It’s that most fateful of shows, the hometown episode! And Andi is feeling confident as she strides through Milwaukee to see Nick and meet his fam. (The other three bachelors, as you’ll recall, are Chris, Marcus and Josh.)

Nick meets Andi at an outdoor market full of fancy snacks and–oh! we have our first Cheesehead of the episode, as Andi tries on a cheese hat. There’s more snacking and mild canoodling, and then it’s off to a brewery. As the production line revs by, the sound editors miss a golden opportunity to play the theme from “Laverne and Shirley.” What’s the matter, guys, couldn’t get the rights? After sticking their noses into a vat of who-the-hell-knows, Nick and Andi (heh–I just mistyped “Shirley”. You know that Andi’s a Shirley, not a Laverne) join in an “impromptu” brewpub polka!

Night falls, and Nick says it went great, but “now it’s time for Andi to meet my…very large family.” Andi’s a little freaked, but to be honest, it just looks like he has three or so siblings with the commensurate number of spouses and wives. [Turns out later these are all siblings, so Nick has a point.]

During the commercial break, we get Catherine doing a terrible job of “acting” her way through a Suave commercial, and a preview of “Bachelor Island” or whatever the hell they’re calling “Bachelor Pad” this season. Crazy Clare is in the cast, and making out with abandon. Hopefully she picked someone who won’t slut-shame her this time.

Andi’s a little overwhelmed by Nick’s large family, and we just see them “firing” questions at her in a montage, with no answers from Andi. I find it hard to believe the lawyer can’t hold her own in a conversation. Then Andi’s whisked away for a grilling by Nick’s sister Maria, who doesn’t want her brother to go through heartbreak again. (He has a broken engagement.) Andi tells her that she knows how important Nick is, and respects the process. Why does she has an expression like she’s smelling dog poop? Drop the chin, Andi!

Next interview is with Bella, another sister of Nick’s, but this one appears to be ten years old. Aww, how sweet (yack). Andi explains to the kid what “connection” means, and I object to indoctrinating young children into the ways of reality television this early. I will say that Andi seems much more relaxed with this kid than Maria. I’m also amused because they follow up the scene with Nick getting the debrief from Bella…who can’t remember any of the questions she asked, but remembers that Andi said she “truly loved” Nick. Or maybe “truly liked.” Bella’s not sure. Ha!

Now Nick’s telling his mom about his feelings, and says that he feels like Andi is “a half of him that’s been missing.” And oh lord, he’s crying, people! Salty Nick is salty with tears! (Also, is it just me, or is he much cuter this episode than he has been?) He tells his mom he’s falling in love with Andi, but hasn’t told Andi yet. At the end of the night, Andi passes the “name all the family photos” gauntlet (no small feat!), and gets a little goodbye smooching-time with Nick. He’s definitely looking in good position, and his family passed the test.

Next up is Farmer Chris! But the previews suggest that home may not be where the Heartland is…Chris and Andi sit in a cornfield (a harvested one–it’s winter when this was shot) and she asks, “What would I do for work here?” Chris says, “You could concentrate on being a homemaker.” BZZZZT. Wrong answer, pal. Andi already looks bored.

Andi’s “open to seeing what life could be like” in Back-of-Beyond, Iowa. No way, girl. This is not the land of skinny jeans and cute little prosecutor suits…you’ll never make it. She gets out of her van and Chris greets her plaidly before showing her into his house. Andi seems baffled and impressed by a man who owns his own house (and how nicely it’s done up)–she explains that all the other guys she’s dated have lived in apartments. Chris’s backyard is acres of farmland! Chris’s other car is a tractor! And they go for a ride in said tractor, towing a rake thingy behind them. Then he gives Andi a chance to drive, and now I feel like I’m watching Top Gear.

Sitting on Chris’s lap, she gleefully steers around the empty field, and professes excitement. Then it’s time for a picnic…sitting on the newly-churned earth. Yay? Chris tells Andi about all his family members, and she worries that they’ll be tough on her–he promises they trust him to pick someone good. Andi gets a frowny, pouty face as she asks the fateful career question, given that they’re in the middle of nowhere. Although Chris kind of biffs it with his first answer, as above, he recovers nicely and points out that Cedar Rapids is a big(gish) city not so far away, and “why can’t you be a D.A. there?” Well, it’s not as simple as answering a help wanted notice posted in the window, Chris, but we take your point.

