As soon as MTV’s The Challenge starts a new season, everything else on television becomes 8x more tedious to watch. There’s practically a zero percent chance that one of The Bachelorette’s contestants will eat another contestant’s face. And yet, last night, there I sat, watching Des nervously giggle while the family of a man she would break up with in a few short days, sang her a song that included the lyric: “Oh Desiree now we can see/ your place among our family.” Because I still care. Heaven help me, I still care. I need to know if Drew is going to come out on national television, if Brooks will ever say I love you, if Zak will ever stop smiling.
If you need to see one of the oddest assortments of haircuts to ever exist within the confines of a single two hour television show about arranged marriage, then this episode is a real treasure chest. The bangs…oh, the bangs. That’s right – it’s time for Random Relatives and Hometown Visits (also the name of the band that Zak W. is starting at this very moment…know any good base players?). The awkward situations that Hometown Visits inevitably generate can only mean one thing:
- Drink every time Des looks like she’s goings to cry at an inappropriate time (AKA, not out of happiness or sadness, but out of fear of normal social protocol while your future 2nd place Father-in-Law gives you a rub down)
Des arrives for her first Hometown Visit in my own homestate of Texas, and I wish I could say her turquoise leather jacket would look as dumb there as it would anywhere else but Texans are, like, really into turquoise. The camera zooms in on Zak doing some sketchin’, because once they went to the cooler climates of Europe and he had to start wearing a shirt (and six hoodies), he had to develop a different brand for himself: cue, last episode’s sudden artistic awakening. If The Bachelorette has taught me one thing, it’s that if you have hobby in common with someone, you should consider marrying them [ed. note: Write one more damn poem, Chris, I dare you.]
They hang out in a park and Zak is going on and on about a dream he had about Des being melting snow or something and then all of the sudden he’s making a break for it. Because he’s finally realized his love is a fraud!!! J/K, he goes to get the family snow cone truck. I’ve never had any real feelings in either direction about Zak, but I have always wanted to work in a snowcone stand, and I might just marry a man who could afford me that opportunity. And within the next hour and a half, he’ll probably be available because Des hasn’t smiled with her teeth throughout the whole date, and there’s not a snowcone’s chance in hell (it happened, deal with it) that he is getting a rose tonight.
But ABC still takes us through the motions. A bunch of “neighborhood kids” - who have already added this gig to their IMDb profiles - run up for some rose-sponsored snowcones. Zak says he loves watching how good Des is with kids and the camera pans to her trying to hand one of the little monsters a Bombstick without making physical contact.
Zak W.’s family was created in the Nuclear Family Incubator they keep below the Texas Rangers stadium. There are big personalities, even bigger leather couches, a sweet/crazy mom, a pretty blonde sister, an understated dad, one embarrassed brother (Denton) and one embarrassing brother (Zak). As Zak and Des recount to the family how he introduced himself on the first night, and that he has since “been completely naked at least three times,” they’re all appropriately horrified, proving themselves trustworthy humans. Then there’s a quick shot of Zak’s mom dancing in her chair at the dinner table to no music, proving her either a really fun potential mother-in-law or one of those that’s going to loan you a serving platter and then accuse you of stealing it the next time she’s at your house, just like you stole her baby boy from her. It’s a thin line.
Best in Hair, Texas Bangs Division: Zak’s Mom
What is it about Des that inspires Statement Bangs in every person she touches? I don’t know, but it will soon become clear that Mrs. W’s bangs don’t even scratch the surface of the bang tutorial we’ll withstand tonight.
After their fun dinner (seriously…it might be the first time on this show something has seemed fun, without having to involve go-karts or flying down a hill at warp speed), Des and Zak’s sister have a bubbly little talk in her bedroom. There is a mannequin wearing a fur vest in the background, because I guess she’s into fashion like Des, so according to the rules, she is a viable husband option.
