By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 23, 2021 at 7:01 AM

The ladies of "The Bachelor" have already been through insane levels of bullying, potentially life-affecting rumors and slanderous gossip, new arrivals on two separate occasions, the boring hypnosis of Matt James, plentiful off-screen turmoil and rowing a boat made of pumpkin. So why not add a near-death experience almost getting splattered against the planet while sky-diving?! The season's going so well.

For everyone's sake, at least the mess is almost over – and hopefully without a body count – but before then, it's time for hometowns week. Or more like "hoteltowns week" since this is the bubbled "Bachelor" thanks to the pandemic. So instead of getting to tour around the remaining four ladies' respective towns, they're supposed to bring a piece of themselves to Zyrtec Skyrizi Nemacolin.

But the actually interesting part of hometowns is that it marks one of the few times each season where the show really lets people burst the bubble of its premise. Outside spectators come in and get to rationally talk about how nuts this process is, how rushed the whole situation is and how it's emotional nonsense that a guy is dating multiple women and having multiple connections while trying pretend like he's having some unique and special with each one. It's one of the few moments when "The Bachelor" owns up to being deranged ... but never too much so, of course. The parents and family members may come in hot, but they always shrug away concerns and give their nodding approval by the end, making things less interesting than you wish. But it's more authentic than most – not that the bar for that is enormously high with "The Bachelor," especially this season.

So after a Matt workout session – with his shirt ON; what, are we afraid he's TOO exciting – we start with Michelle from Minnesota, who begins their date off with a bicycle ride around the grounds followed by a Zoom call with all of her students back home in the Midwest. It's a sweet moment, and the kids are adorable and precocious ... but you have to imagine Michelle was like, "I did this damn show to ESCAPE more Zoom calls with these children!" She thought she escaped having to say "You're muted, Dylan. You're ... you're muted, Dylan. Muted? Connection error? Frozen? Dylan?" but no, "The Bachelor" brought it all back like a horror movie villain she thought she'd fled and vanquished forever.

OK, but actually the kids are charming, and they ask some really intense (and worthwhile!) questions, asking how many girlfriends he's currently dating – have fun explaining this one to the youths – their future children plans and more. At least no one asked what happens during fantasy suite week. But overall good inquisitors! Not one of them had more of a comment than a question, so they're better than most public Q&A sessions I've seen. They should bring the wall of children back every season. Certainly would be better than Harrison at this point ... 

After the kids get their time, Matt meets Michelle's family, and they're sweet and delightful – as with honestly just about everything with Michelle. She may have been a late arrival to the season, but she quickly established herself as one of the most personable and down-to-earth (though Rachael might've taken that title this episode, and not in a good way) contestants. Imagine how much more we'd like her if her jokey, lively personality wasn't confined and edited to bloopers but instead allowed to breathe throughout the show as how two people actually interact. Ban bloopers! Leave the reality in reality TV!

Anyways, her dad is the "drama" here as he's uncertain about Matt, if he's truly planning on proposing to his daughter and if they're on the same emotional wavelength. But as is the case with most of these hometown dates, by the end of the night, he's fine with however things go; he trusts Matt's a good guy, and most of all, he trusts his daughter. So they go their separate ways after the hometown date feeling pretty good about things – one for one!

But that means things can only down from here – quite literally in the case of the next hometown date: Rachael. 

So she pulls up in this fancy car to pick up Matt, and it's very clear that SOMEBODY got most of the budget for their hometown date. Michelle got a pair of Huffy bikes – one of which, as we see in the closing credits bit, exploded upon impact – but Rachael gets a collector's car that looks like it was pulled out of a bougie car museum and costs more than my life? I CALL SHENANIGANS!

That's not the most notable transportation choice this date, however, as she wants to put Matt through the ultimate trust fall: sky-diving. What this has to do with Cumming, Georgia, I do not know. All I know is that apparently, while they spent a lot of money on the car, they went bargain bin on the sky-diving team because, welp, after some nice and breathtaking "Mission Impossible: Fallout" cosplaying, Rachael gets splattered against the earth on landing. 

Don't worry: We didn't witness the most traumatic episode of "The Bachelor" ever, and we didn't have to feature a "Bachelor" funeral. Eventually, Rachael's able to shake off her back pains and probably concussion – not to mention a bunch of grass implanted in her mouth and hair – while thanking the heavens she didn't die on a dating reality show. Not the way I'd choose to go out. In fact, the whole incident makes her love Matt even more because he seemed to care so much after the accident. Listen, your bar is too low. If you're dating a guy and he DOESN'T come to comfort you and make sure you're OK after you almost imprinted yourself on the suface of the earth like Wile E. Coyote, you break up with that man immediately. That man is a sociopath. You don't get bonus points for caring after watching your girlfriend pancake into the planet; that's just ... what a person should do. But apparently Rachael's impressed so yay, I guess. 

Bet you Matt can't wait to meet her family now after almost accidentally killing her on national television! Indeed, after layering on makeup to hide the bruises and probably knocking through a few smelling salts to shake off the probably concussion, Matt meets Rachael's family – and again, the dad is the drama as he is not on board with the premise of the show. And fair! He points out that it's insane to rush into an engagement with someone you've practically just met, while living in a fictional fantasy bubble ... while dating multiple other people at the same time. THIS IS ALL ACCURATE! I know "become my wife" is far more dramatic stakes than "become FB official," but this show really shouldn't force these people to get married at the end before they know what each other are like in the real world. Credit where credit is due to Netflix's "Love Is Blind": That show became ABOUT trying to deal with the difference between the TV meet-cute and the actual reality that follows. 