Andi decides that’s good enough for her, and says, “I’m not that big city…my parents have a lake house!” I think that falls into the category of “Palinisms,” Andi. That’s not Russia at the other end of the cornfield. Just then, a plane flies overhead, towing a banner that says “Chris Loves Andi.” She is delighted and jumps into his arms for smooches. Next to me on the couch, my husband shouts, “Mauling!” and he is not wrong. This isn’t kissing, it’s “sucking face.” I guess airplane banners are the way to the girl’s heart!

Family time! No, not for Andi to become a homemaker–she’s meeting Chris’s folks, plus three (I think) siblings and their spouses. They sit down to dinner and Mom makes a nice toast. They seem very sweet, but Andi points out the importance of this meeting–basically, living in the middle of nowhere means these people will be your primary company, so you’d better like them! They seem nice and un-crazy, even when Chris’s three sisters sit Andi down for “the grilling.” (No grilling ensues.)

Outside, Chris is talking to his mom about his feelings for Andi, and her concerns about moving to a small town. Mom insists that if you love someone, you just want to be with them, and will learn to drive the tractor, etc.. Mom came from “in town” and the country is a great place to have a family, so she’s confident Andi would like it. I question her logic, but not her sincerity.

During Andi’s session with Mom, it takes about 45 seconds for Mom to say, “You’d have beautiful children!” No pressure, lady. Mom took Chris’s brief to heart, though, and tells Andi that “if you’ve got gumption, you can do anything out here.” I think all the gumption talk goes straight to Andi’s working-girl core–Mama Farmer Chris is a smart cookie. Comes on a little strong at the end, though…I would find her overwhelming as a mother-in-law. But then, I come from icy New England and prefer to communicate with my family via email, so I may not be the best judge.

Then it’s time for family hide and seek! (Or Sardines?) Andi “finds” Chris behind some farm implement, and they’re alone long enough for some smooching before the others find them. This family feels super-wholesome, and Andi talks a good game as she kisses him goodbye. Despite that, I don’t believe for a minute that she’s moving her ass to Iowa. I bet he gets the farewell rose “because he’s too good and she has to be honest.”

As we cut to commercial, we’re told that we’ll also be seeing the moment that the Bacheloretteers learned about Eric’s death. There is shock, and sobbing, and a level of distress that feels inappropriate for how well these people knew the guy…but it’s still sad. I assume they’re going to do this after all the hometown dates, because how could you come back from this and enjoy smooching and laughter? We also get a peek at Josh’s family, including a mom who tells Andi, “I don’t see Josh ever cutting the cord!” Good luck with that one.

Hello, Tampa! Josh “couldn’t be more pumped” to meet Andi. Wow, a silver-tongued devil, this one. Andi has elected to greet Josh in the shortest shorts known to man, but because she’s a lady she wears a weird high-necked tee to compensate.

First things first, they head out to the local baseball field. Er, diamond–sorry, Josh. He says it’s tough for him to come back here, because it’s in his past (and he misses it?), but with Andi, somehow it’s OK. Andi takes one awesome shot and breaks the bat! However, I believe her leaping on Josh for smooches would constitute “crowding the plate.” I’m a little confused by the way Josh talks about being a pro player–he thought he was going to be in the game forever, but then “he realized what was important.” It sounds a little like Josh hit the “take steroids or quit” point and chose the latter? He also mentions his little brother Aaron, who is getting ready to play pro football now (or college? He’s being recruited by someone, anyway), and says that he thought he always had to be there for him. So he quit baseball so his brother could play football? WHAT ARE YOU NOT SAYING, JOSH???

Now it’s the traditional “will your family like me?” exchange. Spoiler alert: Josh thinks they will. (Don’t you just wish once that a contestant would say, “Probably not, but that doesn’t matter to me”?) They go off to find out.

