In Search of Magic: The Bachelorette, Season 13, Episode 9 Recap

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This weekend, my friend Kat cornered me at a party. “Do you believe in the magic?” she asked. Regular house party conversation over here. Kat, an OG Bachelor/ette fan, has been reading these recaps and wants to know if I, like her, am a true believer. “Do you believe they can fall in love in eight weeks? Do you believe in the magic of The Bachelorette?” I hedge, like Bryan will do in this episode. I believe that love is magic; I believe it could happen. I want it to happen for Rachel and Peter, but as this episode begins I realize that if I really believe, I have to acknowledge that it could happen for any of these guys. That’s the thing about magic; it can happen anywhere.

Anywhere, this week, is Dallas, where Rachel is introducing the guys to her family. Oh, honey, here we go. I have been waiting all season for Rachel’s mom and sister to come back into my life. As we learned on Nick’s season, these women don’t suffer fools. They are TV-ready and they know how to dress to the nines. These women and Eric’s Aunt Verna need their own television show where they just tell people about themselves and serve stunning looks.


Rachel takes Peter to a kid’s store and coaches him through getting gifts for her nephew and the little one who is on the way. I know that she’s probably not feeling as much from Peter as she is from Bryan, but every time I see them together I swoon. They are giving me such intense, early 2000s Sanaa Lathan/Patrick Dempsey romcom vibes. Is that real life? Not really, I guess. Is it magic? Oh, yes indeed.

The big topic of conversation is Peter’s line in the sand. He has said that even if he’s picked at the end, he can’t guarantee that he’ll propose if he doesn’t feel ready. This is maddening. Like, I get it. You don’t want to propose if you’re not sure. That’s how 67% of all romcoms get started. Proposals that haven’t been fully thought out brought us such staples as Julia Roberts in The Runaway Bride, Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and Kim Kardashian’s first marriage. It’s a classic, but we don’t want that for our Rachel. At the same time, this is starting to feel so technical. He clearly loves her; she loves him. But she wants it all, the feeling, the experience and the proposal. Magic. It’s like when you say the right answer on Jeopardy but you don’t phrase it in the form of a question. Peter is flirting with the possibility of losing out on that Daily Double.

Rachel’s family’s house is gigantic. But then again, this is Dallas so who knows? It could be a shack, comparatively. Peter pulls her aside before they go in and he wants to make sure he’s being clear. “I am falling in love with you,” he says. Rachel lights up, “I’m falling in love with you, too.”

They all sit down to dinner — Rachel’s mom, Kathy, Rachel’s sister, Constance, Constance’s husband, plus Rachel’s uncle and aunt. Rachel’s dad can’t make it to any of the intros with the guys but she’s like, “YOLO, I’m getting engaged anyway.”

It’s interesting to note that every couple at the table is made up of a black person and a white person. It’s not a topic of conversation but it’s a lovely vision for the kind of dialogue this show could have introduced if it hadn’t gone for the low-hanging fruit of Lee’s dog whistle racism. Ah, well, that’s America though. YOLO.

After a round robin of one-on-ones, Peter ends up with Rachel’s mom, Kathy. Peter says he didn’t come here to ask for a blessing from them because he wants to take more time to know that he is 100% on-board. Kathy respects that. At this point, however, we’re half an hour into the show and you have to wonder if Peter’s hedging really is a sign of a deeper issue with their relationship. I appreciate his caution but, come on. I’ll take Magic for $400, Alex.


Eric is a little anxious. It’s been, by his account, six or seven years since he met a woman’s family. But he’s in this to win this.

Rachel’s uncle, Jeff, recognizes Eric from the Meet the Bachelorette special at the end of last season. Clearly, he is a huge Bachelorette fan; perfect score on the Bachelorette Fantasy League, calling people afterward to gab and gossip, the whole nine. He’s obsessed.

Constance is wearing a phenomenal white peplum blouse with puffy ruched sleeves and a bronze, beaded collar necklace. I am overwhelmed and slain in the spirit. I’m Team Constance all the way. She asks Eric probing questions to determine if he’s ready. He seems to win her over a bit, coaxing a smile with his plainspoken openness.

He then speaks with Kathy and again he is honest, humble and earnest. He takes the step of asking Kathy for her blessing, which she gives. As someone who can overthink a grocery list, I have mad respect for Peter’s heady equivocation, but it’s clear that Eric is here to win, here for love and here to get married. He’s feeling the magic.


