Bachelorette
Season 9, Episode 8

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Shouldn't Have Put a Ring On It

Welcome to Dallas, Zak's hometown. He's sketching circles in a park or something when Desiree shows up, and he can't wait to introduce her to his "crazy" family. You know, the percentage of people on this show who think they belong to a "crazy" family approaches a hundred per cent, really, far outstripping the reality. Desiree talks some nonsense about how Zak always seizes the day or something, when all he really does is occasionally take his clothes off.

They sit on a park bench and discuss the aforementioned "crazy" family, and Desiree is a little nervous about meeting Zak's sister because she's protective, apparently. And then Zak tells her about this weird dream he had about melting sand and hundreds of kids running around. And it doesn't even resolve to a labored point or anything, like, "It just says to me that I love you," or whatever. We (fortunately) don't even hear the end of it. "I can't even follow it, but I'm going with it," says Desiree, instead of, "There is no way I am spending the rest of my life listening to this mental case describe his dreams."

And then Zak pulls up in a snow cone truck because that's the family business. Did we know this? If we did, how could I have forgotten this? So then the guy who loves to wander around half-naked drives this woman dating four men to an elementary school where they can fill the kids up with sugar. Desiree seems overwhelmed because she thought it would be fifteen or twenty kids, and it turned out to be thirty or forty! Oh no! That's a difference of ten to twenty kids! I can see why she's freaked out. Zak says it's pretty normal for a snow cone truck, and since Desiree manages to get through it without punching children, he says you can really see how great she is with kids. And then Zak puts on a penguin costume and Desiree tells the kids that the penguin is her boyfriend and I'll thank them to keep their gross inter-species pseudo-non-love to themselves. And now that they're all horny after helping contribute to youth obesity in America, Desiree's ready to meet Zak's family.

So is the snow cone truck like the Bluth stair-car? That's what Zak has to drive everywhere? And how does this jibe with his "drilling fluid engineer" job title? Anyway, they arrive at Zak's family's house, and everyone is happy to see them. "They got up off their seats and their energy was amazing," says Desiree. She's impressed because they didn't sit like fat lumps on the sofa? Jesus, raise your expectations, Desiree. And not to be mean, but Desiree can't help but look at the catalog models that Zak calls his family and wonder if Zak's adopted.

Desiree breaks the news to Zak's family that their moron son spent the first night shirtless, and Zak's mom appears genuinely embarrassed -- but not surprised -- that her son keeps taking his clothes off. And then she points to the roses and tells Desiree to just give Zak one now, and Desiree does that that silent laugh of thing of hers where she unhinges her jaw and claps like a seal.

Then Desiree and Zak's mom sit down together for a boring chat and Mom somehow comes away with the impression that Desiree is amazing. And Desiree sits down with his sister and assures her that she and Zak "started out as friends," although I think they started out as total strangers but now it's a whole few weeks later and so marriage is definitely a possibility that they can definitely start thinking about imagining a future for. And now Zak is telling his mom that he'd pretty much given up on love, but now that he's dating a woman who has three other boyfriends, he's ready to give it a go. Although I have to confess I find his statement that he "presented" Desiree to his family a little creepy. I mean, it's true on this show, but you're not supposed to say it.

And then Zak whips out a guitar to strum the song he played in Atlantic City, but the lyrics have been changed to reflect how his family feels about this woman they met like an hour ago. "It was such a special moment to hear Zak's sister and brother sing a song Zak wrote for me," Desiree says, adding she'll never forget it. Neither will I, unless the therapy takes.

We listen to pretty much the entire awful thing. The only way it could have been worse would have been if Chris wrote the lyrics. And it's about how Zak's family know that this woman Zak JUST BROUGHT HOME is the one he should spend the rest of his life with, like SHUT UP, ZAK'S FAMILY.

