding memories of Eric’s adolescence, he brings her to meet his family– a family that very clearly loves each other despite the dysfunction. The even all know the signature Eric Dance! Like, they’re REALLY good at it.

eric dance

I hope Dean’s dad (we’ll get to that soon) watched this part of the episode, because Eric’s father apologizing to him for dragging him through his struggles in life is exactly what Dean was looking for. Just a genuine apology made out of love and humility. It was really beautiful.

The shining star of Eric’s family is Verna, his aunt/twin. His mother looks nothing like him, but Aunt Verna is his female equivalent. Not to add more complications to this family, but…have they ever thought that perhaps there was a baby mix up? Does he have a cousin the same age? If so, just as a friendly suggestion, I’d recommend a maternity test.

Verna straight up asks Rachel how she’s handling being the first black Bachelorette, strictly from a place of genuine concern. It was really sweet. Obviously, Verna’s #1 concern was Eric’s happiness, but the fact that she cared about Rachel’s wellbeing through this whole process shows where Eric gets his selfless mindset.

At the end of the night, Eric tells Rachel he loves her in the “I care about you” way. So close, yet so far.

Bryan– MIAMI, FL

Rachel’s jump and straddle is more successful this time around, which was both a disappointment and a relief.

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She calls Bryan “baby” because she DGAF about letting everyone know that he’s going to win.

After they unwillingly drag their faces apart, Bryan tells her that he’s taking her to the “real Miami,” where people exclusively speak Spanish while playing Dominos. It doesn’t matter how lame this activity might be, because Rachel is just happy to be around her future husband. After Dominos, Bryan takes her salsa dancing…the man can dance. No surprises there. Rachel does her best but accidentally head-butts him while doing a turn, which is the moment I felt the most connected to her this entire season.

Bryan gives a friendly reminder that his mom is crazyyyy, but nothing can prepare us for Olga. Except perhaps this reflection on JoJo’s mother:

jojo mom

Mama Olga greets Bryan with a huge hug, and he has to remind her to greet Rachel, too. Olga looks fab in her yellow top and bouncy caramel lob. She gathers the whole family in the living room for a toast, where she immediately starts crying as she raises her glass to “the most precious thing I have in my life.” Yessss, here. we. go.

As soon as she whimpers out her toast to her one-and-only son, Olga chugs her ENTIRE drink before asking baby boy for some alone time. I so desperately want to put her and JoJo’s mom in the same room and just see what happens.

Olga tells Bryan that she is skeptical because he has met SO MANY WOMEN (okay, ma) and none were “the one,” and now he falls in love with the one girl on a TV show? Seems fishy.

Keep it real, Olga. Keep it real.

Bryan tells Mom that it’s destiny, and that Rachel is definitely “the one.” Olga’s response was to remind him that no matter how much he loves her, she’s not as important as Mother because Mother is BLOOD.

Gulp.

I get really nervous for Rachel as she sits down with Mama Bear. Olga’s opening line is “Bryan is my life.” I do not know how Rachel kept a straight face. This lady is so intense. After a bit of standard conversation, Olga closes things with “If Bryan is happy, I’m happy. If he’s not, I’LL KILL YOU.”

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I am so happy to report that that is a DIRECT quote.

In the end, Olga tells the camera that she can tell Rachel has a kind heart, so it was a pleasure to meet her. Phew! Nice work, Rach!

As they say goodbye, Bryan tells Rachel that he’s in love with her. He says it like he means it, and Rachel’s body language responds with a resounding “me too.”

Peter– MADISON, WI.

Peter somehow gets even hotter with Wisconsin as his backdrop. Perhaps because he’s most likely the hottest person in the entire state. #sorrynotsorry, Nick.

They happen to wear matching grey tops and jeans, but honestly Peter wore it better. He takes Rachel to his favorite restaurant, where two of his couple friends meet them for a drink. Both couples are biracial.

THANK YOU to Peter’s black friends for making the “black friend card” joke that we were all thinking. That really took the elephant out of the room, and we were able to accept the fact that their friendship goes far beyond proving to Rachel that he’s down with chocolate.

peter friends

Peter’s friends approve, and tell him to stop overthinking things. He’s afraid to propose at the end of this, but his buddies drank that Rachel Magic, so they’re all about Peter locking it down.

For a guy who’s not sure if he’s ready for marriage, Peter sure does a number on Rachel’s ovaries. When she meets his family, it includes his niece, who he holds on his lap in a way that screams “look what a great dad I’ll be.” Rachel can hardly keep her legs together.

peter niece

Peter’s mom tells Rachel that Peter is ready for commitment, but that might not include a ring. Rachel is not down with this assessment. She doesn’t want a boyfriend. She wants a husband and 4 kids.

This was a speedy Hometown because we needed to save as much time as possible for the chaos that is Dean’s family. Thus, we find ourselves watching Peter and Rachel part ways before we even got a solid opportunity to break down the complexities of Peter’s mother’s haircut. Peter tells Rachel that “he’s very happy.” Not the L word moment she was hoping for, but she also doesn’t really care at this point since she already knows who she will choose.

Dean– ASPEN, CO

Dean takes Rachel four-wheeling, because he wisely wanted to pack in as much levity as possible before bringing Rachel to meet his father, a recent yogi-convert who renamed himself Param Rup, or “Divinely Beautiful.” I mean, if you’re going to rename yourself at the age of 65, it might as well be Divinely Beautiful.

Dean tells Rachel that this is the first time his family will be under the same roof in 8 years, and that he’s genuinely terrified. Not nervous. TERRIFIED. She encourages him to be open with his father about feeling abandoned after his mother died. He doesn’t look willing, but we all know producers will get him there.

When they enter his father’s home, they find everyone sitting in a circle on the floor. Param Rup is wearing a purple turban and matching yogi outfit. Don’t think Lulu Lemon. Think Aladdin. His white beard extends to his chest, and he speaks with a slight accent that I’m 95% sure didn’t exist before his conversion.

Dean’s siblings look pretty traditional, so I hope that gives him some comfort as he soaks in his family all in one place. Honestly, my heart really breaks for him as his father instructs them all to lay on the ground and listen to him play the gong. On his face, you can tell that all he wants in the world is a “normal” family…not one that takes eccentricity to a new level on national TV. Luckily, Rachel is really supportive, and does all she can to ease his discomfort.

dean dad 3

After some gong meditation, and a genuinely sweet presentation of feathers in remembrance of Dean’s mother, Parum Rup and his wife serve up a humble quinoa and veggie dinner in bowls that they enjoy while sitting on pillows. Dean tells Dad that he already ate. Let the tension begin.

First, Rachel has one-on-one time with Dean’s sister, who confirms that Dean’s dad pretty much abandoned Dean after their mother died. She gets very emotional as she describes Dean’s strength, and how he inspires her. Rachel cries, I cry, we all cry.

Inside, Dean is finally confronting his father about the 10 years of pent up bitterness. You can tell it takes every fiber of bravery in Dean’s being to make this conversation happen. He tells his dad that he felt abandoned after his mother died. Dad says that his world fell apart when his first wife died, and that all he knew how to do was make money for the family. He didn’t know how to support Dean. No apology, just facts.

dean dad 2

Of course, a huge part of me felt for Parum Rup. The man clearly loved his late wife, and he hadn’t had the strength to be there for his 15-year-old son. However, all I wanted– and all Dean wanted– was an apology for that shortcoming. Just to say, “I’m sorry, son, that I wasn’t able to be there for you.” Instead, Parum Rup gets increasingly angry as Dean continues to express why he’s still upset with his father. He says to Dean that “you still have one foot in the past.”

Uh, I don’t think dealing with your mother’s death and subsequent retreat by your father exactly “living in the past.” More like, “trying to handle life.”

With that, Dean tells his dad that he gives up. He doesn’t know how to continue the conversation. Dad agrees, and storms out of the room. God, I hate that Dean has to deal with all of this. He probably doesn’t want sympathy from random bloggers like me. He doesn’t want the world to see how crazy his father has become. He just wants to live the most normal life he can. I LOVE YOU DEAN.

Rachel approaches his father outside and asks if she can talk to him. He says “if you must.” Yikes. Rachel asks him to sit down, which he hesitantly does, but that only lasts 5 seconds before he says “I can’t do this.” Rachel tries to calm him down by saying that she just wants him to know that she cares about Dean, and wanted to meet him because Dean’s life is important to her. He tells her she can come back if things go further, and that he wishes both of them the best of luck.

And that was that.

Rachel walks back inside to find Dean laying on the pillows scattered throughout the living room floor.

dean

She quietly lays down beside him, and he begins to cry. He tells her how hard that was for him, and then tells her that after having her there for him through all of this, that he’s truly falling in love with her. She says, “I’m falling in love with you, too.” It was a SUPER intimate moment.

When they part ways, I’m 100% certain that she’d never send him home this week. There’s just no way. Even if she knows he’s not “it,” she couldn’t possibly do that to him after he bore his soul like that on national television. After he let the world see his dysfunctional family, which was his greatest fear.

Besides, she already knows she’s going to choose Bryan, so what harm is there in sending home Eric and Peter if it means giving Dean just a little more dignity?

For the first time ever, I’m legit disappointed in Rachel’s decision at the Rose Ceremony (which happened at the end of the episode– praise!).  She was torn up about it, and admitted it was selfish, but like…come onnnnn, Rach!

In case you haven’t caught on, Bryan, Eric, & Peter get the final three roses. Dean gets sent home.

In the rejection limo, Dean is clearly upset and a bit angry, saying that he thought Rachel meant it when she said “I’m falling in love with you, too.” He thinks she made a mistake. I do, too.

As Bachelor world goes, though, we must spend this week wiping our hearts clean of the Dean heartbreak, and make room for the awkwardness of Fantasy Suites! I was too busy lamenting Dean to my husband to pay attention to the teasers, but I’m willing to bet that she sends Eric home before they can spend the night together. Just a hunch.

Also, who do you think will be the next Bachelor? I really can’t see the title going to Dean, Eric, or Peter. It’s so weird! If I had to choose from those three, I’d choose Peter. However, they might pull a Nick and grab someone from a past season. Any ideas? Or…Chris Harrison??

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