Hometowns are always a favourite episode of mine and this week didn’t disappoint. It’s one of the joys of reality television to get to know contestants and then see where they grew up and who raised them. Jojo’s ex-boyfriend saga was so producer-planted (those roses were awfully fresh) it was just amusing. Caila’s date had hands-down the coolest activity I can ever remember on a Hometown. (Having a dad who is CEO of a toy company sounds so fantastical, like it has to be made up or part of a movie script.) When filming my season, about two weeks before Hometown dates, a producer asked me what I thought my date activity should be with Juan Pablo if I were to get a Hometown. Of course I knew it should be in Ottawa, where my parents still live in the house in which I grew up. But I was distraught; I wanted to take him skating on the Rideau Canal, but it would only be late October. It will always haunt me a bit, wanting to have had that Hometown in beautiful Ottawa. But I would have had to officially begin faking my feelings, something that not only felt impossible, but unethical.
Speaking of ethics, I’m going to come out and say it: If the contestant isn’t going to be the Chosen One, I take issue with a Hometown date with someone who has children. First, Ben—and his producers—must have known Amanda wasn’t going to be the last lady standing. (He’s being interviewed about his feelings numerous times a day, after all.) Second, consider the many times Amanda has said she has never introduced a man she was dating to her girls, and certainly wouldn’t unless she thought he might be the one in it for the long haul. So, how is it at all appropriate to unnecessarily keep Amanda from her children for another week? (Remember, the rest of Hometown week is spent in a hotel with a producer; she doesn’t get to spend it with her family.) Or to dangle a carrot in front of her in the form of Ben temporarily playing dad to her two little girls? Only to ultimately drag her back to L.A. solely to get dumped.
I know, I know. You’ll say, “She signed up for this,” or question Amanda’s judgment as a parent for going on the show in the first place. First, I’ve said it before and I can’t say it enough: You never really know what you’re signing up for. As formulaic as The Bachelor is, it’s also tailor-made for each individual contestant. Even if I were to go back on the show knowing what I know now, with how customized the experience is, I have no doubt I would still be an emotional mess. Second, it irks me when people critique others’ ways of parenting and insinuate that once you have children, you no longer have a right to your own life. Amanda has children, yes, but in addition to being a clearly doting, attentive mother, she is a woman. If the children have a safe and nurturing place to stay (in this case, with their loving grandparents), what is wrong with Amanda taking some time for herself and embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
We’re down to three, so my predictions are as follows…
1. Lauren B, 25: To me, this Hometown date really cemented Lauren B as the last lady standing. I’m sure in the remaining weeks there’ll be some sort of drama to jostle my certainty, but Ben wasn’t even close to being as confident about any other woman as he was Lauren B. Of course, all the girls’ parents and siblings are going to grill him; at this point it’s standard hazing before he can reach the Holy Land (a.k.a. the Fantasy Suites). But ever-careful Ben never told anyone non-truths about his feelings. Even when they pressed for more effusiveness, he delicately sidestepped with stock lines like, “I care a lot about your daughter.” But not so with Lauren B’s family! Ben was brought to tears just thinking about how lucky he feels to have met her. In the words of Lauren B’s sister, “Awww!”
2. Caila, 24: Coming from a household where my mother is also from a completely different culture, I really enjoyed Caila’s Hometown. I have a major soft spot for mixed-race families, especially ones that have stood the test of time, because I know that not long ago (and still in some places) it was not widely accepted at all. (When my parents were dating, they got stares everywhere they went.) As a date, despite all the forced drama in Jojo’s Hometown, Caila’s was the most surprising to me. There’s something about Caila that is very “on,” always very composed and thought-through. But her Hometown showed her unravel a bit and revealed that she is, like, SUPER into Ben. Way more than I thought. When she whispered to her father, “Daddy, I know this is it,” I was floored. But I’ve always felt she and Ben have great chemistry and her conviction gave me confidence in them.
Going home next week…
3. Jojo, 24: I can’t believe I’m saying this, especially since I’ve had Jojo near or at the top forever, but her Hometown really did succeed in casting doubt in my mind. (Of course, this is part of the formula; we were meant to doubt Lauren B just two weeks ago.) But my doubt has less to do with Jojo’s protective brothers and more to do with Ben’s response to them. I get that he didn’t want to say anything he didn’t mean just to appease them, but faced with confrontation, he didn’t seem defensive enough to make me feel like he’s super confident in what they have. It made me realize that the moments where I think Jojo and Ben have the most electricity are when the dynamic is romantic. Meeting the family is not romantic, and thus I struggled to see their chemistry this week (especially since their one bit of one-on-one time was mostly spent talking about her ex). Side note: Did anyone else watch Ready For Love back in 2013? I had no idea Jojo’s brother was Ben Patton!
For more on this season of The Bachelor from Sharleen Joynt, visit her blog, All the Pretty Pandas.
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