It's hometown week as Rachel meets four families

By Samantha Highfill
July 17, 2017 at 10:02 PM EDT
Rodrigo Varela/ABC
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Hometowns: the week in which the Bachelorette travels the nation to visit her suitors and discover why they are the way they are. But really, it’s the week in which the Bachelorette decides if she can tolerate any of these families enough to marry their sons. And this week, Rachel has a buffet of drama to choose from: Does she pick the man whose mother will never let him go? Does she pick the father who will play the gong at every family gathering (of which there will be none)? Does she pick the guy who values friends more than family? Or does she pick Eric?

Hometown No. 1: Eric (Baltimore, Maryland)

We kick off the week in Baltimore, and if we’re basing Rachel’s excitement on her running and jumping, she’s the least interested in Eric, who gets a slightly excited trot followed by a half-hearted straddle. (Her legs didn’t wrap all the way behind his back.) Eric greets Rachel in the nice part of the city, just so he can tell her that this is not where he grew up. So, getting to it, he then brings her to his neighborhood in what he calls “one of the top 10 toughest cities in America.” Baltimore is technically in Forbes‘ Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities, but I prefer “toughest.”

Eric takes Rachel to play some basketball — which she does IN HEELS — and introduces her to Ralph, his closest cousin. Ralph has nothing but nice things to say about Eric, the good student, the positive guy, the inspiration. And as Ralph talks about how proud he is of his cousin, Eric rudely interrupts by attacking Rachel with kisses, a moment that prompts Ralph’s exit.

After that awkward moment, Eric and Rachel sit down to once again talk about Eric’s upbringing and how watching the men in his family take to the streets affected him. He recalls his best friend in 10th grade going to jail. Eric was the friend who took care of everyone, and that’s why, now, he’s looking for someone to take care of him. With that, he takes Rachel home to meet his family… AND I LOVE THEM.

The moment Eric and Rachel walk through the door, there is so much joy waiting for them. Not only is Eric’s family sacrificing comfort by squeezing a million people onto one couch, but they even find a way to dance despite their limited range of motion.

Rachel’s first sit-down is with Eric’s female twin: Aunt Verna, who is already in love with the couple. In fact, she doesn’t even want to know about Eric; all she asks about is how Rachel is handling being the first black Bachelorette. Rachel opens up about the judgment she feels, but ultimately, love doesn’t have a color, and her journey shouldn’t be any different from that of any of the Bachelorettes before her. Rachel then flat-out says she’s going to make the best decision for her, and Aunt Verna, instead of worrying about what that could mean for Eric, supports her. At this point, Aunt Verna is more Team Rachel than she is Team Eric.

Verna does, however, assure Rachel that Eric is ready for marriage — though I think it’s partially because she’ll say whatever it takes to get Rachel in the family.

As for Eric, he talks to his mom about his feelings for Rachel and being prepared if things don’t go his way. “It’s life. What doesn’t hurt?” Eric says, before mentioning how his mother not being there for him while he was growing up served a purpose. (Subtle shade there, dude.) But Eric’s mom reminds him that she’s watched a lot of great men in their family not reach their full potential because they reached for their moms instead. She wanted to make sure Eric didn’t do that. And now, Eric holds nothing against her (a sentiment that, when you say it out loud, tends to mean the exact opposite).

Eric’s mother then asks Rachel what draws her to her son. Rachel admits that Eric challenges her, and she needs somebody like that. Just like that, Rachel has mom’s approval.

Next up, Eric tells his father he’s never been this happy with a woman. And in round two of Eric’s subtle shade, he tells his father that Rachel grew up in a strict home, the exact opposite of what he had. Eric’s father, taking the hint, apologizes for some of the things he put his son through, but they both know it made Eric stronger in the end. And regardless, he’ll always have his father’s support.

Around the dinner table, dad makes a toast to “opening doors that no man can shut and closing doors that no man can open,” which Eric follows with his own toast: Eric’s no longer running from love and he wants to thank everyone who made him the man he is, someone who’s able to attract a lady like Rachel. So they toast to greatness and Rachel. (Not sure how “greatness” snuck in there, unless Eric is calling himself great?)

At the end of the night, Eric takes Rachel outside to tell her that he loves her, but he only sort of does it. He admits thinking, “Damn, I really love this girl,” which he follows with: “What I mean by that is, I really care about you, like a lot.” Is he mansplaining love to her, or is he backing out of his previous statement? According to Rachel, she feels it’s the latter. Eric might not really know what love is.
(Next: Bryan’s mother loves her son a little too much)

Hometown No. 2: Bryan (Miami, Florida)

According to Rachel, Miami is the perfect place for Bryan to live because it’s everything Bryan is: hot, steamy, sexy, Spanish-speaking… and filled with old people? She leaves out that last one. But when Rach sees Bryan, he gets the full straddle, which puts him ahead of Eric according to my horrendous logic.

