OK, serious question: Have we ever before reached the hometown date episode of “The Bachelor” without the L-bomb being dropped?
Sure, most of Juan Pablo’s remaining four ladies heavily debated telling him that they were in love with him after all of two months. But no one actually uttered the three precious words -- save for poor Renee, who told JuanPabs she loved him after he’d given her the ax. More on that later.
I bring this up because I feel like the lack of premature mushy declarations this season is really revealing. In seems to validate the disconnect I -- and the majority of the so-called “Bachelor nation” -- have felt with JuanPabs this season. In other words: We’re all just not that into you.
But everyone is trying really hard to be! Especially Nikki, who kicked off the hometowns journey in her native Kansas City, Mo. Ah, yes, the Midwest, where one apparently proves their worth by how long they can stay upright on an electronic bull.
Nikki began her hometown tour by taking JuanPabs to Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. She wanted to see if he’d be cool downing platefuls of meat slathered in barbecue sauce, and he was. With this essential piece of knowledge secured, the pair sauntered over to an empty bar where said bull awaited them. But Juan Pablo, intimidated by a fake bucking animal? Never! Wasting no time, he eagerly ran over to show off his skills.
“Obviously, it’s something she likes to do,” he said of the experience. Which is tragic.
Whether or not Nikki spends her days straddling electronic bulls is up for debate, but nevertheless, she was impressed by Juan Pablo.
“I’m surprised by how much of a cowboy he is,” she said. And somewhere, on a ranch filled with cattle and barrels of hay, a man in a cowboy hat cried.
It was then time for JuanPabs to meet Nikki’s fam. They were one of the “nice” families who “support their daughter no matter what.” Meaning: After a five-minute conversation with Juan, Nikki’s dad had basically given the Bach his blessing to wed his daughter.
At this point, I was in desperate need of some disapproving, judgmental parents -- and fortunately, JP was headed to meet Andi’s folks in Atlanta next.
“I’m waiting to fall in love, and my family could kind of be the tipping point and tip me in a certain direction,” Andi said in an interview before the trip began. Pro tip: If you need someone to tell you if you’re in love with a dude, you’re not in love with a dude.
Before going to Andi’s childhood digs, she took him to a gun range. Because of course. JuanPabs was very bad at shooting guns, which gave me a strange sense of comfort.
And then suddenly we were at Andi’s home, greeted by a lovely sign reading “Welcome Home, Pookie!” Andi has always struck me as a Pookie.
Almost immediately, it was clear that Andi's dad, Hy, would prove to be my personal hero. This was important, because with Sharleen gone, I needed a healthy dose of cynicism to get me through the two hours. Unlike Nikki’s dad, Hy was not down with “The Bachelor.” As JuanPabs and Andi recounted tales from their global love tour, Hy would continually stop the pair and ask -- “And how many women were left at that point?” It was pretty amazing.
Andi’s mom was sort of down with Juan, but mostly because he was hot. During their one-on-one chat, after learning he was a dancer, she asked him to show a few moves. He declined.
When forced to be face-to-face with JuanPabs, Hy chose to get down to brass tacks.
“What in the world made you go on this show?” he inquired. Juan stumbled to give an acceptable answer but failed. Instead, he moved on to his go-to subject matter: His daughter! See, Hy? He’s a single father! He’s so sweet and responsible! Can’t you just accept him and little Camila into your family?
No, actually, Hy cannot accept you, JuanPabs. Because you are dating three other ladies, and the man who is “good enough” to marry his Pookie will come to him and say there is “no one else.”
“That’s great,” Juan Pablo responded. I don’t make things up, people.
Meanwhile, Andi was off having a heart-to-heart with her sister.
“There’s definitely physical attraction,” she mused. “I’m still trying to dig deeper. I’m not there yet.” Oh, you mean you feel EXACTLY THE WAY SHARLEEN DID LAST WEEK? Yep. Sharleen. The original G.
So, that didn’t go well. But let’s move on to Sarasota, Fla., where Renee’s poor, beautiful son, Ben, was forced to be on “The Bachelor.”
After leaving her 8-year-old behind in the pursuit of finding him a new father figure, Renee was finally reunited with Ben before his baseball game. Unfortunately, Juan Pablo was there too.
JP greeted Ben, calling him “buddy” and “man” a lot. He talked about how much Renee loved Ben. He asked Ben about baseball. He was trying really hard.
BRO. Renee has not seen her son in eight weeks, and she has to spend her entire day with him with you, so can you back off for three seconds and let them reconnect please?
After the game, the threesome went to visit Renee’s parents, who were of course very sweet, because Renee is very sweet. She told her mom, Brenda, that she was “crazy, madly, head-over-heels in love” with Juan Pablo.
“We can love our pets,” Brenda cautioned. I got her point, but we can also be IN love with our pets, Brenda. Don’t disrespect me. Thanks.
Just when things were veering into normality, we moved on to Clare’s hometown in Sacramento. Clare is one of six daughters, which basically explains her personality.
Most of Clare’s sisters were down with JuanPabs. And then there was Laura.
So, here’s what I think happened. (I say think because it was very dark outside and as usual, everyone was whispering.) Clare wanted to spend some time talking to her mom, but her sister, Laura, decided to join in the conversation. But before Clare’s mom could even utter a word, Laura said that when it came to the family giving Clare their blessing to wed JuanPabs, they weren’t “there yet.”
Clare began to grit her teeth. She tried to talk to her mother, but mother remained mute.
“I’m not gonna let you manipulate mama,” Laura said, standing up suddenly and crossing her arms. “You’re not respecting mama.”
Because mama was literally not saying anything, I was confused. She eventually shared a few words with Juan Pablo about how she was religious and took marriage seriously. Laura was somewhere, watching.
But does any of this really matter when tonight -- yes, we get TWO episodes this week -- something goes horribly wrong in the fantasy suite? Can JuanPabs not perform? Does he refuse to sleep with any of them? Does he ask to engage in a bizarre sexual act? WHAT WILL OCCUR. I eagerly await this impending disaster. Until tomorrow, my rose lovers.
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