By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Aug 23, 2022 at 12:36 PM

For one of the iconic stepping stones of every "Bachelorette" season, hometown dates are typically more hype than entertaining hysterics. After all, meeting the parents can already be tense and awkward without a bunch of cameras around, a nationwide audience watching, three other boyfriends looming over the proceedings and Jesse Palmer trying to impress everyone with his French. But the episode usually turns out repetitive. Here's the nice date in the town with a bunch of performative extras I mean conveniently chatty small-town characters. There's the parent who sells themselves as hard to please but just asks one or two hard questions before rolling over and giving a blessing, no problem. 

As with everything this season, though, the typical formulas don't stand a chance with the chaos of this two-for-one "Bachelorette" go-around. So instead of the usual staid hometown dates, we got surprise breakups, twist date endings, tense interrogations and ... Puddy from "Seinfeld"?! I mean, sure, why not invite Kronk – the season's had everything else!

So after rolling their luggage off the cruise ship and NOT telling us what the heck happened to Logan (but seriously, show, is he dead? Is this becoming a "Knives Out" movie before my eyes?) we head off on our first of seven hometown dates on the night, starting in New Orleans with Jason. Gabby knows he's a little tight and apprehensive about this ... peculiar process, but he has opened up and she's hoping it's only going to increase now that we're home. The trip's first stop is Bourbon Street – to which I say AMATEUR HOUR! Bourbon Street is for tourists; real ones go to Frenchman Street. But then again, Gabby's never been to NOLA, so fair to give her a proper tour of the popular sites and scenes – stopping first to dance with street performers (and tip, because Jason is a GOOD PERSON). 

After tossing beads to the crowd in an ABC-approved way and failing to get a random older gentleman to flash the camera (sir: thank you), Gabby and Jason chat about how he actually was going to bail at the very start of the show only to stick around – and be happy that he did. And oh look at that, here's dad already! AND WITH BEIGNETS! When it comes to food porn, this is easily a top five season. (Scallop fingers: bottom five.) The three have a lovely conversation in the park – because can you have any other kind of conversation when you're eating fried dough covered in a powdered sugar blizzard – before it's time to meet the rest of the family. 

And the vibes, to quote Gabby herself, are ten out of ten! She immediately gets along great with Jason's sister, while Jason's mom is practically sobbing with joy already at the prospect of marriage. It's all going so wonderful and nothing could ever bring this date dOOH NOO! Indeed, everyone in the houses is totally on board with Gabby and Jason forever ... except for Jason, who surprise confesses to his mom that he's not feeling all that realistic about getting engaged at the end of this, that it's not something he sees himself doing soon. Did ... did you not know the premise of this program? Are you new here? So while Gabby drives away at the end of the date feeling great, I SUPER do not since Jason does not seem on the same page. But SURELY this is the only this will happen tonight! (*nervous laughter, tugs at collar, chugs remaining alcohol*)

For something much more pleasant, we head over to Zach's hometown date with Rachel in Anaheim. Zach talks about how Rachel's provided him with so much awesome adventures both here and abroad recently, so it's only fair for him to return the favor. His idea of adventure? CRIME! No worries, it's just a little gentle trespassing, climbing up on top of a short building to find a cute little picnic area ... and airplanes taking off from the nearby airport. Just like they talked about on their one-on-one movie premiere date! DAWWWWW! More like the highway to the ADORABLE ZONE! (Ow! That was such a reach, I think I tore my bicep.)

Anyways, we're off to meet Zach's family next, which includes his mom, dad, sister, aunt and PATRICK WARBURTON!? Had no idea Zach was related to The Tick! Man, props to him for playing it cool during that movie premiere date considering that probably wasn't his first. Unfortunately, Puddy doesn't get much of a speaking role on the date while everyone else chats with Rachel and Zach about their young relationship. His dad brings up the point that going on romantic adventures on ABC's dime makes it VERY easy to fall in love, but the happy couple explains that they feel they're ready and that she really does feel connected with him in a special way (even if she's dating several other dudes too). The date ends with a very pleasant backyard screening of "This Season on The Bachelorette" ... well, pleasant until we get to the part where Zach's parents are watching footage him and Rachel make out in a hot tub. In fairness, they were deciding between watching that or Warburton's "Movie 43" so could've been worse. 

Could've also found out that your boyfriend is secretly not ready to get engaged at the end of this engagement-themed show too – which, on that note, TIME FOR GABBY'S NEXT HOMETOWN DATE! Next up is Johnny in Palm Beach, who mixes things up by volunteering to do the family meet-and-greet first. So we meet Johnny's parents and all his identically dressed bros – and in the process, he reminds everyone that he rapped early on during the show. WHY WOULD YOU REMIND US OF THAT?! WE POLITELY FORGOT THAT FACT! Anyways, his dad and mom seem to very much approve of this potential engagement. Only person who doesn't? JOHNNY! WHAT IS HAPPENING!? Indeed, Johnny confides to his father that he's not sure he's ready to take that step yet, pondering more and more about it before voiceovering that his emotions currently are "confusing in the best way possible." I THINK GABBY IS GOING TO VIGOROUSLY DISAGREE WITH THAT ASSESSMENT!

Listen, as someone who's preached since my first recap that forcing people to get married at the end of this very surreal process is a bad idea, I get it. I more than understand not wanting to get on a knee only three months into a relationship shared with two dozen other guys, broadcast to the globe and utterly removed from any real-world scenarios. Determining that you want to find out if your relationship is solid when sleeping in the same house, working your regular job and not constantly on free vacation is the mature and wise choice. That being said, ARE. YOU. NEW. HERE?! This ... is how the show ends! A bunch of guys suddenly discovering they'd rather go to "Paradise" is what I'm seeing right now. (Especially in Johnny's case – even Gabby notes that he knows he's hot.) 

