Desiree Hartsock has entered the home stretch run in her quest for love on The Bachelorette, and I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to wonder if she ends up with anyone at all (spoilers be damned!).
Yes, we are eight weeks in. But doesn’t it feel like just yesterday we were judging a guy in a knight suit who barely spoke English and a dude who spent the entire first night shirtless, trying to salvage his impression by taking his pants off and jumping in the pool?
And yes, that man is in our final four.
Still, I see clear-cut issues with each guy, and with hometown dates up next, no one is really running away with it.
That man could and should be Brooks, the guy she loves who isn’t quite on the same page. And his family apparently doesn’t take too kindly to The Bachelorette process.
Then there’s Drew, who is both seemingly too perfect and supposedly has an “It just wouldn’t work” moment in the near future. All everyone keeps saying about Chris is what a great athlete he is, but he also writes poems like a fifth-grader and wears mandals. And poor Zak? Well, he’s just a zany goofball sweetheart, but the chemistry isn’t there on the same level.
And finally, there’s Nate. Dear old Nathan Hartsock, who apparently exists only to toss turtle shells and fireballs at his sister’s love life. The Wario to her Mario, if you will.
Am I the only one who thinks he needs to have a more evil-sounding, yet innocuous first name? Doesn’t he look like a Damien? Damien and Desiree Hartsock, the pride and joy of Cassius and Severina, raised in the wilderness on wild mushrooms and sunshine. But whereas Desiree frolicked in the light, Damien hid in the shadows, plotting an end to all things happy and joyful.
Seriously, I bet that dude still lives at home. Not that living at home necessarily makes you a loser. But it doesn’t help (which is why Sean Lowe pretended to in an effort to freak out Emily Maynard).
Enough with the pleasantries. Let’s find out if we’ve got some real drama on tap, or if the producers fooled us in back-to-back weeks and we’ve got another dud in store. Your move, Nate.
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A Fab Ab Family
We’re jumping right in to Zak’s crazy family in Dallas, Texas. But before she meets his parents and siblings, she must first be introduced to the family snow cone business. And that means listening to his pretend dream about Des and Zak lying on a beach, literally melting in the hot sun before ice crystals start falling from the heavens and hundreds of children run out of nowhere.
But really, they’re just taking the truck to a school, where Zak puts on a penguin costume and plays with the kids. And it just makes Desiree’s heart melt (get it?!). And as someone who has been the Easter Bunny in the mall, Cookie Monster, Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, the Green Power Ranger (which was a Spandex suit that left nothing to the imagination — and also when I had to walk six blocks hugging kids and shaking hands with a bee walking around my helmet), a sea horse and an octopus, I can appreciate him for doing it. But that’s just the kind of thing you get with Zak, right?
Welcome to the Family
Desiree gets quite the enthusiastic welcome, with his parents, brother and sister all excitedly jumping off the couch. They are horrified to hear about his limo entrance, prompting his sister to call him a weirdo. That’s called foreshadow.
Zak’s mom, who thinks Desiree is just as fab as Fab Abs’ fab abs, pulls Desiree aside for a chat. She thinks they’re perfect for each other, but sissy wants to know if Zak has broken through the friend zone. She’s a little scared of her big bro getting hurt, but she’s excited at the prospect of having Des in the family. So much so that she and her brother serenade Desiree while Zak once again strums his cheap knockoff of “She Talks to Angels.”
It’s weird for sure, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that his family is pretty awesome and certainly accepting. Zak caps off the day by giving Desiree a ring he bought in Atlantic City to commemorate the first time he tells her he loves her. That’s two L bombs down, one to go (because Chris already said it, and Brooks isn’t going to).
Next up is a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, which in Drew’s world more resembles the black-and-white version of Pleasantville. But will Desiree pull out her inner Reese Witherspoon and color up the town before Drew loses his job as a busboy at the ice cream shoppe?
