For those embittered, lonely, and despairing Americans who have rejected the notion that true romance exists, especially those whose applications for this season’s show were rejected by the producers, sources (and by “sources,” I mean the first article that came up in my Google search of “Bachelorette + evs”) report that Andi did indeed find her soulmate as a result of their emotional, passionate, and frequent-flyer-miles-inflating journey on The Bachelorette. I extend my apologies to Mrs. Schlosser, my sixth-grade English teacher, for composing a sentence containing more than 60 words.
Despite having qualms about each of the final four men up for the role of Mr. Dorfman, Andi was ultimately able to overcome her concerns about at least one of them, and declare her commitment to him. The same thing happened to me the other day when I had to decide between the cereal with the little marshmallows or the one with crunchberries. In May, Andi accepted his marriage proposal and pledged to him her undying love, or at least that she’ll help keep the break-up out of the tabloids until the ABC special about their wedding.
Was the lucky fella the farmer, the former baseball player, the Canadian, or the douchebag? Come on, you already Googled it. More importantly, who should be the next Bachelor? I think Chris would look really good butchering a hog while shirtless.
Tonight we get to see the hometown visits, always such a realistic tableau, when Andi will meet the families of Marcus, Nick, Chris, and Josh. They will also all learn of Eric’s death, an even more distressing moment than when Josh’s mom turns out to look exactly like Andi.
We travel first to Milwaukee, where Andi meets up with Nick at a market. She wears a big cheese on her head, and they visit a brewery where a beer has been named for them. It’s probably flat. Later, they drive up to his family’s modest 70’s home. A crowd approximately the size of that gathered at Tiananmen Square is in the living room to meet her. TLC’s new show will be called the All Those Vialls.
Two tiers of people are introduced that include brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, dogs, accountants, and random night intruder. Various individuals interrogate the couple. “Do you feel like you can be you, unapologetically?” some red-haired lady asks Nick. Why not, he was unapologetically a douchebag throughout the whole show.
Andi discusses with the same lady–clearly a family matriarch or possibly a really pushy in-law–the perils of getting hurt and being vulnerable. Like maybe yelling out one of the other guy’s names when they’re in the Fantasy Suite. A very young sister questions Andi, too. “Do you truly love my brother?” the toothy moppet asks, sounding as unrehearsed as your average judge on America’s Got Talent.
Next Nick talks with his mom, who has Barbara Bush pearls, Kris Jenner hair, and Michelle Duggar ovaries. She starts crying when he says he loves Andi, because she doesn’t want to see him sent home this week, meaning before they get to shtup in the Fantasy Suite. You know, the typical conversation you have with your son about his girlfriend.
“I will never get enough Andi. I just want it to be us,” Nick says in low tones, eyes hooded and staring at the camera like a serial killer in a horror movie. See, there is a negative impact on children of very large families who don’t receive sufficient love from the parents.
Next, it’s off to to Chris’s farm in Iowa or Idaho or one of those “I” states. Andi’s limo passes by fields, cows, and silos to indicate that we are not in an urban setting. “This is really your house?” Andi says wonderingly as Chris opens the door to a sleek, modern brick ranch. She apparently thought he’d live in a lean-to made of weathered boards out here in Dogpatch. She then marvels at his immense acreage and his giant farm equipment. Let’s hope she has a similar reaction when he drops his pants in the Suite. She climbs aboard his thresher, and he demonstrates its many powerful capabilities for her. The metaphors write themselves with this guy.
Now they’ll meet his parents, siblings, and in-laws. They won’t be tough on her, he says, because they trust him. Maybe, all the brothers and sisters met their spouses on a TV show too. “What would I do for work here?” Andi asks petulantly as they sit in a vast field denuded of its grain–much like her career would be denuded of productive substance were she to marry Chris. “There’s an opportunity to be a homemaker,” he replies earnestly. NOW often mentions “housework” as a hard-won opportunity for women.
Just them, a plane flies by trailing a banner that says CHRIS LOVES ANDI. She is charmed. Unfortunately, that’s his favorite hog.
That night, she seems dressed rather casually, neglecting her pinafore, as they arrive to dine with the folks. But surely hamhocks and Ma’s prize-winning gooseberry pie will be featured on the menu. Everyone seems thrilled to meet Andi. Ma comes from hearty stock, with pulled-back iron-gray hair and face right off of Mt. Rushmore. Chris looks like the mailman.
