BRAND NEW ON E!
Thanks to way too many preview clips, we know that a cad named Bentley was only the first of a series of obstacles blocking Ashley Hebert's road to love on The Bachelorette.
Heading into Monday's episode, six suitors remained, none of them an obvious choice to be on bended knee when this season comes to a close.
But four of them brought Ashley to their hometowns to meet their families, based on tonight's three one-on-one dates and one group outing.
Actually, make that Ryan and Constantine's one-on-ones, Ben's overnight, and J.P., Lucas and Ames being forced to take wedding photos on their group date...
"Mr. 24 hours!" Lucas, who seemed ready to go home after Bentley's return and doesn't appear to give a flying fig about Ashley, exclaimed as Ben strolled in.
"More like 36," Ben replied with a smile.
Meanwhile, J.P. continued to forget that he's on a reality show in which multiple men go out with one woman and sulked in the corner, and even Ryan, flying so high in anticipation of his first one-on-one, looked concerned.
"We did not share a room, no," Ben said, trying to ease the tension.
Then it was off to perhaps one of the most absurd group dates yet—taking wedding photos!
J.P. may have scored the traditional tuxedo, while Lucas was clad in a traditional Taiwanese wedding costume and Ames had to rock the sleazy '70s lounge-singer look, but it didn't make watching the other guys kiss his girl (at least, he thinks Ashley is his girl) any easier.
"Group dates suck," J.P. said afterward. "It's uncomfortable...I just want some answers and I want to move forward."
Lucas later confided that he felt "kind of foolish, over in the corner," but the ever good-natured Ames brushed off the awkwardness and showed Ashley a few family photos in anticipation of what he was hoping would be their visit to his hometown together.
J.P. was preaching to the right choir, however, when he told Ashley he was going crazy—"Like a bad crazy?" she wondered—watching her go out with other guys, and she gave him the group-date rose (the only preceremony rose of the week) to ensure a hometown visit to New York.
Now, let's rewind a bit.
The one-on-one with Constantine in a small village accessed by steam engine went pretty well, better than their previous solo date where we observed zero chemistry between them. We still feel that Ashley's reading a little too much into not much at all, but...at least they kissed.
The following day, Ashley's date with Constantine's twin, Ben, obviously went really well, considering he didn't return home until the following morning. The pair of them took a moped ride through the park and shared a candlelit dinner, with Ashley declaring (not to his face) that she felt like Ben was already her boyfriend.
And then Ryan—poor, starry-eyed Ryan—tried to teach Ashley about water heaters. And that was after she had already admitted (again, not to his face) that she didn't feel that their relationship had advanced enough yet for her to want to meet his family.
The solar-energy executive with the killer smile tried to connect with her, but, in one of the more genuinely heartbreaking scenes of the season so far, she let him go in the middle of their otherwise perfect picnic.
"I'm not 100 percent confident that I made the right decision," Ashley confessed later.
His bubble finally burst, Ryan was too choked up to make it all the way through his exit interview, the relentlessly cheery gentleman needing to take a moment to release a few expletives while the camera inexplicably zoomed in on his increasingly stormy eyes.
Ryan's ouster and J.P.'s group-date rose meant that one of the four remaining guys would be heading home alone.
"I see my husband in this group," Ashley informed her remaining fellows.
But she wasn't referring to Lucas, who got the ticket home while Ames, Ben and Constantine got the remaining roses.
Next week: Hometown visits, y'all!
Were you surprised when she sent Ryan packing? Do you believe the chemistry between her and Ben? What about Constantine and Ames? Please share, we're so confused!
(Originally published July 11, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. PT)