Oh man, The Bachelorette is really on one this season, huh? First the rise of feces-and-coded-language personified, Lee. And now the purposeless televised exploitation of human Cockapoo — if Cockapoos could be hot like when Robin Hood was an animated fox — Dean. What gives?!
Oh, I know what gives. They hired a black Bachelorette after 100 years of marshmallow fluff in the shape of Brad Womack (twice!) and now they think they can just be shitty about every single other thing. Let’s be clear: nothing good was ever going to come of Dean bringing Rachel home to his estranged family. I think we all remember Des — well, no one remembers Des, who had zero hand tattoos, but we definitely remember Des’ brother who had all the hand tattoos, and a limitless determination to ruin his sister’s love life.
Dean’s dad doesn’t seem to want to ruin Dean’s love life; in fact he attempts to make it clear in a number tones ranging from “formal compassion” to “barely suppressed rage” that he supports Dean dating Rachel if it makes them happy. But he also doesn’t seem particularly interested in affording his son any happiness that might have anything more directly to do with him. I don’t love calling a man I don’t know selfish — but being selfless is kind of the main qualifier for being a parent, and Dean’s dad is definitely not that, so I’m just working in antonyms here.
Also, I’d probably break a champagne bottle over Aspen’s highest mountain and fight anyone who made Dean’s eyes sparkle with anything other than the prince-like wonder generally twinkling around in there, so yeah. What likely started as Dean’s father trying to be generous to his estranged son quickly went south because the two haven’t had a relationship since Dean’s mother died, and everyone in Dean’s current reality TV world told him this one night, surrounded by cameras and exactly zero licensed psychologists, would be a good time to address that. I can understand that Dean’s father wouldn’t have appreciated inviting all these strangers into his home and sharing his mungbeans with them, and then having his son remind him that he emotionally abandoned his kid when he needed him most…
But he did! Both the emotional abandonment and allowing these ABC monsters into his hime. The truly confounding part lies in exactly how The Bachelorette convinced any of these people that this was a reasonable thing to do, especially Rachel who seems dead set on meeting Dean’s father even though Dean had just told that his dad was “not a person who has any bearing on my emotional experience.”
Well look alive baby boy, because you’re about to have one seriously emotional experience. But first! The boyfriends who weren’t manipulated by TV love into a familial trauma…
Oh hello, Eric, nice to meet you, where the hell have you been? Seeing Eric in his hometown of Baltimore was like stumbling across some guy on Instagram that you were in a few college classes with and being like…Wait, was he always this hot and I just never noticed?? Shut up, is he coaching a little league team in that picture?! I wonder if he’s seeing anyone. Does he live near me? Would he be open to starting our relationship long-distance? I’d always thought I’d want a summer wedding, but January could be really luxurious. Omg, I could wear a fur stole! One day I’ll pass it down to our daughters. I’m so thankful I found a monogamous life mate in Eric; I feel God in this Lo-Fi filter today.
Those are the kinds of leaps I made during Eric’s 20-minute segment. Whereas pretty much everybody else came out of their hometowns looking less appealing — excluding for Dean who I just wanted to wrap up in one of those emergency blankets they give out at marathons — Eric came out of his Hometown suddenly possessing a lovely and fun personality, with a family to match. Now if he can just ditch all those wispy scarves he likes to wear and keep smuggling his broad ass shoulders into laid back Canadian tuxedo, we could have ourselves a winner.
I mean…Eric won’t win. But still, I want him to marry Rachel and get a spinoff about their families that would force Bachelor Nation to watch not just one, but many different black people on television from not just one, but many different backgrounds, with no Lees in the mix whatsoever. And that show would, of course, be called: Aunt Verna’s Variety Show and Also Rachel and Eric Are Here.
