IT DIDN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!
When we started this episode, it was so beautiful. I cried no fewer than four times. Yes, my period is three days away and I had therapy this afternoon, but I mean it! But let’s be real — it’s going to be hard to talk about this episode without talking about the absolute disaster of a rose ceremony. Tayshia was clearly trying to elicit an emotional response from Ben after being eliminated, and if he gave her the emotional response that she wanted, she would have chalked it up to him being vulnerable and found a way to keep him. I would put my entire life savings on that. And that’s WILDLY unfair. It’s just preposterously unfair.
Why don’t we get through these other “Home” “Town” visits so we can properly dive into Ben’s nightmare. Let’s get to it.
Chris Harrison arrives to greet our final four and let them know that they’ll be doing Hometowns at the La Quinta resort. The families have arrived, they’ve quarantined, and they’re ready to meet Tayshia. (What are the logistics on that? Were the families of the top seven standing by, ready to get swabbed if their son got the rose?) Zac’s parents and his brother are coming, Ivan’s parents are coming and he’s a little bummed his brother isn’t coming. Oh… just you wait, you sweet little chipmunk. Ben’s sister is there, and Breandauwn is going first with his brother and sister-in-law and his niece. Breandauwn immediately starts crying and Zac just wants to hug everyone. These guys have been through so much this summer and they just want the best for EACH OTHER.
Breandauwn is excited for Tayshia to meet his brother because when their father passed away, his brother became a father figure for Breandauwn. Breandauwn repeats the phrase “Family is so important to me” no fewer than 13 times. Breandauwn says he wants to give Tayshia that small town experience, so he takes her to a carnival because he grew up in the town from Our Town, apparently. He also brings along his adorable niece, Aliyah, who gets her own talking head. They play a few carnival games and end the day in a demonstration of Aliyah and Breandauwn’s special uncle and niece handshake and Tayshia demands to get her own handshake. Like half of the hometown dates, Breandauwn looks like he’s trying to show his niece his favorite TikTok dances, and Aliyah isn’t not embarrassed but she’s glad her uncle is having fun. When it’s time for the family portion of the date, Tayshia is excited because she saw a more playful, relaxed side of Breandauwn with his niece, and she says she can’t exactly read what he’s feeling all the time.
Okay, Tayshia. I gotta level with you for a second. This constant need to divine your partners’ intentions and feelings at all times is going to get exhausting. What else do you think is lurking in Breandauwn’s brain? He’s an aspiring model-slash-roofer. I think you’re getting the whole picture. You have to come to the understanding that any person on Earth, including your partner, is ultimately an unknowable entity. You don’t always know what’s going on in that weirdo’s head. That person lying next to you in bed or cooking you dinner is a STRANGER that you have LET INTO YOUR HOME FOREVER because you decided he was nice or whatever. As a person who demands that my boyfriend tell me one feeling he has each day, let me tell you, there are things you aren’t gonna know. But if there’s something you need to know, you have to ask.
Breandauwn sitting down with his family for the rest of the date is a collection of Hometown date standards. It’s the Time Life Presents Hometown Dates Collection. With hits like:
“I Can See You Two Have a Real Connection”
“Propose One Time”
“(You Know Him) Better Than Anyone”
& the mega-hit topping the charts
“It Looks Like I’m Falling in Love”
Up next is Tayshia’s date with Zac. Zac has decided to recreate what it would be like if they lived in New York with all the authenticity of a middle school play combined with Ted Mosby’s two-minute date. He teaches her how to hail a plywood cab and they head out, Flintstones-style, to a bagel stand. Okay, Zac told someone to set up a bagel stand with toppings and the PA immediately thought “fro-yo toppings” and I applaud that bold choice. They end the day by lying down in a fountain and making out and Zac takes that as a sign of how easygoing and laid back Tayshia is.
When they arrive for the meet-the-parents portion of the date, Zac’s mom is already crying. This entire family meeting is about the quantity and quality of Zac’s smiles. His brother takes on the typical “hard-ass” role and asks Tayshia how her feelings for Zac compare with the other guys and she dodges by barely mentioning the other guys at all. His brother thinks that Tayshia should probably have actual deep conversations with Zac because they could realize they might not be the exact right people for each other. Shots fucking fired! Zac tells his mom that he’s incredibly happy and he’s able to smile. He talks about how being with Tayshia made him realize that he does want a family and marriage and children and he was hiding the part of himself that wanted that.
Fuck. That’s beautiful. I want them all to win… but Zac should win first.
Tayshia calls Zac’s mom “the cutest little button” which is not how I would describe her, especially when we get to lay eyes on Ivan’s mom. But all is well and Zac loves him some Tayshia!
It’s time for Ivan’s date and HIS BROTHER GABRIEL! They had to tell Ivan over and over that his brother wasn’t going to make it but they fucking pulled off the surprise of the year! Ivan’s younger brother has such a completely different point of view than we’ve ever seen on The Bachelorette and I fucking love him. He really, really cares about his brother.
