I was going to streamline tonight's "Bachelor" recap and just focus on Emily Maynard's now-infamous NASCAR date. But turns out that date took up most of the show. So I'm afraid we have another "vapid, rambling" recap. If you're not into that kind of thing (this is a recap of a reality show, for Pete's sake), then you should click away now.
OK, to set the scene: Bachelor Brad Womack takes the remaining women to Las Vegas, and Shawntel (the funeral director and embalmer from California) gets the one-on-one date. Brad takes her on an over-the-top shopping spree at a super high-end mall in Vegas. She goes back to the house loaded down with bags and all I can think is how I'm worried she's going to get stabbed to death in her sleep. The women are understandably jealous and Shawntel isn't foolish enough to believe they are happy for her. She changes into a sexy designer dress and has dinner with Brad on the roof of the hotel, where she goes into gross details (which he asks for) about embalming over their food. The night is punctuated with fireworks (literally, not figuratively).
The next day the women find out who goes on the big group date. More importantly, they find out who does not go on the group date. The two women who do not go on the group date go on a two-on-one date, which means one woman on that date will go home. The two unlucky women are Ashley S. (from N.C.) and Ashley H., who unfortunately have become best friends while living in the house. The two women hug and cry, and several of the other women feel bad for them and cry a little. But not Crazy Michelle. She is happy it's happening because she wants to see them broken up.
And now we get to the the Las Vegas Motor Speedway date. Brad drives up in a race car and crawls out of the window in a blue and white racing jumpsuit. All of the women are grinning and fanning themselves (apparently he makes them hot) but we see Emily sort of biting the side of her cheek and looking down at the ground.
Then the women put on jumpsuits and take turns racing around the track. Jackie notices that Emily is very quiet and Jackie is worried that it's going to be too emotional for her. Emily has told Brad about her former fiance passing away, but didn't tell him that he was a NASCAR driver. Brad eventually notices that Emily's smile seems forced, so he takes her aside to talk before it's her turn to drive. They sit in the grass by the track.
Emily, who is always so polite, is worried that Brad will think she's ungrateful about the date, and immediately explains that she really just wanted to get past that whole NASCAR part of her life in Charlotte. Brad asks her what got her involved in NASCAR and she tells him that Ricky (Hendrick) was a driver and also an owner. She also tells him that the Vegas track is where Ricky had a crash that ended his driving career.
Emily: "You think you leave it behind, and then you come here, and it's like ..."
Brad gets quiet, looks down at the ground. Emily asks Brad what he's thinking. "I feel like a jerk, is what I'm thinking," Brad replies. Emily tells him that's why she didn't want to have this conversation, but Brad says he wants to have the conversation and stresses that he had no idea about the NASCAR connection.
Brad: "Em, I care for you, a lot. And I want you to know that."
Emily: "I swear, I usually am pretty fun, I feel like."
Brad: "Oh, Emily, it's me who picked the date, not you!"
Brad tells the camera, "So many things are coming into my mind. This man is the father of Emily's child. He crashed on this exact track and that ended his driving career. My very first concern is how Emily feels being on this track right now."
Back to Brad with Emily at the track. Brad: "The very second you feel uncomfortable, I'll leave. We'll all leave, I don't care."
"No, I promise you," Emily says, bucking herself up. "It's good for me."
Brad asks her if she's going to be OK in the car. "I think so," she answers. Emily tells the camera that she liked the way Brad was there for her, and Brad says he was impressed with her tenacity.
Emily tells the camera that she could tell how excited Brad and the girls were about the date, but that it was hard for her to be there. "The hardest part for me was just getting in the car. The only time I've ever been in another race car, I've been in the passenger side and Ricky was driving. I'm really just thinking about how much I miss Ricky and how much he always wanted me to drive and I never would, because I was too scared."
Emily is sitting in the car at this point, touching a ring on her hand and weeping. Brad sees her and goes over to check on her and tells her that she doesn't have to do this. As soon as she sees Brad she starts smiling and says she's OK and she's ready. All of the girls are watching and cheering her on.
Emily starts driving the car and here's the voiceover: "I'm trying to just stay positive and just see this as what I need to move on. I decided that I don't want to bring anything from my past into today. Ricky will always be a huge part of my life. I'll always love him. But the whole reason I came and did this process was so that I could start something new with somebody new. While I'm driving around I'm not thinking about how fast I was going, I was just thinking that the first few laps were for Ricky and the last lap was for me, and I really am just ready to move on and find love again."
So, happy ending.
Here's my feeling on this. ABC has been quick to point out over the past week that the NASCAR date was cathartic for Emily and gave her the closure she needed to move on. My point would be that ABC didn't know going into the date how Emily was going to react. Would she be emotionally tortured on the date? Would she break down?
Emily was definitely troubled by the date and yet found a way to turn that into something positive for herself. But there's no way ABC could have known that, so they get no points from me just because it turned out OK for Emily. I'm really glad it worked out, but I'm pretty sure ABC didn't plan the date with "cathartic closure for Emily" in mind.
Back to the date.
Brad pulls Emily aside at the pool party and she tells him she's very proud of herself and Brad says he's also proud of her. Then he gets really quiet and you can see Emily panicking a bit. "I don't know what to say here," Brad starts. She asks him what he's feeling. Brad says what's on his mind is that he likes her a lot but he can't stop thinking about how she's already had "the love of her life" and has been single for six years. She points out that he's been in love "once" and he corrects her, "I've been in love twice." She responds, "Well, you're a little bit older than me, my dear." Brad laughs but we see him tell the camera that Emily's ex is in the forefront of her mind and he doesn't want to try to replace him.
