By Krissy Dolor

It’s the best week during any season of ABC’s The Bachelor – hometown dates!  This is when America (and Brad Womack, of course) finally see where the crazy (or normal) in the final four bachelorettes come from, helping Brad figure out who he wants to spend the rest of his life with: Chantal O., Ashley H. Shawntel N. or Emily.  Let’s get started:

Brad’s journey began in Chantal’s hometown, Seattle, Wash.  While we know Chantal is in love with Brad, her parents’ opinions can make or break this relationship.  After meeting her three pets (including her minuscule Pomeranian, Boca), the two went to the O’Brien house – er, mansion.  Brad turned on the southern boy charm and won them over easily.  He bonded with Chantal’s dad, Mike, over being “self-made men,” and discovered that their families share a background in masonry.  Brad even opened up about his father issues – turns out that Mike has problems in that department, too. “I respected and admired how Chantal’s dad opened up,” said Brad, and added that Mike “gets” him.

But this wasn’t the only heart to heart in Washington.  Chantal told her mom that she put herself out there with Brad and is scared to get hurt.  “You should trust your heart, and that’s what you’re doing,” said Billie Jo, who either ages extremely well or enjoys a little fine tuning now and then.  At the end of the night, Mike gave Brad his total blessing if he were to propose to his daughter.  Score one for Brad.

The next date took place across the country in Madawaska, Maine, where Ashley H. calls home.  Turns out this dentist speaks a little French, which she demonstrated at lunch when they ordered one of Ashley’s favorite dishes: poutine (french fries, cheese and gravy).  When Brad picked up his fork, she screamed, “You can’t eat with a fork!”  Sounds like my kind of dish!

At dinner we see where Ashley gets her bubbly attitude from.  The Herbert family was all hugs and screams as soon as the two walked through the door.  “Such a happy family, my God!” exclaimed Brad.  This might be your future, so you better get used to it!  Brad and Ashley’s dad hung out in their matching lumberjack shirts, and Ashley’s mother and sister, Chrystie, seemed quite taken by his presence – Ashley’s mom even invited Brad to sleep over.  However, Ashley confided to her family that she’s still unsure of her feelings for Brad, and Brad, hearing about how driven Ashley is, doesn’t want to hold her back from her dreams.  Will Ashley make the cut?

Brad’s third date is in Shawntel’s hometown, Chico, Texas, where she partakes in the family business and embalms people.  As she is the least dramatic of the final bachelorettes, ABC managed to make her look like a psycho with creepy organ music playing in the background.  Brad is clearly uncomfortable and doesn’t know if he would be able to handle conversations around death.  After lying down on an embalming table, Shawntel took Brad to where she speaks with the families and explained why she loves her job.  “I have a lot of passion for people,” she said. “If you think about it, there’s so much love in here.”

Later, Shawntel and Brad head to her parents’ home.  After hearing that Brad was put on the table, Shawntel’s dad said, “No rose for you.”  We like this guy already!  However, Mr. Newton didn’t like that his daughter was willing to give up the family business to move to Austin, where Brad is from.  After a very awkward conversation, he gave the couple the family’s blessings – “if it’s meant to be.”  Score half a point for Brad; despite the approval, there was obvious hesitation and tension.

And last but not least, there was Brad’s much-anticipated date with Emily in Charlotte, N.C.  As Brad is the first man Emily is introducing to Ricky, the stakes are high, and Rickie is not easily impressed.  Brad even brought a peace offering – a butterfly kite, which Rickie flew after some prodding by her mother and Brad, who did a good job of not being overbearing. “I would welcome and cherish the opportunity to be a father figure to little Rickie,” he said.  Notice that he said father figure, and not just ‘father’ – smart man!

The night ended in Emily’s home, which was filled with toys, games and a lot of pink.  After they played Candy Land (how precious!), Brad and Emily tucked Rickie into bed.  Brad told Emily that their day was “perfect,” and Emily told Brad that she could see herself falling in love with him.  Cue kiss…or not.  Brad said that he respects Emily and her daughter  enough to not kiss her with her daughter upstairs – which upset Emily.  But after she walked him to the door (and told the camera she simply won’t let Brad leave her home without a kiss) she went in for the kill, which was completed by a crescendo of sweeping romantic music.  Swoon.

In the end, Brad said goodbye to Shawntel, whose hometown date simply didn’t compare to the other three women’s.  However, it wasn’t the family tension or her job that set him off – it was that Brad didn’t feel the way he thought he should have felt when she told him she was falling in love. And the brutal honesty continues.  While Shawntel’s a great girl (and has become one of my favorites this season), this didn’t come as a surprise. Wishing you all the best of luck!

And luck goes out to the remaining three women who continue their journey with Brad next week in South Africa.  Thanks for reading!