Hometowns is reliably one of the best episodes. It features four convenient narrative chunks involving 1) a lead; 2) a contestant that we know pretty well; and 3) a family we don’t know at all. No group dates, no house drama, just a guy trying to explain to four sets of parents that he has four girlfriends and is trying to decide whether their daughter is one of three women he would like to spend a night with. It is a very common dilemma that everyone will face at least once or twice in their lives, right?
The questions heading into this particular set of hometowns include:
- Victoria F’s family… how crazy will that be?
- Will Peter keep Kelsey’s secret about being in contact with her father from her mother? Is that what you really want on your boyfriend’s mind the first time he meets your parents?
- How will Madison’s family feel about the aforementioned sexy stuff? Or rather, how angry will they be about it?
- Is it an advantage or a disadvantage for Hannah Ann that no natural question presents itself? For a frontrunner I really don’t know much about Hannah Ann, though I tend to think of her as “Madison lite” in that her family is probably a bit less religious than Madison’s and Madison is probably better at basketball than Hannah Ann.
I suppose in other Bachelor news I have minor and one major surprise. The minor surprise is that Chris Randone (from Becca Kufrin’s season and Paradise) is splitting up from his wife Krystal Nielson, the former director of Homeland Security who enacted the Family-Separation Policy. Just kidding, that’s Kirstjen Nielsen, and if there is justice in the world, history will never forget that. Krystal Nielson was on Arie’s season and also on Paradise and she and Chris met there and got engaged and got married and stayed married for eight months. It is the first Bachelor marriage to end, but that is not the surprising thing given the low success rate of relationships formed on the shows and, I guess, everything we saw about Chris and Krystal when they were on our televisions. The major surprise is that at the NBA All-Star Game before Chaka Khan sang the Star Spangled Banner the Canadian National Anthem was performed by Tenille Arts, Bachelor musical guest extraordinaire! She’s real and has a career that goes beyond performing the “surprise” personal concert for a contestant on a one-on-one date. That reveal was as shocking to me as if I’d been wandering around Cambridge and found the Harvard Symbology Department. “Wait, this contrived and obviously-fake thing is… not totally fake?”
Hannah Ann Hometown – Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville is home to Hannah Ann, and we see the Knoxville SunSphere in the opening shot of the city. I’ve been in the SunSphere. It is… fine. I have blogged about it before, actually. Hannah Brown visited Knoxville because Jed Wyatt was from there, and I mentioned it then and linked to a Simpsons video. Hannah B and Jed are not mentioned during dinner with Hannah Ann’s family, though I would like to imagine it did come up, probably like this: “Well, I have not been to Knoxville before, but once I was dating a girl and we fucked four times in a windmill and then she dumped me for another guy she was dating named Jed and he was from here… and then Jed was dating a different girl secretly and when my ex found out she dumped him and we almost got back together like two months ago and, funny story, my ex is also named Hannah and she went to Alabama and Jed’s girlfriend went to Auburn and they are huge rivals and also I have another girlfriend and she is named Madison and her dad coaches at Auburn so I am headed there later. Anyway, Knoxville seems nice. I hear the SunSphere is just ‘meh.’ Could you maybe pass the coleslaw?”
Hannah Ann tells us her dad is “in the lumber industry” and they “call him Ranger Rick.” They go to a strip mall to throw axes and kiss awkwardly in front of a bunch of Knoxville axe-holes. We are led to believe Hannah Ann selected this activity because of her father’s profession, but I doubt anyone in “the lumber industry” throws axes as part of their job. Throwing axes is an inefficient way to cut down trees. Also, I am holding out hope that “the lumber industry” is actually the name of Hannah Ann’s father’s all-male erotic dance troupe. If not, I think it will be the name of mine.
Peter is not great at axe-throwing and neither is Hannah Ann. Peter does eventually throw a bullseye and then he gives Hannah Ann a handwritten list of things he likes about her in response to her list from last week. Peter’s list is on yellow legal-pad paper. Then Peter and Hannah Ann make out some more. Lame date, short date, time for dinner!
