We’ve reached the final four, and just like in college basketball, home-court has never been more important on “The Bachelor.” That’s right, it’s the all-important hometown dates and the ladies are looking to charm Juan Pablo with their local cuisine and families. Now pause for a second and think about the last time you brought a date home for your family to meet. Now imagine that this person has the vocabulary of an advanced third-grader, has made out multiple times with over 10 women in the last five weeks, and has possibly had sex with one of them in the Pacific Ocean. Would you be excited to introduce that person to your mother and father? To put it frankly, survival is more important on the hometown dates than it is in “The Hunger Games.” The goal should be for these ladies to get Juan Pablo in and out before he can mispronounce any of the seven words he knows and not to rely on mom’s beef stew as the key to a Juan Pablo proposal.
Nikki and Renee understand what I’m trying to say. Their respective hometown dates consisted of ribs, little league baseball games, bull riding, and polite family chatter. Sure their activities and their family’s interactions with Juan Pablo were snooze-worthy, but they avoided any awkward conversations about Juan Pablo’s current polyamorous state and masked his intellectual deficiencies. It’s just like a trip to the dentist’s office: The less memorable the visit, the better.
Unfortunately for Andi, her picturesque hometown date goes from an enjoyable day at the gun range to dodging bullets from her father, Hy. As any father should when his daughter is on “The Bachelor,” Hy asks Juan Pablo directly about his intentions with Andi and how he can truly care about one woman when he has three more women and their families to meet. But more important than any of that is the fact that Andi’s father is named Hy. There are so many questions to be answered here: Is that his real name or is it short for something else? Does he kill two birds with one stone every time that he introduces himself? Were his parents incredibly stoned during his birth and ironically misspelled his name to commemorate their THC-infused state? We may never have the answers to the mystery that is Andi’s father’s name, but he doesn’t back down from grilling a squirmy Juan Pablo during Andi’s family date, and for that he deserves a series of slow claps.
And as for Clare? She suffered the worst of the four hometown dates, and not just because Juan Pablo was forced to visit her in Sacramento, Calif. One would imagine that once selected for “The Bachelor,” your family would at least play along with the charade a bit and support you. Apparently Clare’s sister Laura didn’t get the message and pulled a better troll imitation than any YouTube commenter in the past six years. Laura invades Juan Pablo’s conversation with Clare’s mother, much to the dismay of Clare, and assumes the role of “real-talk interpreter.” Not one of the 17 words Juan Pablo knows gets past her, as she claims to have her mother’s best interests at heart.
Blunt sexism: Many of us have heard the theory of how there’s always one fat chick in a group of ladies who cock-blocks every guy who approaches them at the bar. While it’s unfair to judge any women based on her weight, looks, or any sexist, bro-inspired belief, I think it’s fair to say that Laura doesn’t exactly do the best job to quell the stereotype. None of this matters at the end as Juan Pablo eliminates the sweet, single mother Renee from the competition and once again proves how much of a noob I am in all “Bachelor”-related game theory.
With that there were three left for the second episode of a back-to-back “Bachelor” spectacular: Andi, Nikki, and Clare. And for every viewer begging Juan Pablo to get a room for his PDA tendencies, their prayers are answered by the overnight date and the notorious fantasy suite. The idea is simple: Each of the remaining ladies has reached a point in the competition where they’ve earned a night alone with Juan Pablo. No cameras, no other women, and the opportunity to finally speak (or do otherwise) freely with Juan Pablo.
I could write a dissertation on the ethics of a fantasy suite and the stigma and social pressures it carries. In short, it seems grossly irresponsible of “The Bachelor” to promote promiscuity as a tactic to win over a man. Andrew Sharp of Grantland wrote a fantastic piece at the beginning of the NFL season about the complex issues of enjoying a sport proven to shorten the well-being or lifespan of men everyday. There are moments in reality television where I feel similarly. It’s often easy to forget that these women on the show are real people, with real emotions and lives. Sure it’s easy to laugh at their expense as they scramble and perform mind-boggling stunts for a seemingly improbable shot at love. But the fantasy suite is that concussion-like reminder for me that while I’m chuckling at Juan Pablo’s vocabulary or Andi’s meltdowns, “The Bachelor” promotes an implausible illusion of love that could damage these women’s psyches permanently. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop us from turning on ABC every Monday night and ridiculing these characters for our enjoyment.
Both Clare and Nikki enjoy their time with Juan Pablo on the island of San Lucia and both accept their invitations to the fantasy suite without much to report. Andi’s overnight date, on the other hand, proves to be a much different story. Everything leading up to the point where the cameras leave suggest that both she and Juan Pablo have an enjoyable time. In fact, in his morning interview, Juan Pablo speaks very positively about their shared night. But in Andi’s post-overnight interview, she speaks very poorly of the date, citing she met the “real” Juan Pablo. She calls Juan Pablo a selfish, emotionless man who cares more about himself than anyone else. She goes on to claim that he brought up details of his overnight date with Clare that night which she believes was a disrespectful action. She meets with Juan Pablo and shares all of the aforementioned information and her feelings on the subject and tells him she wants out of the competition. Essentially, she finally figured out everything we all knew about Juan Pablo three episodes into the season, and decides he isn’t the one.
Or did she? If you compare Andi’s departure to that of Sharlene’s, Andi’s feels less genuine and substantially more contrived. The reasons she cites for leaving all came up during an unfilmed segment of the show, so we have no actual knowledge of what happened on the date aside from Juan Pablo’s and her account of what went down. It seems strange of Andi to do a complete 180 in regards to her feelings on Juan Pablo over one night this late in the game.
Where am I going with all of this? It’s simple: Andi’s going to be the next Bachelorette. Here’s what I think went down: At some point during the show, Andi realized (like we all did) that Juan Pablo isn’t much more than a hunk of Venezuelan meat to stare at. But knowing that the Bachelorette is chosen from the pool of women on the previous season of the Bachelor, she decided to fake her way through the show until the right moment. She definitely made a name for herself with her witty attitude, wide smile, and conveniently timed bouts of tears. And using the unfilmed overnight date as a chance to have a “change of heart,” she dramatically leaves Juan Pablo just before the finals. It’s an unmistakable power move, and a good way to not only gain momentum with fans, but with the producers. It’s highly possibly that the producers tipped her off on possibly being the next Bachelorette. But all conspiracy aside, the departure of Andi leaves us with our final two: Clare and Nikki. Next week is the official reunion show, but in two weeks time, we will have our winner of “The Bachelor.” Olé.