I’ve said it four or five times and I’ll say it again: I love the hometown dates on this show. The trips to Costa Rica and Anguilla were fantastic, but Brad and the women were happy to stop living in the group dynamic and take this next step. We started in Seattle with Chantal. Brad had never been to Seattle so what was the first thing he wanted to do? Yes, stop at a Starbucks for a cup of coffee, because as you know Seattle is the only place in the country to get Starbucks. The irony of this trip was that it’s rained on us everywhere we’ve been but the weather in Seattle where it always rains was beautiful. Chantal was looking forward to Brad meeting her family, but she was really nervous about him meeting her dog Boca. A couple things stood out to me on this hometown date: Brad really seems comfortable and to fit in with Chantal’s family. They seemed all but ready to have a wedding on the spot. The other thing I noticed is Chantal’s dad’s wine cellar. Wow, I have cellar envy.

After Seattle, Brad and the crew headed to the other side of the earth (at least it felt like it) to visit Ashley in Madawaska. When the travel agent said, “You can’t get there from here,” we should have listened. Our crew flew from Seattle to New York City. From New York it was down to Boston, and then a little prop plane to a place called Presque Isle. That leaves you a lovely two-hour drive to Madawaska. With a small town comes small hotels. The crew had to split up into a few different hotels as I think we tripled the population of the town when we arrived. As Ashley pointed out there are a lot of moose in this town. They warned our crew not to drive at night, as there’s a really good chance you’ll have a run-in with a moose. Brad helped Ashley’s stepdad boil the lobsters. The family messed with Brad for just a bit and made him put on a lobster bib before letting him in on the joke and allowing him take it off. Not sure if you noticed but Ashley’s mom is a big fan of the show, so she was really excited to meet Brad. He was a bit of a celebrity in the house. Overall, like Chantal’s visit it was easy and comfortable. It was a really good rebound for Ashley after what has been a couple rough weeks for her.

Then there was the hometown trip of death, literally. As you could tell, Shawntel is very serious about her job and she and her family mean a lot to the community in Chico, Calif. The conversation Brad had with Shawntel’s father, who expressed his concern about his daughter leaving the city and thus abandoning the family business, definitely weighed on Brad’s mind the entire week. Yes, in the end her dad did say he wished them well and gave them his blessing, but that moment and that pressure of taking her away hung over the date and probably played a factor in Brad’s final decision. Add to that the fact that Brad wasn’t feeling nearly as much for Shawntel as she was for him, and it made the decision to send her home the right one to make this week. Oh, there was one other thing on Brad’s mind — the fact that the guy is a little freaked out by death doesn’t help when you’re dating a funeral director. That’s something he can talk to the therapist about next time. In her exit interview you could really tell she’s an amazing woman and really cared for Brad. There was no bitterness or contempt, just appreciation for the experience and love for him, and that was very cool to see. One last little note about Shawntel’s hometown date: Her mom Coleen loves Mai Tais, so Brad brought all the fixins over and tried to make her one. That was the drink Brad handed her in the kitchen while they were talking. Not nearly as good as the frozen mojitos we enjoyed while in Anguilla.

From Chico, it was time to head east again to Charlotte, North Carolina. This was a very important trip for Brad and he was more nervous about this visit than any of the others. He had made so much out of meeting Emily’s daughter Ricki that the pressure was palpable. In the end Ricki did warm up to Brad and they had a great visit. Ricki actually drew Brad a picture of him with a butterfly, representing the kite he gave her. But there is something about Brad and Emily’s relationship that’s almost awkward. The part where Brad told Emily he wasn’t going to kiss her out of respect for her and her daughter cracked me up. That was spoken like a guy who doesn’t have kids. I loved Emily’s reaction where she said if this works out she’ll be upstairs sleeping every night! Brad is trying so hard to do the right thing here — it’s very sweet but quite entertaining to watch. I met Brad and the ladies back in New York City for the rose ceremony. We usually hold this rose ceremony in Los Angeles but we figured since we’re heading on to South Africa we might as well keep it on the east coast. Next week we head off on the exotic dates deep in the bush in South Africa. It’s a very interesting episode as the fantasy suite cards arrive. If you haven’t already checked it out you need to see all the great extras we have for you now on our website, and as always, you can find us on Twitter: @thebachelortv or @chrisbharrison.

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