The globe-trotting audition to be Ben’s wife suffers a staggering rain delay this week in his hometown of Warsaw, Indiana, but at least his parents are around to offer moral support and vague “how could you do this to us” undercurrents. Their facial expressions tell such a compelling story that I just want production to forego all Ben-centric activities and have his mom screen everyone instead. Sadly, the whole town must have a say first. On Lauren B.’s one-on-one date, the former quarterback and his new prom queen saunter into the Christian after-school center Ben worked at for years, and it’s as if God has returned to spread the good word of dating multiple women at once. Lauren’s natural skepticism is no match for the sea of welcoming hands that want to feel her out and touch her hair. She gets it now. This is why Ben is so handsy and emotional: FOR THE CHILDREN. “We love you, Ben and Lauren!!!” chant a group of kids plus Indiana Pacers Paul George and George Hill, along for the ride because why not? It’s a small state after all. As they re-fuel with wine at Ben’s candlelit crash pad, Lauren rehashes how scared she’s been that he might believe the lies Leah told about her last week. “These are big questions in my life,” he sputters, not really referring to anything. Luckily he never needs to! Ben makes Lauren SO HAPPY. Today was a true breakthrough, the flight attendant gushes to the camera as she tries out a new version of the truth. “I’m not in love with Ben the Bachelor. I’m in love with Ben from Warsaw, Indiana.” At the risk of being exposed as a commoner, Ben segues back into Bachelor mode for JoJo’s one-on-one date in Chicago. They head to his safe space, Wrigley Field, so JoJo can finally let her guard down while wearing a “Mrs. Higgins” jersey whether she wants to or not.
The real estate agent lobs a soft pitch to Ben: What if you didn’t break my heart like all the other ones? Obviously he can’t knock that one out of their private ballpark just yet, so she settles for a drizzly rainy dinner date somewhere out near left field. JoJo’s fear of rejection keeps holding her back, but she is firmly on Team Ben, and in this field of dreams he has no choice but to believe it. Only JoJo’s protective older brothers (the best reason to stay tuned, according to next week’s previews) can ruin it for her now… Oh, crap. Now we’re back in Indiana for this week’s miserable group date on a farm. There are rowboats. Grass. Some kites. An indifferent chill in the air. Everyone’s over it, especially Ben, who must send two of today’s worshipers back to their lakeside rental before they’ve even sampled the cheese plate. He pulls Amanda aside, then Becca, then Caila for a quick check-in on where they’re at in this whirlwind two-month drama of sitting around and occasionally crying.
Amanda’s doing okay. “I have a past, and I have kids,” she mentions. Oof. Redundant. NEXT! Becca the Extra Virgin is really stressed out right now — she likes Ben, but it’s just scary to not ever have the words said back. “At the very least I deserve to have someone who wants me,” she suggests. Booooo. Too needy. NEXT! Caila worries that her own lack of community will disappoint the local hero should he deign to meet her parents. On the upside, she’s willing to move to be with Ben and feels like she’s been “molded to be adaptable.” She’s moss, trying to find the perfect tree to grow with. Really, Caila? A metaphor?! WRONG. Amanda gets the rose, probably because she’ll be the least likely to complain on the next leg of the date: a disgusting promotional tie-in for McDonald’s. “Would you like breakfast or dinner?” she asks drive-thru customers, praying her daughters aren’t watching because chances are they’re hungry for both and also Where’s Mommy?
Her shame spiral only intensifies at Ben’s welcome-home carnival, where a dozen tiny hooligans lovingly wail on him with inflatable bats. Game face plastered on, Amanda waits until Ben’s done screaming like a toddler on the motion-sickness rides, then makes out with him on the Ferris wheel. Hmm. Should love have to taste this… McGriddle-y? For some reason there’s still a twin here, trying and failing to make her way in this world as a potentially complete person. Vegas cocktail waitress Emily won’t find any solace in Ben’s Midwestern mom, who stares incredulously at the blonde alien baby her son has inexplicably dragged home between his teeth. Amy starts rubbing her eyes as soon as Emily launches into her personal history with “I overthink everything” — and by the time she hears “I will be an above-average mom and wife” seconds later, she can barely hold back tears. “Does she really even know who she is?” Amy asks her son, aghast at the thought of growing old with this malfunctioning wind-up bird by her side. “Yeah,” mutters Ben. “Those are definitely things I want to know.” The truth is, Ben is lying. As soon as he and Emily return to the ladies’ home dock, he dumps her right in front of the others. “I know what I’m looking for,” the Bachelor states confidently, and it’s not Emily. It’s an Egg McMuffin for dinner. He drifts away, leaving the twin to drown her sorrows in a group hug. Major props go to JoJo for both announcing the breakup’s play-by-play through the looking glass and comforting Emily without ever losing a firm grip on her goblet of white wine. The winds of tentative love are cold and fierce tonight, and Ben’s not done breaking hearts just yet. After a quick meltdown on the steps of City Hall (“Could you fall in love with each of them? HONESTLY…” warns Chris Harrison), he hands out Hometown Visit roses to Lauren, JoJo, Caila, and Amanda, leaving Becca to blow away. “Why did you do that?” she demands, dumbfounded. The one thing she wanted was not to be blindsided! Ben blinks, wondering when she’d said that (the snoozy group date) and who exactly she is. “Why would I keep putting myself in this position?” the stunning virgin asks in vain, probably on her way to sign her next Bachelor in Paradise contract. Here’s hoping she told the limo driver to hang a hard left and hit up Ben’s favorite dive bar for some real action already. See you next week for the Hometown Visits, a sure-to-be-thrilling horror show of lies!