The Bachelorette: Bob D'Amico/ABC
Jennifer Armstrong
February 11, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Meredith goes all the way… all the way home

With Meredith down to four guys and embarking on the meet-the-parents trips, we officially move from the phase when ”connection” is all the rage to the portion of the proceedings when ”opening up” is key.

First up was Matthew’s family farm in Friendswood, Tex. (how down-home is that?), where the Bob doppelganger romanced our Bachelorette with a picnic in the family oak grove near the family swing. ”I can imagine him as a little boy on the farm,” Meredith mused as Matthew swung, Tarzan-style, from a dangling rope fastened to a tree. ”It made him seem even more sincere than he is.” (Try not to think too much about that statement — your head may explode.) He said his parents were divorced, but they were both there together, grinning and spouting homespun wisdom like, ”You don’t want some Yankee boy,” and ”This girl is a real genuine girl.” (Again, no thinking.) Heck, Mom even composed a little rhyming toast for dinner.

Chad’s family was equally smitten. Meredith trekked up to Buffalo, N.Y., to see him in the home he’s shared with his mother since his dad died. Sisters Darcy and Dana joined them, presumably to gush, starstruck, over Bob’s castoff. ”We were HUGE ‘Bachelor’ fans,” Darcy exclaimed to the camera. Mom seemed to like Meredith even more than she likes her own son, asking her (albeit jokingly), ”So what could you see in this unemployed person?” Incidentally, this marked the first time Meredith heard Chad was, you know, BETWEEN pharmaceutical sales jobs. After dropping that bomb, Mrs. Chad pulled him into the kitchen and, literally, offered him her wedding ring to seal the deal with Meredith on the spot. And not so jokingly, either.

Ian, for his part, did, in fact, ”open up” (or so says Meredith) when she visited him in Manhattan. Not sure what he did that qualified, given that he didn’t produce his parents for a meet and greet. He explained that he chose his brother instead and then mumbled some vagaries about his family being odd, which, I suppose, is sorta opening-up-like. Or at least honest, which is why I dig this guy. And why I dig his brother, Erik, who dragged Ian into a dark stairwell out of Meredith’s earshot and broke it down for him: ”She’s obviously pretty, very nice, whatever, but ? how can you really know somebody?” In other words: Dude, this is totally stupid. You’re, like, an investment banker in New York with killer cheekbones. Is this the best way to meet chicks?

It was back to the country for the final hometown date with Lanny, the Dallas horsebreeder. Lanny appeared totally on schedule, dating-show wise, expressing his desire to ”see how open she is” to his ranch lifestyle. Outdoors? Sure, she’s got some Ugg boots and a poncho. Horsebreeding? Sure, she was amused by that whole description of the studs inseminating that tube thing. Ultratraditional super-Christian mom that apparently comes WITH the ranch? Not so much. Questioned directly about her faith over dinner, Meredith declared herself ”open” to the idea of, you know, church or whatever. And while openness is strongly valued on the TV dating circuit, this didn’t cut it with Mama. She explained her priority system, which she strongly implied oughta be Lanny’s future wife’s priority system: ”God first, your husband and family second, your job third.” And Meredith started counting the seconds till the producers yanked her out of there.

After she eliminated Lanny in the rose ceremony, Meredith claimed she didn’t have enough ”time” to get to know him. ”It wasn’t anything else,” she said. Except maybe a mother who opened up a little too much for everyone’s good.

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