'The Bachelor' recap: Home is where the heart is

"Episode 1708" - Desiree gets an unexpected visitor on "The Bachelor."

You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family.

Hometown dates on "The Bachelor" are always fraught with tension. Here's Sean, meeting his potential wife's family … while still dating three other women. And he can't say that he loves their daughter/sister or make promises about the future.

Add in a two-star general and a rudely skeptical brother, and you've got a recipe for drama (the real kind, not the Tierra kind). After all the hometown visits are over, Sean sends home a front-runner we thought for sure would end up in the final two.

AshLee in Houston, Texas

First up is AshLee, who is gushing about how she was broken but Sean has fixed her.

"My life has changed drastically," she declares. "Before I met Sean, I thought I knew what love was. I had no clue what real, true love was."

Over a picnic lunch, they bond over similarities in their family lives and values. Afterward, they join her parents, and AshLee admits to them that she's in love with Sean.

Her mom and dad separately take Sean aside for private chats. They both want to know if he returns AshLee's feelings, and he can't say, of course, but he does ask her dad for his blessing to propose, if it comes to that point. Dad happily gives it.

"When I finally hear 'I love you,' there's a whole life still ahead of us to go," AshLee sighs rapturously.

Well, not so fast there, girlfriend … Sean's got three other women to visit!

AshLee's friends question Sean in this deleted scene: 

Catherine in Seattle, Washington

Sean's relationship with Catherine developed a bit slower than with the other women, but he seems to light up in her presence. "She brings out this weird, goofy side in me," Sean says.

They go see her all-female family: grandmother, mom, and two sisters. The latter are somewhat skeptical that Catherine has fallen in love so quickly. Is she really ready to settle down? What about her career ambitions? Catherine responds to all of their questions, but soon gets annoyed at having to defend herself.

The sisters don't let up on Sean. When he asks if Catherine is really ready get married, they give him some long-winded, nonsensical answers. Hmm … as fun as Catherine is, maybe she's not quite wife material just yet?

Lindsay in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

This is a very different hometown date, since Lindsay is an Army brat and her father is currently stationed on a base. Sean is nervous about meeting her two-star general father (he debates what to call him: Mr. or Gen. Yenter).

But before the big meeting, Lindsay puts Sean through a mini bootcamp, and their easygoing chemistry is readily apparent. "She gives me butterflies," he says. "She brings out the kid in me." (More like the horny teenager!)

Finally, Sean meets the general, as well as Lindsay's mom and brother. They all laugh over her wedding-dress stunt, then break up to have private conversations. Again, Sean can't reveal his feelings to Lindsay's mom, but he does ask her dad for his blessing should he propose. The general hems and haws a bit, but finally gives Sean the A-OK.

Sean buys Lindsay a diamond ring in this deleted scene:

Desiree in Newport Beach, California

After a happy hike together, Sean and Desiree are making dinner when a knock comes at the door. It's a guy … and he tells Desiree he loves her! He's been wondering where she is, and oh, who is this other dude? Wow, is this an ex coming to spoil their romantic date?! Sean is baffled and shocked.

Nope! "Gotcha!" she tells Sean with a gleeful grin. It's all a prank, to get Sean back for the one he pulled on their first date. They share a good, hearty laugh.

But things don't remain funny for long. Sean meets Desiree's parents, who are sweet as can be. Everything seems to be going smoothly, until her brother, Nate, takes Sean aside.

Nate is skeptical that Sean reciprocates his sister's feelings, then calls Sean a "playboy" who wants to "just have fun and go to the next one." Sean is flabbergasted, but this time it's no joke. He tries to defend himself, but Nate's not having it.

When they return to the others, Des immediately senses something went wrong. She and her parents yell at Nate for upsetting Sean, who's just trying to keep quiet and stay calm.

After he and Des share a sweet goodbye, she goes back to rip a new one in Nate. Has her stupid brother ruined everything?

Rose ceremony

Sean is torn. As he talks to Chris Harrison, he knows he's going to give roses to AshLee and Lindsay, but can't decide between Catherine and Desiree.

The confrontation with Desiree's brother was difficult -- can he imagine himself living with that tension for the rest of his life? Then again, is Catherine ready to become a wife and mother?

The rose ceremony begins, but before Sean can even give out the first rose, Des asks for a quick chat. They head outside, where Des tearfully apologizes for her brother's behavior. "It's not you, it's him," Sean soothes. "It's OK." Maybe this will solidify his choice.

They return to the ceremony. As expected, Sean gives roses to AshLee and Lindsay. But with the third rose in hand, he wavers. He puts it down and leaves the room. The women look to be in shock.

Sean paces the deliberation room. Chris comes in, and the bachelor confesses he can picture his life with both Catherine and Des. But who will he miss the most tomorrow? And he had just about decided to send Des home when she took him aside to apologize. Sean has no idea what to do.

He returns to the ceremony. With a deep breath, he picks up the rose and gives it to … Catherine.

Poor Des! And poor Nate … he is never going to hear the end of this.

Sean walks Des outside, where she sobs that he's making a mistake. He might be, Sean concedes. The guy looks absolutely miserable; we half-expect him to take it all back. He never got clarity, but had to make a decision. Maybe it's the right one, maybe not.

They hug for ages, with Des whispering, "Don't let me go." Oofa! That's a punch to the gut.

Finally, she climbs into the limo and is whisked away. "I don't know what I'm going to do with life," Des sniffles.

After he watches her drive away, a forlorn Sean hangs his head. Did he just make the biggest mistake, as Des said? Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Check out Twitter reactions, then sound off on Sean's choice in the comments below!

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"The Bachelor" airs Mondays at 8 PM on ABC.