Rachel has summoned her ever-dwindling harem to her hometown of Dallas for a violation of standard franchise protocol — normally, the final two dudes would meet the Bachelorette’s family a little later on, but her sister is eight months pregnant and can’t travel (wow, inconsiderate much?). This will be the guys’ only chance to meet the Lindsays, and the subtext might as well be rendered in a 10-foot-tall neon sign: Are they going to ask Rachel’s parents for her hand in marriage or what?
Peter, light of my life, fire of my loins, is up first. They stop by a kids’ boutique to pick out clothes for Rachel’s three-year-old nephew Alistair and the baby to come, in a deliberate ploy by The Bachelorette to induce mass simultaneous ovulation in its viewers. He’s worried she’s doubting their relationship since he told her that he might be reluctant to propose. Before they go inside her parents’ house, Peter takes a moment to “clarify his feelings.” He’s falling in love with her, he says! She feels the same, she says! The fact that Rachel told this very thing to Dean right before sending him home could be considered a bad sign, but I’m not too worried. Neither is Rachel, who seems positively giddy.
Rachel’s family receives Peter warmly, but I’m sorry to report that her dad couldn’t make it. (He wasn’t there to meet Nick Viall, either! Where are you, Judge Sam A. “I Have My Own Wikipedia Page” Lindsay?) Peter tells Rachel’s mother, Kathy, that he has decided not to ask for her blessing to marry Rachel at this point — only because he isn’t totally certain yet if they are the people for each other. This actually goes over quite well with Kathy. She appreciates his honesty, but encourages him to take any possible relationship with his daughter very seriously. Peter really seals the deal when he plays with little Alistair, who remembers his name. Rachel’s cousin Andrea suggests something else he could call Peter: “Winner.”
Now it’s Eric’s turn. Before heading to Chez Lindsay, they stop by Dallas’ Reunion Tower to canoodle with a view. Eric hasn’t met a woman’s family since he went home with a college girlfriend for Thanksgiving six or seven years ago, making the prospect of spending time with the Lindsays all the more nerve-wracking. Rachel’s sister Constance is wary of Eric’s romantic inexperience, and questions whether his connection with her sister is as strong as Peter’s. That said, it’s clear how genuine his feelings for Rachel are. When Eric asks Kathy for permission to propose, she...doesn’t say no, giving the most neutral answer that is humanly possible.
Before their family time, Rachel and Bryan have brunch with the friends (no one else met her friends!) who signed her up for The Bachelor in the first place. Her pals slash coworkers warmly interrogate him. Rachel mentions doubting his charm on the very first night: “Let’s just be real: I thought he was a douchebag.” (Astute viewers will recall that Rachel nevertheless made out with him that night. Astute viewers also probably also recall making out with known douchebags themselves.)
Rachel’s mom asks where Bryan’s loyalty would lie if his mom and Rachel were to “bump heads.” (Kathy is either very perceptive or has been well prepared about Bryan’s, shall we say, intense mother by producers.) He settles on Rachel, but it’s not a very satisfying answer and Kathy can tell Rachel didn’t like that question. Constance, too, is a skeptic, saying in a talking-head interview that her “gut” read Bryan — whose veins run with aspartame, in my medical opinion — as insincere. Over a meal, the Lindsays proceed to ask him some more normal, non-dramatic questions, but Bryan, seemingly bothered, excuses himself from the table. (This may be misleading editing, but why not keep the magic alive in our hearts?) Rachel is irritated with her loved ones. “The energy is totally different than it was the other two days,” she says. Perhaps this is not a coincidence, Rachel. When Bryan asks for her blessing, Kathy again expresses her vague approval, in that she trusts her daughter’s judgment. She also gives him some advice: “If you don’t have issues, then somebody’s not being true to the other.”
The cast jets off to the infuriatingly lovely Rioja region of Spain, where the rest of the season will take place, and where the fantasy suites — a.k.a. producer-mandated sexual experiences — are looming on the horizon. Rachel and Eric take a scenic helicopter ride over surf and mountains to the 10th-century monastery of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (if it’s good enough for The Bachelorette, it’s good enough for Game of Thrones). They partake in a local tradition: Make a wish, ring the hermitage’s bell three times, and your wish will supposedly come true. I am of the opinion that Rachel should categorically refuse to marry anyone who fails to wish for infinitely more wishes, but whatever. Over an untouched dinner — as is Bachelor franchise tradition — and with a crackling fire in the background, Eric’s wish comes true when he finally, unambiguously tells Rachel he’s in love with her. They choose to spend the night together in the fantasy suite, and the producers choose, mercifully, not to record any moaning sounds from right outside the door.
Peter’s one-on-one date with Rachel takes them to a vineyard, where an elderly beret-wearing man named Vittorino explains in Spanish how he built this vineyard with his wife of 57 years. Then he sings a song about carnations and “love kisses” to Rachel. If not for that lifelong soulmate or whatever, I’d campaign for Vittorino for the next Bachelor, to be honest. He gives Rachel and Peter a key to a little wine cellar (wine cage?) filled with bottles and labeled with a sign that reads “Raquel y Pedro.” This is surely the most romantic self-storage unit in history.
While sipping on one of their designated bottles outside, they debrief about meeting her family. Peter explains that he believes that engagement is tantamount to marriage, but before they can really get into it, a conveniently timed adorable child appears and leads them away to stomp grapes barefoot. Then they make out amid the grape mush, which surely must have some effect on the wine’s eventual taste.
That night, Peter reveals he saved the cork from the bottle they shared, in keeping with a family tradition: They inscribe the date and a special memory on each of the corks they save. Rachel writes, “To many firsts.” It is extremely cute. But then it’s time to pick up their Serious Talk where they left off. Rachel is not OK with leaving this experience with just a boyfriend. To her, she says, a proposal isn’t the same as marriage; it’s more about “cultivating a relationship.” This is objectively a little bit of a kookoo bananas position to take outside of the Bachelor[ette] bubble. You literally get engaged because you want to get married, but here we are. “If we really want this and we want each other, then somebody’s gotta bend,” Rachel says.
There’s no easy way to reconcile this stark difference in opinion between them, which Rachel calls “absolutely devastating.” For the first time ever, she says, she thinks it might not work out between them. (Peter is still totally gonna win, though, right? Right?)
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