Well, rose lovers, this hometown episode had EVERYTHING… except travel. Due to the pandemic, all the relatives came to Minnesota for these important "meet the family" moments. But we were still treated to plenty of Bachelorette hometown date staples: Skeptical relatives! Declarations of "love"! And the sad goodbye to the lovable dude none of us thought would make it this far in the first place.
Hometown date no. 1: Brandon
City (not) visited: Portland, OR
Relatives present: His mom, Carmen; his dad, David; and his brother, Noah — who delayed going into the Navy so he could support his sibling's televised quest for a spouse. That's brotherly love, folks.
The date begins with our first run-and-jump hug of the season.
ABC Michelle and Brandon
Now it feels like hometowns. In order to bring a little of his hometown to Michelle, Brandon takes her to an indoor skateboard park, because he and his brother skate together all the time. But poor Brandon is a little rusty — and a little self-conscious skating in front of Michelle — and he keeps wiping out. "My legs were like, 'Yo, I don't know how to work anymore,'" he laments. "I'm embarrassing the s--- out of myself." At least he's got a sense of humor about it.
That night, Michelle and Brandon arrive at a posh rental townhouse where his family is staying. Before we go any further, let's please take a moment to appreciate Noah's lewk.
ABC Noah for Bachelor!
The glasses! The diamond stud! The chain! The fresh cut! It's all on point. No notes, sir.
After Brandon fills his family in on his limo exit gimmick ("I rolled up in a bed"), Michelle admits that she had almost written him off as a "smooth talker" — but soon learned there was more to him than that. Noah is the first to pull Michelle for a one-on-one talk, and he wants what all relatives in this situation want: Assurances that his brother is her No. 1 pick. The Bachelorette reports that she absolutely can see herself with Brandon for the rest of her life. Honestly, that seems a little suspect to me, because by her own account she hasn't even fallen for him yet.
Later, Michelle bonds with David over fishing — he loves it, her dad loves it — while Brandon gushes and gushes to his mom about how great Michelle is: "I know who my person is now, mom." Doesn't she look convinced?
ABC Brandon's mom
Don't answer that. The good news is that after talking to Michelle, Carmen seems a little more comfortable with the whole situation. "She's great," says mom. "She's so much like him — I was kind of surprised by that." Even Noah is impressed by how much his parents like Michelle. "We both know how difficult is to win their full trust," he says, "and it looks to me like you've earned it." The evening ends with the Bachelorette announcing to Brandon that she is, in fact, "falling" for him. Watch out Nayte and Joe — looks like you might have some competition!
Hometown date no. 2: Rodney
City (not) visited: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Relatives present: Rodney's mom, Carrie, and his stepdad, Tyree
Run-and-jump hug no. 2!
ABC Rodney and Michelle
Though Rodney is from Rancho Cucamonga, California, the activity he's planned for his "hometown" date is picking apples — specifically, a type of apple called First Kiss, which was developed in Minnesota.
ABC Literally the cutest.
Dang it, these two are so cute. Apple picking is followed by some apple tasting followed by a bike ride through the apple orchard… Okay, okay, we get it. Rodney showed up dressed as an apple. Let's move on!
With that, we're back at the Parental Townhouse, where "moms" and "pops" are anxiously awaiting the return of their son. "Rodney and I, we're close to being best friends, not just mother and son," explains Carrie. Oooh, pressure's on, Michelle!
Mom pulls the Bachelorette aside and asks her to explain what sets Rodney apart from "these other gentlemen." Michelle thinks about it for a minute and then praises Rodney's "playfulness": "I don't laugh with anyone else as hard as I laugh with Rodney." Carrie approves of that answer, but she's still very, very worried that her darling son will be heartbroken. Michelle assures her that she could see a life with Rodney outside of the Bachelorette bubble — in fact, she'd even be ok with getting stuck for five hours at the airport with him. That's gotta be love, right?
Mom believes Michelle is genuine, but she says it's her job to remind Rodney that he's only one of four potential "winners" in this situation.