I remember how much hand-wringing and tension was squeezed out of Eric in Rachel Lindsay’s season because he was taking her to what some would colloquially call “The Hood” and the show had them sit on basketballs. For a show with a mostly white audience, Eric’s existence, growing up somewhere like Baltimore in a home with one parent, was framed as exotic. The Bachelor Cinematic Universe, in the past, has had no idea how to even represent more than one Black experience, and the Black experience that was represented had to fit into a very narrow and acceptable box. How many Black contestants, male and female, were pained as scary or aggressive for simply having an opinion or being negatively impacted by something? So for a show like The Bachelorette, which regularly traffics in stereotypes and narratives that don’t challenge white ladies in the suburbs, to feature Gabriel and let him be a regular-ass person who says things like, “I had to support him in this righteous endeavor” feels good and interesting and important. Will the show figure out some way to undermine any and all progress they’ve made? Oh, absolutely. Give it time. But for now, Ivan and Tayshia glow together! Plus, a 4-year-old made lumpia on video! No notes!
It’s time for Ben’s date. Y’all, why is Antonia from Top Chef there? What is she doing there? She’s a family friend?! And she’s not going to make ricotta gnudi with oxtail ragu?!?!?! If you’re going to have a winner of Top Chef Duels on your reality show, you better have her roll out some fresh pasta and braise a lamb shank. I need 400 percent more context, but let’s keep her around. She’s getting great realizations out of Ben and maybe she could just sit down with Tayshia and help her figure some stuff out.
Ben decides to give Tayshia the Venice Beach experience. Ben feels really good going into the night portion of the date but Tayshia feels like there’s something about Ben that she doesn’t know or that’s missing. Ma’am. I think he’s told you about every mental health crisis he’s had in his life. I think you know everything. Ben’s sister says the same thing. There’s no trapdoor or anything else hiding there. He’s just… a little guarded. WHICH IS FINE. He’s on a game show to find love but being a little guarded should not be a fatal flaw.
Meanwhile, Ben sits down with Antonia and she’s like, “Look at you, you live-action Disney’s Hercules. You love her, you stupid beautiful idiot.” He’s fucking stunned. He can’t believe it. This is the moment you want in the rom-com. The moment when you love her and you can’t live without her. Unfortunately for Ben, when he sits down with Tayshia he can’t get his words together enough to tell her how he feels.
He’s just not good at words! Some people aren’t good at words! He also seems to be the type of person who can’t process and act in the same moment. Maybe we should all give the guy who says he literally doesn’t know how to cry a second to gather his thoughts and confess his love. But nope! It’s time for the rose ceremony!
(I also wonder how the compressed filming schedule changed the usual timing of Hometown dates. Having that extra day or two between his Hometown and flying back to wherever for the rose ceremony might have given Ben the time to compose his thoughts.)
Tayshia arrives in an amazing pink gown. She thinks she knows what she has to do, including a completely manipulative post-rose move. Ivan, Zac, and Breandauwn all get roses. Ben seems perfectly fine to pass a few polite words on to Tayshia and head to the limo, but she actually offers to walk him out. This is when it all goes wrong.
She tries to talk around the issue and tells him that she isn’t sure if their pages are really aligned. If you want the guy you’re dating to confess how he feels about you, maybe don’t first break up with him then insinuate you don’t feel the same about him that he does about you. TAYSHIA! You know you want Ben and you could force the show to let you bang four dudes in the desert without doing all this.
And let’s look at it from Ben’s perspective for a second: you’ve just been eliminated, and you’ve already seen more than one guy confess their love to Tayshia and get promptly sent home. Any polite person wouldn’t try to push and shove their feelings onto a person who just broke up with them. Doing that would be an incredibly difficult task for even the most emotionally expressive person, but again, Ben just ain’t good with words.
Tayshia pleads to him “Don’t shut down on me” but you just shut him down by electing to send him home and then not telling him exactly what you want. Sometimes you date a guy who doesn’t take a hint. That doesn’t mean they aren’t ready or capable of love. It just means sometimes you gotta go, “Hey! You need to make our anniversary dinner reservations this year! That’s your job now!”
But instead of Tayshia asking for what she needs in the moment, she turns around and says that she’s disappointed that Ben wasn’t emotional. Oh, fuck off. That’s not a thing you get to be disappointed about. Someone else’s emotional reaction isn’t for you. Tayshia frames it as though she’s been doing so much to pull these moments out of Ben, so to not give her one more is letting her down and suggests their time together doesn’t mean anything. You’re not Carrie. He’s not Mr. Big. No one is wearing a dumb little beret but I am ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTED.
If you want something from someone, you can’t get mad at them if you never ask. There is so much dumb Bachelor language to achieve exactly this. “Where is your heart? Can we get there? I could see myself falling in love with you.” But now Ben is living that part of the rom-com where he realizes he loves the girl but in real life, he can’t race to the airport or show up at her artisanal jam shop with a basket of rare berries. He’s just a guy in a limo trying to figure out how to cry.