As I sat there, watching Zach take the world’s longest shower, I couldn’t help but wonder: Have we perfected the Bachelor formula? It’s Hometowns Week, and we watched the same conversation — in which a contestant told Zach they’re falling for him — happen three times. Next time, we’re due for the inevitable Fantasy Suite meltdown, where one of the women will probably leave in a puddle of tears and Catholic guilt, and then we’ll reveal our winner. Rinse and repeat, as Zach surely will.
But there was something comforting in this episode. There were overprotective fathers, mothers, and brothers. There were vaguely regional-themed activities that you could theoretically classify as “dates.” There were houses that looked about as put-together as the model home from Arrested Development. Hometowns Week is like a fuzzy blanket dulling your senses, like waking up feeling better after a long cold, like getting a Triple Dipper and a $5 Presidente Margarita from Chili’s: You know exactly what’s coming, yet you revel in it anyway. Please shoot me before I get too sentimental. Let’s get into it.
The producers have Zach start his journey in Vermont because they found a Marriott with glass shower doors. As Zach scrubs every inch of his body, he ponders his four connections: There’s nothing outwardly wrong with any of them. He could probably go on like this forever. And yet American laws and customs dictate that he can only marry one of them. Damn you, Joseph Smith!
Now, Zach runs to Gabi instead of the other way around. Oh, how the tables have turned. This is the future that feminists want. Since she’s from Vermont, today he’s getting the “full maple experience.” Just once, I’d love for someone to be like, “Since I’m from Vermont, today we’re passing around a bowl and throwing rocks at the abandoned house at the end of my street,” but I digress. They drill into a maple tree, and Gabi and Zach make a series of innuendos about drilling and holes and blah-blah-blah; it’s all very predictable. ChatGPT could write this date.
Then, Gabi has Zach taste-test a number of maple syrups in the hopes that he can suss out the fake one, and — surprise, surprise! — he can’t. Gabi, what did you expect? That he would prefer the raw tree juice you guys just completed manual labor for over the jar full of chemicals bottled especially to hook boys like Zach, who grew up on a combination of Capri-Sun and Pixy Stix? Gabi gets her revenge on the maple tree when she makes out with Zach against it.
Gabi desperately wants her family’s approval of Zach so she can feel like she’s healing from her past relationship, a theme that she thinks makes her unique but actually plagues every single hometown visit. Inside, we meet Gabi’s brothers, parents, and sister, who all kind of look exactly like Gabi but with more teeth. Everyone’s general vibe is, “This whole thing is weird, but this guy seems fine!” Everyone, that is, except for Gabi’s dad, who literally starts crying when he remembers seeing Gabi’s mom for the first time and instantly falling in love. The casting department is salivating. Someone get this guy on The Seniorette!
As Gabi and Zach say good-bye, she forgoes telling him she’s falling in love to instead complain about how she won’t see him for a whole week. That definitely won’t backfire on her!!!
Now it’s time for Ariel’s date, and I’m already excited because this is a classic Your-Friend-Is-Visiting-NYC-From-Out-of-Town-Let’s-Find-Some-Stuff-to-Do kind of day. Zach scarfs down a piece of pizza while standing up! They walk around Washington Square Park! They probably see that lady who gets hundreds of pigeons to sit on her! Zach says “the West Village” like it’s a foreign land. Ariel looks gorgeous, but I know she’s chafing walking around in those knee-high boots. They need to find a happy hour and sit their asses down to participate in another New York tradition, which is loudly gossiping about everyone you know who lives in a two-mile radius.
Next up, they go to Sarge’s, and Zach tries a beef-tongue sandwich for the first time. Initially, he treats it the same way he did the Estonian traditions, which is, “Ahh! Other cultures are scary!” before he discovers that actually tongue is delicious and Jewish delis have some God-tier cuisine. They head over to a speakeasy, and Ariel tells him how her parents moved here from Ukraine after they were persecuted for being Jewish; therefore, her brother is extra protective of her. No family member on The Bachelor ever needs an excuse to be overprotective, Ariel, don’t worry.
They meet up with the fam at a Brooklyn winery. Ariel jokes that they’ll both be getting roasted, which makes Zach more nervous because he’s clearly unequipped to meet a family that isn’t immediately supportive. But now, it’s time to talk about Bobby, the aforementioned brother. He’s come in with a list of questions that’ll be impossible for Zach to answer, like “What’s Ariel’s birthday?” “What’s her middle name?” “Why should she like you at all?” to which Zach responds with, “Hmm,” a very angry head shake, and “I can cook.” Well, Bobby, how can he be expected to remember such minute details about four different women while pursuing Love? Ariel is Hot/Funny/New York to Charity’s Sweet/Emotional/Georgia and Gabi’s Quirky/Pretty/Vermont. Zach’s boilerplate answer is “I can see a future with her,” which is a phrase that promises and says literally nothing. Bobby is so disgusted with all of this that he can barely say Zach’s name when he’s unpacking this with Ariel, and this is the kind of anti-Zach rhetoric I’ve been searching for all season!
