Longtime Bachelor viewers know hometown dates often create some of the most revealing moments of a season — just ask Dean Unglert from Rachel Lindsay’s season. While someone can maintain a TV-perfect persona while traveling around the world with a Bachelor or Bachelorette lead, their deepest truths always come out the moment they step foot in their hometown or reunite with their families. Even the future Bachelorette, Clare Crawley, couldn’t escape this truth.
While I continue to rewatch Juan Pablo Galavis’ 2014 season of The Bachelor, I have realized Clare’s family hosted one of the most dramatic Bachelor hometown dates in history, as host Chris Harrson would say. But, for real. If you thought Peter Weber’s now-unforgettable mom Barbara Weber is the most overbearing family member of Bachelor Nation, the Crawleys are waiting to show you true, overwhelming intensity in J.P.’s hometown dates episode. In the process, the Crawleys also reveal exactly the kind of drama you can expect from Claire’s Bachelorette season once it films in a post-quarantine world.
The Bachelor producers show us Clare and Juan Pablo’s hometown date last in season 16’s eighth episode. In every Bachelor and Bachelorette Hometowns episode, the fourth and final date is traditionally the most uncomfortable one of all. In recent memory, both Dean’s emotional visit to his estranged father’s home with Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay and Bachelor Peter Weber’s trainwreck failure to even meet Victoria Fuller’s family aired last. Clare’s dinner with her extremely opinionated family — led by vocally reality TV resistant sister Laura Crawley — falls in line with these other disasters.
Clare’s hometown date subtly takes a turn for the worst the moment she and Juan Pablo sit down to eat with the Crawley family, which includes Clare’s five older sisters and her mom Lilia. As Clare begins detailing her adventures with Juan Pablo, her family notices she spent one group date in and out of water for hours. “That’s a lot of bikinis,” Clare’s sister Julie surmises. Everyone around the table laughs… except for Clare’s sister Laura who grimaces when Clare jokes, “I was in my bikini Day 1 in the snow.”
Laura even gestures towards covering her mom’s ears, suggesting she doesn’t think Lilia should be hearing about her youngest daughter’s fairly PG exploits on The Bachelor. In response, Lilia pretends to cover her own ears, seemingly trying to humor Laura.
Then, when Clare goes to speak to Lilia about Juan Pablo, we realize the full extent of Laura’s protective behavior around their mom. Laura abruptly — at least according to the way the episode is edited — asks Clare how she would feel if Juan Pablo didn’t pick her and says the family “isn’t there yet” in terms of a proposal. Clare is flabbergasted. She was hoping to get her mom’s point of view, but Laura refuses to let Lilia speak for herself. Even when Lilia says she would support Clare if “it came down to [an engagement,” Laura cuts her mom off, repeatedly saying “No,” and accusing Clare of “manipulating” their mother.
In the most bizarre section of the hometown, Laura stands up to loom over Clare while again claiming her sister is manipulative and disrespectful. Eventually Laura stands in the shadows of the Crawley’s home saying Clarre is “just going to be back here.” Laura’s entire body is covered in darkness during the evasive needling, as if she is a Disney villain. Then — again, according to editing — in the middle of Clare asking her mother how she would feel about a proposal, Laura, who is standing a few yards away, starts yelling, “Hey, Clare. Clare!” to distract her. When Clare asks why Laura is monitoring the heart-to-heart from the other side of the yard, Laura says she “doesn’t want to say anything more.”
After the high drama of Barb’s “After the Final Rose” showdown with sorta-“winner” Madison Prewett, it’s difficult to believe The Bachelorette producers wouldn’t want to top that recent social media success — and the unshakable oddity of Clare’s classic hometown date. They could easily achieve that goal by inviting Laura back for another showing during Clare’s Bachelorette run. Lauren could easily appear during an early season trip to Sacramento — Chris Harrison has suggested the 2020 season could be entirely “domestic” in the wake of coronavirus — or for the usual meet-the-family finale date.
In either situation, Laura would likely be as opinionated as she was during filming in 2013, if not moreso. As Laura tells Juan Pablo in a subsequent, far less stressful portion of the Crawley hometown visit, she is behaving in such an intense manner because their late father, James Crawley, isn’t there to vet his daughters’ prospective spouses. Laura is trying to fill that void.
Now, six years after the initial airing of the hometown episode, Laura may feel like she has an even greater responsibility to grill Clare’s boyfriends. As Clare explained on Olivia Caridi’s podcast in October 2018, her mother now has Alzheimer's disease and dementia. By January 2019, Clare admitted on Instagram that Lilia’s diagnosis “crushed her soul.” With Mrs. Crawley in such a delicate place of health, it is unlikely she will appear on The Bachelorette. So, the responsibility of parental judgement may fall to Laura — who obviously has no problem dishing harsh truth out, cameras or no cameras. That means, if Laura doesn’t like one of Clare’s favorite Bachelorette beaus, her sister likely won’t be afraid to tell her, thereby throwing a huge wrench into Clare’s love story.
As long as Laura isn’t shrouded in the darkness of a particularly ominous tree again, we’ll all be able to say, “It’s okay.”