OK, seriously? How does this happen every single season? I think the show is asinine right until we hit hometowns, and then — bam, I suddenly find myself rooting for Emily and her man to make it while Phil Collins' "Against All Odds" begins playing in my head.
The fact that there's no clear front-runner is also giving this season a boost. How early on could we tell that Ben was a sucker for Courtney? And Ashley seemed pretty smitten with JP right off the bat. But with Emily, I legitimately think her final three all have a solid shot.
Which is what made Chris' hometown date in Chicago so painful to watch. First of all, the chick showed up wearing red pants — never a good sign. I always gauge our protagonist's interest in their final picks based upon how they opt to dress toward the end of the show. Judging by that standard, Emily is getting a ring from Arie at the end of the season, since he was the one she pulled out her va-va-voom skintight dress and heels for.
But poor Chris only got some loud pants and a conservative sweater/blouse combo. Plus, when given the requisite interview time to gush over his more positive attributes, she seemed hard-pressed to come up with things she liked about him.
"He's not scared of falling, and —" she paused, her eyes wandering. "He can admit when he's wrong!"
At Chris' house, his Polish parents had splurged on an elaborate flower centerpiece for the dining-room table. Chris' parents loved Emily but his sister was the only one who seemed to pick up on the fact that Emily wasn't really digging her bro. Accordingly, she urged the Bach to "end it sooner rather than later" if Chris didn't end up being the one.
Off to Utah, where Jef is awaiting Emily at his family's Holmstead Ranch. Emily's eyes instantly widened as she saw the expansive grounds.
"He's a little bit more country than he wants people to know," she said. Uh, he's also a little richer than he wants people to know. Homeboy has some family money coming his way.
I have to say: Props to Jef for playing this date totally right. Up to now, his weakness with Emily seemed to be that he wasn't the strapping, masculine type she's typically attracted to. So he started the date off with a little skeet shooting, which of course, Miss West Virginia Backwoods Hoodrat was fantastic at.
"Emily looks so hot with a gun," Jef said, salivating like a middle-school boy. "I just want to watch her hold a gun all day long."
You have fun with that.
It was time to meet the Jef-ster's family — er, his siblings, since his parents were in South Carolina "doing charity work." So: Why is the show hiding that Jef's family is so obviously Mormon? That's what Jef's whole "I'm the free spirit of the family" thing was about, right? And his brother, grilling Emily on whether or not she builds her life on "sound principles"? Awktown.
Mormon or not, Jef has game. He finished off the date by taking Emily to a scenic vista and reading her maaaaybe the sweetest note ever. It was one of those totally, horribly cheesy things that people do in romantic comedies where they list the 400 things they love about their significant other. But meh, I love Jef! Can I become Emily's sister-wife if this whole thing works out?
I'm worried Jef may lose out to Arie, who seems to have a slight edge over the rest of the pack at this point. Emily flew down to Scottsdale, Ariz. to meet Arie on the race-car track, where he was already speeding around doing laps. Well, hello to you too.
"Arie definitely looks stupid-hot," Emily gushed, making me wish Arie would run his race car over me repeatedly.
Oh, but things were about to get more cringeworthy at Arie's house, where Emily was set to meet his parents — whom he described merely as "so European." Indeed, Arie's parents were Dutch, and didn't hide their heritage from Emily one bit. In fact, they rudely started speaking Dutch in front of her face, knowing she couldn't understand a word of it.
Once Arie's mom decided to transition back to English, she pulled Emily aside and finally showed a more human side when she told the Bach she thought Arie had totally fallen for her. Emily lit up immediately in a way she didn't with anyone else this episode, leading me to believe that it's Arie who may pull it out in the end.
But then there's good ol' Texan boy Sean. He met Emily in the park with his two cute dogs and continued to play into the "perfect" stereotype she has of him. His house was cute and his parents were adorbs and they had a life-sized playhouse for his niece called Kensington Cottage because her name is Kensington and I'm stealing it from her and moving in forever and ever.
Because of the perfect facade, Sean thought it would be funny to prank Emily, and told her he still lived with his parents.
"You do?" she chirped, sheer terror blanketing her face. "Oh, cool!"
Upstairs, he took her to his room, and I that's when it became obvious the whole thing was a setup. The place was too artfully disheveled — a cookie crumbled just so, some creepy stuffed animals overlooking a bed.
While I liked that Sean had a sense of humor, the clear winner of his hometown date was his dad, Jay, who had the most endearing Texan accent ever and really cute glasses and said he didn't know if "his heart could take it all" if the two got engaged. I mean, kill me now.
Back in L.A., Emily gave Chris the cold shoulder of rejection.
"Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and think I made a mistake," she said, trying to make him feel better. Yeah, except that she didn't. That was absolutely the right thing to do. So whatever, kthanksbye.
I need me some overnight dates. We know Emily has turned out to be a surprise makeout fan, but that doesn't mean she's just going to be handing out keys to the fantasy suite left and right, now does it? She has a daughter to consider — and Ricki Tick always trumps some hot-tub action.
Follow Amy Kaufman on Twitter @AmyKinLA