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'The Bachelorette' recap: On the hometown dates, J.P. rolls over the competition

July 18, 2011 | 11:54 pm

Holding Heading into Monday night's episode of "The Bachelorette," J.P. was already my favorite remaining contestant. And then we met his mother Ilene and her button sweater. And that just put him over the top.

Little Ashley traveled to all four of her remaining suitors' hometowns this week, but she clearly had the best time in Roslyn, New York, the affluent Long Island village where J.P. grew up. Because it was raining upon Ashley's arrival, J.P. pulled out his best game and decided to take her to the local roller skating joint he'd frequented as a kid. There, the roller skates looked like they were filled with foot fungus and the disco ball hanging overhead was literally taped together. But the two lovebirds paid little mind, holding hands and giggling annoyingly as they skated around the rink.

Before heading over to his house, J.P. admitted to Ashley that his parents might seem ultra-protective of him because the last girl he'd brought home had later broken his heart. He never explained exactly what went down between him and his ex, but said the things she'd do "would cause him to doubt the relationship" -- a.k.a.: she probably cheated on him.

Despite her trepidation, Ilene greeted the pair with open arms. And she was a wearing a cardigan that had about 60 buttons sewn to the front of it -- officially making her one of the cutest moms to ever appear on a hometown date. While Ilene liked Ashley, she worried that her son's heart would be "broken the way it was broken before." (Uh, what exactly did this guy's ex do?)

"I am smitten by your son," Ashley assured Ilene. And that was all Ilene needed to hear.

"That is a very nice thing to hear," Ilene said, sounding like the truest of Jewish mothers. Then she hopped up, whipped out a Bar Mitzvah-esque embarrassing photo of J.P. at age 13 and the whole family laughed in his face.

None of the other hometown dates were disastrous -- unfortunately for us, there weren't any taxidermy-filled rooms or trips to the mortuary this season -- but it seems all but a forgone conclusion at this point that Ashley will end up engaged to J.P.

Sure, Ben, the winemaker from Sonoma, is putting up a good fight. First of all, he's "physically exactly" Ashley's type -- a point that should be obvious, since two of the guys in her final three look nearly identical.

"The hair," she cooed before meeting Ben at a vineyard. "The fashion. The sense of humor. He's a winemaker. He makes wine. I mean, that's so cool."

Alright, sweetie, it's not that cool. He also doesn't own the vineyard. He, like, rents out space there. Let's not forget that little Internet ad sales title -- or something to that effect -- that conveniently slipped off of his job description card as the season has progressed.

Regardless: I am pretty pro-Ben. Sure, he's a little goofy sometimes and tries a little too hard to play up his cuteness. But I think he's endearingly straightforward, even when that might not be the best tactic to play. Before heading to his house, he told Ashley he'd only ever brought one girl home to meet his mother and his sister.

"It needs to work, otherwise, it just doesn't work for me," he said of the family dynamic. Pressure, much? Luckily for Ashley, the other ladies in Ben's life seemed OK with her -- and his mom even told Ben that his late father was probably looking down on him and thinking "well done." The moment stirred a bunch of emotions for Ben, who apologized to his mom for not being a better son when the death occurred.

My dad "is everything that I am today," Ben said later, tearing up in a confessional-style interview. "I miss him. I do."

Ugh! Benners! I'm going to feel even worse for you when you get sent home from Fiji in a couple of weeks.

This week, my pity was reserved for Ames, who is clearly still suffering from the concussion he got back in Asia. How dumbfounded did he look, mouth agape, when Ashley didn't give him a flower at the rose ceremony? And then he winked at her bizarrely before she took him outside for the break-up talk? What was occurring?

"I'm composed all the time, but not now," he admitted outside. Ashley barely explained her reasoning for sending Ames packing, instead offering him a cringe-inducing handshake.

"I've fallen in love with somebody who clearly did not love me back," Ames said matter-of-factly in the limo as it drove away. If Ames couldn't tell that his large forehead was on the chopping block, his sister back in Chadds Ford, Pa., could. (Really. His family lives on a bucolic farm in a town of that perfectly apt name.)

"I'd get a little more personal next time you're with her," Ames' sister advised him. So sweet Ames took Ashley out to a field with one of those expensive wicker picnic baskets and they sat under a pretty magnolia tree. There, they shared "the most romantic kiss" he said he'd ever had -- a five-second-long, closed-mouth mess of a thing. He even got someone on the estate to drive them around in a horse and carriage. But that didn't do the trick, as Ames was destined to be the "good on paper" guy this season.

Meanwhile, on his Twitter account this week, host Chris Harrison referred to a "dark horse" emerging during the hometown dates. I assume he was referring to Constantine, who finally seemed to come out of his shell while surrounded by his fun Greek family back in Georgia. Although unlike Ben -- the other Josh Groban lookalike -- I'm not totally sure what Ashley digs about Constantine other than his looks.

"Love that long hair," she gushed before walking into the restaurant Constantine owns. "His build is great. He's just a man."

Indeed, he is. As are, presumably, the other three people you are dating.

Constantine has been the one guy who has withheld his feelings from Ashley this season, refusing to fall for her simply because that's supposed to be the premise of the show. But at home, he finally admitted things were "clicking" for him, and that he might consider proposing to her in a few weeks. Sadly, I don't think a fun evening with Greek dancing is enough to keep this guy around in the long haul.

Beyond stoked for Fiji next week. Who shows up? (Why do people ever return after being voted off, by the way? Has that ever worked out once?) Do we think it's Ryan? Maybe Ames? I really hope it's not Ryan. No, dude, she still doesn't want to meet your parents.

--Amy Kaufman


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Photo: Ashley, right, shows J.P. a few moves on the roller skating rink. Credit: ABC.