Credit where credit is due: Peter and Victoria certainly made hometowns week interesting on Monday night's episode of "The Bachelor." Interesting in a "chugging gulps of cabernet sauvignon straight from the bottle in the hopes of drowning your anger with alcohol and forgetting it all" way, I suppose ... but still interesting!
Every year, the hometown dates sound very exciting and drama-rich, but the disappointing reality is that it tends to be a very repetitive episode that delivers less than it promises. The happy couple arrives at the house and meets the family; one family member is sweet and supportive of the new relationship while another – typically the dad – has Serious Reservations. Those last about five seconds before the skeptical family member reveals that they're actually being fine with everything and just want the leading man to not break his daughter's heart. The couple leaves happy and making out on the lawn – except, maybe for variety, one date ends on a nervous note because they were too anxious to say "I love you" and now they're not sure if they're getting a rose or not. Add in one dumpster fire date, and there: I've described 95% of hometown date episodes.
The dumpster fire date for Peter's season, however, was particularly smoky and disastrous – and go figure, it happened on his stop with Victoria F., who despite literally every interaction she's had with Peter, is still on this show. I'd be concerned that maybe Peter concussed himself with that golf cart/head-stabbing incident and we're now witnessing the effects of CTE, but the sad reality is that Peter was making bad and dumb decisions long before that. No amount of brain trauma can rationalize and apologize for Peter's choices. As it turns out, he may just not be that smart.
The first stop on our whirlwind of hometowns is lovely rainy Knoxville, Tennessee, home of Hannannannannanne. Her dad, she explains, is a rugged forester who wants his daughter to marry a big strong manly man. (His nickname is also Ranger Rick, so I assume he spends most of his days roaming the woods and telling people that only you can prevent forest fires.) So to prove and hone his masculinity and brawn, she takes Peter out to throw axes at a nearby bar. Because nothing will impress a father and say "I'm a real burly man" than cosplaying as a lumberjack and playing hipster darts at the local strip mall bar. Neither of them are good at it – as one who's actually gone axe-throwing, it IS both easier and harder than it looks – and Hannanananananana Batman in particular is pretty awful in her approach, kind of side-winding the axe over her head. IT'S LIKE RANGER RICK TAUGHT HER NOTHING! But they have fun, and Peter returns the favor from last week with a letter of his own to give Hannah Anna Bo Banna Bonana Fanna Fo Hannah of the reasons he loves her.
They arrive at the family's house, where Hannah Ann's mom starts crying as soon as they walk through the door. Was ABC holding their daughter hostage or something? She's returning home from "The Bachelor," not from 67 days trapped in a mine shaft without food or water. Her sister joins in the tear-a-palooza too. The only one in the family who's not crying is Ranger Rick, who was clearly told by the producers to show no emotion, to never smile and to swallow any sense of joy deep down if he ever wants to see his daughter ever again. The man is NOT AMUSED by Petey Propellers – no matter how many hatchets he's thrown at a wall at the local watering hole.
If you're looking for some big exciting conflict between Peter and Ranger Rick, however, you're on the wrong date. The two have their much-ballyhooed sit-down, and Rick wants to know how he feels about Hannah Ann as compared to the other women he's dating. Peter says he plans to tell her that he's falling in love with her, and Ranger Rick is NOT about it, wanting him to only say the L-word unless he means it and plans on sticking by her through the end. Half-listening, Peter says, "Uh huh OK boomer very interesting I'll take that into consideration " before definitely not taking it into consideration and telling Hannah Ann he's falling in love with her anyways. The two end their date happy – though I still don't see Hannah Ann as the winner this season. She's nice enough, but there's rarely been a spark between her and Peter. She seems destined to be the Hannah G. of the next season of "Paradise."