I loved Eric’s hometown. The turn from his openness about growing up in a family where many of the men were “successful in the streets” and the women had to be extra strong as a result, to Rachel being enveloped in a screaming cloud of hospitality and love when meeting said family was, frankly, heartwarming — a platitude I do not use lightly. I was full on Grinch'in it for most of Rachel’s visit to Baltimore.
Yes, a lot of my love for this family had to do with his one aunt’s head-to-toe daytime rhinestones, but also, with every conversation Eric had with one of his family members it became clearer that this is a family that has been through tough times with each other, but has put in the work to be able to understand the challenges one another have faced. All that mature familial growth just felt so hopeful. Put a pin in that thought…
Now, may we PTL for Aunt Verna who finally put in text what The Bachelorette has been just begging us to read in subtext all season: as spells it out, “R-A-C-E.” That blonde pixie! That tunic! That moxie! I die! Aunt V is all, Soooo, Rach. Being the first black Bachelorette—that must have been a lot of pressure. And as though not one producer ever thought to ask Rachel what the implications were for her of being the show’s first black Bachelorette (perhaps they were too busy screaming, We did it! We ended racism! Right here on ABC!) Rachel’s tiny lil’ floodgates open and she says, indeed, “It’s a lot of pressure because you’re judged by two different groups. I’m getting judged by black people and I’m getting judged by…everybody else.”
This is a feeling that Rachel has alluded to exactly once before and she immediately cut herself off. Would Aunt Verna, perhaps, like to be paid one bajillion dollars to take over Chris Harrison’s job? Suddenly, all of Rachel’s comments about “in this position, I have to [be selfish] to get what I really want” carry a much heavier weight. Rachel says “I want love and love doesn’t have a color, so my journey for love shouldn’t be any different than the other 12 Bachelorettes in front of me.” That’s right Rach! You go and choose you a kinda smarmy guy with tall hair, stay engaged to him for two years, and then break up on the cover of People, just like your ancestral sisters!
But not really. I want Rachel’s journey to be different; I want her to choose Eric — there I go, pressuring her — who’s very empathetic when his mom tells him how she kept her distance from him growing up because she didn’t want him to be just another boy who knew he could always fall back on his mama if he messed up. It feels harsh, but in the case of Eric, you can’t say the theory didn’t work. And you know, I’ve said parents should love their kids unconditionally — but maybe there are conditions you should apply to, oh I don’t know, let’s just say, MATERNAL LOVE…
Bryan’s particular brand of “I dunno, girl” is hard to pin down, but there has been one red flag that was particularly glaring: he told Rachel that his mom was the reason his last relationship ended. Now, sure, there are probably some women out there who might feel threatened by their boyfriend’s relationship with their mother…but that usually doesn’t happen in a relationship where the man has a typical relationship with his mother. It happens when the mother breastfeeds the boy until he’s 12, then moves on to baby-bird feeding Alicia Silverstone-style when he’s a teenager, and when he’s forced to feed the nest, she just creepily says she’s in love with him all the time
That might be enough for even me, the most independent of lovers, to be like, Dude, I think you need scale it back with your mom a little bit, she FedEx’d us a bunch of chewed up food on dry ice yesterday.
When Bryan and Rachel arrive at his family’s home in Miami, his mom basically gives Rachel the Heisman to get to her son. Later, she offers up this toast to welcome Rachel into their family’s home: “For the most precious thing that I have in my life.” Cheers to Rachel! Olga tells the camera, while openly weeping, “Bryan is my life. He’s my love, he’s my pride. We really have such a wonderful relationship, that for me, a woman that separates him from me would be terrible.” Cool, sounds like a normal closeness between mother and son where the mom would rather the son be alone forever than to share any of the love in his love tank with another woman. Cool, cool, cool.
If Olga has other children, they go unnamed (and—this is just a guess—unloved). But there is a young mystery woman that looks like Bryan who tells Rachel that the ex-girlfriend “was threatened by the relationship he had with his mother” which the unnamed woman seems to think is proof the ex was crazy, and not an indicator that if a love interest is threatened by a mother/son relationship, there’s probably good reason. [Ed. Note: Has everyone seen Bates Motel? It’s terrific!]