Now's the right time for Zak to tell Desiree that he loves her, and he BOUGHT A RING FOR HER in Atlantic City, and he gives it to her, and they kiss, and he says, "Des, I love you, I do," and she doesn't say it back because she can't, and she can't put on the ring. A deluded Zak says that when he looks back on everything that happened today, it will have been the greatest day ever. It's almost too depressing for words. You don't even need hindsight to know Zak's not in the running.

Now it's time for Drew, who is better looking than Zak, and -- let's face it -- better looking than Desiree. They're in Scottsdale, where the local economy is built on supplying hair product for Drew, and he lifts her up off the ground so they can kiss and hug and pretend Drew is likewise still in the running for this thing. Drew rattles off the list of people she'll be meeting, adding the warning that his dad has never been to his mom's house. Also, he doesn't think they've ever seen him this in love.

First up, meeting Drew's sister, who is severely mentally handicapped, and completely dependent on the people around her, which unsurprisingly is going to make the problems of anyone else on this show seem even more trivial than usual. I'm going to gloss over this. You can accuse the show of exploiting Drew's sister, but she is a part of Drew's family, so I'm not sure keeping her off camera would have been right either. At any rate, after they get to his house, we don't see Melissa again.

Drew has never brought anyone to the home where his sister lives to pick her up (Desiree does her best to get the "I'm totally comfortable but not patronizingly so" look down) and take her to the family home, where there are eleven people waiting to meet Desiree. "Today's the day I tell my family this is the woman that I intend to spend my life with," Drew says. Before long, the family's sitting down for dinner with his dad leading a toast. I hope that's apple juice, based on what Drew told us. The excitement builds as Drew says today's the day he tells Desiree he loves her. Wait, "builds" is the wrong word. "Continues to flat line" is more like it.

Linda, Drew's mother, say Drew and Desiree seem really into each other, but Drew is the youngest of her four children, and she doesn't want him to get his heart broken. The other three? Fuck 'em, they can fend for themselves. Linda and Drew sit down so Drew can stiltedly talk about how she's his soul mate.

Meanwhile Desiree is talking to Drew's dad and explaining that she was first attracted to Drew's eyes because she could "see the depth and the heart that reflected love," and instead of barfing up all his food, Drew's dad asks if she believes in angels, and she says yes because a) of course she does or b) of course she's going to say yes even if a) doesn't apply, and he asks if she's ever "met" one and EVERYONE ELSE CAN SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING but Desiree says she hasn't, and the dad is all "yes you have" and Des STILL has to be told that he's talking about Drew's sister, and I know that referring to mentally challenged people as angels -- like literal angels -- is a whole thing and I'm not going to get into it because whatever comforts a family in working through the challenges in whatever way helps get them through it, I think. I'm not convinced that it isn't infantilizing in its own way, but it's not something I have to face so I won't presume to judge.

Drew and his mom are still blabbering away, Drew explaining to his mom that he has told all the family secrets, and she asks if he's ready to propose, and he says it is. "I think it's real for him, for her and him both." Meanwhile, Drew's dad is telling Desiree that's she's real. And when Drew sits down with his dad, naturally the first thing his dad says when Drew asks what he thinks is that Desiree is gorgeous. So, you know. He also says she's got her feet on the ground and head on straight, and he figured Drew is an "exact match for that." If Drew wants to marry "this girl," he'll throw a party. "Go for it, pal," says Dad, and Drew says he does want to marry her. Desiree says Drew's family is phenomenal, and she wants to join it right now. But instead she'll go have the exact same visit with two more families! Saying goodbye, Drew tells Desiree that he loves her. "It's a rush of exhilaration" to say it, Drew tells us. That's pretty much the opposite feeling one has when you tell someone for the first time and she doesn't say it back, actually. Drew predicts that the next time he sees his family, he'll be an engaged man. That may be true, but it won't be to Desiree.

