There’s a lot of heartbreak on “The Bachelorette” franchise, so producers have a sixth sense about when to zoom in uncomfortably close on someone’s face when they break down in tears. But on Monday night, the traditional “hometown date” episode, there were plenty of tears for a very different reason — and the camera work bordered on purely exploitative.
Toward the end of the episode (filmed in April) we saw host Chris Harrison as he brought Andi and her final four guys — Chris, Marcus, Nick, Josh — to his house to break the horrible news: Eric Hill, a contestant on the show earlier in the season, had just died in a paragliding accident.
What followed was very anti-“Bachelorette”: Instead of the carefree escape of a generally ridiculous dating show, we got gritty, real, devastating emotion as Andi — who eliminated Eric on very unpleasant terms — covered her face and broke down sobbing. There was complete silence as the men also began to tear up; Marcus walked out of the house. Andi left to comfort him. “His poor family,” she said, dazed. “He’s so young.”
Soon, various crew members emerged to console everyone, and Andi was nearly crying too hard to speak. “I can’t believe that was my last conversation with someone,” she said, weeping. She was mic’d up, so the cameras caught every word and dutifully stayed put to capture the breakdown.
It was awful to watch; plus, just unsettling with the abrupt transition back into the elimination portion of the evening. Unlike the episode in which Eric left the show, producers decided to keep the rose ceremony. Still visibly upset, as the ceremony was filmed the day after she learned about Eric’s death, Andi had to walk off the set to compose herself before she handed out the final three roses.
“All of this is uncharted waters for all of us,” Harrison acknowledged. Andi talked about the difficulty of sending someone home after “losing one of our own.” Eventually, she handed out the roses — one for Josh, then Chris, then Nick, eliminating Marcus from contention. The usual rejected limo ride home ( “I feel like an idiot…I should have never told her I loved her,” said Marcus, very emotional) seemed more empty than usual compared to a real-life tragedy.
This might be the end of the tragic storyline that has been a significant part of this season, which the producers dedicated to Eric. While we have noted this particular circumstance would be tough for any show (let alone “The Bachelorette”), continuing to zoom in on the contestants’ faces as they cry isn’t helping anyone.
Before real life interrupted the reality show, however, it was business as usual on the famous “hometown visit” episode. A favorite among viewers, the final four get the chance to show off their hometowns and families. It can go really well and actually help make a connection; or, even better, it can go disastrously. Remember when Desiree was the front-runner until her brother was a class-A jerk to Sean?
Anyway, Andi’s hometown visits were relatively free of drama — here’s what we learned from each guy’s life outside of “Bachelorette” world.
Nick, 33, software sales executive
Hometown date: Cheese sampling at Milwaukee Public Market, followed by a trip to a brewery (which had a special beer on tap called “Nick & Andi”) and a polka dance lesson.
Family: Nick has 10 siblings, all whom immediately start grilling Andi with questions including, “How do you feel about big families?” and “How does Nick make you feel compared to the other men?”
Best family member: His adorable little sister Bella, who asked Andi the kind of blunt questions only small children can get away with (“Do you truly love my brother?”) and then immediately forgot Andi’s response when Nick asked her for the dirt.
Possible downsides: Though Nick’s family seems lovely — he and his mom start crying together when he talks about how Andi makes him feel “like there’s a half of me that’s missing” — there’s just a lot of them. That could be rough.
Did it help or hurt Nick’s chances? Tough to say: Andi seemed to like the family a lot, but you could sense she was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of siblings and spouses.
Chris, 32, farmer
Location: Arlington, Iowa (population 758)
Hometown date: Literally took her for a ride in his big green tractor. Later, a plane flew over the cornfield with a sign attached that read “Chris Loves Andi.”
Family: Parents and three sisters all adore him. His sisters helped out their brother by telling Andi the real deal: Yes, he’s a farmer and might seem like a good old country boy, but he’s also a very successful businessman. (Translation= he’s got $$$.)
Best family member: Chris’s mom, Linda, who was just delightful — somebody get that lady a spin-off, stat. She and Andi had a genuinely engrossing conversation about giving up a career to raise a family, and being hesitant to move to a farm in Iowa. “If you love somebody, you’re going to make it no matter where you live,” Linda wisely pointed out. “But you don’t know what’s going to make you happy. You have to know what’s in your heart.”
Possible downsides: Even though everyone repeatedly talked about how wonderful it is to live on a farm, it doesn’t look like Andi is sold. Though proclaiming she’s not as much of a city girl as she seems, she still looked nervous. “What would I do for work here?” she asked. “There’s an opportunity to be a homemaker,” Chris offered. Andi was not impressed by that response.
Did it help or hurt Chris’s chances? We’re going to say helped, big time. Sure, Andi might not be thrilled with Iowa, but she clearly loved his family. And she was very impressed that he owns his own (giant, beautifully decorated) home.
Josh, 29, former professional baseball player
Location: Tampa, Fla.
Hometown date: A visit to his old baseball field, a very emotional place for him. He played in the minors after high school, but gave up his dream when the grueling professional athlete lifestyle proved too much.
Family: You might think the son on a reality show would hog attention, but not so much for this family: The real star is Josh’s younger brother, Aaron Murray, the University of Georgia quarterback recently drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Best family member: Josh’s sister, Stephanie, acknowledged that her parents and brother are all pretty obsessed with Aaron’s athletic achievements and that could cause some fights down the line when it comes to family priorities. Andi appreciated the real talk after it started sinking in that if she winds up with Josh, she’ll likely be spending many Sundays at NFL stadiums.
Potential downsides: Since Josh gave up his own pro sports dreams, every ounce of effort is spent supporting his brother’s dreams. Sweet, but as Andi noticed, a little annoying that there were cameras in the house specifically for Josh but all anyone could talk about was Aaron’s upcoming draft.
Did it help or hurt Josh’s chances? Despite the family being a little too fixated on Aaron’s NFL career, they obviously mean well and are excited, which Andi enjoyed. And they spun it in a way that was a positive for Josh, as everyone agreed it’s really Josh’s chance to shine — even if on a dating reality show — since he’s spent many years supporting Aaron.
Marcus, 25, sports medicine manager
Hometown date: Driving tour through downtown Dallas followed by a private strip tease that Marcus introduced with the phrase, “This is going to be better when you’re drunk.” Yes, Marcus (accompanied by his six pack abs) was the one doing the stripping, a callback to the “Magic Mike” date at the beginning of the season.
Family: Marcus was the only one who had a family storyline fraught with drama, as he introduced his mom, sister, brother and niece and nephew. His dad is no longer in the picture, as he walked out when Marcus was young.
Best family member: His brother Conrad, who actually uttered the sentence, “I haven’t seen you this goo-goo for a girl in awhile.” Then, Marcus and Conrad had a (very possibly producer orchestrated) heart-to-heart, where Marcus started crying as he thanked Conrad for being a father figure when their dad left.
Possible downsides: Though Andi made sure to say multiple times how there was a lot of love in the family besides their struggles, you could tell she was uncomfortable with the tension.
Did it help or hurt Marcus’s chances? He was eliminated, but probably not because of the family issues. Andi said wistfully that life with Marcus would be a fairytale (he’s attractive, charming, intellectual, would give her the world), but eventually admitted she didn’t feel a long-term connection.