Before we get to the hometown dates and the first night of our Bachelor
double feature extravaganza, let's first point out that things are not looking good for Juan Pablo. His once muy caliente season has chilled like the northeast under the weight of the Polar Vortex, and judging from the previews, there's nowhere to go but down.
If you told JP on the first night that all his dates were heading south like birds and Republicans in the winter, well, I reckon he would have thought it meant something else. Something pleasant. Something only Clare has likely experienced thus far.
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But unfortunately for Juan Pablo, and the three other women -- wink wink -- things are not looking quite so rosy (get it? Rosy?). First, he's still adjusting to the fact that his favorite withdrew herself from the running after realizing that many of the kisses she would be receiving as the winner would be to cover awkward black hole silences where conversations go to die, sucked in by the intense gravitational pull of Juan Pablo's sultry accent.
Then there's the Clare incident, where he did his best to turn her fake limo belly into a real-life half-sibling before realizing he'd bought a first-class ticket aboard the train to Crazy Town, where, instead of peanuts or cookies, they hand out messages from beyond the grave thanking you for taking spinster daughters off the market. So buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy ride, with the bodies of tear-stained potential suitors lining the tracks.
Let's bring 'em home!
The Extravaganza Begins
We've got a lot on tap regarding the complete deconstruction of possibly the worst overall, yet wildly entertaining, season of The Bachelor. Parents will disapprove, Andi will make fantasy suite mistakes and end up disgusted, and everyone will cry. Nikki, you're up first.
Our favorite nurse greets Juan Pablo in Kansas City, MO, and things still have a light, hopeful air that will be shattered soon enough. They start with lunch at a BBQ joint, and it's apparently the first time JP has ever tried barbecue sauce because he goes nuts over the sauce like a toddler at McDonald's. Then it's off to ride a bull, which I tried on spring break once and ended up with huge multicolored bruises on both legs from knee to groin. They definitely take it easy on him. Thanks, Cancun.
Nikki almost drops the L-bomb, but she's saving it for later. I still like them the best, because it looks easiest when they're together, and we know she's the only one capable of sustaining an actual conversation with him. But for now, she's kicking herself for not yet being able to say those three magic words that every guy dating four women at once wants to hear.
Meet the Parents
Holy hell, Nikki's house is ginormous. Maybe that's because I live in a shoe box in Manhattan (at least I have a tiny backyard), and my rent is probably more than their mortgage. Her parents are excited and welcoming, and all you have to do to be a part of their family is sit down at their dinner table. If this date ended now, it would still be better than all the others. Also, JP apparently flies first class whereas the ladies are shacked up in coach like a bunch of suckers.
Nikki tells her best friend mom that she's in love and everything feels right, but she's going all junior prom and waiting for the perfect moment to tell him how she feels. Also, she would accept a proposal if Juan Pablo offers one.
Dad sits down with JP, telling him he appreciates the maturity that comes with being a father. What El Bachelore respects most about Nikki is her honesty, and he feels that she's ready to get married and be a mom. Papa responds that they trust their daughter, and if she's the one, then JP and Camila will be welcomed into the family.
After Nikki's dad says possibly the nicest things a father could ever say to his daughter about how proud he is, she and JP head outside for goodbyes and smooches. Nikki is waiting for the previously-stated perfect moment while they make out on the stoop, when the driver ruins it by honking the horn. He's like, enough already, the Blues game is about to start. So she lets the moment pass and just hopes she'll be around next week. But honey, will anyone be around next week?
Now the Fun Begins
Next up is a trip to Atlanta to meet DAndi's family, and Juan Pablo is wearing what looks like a long-sleeve red shirt under a gray T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. I know it's all attached, but it still reminds me of Bradley Cooper running in Silver Linings Playbook wearing a trash bag (see above picture).
Andi takes him to a gun range to make him (and me) feel uncomfortable and prove he's a "real man." She can't bring home some gun-control loving sissy to meet her family unless he hits a bulls-eye, which immediately puts her on a whole different playing field than Nikki's family. And she might not be able to dance a lick, but damn, girl can shoot. Not so much for Juan Pablo, who still manages one center shot, but I suspect it's like when the president gets a hole in one and four Secret Service agents emerge from the woods.