ABC Rodney's mom
"It does scare me that you would be broken-hearted at the end of this," says Carrie. "That's a little worrisome for me." Rodney says Michelle is worth the risk of heartbreak — dang it, that is so sweet! Rodney for Bachelor! Someday, after the other one! (Sigh.) Mom is so moved to hear that Rodney is falling in love with Michelle, she bursts into tears. She really doesn't want to see her baby boy get hurt, but she knows it's par for the Bachelorette course: "Just as Rodney respects the position she's in, so must I."
Hometown date no. 3: Joe
City (actually) visited: Minneapolis, MN
Relatives present: Joe's mom, Julie; his dad, David; and his brother, Dan, and sister-in-law Hanna
Joe is from Minnesota, so this will be our only true hometown date of the evening. First up, he takes Michelle on a tour of his old high school, where they smooch in his favorite hangout spot right outside the library. And then…
ABC Michelle and Joe
Since he never went to prom, and Michelle said in her poem that she was picked last for prom, Joe decided to ask production to decorate his high school gym so he and Michelle could have a "prom re-do." And she LOVES it. "Most romantic date ever!" says Michelle. "I don't know if anyone has done anything this sweet for me." I'll admit it, rose lovers — this is definitely an A+ romantic gesture. Still, Joe has not yet told Michelle that he's "falling" for her — and that's on her mind as she heads into the family visit.
Side note: How cute are Joe's parents?
ABC Joe's adorable parents
I officially love them. Michelle tells the family that she really appreciates Joe's "quiet confidence," and that they've both gotten better at showing their emotions. Hanna informs us that the Coleman men are generally quiet, especially when they're nervous. Let's listen in and see if David and Joe make any sounds when they sit down to talk…
"You guys look like a loving couple," says dad softly. "You've still gotta express yourself to her." Then things fall quiet. Wait, did production add the sound of the clock ticking in the background, or am I experiencing an auditory hallucination?
ABC The sounds of awkward silence
Don't answer that. I wonder how things are going with Michelle and Julie? "I see how excited he is being next to you, sitting downstairs," says mom. "That was cool." Okay, no problems here. What does sister-in-law Hanna have to say about the situation?
ABC Joe's sister-in-law is skeptical
Dang girl, why must you look like you're smelling something unpleasant while you ask Joe that question? Joe says he's "falling" for Michelle and is even ready to propose. So far, Joe's brother Dan hasn't said much. He prefers to let his wife do the talking, I suppose.
Finally, Joe and Michelle sit down with chatty Hanna and silent Dan for one last interrogation. The Bachelorette says she's in a "tough position," but she loves that Joe is her "little slice of home" no matter where she is in her "journey." Hanna believes that Joe needs a strong partner, one who will be his teammate, but also challenge him to be his best self. Ultimately, Hanna gives Michelle her seal of approval. "It was clear that she's pushing him and bringing a lot of energy to their partnership," she says. But will Joe have enough emotional stamina to declare his feelings for Michelle?
ABC Joe drops the l-bomb
Nice work, Minnesota Joe! On to the final date.
Hometown date no. 4: Nayte
City (not) visited: Austin, TX
Relatives present: Nayte's mom, Leanna, and his stepdad, Charles
After giving the run-and-jump hug a break with Joe, Michelle is back at it again with Nayte.
ABC Michelle and Nayte
I mean, it doesn't even look comfortable. Anyhoo, today's date will feature some of Nayte's favorite things from his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas. One of those things is paddle boarding — which is apparently something you can do in Austin, even though it's not on the coast.
ABC Michelle and Nayte
Can't deny it — these two do make a cute couple. Before heading into the family visit, Nayte preps Michelle for meeting his mom and stepdad, who are now divorced but nonetheless came together to support him. His family, as you may remember, isn't very "touchy-feely," and they're not big on expressing emotion. Nayte warns Michelle that his family might be a little "protective" of him. "Honestly, I have no idea what to expect," he admits. It's a little nerve-wracking for Michelle, being the first woman to have ever met Nayte's family, but she's so "head over heels" for him — as he is for her — that she's willing to take the risk.
Gird your loins, rose lovers. It's "meet the family" time! Honestly, it only took me about 15 seconds to fall in love with Nayte's stepdad.
ABC I love him
Look at that dreamboat! "I'm here because of Nathaniel," explains Charles. "I've been supporting him and being there for him for a long time." And Nayte's mom, Leanna, is no slouch, either. She's a former teacher, and she shows up with a gift for Michelle's students: Candy from Canada!
