Of course we must, says Elizabeth Wurtzel: it is the fondest of the season’s episodes, because it showcases the mess of family – a mess Jojo probably will not want to relive anytime soon


Ben and Lauren B in Portland: lots of whiskey, and some white wine with dinner – but Oregon pinot is apparently too unconventional. Photograph: Levy Moroshan/ABC
Ben and Lauren B in Portland: lots of whiskey, and some white wine with dinner – but Oregon pinot is apparently too unconventional. Photograph: Levy Moroshan/ABC

“It’s time to bring the families into this!”

That is what Ben exclaims during an off-camera on-camera interview (what are these things even called on reality TV?) at the beginning of this week’s episode. And that was likely what some network executive yelled at his desk when he got the sudden inspiration for the beloved Bachelor ritual known as hometown dates.

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For people who are religious viewers of The Bachelor, this seasonal episode is surely the fondest, because it showcases the mess of family. All families are messy – even the ones that aren’t explicitly messy are messy, probably most especially those.

Somehow, all the women up for grabs on The Bachelor come from the choicest homes to be found in places like Wichita and Cheyenne and Tuscaloosa. And wherever The Bachelor goes, there is always plenty of white wine with dinner.

It’s as if no one has figured out that it is acceptable to have a deep burgundy with a fish entree. Somehow, it is totally OK to invite a guy to dinner who is dating your daughter and three other women, and it is absolutely fine to have this all happen on TV, but red wine with baked salmon is just too unconventional.

The first stop for this year’s bachelor, Ben Higgins, was Rancho Santo Mirage, which sounds like a made-up place, but is really the California beach town where Amanda lives with her two daughters.

Kids are great, because their agenda is: I want I want I want. They have no reason to go along with their mother’s absurd scheme to leave them home alone for several months and maybe return with some guy, maybe not, and who needs him anyway? These little girls just want their mommy back.

Ben does a good job at being good with the two girls, but so what? He does not need this, he definitely does not want this, and what does he even mean when he says that he is more in love with Amanda after the whole experience?

“At the end of the day, they aren’t his kids,” Amanda says. Yes. Also: not at the beginning of the day.

No wonder Ben looks like he is having a much better time the next day in Portland (Oregon), eating at a food truck with Lauren B. Add this to the list of things that are not fair: it is not fair that when you are young you want to go on a date without children.

So there is Portland, which is a place to hang out and misbehave. My regard for Lauren B has increased by leaps and bounds now that I know she is from Portland. That is a serious city.

And yet, no Oregon pinot at the family dinner table. Just white. But it was surprisingly civilized. There is always this routine of the family vetting the guy and saying how dare you do this, and all that. They have to. They have to show they care. It’s fine as long as it is not too much. After all, the women have agreed to this insane procedure.

And Lauren B is sure that Ben is her person. She knows.

Of course the next day in Hudson, Ohio, Caila is also sure. It was the first time I noticed that there is something similar about Caila and Lauren B.

I could see that Ben has a type. Caila felt confident that she was going to marry Ben. She told her Filipino mother, and her toy company CEO father, that she was sure about it. It was similar to the way Lauren B was sure.

They are both sure. Oh no. At least it was all so smooth.

But everything was a mess in Texas with Jojo. First, Jojo got a dozen red roses from her ex-boyfriend, and then called him to tell him there was nothing left between them just as Ben arrived at her apartment to pick her up for the day. When Ben got there, Jojo was still crying.

I don’t know why he believed her when she said she didn’t have any feelings left for the other guy – just stupid, I guess. She looked quite emotional.

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Then at dinner, Ben was confronted by Jojo’s angry brothers, who thought he was leading their sister on.

This was one of those things where they are of course right, or they at least have a point. But so what? House rules. Dealer holds the cards. Go yell out your window: I object to reality TV!