‘The Bachelorette’ Recap: Meet the Parents

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The look of love? Um, not exactly.

Ah, the hometown dates, arguably the most artificial of all the dates we see on this show. (And that’s saying something.)

Monday’s episode of The Bachelorette followed Ashley as she visited the hometowns and families of the four remaining guys, Constantine, Ames, Ben and JP. If you honestly didn’t know what to expect from this episode then there’s a high chance that you’ve either never watched The Bachelor/Bachelorette ever before (and if that’s the case, what’s wrong with you?) or you were holding out hope that somehow this time would be different. Sorry, dreamers, it wasn’t.

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First, Ashley travels to Georgia to visit Constantine, who all of a sudden she’s describing as “one of my favorite guys from the beginning.” Well, this is new, isn’t it? As she continues on about how attracted she is to Constantine, we see Ashley and the big guy meet up in a park and start chatting about — what else? — their feelings. Constantine reveals that he’s a bit nervous about her being there and he does genuinely seem rattled; his voice is audibly shaking. Constantine! Are you starting to reveal some personality? Here we thought there of you only as the guy who looked like Ben but wore orange shorts on important dates.

But that’s the sneaky appeal of the hometown dates. Some sort of interior life is bound to shine through when you’re surrounded by your family in your childhood home, right? (Think again.) So we follow the couple to the Italian restaurant Constantine owns, watch them flirt while making a pizza and see how much his staff stands around admiring him (as Ashley points out, “the waitresses just love him.” Ha, we bet they do). The couple then head over to Constantine’s parents’ house, where his mother, father and sister, Maria, are waiting to grill meet the bouncy Bachelorette.

The family seems to take to Ashley quickly as they share a boisterous meal. Then Constantine’s mom takes Ashley aside for some not-at-all-staged questioning. As she probes into Ashley’s intentions for her son, she looks for some indication that Ashley isn’t planning on whisking Constantine off to Hollywood. Ashley, a Bachelor veteran, plays the game well, reassuring Mom that she’s in this for love and she’d be more than willing to move to Georgia if that’s what would make Constantine happy. After that, the family just loves her and they decide to invite the entire family over (it seriously seems as if 40 people stream through the front door) and everyone dances around the room for a bit. Coming away from the date, Ashley predictably mentions that she’s “in love” with Constantine’s family and how great it was to meet them. (To be fair, as far as families go, they were pretty great.) But there’s no time to dwell on it because Ashley’s onto Ames’ hometown of Chadds Ford, Penn.

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When Ashley is reunited with Ames, they run toward each other across a lush, green field and Ames wraps her up in a big hug. Gesturing around to the rural landscape, Ames says, “This is like home to me.” (Um, Ames, that’s why it’s called your hometown.) Moving right along, Ames whisks Ashley straight to his sister Serena’s house to meet his family. After Ames introduces a (noticeably lukewarm) Ashley to his mother, brother, sister and their significant others, the group gathers on the patio to chat about the couple’s journey. We can only assume the conversation is unbearably dull, but the moment is masked by voice-overs of Ames’s mother and sister who note how “happy” and “healthy” Ames looks. Then sister Serena takes Ashley aside to get the scoop of the relationship. And the big scoop is… Ashley still wants to get to know Ames. (Warning bells!) After Serena more or less relays that info straight back to Ames, he decides to play the romance card and takes Ashley on a picnic under a magnolia tree — the height of romance, according to Ames. (Ashley’s response: “You’re like no other guy.”) They then go on a carriage ride through the forest and then Ashley’s off again. Did she really get to know Ames? Did we really get to know Ames? (Answer: who cares, he’s so not getting a rose.)

Now off to the wineries of Sonoma, Calif. to see Ben who, like Constantine, Ashley is very attracted to (“Everything about him screams sexiness to me”). Which is hardly a surprise as they are nearly identical, though Ashley seems to particularly like the cut of Ben’s hair which might be slightly more shaggy than Constantine’s. They meet at Ben’s winery, where they tour around and start sampling some red. They then hunker down in the rain as Ben preps Ashley before introducing her to his mom and sister, Julia. He tells her he’s only brought one girl home in the past and that it’s essential that his family approves of her, because they’re all he has. But, hey, no pressure, right? It’s the most serious we’ve seen Ben before and Ashley is clearly rattled.