Over now to McMinnville, Ore., which is Chris's hometown. "I've fallen in love with her," Chris says, which is why it's so important she meet his family, he tells us. She runs into his arms in a clearing in the woods, and he's get a twig or some shit as a present, and then she's blowing dandelion spores all over the goddamn place. And then he takes her to the park where he learned to play baseball. And look, there's a bucket of balls and bats and caps for them to play. They play catch. "You're a catch." "You're a catch!" Chris is a blend of all the things Desiree has been looking for: Athletic and adventurous, but also poetic and romantic. Ha, ha, "poetic"! It's so adorable that she thinks Chris is poetic.

Then they sit on the pitcher's mound, and Desiree has some sketches for Chris that illustrate their time together, and they look like they were drawn by an eight-year-old. Then they start making out.

She wants to know when the last time was that he brought a girlfriend home. It was a year and a half ago, which is spoken of like it's a bygone era, like they may as well be talking about Prohibition. "It's important for Chris's family to love me," says Desiree. I'm always of the opinion that it's solely important for your future partner to love you, and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, but that's just me. Chris also talks about how huge it would be for them to like here. It would be lovely if -- even just once -- a bachelor or bachelorette said, "I hope my family loves her/him, but if they don't, too bad for them because I do."

And now here's Desiree describing Chris's family as "energetic" too, like there's that word again, and I guess it's because they're not sitting on their asses. The family sits down for dinner, and Chris's dad leads a toast, and then they talk about Desiree tweaking her back and it's not a coincidence because Chris's dad is a chiropractor, and he offers to give her "an adjustment," and he loftily talks about everything Desiree has been through, and how his treatment will "refocus" her and bring her "clarity" which is a whole lot of nonsense, of course, and if chiropractors want to be taken more seriously in the mainstream medical community, it's bullshit like he's spewing now that prevents it.

Anyway, he makes her lie down face-first on her massage table, and Desiree acts like a twelve-year-old all weirded out by the fact she's lying there with her butt up in the air, even though she's lying flat. Anyway, she gets tugged on and prodded and poked, and she loves getting her back aligned but she really wants to get her heart aligned, so then she and Chris's dad sit down for a chat and they hit it off well enough.

And now Chris's dad is grilling Chris on how well she takes care of herself, and then Chris lies down on the chair so his dad can stick something up Chris's nostrils, because getting the "nasal-specific" will really help him for the next few weeks. "Well, hopefully the next few weeks!" his dad adds, before laughing uproariously. Ha ha! Hope you don't get dumped, son!

Elsewhere, Chris's "protective" mother is declaring how Chris is so "smitten" with Desiree, but "the last one hurt him bad" and she doesn't want to see him hurt again. And Chris's sister is telling him that the family never liked his last girlfriend "from Day One" and this seems to be news to Chris.

Chris's mom, meanwhile, has just uttered the phrase, "You've had a lot of guys," to Desiree because she wants to know what has drawn Desiree to Chris, and I hate to tell Mom that she should still be using the present tense when she talks about all of Desiree's men. And it's the ONLY time that anyone in any of the families addresses the point that their son is far from the only man in Desiree's life. Desiree stammers out something about how she sees in Chris all the qualities she wants in the father of her children. Or husband. Right, Desiree?

So it's time for Chris to justify his relationship with his mother and explain why Desiree isn't the same as the evil wench he was with before, and Chris says things like, "We hug and we hold hands and we kiss." Aw, that's swell, champ! He tells his mom that he told his dad that he thinks Desiree is the one. "OK," says Chris's mom, and then just when you think she's going to lay waste to this stupid process, the major-key music kicks in and she talks about how you can tell Desiree is awesome and Chris has their blessing, and she gets all emotional. She's still crying later at the dinner table. Probably because she just sold out her own son on national television. "If you truly love your children, you want the best for them," says Chris's mom, whose name is Becky. OK, now explain that position as it relates to the fact that THIS IS THE BACHELORETTE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE. Chris and Desiree hug and kiss goodbye and murmur some bullshit about -- actually, I'm getting pretty liberal with the skip-forward button by this point.