Brad tells Emily he doesn't want to have feelings develop for her and then ... he pauses. "That's a hard, hard space for a man to fill," Brad says, while Emily looks at her lap. She tells the camera, "In that moment I just felt, great, another one running for the hills. I just feel like I've seen this scene unfold a million times before. Guys pulling away after they learn a little bit about my life and my past."
She tells Brad she is so ready for that not to be an issue in her life anymore and Brad says, "Fair enough, fair enough."
Emily tells him she wouldn't be there if she didn't see something amazing in him. He just says OK and nods and then they go back to join the other women. He admits to the camera that he cares for her a lot, but that he's really intimidated and doesn't know how to handle it.
He also says he didn't want to ignore the other women. Well, too late because a couple of them were getting all witchy by the pool. Let's just say that Alli shows her true colors. She has a fit when Brad pulls Emily away and when the other girls point out that Emily has had a rough day, she doesn't care. "We all have problems!" she screeches, adding that just because Emily came in with a sad story shouldn't give her an advantage. Me-ow.
Later, Alli gets Brad alone and cries about how she doesn't feel special when he's spending so much time with Emily. Geez. Then Chantal tells Brad that while she isn't crazy about the fact he keeps pulling Emily away, it makes her "love" him even more. She catches herself and says, "I meant like!" Brad says he wants to get back to the "love" word, not letting her forget the fact that she said "love." She starts crying and he tells her not to cry.
Then Brad says he feels worse than he did before the date.
Emily tells Lisa that her conversation with Brad didn't go great, and that she's met a billion guys who don't want to deal with her life. She says it's not an issue on most dates, but very reasonably points out that if her date involves going to a race track and driving a race car, "it's probably going to stretch some emotions." So let's give her that one.
The girls are still bitching about not feeling special when Brad walks up and it's pretty awkward. Crazy Michelle takes him away to tell him that there are a lot of very immature girls here. "I don't want to talk about the other girls," he says. "Yeah, I don't either," she says. Uh, I think you brought it up, Crazy. Michelle tells him she has a crush on him and they make out. He says he loves to kiss her. I swear, if he ends up with this crazy woman, he's getting what he deserves.
But Brad redeems himself a little when he pulls Emily away once more (apologizing to the other women for the "excessive" amount of time spent with her) to give her the rose. He says he wants to do it to prove that cares about her, not what's in her past. He promises her that he is going to be himself around her and that the rose is about her, not about NASCAR or her past or anything else.
Emily tells the camera that she's in shock but thrilled, and that she's starting to fall for Brad.
Once again, the girls are upset that Brad seems so into Emily. "It's hard to feel like you're not some creepy person just watching Brad and Emily on a date all night," Chantal says.
OK, that's over. Now we're at the two-on-one date, which Brad admits is going to be uncomfortable. First they visit a Cirque du Soleil "Viva Elvis" rehearsal, and practice some of the moves. Whichever Ashley Brad picks to finish the date will perform with him in the show.
Ashley S. tells the camera she feels like she's always convincing someone to like her, and that tonight she'll have to compete with herself as much as she'll have to compete with her buddy Ashley H. "I'm ready to fall in love. I just hope I don't mess it up for myself."
(Back at the hotel, Chantal and Shawntal discuss which Ashley they'd like to come back to the group. They both pick Ashley S.)
Fast forward ... a lot of rehearsing, a lot of nerves, an awkward dinner. Brad has to get rid of one of the Ashleys at dinner. He tells Ashley S. that he's felt a connection with her from the beginning and he loves her eyes and she lights up a room. To Ashley H. he tells her that she's helped him realize that he has changed. He says he's following his heart, but he looks like he's about to have a heart attack.
Brad picks up the rose: "Ashley S., I think you will make an extraordinary wife. I don't think you'll make an extraordinary wife for me." OUCH. "I don't see things that are there that mean you and I are made for each other." So he gives Ashley H. the rose and walks Ashley S. to the curb. When we see Ashley S. talking to the camera later, she looks like she has cried all her makeup off. The girls back at the hotel see a burly guy come in and take her suitcase and they act shocked. Ashley S. cries a lot and says being rejected by guys makes you feel like something is wrong with you.
I feel like I don't get why girls put themselves through this on national television! Don't do it!!!
OK, enough sobbing. Let this poor girl go! ABC can be so cruel. They rub salt into wounds by playing "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" while poor Ashley S. sobs in the limo ride to the airport, interspersed with clips of Brad and Ashley H. having a great time at the Elvis show.
So I guess we're down to one North Carolina woman now.
At the rose ceremony, Lisa and Marissa go home. Lisa cries really hard, but she really hasn't even had any time with him (that we've seen). Marissa cries a little, but doesn't embarrass herself.
In the preview for next week, the remaining eight women accompany Brad to Costa Rica. They show Brad having dinner with Emily and asking her when she would feel comfortable letting him meet her little girl. We see Emily say "Honestly, in my heart of hearts, I would rather not take you home to Charlotte --" and then there's an abrupt cut in editing, so I'm not sure what she says after that. We see Emily crying later while Brad worries that she sabotages every good thing that comes along.
We also see clips of Brad in South Africa and I don't think I saw Emily on those dates. That doesn't really mean anything, though. I also think there's a clip of Brad hugging Emily and Brad is crying really hard. But that may not mean anything either. Maybe.
We'll see ...
Follow Brooke's recaps of "The Bachelor" and more at the blog Happiness Is a Warm TV.