“He’s phenomenally successful,” a sister reports conspiratorially. Damn, I’ll marry him if Andi is going to be so snooty about feeding a few chickens now and again.
Mom and Chris chat privately. Addressing the constant theme of Andi’s big-city, Semitic presence in their close-knit, salt-of-the-earth Heartland village, Mom explains that she herself was born “in town,” and Shirley Jackson never wrote any short stories about her. Then Ma questions Andi about where she is in life. She uses the word “gumption” several times, thoroughly cementing her own caricature.
Then the family plays some kind of hiding game. Good thing they have wine. At the end of the evening, Andi’s head is spinning at the realization that living on the farm may not be more horrifying than marrying Juan-Pablo.
Time for meeting Josh in Tampa. Andi arrives in short shorts, so he’s got to be the one. They go off to have fun on the baseball field, which is to say, they wear mitts when handling the balls. She breaks a bat, a disturbing omen. He loved baseball, he explains to her, but the life was too tough, especially for baseball players. Who else would it be tough for, the hot dog vendors? So now he’s transitioning into his new life as a non-pro-athlete with abnormally white teeth and stenciled brows. Then he must consider his brother Aaron, the big football star who’s up for the NFL draft. His parents are agog at the number of sons they produced who have attained professional success by throwing rounded leather objects at other men.
The couple go to meet the family. Everyone is sitting in a room featruing a TV that is slightly smaller than a recreational vehicle. The dog is shut outside. Josh starts crying as everyone hugs. He really missed that dog. At dinner, Josh and Aaron start to talk shop, while Andi privately expresses her worry that jock straps have a greater degree of significance in Josh’s life than she would prefer.
Andi talks with Mom, who cries out, “Josh is in love!” The question remains whether it is with Andi or himself. There is concern from Andi about “cutting the cord,” because now the family does everything together, and it all relates to sports. In my book, that’s more distasteful than spending the afternoons slopping hogs. Andi insists she and Josh will make their own family, which will probably include tiny mock courts with their baby as the defendant. Josh’s sister counsels her on how their marriage will likely suffer from the family’s obsession with wearing branded jerseys.
Josh and Mom discuss then Andi’s merits. He feels awesome when he’s with her. “That’s wild,” replies Mom, suggesting which side of the family Josh gets his silver tongue from. Aaron tells Andi that Josh has always been focused on the rest of the family instead of himself. Andi is grateful that he is now ready for a family of his own, and to shift his focus onto her instead of himself. Then they all go outside and play touch football like the Kennedys. Uh, oh, Andi. Remember what happened to Joe, Jr.’s bright future.
Onto Dallas, and Marcus’s home. It’s a serious thing to meet his family. The victims of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre felt the same way. Marcus, who is able to effortlessly maintain that fashionable two-day-growth-of-beard look originally popularized by Yassir Arafat, drives her around in a Mercedes, pointing out landmarks. He brings her to a theater, then comes out in dress whites to reenact the group date where he stripped. Smooth move, Marcus. She ought to be choosing him for the Fantasy Suite after a repeat performance from that torso. On the other hand, when he dresses again, he is wearing aqua Bermuda shorts and loafers with no socks, so the Suite experience may be a letdown after all.
Now Andi will meet his mom, siblings, niece, and nephew. He tells her he loves her very much, and is excited to bring her into his family, although his dad is not present. Andi says she is most nervous about this family encounter. It’s understandable, as there are a lot of unfortunate stereotypes perpetuated about mothers of gay guys.
Time for the Big Moment. They bring cake, always a nice gesture. Mom asks about their date today, which they gloss over, then the little niece offers friendship bracelets. Sis, who looks like Candace Bergen, asks to speak to Andi. They discuss Marcus being a father figure type, and Andi comments again about him opening up to her. At this point, she should know everything about him from his blood type to what he ate for breakfast on April 2, 1994.
Then the brothers sit together on the porch, all “yo” and arm-across-the-back-of-the-sofa casual, until Marcus confesses emotionally about how Conrad was there for him when Dad left. No wonder, he was probably glad the guy left after saddling him with the name Conrad Grodd. Piano music plinks meaningfully as they lean across the cushions for a manhug. I wonder if they give the whole family makeovers before they shoot these scenes. No one is ever wearing baggy jeans or has their roots showing.
