Ashley's hometown dates bring pizza, roller skating, and picnics, and one not-so-shocking elimination.

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July 19, 2011 at 05:03 AM EDT

Welcome home, rose lovers! Won’t you have some coffee with Ashley here in her tidy single-lady apartment? Settle in, because she feels like reminiscing about her “journey” with the Final Four. Ben F., for example, “is a real guy, no question.” (Which, let’s face it, we can’t necessarily say about two of the other three.) Constantine is “exactly what I look for physically in a man.” Ames is “unique” — so much so that she says it twice. And then there’s JP, who has “a lot of resilience.” Who will get the boot? Let the hometown dates commence!

So Ashley packs up her little black suitcase and leaves her fluffy little dog in charge of the apartment, and heads off to Sonoma, California, home of sheep, wine, and of course Ben F. He greets her at his winery, where he pours her some Bordeaux from a giant cask and arranges a picnic in the rain. Ben tells Ashley that he’s only ever brought one woman home to meet his mom, and reiterates that his father’s passing has put him in touch with “the emotional Ben,” which gives him more “freedom of expression.” He certainly feels free enough to tell Ashley point blank “they have to like you,” because “otherwise it just doesn’t work for me.” Way to lay it on the line, wine guy!

Eventually the skies clear, and Ashley and Ben arrive at his mom Barbara’s cute and cozy abode. His sister Julia reveals that she was the one who signed brother Ben up for The Bachelorette, and she intends to have a big say in his romantic future. “I love my brother,” explains Julia. “He’s dated girls but they haven’t really stuck around for too long, and I haven’t necessarily liked some of them. I’m actually more protective over him than you may think.” Consider yourself warned, bitch! But Ben assures his sis that his “relationship” with Ashley is “effortless,” and that he’s “really into it.” Mom is understandably a bit wary, but of course supportive of her long-haired son. And how could she not be, after Ben pours out his heart to her about the loss of his father: “The first couple years after Dad died, I should have been a better son, and I should have done things differently,” he admits. “I have regrets about those things… I should have been there more in the beginning.” Mom assures him that he’s forgiven, and that Dad, wherever he may be, is proud of him. This reduces Ben (and me) to tears. “My Dad’s always with me,” he says, welling up. “I know that he’s proud of me, my mom told me… I miss him.” Godammit I hate when this asinine show makes me cry! And with that, the visit is over. No one-on-one chats with Ashley and Julia, nor did the Bachelorette get much time with Mom. A bad sign, or simply a boring visit? Only time will tell.

The next stop on our “journey” is the somewhat unfortunately named Cumming, Georgia, where Constantine is hanging out with a goose mommy and her babies by a lake, waiting for Ashley. He quickly whisks her off to his very own Italian restaurant, Giorgio’s, where he tutors her in the art of making a pizza and arranging tomato slices on a pile of romaine lettuce. They dine al fresco, as the Giorgio’s waitresses spy on them through the window, oohing and ahhing at the cute couple.

NEXT: The full Ames

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