The theme of tonight's Bachelor episode is: I thought this was going to go poorly, but then it didn't! Arie has a certain mystique, as befuddling as that sounds. He bewitches even the surliest of parents, no matter how gelled their hair.
And Arie sees his fair share of "tough" parents in this episode. The parents, doing their part, all perform a skepticism, huffing about, until Arie flashes his blue eyes. Arie hasn't always been the most engaging Bachelor, but the show is good at building his mythology. He's the kissing bandit, you see. He's a "stand up guy," as Becca calls him. He and Lauren are "very similar." None of this is information we can fact-check so, for now, The Bachelor mythology stands, and Arie Luyendyk, Jr. is really good at charming the pants off of parents.
The first hometown date goes to the one that seems the least significant. Kendall, a creative director-cum-taxidermist from Los Angeles, isn't a contestant we expected to take seriously. She's never had a one-on-one date, and she's also fairly young for Arie. Let us also not forget that she once drove a car off a ramp and through the caboose of a moving train. In that regard, she is perfect for Arie.
"I've never dated anyone like her. She just keeps things interesting," Arie tells the camera before they "mount" rats. Their date activity involves reanimating petrified rat skins, so, safe to say, she does keep things interesting for Arie. Ironically, Kendall's family is the most skeptical. Arie weathers withering death stares from Kendall's dad, who calls this a "different kind of courtship," his tone indicating that he'd rather his daughter have brought home a frozen fish.
Her sister, Kylie (yes, we know) hassles Arie, too. That is, until Arie says he's "falling in love" with Kendall. Arie is playing fast and loose with this term in this episode. "Falling in love" is only a shade away from "in love," but it carries with it infinite indecision. To be in the middle of the act of beginning to maybe think about being in love is not to be in love at all, really. It's love-adjacent. But it's a nice thing to hear.
Despite his pseudo love-confession, Kendall is not ready to get engaged, a key element of The Bachelor. This is the sole reason Peter Kraus didn't win The Bachelorette. You simply have to be ready to swim; no wading in the kiddie pond on this show.
Kendall's date gives way to Tia's date in Weiner, Arkansas (population 716!), which involves mud, cars, and one exceedingly kind brother. Tia talks up her brother Jason as being her "protector," but he's a big softie, as is the rest of Tia's very welcoming, very loving family. (They cheers'd with weiners!)
"The rumors out there. 'The Kissing Bandit,'" Tia's dad cautions in his alone time with Arie. Arie — again, being surprisingly smooth — tells him that his days of racecar driving and wooing multiple women are over. Well, they'll be over in a matter of days, ideally. Tia's dad's version of "raking someone over the coals" is actually quite gentle, once the Kissing Bandit line of questioning is over. These parents want to believe that their daughter has found the one. And Arie, sleepy and wearing one of his 4,789 navy tee-shirts, is good at convincing them it's going to be alright.
Tia reiterates what she thinks will be her saving grace: She's falling in love with him. Actually, scratch that. She's in love with him. She's the first to stain the relationship with notes of love, and, in the long term, it does not pay off.
Tia's dad leaves Arie with a final threat: "If you hurt her, I can find you on Google." Never has a threat been both so ineffectual and so cute.
Tia's date and Becca's hometown dates mirror one another in their quaint makeup — perhaps we should have paid attention to this clue. You can only have one grounded, from-the-farm girl on The Bachelor at a time, I guess. Becca K., the Minnesota girl, takes Arie to an apple farm, where they both display brazen disrespect of apple-picking rules. They both throw apples. Onto other apples. And, given that they probably filmed this in November, this was way after apple season!
Becca's Uncle Gary, a pastor, stands in for her father for the hometown date. He's the "guard dogs" man from the episode trailer — he's also meant to be intimidating. But he spends more time eulogizing Becca's father, Steve, instead of grilling Arie. Becca's father was a brilliant hunter and fisher, we discover. And, he liked to carve mallard ducks.
Arie seals the deal with Becca's mother, who, like all parents are supposed to be, seems skeptical at first. He tells her he "adores" Becca and asks for her blessing. She agrees to it, and says, "I really like you!" She then thanks Arie for being so great on the hometown date.
"You've really done well with my weird family!" she says. Ma'am, you're not the one who went on reality television! Don't apologize for your fam.
The entire episode drums up suspense for Lauren B.'s hometown date. Everything with Lauren B. is very tense here, something that doesn't bode well for a relationship. Last week, Arie had to get up and walk away from their date, seemingly distressed. This week, Arie tells Lauren his stress level is at eight. On a scale of one to ten! He also says this is approaching his level of stress for the Indy 500. Lauren, this means your family is almost as scary as heavy machinery whirring around a track at immeasurable speeds. People have died during car races!
Lauren and Arie spend the day walking on horses on the beach, where they appear to be utterly alone. Lauren continues to be utterly unengaging. She rarely speaks in ITMs, and when she does, her comments aren't illuminating. I keep convincing myself that she's just shy in front of the cameras. Maybe Lauren B. is secretly bursting with things to say, but she's in the witness protection program, like in Our Lips Are Sealed! She gets one zinger in there during their seafood date: "Break a leg tonight, and I hope nobody's crabby," she says. (She certainly didn't come up with that line herself, but I applaud her delivery.)
Her father is a military man, a fact that's only interesting because Arie reveals he traveled to Iraq once upon a time with a bunch of drivers. It's not clear what he did there other than just say hello to the troops, but Lauren's dad is very appreciative of it. His chief concern with Arie is that he won't be able to, er, protect Lauren.
"He needs to be able to protect my daughter with his life!" he says. Sir, I hate to break it to you, but Arie has told us himself that he's a mild man. He likes to wake up early and get a lot of sleep. Protecting things isn't in his contract any longer.
The skeptical person in this scenario is Lauren's mother. "It makes me nervous, this whole thing," she tells Arie. Both Arie and Lauren cite the fact that they can telecommunicate when in crowds as proof of their love. Lauren also says she and Arie are similar. It would be easier to judge this comment if I knew anything about Lauren at all other than that she — I guess — likes crab.
But Arie emerges from this date unscathed as well, proving that not all episodes of The Bachelor have to give us wall-to-wall drama. (Certainly not this season, which has been a nap and a half.) He also emerged without a clear frontrunner. Honestly, based on what he says, it looks like Lauren is his leading lady. But Becca seemed so promising in the beginning! And Kendall is a charmer, so maybe she'll ride her quirks into another episode. I figure Tia was a shoo-in, given that she confessed love.
I was wrong. After pulling Kendall aside mid-ceremony, Arie sends Tia home. Arie's decision hinged on Kendall being ready for marriage; though she expressed doubts, Kendall semi-agrees to an engagement with Arie during their tête-a-tête, and he keeps her. So, he was looking for an excuse to send our friend Tia home. She weeps openly, giving us our brilliant cry of the season.
One of the few contestants to swear openly on the show, Tia always seemed authentic. She was a barometer for our own feelings about the show: When the costumes at the Moulin Rouge were uncomfortably revealing, she let us know. When the wrestling ladies of GLOW pushed Bibiana too far, she let us know. Even when she turned on Bekah M., Tia let Bekah M. know what had happened. You're a standup girl, Tia. We will fucking miss you.
The Dearly Departed: Tia
Lauren Count: Truly, I am flabbergasted that a single Lauren made it this far.
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