Three down, one to go: Salt Lake City, with Brooks. He walks over a hill! He crosses a bridge! She walks over a field and skips toward him, waiting on the bridge. She says she's been looking forward to this date since their first date, which seems significant, but it's not like we don't already know, thanks to Desiree herself, that Brooks is the complete front-runner. They have a little picnic in the park, and given this is Salt Lake City, I can only assume that's grape juice in those glasses.

She's going to meet his whole family, but that doesn't mean they don't have time for more awkward small talk that leaves you with the impression that she's way more into him than he is in her.

And she has written a note on a paper rose to him that lists all the -- for lack of a better word -- highlights of their relationship (highlights mean the time she spent with Brooks instead of times cuddling and kissing other men), which include sitting on the Hollywood sign, and finishing each other's... and Desiree leaves a long enough pause for Brooks to jump in and say "sentences" but it takes him long enough and he didn't say "sandwiches" so go to hell, Brooks. Oh, and it's a good time to use "cloud nine" one more time, bringing it up to an even thousand. Desiree says when she pictures her life with Brooks, she pictures "fun" and "adventure," unlike other relationships where you picture miserable tedium. And apparently "fun and adventure" means going for a canoe ride in a tiny lake and almost drowning when Brooks stands up like a jackass and almost capsizes the thing.

And now here is Brooks bringing her home to meet his "big family" (likely code for "Mormon") with "big personalities" and so yet again Desiree is going to compliment a family's "energy." "This is the largest family I could ever think of," says Desiree, as we watch her introduced to a parade of siblings and significant others, and she uses the word "energetic" again. Brooks' family has taken the humorous-yet-practical step of wearing nametags.

Someone asks Brooks when he realized he really liked Desiree, and Brooks says she's "really remarkable at finding gratitude in, like, the little things," and cites the list of their best moments together, and I'd like to point out that this was just earlier that day. Janice, Brooks' mother, notes that Desiree and Brooks were looking at each other with "that love look." Desiree tells Janice that Brooks is marriage-material and Brooks is talking about nuances with his brothers, one of whom asks, "Can she hang with you?" Another asks if Brooks can make her happy for the rest of his life. "Good question," says Brooks. But we don't see an answer.

And now he's talking to his sister because he idolizes her marriage to Jason, and asks her about things to look for in potential partners. She gives him a lot of obvious answers, like, "You always want to be with them," but skips one crucial answer, which is, "Ideally she's not dating three other men."

And the dramatic music starts up as Brooks sits down with his mother as this show pretends there's some danger she might not offer her blessing. She does, although her sensible answer of, "We will accept whoever you love," (unspoken: unless it's a man) isn't an endorsement of Desiree specifically.

Then there is general hanging out and hilarity, with a brother thanking Desiree for not being a total waste of time, and I have to disagree with him on that score. Brooks walks Desiree outside, they kiss, and Brooks talks about how he's closer than ever before to seeing Desiree in the "union of marriage," which is totally how people talk.

Ugh -- back to L.A., where Desiree does some show-trademarked balcony reflection and talks about how hopeful she is that one of these four guys will be her husband. There's just one more guy she has to talk to -- and when she says "has to" she means it because this has the producers' fingerprints all over it. It's her brother, who she hasn't seen since she brought Sean home, and her brother said awful things like, "He's not the one," and advanced the scandalous opinion that Sean was someone who dates a lot of women. Shocking! And because everyone loved him, we're forced to endure an extended segment with her sitting down and talking to Nate. He asks if she's got any favorites, and she's all ixnay-on-avouritesfay before the easonsay inalefay. Instead, she tells him about all of her four remaining boyfriends. Nathan wants to meet them. "I'd like to get in their heads," he says. She doesn't want to meet them because she doesn't trust what Nathan will say, and he points out that he did what he did last time because he thought Sean was wrong for her. Again, it's not pointed out that Sean was wrong. (Except to blame Nate for things not working out.)