It’s giddiness and kisses galore before they head off to meet the big family, with siblings and spouses and kids and mothers and mothers’ husbands and dads making their first appearance ever in mothers’ houses. On the way, they pick up Drew’s severely mentally handicapped sister Melissa, who does not communicate and is 100% dependent on the people around her.
She lives with two other girls who have similar conditions, and she’s so excited and happy to see Drew that she clutches his hand and cries. Melissa plays with Desiree’s hair, and I’m on the verge of tears here. If Drew wasn’t my favorite before (which he was), my God he is now.
Drew the Mush Monster
After an outdoor dinner and a nice toast, it’s time to get down to biz-nass. And that means three little words that Drew kinda-already-but-didn’t-really say. Drew is the youngest of four, and his mom has never seen him so obviously in love but is scared of him getting hurt. He calls Des his soulmate, says she has been understanding of everything that’s happened in his life and that he’s ready to propose.
Dad asks Desiree if she believes in angels and if she’s ever met one, and her answer is yes and no. And he says Melissa is an angel who has taught the family more than they could’ve ever known without her, so Desiree has met one. Goosebumps all over.
Dad thinks she is perfect, gorgeous and wonderful. He tells Drew to bring her back into the family and he’ll throw a party. Before they part ways for the night, Drew drops the L bomb and says he wants her in his life.
Oh … My … God … Best … Hometown … Date … Ever. If that didn’t melt your heart, you’re one of those Easter Island statues that has a duck bill from Duck Tales. I’m not sure why you’re a duck statue instead of a regular Easter Island statue, but that’s the first thing I think of when it comes to Easter Island statues. This is what The Bachelorette is supposed to be all about. Even if she shatters his heart, I stand by Drew as my day one pick. Seriously, you just fell in love with Drew a little bit, didn’t you?
An Awkward Trip to Oregon
Welcome to McMinnville, Oregon! It’s where Chris learned how to play baseball and kick a soccer ball and be overwhelmingly good at sports in general. They horse around on a baseball diamond, and they have a flirty childlike and cute stupidity that mirrors their poetry (i.e. she catches the ball and he yells, “That’s a catch!” And she responds, “You’re a catch!”). She sketched him some silly drawings, and they kiss and talk about his ex-girlfriend (who apparently his relatives didn’t love) before heading off to meet the fam.
There’s a fancy dinner spread before Dr. Dad takes her downstairs for a chiropractic adjustment. Awkward. He cracks the hell out of her back, then asks Chris if she eats well and takes care of herself before giving him a nose adjustment. They talk about Des during the procedure, but I’m not listening. Strange family so far. This is the anti-Drew date.
Mom tells Desiree that Chris’ last relationship really hurt him, and his sisters talk about how the whole family didn’t like the girl. Chris drops on his mom that he thinks Desiree is “the one,” and she is less than enthusiastic, even though she says nice things and gives her blessing.
Either way, there’s way too much ex talk going on for the first time you meet someone. That’s not the impression you want to walk away with.
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Brooks and the Art of Hesitation
Desiree rounds out her hometown dates in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Brooks and his waning feelings. He loves it when they’re together, but the time apart is very difficult for him to deal with, and it feels like forever since he’s seen her.
She’s already dropping love bombs (on us, not him) and claims she’s been waiting for this date since their very first one. Meanwhile, he thinks meeting the family will shed a lot of light on whether he even wants to date her.
In an effort to reel him back in, she wrote a list of their memorable moments together and folded up the paper into a rose. She’s definitely putting more effort into this one than her other relationships, which I worry does not bode well for what’s coming with his family.
A canoe ride leads to kisses and capsizing, but a little water never killed anyone (except the drowning victims), and Brooks is starting to think he might be in this after all. How polite of him.