Worst of all, Gabby thinks everything's gone great on these two dates, literally riding off into the sunset with Johnny on a boat. (Because they SOMEHOW haven't had enough of the ocean after cruising the entire English Channel.) She thinks she's two-for-two on hometown dates – when really she's closer to zero-for-two. Man, what happens if all her guys end up flaking on her? (*resurrected Logan erupts out of the water like Jason Voorhees at the end of "Friday the 13th"*)

On to a different kind of nightmarish situation! We hop over Rachel's hometown with Tyler on the Jersey Shore – where right off the bat Rachel's noting that this relationship is definitely the furthest behind of all her connections. CONCERNING! Luckily, they've got a fun day planned on the pier, playing carnival games, eating corndogs and funnel cakes (season's diet RUUULES!), and NOT hanging out with those two giant dalmatian-looking puppers I saw in the background. They even win some giant stuffed animals, so clearly nothing could go wrong now, right? RIGHT?! 

Indeed, after coincidentally meeting some of Tyler's friends and family, Rachel scampers away to hide, cry and think in the bathroom. And when you're hiding in tears in a Jersey shore bathroom, things aren't going great. So Rachel walks over to a bench to chat with Tyler – who I think knows what's coming and seems to think that, if he keeps talking, she won't be able to break up with him. "You're just the best person and I'm falling for you and I'm just so lucky and OH WOULD YOU LOOK AT THE TIME, GUESS WE GOTTA RUN TO THE HOUSE RIGHT NOW NO TIME FOR MORE TALKING!" He definitely knows the hammer's coming down when Rachel finally gets to speak and starts with "You're the most incredible person ... " – a sentence that has never had a happy ending.

Sweet Tyler continues to put up a tragically hilarious effort, powering through and piling on the guilt. He talks about how he's totally falling for her, and how his family insisted that the next person he brings home better be important to him. Why not say your 106-year-old grandmother is there too, desperate to meet Rachel before her time comes, too, while we're at it? I don't THINK it's on purpose, but it's quite the last-minute barrage of emotions and baggage – one Rachel eventually fights through and officially breaks up with him, understandably saying that she doesn't want to bring other people into this if she's not feeling their relationship is far enough. Tyler takes it well in the end – and even still drops by his house to tell his family they're not meeting Rachel. At least he won one of those giant stuffed animals to keep him company!

Speaking of important wins, Gabby's final hometown date of the episode takes her to quiet Bedminster, New Jersey to meet up with Erich – and immediately meet up with his family. Yet another remix – though this one makes a little more sense because Erich's father is fighting brutal cancer, so I'm sure his availability and comfort comes before ABC's. And as you might expect, it's an emotionally intense date, with everyone talking about his dad's courageous fight and the importance of truly committing in a relationship – no quitting when things get rough.

It's intense – but it's also the best of Gabby's hometown dates, since this one doesn't end with the guy suddenly turning into a commitment-phobe. Instead, the two go to a little tavern, grab some drinks and chat about life. And make out. Mostly they most make out. (With Erich doing this weird face-grab situation that I would LOVE to see him never do again!) They're definitely the weirdly glommy couple in the corner that everyone else in the bar is side-eyeing and making commentary about, quietly betting $5 that they're gonna do it in the bathroom by the end of the night. You'd lose that bet – but Gabby does say she can picture the two of them together at the end. WELL, YOU JUST MIGHT HAVE TO JUDGING BY THE OTHERS' SECRET WISHY-WASHINESS!

And now for the opposite of wishy-washy, I present Tino's parents! Indeed, Tino's mom and dad came into hometowns week with a united mission, and that mission was to make sure Rachel and Tino know THEY DO NOT LIKE THIS SHOW! Rachel spends much of their prep time in Santa Clarita nervous that his parents won't like her, and it turns out those fears were valid as, off the bat, the family is questioning the process and worried that it's going to end poorly for Tino's heart. Mama Tino points out that none of this is real – maybe the feelings are, but the logistics are utter fantasy – which isn't wrong. Papa Tino goes in even harder, implying that Rachel's just here to get married to SOMEBODY since it's her second go-around on the show – which ... is more wrong. It's definitely a bit much, and in general, they're not WRONG for distrusting the "Bachelorette" process – but even Petey the Pilot's mom would be like, "Hey, maybe pump the breaks."

Rachel's admittedly a little much afterwards, though, too, insisting to Tino that his parents hate her. I get it – it was a rough go – but they don't HATE you, Rachel. They hate the show and a process that they don't trust. Put anybody in your shoes, and they'd probably get the same treatment, not trusting a person dating three other people on national television.

Plus, let's be honest: This is just the show trying very hard to make it seem like Rachel and Tino aren't going to happen ... when we all know they are. We've known since about night one that these two clicked, and for the sake of drama, the show is trying to make the obvious look a little less obvious. Rachel, at the end, questioning if she could be with Tino if his family dislikes her? NONSENSE – especially when he JUST told you that he's falling in love with you, no matter what. Rachelino is inevitable. 

Well, no one tell Aven that considering he still has his hometown date with Rachel to come. Yep, if you were wondering how "The Bachelorette" was going to cram seven hometown dates into a single episode, the answer was: They didn't. Instead, Aven's hometown got shelved to next week, airing alongside the Men Tell All – which, considering the lack of in-house drama this season, should be tamer than usual. (*Logan's resurrected hand erupts through the ground like the end of "Carrie"*) BAH, NOT AGAIN!

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.