Eric and the city of Baltimore are up first, and Rachel practices her running jump into hugs and kisses so she can nail it for the remainder of the hometown dates. These two rendezvous in a touristy part of town, but Eric reminds Rachel this is not his neighborhood, it’s just the spot ABC chose to snag some “candid” footage. After shooting some hoops in Eric’s neck of the woods, these cuties head to Eric’s aunt’s house. The welcome that Eric and Rachel received had me full body smiling. Applause and cheering and hugs and kisses. It was the best welcome nervous Rachel could have gotten. The drab carnation bouquet Rachel gifted them was not even close to worthy of the love and energy of Eric’s family. Come on ABC, everyone deserves nice flowers. Keep a goddamn cooler in the cameraman truck and stock that shit with flush, vibrant, floral arrangements for fuck’s sake.
It was clear the network wanted the viewer to focus on the fact that Eric has never brought a girl home; however, the necessary and poignant conversation Rachel had with smiley, woke Aunt Verna stole the show. Verna asks Rachel about being the first black bachelorette. Rachel opens up and shares that it’s particularly tough because she feels she is being judged for whom she is going to choose by the black community as well as everybody else. Rachel says that love doesn’t have a color, and her experience should be the same as the 12 bachelorettes that came before her. For Rachel this experience has been a lesson in focusing on her end goal and not concerning herself with everyone else’s two cents.
Honestly, this entire season was an opportunity to educate a mostly white audience by showing conversations like the one between Verna and Rachel. Take this reality show down documentary lane for a sec and teach us about what judgments are being passed on Rachel by the black community and where those feelings originate. Explore what it means for a black woman to date outside of her race versus a black man to date outside of his race, or the idea that the worldwide standard for beauty is a thin, white woman. Show us what being black means for Rachel, and what being black means for the black men on the show. Instead ABC took this season as a chance to include a racist to incite drama and completely brush over #blackgirlmagic and blackness in general. There’s gotta be drama, but this is some hateful shit. I am left craving more Aunt Verna conversations, and I’m bitter that this is the first time we are catching a glimpse of them.
Eric remains loving and professional throughout his conversations with his mother and father despite the fact they are the source of his pain. Eric’s mom explains her lack of demonstrative and supportive love was actually her way of encouraging Eric to be a strong, independent man. Damn. Eric’s dad apologizes for putting through Eric some shit. He fights back tears as he tells his son how much he admires him for remaining on the straight and narrow and learning from the mistakes of his male family members. Not the ideal circumstances to grow up in, but there is still a lot of love in this family. Eric’s commitment to positivity and strong work ethic is admirable and undeniable.
After saying goodbye to the fam, Eric says that he really cares about Rachel. It’s not quite an “I love you,” but Rachel’s feelings for Eric keep growing and growing.
“Love changes everybody.”
Rachel runs and jumps into Bryan’s mouth, and in between kisses he welcomes her to Miami in English and in Spanish. Bryan shows her the real Miami. They play dominos with some old Colombian men, they buy fedoras, they eat arepas, they salsa dance and smash their heads into each other by accident, the usual. Rach and Bryan have a little chat where he preps her on his parents, because the last GF did not vibe with Mama. Bryan is an only child. His mother is Colombian. You do the math.
As soon as they arrive with an ostentatious lily studded bouquet, Mom runs to Bryan and embraces him. Bryan quickly forces her into a group hug with Rachel. Yikes. Mom then gives a toast to the most precious thing in her life, Bryan, and then she chugs her drink whilst crying. Mom is staring Rachel down with piercing eyes and maniacal smile as she claims her territory. We are now in a telenoleva. Mom pulls Bryan aside and she immediately calls bullshit on this whole escapade. She’s like, yo, you have met so many chics, and now you go on TV and fall in love with the girl on the show? Bryan describes it as destiny, but mom is not buying it. She reminds Bryan that family is first, and that she is blood and the most important. Are you puking yet? Break up with your men, everybody. This is honestly such a motivator to remain single.
