Usually it’s fun to watch this show get uncomfortable. Not last night.
The Bachelor and Bachelorette hometown dates probably come as a welcome bit of relief to the show’s beleaguered participants, since after weeks of jetting around the world and filming a reality-television show, they finally get to see their potential future
former fiancé(e) spouse in some semblance of a real-world environment. But unless the lead finds a creative way to self-destruct spectacularly—just thinking about Nick Viall stammering through his third may-I-marry-your-daughter conversation of the night makes me start to sweat—the sudden introduction of normalcy into this tightly controlled environment is what makes hometown dates boring as hell. Usually. [Wipes brow nervously.]
None of Rachel’s first three visits on Monday night was any exception. Eric’s family seemed lovely, and other than a stray death threat from Bryan’s mom—”If he’s happy, I’m happy. If he’s not, I’ll kill you,” she snapped, as Rachel laughed nervously and looked around to make sure a producer was still present—their trip to Miami was profoundly forgettable.
And Peter. Dear God, Peter. Peter actually stood with Rachel in the middle of a Wisconsin farmers’ market, gazed about happily, and somberly declared, “This is me, every Saturday.” Between this and his salt-and-pepper look, Peter might be 31 in the same way that that bearded Little Leaguer who throws 80 mph and drives himself to practice every week is 12.
Dean, though? Dean’s date was riveting television, but of the worst possible kind. Earlier this season, he revealed to Rachel (and, by extension, the entire world) that his family had drifted apart after his mom died when he was 15, and that he was estranged from his “eccentric” father, who had converted to Sikhism and changed his name to Paramroop S. Khahsa. Father and son allegedly hadn’t spoken in two years, and the date with Rachel marked the first time his family had gathered under the same roof in eight years. Up to the moment they crossed the threshold into Dad’s home, Dean was grimly pleading with Rachel to “just get through it” with him, which are generally not words you want to be using to describe the prospect of having someone you love meet your family.
Things started out harmlessly enough, as Paramroop serenaded his guests with a gong solo and gave Rachel and Dean a set of feathers, explaining that they were symbols of the love of Dean’s mom, whom he tearfully called “the most amazing woman” as it suddenly got very dusty in my living room. From there, though, things quickly went to hell.
We often think of the Bachelor franchise as “uncomfortable” or “awkward,” but in the context of the wildly ill-advised romantic relationships playing out on the screen in front of us. The heart-to-heart between Dean and his father, by contrast, is not something that should have been shown to anyone other than a therapist, much less to a national television audience. Some representative dialogue:
DEAN, UNABLE TO MAKE EYE CONTACT: Do you remember the disagreements we had when I was in high school, after Mom passed away, and how difficult things were for us?
PARAMROOP, HESITANTLY: Absolutely, yes.
DEAN, STEELING HIMSELF: And do you think that you and I have changed from those arguments that we had?
PARAMROOP, DIGGING IN: Well, I didn’t have the arguments. You did.
DEAN, GRITTING HIS TEETH: Do you understand my frustration on that point?
It proceeded like this for some time, with Dean gamely discussing emotions he had never brought up before and Dad asserting that he had no earthly idea why his son could be so upset. At one point, Paramroop protested that he “didn’t want to get into it,” a statement to which Dean responded by looking forlornly at the sky. “Please! I would love to get into it with you! I’ve never gotten into it with you! We’re both adults at this point, Dad!” After Dean admitted that he felt abandoned after his mother’s death—again, not the most lighthearted fare!—Paramroop told Dean that he had “one fucking foot stuck in the past,” adding, “If you really feel that way, there’s really no need to carry on this conversation.” A visibly hurt Dean told his father that he loved him “regardless,” to which Dad responded, “Whatever.”
It’s hard not to think about how much courage this must have required, which made his exit from the show after the rose ceremony even tougher to watch.
Who in the world thought this attempted reconciliation was a remotely good idea? I’m sure the producers were thirsting for the fireworks potential that, in a weird and sordid way, paid off, but I have to also wonder if this went through without a sign-off from Dean. It seemed a lot like he agreed to try and make amends because he was on the show, and because he wanted the chance to prove to Rachel that he could have the same type of stable, loving family that she talks constantly about having in her life. It’s hard not to think about how much courage this must have required, which made his exit from the show after the rose ceremony—and after he told her he was falling in love with her!—even tougher to watch.
After running through many of the same tropes and plot points over twelve seasons of The Bachelorette (!) and 21 more (!!!) of The Bachelor, Rachel’s season of The Bachelorette has really toed the line with what constitutes appropriate fodder for “drama” on a reality dating show. Even if Dean agreed to give it a go, it’s still really tough to justify including within that scope the scene of Dean and his father working out their unresolved issues over the death of Dean’s mother ten years ago. That anger might be real, but the fact that something is real doesn’t mean that broadcasting it isn’t seedy and uncomfortable and exploitative. The Unglert clan seems like it could use a counselor, and ABC better be cutting the checks.
Dean, for his part, was impossibly gracious, looking Rachel in the eye and wishing her the best as she sorts through the intrepid trio of bros who remain. (Maybe he’s been taking breakup tips from our man Jonathan the Tickle Monster.) Dean seems like a genuinely good dude, and he certainly came a long way from being the doofus who enthusiastically shouted, “I’m ready to go black and I’m never going back!” when he met Rachel during last season’s finale. [Wipes brow all over again.]
Jaime Lannister Has Some Dating-App Advice
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE