Previously on The Bachelor: The Big Lebowski and The Mighty Ducks.
Tonight on The Bachelor: a mercy killing.
Hometowns are the most significant part of The Bachelor with the possible exception of hot-air balloons. The hometown visit is the perfect opportunity for a family that is horrified at the terrible decision their daughter or sister has made to appear on this show to behave appallingly enough to scare the Bachelor away. Tonight four families do their best to convince Nick to leave them alone forever.
Nick begins by standing on the beach, summoning his selkie brethren. He declares that he has “something special” with all four remaining bachelorettes, even though at the very best all he has with Brittany is a certain professional respect and all he has with Cass is the kind of pity you feel when you find a wounded wombat by the side of the road.
As it happens, the first hometown visit is to Cass’s family. Cass apparently comes from one of those families that has horses, so it looks like we were right to dislike her from the start. As she does vague things with a saddle in a barn, her voiceover discusses her hopes of having a fairytale ending. Cass has a great chance of a fairytale ending, but one of those really dark fairytales in the original telling from the 14th century, when the wolf digests Red Riding Hood and the woodsman cuts his head off and keeps it in a jar.
Cass introduces Nick to her horses, and the alarm bells are sounding ever more loudly in his frizzy head. He agrees to have “a crack” at riding a horse, and off they go, Nick praying he falls off and goes into a coma the whole way. “I always wanted to find that person I wanted to be with forever,” says Cass in voiceover. “I think he’s the perfect guy”. This is excruciating. It’s like if they put a monologue at the start of The Wicker Man where Edward Woodward looks into the camera and says, “I can’t wait to live the rest of my life never at any point being burnt alive in a pagan ritual by insane island folk”. Someone has churned up the dictionary definition of “dramatic irony” into a fine paste and smeared it all over the camera lens. If Nick had the slightest spark of human kindness in his heart he’d fake his own death right now.
“As much as I’m excited to meet the families, it all comes with a roasting or two,” says Nick. He’s actually pretty experienced at this caper: every girl he’s ever dated has had a family who abused him in public.
He arrives at Cass’s family home and meets Cass’s sister and mother, who are wearing Cass Halloween costumes, Cass’s brother, who is a big Badger fan, and Cass’s stepdad, who started drinking hours ago. Cass’s sister expresses amazement that Nick looks exactly like he does in the news and on his Instagram: Cass’s sister never knew what photographs were until today. Cass and her mother and sister head into the backyard to discuss how Cass has always been obsessed with Nick and she wrote his name on her wishboard and how insanity runs in the family.
At dinner time, Nick sits down with the family to eat salmon, a major misstep on Cass’s mother’s part as Nick considers all sea creatures his family. Cass’s mother tells Nick that Cass has told her “everything” about their pre-existing relationship. Her stepdad laughs from the sidelines like Nursie from Blackadder, delighting in Nick’s discomfort.
Nick informs the family that breaking someone’s heart is one of the worst things you can do. Cass’s mum opines that she hopes he chooses Cass. Nick swallows hard and hopes his powerful desire to run screaming into the night isn’t too obvious. “Yeah…um,” he says, and means it.
That’s the trouble with the hometowns: the producers never let you sit down to dinner and say, “So anyway, your daughter turns me off like a citywide blackout, shall I say grace?” You have to keep up the pretence that the woman you’re visiting is still in with a chance, even if she is – and I say this with all due respect – Cass.
Nick covers up manfully by saying, “If we end up together I’d be the lucky one!” Everyone finds this adorable even though it’s code for “with a bit of luck I’ll have forgotten her name by next week”. Cass’s mother says she can sense the chemistry between Nick and her daughter, proving once and for all that Cass’s mother did not take chemistry at school.
Cass’s sister takes Nick aside to grill him on his stupid feelings. “As far as feelings go, they’re growing,” he says, wondering how many different ways he can tactfully say, “Cass gives me the screaming skin-crawls”. He finds a few more ways, and the sister says insightfully, “He’s totally dodging my questions”. Yet she continues to ask those questions, even though the dodging is in itself a very clear answer.
Finally Nick says that if he and Cass end up together, “those feelings will skyrocket”, which very clearly means that those feelings will be starting from a low base and there is therefore no hope whatsoever. Yet the sister comes out of the conversation confident that Cass “has what it takes”. The audience nods sagely, having now realised where Cass gets her agonising obliviousness from.