Today, Bryan is giving her the TRUE Miami experience, which involves playing dominoes in the park? See, old people!

Long story short, Bryan and Rachel lose at dominoes, so they head to Calle Ocho for some food and dancing, where Bryan delicately holds the woman he loves and then delicately throws Rachel’s head into a stranger’s back. From there, he prepares her to meet his mother by reminding her that he is an ONLY CHILD. And trust me, he can’t emphasize that enough.

If you were wondering just how this visit was going to go, Bryan’s mother Olga sprints to him the second he walks through the door — honestly, you’d think he was water and she’d spent a week in the desert. Olga only acknowledges Rachel’s presence when Bryan physically body slams her into Rachel and forces them into a group hug. “Hug both,” he says firmly.

Olga is in tears within minutes as she gives a toast to the “most precious thing that I have in my life.” She then DOWNS her drink in one sip, only stopping when Bryan’s dad very deliberately clears his throat, and puts on the world’s worst poker face as Bryan tells the story of how he and Rachel met. His mom tries not to leap across the room and strangle the woman he’s talking about.

To the camera, Bryan’s mom tells us, “That’s my life. He’s my love. He’s my pride.” And she doesn’t want a woman coming between her and her son.

Olga then takes her “pride” aside to talk about Rachel, and Bryan reveals that he’s found the one. Mom’s skeptical considering that her son has dated SO MANY GIRLS — not helping, mom — and yet he found love on a television show? Olga then reminds her son that marriage is a serious commitment, and no matter what happens with love, “mother is mother; we are blood.” I’m suddenly very worried about how Olga will treat a granddaughter.

By the time Rachel sits down with Olga, she’s ready: Rachel lists all of the qualities that she loves in Bryan and is the first to assure Olga that Rachel LOVES how close he is to his family. Loves it. It’s basically her favorite thing about him. “Bryan is my life,” Olga says, offering what she calls a “warning”: When you marry Bryan, you’re marrying his family too. THAT’S A WARNING?! What does that say about how Olga feels about her family? It’s not a blessing to marry them. It’s not an added bonus. It’s a WARNING.

Olga then gets to her real fear: If a woman wants to take a man from his family, she can do it. But Rachel promises that’s not what she wants to do. Olga, coming around, says, “If he’s happy, I’m happy. If not, I’ll kill you.” Thankfully, Rachel laughs — as for Olga, I’m not sure her face is capable of laughing. With one final warning about how difficult marriage is, Rachel gets Olga’s stamp of approval. According to her, eyes are the most important, and she could see in Rachel’s eyes that she’s a good person.

Crying once again, Olga admits that she wants Bryan to have someone to take care of him when she’s gone. So yeah, things just got real dark.

Outside, Bryan tells Rachel that he’s in love with her and she physically crumbles. At this point, she’s letting herself feel, and “it feels good.” (Translation: Bryan has the hometown to beat, even with Olga and her immovable face.)
(Next: Peter disappoints)

Hometown No. 3: Peter (Madison, Wisconsin)

According to my straddle radar, Peter also beats out Eric, because like Bryan, he gets a full straddle. He then takes Rachel to his favorite Saturday Farmer’s Market before being the only guy to introduce Rachel to a group of his friends (whose opinion he values more than his family’s). His friends PROMISE Rachel that Peter has a goofy side before Peter asks to speak to his fellas.

About 10 feet away from Rachel and the women, Peter voices his doubts: How can you know if you’ve found the person you’re supposed to spend forever with? How can he propose if he’s never seen Rachel outside of the Bachelorette world? In other words, poor Peter is far too smart and logical for this show.

But his friends tell him not to be scared and to embrace this because Rachel seems super genuine. One friend’s advice: “Don’t f— it up.”

Next up, Rachel meets Peter’s less-important family, where Rachel just about turns into a puddle watching Peter play with his niece. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s worried he won’t be ready to propose at the end of all this, and Rachel is NOT looking to walk away from this process with a boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Peter is talking to his mother and confirming Rachel’s fear when he admits he’s scared he won’t be ready when the time comes. Mom then talks to Rachel and assures the Bachelorette that her son is ready for commitment, but he isn’t necessarily ready for marriage. So basically, at the end of all of this, Peter is going to give Rachel his Letterman jacket and ask her to be exclusive.

Sitting outside, Rachel is trying her best to get Peter to talk to her, but all he’ll say is that he’s very happy right now. Rachel, however, needs more, which Peter realizes… after her car pulls away.

