Hometowns week on The Bachelor is deeply formulaic: a day date showing off said hometown followed by dinner with the woman’s family; rinse and repeat three more times. But this episode had an underlying mystery: Where was Jesse Palmer? I’ve gotten so accustomed to his little coffee dates with Zach to kick off each week by discussing who he likes and who he’s tolerating. But he’s nowhere to be found, so Zach must have the conversation with himself in his true comfort zone: the shower. I mean, we get some truly gratuitous shots of this man scrubbing himself as his voiceover narrates how he’s feeling about each woman. Jesse, come back!
First up is Gabi’s hometown in Vermont, and of course, the entire thing is maple syrup themed. I would accuse this of being a gimmick, but I am convinced Gabi does actually care this much about maple syrup. She meets Zach among the fall foliage with the customary leg wrap hug and tells him they’re going to tap a tree for syrup, one of her favorite activities from childhood. But considering how this goes, I’m skeptical that Gabi has ever gotten her syrup directly from a tree. Together, they drill into the bark, only for nothing to happen? They both stick a pinky in, looking for sap. “Oh, it is wet in there,” Zach says. “Maybe we didn’t go deep enough?” They at least acknowledge how filthy the conversation is out of context.
With nothing to show for it, the tree drilling portion of the date is over, and they move on to a maple syrup blind taste test. Gabi wants to see if Zach can spot the one fake syrup among three other Vermont varieties. Not only does he fail this, but the fraudulent syrup is his favorite! I feel like this metaphor is a little too on the nose for this franchise in general.
Then they’re off to meet Gabi’s family, which consists of one overprotective brother (a theme of this episode), gender role reversed parents, a sister/best friend who is planning her own wedding, and a little brother who says nothing besides, “Hi, I’m Brayden!” When they first walk in, everyone is ecstatic to see Gabi. She and her sister, Chloe, spend a few minutes actually catching up and ignoring Zach, and I love that for them. Chloe is planning her own wedding, and the two sisters want to raise families together, so it would be super convenient if this whole thing worked out, you know? Gabi’s mom has a realistic, pragmatic take, while her dad says he believes you can fall in love with someone in a day. Is this the most unique father perspective we’ve ever seen on The Bachelor? Maybe! What made this man this way? I’m dying to know, but the show views Gabi’s family as a series of boxes checked. No drama here!
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Instead of landing the visit on a high note, Gabi gets a little weepy during their goodbye time. “Don’t forget about me,” she begs, bemoaning that they won’t see each other for a week. I think this is a bad tactic, given how much we know Zach hates whining, but he takes it in stride and tells her not to worry.
Next, we head to New York City with Ariel. Is Ariel the coolest woman to ever appear on this show? She’s got to be in the top five at least. They meet in Washington Square Park and she gives him a little wave before they greet with a hug. Ariel does not do the leg wrap hug because, as I previously mentioned, she is much too cool. She tells Zach New York is like an extended member of her family and Ariel wants him to get to know her. Or him. NYC is unisex, Ariel says.
Their first stop is for a bite of New York pizza, and I do literally mean one bite. Zach bites into his pizza and sighs, “Carbs are so good.” Then the pizza is gone. Is this man okay? This moment reads like someone who has not allowed themselves a carb in a very long time. Zach, the shower scenes are not worth this, my guy. Live a little. They also go to a Jewish deli and a speakeasy, and Ariel preps him for meeting her Ukrainian Jewish parents. In her confessionals, she talks quite a bit about how much her parents’ sacrifices mean to her as a first-generation American, and how proud she is of her Judaism. Hometowns can feel like a sea of suburban sameness sometimes, but Ariel’s experience feels fresh. She says she loves how curious and open to exploring Zach is, but I fear their teacher-student dynamic would bore her eventually.
They meet her family in a Brooklyn winery because you know her parents were not about to let this reality TV production into their home. She has warned Zach that her brother, Bobby, is very protective and has previously offered to beat up her exes. That’s maybe a tidbit you refrain from sharing before this meeting, Ariel! Bobby does grill Zach, asking him dumb things (when’s her birthday, what’s her middle name) before getting to actually legitimate questions like, “How are you going to reconcile the differences in your background?” For this entire episode, any time Zach gets a serious question like this, he pivots it into a generic non-answer about following his heart and making it work. No, but like, are you going to raise your children Jewish? This is a real consideration! You can show us a Jewish deli, but it cheapens Ariel’s presence on this show to pretend like true work and commitment don’t go into blending different cultures and backgrounds in a family.
