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'The Bachelor' recap: Emily races to the front of the pack

February 1, 2011 | 12:27 am

122170_0556_preAh, "Bachelor" Monday. How I've missed you. Sorry to have skipped out on last week's episode, guys, but I was up reporting at the Sundance Film Festival, where the stoic Brad Womack and his pile of red roses were sadly unavailable for my viewing pleasure.

Getting back into the show on Monday, I was glad to see that Brad is finally getting down to business — giving some deserving girls their long-awaited shot at a one-on-one date, and calling some other women out on their childish antics.

It was nice to see him choose Shawntel to take on the first solo date: She seems like a down-to-earth girl, and I kind of like that she's an embalmer — even though it's a gig I could never stomach. It gives her a bit of spunk, and it was nice that even the creepy, crawly details of her day-to-day responsibilities didn't scare Brad away. She also was clearly out of place going on a $5,000 shopping spree in some of Vegas' most high-end stores. She got to go to Fendi, and of all of the pricey handbags in the room, she chooses a hideously patterned patchwork purse? Her dress selection wasn't as bad — and it was endearing that despite all of her new accouterments, she walked out to the date with her hair thrown up into a messy bun rather than some elaborate up-do. 

In any case, learning about the intricacies of embalming hardly turned out to be the most uncomfortable moment of the episode. Just as they did earlier in the season, the producers continued their incredibly mean streak by setting up a date that they knew would stir up painful memories for Emily.

On her first date with Brad, they jetted off to a Northern California winery via private jet — when Emily's fiance had passed away in a tragic plane crash years prior. On Monday's episode, Emily was selected as part of a group date in which the women went to a NASCAR race track to take a few laps around a track — when Emily's fiance used to be a race car driver. I mean, really? Must the people behind the show stoop so low to evoke dramatic moments? These women will cry at the drop of a hat, so I don't see why it's necessary to create such manipulative emotional set ups.

When Brad noticed Emily was obviously distraught, he pulled her aside to see what was up, and she revealed what was going on. Brad seemed blindsided by the news, although I could have sworn she told him her fiance had been a race car driver on their prior date. She soldiered through, but the extra attention Brad gave Emily immediately bothered the other girls. 

"We all have problems. We all have issues," pouted Ali. "Just because somebody comes in with the worst story means they get the most attention?"

Um, in this case? Yes. I'd say Emily deserves a little extra TLC when being forced to dredge up the memory of her fiance's death. 

The women only got more jealous when Emily received the singular rose on the group date. But even though Brad clearly favors her, I have a feeling that ultimately they aren't going to end up together. Firstly, their interactions are so stiff — it's like Emily wants to emote, but is incapable of being truly affectionate with Brad. On his side, Brad is clearly freaked out by Emily's connection to her fiance. And sure, that's a big obstacle to overcome, but it's not like she's bringing him up all the time. You're taking her on dates that directly correlate to her fiance's death, and then you're surprised when she gets emotional about his memory? Come on, dude. 

Speaking of emotion, it seemed that Chantal O. nearly scared Brad away with her ultimatum: "If you don't feel for me, I want you to send me home," she cried. I really like Chantal — she seems semi-normal, isn't a waif and isn't playing any games with Brad (ahem, Michelle) — but she needs to tone down her emotional outbursts before she drives Brad away. And what was up with her accidentally dropping the l-bomb? I loved how Brad called her on it, asking her to "get back to the love comment" when she tried to brush over her Freudian slip. You could totally see in his eyes that he was fearing she might be a little too obsessed with him a little too early on.

"Emotional is one thing," he said later on. "Dramatic is another." A-men.

The final date was a dreaded two-on-one, which the two Ashley's were chosen to go on. Again, producers — thank you for this glorious set-up. Two Ashley's vying for Brad's affection? Too good.

The threesome headed to the Elvis Cirque du Soleil show for a date that was reminiscent of Ali and Roberto's last year during a production of "The Lion King."

"I'm a huge Cirque du Soleil fan," Brad gushed in that faux enthusiastic tone of voice he's got down pat.

Uh, sure you are, sweetie. 

It was pretty obvious from the get go that Ashley S. (the sweet one) was going to be sent home — in every interview in which she talked about the date, you could see her straining to hold back tears. And when Brad sent her home, he used the most excruciating line: "I think you'll make an extraordinary wife. I just don't think you'll make an extraordinary wife for me." Ouch. What girl wants to hear that?

The rest of the night was pretty anti-climactic. I find Ashley H. grating, for some reason. I did enjoy that Brad wore guyliner during his cameo in the Cirque du Soleil performance, though.

At least Ashley isn't as bad as Michelle, who continued her psycho-controlling M.O. during the cocktail party when she pulled Brad away, sat on his lap and refused to let him talk for a good five minutes. It was obvious that Brad was torn between loathing being bossed around by her and turned on by her domanatrix-esque style. 

"I don't need him to say much when we're together," Michelle shrugged. Uh, yeah, because all that exists between the two of you is sexual chemistry. Let's just hope this isn't a repeat of the Jake and Vienna situation — where he chose sex appeal over any true connection. We all know how well that worked out. 

Ultimately, I feel like reflecting on this episode isn't all that important, since the season teaser at the end basically gave away the final three. Yes, just like last year, the producers have decided to give away far too much in the previews early on. Case in point: in the teaser, Chantal O. was telling Brad how she didn't feel special as "one of three," wearing the same outfit she was shown wearing only moments earlier in a scene alongside Michelle and Ashley H.

Well, I guess that takes some of the fun out of it. Thanks, ABC.

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Emily and Brad have a heart-to-heart at the race track. Credit: ABC.

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