Love’s a game and this year we’re playing. For the full rules and intellectual justification of The Verge Bachelor Fantasy League please see this explanatory post. For a little background on why this is poised to be the best-ever season of The Bachelor, see this essay by culture editor Chris Plante:
Kaitlyn Tiffany: *Sportscaster voice* Welcome to the final four! It’s hard to believe that we’ve made it this far or that we’ll ever make it to the end. This week on The Bachelor, Nick Viall visited the hometowns of every woman he has left to choose from. At each home, he asked families, “Would you be okay with me proposing to your child?” and every time, he was met with a resounding “Um, I guess.”
Annually, this episode boils down to a series of theme parties at which four women are asked to turn their probably normal lives and families into caricatures for the benefit of TV. For Raven, this meant donning cutoff jean shorts, talking about “frog-digging,” and taking Nick for a marathon make-out sesh in the swamps of Hoxie, Arkansas. For Vanessa, this meant wearing a hideous fake fur vest (+3) to her home in Canada (remember the fur trade?). The theme of Corrine’s date is wealthy people, whereas the theme of Rachel’s date is frank discussions of race in America. Some of what happens on this show is useful, where the bulk of it truly is not. Though to The Bachelor’s credit, that is an accurate statement about all sports as well, and the end prize of “true love forever” is still way more worth it than Super Bowl rings (which are hideous and cumbersome).
i have a lot of thoughts about this ep of the #thebachelor so far but mainly about how 2 make a spinoff called dads of bachelor contestants— hollace doyle (@h0llace) February 21, 2017
This is a high-stakes episode for the remaining women, as each has only a few short hours to prove to Nick that her family is the most chill and fun, her hometown is the least gross, and, if you’re Corrine, that you have enough accumulated wealth to make life a walk in the park forever. If you watch closely, the hometown dates can tell you everything you need to know about the rest of the season.
Hometown Date Scoring System:
Family approval: Approves (+10), Neutral (+5), Disapproves (-5)
Family cool factor: Cool (+10), Lame (-5)
Hometown date: Good (+5), Lame (-5)
Lizzie Plaugic: It’s true that hometown dates help solidify the image of someone actually winning this whole thing so they can start hawking FitTea on Instagram ASAP. Of course, a lot of that gut feeling is producer intervention, but if someone’s hometown date goes by without any “red flags” as Rachel’s mom would put it, that’s a pretty good sign that, if nothing else, the producers didn’t want you to see those red flags.
First up this week was Raven, here to show the rest of the world what Arkansas mud looks like. She pulled the classic prank known as “my brother the cop pretends to arrest us and tells us not to kiss each other.” Good pranks apparently make Nick horny, so he and Raven make out in the mud, like, deep in the mud, even though I’m sure there was a nice dry log nearby (+7).
Back at Raven’s family’s house, her mother takes a moment on national television to announce that Raven’s father is cancer-free. Nick claps for joy and Raven’s father decides that he likes Nick more than he thought he would (+5), which is how most people feel about scallops.
While this was probably the most normal date of the night, does it make me hopeful for Raven’s chances here? Not really. She can’t manage to sputter out the words “I love you,” despite having already accidentally said it this season, which normally spells doom in the Bachelor universe. During a silence when Raven is very obviously trying to build up the courage to say it, Nick goes, “ahh... umm... okay” and hops in his Range Rover. I think the only reason Raven is still here is because we’ve gotten more of a backstory for her than for other contestants. She was cheated on, her dad is a cancer survivor, she likes to do extreme sports (+5), and she has more personality than Vanessa, a piece of stale bread in human form.
Chances of winning
As small as the population of Hoxie, Arkansas, but still on the map.
Kaitlyn: Next up is Rachel, who is from Dallas — a city that I’ve heard is pretty cool! However, we don’t really see any of Dallas because the date that “Rachel” (ABC) plans is an afternoon at church (-5). In the build-up to Nick meeting Rachel’s family, there is a lot of talk about “the elephant in the room,” which is that Nick is white and Rachel is black. Rachel worries that Nick won’t be comfortable in the predominantly black church she takes him to (at the behest of ABC); Nick worries that Rachel’s parents have never met a white boyfriend of hers before. The fact that they discuss all of this out loud is nice, as it’s a conversation neither The Bachelor nor The Bachelorette has ever wanted to have at all. What’s not great, however, is that the tension is largely broken when Rachel announces that her father, who is a federal judge, will not be appearing on this television program (for obvious reasons, such as the fact that he’s a federal judge). Nick’s worries are instantly washed away.
Rachel: my dad can't be here bc of work obligations— Kasandra (@Kasandraa_Rose) February 21, 2017
Translation: he's a federal judge and can't be seen on this trash show #TheBachelor
That’s because Nick is really only afraid of approval being withheld from him by other men, and with the threat of Rachel’s father eliminated, the coast is clear. Rachel’s mother and sister ask him a few frank questions about whether he’s been paying attention to a rising tide of racism in the United States, and he happily reads out his scripted answers, confident in the belief that these women are nothing to worry about. He also makes several comments that border on a “I don’t see race” defense, which borders on nuts. He does not ask for permission to propose to Rachel, because of course, the women in her family are not in charge of this 31-year-old woman with a law degree. Her dad is!
By the end of the date, everyone is in good spirits. Rachel’s cool family (+10) cracked a bunch of jokes about Nick eating okra, and her white brother-in-law said something strange about being a fellow “white,” which everyone ignored.