Mom and Michelle sit down together first, and the Bachelorette fills Leanna in on how she and Nayte "connect on so many levels." Mom doesn't want her son to feel pressured to propose, especially since he's never had a super-serious relationship. "My worry is he's gotten kind of swept up in the process," Leanna tells us. "Because if he leaves with Michelle, it's a very different world when you're dealing with the everyday struggles that every couple has to deal with."
The conversation continues on that theme when mom sits down with Nayte. "Are you prepared to… propose?" she asks him. Nayte says he's on his way, but not quite ready yet. Mom's like, okay, but are you sure you're even going to feel the same way about Michelle once you're outside of the bubble? It's a real head-scratcher of a question for Nayte. Literally.
ABC Nayte is confused
As for Charles, earlier he promised us some straight talk — and when he sits down with Michelle for a chat, he delivers.
ABC Charles tells it like it is
Nayte, you see, "doesn't know the difference between being in love and being married," says Charles. "One's a feeling, and one's a commitment." Right now, it's all rainbows and rose petals, but Charles worries that when it comes time to get down on one knee, Nayte will realize "emotionally he's not there yet."
Next, Charles sits down with Nayte, and once again, he does not mince words. "If everything is so new, how do you know any of it is real?" he asks. "Your feelings are real, you feel what you feel, but it doesn't mean it's true love." Those are some true words of wisdom, and Nayte gets emotional when Charles asks him to dig a little deeper about his feelings for Michelle. "It's all good," he says, fighting back tears. "I wouldn't be the person I am if it wasn't for you." Charles is moved, too, and he wants Nayte to know that he loves him, no matter what happens. "Never doubt that I am proud of you," he says. "I don't say it a lot, I don't hug a lot… but never, ever, ever, doubt that I love you, and never doubt that I'm here for you."
Now Nayte's full-on crying, and he tells Charles — for the first time ever — that he loves him. Great, now we're all crying!
ABC There, there, Nayte
Though Charles and Leanna approve of Michelle, by the end of the night they're both convinced that Nayte simply isn't ready for a marriage-level commitment. Still, Nayte is flying high. "What a night!" he raves to Michelle. "Look at you, bringing family together!"
Well, at least one of them is happy. The next morning, Michelle is still unnerved by the news that Nayte might not be "ready" for a rapid TV engagement. "I'm feeling nauseous, worried," she says. "Tonight is going to be the toughest rose ceremony yet."
But it's still daylight outside, so producers have some time to kill. You know what that means, rose lovers:
ABC Serena and Bri are here for some reason
Uh, okay. Hi, Bri and Serena. Good to see you, I guess? Michelle is thrilled to have two of her "best friends" and fellow refugees from Matt's season to help counsel her on this momentous occasion. That said, neither of them have much to offer beyond a sympathetic ear as Michelle frets about "clarity." So glad we had this time together, guys. On to the rose ceremony!
ABC The final four
Eyes on the prize, boys! Rose ceremony roll call: The final three roses go to Brandon, Nayte, and Joe. Alas, we now much say goodbye to Rodney — sweet, funny, very-dumb-about-apples Rodney. Our goofy hunk just flew too close to the sun.
Outside on the Bye-Bye Bench, Michelle tries to let Rodney down easy. "I need you to know that who you are is enough," she says. "It's just feelings moved quicker in other relationships." (It's hard to hear what she's saying because the traffic on the street a few feet away nearly drowns her out, but I suppose that's what happens when you shoot in a busy city.) Because he is a perfect gentleman, Rodney thanks Michelle for their time together and then climbs into the Reject SUV.
ABC Farewell, sweet Rodney
"I can never, ever forget the moments we shared here," he says sadly. "It hurts. It just wasn't meant to be, I guess."
If this man isn't a first round draft pick on Paradise this summer, I am going to lose my damn mind.
And so we are down to the final three, rose lovers. Are you happy with Michelle's picks? Do you think any of the men are truly ready for marriage? And should we start a petition to get the Food Network to pick up Rodney's cooking show, How 'Bout Them Apples? Post your thoughts below!