But no more Knoxville; we're off to glorious Des Moines for a hometown date with Kelsey. And when in Iowa, you must try that famous and iconic Iowa treat: wine. But why just drink wine when you can make some yourself by smashing your own grapes with your feet. You know what that means: SUMMON ME THE GREATEST VIDEO IN INTERNET HISTORY!
Thankfully, nobody Grapestomp Lady-s themselves into a shattered ribcage; instead Peter and Kelsey science themselves some wine with beakers and such and make themselves a tasty vino. And maybe it was the wine talking, but Kelsey decides to take the leap and tell Peter that she's in love with him. He says that he can see a future with them – but he does not return the L-bomb in return. She's doomed – which is a bummer! We've just finally moved past ChampagneGate and learned to like you!
Back at Kelsey's home, Peter meets the family and has another classic Iowa culinary staple: crab rangoon. Apparently he's never had the dish before – so thrilling history being made on tonight's episode of "The Bachelor"! Unfortunately that's actually the most exciting thing that happens on the date, as we get all the rote hometown date beats here. Save for Kelsey's mom CLEARLY not being jazzed about her daughter saying "I love you" to a guy dating three other women, this is a very standard and uneventful hometown. Hope the crab rangoon was good, at least.
We go back south for the third hometown date with Madison on Auburn University's campus. And again, I'm a fan of Madison, and if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on her winning ... but I'm not sure wandering around your old college campus screams "I'm a grownup ready for a serious adult marriage." Then again, neither does going on "The Bachelor." But let this be a lesson: Don't be the graduate who keeps coming back to your old college stomping grounds: It's sad, you'll notice changes on campus that will depress you, and all the little baby freshmen will make you feel approximately 974 years old.
At least Madison has the excuse that her dad is an assistant coach at Auburn, which gives them sweet access to the basketball court and a video message from Charles Barkley telling Peter not to mess this up because that would be turrible. But that's not the only special guest from the sports world Madison's got lined up. Cue Bruce Pearl, current Auburn basketball coach, former UWM Panthers head coach and past recipient of NCAA sanctions due to recruiting violations, lying to the NCAA and wearing this outfit. Anyway, despite Pearl's best coaching efforts, Peter's pretty bad at basketball, doing his best impression of Khris Middleton during the All-Star weekend skills competition and forgetting how to dribble the ball. But hey, at least he and Madison continue being very cute together.
Back on the homestead, Peter meets the family – including her dad, who looks a little like if Pete Buttigieg and Kenneth from "30 Rock" had a Southern love child. He also meets "the special plate," a tradition in Madison's home in which one person gets an important plate and everyone else around the table has to say something nice about that person. Not sure you should need some fancy plate to goad your family into complimenting one another, but jokes aside, it's a nice tradition – and also I'm now thirsty for some sweet tea in a wine glass.
Things get not so sweet after dinner, though, as everyone in Madison's family starts ominously and vaguely talking about Madison's faith and "choices" she's made – aka she's decided to not have sex until marriage. (Also: Her mom starts her conversation about Madison's time on the show by saying, "So why are you still here?" which there has to be a nicer way to phrase that. Where's the special plate when you need it?!) I have no problem with Madison following her faith and wanting to save such a big moment for marriage ... though MAAAAAYBE you don't go on a show to date a guy whose defining, and arguably only, personality trait is "had sex four times in a windmill on television" if premarital sex is going to be such a dealbreaker. And MAAAYBE you don't go on a dating show that has a whole week dedicated to the star having sex with his three girlfriends. But otherwise the date goes cute enough – even if Madison doesn't say the L-word. Considering next week is sex week on "The Bachelor," I think that's probably the least of her worries.