Speaking of magic, Bryan is proudly sporting what he calls “The Magic Watch,” the expensive Swiss timepiece that “Rachel” “gave” to him in Switzerland. Eric is a little shook by this move because Rachel is wearing her watch, too. They are bonded by time. (Which sounds like a Lifetime movie about people writing love notes to each other through a rip in the time-space continuum or something. Would watch.)

Maybe it’s my bias but Bryan comes off as immediately disingenuous with Rachel’s family. (Sorry; I’m not Team Bryan. I don’t wear a watch; what can I say?) His smile is smooth but not deep; same for his answers. He says that he’s falling in love with Rachel and that he’s felt that way from the beginning, to which everyone responds coldly. “She was your girlfriend from day one?” Constance, my hero, asks incredulously. Cousin Andrea looks like she wants to pack lunch in a to-go bag and catch an Uber home.

Kathy asks Bryan where his loyalties would lie if his wife and his mother came into conflict. Bryan hedges but eventually suggests he’d take his wife’s side. Rachel is pressed about Kathy’s line of questioning and when Bryan conveniently excuses himself during dinner, Rachel tells Kathy how annoyed she is by it. All of this is clearly manufactured as there’s no reason Kathy would’ve asked that question had she not been fed it. Still, it provides an opportunity for Constance’s husband to mansplain and whitesplain Rachel’s reaction to her, assuring her that she’s being too emotional. Homeboy needs to take a seat. How are you going to be married to someone as boss as Constance and still get so out of pocket? Back in the pocket, boo.

Speaking of Constance, she’s grilling Bryan hard, telling him she doesn’t buy how quickly his feelings have developed. This is ironic given the plot line about Peter’s reticence that the show is simultaneously peddling. Meanwhile, Kathy calls the word “love” into question, again, ironic considering she just gave Eric permission to ask for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Ultimately, Kathy tells Rachel that she doesn’t believe you can fall in love in such a quick amount of time. Kathy, shockingly, has revealed herself to be a Bachelorette Truther. The plot thickens.

It’s unclear whether the family just thinks Bryan is a snake oil salesman or if they’re running him through the gauntlet because he’s the One. Either they’re not here for his smooth answers, his pseudo-science profession and his Swiss watch, or they’re Team Bryan and this whole thing is over.


After the family visit, Rachel whisks the men off to Spain. She’s got a longer, bone-straight weave that basically screams, “I didn’t fly all the way across the country with all this expensive new hair to not get engaged.”

Rachel takes Eric out for the day. She tells us that she feels like she’s in limbo with him; she’s not quite sure where he stands. At dinner, he tells her, “I don’t know if you realize how much you challenge me… You make me so vulnerable, with you, with myself.” It’s amazing how much Eric is pushing himself and growing in this process. Rachel goes in for exactness with prosecutorial zeal. She wants him to say, “I love you.” She wants him to be all in. He takes his time getting there but he says it. It’s a quiet, beautiful thing where he seems to be surprising himself as he says it. He says it twice; the first one is for himself, the second one is for her. It’s astounding to watch; a musical theater composer would make a meal out of this moment.

Something, perhaps, just like this…

This feels very different from Bryan. It’s not performance; it’s discovery. It is, dare I say, magic.

Rachel is feeling the magic, too, as she offers Eric a fantasy suite.

The next morning, they’ve both clearly felt a shift in their relationship. “It’s amazing what happens when you let people in,” Eric says. Y’all, I can’t be crying like this at The Bachelorette. I’m sitting alone in my house and I’m still embarrassing myself.

Rachel takes Peter to a half-beautiful, half-creepy wine cellar in a vineyard. It’s a little Phantom of the Opera, a little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m into it.

My favorite part of their date is when Rachel and Peter stomp grapes like Lucy and Ethel. She’s in a flannel shirt dress and he’s in joggers and everything looks ridiculous and I love it.

That night, Rachel comes back to Peter’s proposal position. Peter asks her where she stands. “I didn’t come this far to just have a boyfriend at the end of it,” she says. She feels that a proposal is starting a trial period, like going steady. I’m no lawyer, but that’s actually not what a proposal means. Peter feels differently. “Engagement is marriage,” he says. He needs to be certain. He’s not going to get engaged to test out the next phase of the relationship.

“Somebody’s gotta bend,” she says. I actually cannot believe that these two people who clearly have strong feeling for each other are sitting here staring at each other like their relationship is ending because of, basically, an issue of semantics. “For the first time,” Rachel says, “I’m thinking Peter and I won’t work out.” This is a setup! I’m calling the FBI. We are experiencing a breach of magic!

R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas is a playwright and person on the internet. He writes a daily humor column called “Eric Reads the News” on

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