Mom then talks to Rachel and warns her that if she wants Bryan all to herself, it ain’t gonna work. She then says that as long as Bryan is happy, she will be happy, but if Bryan is not happy, she will kill Rachel. Rachel laughs. Mom doesn’t. This woman is out for blood. Rachel was smart and didn’t take the bait and try to reason with her. Instead, Rachel assures her that she is also a family gal, and she respects how fam comes first. My blood pressure is sky high.
In a private moment outside Mom’s house while centimeters away from Rachel’s face, Bryan tells Rachel he is in love with her. This is the time to put your heart on the line, and he went above and beyond. Rachel is dying to say it back, but she’ll get her chance at the finale when he gets down on one knee.
This whole thing was boring. Peter and Rachel troll the farmer’s market in Madison, suck on some honey sticks, chomp on some pickles, and hang out with Peter’s friends, i.e.: the people who hold the most weight in Peter’s heart. It’s nice that he loves his friends, but this whole thing just felt like an opportunity for Peter’s black guy friends to call him open and accepting in front of their white girlfriends and Rachel. These guys are all set with the antics of the show as they are forced into a guys only convo about feelings and the future. Words of advice from one of his friends: Don’t fuck it up. Noted.
Rachel and Peter walk hand in hand into Peter’s parents house with purple irises and some wrapped presents for Peter’s niece and nephew. The best part of this hometown was watching Peter interact with the kiddos. Rachel’s ovaries were shrieking. Bottom line, Rach has a one-track mind, and she interrogates the fam on Peter’s readiness for marriage. His mom thinks that he’s ready for commitment but maybe not ready to throw a ring on it. Big Rach has to decide what is more important: the label of being engaged, or knowing you’ve found someone you want to re-enter the real world with to build something strong and real?
On the stoop of his house, Peter shares that he is really happy with how the day went. Happy ain’t enough, Peter. You’re on thin ice, boy.
Dean, or “my beautiful surprise” as Rachel calls him, is all smiles when he sees Rachel. After a lighthearted RV sesh, these two have a serious chat about Dean getting together with his family after not speaking to his recently Sikh rebranded father, Paramroop, for two years. With a bouquet of mountainside wildflowers in hand, Rachel and Dean enter Paramroop’s sacred space. This is the first time in eight years Dean’s entire family is under one roof, and lucky for them this whole thing is being captured on camera. Paramroop kicks off the visit by energetically cleansing the home with his trusty gong, and poor Dean is a bundle of nerves.
Through choked back tears Paramroop gifts Rachel and Dean feathers as symbol of his late wife, Debbie. It’s been a decade, but the pain is still raw. Dean tries to air out some of his pent up resentment, but the chat with Dad is not as productive as it needed to be. Paramroop was at a complete loss over the death of his wife, and the only thing he knew how to do was go out and earn a living for his family. He accuses Dean of being stuck in the past and dismisses this necessary conversation. He is clinging to his newfound religion and lifestyle to focus on being present, but it looks like some therapy to dig up that buried trauma is also something to consider…Rachel tries to get some 1:1 time with Paramroop and he’s not having it. He looks over and catches the camera recording their interactions and calls it off. He wishes her well, but he’s not going to play the game that ABC wants him to play. Dude, that is so legit.
Some things I’ve learned from our visit to Aspen:
- Suppressing emotions is not a long-term solution for mental health.
- It’s entirely unproductive to force a façade of strength upon someone in leiu of encouraging emotional expression. Men get this shit all the time, and it’s clearly not going so well. Just ask Dean and Paramroop. All human beings have emotional reactions to the experiences they go through in their lives, and for emotional expression to be deemed as weak leaves no space to actually just feel how you fucking feel and then move the fuck on.
We are back in Dallas where Rachel has to bid farewell to one of these gorgeous men. We were waiting for hesitant Peter to get the axe, and we were excited that Rachel told Dean to his face that she is falling for him. And just like that we are smacked in the face with some classic misdirection, and baby Dean is left without a rose. I am still in mourning. I think that his journey with Rachel and with his family on the show took a lot out of Dean. His nervousness and vulnerability ultimately made him the most human contestant this season, and it’s why we all love the kid. I hope to God he remains just as lovely in Paradise.
Hang in there, Bachelor Nation, and make sure to talk about how you feel to those you hold dear. See you in Spain next week.