'The Bachelorette': Eric Hill's death weighs heavily on the cast

the-bachelorette-eric-hill-death-abc.jpgIt's the best episode of the entire "Bachelor/ette" season, guys. The hometown dates. Fingers crossed for something half as good as a bird funeral or the Basement o' Taxidermy.

Also, we can see from the previews that tonight the crew learn of Eric Hill's death, which is very sad. The levity of the hometown dates is separate from that segment for me, so we're going to have lots of fun with the hometowns before things turn serious.

Nick's Date, Mil-e-wau-que (Algonquin for 'The Good Land')

Two kicky scarves. Seriously, what is the scarf count for this season? If we were playing a scarf-sighting drinking game, we'd all be wasted every week! Speaking of drinking, they go to the Lakefront Brewery where they have their own beer on tap in the tasting room. OK, show -- well done on that. I would have loved that touch.

andi-nick-polka-the-bachelorette.jpgAnd then polka! This is the most Wisconsin date ever, I love it. I love that Nick is just laying it all out there, casual and fun, instead of doing something super stuffy. Terrific date. 

Family time in Waukesha. Nick has approximately 52 siblings and they're all married, so it's a lot. Mary and Chris are the parents. I am not going to learn the rest of the siblings, though there is a sister named Teresa but they pronounce it the very German way of "Tressa," which I think is really pretty.

Nick tells one of the 11 sisters that he's falling in love with Andi. Her main concern is that maybe he can't be himself around Andi and she also asks the all-important question of "Does [Andi] make you laugh?" and he says Andi makes him smile, which is good ... but not the same thing.

Andi fields some questions from the littlest sister, Bella. She's adorable and Andi handles it really well. Andi talks to her like a grown-up and takes time to explain her answers if the girl doesn't totally know what Andi means. It's a major point-scoring encounter.

Meanwhile, Nick tells his mom that he loves Andi and they both start crying. It goes a long way to sway me back to the "Nick is good" camp. They're trying to make him a villain, but I'm really unconvinced.

Chris' Date, Go Hawkeyes!

So, this montage is not exaggerating where Chris is from for the sake of theatricality. He really is from the middle of nowhere. Arlington is about 45 minutes northeast of where I grew up and it's a farming community. To put it in perspective, Andi probably flew into Des Moines and then had a three-hour drive to get to Arlington.

Now, I am all about Team Chris for "Bachelor" if he doesn't win, but it will be so interesting to see how it goes asking women to move to Iowa. Not that women have to follow men -- they absolutely do not. But farming is not a mobile profession. He is from a farming family and can't pick up and move his family's land, so it'll be interesting to watch. It's interesting to watch him with Andi, since she's a big city lawyer.

chris-andi-tractor-bachelorette.jpgAndi is not wrong that Chris might be the hottest farmer ever. It's not exactly a profession that is attracting the young hotties, you know? I love this "Son in Law" tractor ride thing they're doing, I just wish they were playing "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" while they scrawl "Andi + Chris 4EVA" in the corn.

Chris gets docked a few points for his liberal use of the word "literally," though at least one time he uses it correctly -- the tractor tire is literally bigger than Andi. But Andi is not "literally excited" ... I hope.

Anyway, they talk about Andi living in Iowa and Chris says she has to be happy where she's living, then he says the infamous line that made all the promos, "There's an opportunity to be a homemaker," which he was kidding about. But he points out that we do have cities in Iowa and that we do have lawyers and legal communities and all that. It's not just one judge who travels around in a stagecoach, you know? But it would be hard -- Cedar Rapids is not next door to Arlington. Cedar Falls/Waterloo is 45 minutes away.

But it's sweet that she's open to even talking about moving there. What else is sweet is the banner Chris has fly over the field that reads, "Chris loves Andi." Awww.

At dinner, Chris' family does an impressive job of embarrassing him in the most affectionate way. And look at them, they are corn-fed, blonde Iowa folk. I love that his mom is a "Bachelor/ette" fan. Also, she's absolutely right that Andi can do whatever she wants if she lives in Iowa. Heck, a 45-minute commute might be a reality in a city too.

I really can't picture the Andi-Chris farm life, but it's great both that Andi's open and that Chris' family is supportive.

And then they play "Ghost in the Graveyard." OH MY GOD, I'M DYING. It's like scary hide-and-go-seek, I played that all the time as a kid. Amazing.

andi-josh-baseball-the-bachelorette.jpgJosh's Date, Tampa

They go play a little baseball and as Josh pitches to Andi, she says, "You like coming inside" and ... yeah. Tee hee.

Andi talks about Josh's weird mix of emotions surrounding baseball and there is the ever so slight feeling that he's someone who is both a little preoccupied with his glory days and his brother's football career. Little bro Aaron Murray played QB for Georgia and (spoiler alert) he was a fifth-round pick for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 NFL draft. But Andi is concerned that it's "All About Aaron" (and she's not totally wrong).