When they arrive at Ben’s mom’s house, Ashley is noticeably less bubbly than she was with Constantine’s fam, despite the pre-gaming at the winery. Over dinner, mom and sister joke about Ben’s hair but are a bit chilly towards our Bachelorette, despite sister Julia being the one who signed him up for the show. Then Ben goes for a heart-to-heart with his mom and they have an emotional conversation about his deceased father. Ben admits to his mom that he feels bad about not being a “great son” for a while after his father died and his mom tells him she forgives him and his glad that he at least he can acknowledge his bad behavior. (Ben, what did you do?) Cut to Ben talking about his dad to the camera and how much he misses him, which, even we’ll admit, is pretty sad. But then, the date is over and we’re left with nary an idea of whether Ben’s family approves of Ashley. (Our guess is no, though.)

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Finally, Ashley is off to Roslyn, NY to meet JP’s family. Ashley has already pretty much admitted that JP is the front-runner (“with JP, everything is there”), but she says she needs to make sure he’s on the same page as her. Luckily, JP has an extra-special rainy day date planned for her: roller-skating! Which, to be honest, seems exactly like the kind of cutesy date guys think all girls want to go on, while most of us would rather go grab a beer. However, Ashley positively lights up, loving the idea (“I feel like I’m back in the 7th grade, I love it”). Ashley, you’re ruining it for the rest of us but we’ll forgive you this once, as it is your “journey” and all. After a few spins around the roller rink, the two chat and JP tells her that he’s 100% sure about her. With that, it’s off to meet the parents (and brother Roy). And as should be expected by this point, someone in JP’s family is eager to take Ashley aside and make sure her intentions are honorable. This time it’s Mom who wants answers, so she sits the Bachelorette down to “put her on the spot,” trying to discern if Ashley’s a man-eater like JP’s last girlfriend (who ruthlessly broke his heart, according to Team JP). Ashley gives the right answer — “I’m smitten with your son” — and mom is appeased. And in an effort to seal the deal between Ashley and her beloved son, she pulls out a relic from his past: a giant framed photo of him from his Bar Mitzvah. And though JP feigns embarrassment, the photo is adorable. (As JP himself puts it, he looks like a cross between Kirk Cameron and Doogie Howser, which was nothing to be embarrassed about in the 80s. Vintage swoon.)

And at last, the hometown dates are over. And not a moment too soon, as they were all starting to blend together. Why is it that this is one of the most anticipated episodes each season when each of the hometown dates are nearly identical to one another? It’s harder than usual not to be frustrated. From the cheesy activities meant to show off the guys’ “real” side (pizza-making, winery-touring, roller-skating) to the obligatory mom and dad concerns over intentions, the chances of a surprise happening on this episode is so miniscule, it’s hard to believe people even tune in.

Oh well. It’s over. Meanwhile, back at the Bachelorette ranch, Chris Harrison is waiting to get the Rose Ceremony started. Perhaps to reward/tease all of us who’ve suffered through this episode, Chris sits Ashley down and brings up Bentley again, pointing out that the last time Ashley was at the Bachelorette house, she’d been in tears over a real jerk. Ashley, however, is a changed woman and she brushes off the Bentley reminder, confidently saying she’s thrilled with the guys who are still around. (Um, except one obviously, because he’s about to be sent home.) So begins the Rose Ceremony and Ashley hands out roses to JP, Ben and Constantine, sending Ames back to his magnolia trees. Ames looks positively stunned by the news, but ever the smiley gentleman, he escorts her outside and says, “I’m lucky to have you in my life.” Then he’s whisked away in the limo of lost love.

Then there were three (except if next week’s episode sneak peek can be believed, someone comes back!) and Ashley announces that they are heading to Fiji, the land of love. Make sure to check back next week for the recap.

Megan Gibson is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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