Andi is expecting a tough meeting with the fam, particularly from dear old dad. He's the type who thinks no one is good enough for his little Pookie (that's what the welcome home sign reads), especially this womanizing foreign soccer player who barely speaks English. He sits in brooding silence, probably pondering if Juan Pablo has a valid birth certificate.
It's All About the Numbers
As the couple walks the family through their dating progression, all Dad cares about is how many girls are left at each juncture. You can cut the blatant disapproval with a knife, but for this family, it'd be much more effective to use a bullet. Kind of surprising for a couple that was married within six months of meeting each other. Unless the first child was born four months after the wedding.
Things get a little weird when Andi's mom asks Juan Pablo to show off his dance moves for her, but he does a good job deflecting and suggests they bring Andi in to show off their
lack of Salsa skills. What, you can't do the sprinkler to Salsa music? Anyway, here's to you, Mrs. Robinson. But overall, things go well meeting Mom.
Dad, not so much. He even says if JP were to break his princess' heart, he'd better run and hide. He clearly doesn't trust Juan Pablo with his daughter's love, and he's not afraid to let him know how tough it would be to welcome him and Camila into the family. But thankfully, and I quote, "I don't know him well enough to wish him any ill will." It's not a question of Andi finding someone, it's an issue of her finding someone good enough.
But unless Patrick Dempsey shows up and we go all Sweet Home Alabama, you might be setting your expectations a bit high, Dad. Haven't you ever seen a RomCom? Reese Witherspoon always ends up with Josh Lucas.
Juan Pablo's biggest concern with all of these families is if he and Camila will be accepted, and Mr. DAndi is less than reassuring. He refuses to answer, saying they'll have the discussion when JP is ready to say that Andi is the only one for him. Meanwhile, Andi gushes to her sister about Juan Pablo's hotness. She potentially sees herself falling in love, but she's not there yet. Her sis buzzkills and says she doesn't see it.
Andi is crying, saying she just wants reassurance. Then she sits down with her dad, who obviously does not provide that. His main concern, of course in this numbers game, is that Juan Pablo is dating three other women. Andi is ready to risk getting her heart broken, but even a hug from Dad ("[Juan Pablo] can go home by himself") isn't enough to ease her mind.
JP and Andi sit outside pretending everything went swimmingly, while the family gathers in the living room to vent their disapproval. Andi's mom feels slighted Juan Pablo didn't ask her if the family would accept him and his daughter. Apparently, she wanted to be able to say no, too.
I Can't Believe We Still Have Two More of These
Renee's Sarasota is the next hometown, and she is literally going to eat her son when she sees him. She's happy Juan Pablo will be there to see it, because even child cannibalism is easier to get through than meeting Andi's family.
Renee and Ben reunite prior to his baseball game, and there's an awkward "Are you my new daddy?" introduction. Juan Pablo enjoys his first Little League game while fantasizing about playing baseball, soccer and all sports with the little tyke. Unfortunately, I can't focus once I realize JP is once again rocking his red flip flops. You're not in college anymore, bro. You can shower barefoot.
The three of them head back to what I can only describe as a typical Florida home, where they are greeted by Renee's brother and parents. They have been spot-on about every relationship she's been in, and if they see red flags, she might bail on the spot. She is devastated to learn that Ben has been making bracelets and she missed it, because this is the longest she's ever been away from him.
Will Mom and Dad Approve?
Renee and Ben catch up while Juan Pabs meets the family, and things go pretty well, if not uneventful. But the real test is Mom, who can tell by Renee's eyes how she really feels. Renee says she's madly in love and that everything has been easy, and Mom seems relieved and says she's proud.
Dad can tell from the first introduction that Juan Pablo is a good guy, and he's appreciative of the glow he sees emanating from Renee, which he hasn't witnessed in a long time. This is the reassurance that Andi was craving, and now Renee wants this more than ever.
Kissing and eye gazing follow, and JP fishes for it by asking what's she's thinking. "A lot of things," she responds, which she immediately regrets once he leaves, because she was really thinking about love.
Clare welcomes JP to California's capital city paradise of Sacramento, and they cuddle on a park bench while talking about meeting her family. It's a big deal, because this is the first time she's brought a man home since her dad passed away.
She was concerned about who would dance with her on her wedding day before he died, so he said why wait, and they picked out a song and danced. He also told her that anytime she missed him to throw a rock into the water, and he'd never be further away from where that rock landed. So Clare and Juan Pablo throw rocks into the pond, and my girlfriend cries.
