It's hometowns, folks! Rachel is off to meet her suitors' families and take her relationships to yet "another level." This is where shit starts to get as real as it's going to get. Bonds will be solidified! Hearts will be broken! Parents will be met!
First up is Eric's hometown of Baltimore. The two meet up in the affluent city center where neoliberalism has bestowed its gifts (a corporate sports stadium and stuff for tourists), and Eric tells Rachel this isn't "the realness" where he's from. He then takes Rachel to where he grew up, driving past boarded-up houses and narcing out someone he says is a drug dealer. They stop at a basketball court, where its revealed that Eric refers to himself as "E Bigger," and they play a game. It seems very carefree and fun and cute.
Eric's cousin stops by and talks about Eric, apparently a straight-A student who tried to avoid falling into the street economy. Eric's cousin also sets the stakes: We're reminded that E Bigger has never brought a girl home to meet his family before. Rachel is nervous, and Eric tries to assure her that everything will be fine—but how would he know?
The tension is relieved when the two walk into Eric's parent's house, warmly greeted by a sectional full of family members. Watching, I feel relieved, too, seeing the black love emanate from the room after spending several weeks watching various hotel doors open to a mass of sullen white men.
But the question of whether Eric is ready for love is still in the air. Rachel, as she makes known throughout the episode, is looking for a forever husband. She seems genuine enough about this (I don't think she's doing this just to get primo tickets to the NBA Finals, for instance, though that's probably not a bad perk).
"I've never been happy like this," Eric says to Rachel at the end of the night. "For the first time today, it came to me. I was like, 'Damn, I really love this girl.'" As Rachel smiles up at him, he adds, "What I mean by that is that I really care about you a lot." Rachel's face falls a little and you can tell she'll be spending at least a few hours trying to decipher the meaning of what Eric just said.
The next hometown date is with Bryan, whom I dislike. It's crazy how Bryan—who, in addition to being the worst, promotes detox teas on Instagram—is universally reviled by everyone except for Rachel—and Bryan's mom. Bryan's mom is obsessed with Bryan, we quickly learn. She makes it clear to Rachel that she will always be involved in Bryan's life until the day she dies and Rachel will not stand in the way of that plan. If Bryan wins this thing (ugh) Rachel will be moving to Miami ASAP.
At the end of the date, Bryan professes his love to Rachel and its this confidence and perfect timing that seem to be winning Rachel over. From my perspective, it seems calculated and depthless. He seems like the type of person who is definitely aiming for NBA Finals tickets.
Next, we learn Peter is from Wisconsin. I had no idea hot people chose to live in Wisconsin. Should I move to Wisconsin? There's a farmers market and honey sticks and… maybe even some other stuff. There's at least one restaurant, where we meet Peter's friends, who seem more like what I imagine midwesterners to be like; two of them are black. It seems like Peter was very conscious about making sure he displayed a diverse representation of his friend group. (It's revealed that Peter had previously bragged to Rachel about how many black friends he has, which is insane but I forgive him.)
Throughout the date, the issue of whether or not Peter is "ready" for marriage comes up. Rachel talks about it with Peter's mom, who says that her son is ready for a "commitment" but not necessarily a proposal. Personally, I think it's completely normal to have doubts about marrying someone you just met on reality TV, but Rachel has been through this song-and-dance before and needs someone who can lock it down.
I'm half expecting the drama with Peter to be a misdirection—they could be engaged as we speak!—but it seems more likely that it's setting up Peter to become the next Bachelor.
The last hometown brings us to Aspen, Colorado to meet Dean's doozy of a family. Poor Dean. It seems nightmarish to be forced to "work though" your estranged relationship with your father, who is a white Sikh, in front of millions of people. (Dean's father took on the name "Paramroop" when he converted to the religion.)
When Dean and Rachel walk into Paramroop's house all seems well at first. Paramroop is presumably trying to be a good sport for the show and welcome the couple in warmly, cleansing the room by playing a gong. If it was up to him, everyone would have exchanged surface pleasantries and eaten the slop he served for dinner in peace. But Dean can't stand the suffocating front, and this is, after all, reality TV: The father and son start to get into their past issues, which seem far too entrenched to cover in one night. Dean says his father virtually abandoned him after his mother died. His father says he didn't know how to emotionally care for the family and just did his best to materially provide for everyone. Dean pushes the issue but his father starts shutting down—it's clear that he doesn't want the conversation to take place on camera—and eventually storms off. It's heartbreaking to watch.
In the aftermath, Dean lies on some pillows that his father has scattered on the floor (Paramroop doesn't have a table or chairs). Rachel approaches Dean and tries to comfort him as Dean starts to cry. "I'm falling in love with you," Dean says. "I'm falling in love with you too," Rachel replies.
Whew! How is Rachel going to send any of these guys home? At this point, it makes the most sense for Rachel to call off the show and commit to a polyamorous relationship with all the men.
Rachel clearly feels the toll of the show's maniacal set up. She says she's falling in love with all four of the remaining contestants and struggling with the fact that she has to send one home. She tells Chris Harrison that she feels bad about being forced to be "selfish" to get what she wants. And, as the rose ceremony reveals, it turns out what she wants is not Dean.
It's hard for Dean to wrap his head around how one day Rachel can say she's falling in love with him and the next let him go, but I think I get it. I imagine it's like when you find several pairs of shoes that you adore and each pair costs more than $100. You can't buy them all, so you have to decide which you like best. But they're all so different! One is a furry mule, another is a patent leather, block heel boot, another is a minimalist glove shoe. While the decision sucks and temporarily drives you mad— because you really could see yourself wearing a shoe covered in fur on multiple occasions or a 60s-inspired boot with your vintage dresses—you have to go with the shoe that you could see yourself in everyday. Except the shoes are real, live people who will be crushed when they don't end up going home with you, which is why The Bachelorette is fucking satanic.