Hometown No. 4: Dean (Aspen, Colorado)

And now, the hometown we’ve all been waiting for: After Dean — who get a straight-legged straddle followed by the full thing — and Rachel ride some ATVs, he sits her down to prepare her for what she’s going to walk into tonight. Dean’s family hasn’t been under one roof in eight years, and he hasn’t talked to his father in two years. More importantly, six years ago, Dean’s father converted to Kundalini Yogi Sikh and now goes by a name he chose for himself, Paramroop Singh Khalsa, which means “divinely beautiful.” Rachel will also meet his new wife, Santantar (which I admittedly have no idea how to spell), whom Dean has only met twice.

And all I can say is: GET TO IT.

But before we can, Rachel asks Dean if he’s ever told his dad about his feelings of abandonment, and he says no, so basically, this night is only getting better.

That night, a “legitimately terrified” Dean and a somewhat less terrified Rachel walk into Paramroop’s home, and you know Dean’s nervous when his greeting is “What’s up, squad?” Rachel and Dean then join the party on the floor (Paramroop doesn’t own a table). Paramroop asks that they lie down with their heads pointed toward the gong, so that when he plays it, he can clean the energy in the room.

This is already my favorite hometown so far.
(Next: Paramroop loses his chill)

Dean’s father talks about welcoming Rachel and how he wanted to do something meaningful. When Debbie, Dean’s mom, died, she told them that feathers would be her sign, so holding two feathers, Dean’s dad starts talking about how Debbie was the most amazing woman he’s ever met… EXCEPT FOR HIS WIFE WHO’S SITTING TWO INCHES FROM HIM. Good recover, Paramroop. NOT.

A crying Paramroop then hands Dean and Rachel each a feather, which Rachel loves.

The family remains on the floor to eat a very healthy dinner before Paramroop asks for some time alone with Dean, which, for the record, means asking everyone else to stand outside in the cold.

What begins as a nice conversation about a father who’s proud of his son quickly unravels. First, Paramroop makes a comment about how he’s known Dean since he was “this big” and holds up his hand about two feet high. So did he meet Dean when he was a toddler?

Then, Paramroop makes a big mistake: He claims he must be a pretty great dad because look at his son! And that sets Dean off on a string of some interestingly worded questions: Does he feel like he’s still “fulfilling things as a father”?

Bringing up the arguments they had after Debbie died, Dean’s father admits he didn’t understand his son’s frustration because he had no idea what it was like to lose a mother. But does he feel like he stepped up as a father? Absolutely! Paramroop says he worked hard to put his kids through school, which Dean grants him, but Dean reminds his father that emotionally, no one here came together after Debbie died.

Paramroop explains that he was angry at Debbie dying, and this is where Paramroop’s newfound calm seems to leave the room and what I imagine to be Dean’s dad’s old personality enters. “It was horrible watching your mother die!” he shouts at his son. He was angry because Debbie had worked so hard to create a great home life, and he knew that when she died, it died too.

Paramroop tries to explain that he didn’t know how to be a mother — all he knew was how to make money, so that’s what he did. But when Dean admits that he felt abandoned, Paramroop sees no point in continuing the conversation. He then leaves Dean with this thought: “In my teaching, we believe the other person is you, so whatever you think of me is really what you think of yourself.” So Dean thinks he was an absent father to his non-existent kids? To your logic, I say this, Paramroop: BOOO.

When it’s clear Dean has one foot stuck in the past — or, to put it another way, Dean is scarred by a terrible childhood experience — Paramroop wishes Dean the best and leaves the house.

Rachel then asks if she can talk to Paramroop, to which he responds, “IF YOU MUST.” Seriously, this guy’s positive energy is nowhere to be found. Paramroop gets out about a sentence and a half before he quits on that conversation as well. He tells Rachel that if she chooses his son, she’s welcome to come back, but as of now, he is out.

Rachel then finds Dean and tells him about his sister’s sweet sentiments before he tells her that he’s falling in love with her. And then she tells him she’s falling in love with him, too! I guess because she said “falling,” she’s not breaking the rules, but still.

On that note, we head back to Dallas for the rose ceremony. Rachel claims she has no idea which guy is going home. Bryan is the only one to flat-out say “I love you,” and the other three are all up in the air. Eric might not know what love is, Dean was emotional from talking to his father when he mentioned love, and Peter didn’t even attempt to say anything. HOW WILL SHE CHOOSE?

In the end, Rachel hands roses to Bryan, Eric, and Peter. Walking Dean out, she tells him she doubts that he’s ready for the next step. He calls her out for saying she was falling in love with him too, but she reassures him that she meant it. With that, he wishes her luck finding what she’s looking for with the three men left and takes his tight pants back to Aspen.

Meanwhile, I just realized that Dean is 6’2″ and suddenly, I care way more about the fact that he’s gone. So if you need me before next week, I’ll be looking up Dean’s number.

Chris Harrison hosts the romance reality contest series. Will you accept this rose?
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