They come in to mad acclaim from the family, and everyone–Josh included–tears up. But then Andi has to meet “the other woman in Josh’s life”–Sable, his bulldog. She’s a cutie, and thrilled to see her owner. (I love a dog reunion video!)

They all sit down to dinner (with huge glasses of wine), and Andi is nonplussed when the talk turns instantly to Aaron’s impending football career. She’s all, yeah yeah, football, this is MY show, kid.

After dinner, Mom sits down with Andi, and says immediately that she can tell Josh is in love. Yay! But when Andi asks if his mom is worried about feeling lonely with Josh being with Andi and Aaron going pro, Mom’s all, “Well, Josh is going to want to go to all of Aaron’s games, so I’ll see them every weekend!” Dad basically makes the same point, though less brazenly, and while Andi says, “Of course I could see myself fitting in with the family plans!” she looks doubtful.

Only Stephanie, the kid sister, seems to acknowledge that Andi might not want to just be absorbed into the Family Josh. Andi praises her for her mature point of view, and I think I see a hint of “hellz no” in the back of her eyes. Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Mom and Josh are talking about how much he loves Andi, and he’s crying again. Sheesh, he’s a crybaby. His mom’s not even crying at this point!

Aaron, talking with Andi, also sounds like he’s ready for Josh to move on (and maybe get out of his shizznit a bit). Andi decides to take this as reassuring, and now it’s time for Family Fun! Two guesses what they play: if you said “football,” give yourself a prize. This family seems super-close, and I’m sure they’re all very nice…and I would die if I had to marry into it. I’m just watching them on television, and I’m already suffocated. (But see above re: frozen heart, yada yada.)

That’s enough sports. On to Marcus! We’re in Texas, and the first place he brings Andi is to an abandoned nightclub of some sort. He’s going to recreate the first (and only?) date that brought him to her attention…Stripperdate! Out he comes in dress whites, and someone seems a LOT more comfortable this time around. Jeez, dude, did you discover your calling? (Note: they have to pixelate his Little Bachelor through his tighty-whities.) Andi is hot and bothered and seems pleased, but I can’t stop thinking there’s a creep factor to “strip show in a silent, empty club.”

They leave and stroll through a cute downtown area to have their “are you nervous to meet my family?” talk. We’re going to meet Mom, Bro, Sis, Niece and Nephew. Marcus hasn’t brought a girl home in four years, and she was the only one, so this occasion is loaded like a potato skin in a Scores club. Andi tells us that she wants to see the family dynamic, because “they’ve gone through struggles with one another.” Oh, is Marcus’s family like the rest of ours, where everyone loves each other but kind of hates each other a little, too?

Marcus and Andi show up at the family manse bearing flowers and bakery; the family is waiting on the couch as though watching TV, but nothing is playing. Also, perfect appetizers are displayed, but no one eats. Immediately, Niece presents Andi with a Rainbow Loom bracelet, the highest honor an eight-year-old can bestow upon a visiting girlfriend. Wear it with pride, Dorfman!

Sis whisks Andi away for her waterboarding, and I think there must be some Connie Britton in Marcus’s family ree, because her hair is amazeballs. Lustrous golden caramel waves that would be the envy of any golden retriever. Andi suggests that she worries that Marcus has fallen too fast, and that he’s too sensitive. I think maybe it was explained that their dad died? But I was too busy extolling the virtues of Sis’s hair to pick it up.

Out on the porch, Marcus is talking to Connor (a cutie) about how great it was that he was a father figure for Marcus after their dad “left.” So I guess he walked out, didn’t die?

Next up is an older woman with an accent–this must be Mom. Anyway, she asks Andi what her favorite quality about Marcus is, and then says that she’s impressed with how open Marcus is with Andi, because they’re “a very private family.” Yes! No more expression of feelings! So messy!

Marcus tells his mom, separately, that he’s told Andi he loves her, and that she makes him feel complete. I am concerned about his level of codependency after only five weeks. Helena (mom) reminds me of a cross between Celine Dion and Arianna Huffington. I am beginning to find her delightful! She is zee best muzzer…in zee world!!!