Hannah Ann and Peter arrive at Hannah Ann’s “childhood home.” Her mom immediately starts crying and Hannah Ann’s father Rick and I’m guessing younger sister Dawn and brother are there? The key question we are being asked to consider is whether non-ranger Rick is going to be cool with Peter. Sister Dawn pulls Hannah Ann away and she looks at Peter’s stupid list and comes away impressed. Peter tells Hannah Ann’s mom that Hannah Ann said she is falling in love with him. Then Peter tells Hannah Ann’s mom that he wants to tell Hannah Ann that he is falling in love with Hannah Ann also. Hannah Ann’s mom is like “tell her dad.” Maybe just tell Hannah Ann, you weirdo? Hannah Ann’s mom says Rick “is not going to just give her away to anybody.” Rick thinks of Hannah Ann the way Rod Blagojevich thought about Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
Rick asks Peter to rank his girlfriends so Rick can figure out where his daughter fits in Peter’s plans. Peter says “there’s something real there” and tells Rick that he will tell Hannah Ann that Peter is “falling in love with her.” I am curious if anyone has ever told the parents of one of their girlfriends that they will soon tell her they are falling in love with her. It seems really awkward. But Rick sees through the weirdness to spot some actual danger, like an insufficiently-doused campfire during the dry season. Rick warns Peter “don’t tell her that if you don’t mean it.” Rick doesn’t want Peter to lie to his infatuated daughter. Fair enough. All in all, a pretty restrained hometown-dad performance by Rick, though in any other season we would suffer through contrived storylines about getting a blessing to propose. If that were an issue to Peter, he probably did not get a blessing from Hannah Ann’s father, but Peter doesn’t seem too worried about it.
Peter, predictably given his time on the show thus far, kind of conveys all of Rick’s concerns before telling Hannah Ann that he is “falling in love” with her and she “makes [him] so happy.” Hannah Ann responds “I am in love with you.” Hannah Ann says “I’m in it” but mercifully does not add “to win it.” Peter is happy and so is the cameraman who captures the corner of Peter’s note poking out of Hannah Ann’s back pocket. At the car Hannah Ann says “I’m in love with you” and “I love you” and Peter awkwardly responds “I love that.” Hannah Ann is left standing in the narratively inappropriate rain in her driveway having finished a short and successful hometown date.
Kelsey Hometown – Des Moines, Iowa
Kelsey tells us she is “born and raised in Iowa” and she meets Peter at the state capitol building. Kelsey says they are going to do a surprise thing that they both enjoy doing. It is winemaking at the Somerset winery. They are stomping cold-ass grapes. Seems gross, though I have a theory that this show likes to cater to its small-but-dedicated foot fetishist fanbase. And if your thing is feet, this was your date. Also, I enjoyed your movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Just kidding, and “allegedly” belongs in there somewhere too.
Peter and Kelsey mix some wine together to make their special blend of Iowa wine. They try to come up with a name and the name they come up with is “wine.” Chateau Des Moines was already taken? Peter and Kelsey have what I assume is a different and better wine at the Somerset Winery. Kelsey tells Peter “I can honestly say that I am in love with you… and I know my family will see that.”
Kelsey’s hometown appears to be in a house rented by the show for the occasion. There are no pictures on the wall, though there is a bottle of Kelsey and Peter’s wine. Also they have crab rangoon, which I guess is Kelsey’s favorite food and something Peter has never tried. I have only had crab rangoon in Iowa, and if you have never had it I would describe it as “cream cheese wontons if you used cream cheese with imitation crab in it.” It’s… fine. At least as good as the SunSphere.
Peter dines with Kelsey’s mom Beth, some guy named Mike who I think may be married to Kelsey’s mom, and some siblings including sister Kayla and another unnamed sister. The sisters grab Kelsey to chat and Kayla tells the camera that Kelsey hasn’t brought a boy home in a while. Kelsey tells her sisters she would accept a proposal from Peter.
Kelsey’s mom Beth tells Peter that she is “a pretty good reader of people” though I guess not her daughter, who is lying to her about her level of contact with her father. Beth tells Peter that Kelsey “loves like no other.” “I might find out next week, nudge nudge, wink wink!” Peter responds. He doesn’t, that was a joke.
Kelsey’s stepdad Mike asks Kelsey about Peter, and Kelsey tells him that she told Peter she is in love with him. Mike asks about “reciprocation.” Don’t people watch the show? Peter is definitely not supposed to say he loves the contestants right now. Hannah Ann’s sister Dawn asked Hannah Ann the same thing.
Kelsey’s mom Beth gets kind of emotional saying she is proud of Kelsey, wants her to be happy, and doesn’t want her heart to get broken. There is at least a 75% chance that it will get broken. If this were random, I mean. It is way higher if not. Kelsey is at best in third place, which we know in Iowa is the Elizabeth Warren spot, and it will take days for Kelsey to find out for sure because no one bothered to test the app.