Desiree thanks her brother for coming, and I can't figure out what the point of the visit was -- Hi, I want your opinion on my life but you haven't met the guys I'm dating nor will you -- but she is now considering his request to meet the bachelors, which she thinks he wants to do "for his own clarity," and not everyone thinks it pseudo-therapy speak, Desiree.

And then Chris Harrison shows up to collect his weekly paycheck and kill time chatting with Desiree about how the hometown dates went. You'll never guess, but Desiree says she's having a hard time deciding who to eliminate because all the dates were great. Harrison says you almost wish one date was a disaster, which would make it easy, and Desiree doesn't seem to understand his point because she says it would still be hard. She does babble about how this week "solidified" her feelings, and he points out that last week she said she was falling in love with Brooks. She seems to regret having revealed that already, now, and everyone feels awkward when it's pointed out Brooks hasn't said he loves her.

Ugh, this is a mess. Desiree reminds us how this is not some super-feminist gender-balancing counterpoint to The Bachelor when she says she's hoping to receive a proposal. And she also says she's hoping for a proposal from Brooks, and then hastily adds that she was unsure about Brooks after her date with Chris.

And we listen to Desiree babble on about how there's nothing holding her back from getting a proposal, and we watch Harrison greet the arriving bachelors, and there's Nate SKULKING IN THE BACKGROUND like the villain in a movie from the '30s. Like literally peeking around a corridor while he plots his shenanigans. Good thing the cameras "caught" that! Nope, this show doesn't attempt to manufacture drama at all, not one bit.

Rose Ceremony at the Beverly Hilton! Desiree says she was "so honored" to meet their families. Well, they were all so energetic! And then she starts to cry and says meeting the families is making this harder. She should try watching this shit sometime!

First rose goes to Brooks, next to Chris -- neither of which is a surprise -- and then, since she's not nearly as into either Zak or Drew, she probably had to decide which would make her look less like an asshole: dumping the guy who just introduced her to his mentally challenged sister, or the guy who jumped the gun on giving her a ring.

No contest. Drew gets the rose. Zak looks gutted. And now that he's leaving, I admit I'm surprised by his staying power, and also he turned out to be slightly less of an oxygen-wasting meatbag than the first night would have had us all believe.

She walks him out while the other guys whisper about it, Chris saying, "I thought he'd built up a pretty good relationship with her." Neither of the other guys says, "Well, Chris, which of us do you think should have been sent home then?"

"I don't want you to leave here," Desiree tells Zak. But she doesn't want the other guys to leave even more. THIS IS HOW IT WORKS! Sitting on a bench outside, Zak says he was completely shocked. "You really are great and don't want you ever to lose that," she tells him. None of what she says makes sense, but it all boils down to, "Don't be upset because it will bother me that I am the cause of this."

She creakily talks about how she doesn't know if she should keep the ring. No, KEEP THE RING THAT THE GUY YOU'RE DUMPING GAVE YOU BECAUSE YOU'RE WAITING FOR BROOKS TO GIVE YOU A REAL ONE, BY ALL MEANS. He's all, "Yeah, I'll take that back and give it to someone who's NOT going to kick my heart in its crotch."

She sees him to the limo and rubs his temples for five hours and then says he wasn't expecting it. You know, after a hometown date in which he said he loved her. Have you considered the possibility she doesn't love you back? No? Just asking.

"I have a dark place there," he says, and then starts whining about the slump he's been in. He has spent two years alone and wanted to get out of his slump. And then in a move that was supposed to be emotional but comes off as pissy, he has the limo pull over so he can throw the ring out the window. That sounds about right.

Daniel is a writer in Newfoundland with a wife and a daughter. He's said "This is the worst season ever" so many times it has lost all meaning. Follow him on Twitter (@DanMacEachern) or email him at danieljdaniel@gmail.com.

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