For sharing her gut-wrenching pain, she is rewarded with hugs and kisses. Love, Juan Pablo, XOXO.
Juan Pablo is meeting Mom, four of five sisters (some of whom are very much Clare's elder) and a brother-in-law. After talk of bikinis and night swimming that makes Mom cover her ears, it's time for a grilling from sister Madeline. Clare tells her it's scary, but she'd accept a proposal in a heartbeat. It doesn't help that her parents got engaged three weeks after they met. That's not even enough time to know if you need a shotgun wedding.
Two other sisters fall in love with JP, with Lisa saying he reminds her of their father and that he'd be proud. But then she sits down with Mom and sister Laura, and things get weird. Laura doesn't care how Clare feels, this family is not ready to give a blessing. Clare asks if this is Laura talking or momma, but Laura won't let momma answer.
Then Mom starts to sound accepting, so Laura jumps in between and tells Clare not to manipulate her. Then she stalks off and stands to the side because she doesn't want to say anything more that other people can hear. Clare cries to Lisa that Laura is trying to take away what's supposed to be "her night," and Lisa tells her she just needs to hear the reassurance from momma herself.
Momma, You Know I Love You ... As Long As Laura Sits In
Juan Pablo gets some alone time with momma, and of course Laura needs to be a part of the conversation and speak for her mother. She express that the family is very protective of Baby Clare, since their dad isn't around to look after her. Juan Pablo eases her mind, and Laura decides to leave Mom and potential son-in-law to get to know each other.
They talk in Spanish, literally about the weather in Venezuela, then switch to English for the important stuff. She's quite chatty once Laura is gone, and she tells Juan Pablo he and Camila would be welcome in the family before he even has to ask.
Clare feels awesomesauce about the way JP handled everything, and they make out for a bit before he hops into his getaway car and flees the scene. It's not nearly as bad as advertised (but the article headline is too clever not to use), save Laura the paternal enforcer. I'm actually disappointed how well it went.
Someone Has to Go Home?
I was convinced that Clare was going to be the one leaving based on the promos (because we know it's not Andi), but after that hometown date, I'm not convinced. That means either Nikki or Renee, but they both had great visits. So I really have no idea what's going to happen. It can't be Renee, can it? Of course, they stand Nikki next to Clare, and they share a little glare.
There are three roses on the line back in Miami, and they go to:
This is a terrible order, because we know for a fact that Andi goes to the fantasy suite. So it has to be Renee, and there's not a shred of mystery or suspense:
Yep, Renee and Ben are on the outs, and the poor boy has lost yet another potential father. Juan Pablo hugs everyone's momma, who tells him she's never felt this way before and that she actually did fall in love him. Still, he opened up her eyes to a whole new world where she is accepting of love and has a desire to be part of a family.
Ever the mature and upstanding individual, she handles it as well as anyone in franchise history and may have just solidified her selection as the next Bachelorette. She even says Juan Pablo is as good as they come, and she now realizes that men like him actually do exist in the world. She'll get to pick from 25 of them in a few short months, and we at least get to end the show with a shot of her laughing happily after a seagull drops a sandwich on her head.
The Bachelor Returns to St. Lucia
Juan Pablo and the final three women are headed to a tropical paradise of seasons' yore, where what happens in the fantasy suite doesn't stay in the fantasy suite. Apparently, Vegas rules don't apply, and it's something that's going to tear the Bachelor world apart.
This is setting us up for a final two of archenemies Clare and Nikki, which means one of them really is a winner and the other a loser. I'm still pulling for the pediatric nurse, especially after meeting her family. Clare's was better than I anticipated, but I still think it's all too deep and tragic to get involved in under circumstances such as these. And it's for the best if Andi isn't the choice, as her father is the dad from every teen movie.
Were you sad to see Renee go, or do you think she and Ben are better off? And what do you think happens in the fantasy suite? Does the truth come out about what happened on the beach with Clare? Does said truth come out after JP and Andi get it on? Will she leave, or will there be a shakeup in the final two? And who, if anyone, are you hoping wins it all? Not that it matters, because right now, all we care about is the second part of the special two-night extravaganza.
The Bachelor season 18 airs every Monday (and Tuesday for this week only) at 8pm on ABC.