Ben Higgins is down to the final four as his quest for love nears its conclusion in the 20th season of The Bachelor, and that means it’s time for hometown dates. But if there’s drama to be stirred up as he criss-crosses the country, it won’t be coming from the women.
Following the eliminations of Jade, Lace, Olivia, Leah and, most recently, aspiring Denver Broncos cheerleader and Stepford Swift Emily, this quartet is surprisingly non-controversial.
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Thankfully, they have protective siblings, jealous ex-boyfriends and concerned parents who are more than willing to pick up the slack. So who will welcome Ben and who will send him running back to the car crying like a baby? Time will tell…
I Wish They All Could Be California Girls
Teen Mom Amanda is up first, so it’s off to the beaches of Orange County to meet the chillins. Ben rolls up his pant legs so that they resemble capris, and after a whole bunch of smooches, it’s time for Kinsley and Charlie to make their primetime debuts. They’re shy at first, but then Ben helps build a sand octopus and it’s off to the races.
Amanda was nervous as to how the girls and Ben would take to each other, but now she can see them all being integrated into one big happy family. And for him, seeing how emotional she was at being reunited with her daughters makes his feelings all that much stronger.
Charlie is quite vocal on the ride home, doing her best Ashley I. impression with at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted tears. But that’s the easy part because now it’s time to meet mom and dad.
Meet the Fockers
Ben is introduced to dad John, mom Michelle and a sister, and he comes into the house looking worn out from a long day with the children. It was great, he says, but it was also “a lot.” And that weariness is exactly what the firing squad was expecting.
While they put Charlie down for a nap, John muses that Ben looks like a deer in the headlights and is perhaps a bit young to take on so much responsibility. He might be a great dad, but is he ready to be an instant one?
Michelle points out that Amanda is a hands-on mom who needs help, and she asks if Ben has any reservations about the circumstances. And listening to his grown-up response is just another reminder of how Emily was not ready for this in any capacity. Ben settles mama bear’s nerves, and she senses his maturity. It’s too early to tell, but the relationship looks promising to her.
Ben and dad engage in lots of hypothetical talk about what the potential future could look like and if he could handle such a big obligation. The kids come first, and that means sometimes you can’t do the things you want to, like hitting the gym with your buddies. It all boils down to what makes Amanda happy, though, as that’s the most important thing to all parties. Ben simply looks exhausted, but he manages to string together coherent sentences about appreciating what it would mean to be a step-dad. Though, I think at this point, none of us expect that to be the case.
Amanda was pretty sure she was falling in love with Ben before all this, but seeing him with her babies made her certain. And after one final parting kiss, she divulges that she’d be completely heartbroken if she is sent home.
Welcome to Portlandia
The next date starts with decidedly less heaviness on Ben’s shoulders, as Lauren B. takes him on a sightseeing tour of Portland, Oregon. While she waits for the perfect time to profess her love, they travel to the downtown area of the City of Roses for some food truck deliciousness.
Then it’s off to a genuine whiskey library for a private drink, over which they discuss Lauren’s early reservations that Ben swept away with his tall, dark, handsomeness. She’s nervous for him to meet her parents, as she can’t open up about her feelings until the fam gives the say-so.
Waiting to put Ben on the hot seat are dad Dave B., mom Kristin B. (or some spelling variation of that name), sister Molly B., brothers Brandt B. and Brad B. (or something like that), and 18-year-old Chihuahua pooch Tessa B.
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The Adventures of Lolo
They might be eating salad, but her dad and sister are definitely more interested in grilling. This is the longest Lauren has ever been away from home, and Dave B. welcomes them back with a toast to his prodigal daughter, “Lolo.”
Molly B. steals him to express her skepticism, and after running through the laundry list of why Lolo is great, she wants to know why she should give a damn about him. He sort of stumbles through his response about any proposal meaning he’s serious and how lucky he feels, and then he dodges the question by breaking down in tears. And it works because she hugs him, fully won over. She trusts him, but she still has a lot of doubts because Lauren invests herself quickly.
Molly B. then asks Lolo what makes Ben different, and she says he’s her person and that they were meant to meet. Ben tells Dave B. that the world stopped the first time he saw Lauren and that his feelings have only grown since then, before reiterating his reverence for the sanctity of marriage. Book her spot in the final two right now.
As they say goodnight, she desperately wants to drop those three little words that change lives, but she can’t get them out. Instead, a hearty “see you soon” will have to do, and she’s regretting that she won’t see him again until a rose ceremony when he’ll have to make a decision without knowing her true feelings.