Rachel's brother in law who is also white said "you are a white" and I screamed #thebachelor— sage (@sagemariee_) February 21, 2017
Rachel’s mom approved of Nick (+10), saying that he reminded her of Rachel’s father, the absent federal judge. Most of Twitter’s #BachelorNation reacted with a “I really don’t see how that could possibly be true,” but Nick and Rachel seemed happy about it. Good for these crazy kids, who are about to break up so that Rachel can star on The Bachelorette.
Chances of winning
Lizzie: Corrine’s date comes next, probably in an attempt to highlight that Corrine has very different values than Rachel, namely, herself. The date Corrine plans is to an “exclusive” mall in Miami, so that Nick can see what Corrine looks like with a lot of different clothes on. If you think about it, this is actually a good idea if you’re trying to speed up the courtship process. Over the course of a few years of dating, you’d likely see your partner in hundreds of different outfits. So Corrine is probably just attempting to trick Nick’s brain into thinking their relationship has been going on for years by condensing dozens of potential Corrines into a single day.
The only Corrine personality trait we’ve been given so far is that she’s rich, and this theme continues. “Corrine is on a first-name basis with everyone who works here,” Nick says at the mall, dumbfounded but also genuinely impressed. As a token of her affection, Corrine buys Nick an ill-fitting peacoat for thousands of dollars (-5).
Corrine’s dad is understandably worried that Nick’s career as a reality show single person won’t prove lucrative enough to support Corrine’s lavish lifestyle. Corrine insists that she’d be okay being the “breadwinner,” which I’m assuming is code for “being a Bachelor couple should earn us some free swag for at least a few years.” Eventually Corrine’s dad drinks enough 30-year-old scotch that he decides Nick is an okay guy (+5). The producers also force Corinne’s nanny Raquel, whose name was trending on Twitter last night, to speak on camera. She agrees with Corinne that Corinne is a great person.
This was technically Corinne’s first one-on-one date with Nick ever, and she tells him she loves him.
Chances of winning
I’m pretty convinced that Corrine is going to take this thing. We already know it’s not Rachel, and Nick doesn’t seem to have anything to say about Raven and Vanessa other than he “respects” them. He obviously thinks Corrine is a little weird and a little spoiled, but he also sees her as an actual person rather than a very nice cyborg with a body he can touch.
Kaitlyn: After Rachel and Corrine’s dates tiptoed toward the twin taboos of the Bachelor franchise — race and money — I was in pretty good spirits. Maybe, I thought briefly, while nibbling on a very fancy chocolate bar my roommate bought in Vermont, network television was getting a little better. Maybe all of our lofty predictions about how this could be the best-ever season of The Bachelor would come true, somehow, in the final hours. Maybe, to borrow a phrase from my hero Lisa Kudrow, the spider-eyed producers of this show would finally chill. Then Vanessa’s date started.
Vanessa, who is from Montreal, starts her date with Nick by taking him to meet her students. She is a special education teacher, which means someone signed release forms so that she could use 20 to 30 mentally disabled young adults as props on ABC’s The Bachelor. The whole segment lasts only about five minutes, but in that time Vanessa asks her class to loudly recite the word “boyfriend” and point at Nick, as well as cut out photos of her and the BF sucking face and glue them into a scrapbook. If she really is a special needs educator (something her IMDb page renders an actual question), it’s absolutely insane that she thought this was a good idea. She gets an honorary double deduction for “lame hometown date” (-10) because her date was not only lame but morally repugnant.
Moving on to the family portion of the evening, Vanessa has a very large Italian family and they eat a lot of pasta. She does a good job making this seem like a big deal, apparently forgetting that Nick has a whopping 10 siblings and everyone who has ever lived is familiar with pasta. Her mother and sister are suspicious of Nick because the only thing he can think of to compliment Vanessa on is her body, and also he doesn’t have a job. Seems fair. Her father, whom they visit separately, is also suspicious of Nick. This is primarily because Nick can’t think of anything to say about Vanessa other than “I liked her the moment she stepped out of the limo” and because he doesn’t have a job (-10). Across the board, everyone is really steamed about the fact that Nick will not want to immigrate to Canada. The whole disaster comes to a head when Vanessa’s dad tells her that Nick asked every woman’s family about a potential proposal.
This dramatic revelation makes Vanessa cry (+5), shout, doubt why she’s still on the show, doubt whether Nick loves her or even likes her, doubt whether she will ever have a career in show biz, and then calmly say none of this to Nick and politely kiss him goodbye as he exits in a Range Rover. On The Bachelor, true love means never having to say “here is how I feel.”
Chances of winning
Vanessa’s chances are about an even split with Corrine’s, if you ask me. Her family’s reluctance to participate would make for some added drama in the final episode, and Nick finds her very beautiful, which is the main character trait he is capable of seeing in women.
Lizzie: The episode ends with Nick bringing the women to his favorite city in the world, New York City, so that he can break up with one of them. The rose ceremony won’t take place till next week, as is the standard this season. Those three women will move on to Fantasy Suite dates, and we already know Nick has a dark past in this arena. He’ll probably mention it one to seven times.
Loren Grush: Raven (+27)
League total: 275
Chris Plante: Vanessa (+13)
League total: 255
Kaitlyn Tiffany: Corrine (+22)
League total: 248
Kara Verlaney: Raven (+27)
League total: 244
Lizzie Plaugic: Vanessa (+13)
Week total: 13
League total: 227
Jake Kastrenakes: Corrine (+22)
League total: 201
Note: There are no new draft picks this week! As we move into the final two rounds of elimination, our Bachelor Fantasy League competitors will just have to hope that the contestant they’ve chosen has what it takes to win Nick’s cold, weird heart.