Zak has a chat with his mom where he keeps saying things like “you know I had almost given up on the idea of love for a really long time.” Like, how long? You’re only 31. You’re a Fluid Drilling Engineer, you have a balcony jutting out of the side of your house, and a nice set of chompers. Give yourself a break, Zak!
I thought I could trust Zak’s brother, Denton, because he seems like a slightly more hinged version of Zak and he’s named after a Texas town. [ed. note: Have you ever met a bad Austin? Tyler? I haven’t.]But then, wouldn’t you know it, the whole family is singing Des an original song, and Denton is crooning right along with them. In a similar way to how you can always tell when you’ve come across a Christian radio station, even if the song lyrics sound like any other soft rock anthem, the W. family’s song sounds just like a Christian rock song, even though they’re singing about Des. She literally looks like she could burst into tears at any moment, and it is absolutely not out of happiness. Drink until Des stops making this face:
Just when Des thinks she can make a graceful exit without causing this quirky family too much pain, Zak decides the time is right to say “I love you” and give Des a ring he got for her in Atlantic City (known for its fine jewels and gems). She should not accept it. If she has a heart, or a non-contractual-obligation, she should not take this ring. Because anyone and everyone who watches this show with even the slightest bit of attention knows that Zak is the next to go. But Zak doesn’t have the luxury of watching himself be led on from the outside. So she cries and takes the ring and Zak thinks they’re in love. I hope Denton got a fresh set of guitar strings, because this is going to take a lot of family sing-a-longs to get over.
Let me be clear: the only evidence that Drew could be coming out to Des as a gay man and breaking her heart into a million pieces, does not come from his actions, but from this heavily edited “Coming Up This Season” that ABC released a few weeks ago. This is not a stereotypical assumption fueled from mildly feminine gestures; this is hard-hitting, evidence-driven, journalistic speculation.
However, after Drew prances to greet Des in a Scottsdale parking lot, my watching crew and I reevaluate the possibility of Drew maybe, possibly, tentatively not being totally and completely into girls. And we all agree it has gone up 20-30%. Post-prance, Drew makes out with Des a little and sits her down on a bench to explain how this family gathering should be great, but could also be a Charlie Foxtrot (this is implied by his nervous giggles, not his actual words). The family will be gathering at his mother and step-father’s house and this will be the first time his recovering alcoholic dad has been over to see them. It’s important to note that Drew’s dad’s name is Malichi, and his brother’s name is Malichi, and they both go by Mal. Drew kind of lucked out in the name and face department.
As promised last week, Drew and Des go to pick up his mentally handicapped sister, Melissa, at her care facility so they can all be together for dinner. And let me tell you what, it is a sweet moment to watch Melissa and Drew be reunited. Des is there and she doesn’t like, light anyone on fire or anything, so she handles it as best we can expect from her. Drew says “I’m proud of my family” when he arrives at his family’s home with Des and Melissa. He is just such a tender spirit and Des is going to make him so sad. I hope he finds a good
girl person when the time is right.
Drew’s family is what you might have guessed (when you contemplated for hours on Sunday night in preparation of the big reveal): sweet, mild-mannered, corn-fed, good looking people of Arizona, complete with chubby blonde children running around and Native American artwork on the walls. Mal Sr. gives a toast with water in a wine glass (good for you, Mal Sr!) and everyone seems to be getting along splendidly. Drew and his mom talk in a bedroom and she sort of gives him her blessing but she kind of seems like she’s going to cry the whole time. This will come up again with other moms.
An aside: Drew cannot stop saying the phrase, “I’m ready to get on a knee[to propose to Des]” and that’s all I’m going to say about it. That’s all I’m going to say about it!!!
Meanwhile, Papa Mal is having a chat with Des that goes from Des talking about how attractive Drew is, to Mal moving on to some next-level stuff: “Do you believe in angels?” There is an expected answer here and if there’s one thing Des knows how to do, it’s lie unconvincingly through her teeth: “I do.” My ears are already shutting themselves off to the awkward interaction but then Mal says that Melissa is an angel because she brought their family together and taught them what love is and, OK, yes, I bet that is very true and I’m really glad Mal is doing better and I’m not crying.I continue not to cry as Drew and his Dad share what looks like a healing moment when he gives him his blessing: “If you want to marry this girl, I’ll throw a party.”