Quickly, so as not to frighten away those who have tuned in for tension, clashes, and regret, we cut to Mom questioning Andi about what is special about Marcus. He’s opened up to her, Andi replies, which incredibly, surprises Mom. She’s Germanic-sounding, though, so she’s probably all repressed and simmering with gutteral rage under the surface. She then talks to her son. He feels at peace and fulfilled with Andi by his side, he tells her. It’s all very sweet and tender until Mom remarks that Marcus brought home someone he’s physically attracted to. You know, it might be a good idea to try dating again, Mrs. Grodd.
Watching Andi drive away, Marcus asserts that he is ready to propose, after which we must view the 32nd teaser for the Shocking Moment of the Revelation of Eric’s Death. It’s next, after this commercial break.
The Bachelorette‘s producers were surely the first people Eric’s family called with the news of his death. There’s important-sounding whispering on the doorstep as Chris Harrison arrives at the house, where he calls the guys somberly into the living room. They all look puzzled, and there’s awkward dead air and staring as they wait for Andi, who has been summoned as well to learn the sad news. Chris H. calls the gathering “unorthodox,” as if there were some kind of accepted etiquette for the assembling of cast members of reality shows, and then explains what happened to Eric.
Everyone looks like they knew already, probably because this is the fourth or fifth take, and attempts to act properly shocked and sad. They variously sigh, sniffle, and wipe their faces. My dog does a more convincing job of looking grief-stricken when I don’t share my Chinese take-out with him. Hugging, they say things like “so young!” and “you’d never expect it.” Crew members appear from off-camera and join in the hugging and murmuring, which prolongs the discomfort for viewers while compelling us to wonder if they get paid scale for their appearance.
What is the point of making us watch this ghoulish scenario? It’s so exploitative, contrived, and voyeuristic. Then again, the whole show is exploitative, contrived, and voyeuristic, just with more expensive locations.
Next comes Chris sitting down with Andi to address her feelings about Eric’s death, an exchange which is introduced with the gravity of David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon. “It’s life, and life happened last night,” Chris informs Andi sagely. Life often happens on those occasions being taped for a studio audience. Chris is concerned that Andi can’t make a decision “with clarity” about awarding the roses tonight. After all, when people you know die in violent accidents, it can make it less fun to think about having sex with three different hot guys. Bravely, she insists she has a responsibility to the surviving bachelors, because they are here for her. She must get through the Rose Ceremony tonight, for them. It’s just like when Princess Diana was killed, and the Queen had to stand strong for the English people.
The guys are lined up, heads bowed in respect. Andi enters and says she doesn’t know how they could be prepared for something like this, but she is there for them. Well, except for the one of them she’s kicking to the curb in a minute. She reaches for a rose. As she is about to present it, she holds up a hand and flees the room in tears. Chris H. runs to her side. The guys bow their heads again, sad music plays, and the make-up people touch up her mascara.
As they stand in the shadows, Chris murmurs to Andi, “You have to be strong for everybody.” Because the budget must really be running over by now. Andi collects herself and returns to face the guys. The first rose, its petals streaked with their tears, goes to Josh. The second one, its stem bent by their grief, goes to Chris. The third and final rose, its fragrance diminished by their mourning, is given to Nick. Poor Marcus. Tonight he loses not only the love of his life and a good friend, but the chance to shag a hottie without even paying for a dinner.
Marcus and Andi exit the room together. She blabbers about maybe making a mistake by refusing him, and that he did nothing wrong because he opened up to her. You know, maybe the problem was that they needed something more in their relationship, like maybe her opening up to him for a change. At least a shared interest in French film or something.
He wanted to be that guy for her, he tells her wretchedly. “I don’t know what to do from this point on because you were everything,” he says, after consulting the script girl about that “from this point on” part, which just seems clunky. Crying in the limo, he says he feels like an idiot for not telling her he loved her. All that opening up and he never said that? Now he feels like he’s been punched in the stomach over and over. At least that hurts less than what happened to Eric.
Next week, finally, it’s the visits to the condom-free Fantasy Suite. Do they test them all for various diseases first? Can they invite someone else in for a threesome if they want? If she gets her period starting on the second guy’s night, do they reschedule for when she’s good to go? Interesting questions for the legal department.
And no way the crew doesn’t listen outside the door with drinking glasses.