If somehow you have wound up so devoid of positive role models that you’re looking to the The Bachelorette for life lessons, let this be the one: Never tweet. Post nothing on Instagram. Let go of the weird Illuminati dating app. Just stay out of it. (Pokémon Go is fine.) Because when you inevitably end up on network television looking for a spouse, that shit is going to get thrown back in your face. This season’s development is inseparable from the concurrent tabloid stories emerging about these men’s shady motives and alleged chronic infidelities (or, as sketchy-ass Robby puts it: “Out in the world, there’s chatter”) to the point where it’s become the show’s driving force, because these people are mind-numbingly dull. You know who’s escaped the tabloid cycle unscathed? Chase. You know what he mostly Instagrams? Lions. The guy loves him some lions. It’s actually the first thing listed in his Instagram bio — ahead of golf, guns, God, fitness, trucks, mountain bikes, Colorado, and suits. And honestly, I respect that.
You know what a hometown date in Colorado means: JoJo wears a rustic poncho, a time-honored Bachelorette ritual. In fact, if I could describe this episode in one word, it would have to be “rustic.” JoJo meets Chase smack in the middle of a snowy field; I’m assuming there was a lot of Google Maps pin-dropping involved in the coordination of this episode. Chase forces JoJo to pretend to have fun glovelessly building snowmen because spontaneity is important. (Luckily he happened to bring along a carrot stick for the nose!) They drink hot cocoa on an uncomfortable-looking but ever-so-rustic cliff, and Chase tells JoJo about his parents’ divorce. When they visit his apartment, there is a stuffed toy lion propped on the coffee table, but my real focus is the nonexistent-railing situation on his staircase. Like, it seems like a safety hazard. I don’t know, just something to think about.
Now to the real banger of the hometown visits: Chico, an unquestionably rustic town in northern California and the childhood home of Jordan Rodgers, famous football superstar (citation needed). Here, too, they meet in a field — a field Jordan loves more than anything! He used to run up it, as a blossoming young quarterback-to-be. Ah, time. Next, JoJo has the distinct pleasure of visiting Jordan’s old high school, where they interact with his football coach in a totally warm and unforced manner. “Oh, prom!” JoJo exclaims, revisiting the concept as Jonathan Safran Foer might describe it in an email to Natalie Portman, as she spots a banner for this year’s theme: Rustic Romance. (I promise I didn’t make that up.) “Would you go with me?” Jordan asks her coyly, and then they make out in the school library.
At this point it’s clear that Jordan’s relationship with high school is more-than-borderline fetishistic; he’s obsessed with the last era of his life where he was a popular stud and not just the bench-warming understudy of Aaron Rodgers, The Brother We Don’t Talk About. And as soon as JoJo points out a photo of Aaron in his coach’s office, shit gets extremely weird. “Doesn’t need to be a topic,” Jordan says through clenched teeth when JoJo asks about their non-relationship. At Jordan’s parents’ house later, there are literally two empty seats left at the table to represent the stifling non-presence of Aaron and his wife. We learn that Jordan’s parents call him their “spicy child.” JoJo searches for a remotely honest explanation for why Aaron hates Jordan and doesn’t get one, but whatevz, it’s just the person she’s building toward spending the rest of her life with. “He is nobody’s brother,” she proclaims. “He is the man I am falling in love with.” Those things aren’t really mutually exclusive, nor is that factually accurate, as he appears to have not one but two brothers, but I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since May 2016.
Next, we are off to St. Augustine, Florida, which I struggle to believe is a real town and not an old-timey stage set in some Burbank warehouse. Robby, who only buttons the bottom button of his salmon button-down, hails a whimsical horse-drawn carriage to escort JoJo around the town, which is inexplicably filled with men in colonial garb, down to their tri-corner hats. JoJo brings up Robby’s ex-girlfriend, whom he most definitely did not break up with to be on this show and desperately vie to be the next Bachelor (and who is apparently now dating Chad, because sometimes life is beautiful). Robby’s family members have frighteningly white teeth and give off a strong swinger vibe. After his mom breaks the news that his ex’s roommate has totally exposed him in the press, JoJo confronts him again, asking if there is any truth to the rumors. “Nnnnooooo. No. NO!” he stammers. So, that’s a solid “no” on that one, for sure.
The last hometown date is in Burnet, Texas, where we meet Luke in the middle of a rustic desert field. He drives JoJo to a bar, where they drink beers and chill like normal human adults. Just kidding, he drives her to another field, where his family is having a barbecue. “Y’all are all literally family to me,” he says to his family. They have a good ol’ rustic Texas time. “I can’t wait til the next step for us,” Luke says to the camera out loud. I can’t wait til I’m the next Bachelor, the most All-American Bachelor there ever was, he says in his head. Afterward, Luke has a special surprise for JoJo: A pile of hay bales covered with pillows in the middle of a field. Nearby, the producers have scattered rose petals in a heart shape. “My heart is out there,” Luke says. It sure is, Luke. It sure is.
We don’t get to see who goes home this week because The Bachelorette is a cruel, sadistic mistress. But hey, Chad’s back next Monday, and that’s all that really matters.