Going into someone else’s home to meet their parents is a simultaneously exhausting and terrifying process. It’s a unique mélange of wanting to appear nice and wholesome, twinged with wanting to appear cool and fun, and sprinkled with a crippling fear of potentially clogging their downstairs toilet. Rumor has it the 14th century Lord who commissioned Dante’s Inferno vetoed his idea for a 10th circle of hell where sinners are forced to meet suitors’ parents in their homes for eternity. I say this all entirely in jest, I love meeting people’s parents, my girlfriend’s parents are wonderful, but four parent meetings in one-week when the families know you’re courting other women simultaneously doesn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park!
Poquoson Virginia was Clayton’s first stop on his Hometowns journey. He and Susie met in the kind of secluded woodland area that would have had Ted Bundy licking his lips. Bundy’s buzz would no doubt only have intensified when Susie asked the burning question on everyone’s lips: “today we’re going to find out if Clayton likes being choked.” I came into this thinking that Virginia was for lovers, but apparently, it’s also for fighters as Susie took Clayton to her jiu-jitsu dojo for some light wrestling.
After Clayton was taught some crustaceous jiu-jitsu moves (notably the shrimp, because of course…) Susie began to really open up about her dad and his recent illness. The reason this process is such a big deal to her is that she wants her dad to be able to walk her down the aisle – why else would you join a show that is literally built on the premise of get married prematurely? I sincerely hope that Susie’s dad didn’t see her carrying the umbrella for Clayton in the rain, but even if he had, her family was so cute that he might have scolded Susie for not carrying Clayton on her back whilst feeding him delicate morsels from an elaborate charcuterie board.
It speaks to the hilarity of the show that when Clayton said “she was the first one-on-one date” he intended it to be meant as a good thing when implicit in her being the first is that there were many more dates that followed with other ladies, but what can you do? Susie’s family was so nice that the harshest thing either of her parents said was “proceed with caution.” In the indelible words of Pat Benetar, “love is a battlefield” Gabby!
Clayton’s next stop was Denver Colorado to meet Gabby’s family. I had no idea that Gabby was a Denver Broncos cheerleader until this point, so you could say that I left this episode with one additional piece of knowledge that I did not have before. If Ted Bundy was licking his lips watching Susie’s hometown, he would have been positively paralytic at the serial-killing potential of Gabby’s heart-stopping hometown.!
They went for a hike, which according to Gabby, you “can’t do without a backpack” and visited “proposal rock.” The person who made the sign was clearly on so many psychedelics that they probably thought they were proposing to Margot Robbie rather than a very loosely anthropomorphic tree stump.
This hometown date had shades of pandemic hometown dates as the two ended up drinking champagne in a secluded hot tub. Where in the past they’ve made an effort tracking down rustic-looking wooden hot tubs, Gabby’s tub looked like the piece of shit I had in the back yard of my fraternity house in college. Let’s hope this hot tub doesn’t get abandoned after one exorbitant utility bill and turn into a short-term vacation rental for the local neighborhood wildlife; believe me, there was nothing hot about that tub.
Clayton’s biggest challenge in all of these hometown dates is remembering the names of all of the family members. Mom and dad are always easy, but the third cousin Kira with her third husband Chad, who is there to make up the numbers because the girls parents are not on speaking terms? That’s a tough one. Gabby’s grandfather was probably the most all around wonderful person to ever appear on this show. He was out there crushing beers, calling Clayton out for blushing, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone laugh harder than he did during Gabby’s face-sitting joke despite the subject of her carnal crack being his granddaughter. Gabby’s grandfather had probably the greatest edit in the history of the Bachelor. My only conclusion was that they must have been setting him up to be the Bachelor on the old person version of the show.
The meeting was interrupted by some horn honking, Gabby went outside and immediately burst into tears when she saw her dad. I was half hoping that the honking was her ex-boyfriend, or legendary former Denver Bronco Tim Tebow or something, but no, it was her dad who maintained safe social distance and showed Gabby a series of signs telling her how sad he was he couldn’t meet Clayton and how much he loved her etc. Gabby proceeded to break the seal and told Clayton she was falling in love with him.