When You Know, You Know
Or at least you’re supposed to. Desiree walks into a giant bear hug from Brooks’ huge family, who are all wearing name tags to make life easier. To her face, everyone says nice and welcoming things. But to Brooks, they ask the hard questions that draw upon every red flag waving in the wind like there’s a hurricane roaring through.
His brothers ask, if Des went missing from his life, would he do everything possible to get her back in it? Or would he be okay? They also ask if he could make her happy for the rest of her life. And what’s more troubling than the fact that he doesn’t answer either question is that he then asks his sister, whose marriage he idolizes, how you know you know when you know you know. Which, in a nutshell, means you don’t know.
He then sits down with his mom, saying that if it didn’t go well with her and Desiree, it’d be the end of the relationship. She says, “It went okay, I think.” Also not a ringing endorsement.
He says the whole experience has been surreal and made him realize the walls he has around his heart, and that this (and marriage) could be what he wants. But no girl in love is cool with the object of her affection referring to the relationship as “pleasantly surprising.”
Damien to the Rescue
Desiree has not seen her brother since he ruined her chances with Sean Lowe by being a dick in front of their parents. But she needs to clear the air before she can continue on this journey, especially because she doesn’t want him to be there when she brings her final two guys home if he’s going to continue his hobbit quest of douchebaggery.
She describes her remaining foursome to him and why she loves each one, and he replies that it’d be fun to meet them and get into their heads. She says the conversation went “better than expected,” which means her expectations were lower than whatever ring of hell this Dante came from. Still, she’s not sure if she wants him around later.
For his part, he admits he basically told Desiree what she wanted to hear and that this experience is going to end badly for her, just like it did last time, in heartbreak. The fact that she didn’t end up with Sean somehow indicates to his tiny little mind that he was correct in his actions, because it would’ve been different if it was meant to be.
Who’s the Favorite?
Desiree tells Chris Harrison she still hopes this ends in a proposal from Brooks, but her date with Chris threw a kink into that plan. That means it’s either Drew or Zak leaving with a broken heart. My gut tells me Zak is gone, but if she isn’t emotionally-invested with Drew, she could let him go to save him an additional week of pain.
Either way, she’s in a position where her final two are a guy with a pseudo-creepy dad whose family is borderline obsessed with his ex and a guy who isn’t sure if he really likes her all that much. Yikes.
Nate, meanwhile, stands in the corner of the hotel lobby and creeps from a distance as all the guys walk in for the rose ceremony. Missed opportunity on the lack of evil-sounding music.
Time to Break a Heart
Desiree is honored to have met and been welcomed by the guys’ families, but that fact also makes this decision so much harder. The roses go to:
Zak’s journey has come to an end, and he’s stunned. She doesn’t apologize (which I appreciate), but she does her best to let him down easily. She tells him how great he is and gives him back his promise ring (which he later tosses out the limo window), while he wishes her happiness and heads off on his way.
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He says he’ll be heartbroken tomorrow, but for now he’s too numb to cry and just trying to figure out what happened. He thought the hometown date and love profession sealed it for him, but now he’s headed back to what he calls a dark place where he can’t find love.
He really thought this was going to work out, and he doesn’t want to go back to the lonely life he had before. Hope you were paying attention, James, because it’s this type of genuine emotion after being dumped that gives you a chance of being the next Bachelor.
Still, it appears there’s more drama on the horizon, with at least one of the guys breaking Desiree’s heart and making her wish she could just leave. Will she call it quits? Will it be Drew who bails, meaning a Chris-Brooks finale? Who do you think is going to win Desiree’s hand in marriage? Do you agree with Damien that this won’t end happily?
They’re throwing a curve ball next week, mixing things up by presenting “The Men Tell All” earlier than usual. In every other season, it’s come right before the finale so that only two guys didn’t make an appearance (until the “After the Final Rose” show). But this year, there will be three guys who aren’t there. I wonder if there’s a reason for that. Time will tell! See you next week.
You can watch The Bachelorette every Monday at 8pm on ABC.
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Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order