These first two dates have kind of flown by because they were boring and we have been led to believe that the final two dates will not be that. Fingers crossed.
Madison Hometown – Auburn, Alabama
We head to Auburn, home of Auburn University, employer of Madison’s father. Madison graduated from Auburn, though she also matriculated at Highlands College, which is a seminary. If you are wondering whether the phrase “one man and one woman” appears in the Highlands College website under “beliefs,” I already checked and it does.
Madison takes Peter into Auburn Arena to see where the Tigers play and Madison’s dad coaches. Auburn is a football school but Charles Barkley went there and as they enter the arena the jumbotron shows Sir Charles talking to Peter in a recorded message. Madison whispers “that’s Charles Barkley” and I hope Peter knew that but I kind of think he did not. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl arrives and coaches Madison and Peter through some dribbling drills. Madison is good and Peter is not good and Bruce Pearl makes fun of Peter, who almost certainly has no clue who Bruce Pearl is or who any college basketball coaches are for that matter. Bruce Pearl is charismatic in the way of adult men who convince teenagers to play a sport for no money very effectively. Bruce Pearl took Auburn to the Final Four in 2019 and gets paid $3,800,000 per year. Chuma Okeke, who tore his ACL playing for Bruce Pearl in the NCAA tournament, did not get paid at all for his services. He did lose a lot of money because he fell out of the lottery in the NBA draft, but you know, he didn’t have to pay to go to Auburn for those years where he made the school millions of dollars. I attended the NCAA championship game in 2019 so I have put my share of money into this corrupt enterprise. Also, it is obviously a good idea to select Charles Barkley for this role, he is very charismatic and Auburn’s most famous and accomplished basketball alumnus. But they could have also picked Auburn alum Chuck Person for this spot. Chuck Person played in the NBA, then started coaching at Auburn on Bruce Pearl’s staff and then… was arrested and charged with six felony counts including bribery, solicitation of bribes and gratuities, conspiracy to commit fraud, and wire fraud for allegedly accepting kickbacks to steer student-athletes to financial managers. A weird thing about Madison’s dad is that he basically has the job of a guy who was ensnared in a federal bribery case.
Here is Bruce Pearl donning orange body paint to support the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at his old job at UT in Hannah Ann’s hometown of Knoxville.
He’s the “V.” Also, Bruce Pearl left Tennessee in 2011 but didn’t coach at Auburn until 2014 because he was essentially suspended by the NCAA for recruiting shenanigans. This is funny because, while coaching at Iowa, Bruce Pearl possibly-illegally recorded a call with Deon Thomas and sent it to the NCAA because Thomas allegedly agreed that Illinois gave him money and an SUV to commit there instead of to Iowa. Is it weird that I love college basketball and hate it for exploiting the free labor of mostly-poor and minority workers? Yes. Is it weird that I seem to be criticizing Bruce Pearl for running afoul of rules that are designed to keep any of these mostly-poor and minority workers from getting money? Also yes.
Anyway, Madison pretty much cooks and eats Peter on the basketball court. Despite her famously slow-paced high school offense, Madison can ball and Peter really can’t. It is nice to see Madison in her element and Peter seems perfectly happy to lose to Madison on television, which is a mark in his favor. Peter tells us that he has “the absolute best feeling in the world” about Madison. Peter reminds us that he told Madison he was falling in love with Madison and she did not say it back, but Peter seems pretty convinced she feels it as well. Madison tells the camera that if meeting her family goes well she “could definitely be falling in love.”
Madison and Peter walk up to a big house. Madison tells us her mom is Tanya, her dad is Chad, Mallory and Mary Michael are mentioned and I am guessing they are sisters. Tanya tells us that there is a tradition of “the special plate” which one person gets at dinner. Maddy gets the special plate and everyone says something they like about Madison because she has the special plate. It is cute and maybe a little weird, but people say nice things and Peter joins in. Lucky for Peter that Mary Michael didn’t get the special plate, he’d have nothing to say about her! Then Chad Prewett prays quite a bit before they start eating.
Mom Tanya tells us that “this family is a family of faith” and she grabs Madison and they sit on a bed and Tanya asks Madison if they have talked about “the decisions you’ve made for yourself in relationships.” Madison and her mom are talking about sex on television, and what Tanya is very confident is Madison’s decision to abstain from having it until she is married.