Like, if your boyfriend’s mom is constantly saying, “Bryan is my life, and I just want to advise you, to give you a warning: You are marrying the family too,” that might be a good enough reason to feel threatened, quite literally, for your life, and not just for your relationship with this walking haircut (a bad one, according to Olga).
But Rachel, in her continued refusal to see that most things about Bryan are tinged with an unknowable filter of MOLLY, YOU IN DANGER GIRL, just laughs off his mom’s literal threats and professes her adoration for Lil’ BryGuy. To be fair, at the end of the visit, Olga tells the camera that she could see in Rachel’s eyes she’s a good person—the subtext is that a good person would never try to replace her as Bryan’s number one, they would just be comfortable settling into a far distant number two. At least until, as Olga says, she dies and leaves that number one spot open: “I want the day we leave, I can be in peace because he can have someone to take care of him. He’s the love of my life.”
Bryan will be allowed to love someone else, quite literally, over Olga’s dead body.
I’ve really like Peter this whole time, and for valid reason: he’s super-hot. He’s a personal trainer and former model, and he has a nice deep voice. People say the most important thing to them is a sense of humor, but when faced with a total babe who seems reasonably smart and into you, who among us would be longing for the killer knock-knock jokes of our youthful fantasies?
But boy, did Wisconsin bring out the dull in this guy. We don’t get to meet Dean’s friends (which I’ve heard was filmed as a segment because I listen to multiple Bachelorette podcasts, don’t talk to me, I don’t want to hear it), but we get to meet Peter’s friends who, coincidentally, seem like they’ve never met Peter before in their lives? No one smiles with their teeth for the entire encounter.
Peter laughs with his “pals” about how he told Rachel that he has a group of 10 close friends, eight of whom are black. Which is like, half-reassuring, and half makes you realize that Peter has a real Allison Williams vibe about him. I guess all two of his white friends and two of his black friends show up, and the two males are immediately sequestered four feet away from Rachel for “guy talk.”
Peter’s whole thing is that he only wants to propose marriage once in his life and he’s not positive he should be doing that in three weeks after having spent a total of six hours alone with this woman. And I get it. But like…Rachel is a beautiful, self-aware, successful attorney…I’d probably Married At First Sight her ass if given the opportunity. His “friends,” not making eye contact and maybe calling him Patrick at one point, tell him not to fuck it up. But when Rachel meets Peter’s family — bearing two unidentified wrapped parcels — Peter’s mom tells her he’s ready for marriage emotionally, but at this moment, he might be more prepared for a “commitment” than forking over a diamond.
Peter’s thoughts are totally logical — it’s exactly how I would feel if put in this situation, but with less prominent cheekbones and no charming tooth-gap (just weakened enamel from years of drinking Diet Coke—is that hot). But I wouldn’t put myself in this situation — Peter, with his gorgeous face and strong tooth enamel, did.
Peter seems to thank that he’s playing his game: what can he handle, what is he ready for. But this ain’t yo game boo-boo. For as self-aware as Rachel is, this isn’t even her game. This is The Bachelorette. Peter is trying to play checkers in a game of Psychological Warfare Chess (patent pending). You’ve got to be eight steps ahead; when you’re on your first date, you have to be thinking about your third date where you will, of course, be staring in to Neil Lane’s icey blue eyes, deciding on princess-cut, emerald cut, or running away fast enough that Chris Harrison can’t catch you.
In the end, Peter tells Rachel, “I’m just very happy right now.” Rachel responds: “And I…am very happy too.” A love story for the ages!
