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'The Bachelor' recap: All roads lead to Texas

March 1, 2011 |  9:13 am

Eifi4 I said it last week and I’ll say it again: This season of “The Bachelor” is Emily’s to lose.

If you don’t want to take it from me, check out the tweet that last season’s “Bachelorette,” Ali Fedotowsky, sent out in the middle of Monday’s episode:

“Does Brad send 2 girls home 2night bc he basically just picked Emily. Happy for him, but kind of feel like he is stringing the others along”

It was a sentiment no doubt inspired by Brad’s bold move on his date with Emily in South Africa. After the couple rode an elephant together (!), Emily hesitantly accepted Brad’s invitation to the fantasy suite, but only after making it very clear that no sexy time would be going on since she’s an ever-so responsible single mother.

No matter: Even though all the two did was kiss, it was apparent they had immense chemistry. So much so that Emily, previously guarded with her emotions, told Brad she was falling in love with him. It was a surprising revelation, one that clearly caught Brad off guard.

And then, he responded with this doozy: “I’m falling in love with you, too. I’m not going to sit here and listen to you say that and not say anything back.”

I mean, can we just call this and head home already? Repeat: Brad told Emily he is falling in L-O-V-E with her. Two years ago, I interviewed former “Bachelorette” Jillian Harris, and she said that the show’s producers forbade her from telling her then-fiance Ed Swiderski that she was in love with him until the final episode.

It makes sense, of course. The producers want the last episode to be grand and sweeping, and declarations of love that come earlier on in the season take away from the drama of it all. So Brad dropping the l-bomb was a big deal. Not only because he defied the producers’ wishes, but because what he said to the other woman left in the running -- Chantal -- was by comparison so underwhelming.

On their date, Brad told Chantal that he’s “definitely the most comfortable” around her. A nice thing to say, sure, but Brad doesn’t seem to go with ease as an indicator of his feelings. Around Emily he’s so mealy-mouthed he can barely form a sentence. Even the things he seems to mean come off sounding bogus.

“I miss your daughter,” he told Emily. “I’ve thought about her a lot.”

Really, dude? You spent like, five hours with little Ricki Tick, and she seemed to hate you for about 4.5 of them.

If anything, I think Emily may not be feeling as strongly for Brad as he is for her. I almost feel like she’s too good for him. She’s this drop-dead gorgeous woman who, at 24, is successfully raising a 5-year-old, has her own house and has overcome major tragedy at a young age. If I were her I’m not so sure I would find Brad’s stuttering so endearing. If you like her so much, figure out how to articulate it. Get it together. You’re 38. This isn’t play time.

Brad and Chantal, though, seem to be on the same, uh, intellectual level. For their exotic date, the two put on ugly khaki hats and went on a safari, where they got up-close and personal with lions, giraffes and hippos.

“This date is fun, but it’s also dangerous,” Brad warned about 30 times. Oh yeah, so dangerous. You have a guy with a shotgun escorting you on your picnic lunch. You’re not exactly out in the wilderness all by your lonesome.

While observing the animals, Brad and Chantal engaged in some truly scintillating conversation.

“That’s a very pretty animal,” Brad said, looking up at a giraffe with especially long eyelashes.

“A gorgeous animal, but in a weird way, you know what I mean?” Chantal replied. Oy. You two are made for each other.

In the bedroom, anyway. Chantal was so eager to hop into the sack with Brad that when he offered her a key to the fantasy suite she said she thought they should “hurry” and immediately abandoned her dinner. Not that they needed an actual key to get into their love shack for the night: The two stayed in an open-air treehouse. While the setting was beautiful, it certainly wasn’t private, and I’m not sure it was ideal for a couple spending their first intimate night together.

Still, their evening went far, far better than Brad and Ashley’s. Man, that was one of the most uncomfortable dates I’ve ever witnessed on “The Bachelor.” And it really made me dislike Brad.
Let’s recap: Ashley and Brad take a helicopter to a stunning scenic vista which “the locals call God’s Window,” according to Brad, who is totally tight with all the Sabi Sands locals.

The conversation got off to a fantastic start: “This is a very cool place. A very, very cool place,” Brad said, spoken like a man who seems to have never before traveled outside the good ol’ U-S-of-A. (Other than on his previous jaunt as “The Bachelor,” of course.)

After taking in the view, Brad started to ask what he called some “tough questions,” otherwise known as completely realistic questions one needs to ask before, you know, getting engaged.

He asked Ashley about where she wants to live after she finishes dentistry school, and she said she always imagined she’d live somewhere warm, but now she could see living near her family in Maine.

Wrong answer! Wrong answer!

Nowhere in that sentence did Ashley immediately say she was dying to move to Austin, Texas, Brad’s hometown, where every woman on the show must be willing to uproot their lives to if they want to end up with this guy.

Brad was upset that Ashley didn’t even mention Austin in her list of ideal locations, saying it was a sign she wasn't willing to compromise.

“But I’ve never been there,” she responded, completely rationally. She said if she was chosen, she’d absolutely consider moving there, but it’s obviously not otherwise somewhere she’d thought about living before.

“Why are we spending so much time trying to reassure ourselves instead of just going with it?” Brad sighed. Um, translation: Why doesn’t Ashley just throw everything in her life away and “just go with it” by moving to Texas?

“You’re looking for something that will fit with what you want,” Ashley lamented, already seeing the writing on the wall.

Ugh. On one hand, sure, I understand where Brad’s coming from. As the star of the show, he’s the one who is supposed to find his ideal mate. He knows what he wants: He lives in Texas, he likes it, and he’d like to find a girl who feels the same way. I don’t think there’s anything so wrong with that, except that if you really love someone, like Brad said, you are willing to compromise. And he’s never even been open to considering living elsewhere. From the get- go, every girl has been aware of the fact that if she doesn’t move to Texas, she won’t get the rose.

Which was, sadly, Ashley’s fate on Monday. But only after an excruciating night in the fantasy suite.

Unable to shake the earlier conversation, Ashley and Brad just couldn't get get close. Ashley’s eyes wandered around the fancy room.

“Just looking around at the lodge?” Brad inquired. Duh. That is what she is doing. Why don’t you point it out and make things 50 million times more awkward?

At the rose ceremony, Brad pulled Ashley aside to tell her privately that he wasn’t choosing her so she didn’t have to endure the embarrassment in front of the other women. Distraught, she began to get up to leave, saying she wasn’t going to beg Brad to change his mind.

“OK. I am confident in the decision,” he replied coldly, leading Ashley out with one of the most uncomfortable hand-holds in the history of the show.

He finally sauntered back to Chantal and Emily, who had been teetering on their high heels waiting for Brad for like, an hour. And then he pulled that faux earnest crap again: “Will you even accept these roses? This is a two-way street,” he said to the remaining women.

But after sending Ashley home, it’s clear there’s only one path Brad is headed down this season, and it ain’t leading anywhere other than Texas.

-- Amy Kaufman


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Photo: Brad Womack with one of his co-stars in South Africa. Credit: ABC's "Bachelor" Twitter feed.