But, of course, while Rachael's dad has reservations about the two rushing into an engagement and how Matt can have strong yet unique feelings about four different women at the same time, he ends up shrugging it off and wishing his daughter the best. Of course, Rachael's happy about how all this went ... until Matt reveals that he didn't ask for her father's blessing, noting that he doesn't want to ask four separate families for their approval when only one will truly get that question. It's fair reasoning, but it doesn't ease Rachael's mind that she's the one in Matt's mind and getting his commitment. But hey, relax and have some perspective. Things could be worse! You could've ACTUALLY DIED ON "THE BACHELOR"! I think a broken heart isn't too bad compared to a broken ... entire body. 

Bri's up next, one of my early picks to make it to the finale. Her date is less of a hometown and more of a throwback to their first one-on-one date when Matt "almost killed her" by spilling them out onto some mud driving around on ATVs. GIRL, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE BAR IS NOW SET FOR ALMOST KILLING SOMEONE ON THIS SHOW! But anyways, she drives him around in the woods, they have a picnic, they talk earnestly about having single-parent households growing up and overall, it's enjoyable but fairly boring. It's not good when the most notable part of the date is the giant stuffed bunny rabbit Matt brings to meet Bri's family – for the newborn baby, not for her mom. That would've been a strange greeting gift. 

The most important part happens not between Matt and the family but actually Bri and her family as she and her mom have a heart-to-heart about her fears of actually letting herself fall completely for Matt – even though he may not be on the same level. Her mom says some lovely things about how, if things don't turn out, the two will repair her broken heart together at the end, and it gives Bri the strength to confess her falling in love with Matt to close out the night. This show's obsession with semantics – "falling for" is different from "falling in love," which is different from "I'm in love" – is always bizarre to me. But even as someone who finds those different levels irrelevant and overly particular, it's hard not to read into Matt's non-answer of a response: "Thank you for sharing that with me." AH YES, JUST WHAT A WOMAN WANTS TO HEAR WHEN PROFESSING HER LOVE! THE OL' "THANK YOU FOR YOUR INPUT!"

That leaves just one final date for the episode – Serena – and her hometown gets off to a delightful start as she schools Matt on her native Canada. There's a map, there's a quiz in which Matt reveals he thought a toboggan was a hat – only if you want to look like you've lost your damn mind – and, most important of all, there's poutine. Unsurprisingly considering his abs, this is Matt's first go-around with poutine, but he's a fan – even though that poutine looked suspect. That gravy was congealed, folks. Get that man some actually heated poutine ASAP. He also gets to try several other Canadian delicacies, though, so he's having a great day. 

Or at least we WAS having a great day. After the two play some hockey – impressive Matt could move on that ice considering how tight his jeans are; the hockey pucks in his back pockets were jutting out perfectly formed like damn LEGO pegs – we meet Serena's family, including her sister Talia who comes in hot with the hard questions. She took good notes from Michelle's class of kids. She asks if she's in love with Matt, and after Serena smiles through a nice answer about how, sure, she's in her head a little bit about him and she's not as intimate or physical, she's a big fan. Talia, however, is unconvinced. She's not seeing her sister "smitten," and while Serena tries to keep smiling through it, after more chats with the family, she starts to realize that her sister is right: She's just not at the same commitment level as Matt.

Looks like Matt's about to get one final lesson about Canadians: They're not always nice after all. 

Indeed, while everyone else is getting ready for the all-important rose ceremony, Matt and Serena have a big heart-to-heart in order to hopefully assuage her doubts – a word that gets used a lot during this segment as well as a word that sounds delightful with a Canadian accent, I discovered. Matt explains that, while she may have concerns, he spends a lot of time with her – maybe more than with any other remaining lady – and there's a reason why he spends all of that time with her, and he's not going to say what that reason may specifically be, but he really hopes that she gets what he's trying to say without saying it. (Aka the L-word.) But unfortunately Serena's not in the same emotional place, and so she breaks up with him and walks HIM out to the sad SUV ride. Matt must've been very confused. "Wait, I thought I did the dumping on this show, not end up the dumpee!"

Well, he's certainly not letting that happen again as he meets the remaining three ladies – Rachael, Bri and Michelle – for a very anti-climactic rose ceremony where no one's getting eliminated. However, he does make it clear that he's looking to get engaged and married at the end of this all, and they need to be be ready for that level of commitment – which has Rachael all of a sudden gulping in the corner, wondering if she is at that place and if she should give up on the show now. Orrrr maybe this is the show putting up a smokescreen and creating some drama to make a final contender seem less likely – aka Vanessa and Nick's drama in the final few episodes. Yeah, probably the latter.

All I know is that it certainly doesn't end well for Matt because, in the previews for next week's Women Tell All, we see Matt's current beard – and that is not the look of a man having a normal one. That is the face of a man who's SEEN THINGS. 

Yeah, after this season, we're all feeling that way, Matt. 

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.