Serene’s hometown of Oklahoma City was next up and the two lovebirds spread their wings and ascended to what looked like a pretty unpleasant metal ropes course. I don’t know which focus group they conducted where the respondents asked for additional GoPro close-up footage of Clayton’s face, but I sure as hell was not in it… As if his pearly whites weren’t already part of a sophisticated big dentist deluge! Clayton is afraid of heights and made sure everyone knew it. His lover on the other hand lived up to her name – boy was she serene, calm and composed while Clayton’s histrionics made him look like a tantrum-prone child who was just denied a super-sized frozen custard at the Eureka town fair! Serene said in reference to their leaps from atop the ropes course that “much like falling in love, the first step is the hardest” – what is this, Sheryl Crowe lyric adaptation night? I guess it’s my turn for a Bachelor-related one: “the first fantasy suite is the only one that you would ever want to be in.” Rolls off the tongue, right?
Clayton jumped off the tower and went down kind of hard relative to Serene, who floated slowly down like Moaning Myrtle trying to get a look at Harry Potter in the bathroom stall. My extensive network across the state of Oklahoma told me the reverberations from Clayton’s landing were felt as far as Tulsa… as if one bombing wasn’t enough for the poor population of Oklahoma City!
Serene clearly does not talk much about any of her trauma and the fact that she opened up to Clayton on “The Pleasure Pier” in Galveston about all of her difficult circumstances was clearly crazy to her family. Clayton can put on the smooth moves and talk the talk with the best of them… this is until he gets asked the question that any responsible parent would ask a man trying to get engaged to your daughter: “do you love her.” Clayton goes from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, confident, composed, sneaky hot, parents, siblings and friends willing to take up arms and lay down their lives for this man, to a spotty teenager tripping over his words trying to ask one of the cheerleaders, already sure of his rejection, to go to Junior Prom with him. Where Clayton’s response to the whole love thing was ambiguous, Serene was the first girl to come out and say that she was in love with Clayton.
Rachel’s hometown date was very Florida. So much so that her voice sounded like she had closed down a Fort Lauderdale karaoke bar the night before Clayton jetted into town… Taylor’s 10-minute version of All Too Well takes another voice for its collection! Their nature cruise date was also very Florida. They saw a massive spider (clearly planted by producers me thinks), there was lots of B-roll of alligators, and if jumping from high heights wasn’t enough action for Clayton’s hometowns weekend, the two lay in the gator-infested waters underneath the kissing tree. Clayton was probably wishing he had the Matt James affliction of kissing with his eyes open so he could keep an eye out for gators circling after their fourteenth hour of making out in the water!
Rachel mother is called Mary, but when Clayton found himself in times of trouble during his conversation with Tony, mother Mary did not come to him. I was prepared for a tough reception for Clayton… but I didn’t realize that Rachel’s dad was literally Tony fucking Soprano. He’s not only called Tony, but has the haircut (or lack thereof), the kind of stoic but calculating facial expressions. Hell, I was half expecting him to come out in a bath robe and tell his therapist to fuck off!
In the end, Tony wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. He was candid about the entire process and Clayton really rolled with the punches. I guess when you’ve had to go through the same conversations with four separate families, you’re able to gin up some pretty good answers by the fourth hometown! Tony is a dad, and you can’t begrudge a dad getting a little frisky when one of his daughters’ suitors struts through the door and he’s simultaneously dating three other women.
In the end, Susie, Gabby, and Rachel got the roses, Clayton literally had no choice but to pick Rachel, otherwise he would have ended up dead behind a dumpster. This season in particular it has been a really cruel process. It sucks because you hear all about the incredibly difficult circumstances in these girls’ personal lives and then they just get unceremoniously cut off at the knees by this happy-go-lucky guy who can’t stop grinning ear-to-ear the entire time…
Anyway, the best bit of the show is coming right up, when the girls have to sit in the same room dodging the gargantuan coital elephant in the room while their competitors jet off to get lucky with Clayton.
Happy watching people!