And so we come to Virginia Beach and Victoria F., everyone's favorite level-headed and drama-devoid contestant. Hey, she's got a puppy so maybe she's not that bad – though even the dog bails and runs into the ocean in the hopes of swimming as far away from these two as possible. GOOD BOY; TAKE ME WITH YOU! Later on the date, he swindles several licks off a neglected ice cream cone – so clearly this dog is the smartest of the three on this date. As for the other two, they go to an old-timey photo shop and then Victoria returns the favor with a surprise country concert of her own, this time with somebody that she hasn't dated in the past: Hunter Hayes. He sings his hit song, "I Want Crazy" – complete with the lyrics "I don't want easy; I want crazy." OK, now that's just too obvious, "Bachelor" producers. Maybe Fine Young Cannibals can come by too with "She Drives Me Crazy"? I doubt they're busy!
However, even when the country star on stage isn't an ex, an old fling still ruins their day as Peter's old girlfriend Merissa shows up to say hi ... and deliver a message: "Be careful: That's all I'm going to say." WELL I THINK YOU SHOULD SAY MORE! Enough of these contestants dropping these vague grenades into the room and then scampering away while Harrison giggles to himself behind the camera, deviously saying "Excellent" like he's Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons. If you've got concerns, spill it – and bring the receipts. At least Merissa does elaborate a little bit, explaining that she used to be friends with Victoria, but she blew up their friendship – and has blown up other relationships in the past. Bummer – AND SHE'D BEEN SO FREE OF RED FLAGS THUS FAR TOO! By the way, where'd Victoria go during this conversation? Did Peter just push her down an alley so he could get some hot gossip from his ex? THIS RELATIONSHIP IS BAD.
Case in point: the very next scene. Before they pop into her family's house, Peter takes Victoria aside to ask her about what Merissa said – but instead of explaining herself and talking things out like a rational grownup, Victoria immediately goes on the defensive and harrumphs about Peter bringing it up. Never mind that it's a valid concern, never mind that it's much better to do this BEFORE meeting the family and never mind that she has no explanation for what Merissa said. She just immediately turns gaslight-y, saying that Peter accused her of something ... which he didn't do. He asks Victoria if she's ever fought for something that she wants, considering she seems to spend each date having a breakdown and ready to give up; she asks Peter why he's so willing to stay in this bad relationship. EXCELLENT QUESTION, VICTORIA; THAT'S THE ONLY GOOD THING YOU'VE DONE THIS SEASON. It seems, though, like he's no longer so willing as he drives off and leaves her crying in the driveway.
Meanwhile, Victoria's family is stuck awkwardly waiting inside the house with probably a full feast of food. Hey, with Petey Propellers gone, more dinner for you guys!
But admit it: You knew they weren't done. You knew Victoria was getting the final rose tonight. Even if Victoria hadn't dropped by Peter's hotel room the next day to have a talk about their relationship, you knew that this drama was too juicy and annoying for Peter (and the producers) to send home. I'm sure Peter would try to argue that their spats were actually good things, that good relationships require some disagreements as long as you come out stronger on the other side – but they're NOT coming out stronger on the other side. Peter and Victoria are having unhealthy and unproductive fights in which they're not communicating their issues well and clearly have trust problems. AND THIS IS THEIR HONEYMOON PHASE! Life will never be easier for them! They're currently on a glorified vacation, all paid for by ABC – and they're THIS dysfunctional as a couple?! Imagine them in the real world, dealing with ACTUAL issues.
(You may have to, too. I'm getting nervous she actually wins the season, as Victoria's recent quotes about her controversial "White Lives Matter" modeling gig remind me WAY too much of Garrett when he got caught with bad Instagram memes at the end of Becca's season and the show busted out a preemptive PR campaign so people wouldn't hate the finale. So ... gulp!)
So yeah, of course she's not leaving. Peter loves drama, loves emotional instability disguised as "passion" and loves rewarding negative, toxic behavior. So sure, send Kelsey home instead. Not a great sign for this season when a person who threw a fit over misplaced champagne and who drunkenly broke down and cried into a swimming pool is the rational, well-balanced and mature option. But that's Peter's season for you: When in doubt, make the worst possible choice.
At least we're almost done – and at least the Women Tell All episode should be a literal riot.
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.