Peter sits down with dad Chad and Peter tells Chad that he has told Madison that he is falling in love with her. Chad is like “how can you assure me that that’s genuine.” Chad adds “she’s so pure.” Chad doesn’t want Peter to break Madison’s heart and asks Peter “do you know?” presumably in reference to him marrying her or picking her at the end or whatever Chad thinks happens on this show. And Peter can’t really answer. This is a difficult situation for Peter, and he says “I just can’t give you an answer right now, and I’m sorry about that.” I think that is a third non-blessing if anyone is paying attention, which no one really is.
Chad sits down with Madison and Madison tells her father that she needs to know she has their support. Chad is concerned about this, and it sort of sounds like Chad is on the fence about Peter but very concerned that Madison might have sex with him before she marries him. Madison suggests to the camera that this brought her to “the harsh reality” which I guess is that the show is about to go to a place Madison presumably does not want it to go to. She is “saving herself for marriage,” though she presumably understands Peter has not saved himself. But there is a difference between him sleeping with people before he met Madison and him sleeping with people after they started dating and he met her family.
Peter says to the camera “I love Madison. I just know that she’s on the same page with me.” Whoa! That’s a big reveal, and one that likely would not be shown if we are looking at smooth sailing for these two. I mean, he loves her! Done, right? We’re done? No drama left? Just, like three episodes of Peter and Madison being in love with each other and getting engaged?
Victoria F Hometown – Virginia Beach, Virginia
We are heading to Virginia Beach, home of Victoria F. Victoria F is on the actual beach and playing with her dog Buxton. She jumps into Peter’s arms and Buxton just runs right into the ocean. Both Victoria F and Peter remind the camera that things have been dicey for them thus far. Because they are in Virginia Beach they take Buxton to some tourist trap to take Old-Timey Photos. Then they buy ice cream cones and Buxton eats pretty much all of Victoria F’s. Next it is off to “the Shack on 8th” which is where I guess you can eat tacos under the shade of a parking garage and see a private Hunter Hayes concert. Peter recognizes Hunter Hayes and knows the words to the songs, so we now can be pretty sure country is Peter’s genre of choice. Peter tells Victoria F “I love Hunter Hayes” and it is to his credit that he doesn’t ask Victoria F if she and Hunter Hayes have ever dated. It is notable and on-the-nose that the song Hunter Hayes performs is “I Want Crazy” and contains the line “I don’t want easy, I want crazy.”
Oh, and if you are curious, Victoria F did apologize (sorta) for the White Lives Matter modeling work she did. Work that, I feel I should note, is obviously racist. There is a confederate battle flag design. Anyway, here’s some pictures again and then the apology delivered, like all sincere communications, in a screenshot of the notes app.
— sami bzami (@sami_bazami) January 14, 2020
As Peter is leaving he spots a woman with a blurred out face across the taco restaurant and yells “Merissa!” This, it turns out, is a woman named Merissa Pence. No idea why her face is blurred out, but she dated Peter in 2012 and I guess never told him that she is from Virginia Beach because he asks her right away why she is there. Then Merissa says “just be careful, I’m from here and I just know what a good guy you are and I would hate for who you are to be affected by somebody else, so that’s really all I’ll say, and I know you are a great guy and I don’t think you deserve who you are on a date with right now.” Peter asks Merissa if she knows Victoria F and Merissa is like… “well, since you asked…” and proceeds to tell Peter that Victoria F and her have had issues and also some relationships have broken up because of Victoria F. This is consistent with some spoiler-y rumors that maybe Victoria F has slept with one or more of her friends’ husbands or boyfriends. Peter hugs Merissa Pence and then Peter leaves to perform one of his trademark and wildly-unsuccessful investigations.
We see Victoria F’s family sitting around waiting to meet Peter and see Victoria F. Spoiler alert: we won’t see them again until the post-credits sequence, but they seem lovely and Victoria F has a cute grandmother. We then see Peter’s car stopping to collect Victoria F en route to this dinner. Peter gets out of the vehicle and essentially tells Victoria F what Merissa told him. Peter does his thing, repeating verbatim Merissa’s accusations about Victoria F. Victoria F asks followup questions and Peter has no answers because he doesn’t do followup questions.
Peter tells Victoria F “obviously you can see how that would put me in a bad headspace.” It is possible to read Victoria F’s behavior toward Peter throughout the season as either manipulative or sincerely unbalanced. Partisans on either side of this debate will find plenty to support their position in the interaction that follows. Victoria F says “I’m disgusted” and Peter asks if she “heard his words” and Victoria F just sort of melts down. Peter is like “I need to address this before I meet your family” and Victoria F says “then I don’t want to do this. What are we gonna say? Well, it doesn’t matter anymore.” Peter asks “what is this right now?” and in exasperation asks “did you ever fight for anything you really want? Because I haven’t felt like you’ve fought for us.”
