By Chris Harrison
Updated July 19, 2011 at 05:03 AM EDT

We have made it through the infamous hometown dates and now it’s time for the exotic dates. You know what that means… that’s right, the fantasy suite card! Before anybody decides if they will forgo their individual rooms, however, let’s discuss this week. Actually let’s go back to last week first. Many of you asked why Ben stayed overnight with Ashley on his date. The reason he stayed was not exactly romantic: Ashley, Ben, and the crew stayed the night because Taroko is several hours away by car and after a very long day and night we didn’t want to put anybody through that travel. Ben and Ashley did not share a room, nor were they given the option to spend the night together. For that to have happened I would’ve had to whip up a fresh batch of fantasy suite cards, and I was otherwise detained. Now back to this week’s episode.

I say this every season and I mean it, I love hometown dates. Good or bad you can’t fake or hide your family. They are truly where you came from and partially who you really are. We started the week in Cumming, Georgia, to meet Constantine’s great Greek family. They started with some food at the family restaurant Giorgio’s. For the record the food is very good at the restaurant; our crew had lunch there and they loved it. The pizza that Ashley brought the guy at the end of the show was not what he ordered, but he liked it. He had no idea who Ashley was or that she didn’t work there. The important part was meeting the family, and Constantine’s family blew Ashley away — this is exactly what she’s looking for in her life. His mom had some very direct questions for Ashley and didn’t pull any punches in letting her know that her moving to Cumming is what would “enhance” her son’s life. Constantine had no idea his entire family was showing up. Everyone brought food and drink and then in a great Greek tradition his uncle started to make it “rain.” Constantine might have been considered the dark horse a few weeks ago but because of the last couple weeks he has definitely moved out of that role and into Ashley’s heart.

I think everybody was looking forward to the next hometown the most. Everybody wanted to see more about Ames, so off to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, we went. Although Ashley was also curious to find out where a guy like Ames came from, he really had the most to prove on his visit. He had to really blow Ashley away to raise their relationship to the level of the other contestants. His sister really put it best: If there’s passion and a spark then let there be a little fire. There is no fire between them. At least not one that’s burning nearly as hot as it is with the other guys. The part of their date I really wanted to talk about was the carriage ride. One minute I’m watching this romantic picnic, the next thing they’re on a horse drawn carriage ride along the river. Turns out carriage rides are a very popular activity in Chadds Ford and some friends of Ames’ family allowed them to use their carriage.

The next and easily most revealing hometown was with Ben in Sonoma, California. I’m very interested to hear everybody’s thoughts on Ben after this episode. Up to this point I know everybody liked him but I felt like in this episode and on this date you really got to know him on an intimate level. He revealed so much about himself and his feelings about his late father, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on him now. Ashley is already taken by him but was really moved by his open, candid emotions. His dad’s death has really affected him but he seems to have turned that into a positive. He has definitely evolved as a man and has great perspective on his life now. Ben’s talk with his mom was incredibly moving. I think it’s great that our hometown date really seemed to bring the two of them closer together as well.

The final hometown date took us to New York to see JP. JP had made other plans outside but the forecast called for rain so he called an incredible ’80s audible, roller skating! Yes, it was kind of cheesy but it was also kind of awesome. Come on, who didn’t have flashbacks of their own “couples skate” moments? I for one was transported right back to White Rock skating rink in Dallas. (Kirsten if you’re out there somewhere, thanks for the memories.) Ashley hit it off with JP’s family. His mother made his favorite lasagna and apparently it’s amazing, not that they saved me a slice. After the four hometowns with four good men I think it was clear that Ashley really has a solid relationship building with Ben, JP and Constantine. Ames was just too far behind and Ashley felt more of a friendship than a budding romance with him. So Ashley is finally down to her final three and it’s off to Fiji for our final two weeks. As you saw in the previews there is a lot left, and did you hear what she said at the end of the teaser? “I fell in love… today marks the first day of my love story.” Hmmmm , just a couple weeks left in Ashley’s journey to find love. I want to share the dates of our final shows because it’s a little different this season. Next Monday, July 25, will be the exotic dates and we will be down to the final two men. Then on Sunday, July 31, ABC will air the Men Tell All special. Monday, August 1 will be the finale of The Bachelorette. I look forward to all of you experiencing this season’s amazing finale.

More Bachelorette from EW:

Ashley’s Bachelorette blog on

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The Bachelorette

Chris Harrison hosts the romantic reality competition series in which one single woman searches for her future husband amid a sea of studs. Will you accept this rose?

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