Caila (for Daily Use) Fun in Ohio
Our next hometown date takes us to Hudson, Ohio, home to a bunch of ducks and Caila. She challenges him because she’s real, and even though he can’t crack her smiley facade, he considers this his deepest relationship and is on the brink of completely falling in love with her.
She’s looking for a fresh start after their last date had serious conversations that she wasn’t entirely comfortable with, and they kick things off at her high school. It was the first place she felt was home after a childhood spent moving around, and then they get all sex panther-like on a bench out front. It’s crazy to think she only graduated from this school, like, six years ago.
Then it’s off to her dad-run toy factory, where they design and build their own plastic home, with several breaks to eat each other’s faces. She knows he’s the one, and he carries her out Officer and a Gentleman-style, though I’m not sure who is who. I take that back … she is no gentleman.
Taking the Leap
Waiting for Ben and Caila are her parents, Chris and Rosanna, and her younger brother, Chris Jr. Caila’s mom has made a Filipino feast to introduce him to their culture, while her dad has been on pins and needles wondering about Ben and who he is as a person. He wants to know what it’s like dealing with “microwave fame,” and Ben admits the dynamic is more exhausting than he expected.
After dad’s lecture on the value of marriage, Rosanna pulls Ben aside to ask about chemistry and what sparked their connection. “It’s been really cool,” he says, pointing out that Caila is “joyful, cute and bubbly.” It’s not a bad first impression, but it’s not the same as with Lolo. He tells his potential mother-in-law about Caila’s fear of not being able to love someone, which is more compatible with his fear of being more unlovable than they possibly are as a couple.
Mom says Caila has high standards and has yet to meet her equivalent and that time is extremely precious, and as such, you can’t take any moments for granted. Caila has hinted to Ben that she’s in love, but it’d be much easier for him if she just came out and said it.
Her dad can tell she seems happy, but what’s in her heart? She knows she can open up to Ben and trust him, but she’s struggling to block everything else out to focus on their relationship. She doesn’t want him to think she’s getting swept up in her emotions because apparently she’s been raised to think such frivolity is bad. Still, she wants his validation and also to know if being crazy is normal when you’re in love. He worries that she’s setting herself up for a huge letdown, but he calms her nerves about there being no playbook.
She then admits to her mom that she’s in love with Ben, and despite being afraid, Rosanna tells her not to hold back and to just go for it because who knows when or if there will be another chance? “Jump on him and tell him,” she orders, and I guess we know where the sex panther stuff comes from.
As they head to the car to say goodnight, Caila decides not to waste time and takes her mom’s advice. They kiss by the car, but instead of sweet nothings, the post-smooch silence is filled with just that. Instead of “I love you,” it’s “I’ll see you,” because she couldn’t allow herself to fully trust him and he deserves more than that. Swing and a miss, and there’s that doubt again.
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Deep in the Heart of Texas
Ben’s final hometown date takes him to Dallas and 24-year-old JoJo, who has been waging her own war on walls. She needed to be sure there was something deeper, and the Chicago date at Wrigley dispelled her fears.
She arrives to a bouquet of roses and a note on her stoop, which she assumes are from Ben. But upon closer inspection, they’re from her ex-boyfriend, Chad, which is just about the worst name that’s ever been invented. No one should be named Chad. Ever. And if you’re reading this and your name is Chad, I’m sorry. But your name is terrible. Unless it’s short for Chadwick. Then it’s awesome, and you should go by that.
Anyway, she reads through the note and decides to call Chad on the phone, and he takes a break from ironing his jeans to actually answer. He claims to “literally have gone through so much since you’ve been gone” and “taken this time apart … to grow and mature and realize what [he] wants for the future.” And that’s her because he knows what love is and blah blah blah.
She tells him she doesn’t know, but the answer is no, JoJo. It’s easy. “No.” If you’re going to be married, you need to learn the word. And don’t ever name your kid Chad.
Ben arrives at the tail end of the call, and she answers the door in tears before revealing that she put the kibosh on Chad’s advances, telling him she’s happier than she’s ever been and that they’re in the past.
You can see his face hardening as she talks because he’s been in a similar situation in the past that didn’t work out so well for him. Still, she does a decent job of reassuring him that her feelings are nowhere but with him. She’s always been scared that guys would run when things got difficult, but Ben didn’t when he could have.