When they head to his house, it's a gorgeous home and definitely seems a little more formal than the previous two hometowns. But also, it would seem it's not 30 seconds at lunch before they start talking about Aaron's pro day where he met with NFL teams. I totally get that Josh wants an update, but also -- doesn't anyone care about Andi? I'm with her, they need to get to know her and be excited for Josh.

Later, his mom tells Andi privately that she can tell Josh is in love with Andi. But then comes the next infamous soundbite where the mom says Josh isn't necessarily going to cut the cord from his brother. She's again not wrong that if she and Josh end up together, it's going to be NFL every Sunday wherever Aaron is playing.

This may be my pro-Iowa bias, but I'm getting the vibe that Andi was more open to moving to Iowa than being all sports, all the time with the Murrays. But Josh's sister gives it to Andi straight -- they're probably going to fight sometimes about sports. Hmm.

As an aside, can you see why Josh is attracted to Andi? His mom is like Andi in 35 years. Hee.

marcus-andi-kissing-bachelorette.jpgMarcus' Date, Dallas


Marcus has only brought one other girl home to meet his family before Andi, wow. Also, Marcus is ready to propose. At this point, I would wager Chris is on the way out tonight. I just don't feel it as much with him and Andi as I do with Nick or Marcus. I'm not a Josh fan, but you can tell Andi is, so I think Josh trumps Iowa.

Anyway, after some day drinking, it's time for Marcus to reenact the stripper date. He has a full white Navy uniform in an empty strip club, which is super cute, but also a little weird because this is on a TV show. I know I recap "The Bachelor/ette," but like, there are still some private things, right? This seems like one of those things.

Not that I'm complaining about Marcus' visage. He's obviously a fine-lookin' man.

That night, Andi scores major points with Marcus' sister with her observations about the family and Marcus' dynamic with his brother Connor. She also lauds the way Marcus is so honest and in touch with his feelings. It seems like a successful encounter.

Meanwhile, Marcus tells his brother that he thinks his feelings for Andi are real. Man, I really think Marcus and Nick are the final two, but I guess we'll see. They certainly seem the most sincere and the best fit for her.

And then Marcus makes me cry a little when he tells his brother something he told Andi but has never said to his brother -- that he's so grateful for his brother being a father-figure to him when their dad left. It's quite a moment.

Later, Andi says what may be the kiss of death for Marcus, either this week or next: "He will adore me and give me the world." That's not the same as being in love with someone. A guy who treats you like the sun rises and sets with you is great, to a point. But it's not enough if you don't return those feelings. I've been there, it's hard to admit to yourself and it's hard to walk away from, but that isn't enough. It has to be a two-way street.

The Sad News

They're at Chris Harrison's house, which is interesting. More intimate than the "Bachelor" manse, I guess. And just for the record, I don't find this exploitative. The show had to tell them and the viewers all know the taping was happening at the time of Eric's death, so it would have been weird not to include it.

Do you really think this is the first they've heard of it? It doesn't seem as shocking as I was expecting. It hardly matters, it's just an observation.

OK, then it gets a little weird when the crew joins in. Not that it's weird they would all be grieving and devastated over the news and comforting each other, but that the camera is still rolling in a strategically-placed vantage point? That's weird. C'mon, show. Either keep rolling or cut, but don't put a camera on the ground like someone just forgot to turn it off or something.

Also, I'm not invalidating Andi's feelings. First of all, it's not all about her, but she only has her own feelings to deal with. And the first thing out of her mouth was "His poor family," so it's not like she made it all about herself right from the jump. But as I said, her feelings are her feelings and so that's where her emotions are focused right now, especially because of how she left things with Eric.

I mean, if this were me, I would not only feel tremendous guilt about the final conversation we had, but I would be beating myself up about how if I hadn't cut him, he'd still be alive. Now, that is not a rational way to think at all and Andi will know that later, but in this moment, that's exactly where my mind would go. I don't think she's making this all about Andi, I think she is wracked with guilt.

I Need to Talk to Chris Harrison


Andi talks about her guilt the next night prior to the rose ceremony. She obviously feels like it's weird to even do a rose ceremony in the wake of the real-life news. She also says she can't "bear the responsibility" of cutting someone and having a normal, happy night, but I think she's projecting her guilt about Eric onto this cut.

Rose Ceremony

Her speech is a little weird, but I also do think this was off-the-cuff and she's not Aaron Sorkin, so I think Andi handles this as well as can be expected.

It still seems very weird to hand out roses after all this, but anyway, they go to Josh, Chris (whoa!) and Nick. Aww, poor Marcus. He seemed to take Eric's death harder than the rest of them and now this. That's a rough day. Also, Marcus seemed like the only one ready to propose, but as I said, it can't be a one-way street.

As he leaves, Andi says Marcus would give her the world and she wonders if she's making a mistake, but she just doesn't return the love feelings. She's 100 percent right. I once had to break it off with someone who would have treated me like a queen and been a really good father, but I just wasn't in love him and it was so hard. You want it to be there, but you can't force it.

Next week: The Domincan Republic and fantasy suites.
Photo/Video credit: ABC