Cass says goodbye to Nick with an awkward embrace and an even awkwarder declaration of love, which is in no way reciprocated. As she throws her arms around him, he gazes ruefully over her shoulder with the facial expression of a man who wishes he was being eaten by a snake right now.
Now it’s off to Perth to meet Brooke’s family. This promises to be a much more comfortable visit, because Nick won’t have to expend all his energy trying to hide his distaste for her. Brooke meets him at a football ground, where she plans to teach him some Aussie Rules skills. “AFL is a big part of my life,” she says, and frankly this is a much bigger bombshell than when she said she was bisexual. AFL? She said she was a rugby player! What other dark secrets has Brooke been keeping from us?
Anyway they run around and kick the ball and Brooke tells Nick to tackle her and he tackles her and then kisses her and we cut away just before they do it right there in the middle of the oval. Brooke is very happy because she’s in love with Nick, and Nick is very happy because he’s in love with Brooke, and the only possible spanner in the works is what Nick and Sophie got up to in the pool last episode.
Nick will be meeting Brooke’s best friend Tess, her brother Troy and her “father figure” Peter. She tells Nick that Tess will be asking questions, as she knows what Brooke is looking for and what Brooke needs. If that’s so, there’s really only one question necessary: why the shit would anyone ever go on The Bachelor? But there is a charade to go through, so let’s grit our teeth and get into it.
Nick greets Brooke’s family by giving a bunch of flowers to Tess, which is pretty brazen: Brooke is right there, dude. Though maybe he got confused, because even though Brooke and Tess aren’t related, they basically look exactly the same. it’s kind of freaky. “I feel funny about the situation Brooke’s in. It’s not normal,” says Tess. Where did she get that idea? Doesn’t she date guys on TV?
At dinner, Nick’s face is bright red. Perhaps the Perth heat has got to him, or perhaps he’s very very drunk. Or perhaps he’s freaked out by Tess, who is drilling down deep into Nick’s psyche. She interrogates him on where he lives, and whether he will be travelling if Brooke moves to Sydney, and basically what his whole deal is. Everyone has a little chuckle about Tess’s aggressive questioning, but Tess is not laughing as hard as anyone has not laughed in the history of the world. There are juries that have been less impressed with serial killers than Tess is currently impressed with Nick.
Taking Nick aside for a one-on-one chat, Tess emphasises that Brooke needs stability and asks Nick whether he is ready to be her rock. Nick says that if he doesn’t feel he can be, he wouldn’t waste Brooke’s time, coming across as much more sincere than when he was telling Cass’s sister that in a purely technical sense he has yet to decide he hates Cass. Tess has made her feelings perfectly clear: she hates Nick and he better stay away from Brooke or she will cut him up nice.
At the end of the evening, Nick tells Brooke that “there’s a beautiful bunch of people in there”, not adding, “They hate me and I think I better leave you forever now because your best friend wants to murder me”. Brooke tells Nick that she is falling in love with him, and Nick is sobered by this. Alone, to camera, he voices his fear that he might break Brooke’s heart. Dammit, Tess, you put doubt in his mind. Between your grilling and Sophie’s butt, he’s bloody wavering.
Next, it’s time for Sophie’s family, who like Sophie herself, promise to be the least interesting of all, but extremely toned.
One big point in Sophie’s favour is that she lives near water, so if Nick chose her he would have no problem gaining access to the moisture necessary to keep his silky hide from drying out. As he walks to meet her, his internal monologue reflects on how Sophie is a crackin’ Aussie sheila. “Girl next door,” he says, remembering how he grew up next door to a girl who was constantly inviting him over to have sex in the pool.
“Water has been part of my life since before I can remember,” says Sophie, which isn’t surprising because human beings require water to live and it’s been part of all our lives to be honest. Then she takes Nick jet-skiing and drags him behind her on an inflatable donut, trying her best to kill him before he can meet her family. She fails in her efforts and is forced to take him home.
“We are a very close-knit family,” says Sophie, being as cliched as always. Sophie appears to have a mother, a father, two sisters and a brother, and from the start they show themselves eager to surround, crush and eventually devour Nick. “Let the fun begin,” her dad says, in the manner of a psychotic funhouse proprietor beginning his torture of a gang of unwary teens. And torture is indeed on the menu, as Sophie’s family are incapable of going five seconds without exploding in hysterical laughter. That is, except for sister Ashley, who is gazing at Nick with a lean and hungry look. She and the other sister take Nick into the kitchen to test his cake-icing skills, not wanting to let their sister end up with a man who can’t frost a sponge with style.
“Why Sophie?” asks Ashley, being as baffled as we are that anyone would want to spend time with her. “What does she need to do to get to the end with you?” asks the other sister, and that’s not really fair. Family members can’t ask for tips, that’s insider trading. Nick is honest with them: “there is gonna be some sadness,” he says seriously. Probably in the rough cut he followed this with, “I mean there’s this chick called Cass and Jesus Christ, dude.”
Sophie joins her sisters in the kitchen, and they let her know that Nick wants her to let her guard down more. It’s like listening to a sideline reporter telling the commentary team what the coach said at halftime. “It’s very difficult for me to let my guard down,” Sophie says, which seems to contradict that night in the pool, when her guard seemed to be as far let down as her bikini bottoms were yanked up.
As the evening ends, Sophie makes a heroic effort to let her guard down. “I thoroughly enjoy spending time with you,” she tells Nick, with all the unguarded passion and naked emotional honesty of a 19th-century bank clerk writing a thank you note to his aunt for last Saturday’s afternoon tea.
“I’m not someone who’s going to just put my heart on a plate and hand it to him when there’s other girls involved,” Sophie says tearfully to us, confirming the rumour that she applied for The Bachelor by accident: she had actually meant to go on a different show, The Man Who Dates One Woman And Only One Woman Ever.
Now it’s off to Brittany’s family, who have already decided that Nick’s a cad and a bounder and are ready to horsewhip him right out of town. Brittany’s family lives in Port Macquarie, which is where Nick is from also, a fact that remains the only existing basis for their relationship.
“Ultimately I want Nick to walk away from this thinking he loves the life I live,” Brittany says. That life seems to mostly consist of staring wistfully out to sea while wearing a turtleneck. She meets him on the beach, where she tells him she wants him to meet some locals. This doesn’t sound too exciting, but things really pick up when it turns out the locals she’s referring to are camels. And so Brittany and Nick sit on a camel and ride along the beach. It’s very weird but also probably the best thing that has happened on this show so far. If the next series of The Bachelor features a camel in every episode it will be improved by several orders of magnitude.
Nick explains that once he dropped a ball in a test match, but this time he is dealing with Brittany’s heart, and he doesn’t want to stuff it up. Don’t be so melodramatic, Nick: this is just relationships; let’s not compare it to something as important as a test match. In any case, surely endearing himself to her family just makes the chance of hurting her all the more likely. He should set fire to the house and run away: it’ll soften the blow.
At Brittany’s family’s house, her dad takes Nick aside immediately for a chat. He begins by telling him that he has no respect for footballers because they treat women like garbage. Nick might feel like claiming that he’s not like other footballers, but his case is weakened by the fact that he’s been dating multiple other women in public while he’s been romancing this man’s daughter.
Brittany’s dad, whose hands are itching to wrap themselves around Nick’s throat. “There is four girls there,” Nick says. “I’m acutely aware of that,” scoffs dad, sick of Nick’s stating of the bleeding obvious. He notes that if Nick breaks Brittany’s heart. it’s her father who will have to “pick up the pieces”, as opposed to if he beats Nick to death and saws him up in his shed, in which case it’s the Port Macquarie Police Department who will have to pick up the pieces. He speaks of Brittany’s last relationship, and of his desire to do physical harm to the scumbag who she was with then. Nick looks pretty scared, and he should be. The fact he’s even touched Brittany makes her dad want to murder him: it’ll only take a minor faux pas over the barbecue to turn this into a bloodbath.
As they sit down to dinner, it’s time for Brittany’s brother, who is a round red-faced gentleman who drinks beer only so he has something to smash over his enemy’s heads, to question Nick. He asks a quite pertinent question: why does Nick have to go on a reality TV show to get a girlfriend? Nick doesn’t have a good answer to this, because Brittany’s brother doesn’t understand the powerful lure of a potential job on breakfast radio.
Now Brittany’s sister drags Nick off for some abuse. She tells Nick that she doubts the authenticity of Nick’s intentions for her sister. She is furious that Nick was previously involved with Cass, and takes Brittany aside to tell her all about the rumours swirling around in the media, which she’s pretty sure prove that the Honey Badger been playin’ her.
Brittany asks Nick whether he’s been messing about with Cass. He admits that he has kissed her, and went out with her a few times a year ago, but denies they have a relationship, because come on, have you MET Cass? Brittany accepts his assurances, but is angry at Cass for not having told her the truth about her relationship. There is some shit going to go down at the cocktail party. Nick thanks Brittany for introducing him to her family. Brittany grunts and nods, distracted by thoughts of how she’s going to dispose of Cass’s body. Nick sighs and wanders off, having forgotten where he parked. Luckily there’s a camel along in a few minutes.
Now it’s cocktail party time, and guess what: that shit I said was going to go down? It’s going down, babe. Brittany is incandescent with fury. “I don’t think Cass has a malicious bone in her body,” she says, with the subtext of that statement being, “She has at least 206 malicious bones in her lying skanky body”.
“I guess there’s something I want to talk to you about,” says Brittany to Cass, which is a bit of a lie: it’d be more accurate to say, “there’s something I want to bite your face off about”. She asks Cass what her previous relationship with Nick was. Cass stammers and hedges and tries to explain the nature of the relationship without saying anything that will get her stabbed in bed tonight.
Brittany says she was “mortified” when she found out that Nick and Cass’s relationship was more serious than she’d thought. Cass frantically tries to assure Brittany that it wasn’t a relationship, it was just a few dates. Brittany demands to know whether Nick and Cass’s relationship was “physical”. “This is a really inappropriate situation,” Cass says, extremely accurately. “Were you staying with each other?” Brittany asks icily. “This is really inappropriate, Britt,” Cass reiterates. Brittany doesn’t see what the big deal is with bullying someone into discussing their sexual history on national television – after all, SHE’S the one who’s “mortified”. Why can’t Cass just calmly and maturely accept this ritual humiliation?
Brittany tells Cass that it makes her want to leave because what’s the point if it’s “already a done deal”. I mean…have you even MET Cass? She and Nick are a “done deal” like ABC management is a hotbed of stability. But Brittany has this weird idea that Nick and Cass have been picking out wallpaper for the last year and this show is just an elaborate scam for them to increase the quality of their wedding presents. Cass and Brittany hug, and surprisingly Brittany is not palming a shiv.
Rose ceremony time. Sophie looks nervous. Brittany looks like someone just did a wee on her shoes. Cass looks like she’s been watching the bit from My Girl where Macaulay Culkin is stung to death by bees on a 24-hour loop.
Brooke looks like she’s perfect, she’s just perfect.
TAFKAAG shows up and everyone cheers up because the comic relief is here. There are four women and three roses: somebody is about to find out that when Nick said all those times that he didn’t want to hurt anyone, it meant absolutely nothing.
“I’m terrified right now,” says Brooke, because she didn’t see Brittany and Sophie’s hometowns and has no idea just how safe she is.
Brooke gets a rose because she’s perfect, she’s so perfect, she’s incredibly perfect.
Sophie gets a rose because remember dat ass?
Brittany gives a sisterly smile at Cass. Cass, recalling how several minutes ago Brittany reduced her to tears by quizzing her like a Current Affair host about things that were frankly none of her damn business, does not smile back.
But it’s Brittany who gets the rose, because when all is said and done, there’s one relevant fact that stands above all: Nick would like to postpone his murder at the hands of Brittany’s father and brother for as long as possible.
Cass is crushed, but the great thing is that finally the rejection that everyone but she has seen coming for the last six weeks has come. Cass, like the rest of us, is out of her misery. Or rather, she is heavily, deeply into her misery, because all indications are that she is going to spend the rest of her life writing “Mr and Mrs Cummins in notebooks and trying to kiss Super Rugby YouTube clips.
Nick walks Cass to the car and tells her that although he enjoys her company, they have “hit a ceiling”. Many relationships are like that: two people bond over waterslides, but eventually have to accept that they want different things out of life. In this case, Cass wanted to marry Nick, while Nick wanted to spend the rest of his life as far away from Cass as possible. it’s difficult to make a relationship work when your goals diverge so much.
“I hope we can still be friends,” Nick lies, before Cass rides into the night, tears streaming down her face as she wonders whether it was all because her mother’s cooking wasn’t good enough.
Tune in next time, when Nick massacres another dream like the cold-blooded bastard he is.