It all feels very foreboding. Drew walks Des to her car and drops the L-bomb. He’s all in; he loves her and “wants her in [his] life.” Oh, Drewby, will your little heart be able to take this? At least he’s got a good family to go back to, Ford Model good looks and an ambiguous ranking on the Kinsey Scale. That’s just well-rounded!
Do we really need to see Chris? He told Des he loved her like three months ago, they’ve already self-published an e-book of poetry together, he’s taking #2, packing on a little muscle and coming back in six months as the next Bachelor, where we will have to listen to every single woman read a poem to him at their fountain introduction. What more is there to know?
Well, here are some things: Des brings Chris a book of drawings she made for him (favorite alert!), Chris’ family lives in some sort of compound and if he’s never asked if he was adopted, he’s got a couple of observational screws loose in the noggin. Chris looks nothing like his family and in his sister (? - the family ties are a little ambiguous here), we find our best bangs yet.
Best in Hair, Paula Jones Division: Drew’s Lovely but Confusingly Be-banged Sister
Everyone in Chris’ family not only look like they’re from a different gene pool, but also different decades. It’s so distracting, the next thing I know, Des’ dad is giving a rhyming Irish toast – a family of poets! – and then offering to give Des a free rubdown in his Chiropractor office…in the basement. Still, when you compare it to a guy’s family who you’re about to break up with singing you an original song about you, how awkward is a little misguided and perhaps-not-totally-legal back aligning?
It’s certainly not as awkward as what he does to his son on the chiropractor table. While Chris explains that Des is very healthy (a much more practical concern than if they’re ready to get married, I guess), his dad sticks a turkey baster up his nostrils and blows air at his brain for three straight minutes. Is this why people are always talking smack about Chiropractors?
We don’t see a lot of Des talking to the rest of his family, but we do see Chris being told repeatedly that no one – and I mean no one, not a single be-banged sister – liked his last girlfriend. Similar to Des (and Drew’s mom, and kind of Brooks sometimes), Chris’ mom always seems like she’s about to cry. She uncomfortably does not smile once the whole time Chris is talking about how much he loves Des. It’s not Des’ Hometown with Sean, but it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs.
Now, off to Utah to be reunited with Brooks: “I love Brooks and I love being around him.” Alllllrighty, can we just call this time-suck a wrap, then? Brooks can say I love you like Chris, get down on his knee like Drew and present a ring like Zak. Oh, wait…you’re telling me that, unlike those gentlemen, Brooks is playing a little harder to get. Good on ya, Brooks-y. Less good? The yellow buffalo plaid shirt that Brooks seems to think goes with everything.
Des presents Brooks with a piece of paper folded into a rose. She probably wanted to bring him a wedding ring but the producers told her they’d let her cut her bangs back and eat carbs again if she went with a more subtle approach. The paper has a list of Des’ favorite moments with Brooks, most hilariously, the time he broke his finger and passed out. Oh, the fun they’ve shared! Then Brooks almost tips their canoe and totally soaks Des’ pants because he’s kind of a goober.
Here’s a fun and dangerous new rule:
- Drink every time you try to figure out if Brooks’ family is Mormon or not.
They’re from Utah, there are about 40 of them, and they’re all dressed stylishly conservative. Feels Mormon: drink! But wait, Brooks and Des are walking up with a bottle of wine: drink! Hold on, either Brooks’ hands are huge or that’s a tiny bottle of wine. Oh, maybe it’s olive oil: drink! I’ll go ahead and tell you, it is touch and go the whole time, and we never quite figure it out. Well, I did come up with a few elaborate theories involving marriage, divorce, opaque wine glasses and rebellious teenage years, but I should probably keep some things a little closer to the vest.
When they walk in, the whole family freaks out, setting a fun, upbeat tone for the evening. Not to mention, all 18 of Brooks’ brothers surround Des in a group hug, which she surely loves, since she now only has four men to fawn over her at all times, and is likely missing her collection. Des and Brooks’s mom go to have a little chat in the Rec Room and she is really sweet and seems like she likes Des, but maybe recognizes she might be a little more into her son than he is into her. A recurring theme, perhaps?
Best in Hair, Conservatively Stylish Bangs: Brooks’ Sister-in-Law
Brooks and his bros retire to the backyard for some quality time by the chiminea. Let me just tell you what is going on, fashion-wise: one bro has a soul patch, one is wearing what seems to be a peter pan collared shirt with a crew neck heather grey sweater over it, one has been watching the show and is wearing a v-neck tee with a hoodie/cardigan situation and Brooks - Brooks has added a smoking sweater (?) that is textured in such a way that it appears to be polka dotted, on top of his yellow buffalo plaid shirt. I’ll just…never understand. And it’s not even like he looks bad. That man is a warlock.
As Des basically says she’s in love with Brooks to anyone who will listen, Brooks tells his mom he’s “pleasantly surprised to be where he’s at.” Uh oh. This isn’t looking good for Des. I think I’m starting to get a better understanding of why the final episodes seem like they’re going to have tears on tears on tears (on bangs). When Brooks hugs his mom after their heart to heart she says, “You’re my favorite,” which is a really hilarious mom-move, but also, apparently Brooks is everyone’s favorite. It’s got to be the chin cleft.
Before Des can give out her Final Three roses she “has to talk to [her] brother,” who she says she hasn’t seen since her Hometown visit with Sean a year ago. So when she says “has to,” she means in the “ABC contractually obligated” sense, not the “need his help” sense. It’s not an enjoyable situation. Des implies she would like an apology and he pretty much says, “I did what I needed to do, [I’m a douche].” I can’t quite put my finger on who he reminds me of but, given a few fingers, I might point one at a sociopath and another at the scary guy who always leers at you from his stoop on your walk to the gym.
He asks about the guys she’s dating and she says she likes Zak because he’s “adventurous like [her]” (drink!), Chris because he’s humble [ed. note: Gah, I wish she had said “like me”] and Drew because he’s kind and sweet. She hardly even mentions Brooks because her brother is nuts and would obviously target the bro he thought was most likely to “win” (his words…and mine). But he probably won’t get the chance. Des knows how to stand her ground and she’s not letting anyone ruin this; except herself, and then, maybe the guys she’s dating. But not her brother. Not this time.
Oh look, Chris Harrison decided to roll off the massage table, sit down in a comfortable chair and talk to Des for a few minutes. CH finally earns his keep though because after Des says again that she loves Brooks, he cannot stop reminding her that Brooks is the only one who hasn’t said “I love you” to her. It is delicious. And just in case she wasn’t clear, Des wraps things up by saying, “I see a proposal at the end…I’m hopeful for a proposal…with Brooks” and pokes at those framed pictures for a little while.
The men walk in and they must have been styled tonight because they are all looking their best. Des’ creepy brother loiters in a corner; it’s unimportant. Des, also looking her best, calls Brooks’ name first and then lights all the roses on fire, throws him over her shoulder and swims back to L.A.
Jokes, she gives the last two roses to Chris and Drew, and squeezes out a tear for poor, silly Zak. He is stunned and sits there quietly while Des drones on and on at him on a Breakup Bench. She gives the Atlantic City ring back – yeah you better! – because she wants him to give it to someone who he’s meant to be with. He says “Okay,” gets in the Reject Limo and proceeds to not blink for three minutes straight, only halting to throw the ring out the window. So dramatic, that one. He and Des were no match and I hope he finds someone to draw and fluid drill engineer with soon.
Next week is Men Tell All? No thank you, bring on the tearsssssssssssss!