But The Bachelor is not interested in that. Credit to Ariel’s protective dad and brother (her mom does not get a line, which strikes me as very weird): They both remark multiple times that they trust and respect Ariel’s judgment. Translation: They know she’s not going to end up with this doof.
In Georgia, Charity’s date flips the usual format. They first go to meet her family and childhood friends at a backyard barbecue before their one-on-one time later. Charity’s family is sweet and welcoming, with everyone getting pretty emotional throughout the day. The main narrative is that Charity has been through it, and everyone is worried about her getting her heart broken again. I personally would love for the show to acknowledge even one thing about Charity’s personality besides “girl who has been cheated on.” When asked what makes Charity unique, Zach shares that she made him feel comfortable right away, which is not really a description of her but of you, Zach.
Charity’s friends and mom ask her if she’s in love with Zach, and she uses very corporate language to answer this question. “I can honestly say in I’m in the process of falling in love” or “I would say that’s our trajectory.” There’s not a lot of chemistry on either side of this dynamic, but her mom encourages her to share her feelings more openly. If that’s what Charity had to do to get that Bachelorette spot, I’m supportive. In the evening, she takes him line dancing, and then tells him she’s falling for him as they’re saying goodnight. “That’s wild!” says Zach. Oh boy.
And last up, we have Kaity, our true frontrunner. She, like Zach, is from Austin, which is an immediate leg up for a girl who didn’t even need a leg up. She has just moved into a new place, so their date is grocery shopping to stock her pantry and then putting furniture together. Kaity really said, I’m going to manifest my reality. “If it’s Kaity and me at the end of this, this is great insight,” Zach muses. Good strategy, Kaity! Putting together a bookshelf is a real test every couple should go through before they get married.
We already know it’s going to be a big deal to meet Kaity’s mom, who she says had to be both the mom and the dad given two father figures walked out of their lives. Her opinion means everything to Kaity, and she’s desperate for validation that Zach is everything she thinks he is. Kaity is processing her daddy issues in real time. (“I don’t know if I can deal with another man walking out of my life.”) After her mom’s face time with Zach, Kaity asks her to give her opinion straight. Her mom says he checks all the boxes, and it sounds like there’s a “but” coming, but Kaity cuts her off and says, “That’s all I needed to hear.” I worry about Kaity.
The mystery of missing Jesse Palmer continues as Zach gets a visit from the ghost of Bachelor past, our good friend, Sean Lowe. Why isn’t Sean hosting this season? Jesse is clearly too busy with his ESPN commentating duties to make it work! Zach recaps the week and stresses about cutting someone. “I wish I could say it gets easier,” Sean tells him solemnly before leaving. Thanks for the help, pal.
The episode wraps back in Los Angeles at the mansion, where Jesse makes his grand return. “It’s been forever!” Zach greets him. “I missed ya!” Jesse returns. All those coffee chats really built a bond.
At the rose ceremony, Zach acts like this is an agonizing decision, but we all know who’s getting the cut. Charity is left standing without a rose, and after Zach gives her the classic exit line of “I can’t give you the love you deserve,” she’s in the back of the car. “I’m one step closer to finding who I need to be with,” she says tearfully, setting Jesse up to (hopefully) introduce her as the new Bachelorette tomorrow night!
- Zach got his hair cut in Europe, and it looks much better than it did to start the season. Looks like he’s going to have to fly to Budapest whenever he needs a trim.
- Gabi, pointing out a little house in the woods: “I got us our own private cabin, so we’re going to do fantasy suites this week.” I’m always surprised to realize she is very funny.
- Ariel’s father asked what makes her different from the other women, and I don’t know if Zach’s brain just blanked, but he says, “One thing is the kindness.” The kindness?? Are the others not kind? I can think of at least 10 other things he could have said about Ariel.
- When Charity’s family asks where they’ve traveled, she runs down the list but forgets Estonia, the site of her own one-on-one. Yeah, this was not a love match.
- “Pivot!” Kaity yells as they move a mattress, outing herself as a Friends devotee.