Victoria F’s response is “I fought super hard to save the white and blue marlins!” She didn’t say that. She says “you haven’t? That’s funny? Okay then.” Victoria F just repeats “I don’t agree” before settling on “I am so done with this conversation right now, I can’t do this, I’m so done.” Victoria F walks away, only turning to say “Get!” at the camera that is trying to follow her. Having stormed off on this residential street that I guess is outside the house where Victoria F’s family is waiting for Peter, Victoria F returns to where Peter is standing. Peter tries to tell Victoria F that he wasn’t attacking her. She says “I adore you, I literally want to tell you tonight that I was falling in love with you.” Peter asks her “how do you just walk away?” Victoria F says “you take this stupid girl’s side” and “how are we supposed to move forward from this?” Peter kind of finally grows a little bit of a backbone, actually arguing with Victoria F. I think Peter has maybe confused the need to fight for Victoria F as something more than physical attraction to a person he does not really get along with. Though a less-charitable read of the situation is that Peter just really wants to sleep with Victoria F before settling down with Hannah Ann or Madison. Victoria F cries a whole bunch, and if you are team “manipulative” you will be happy to see that Peter hugs her and reminds her that he has fought for her. Then Peter says “you deserve to be loved, don’t push that away” and gets back in the car that drives him away. Awkwardly pulling a U-turn so it will have to drive past Victoria P a second time.
Victoria P’s mom comes out to comfort her, as does a guy who might be her dad. This guy says “you’ll always have us, you’ll always have us.” What a strange date!
The next morning Peter is in his surprisingly-small hotel room overlooking the water when Victoria F stops by. She tells Peter “I’m really sorry for how things went down yesterday.” Peter is also sorry. Victoria F says “I am falling in love with you” to which Peter replies “I feel like you don’t even want me to love you the way I want to love you,” and “I feel like we have no communication skill.” He’s upset because he feels like Victoria F could just walk away at any time, a thing she has done at least twice including when Peter was supposed to meet her family for the first and only time before he would propose marriage. Victoria F cries and assures Peter that she “can’t walk away from [you]… like I can’t!” Peter says “I don’t want to make a decision right now.” If Victoria F gets a rose someone is going to be very and understandably upset.
Peter and Victoria F had the worst hometown date of all time, though I suppose Dean Unglert and Rachel Lindsay might quibble with that superlative. And yet Peter is telling the camera he “sees that potential” with Victoria F. Umm… really? Because I think Peter thinks he can bone it down with Victoria F and still marry Hannah Ann or Madison. And I have to say that is dumb. That is a recipe for disaster, which would be the tagline for this season if Peter was a sexy chef instead of a sexy pilot.
This rose ceremony is in a hangar, which is how it usually goes since one of them is going home and the others are flying to the fantasy suites in the exotic finale locale (in this case, the Gold Coast of Australia). Peter arrives to see a white dress (Madison) a tiny black dress (Hannah Ann) and two green dresses (Kelsey and Victoria F).
Peter picks up the first rose and offers it to Hannah Ann. She accepts. He picks up the second rose and hands it to Madison. And the third rose is going to… Victoria F. Peter hands the rose to a not-all-that-surprised Victoria F and I guess Kelsey is heading back to Des Moines. She and Hannah Ann share an embrace as if Kelsey didn’t recently call Hannah Ann “a fake bitch” on television and as if Hannah Ann didn’t tell Kelsey’s boyfriend that Kelsey is a bully.
Peter walks Kelsey out and tells her “I know you probably didn’t see that coming at all.” “Wait until you see the rest of the episode, you will be furious!” He does not add. Peter lets Kelsey down as best he can, and as shocking as it would have sounded six episodes ago, Kelsey’s arc may have ended with Bachelorette consideration. I mean, she had her embarrassing moment (similar to Hannah Brown’s disastrous attempt at a toast) and she is a beauty queen with a backstory. I would be concerned that she was so quick to accuse Hannah Ann of “being a fake bitch” over what clearly was an honest mistake, but she’s not the worst option and after the terrible edit the show gave to Kelley last week, they may not have her as an option anymore.
Anyway, we are off to Australia next week for fantasy suites. Right before the show ended Madison grabbed Peter, so I guess the cliffhanger will be Madison telling Peter whatever she is about to tell him, possibly that she is not planning to windmill it in Australia.