Fans, we have finally made it to the semi-finals of this season of “The Bachelorette’’: the hometown visits. Each remaining man is a strong contender on his own, but the true test of a man’s marriage potential is how sane his family is. We’re hoping to meet some real nut jobs this week.
Nick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The episode kicks off in the hometown of this season’s villain, Nick, who is admittedly the most interesting character on the show. On the Wisconsin-themed agenda? A tasting of local cheeses followed by a tour of the Lakefront Brewery, who has gamely agreed to name a beer after the couple. It’s called, “Nick and Andi: The Perfect Brew.’’ We’re guessing it tastes okay going down but leaves you with a nasty hangover the next day.
Onward to the main event: an intimate family gathering with Nick’s folks and his ten brothers and siblings. Wow Nick’s Mom, we are impressed with the stamina of your reproductive system. We’re somewhat less impressed that despite the 11-way sharing of mom and dad’s attention you ended up with such a self-centered son.
Still, Nick is a devoted family man and clearly seeks approval from his parents and siblings. Nick’s 9-year-old sister Bella goes in to interrogate Andi with the conviction of a future ADA, but becomes distracted by Andi’s shiny hair halfway through the questioning. When Nick tries to get the dirt from Bella, she seems to have developed a short-term memory problem in her haze of adoration. She tells Nick that Andi said she “loves’’ him. Nick lights up! Oh wait, corrects Bella, she maybe just said she “likes’’ you. Or was it something else altogether? Dammit.
Later, Nick and his mom sit down for a chat and he tells her that Andi’s the half of him that’s been missing. They both tear up and it’s a sweet and sincere moment. Jeez, what happened to evil Nick? The guy who walks Andi out to the car is vulnerable and borderline endearing. Hmm . . . Nick, is it possible you’re just misunderstood?
Chris in Arlington, Iowa
If you build it, she will come . . . to Iowa for our much-anticipated “Field of Dreams’’ moment! Farmer Chris is finally in his element among his own Iowan cornfields. Andi, on the other hand, is an urban girl in totally unfamiliar territory. “You own a whole house?! Your backyard is farmland?! This is a real tractor?!’’ Andi climbs on to Chris’s lap for a ride on said tractor and we have one very happy farmer.
The pair sit down amongst the crops for a picnic. Turn out Chris, who has already written Andi a series of “secret admirer’’ love letters, is still a fan of non-verbal communication. He hires a plane to fly a banner across the sky reading “Chris loves Andi.’’ The girl freaking loves it, declaring the gesture “without a doubt, the most romantic thing anyone’s ever done.’’ She doesn’t even mind that Chris has never actually articulated the sentiment using his vocal cords.
Still, Andi is worried about living in rural Iowa. Does this town, population 758, really need a criminal prosecutor who focuses on gang activity? Chris suggests that there is one booming industry for women in Arlington—homemaking. He quickly assures her that this is his attempt at sarcasm, and they decide Andi could do something vaguely related to law. Sounds like a rock-solid plan.
After their alone time, Andi is introduced to Chris’s adorable family. Andi gets big Midwest hugs all around, before the family immediately commits to selling her on Chris’s many fine qualities. Chris is rich, hints the sisters. You’d have beautiful babies, promises the mom. The entire family is acting like this is Chris’s last chance at a bride and they’ll be damned if they let her get away.
The hard sell works. Andi absolutely loves his family and her eyes sparkle as she proclaims she is “on cloud nine.’’ Farmer Chris, thank your hardworking family—they may gotten you back in the mix!
Josh in Tampa, Florida
Hometown dates are supposed to show a different side of the guys to Andi. Where could Josh take her that will show something other than the one-dimensional athlete image he’s been portraying all season? We know—a baseball diamond! We now have part two of the “Field of Dreams’’ package, complete with a good, old-fashioned game of catch.
But also like “Field of Dreams,’’ this field is haunted by ghosts of the past. Josh is sad because his pro baseball player dreams never became a reality and now he has to have a real slash boring job. But that’s okay because he has more time to support his younger brother, Aaron Murray, a big-time college quarterback.
When Andi arrives at the home of Josh’s parents, she finds the whole family in a tizzy because the NFL draft is coming up. (Spoiler alert for those who don’t follow football: Aaron was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs.) Although Andi is impressed by Josh’s commitment to his brother and family, she is also worried. Will Andi be number one in this relationship or just another member of the Aaron fan club?
Josh’s mom and sister ultimately convince Andi that Josh is ready for a new stage in his life: to be a committed husband who will put his wife first. Andi leaves Tampa seemingly satisfied that she would be Josh’s priority if they end up together.
Marcus in Dallas, Texas
Andi’s final stop on her hometown tour is a critical date for Marcus, an early front-runner whose romantic exuberance is becoming a turn off for Andi. At 25, he is by far the youngest of the remaining guys and his naiveté is showing. Poor kid is clearly unfamiliar with the concept of playing hard to get.
However, Marcus is no dummy: he realizes he’s a lot more interesting to Andi with his shirt off and decides to reenact his aviator-themed striptease from Week 2. Hot Marcus is back! Of course, what was fun the first time on a group date with Chris Harrison chaperoning is much sadder when it’s just Marcus and Andi in the middle of the day in what looks like the kind of club one finds near the airport.
Marcus gets his clothes back on in time to bring Andi home to meet his family. They are warm and welcoming, but no one can talk about anything except their incredulity over how far and fast Marcus has fallen. After some gentle questioning of both Marcus and Andi, they find Marcus’s affections genuine and give their seal of approval to the relationship.
Before Andi can leave the Lone Star State, Marcus declares his love for her again and she receives the news with as much false enthusiasm as she can muster. She tells the camera rather flatly: “Life with Marcus would be a fairy tale… he would adore me and give me the world.’’ Unfortunately it doesn’t sound like the fairy tale is what our Bachelorette is looking for.
Back in Los Angeles, Chris Harrison sits down all the remaining contestants and informs them that Eric Hill, who left the show in Week 4, has passed away in a paragliding accident. Andi and the guys are understandably shaken. Andi, in particular, is devastated that her last conversation with Eric was contentious and that ultimately she had to ask him to leave the show. The rose ceremony is postponed to the following day to give the cast time to pull themselves together.
The next day, a somber rose ceremony concludes with Marcus’s departure. Poor Marcus did not see it coming and is genuinely heartbroken. Don’t worry Marcus, you and your six-pack will have a long line of women waiting for you whenever you’re ready.
Post-Show Power Rankings
1) Josh: Josh unseats Nick from the top spot this week. The hometown visits only highlighted the fact that Andi and Josh have the most in common (geography, eyebrow waxing preferences, and otherwise) of any of the remaining pairs.
2) Nick: Damn you Nick, you are good and your family is just as good as you are. Though you should be worried that you’re the one guy left that Andi never describes as “hot.’’ Josh gets the edge over you . . . for now.
3) Chris: The beefy Midwesterner looks damn sexy atop a tractor and wins the “most likely to be a great husband’’ award. But after eating lunch in an actual cornfield, we’re guessing Andi is even less able to imagine a life in rural Iowa.
Next week, it’s Fantasy Suite time! After an unusually chaste and hot tub-free season, will Andi still take the plunge? The penultimate episode of the season airs Monday, July 14, 8pm.