The Stars at Night are Big and Bright and Don’t Like Ben
With the “fun” part of Dallas out of the way, it’s time to introduce Ben to the family. And while her parents are just the sweetest, her two older brothers seem to have a different agenda. The first thing that’s odd is the hooting and hollering as soon as she walks in the door. Her brothers scream like they’re wasted at a frat house, and WTF kind of greeting is this? Why are they kissing her so much?
She’s sure that the day will only get better once Ben gets to know everyone, but immediately after they sit down for dinner and JoJo drop her first Texas “y’all,” the steamrolling begins.
The bros are “really, really, really attached” to their sister, and her level of excitement is alarming to them. The want to say he’s terrific, but they can’t and she deserves better. They pull him aside, and Ben knows they’re going to be tough to crack. They ask if JoJo is going to get hurt, and seeing as how he can’t answer, he points out that there is a lot of time left and he doesn’t know. But his feelings are real. Much like McKayla, they are not impressed.
Darling, I Don’t Know Why I Go to Extremes
JoJo cries to Mom that she’s falling in love, but the only way this can work is if she lets go and allows herself to be fully exposed. And her mom says to go for it. If you like him, give it 150%. Her usual advice is to hold back, so hearing her advocate fighting for Ben is a surprise, and a welcome one.
Ben stumbles through the conversation with her dad, even though he’s not nearly as abrasive as the bros. They talk about trust and the fact that Ben can’t say how he’s feeling, and while he’s not interested in making promises, he assures JoJo’s dad that there is nothing holding him back.
It seems like things might be looking up, but then JoJo goes from one extreme to the other when the bros advise her to guard her heart since she can’t possibly be in love with a guy after only two one-on-one dates. They argue that she’s on the same level as him and that he’s not a prize, then they accuse Ben of brainwashing the girls and tell him to back off, prompting mom to hilariously drink directly from the champagne bottle. And you can see JoJo’s dad rush over like, “Honey, we’re on TV right now.”
One bro cites his God-given intuition that Ben has been coached on all his answers and isn’t truthful, all while the other bro stares him down like a linebacker glaring at the quarterback.
As he and JoJo head outside, she is curious to know how everything went. He tells her that her mom was the sweetest and her dad was direct and soft-hearted, but the bros had concerns and accused him of hiding behind a poker face. He was also bothered that all the negativity was held in and spoken behind his back until he happened to walk in on it.
They kiss by the car, but he’s leaving Dallas unsettled.
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Who Will Leave Devastated?
So Ben visited four hometowns with four women who all wanted to end the day by telling him they were in love, but none of whom had the balls to actually do so. And that’s even after two of their moms told them to dive in head first without reservation.
It definitely ranks among the worst collection of hometowns in Bachelor history, without a single one leaving you warm and fuzzy. It also throws a wrench into the whole process, especially considering he still has to drop two L-bombs. Who would have thought that Amanda’s date with two kids under 4 would be one of the least stressful?
Back in Los Angeles at the mansion, it’s time for posies. He starts off by telling his four suitors how difficult the week was, but it was a pleasure to see their loved ones and learn how they ended up becoming the amazing people they are. So he thanks them for opening their doors to him.
And then the roses go to:
That means it’s the sad end of the line for Teen Mom Amanda, who tells him not to apologize. The only thing bothering her is that if he had doubts, he should’ve told her at home instead of making her come back to Los Angeles (from Orange County; oh, the trek!) only to be eliminated in a rose ceremony.
He agrees but insists he didn’t know at the time and had to see how his feelings developed with the other women (you know, the ones who don’t have kids). He tells her she is genuine and authentic, which are actually the same thing, and that seeing her with her girls gave him an appreciation for her that is greater now than ever before. He wishes her nothing but the best, and all she can muster is that she’ll miss him.
There are tears in the limo, but they’re composed ones. She’s shocked, at a loss for words, because she was falling in love and would never have brought her daughters into the mix otherwise. Ben is an amazing person who seemed ready to commit. She had a picture in her head, and it’s not easy to find a guy open to her type of situation. Now she doesn’t know if she’ll ever find something like that. Until she’s the next Bachelorette, that is.
Ben loses his shit for a moment, stopping a facial contortion short of a Mesnick, while trying to express what it meant to him to meet the little ones. But he can’t do this right now.
And now Ben and his trio are off to Jamaica, where three fantasy suites will be deflowered and five I love you’s will be spoken. So only one person doesn’t get to hear it, and place your bets now on who will be eliminated next. Who’s in your final two?
The Bachelor season 20 airs Mondays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order