Ariel’s dad gives the standard “I trust your judgment” answer, so Ariel can now say that she’s falling for Zach. Side note: “Falling for” someone isn’t a real step in a relationship, right? Because it’s become so standard on The Bachelor that you’d be labeled crazy to just outright say, “I love you.” Does “falling for” actually mean “I’ll say it soon, don’t send me home yet?” Or is it some crucial process that only Mike Fleiss has unlocked?
Are we moving fast? It feels like we’re moving fast. Up next is Charity’s hometown date, and they’re hopping right into meeting the family because Charity’s mom had a hair appointment she couldn’t move. This woman has the skin of an angel, and now I know that I cannot re-create Charity’s glow with an ELF primer. They’re having a big BBQ with Charity’s family and friends, and once again, all of them agree that Charity needs to get over her past relationship. I was about to ask why all these women have such horrible exes, but actually I’m in the dating pool and I know exactly why. The older I get, the more I understand why The Bachelor is an appealing choice. The chance to date an emotionally available man and get free housing? What’s Joe Biden’s plan for that??
Charity’s family is very supportive, which Zach needs after being hammered by Ariel’s brother. He visibly unclenches when they compare Charity to Cinderella. Charity’s sweet older brother asks him one or two tough questions before deferring to her judgment. Because of that, this date is just reiterating how Charity Wants Love. And her older brother and mother get emotional thinking about the possibility of Charity getting heartbroken. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we in the business call “foreshadowing.” We should have known when Zach decided that Charity got the wife-racing date instead of the shopping date.
They do a line dance at a bar for .25 seconds before Charity tells Zach she’s falling for him. Next!
Finally, it’s Kaity’s turn. Kaity just moved to Austin, and what she actually needs is a Taskrabbit, but what she has is Zach. They go to the grocery store, and he helps her build a bookcase and hang her shelf. All of these tasks essentially amount to nothing — the bookcase is left in shambles, and they appear to order takeout instead of eating their groceries — but give them an idea of what life could be like after The Bachelor. This spell will be promptly broken in two weeks, when Kaity returns from L.A. to find her groceries rotted and spare nails littering the floor. Call me a romantic, but I can see these two together forever. Zach is so obsessed with staring at Kaity that he keeps accidentally hammering his fingers while putting together the shelves.
Kaity reminds Zach that he won’t be meeting her dad because he walked out when she was little, but because of that, her mom’s opinion means so much more. And while Zach seems to get the magnitude of this, he once again gives Kaity’s mom his standard answer: “I can see a future with her.” He does add that he can see himself falling for her, which, again, doesn’t actually mean anything. But this is the closest he’s come to saying the L-word yet, so I guess we take dubs where we can. Kaity’s mom approves, and Kaity tells Zach she’s falling for him. Signed, sealed, delivered. Triple Dipper complete.
Okay, but there are still 25 minutes left, so something dramatic must happen at the rose ceremony. Right? WRONG! IT’S A SURPRISE SEAN LOWE!! Frankly, I missed this man. We hadn’t seen him in like five episodes, just talked about him incessantly. He deserves a guest house in the Mansion for Catherine and the kids.
But I have a question: Does The Bachelor think its audience is stupid? Zach spends five minutes going over his connections — complete with full flashbacks — which is something we just spent the last hour and a half watching. Why do we need this spelled out again? And because they can’t give away who he really likes, we get basically no insight into Zach’s mind-set from this conversation. It’s just a five-minute recap with Sean there for reactions. Is this what we rushed Charity’s line dancing for? Was the bookshelf actually made and we didn’t get to see it??
It doesn’t matter because it’s time for the Rose Ceremony. Ariel gets the first rose, which is initially shocking but not surprising because next week is Fantasy Suite Week and Zach wants to re-create their nudist-spa date sans their elderly guests. Kaity and Gabi get the other two roses, which means Charity’s going home. Zach knows he just confirmed all of her family’s worst fears, so they legitimately just sit there in silence while she cries. When he starts to say he may have made a wrong decision, she cuts him off, telling him that’ll just make it worse. Go, Charity! I love seeing some backbone from her … even though she immediately goes back to crying. Hey, she’ll probably be the Bachelorette, so she’ll have many, many more tears left to cry.
Next week is Fantasy Suite Week, where Zach (cough) won’t be (cough) having sex (cough, cough). I love mess.
Bonus Content: The Women Tell All Superlatives
- Class Clown: Jesse Palmer saying “Sex Week”
- Most Absent: Brianna
- Quietest: Christina Mandrell
- Most Organized: The Zach the Snack table
- Most Likely to Succeed: Dr. Banks
- Most Confusing Name Dynamic: Katherine/Kat
- Best Product Placement: Jess’ body glitter
- Biggest Animal Lover: Anastasia’s boyfriend/mom
- Best Queer Baiting: The Zach orange
- Best Paradise Bid: Night 1 Olivia
- MVP: Jesse Palmer’s suit tissues
- Next Bachelorette: CHARITY!!!!
Sign up here for email alerts for every new The Bachelor recap.