Ah, the Hometown Dates. That critical step in a relationship when you say, “Let’s ask my family if we should have sex next week.” Ben has narrowed it down to his top four fiancées (to cry in front of), starting with (m)Amanda. She always has tissues. They meet on a beach and (m)Amanda elongates her petite frame by pulling her pirate shirt halfway down.
They are joined by her two adorable daughters, who chase seagulls with a teary Ben while (m)Amanda preps a craft for the girls involving pictures of her ex, photos of Ben’s face, and glue. After a sweet game of Give The Single Mom Hope, everyone piles into a van to drive Ben back to reality. The girls fuss for water and a nap, way more responsibility than Ben bargained for. He is done playing stepdad, and will end things just as soon as he can fly (m)Amanda away from her support network.
Cut to uncomplicated Lauren B. in Portland, Somewhere: City of Roses. There are no actual roses to be seen, but that’s because Lauren sent them all to JoJo. COOL GIRL WITH A FOOTBALL got eliminated weeks ago, so Lauren B. takes over the one-of-the-boys routine by eating butter out of a food truck and surprising Ben with a magnificent whiskey library. His eyes light up and even Cogsworth admits it’s progress.
Little does NEW COOL GIRL know, Ben is coming from the toddler date, so all she has to do is not crap herself. This may prove challenging after all, since lunch is Ben feeding the low maintenance flight attendant spoonfuls of clotted dairy “airplane style” (get it?). She does not slap him.
Back at Lauren’s house, her parents call her LoLo. Note that on JoJo’s date, her family calls her Joelle. Is it nothing, or is the dumb nickname switcheroo a brilliant and subtle move by the producers to bump up Lauren B. to front runner? Note how the clip of her little brothers asking Ben for a peek in his Fantasy Suite Playbook was mercifully pushed to after the credits. In any case, Lauren’s sister takes Ben aside to find out why she should trust him. She even pushes Lauren’s case as the next Bachelorette, but Ben shuts down all her doubts (and the casting suggestion) with his second cry of the show, followed by an impressive cry threepeat with Lauren’s father. They approve. A man who can cry is a man with unimpeachable intentions.
At some point after feeling his youth with (m)Amanda and crying in front of Lauren’s family, Ben wished on an unplugged Zoltar to be Big. He woke up to a date with Caila, a sexy panther whose dad runs a toy factory. Together they build their dream (toy) house, which they’ll send to Amanda’s daughters when the show wraps. The date is a success, and the factory staff applaud as Ben kisses their boss’s daughter. Back at her house, Caila’s parents are warm and welcoming and her brother stays quiet, which makes him my favorite sibling. Ben might cry again; I can’t remember.
Immediately before JoJo’s date, she receives a bouquet of red roses and a love letter from her ex of 39 days, Chad. A lot of work went into this moment. Yes, the Bachelor trademark red grocery store roses had to be shipped overnight from Portland. First, though, you have to go back a year when an insider (the sister?) introduces a level-headed girl named Joelle to Intern Chad, an emotionally unavailable Adonis who convinces her to go by JoJo. Also on-board with the pirate theme, JoJo’s black lace up shirt perfectly represents a heart torn in indecision. Just kidding, the camera guys are right there. She’s clearly going to pick Ben.
The date continues at her family’s Dallas mansion, where we meet her parents, her two brothers, both named Vinnie, and her sister, who mysteriously disappears soon after this. Vinnie tells us that they are really really really into JoJo, and Vinnie kisses around her mouth a lot. I’ll leave it at that. They leave the lush velvet drapery and mahogany wood of the foyer for the lush velvet drapery and mahogany wood of the dining room. I didn’t spot a crucifix in this house (there was one in every other), but they make up for it by living in a Jesuit church. We see the back of the sister’s head, and then the brothers take Ben aside and ask if he cares about JoJo. He basically says, “You’ll find out soon!” The only thing the brothers hate more than Ben are traditional collars.
JoJo’s mom takes her aside to assure her that she’s too beautiful to fail, but maybe she should show a lot of cleavage at the Rose Ceremony, just in case. The Vinnies get very aggressive with Ben, JoJo continues to characterize their relationship as terrifying, and sister hasn’t been seen since the salad course.
I feel how you feel, JoJo’s mom.
At the Rose Ceremony, Lauren B. joins Amanda’s “The armpit is the new shoulder” campaign in her 90’s dress, and JoJo sagely takes her mom’s advice with the cleave. In vino veritas. (m)Amanda goes home. Ben cries, (m)Amanda cries, and after a light scolding for not dumping her when she was home, he’s finally left with women he can dump without compunction.