What’s left to be said about Dean’s Hometown date? Well, I guess, the details: The scene opens up on Dean, the Skipper of reanimated Ken dolls, set against the gorgeous landscape of Aspen, about to have one of the worst experiences of his life, which again, was completely avoidable. I’ve found Dean to be surprisingly mature throughout the season, including his explanation of his father’s faith choices, which he explains pragmatically; for Dean, that means only impulsively smiling, like, ever twenty seconds instead of every five. Six years ago, his father converted to the practices of a Kundalini Yogi—as Dean explains, his faith is much like Sikhism, and as he further explained in a thoughtful Instagram post in advance of the episode, it’s not what he was referring to when he called his father “eccentric.”
You guys, I know I’m stanning for Dean too hard, like he’s just a cute 26-year-old with a complicated past. But I can’t help it. I have to imagine my reaction to him is akin to if I was a 14-year-old and understood what a Shawn Mendes is. In a franchise where stereotypical masculinity is valued so highly that being “protective” is frequently manufactured from bungee jumping and cave diving excursions, it’s really interesting to see Rachel take on the role of protector as she gently forces (okay, that part’s not great) Dean to go inside his father’s home amidst his admissions of being “legitimately terrified.”
But everything is fine! This is the first time all of Dean’s three siblings, his father Paramroop, and Paramroop’s wife Santantar have all been together in eight years. Paramroop asks them to all lay down and face their heads toward his gong, and plays some soothing gong tunes which actually seem to…soothe everyone.
And okay, Dean wasn’t actually forced into seeing his family, presumably this was his own decision. I will never understand why Rachel encouraged him to choose this already volatile time to confront his dad for apparently the first time every about his lack of sensitivity following his mother’s death, but…he did it. And it did not go well!
Paramroop seems like he’s really trying to put on a nice, albeit uncomfortable, dinner for everyone, but Dean feels like everyone is putting on a front that they’re one big happy family. Well, yeah, that’s what you do when there’s a stranger in your home and you’re trying to make them feel welcome. But Dean asks if he and his father can have a few moment son their own which means everyone else has to…go outside? Outside, Dean’s sister tells Rachel what a strong person Dean is and how much she admires him. It’s very sweet. Inside, Paramroop tells Dean he’s glad he’s doing something he loves to do, and when Dean asks for clarification, Paramroop says, “I guess…hanging out with a beautiful woman?” It’s very painful.
Dean asks his father if he thinks he’s “fulfilled things” as a father and Dean’s dad says, “I must have been a pretty great dad because look at my son,” and oooooh it possibly the worst attempted compliment of all time. Dean tries to explain his frustration of his dad not being there for him after his mother passed, but Paramroop is not willing to take on that emotional responsibility. Dean wants them to be able to talk about it now that they’re both adults and he understands better what was happening, but they just go back and forth until Paramroop says, “Because of my teaching, we believe the other person is you. So whatever you think of me is what you think of yourself.” Which…sucks.
Paramroop storms outside and when Rachel asks if she can speak with him he says, “If you must.” It’s a forced conversation but Paramroop tells Rachel she’s welcome back anytime and she tells him what she has with his son is very special. Dean is distraught inside. He tells Rachel, “I know that I’m falling in love with you. I don’t even know how to conceptualize this, that’s why I’m so blown away.” Rachel whispers back, “I’m falling in love with you too.”
And then she breaks up with him!!!
Thank goodness. Not because I want Dean’s little bird heart to break, or because it made a ton of sense for Rachel to tell him she was falling in love with him and then dash he bowtied heart days later. But because Rachel and Dean were never going to work. She is a mature queen among women, and he’s just a baby with a lot of self-admitted growing up to do…
And where better to do that than in Bachelor in Paradise, where boys go to become men. Dean asks Rachel why she said she was falling in love with him and she tells him that she meant it. So that's…the opposite of closure and will probably haunt him while he tries to make out with Raven, etc. But sometimes you just have to cut the good ones loose so they can reconnect with their nuclear family and probably become Musica.ly stars or whatever.
See you next time for a combined recap of Approved Coitus Time with Chris B. Harrison™ and The Men Tell All©