And now…TRAGEDY! The four guys have been summoned to Chris Harrison’s home to hear some as-yet-unknown news. Chris explains that they’re waiting for Andi to “tell everybody at once.” There is awkward silence while they sit. Andi has serious face on, so I feel like they must have been briefed at least a little bit. Also, why are they just telling the four remaining people? Didn’t all the dismissed contestants befriend him as well? Chris breaks the news gently, but quickly. All five of them are distressed and silent, and I shouldn’t mock people’s sad faces, but Nick looks like he’s just thinking, “Do I look sad enough? How long should I look sad?”

Farmer Chris gets up and walks up the stairs and out a door (showing a strange familiarity with the layout of Chris Harrison’s house), and a tearful Andi follows. They sit on the stoop while the other three guys sit in silent contemplation. (Or boredom. Josh looks bored.) Andi’s trying to talk it out, and I think it’s not possible to not sound pompous at this point. Then the camera gets all janky. it turns out it’s the crew putting down their stuff (but keeping everyone in shot!) so everyone can hug everyone. There is one guy with a crazy fro and beard who hugs Farmer Chris forever, and two crew women hugging and weeping. FC enfolds Andi in his arms as she whispers, “I can’t believe that was my last conversation with him.” For all my snark, I can see why that would upset her.

After the commercial break, we’ve jumped ahead to the rose ceremony. Ah, Harrison tells us the news was just delivered last night, and Andi’s crying again. Even Chris H. is teary, but he pushes through to ask Andi if she “has clarity” about her choice. Oh, and now Andi’s full-on ugly crying, which makes me feel fonder of her. She feels responsible to her guys to be strong for them and go through the rose ceremony as normal, but Harrison reassures her that the guys all want to be strong for her, and that “it’s OK to show emotion tonight.” As opposed to every other night.

In the other room, the four men wait, looking like a rejected boy band from the X Factor. Nick has made the choice, in his grief, to wear a jacket in a distressing shade of dusty rose. Andi begins with a speech about how they can’t comprehend “losing one of our own.” That feels a little strong for “one of twenty-five guys you knew for a couple of weeks on a dating show,” but I’ll stop there. She also promises that they will “get through” the rose ceremony, and picks up the first boutonniere…but suddenly she sets it down and runs off set! She’s weeping again, and Harrison goes after her. The guys are standing there awkwardly, trying to look somber but to be honest, not seeming more grieved than normal.

By the way, in case you, like me, found this all a little exploitive, Chris Harrison says that’s OK:

Thanks, Chris! We’ll keep that in mind.

After composing herself, Andi returns and begins distributing the roses. First up is Josh! Next is Chris! I am shocked–I thought he would be sent home to spare his sweet family the disappointment when she doesn’t pick him. So who’s going home? Nick or Marcus? Gotta be Marcus, no?

And sure enough, it is. Andi gives the last rose to Nick, and Marcus looks a little stunned. [My esteemed fellow recapper Elana may also be catching her breath, because I believe this kills her Bachelorette bracket. 🙁 ] Andi walks Marcus out to the driveway bench, downcast, but she doesn’t look like she has the emotional energy for this tonight. She tells him that “a part of me knows you would give me the world…but at the same time I can’t listen to you say you’re falling in love if I’m not there…”. Aww, guys, no more tears! She feels crappy, it’s clear, and he’s embarrassed. But she’s right–if you don’t feel it, you don’t feel it, and best to stop it now.

“I wanted to be that guy for you,” Marcus mutters. See, I think that’s the problem right there. You need to be your own guy, Marcus! And then find the woman for whom your you-ness is That Guy for her! (Why don’t I have my own self-help book, again?) In the Limo of Despair, Marcus is still crying and making the shift from sorrow to embarrassment. “I shouldn’t have told her I loved her,” he says. Yup. Too strong, too fast, pal. Good luck to the poor woman who agrees to date you next, only to find you crazy-withholding. Blame Andi.

Next week, fantasy dates! Horses! Beaches! Little kids??? And Andi faces her fear of the Fantasy Date Betrayal, where her chosen suitor could turn into a soccer-loving, egocentric doofus at any moment.

Until then, hug the doofus, the mom, or the Sable in your life! See you next week.