“The Bachelor” 2011 resumed on February 21st with week 8 of the season’s competition, featuring love-seeker Brad Womack’s hometown dates with the four remaining bachelorettes. After spending time with hopefuls Ashley Hebert, Chantal O’Brien, Emily Maynard and Shawntel Newton and their respective families in Madawaska, Maine, Seattle, Charlotte and Chico, California, Brad gave the enthusiastic funeral director the ol’ heave-ho. But I’m getting ahead of myself; read on for all of the dramatic goodies that “The Bachelor” 2011 week 8 had to offer, from start to finish.
The show opened in New York City as Brad packed his bags for the first hometown date. He claimed to be very excited about his prospects, but also very nervous over what was to come. Since we all need a summary of the obvious, we got one: Brad reviewed his thoughts about each contender.
He called Chantal “completely different from the other women” and noted that he has “so much fun” with her. He took it further, asserting that “In a lot of ways, I want Chantal O. to be my wife”, but said he worried about her being too much of “an emotional rollercoaster”. He offered up high praise for Ashley as well, saying she had “everything any guy could want”, but didn’t hide is concerns about her insecurities. He stressed that they spent too much time not moving forward with their relationship. Brad called Shawntel “beautiful” and “unassuming” and praised their “unsaid connection” and “consistent”, drama-less state. (Well shoot, she sounds pretty darn good, huh?) He touched on southern belle Emily last, and lamented the “high bar” set by her deceased fiance Ricky Hendrick, but insisted that “there’s something very real” between them and that he really wanted to pursue it. He tied up his analyses with a nice little bow, claiming (again) that he’s a changed man and that he would indeed end up with a wife at the end of this season of the show.
“The Bachelor” 2011 week 8 opened in earnest as Chantal awaited Brad’s arrival in Seattle. She called the opportunity to have a hometown date “huge” and called herself “a relationship person”. The pair met at a waterfront park and seemed genuinely happy to see one another. Chantal was practically drooling with happiness as she chattered about her home and her routine. She promised a nervous Brad that her family would love him, and joked that if they didn’t like him, he’d “be out”. Ha ha. Brad was pleased that she wasn’t “rattled” like she’d seemed in Anguilla. Chantal took Brad to her own house first, and introduced him to her dog and two cats, Boca, Jinxie and Bailey. Brad was especially pleased that potential biter Boca didn’t bite him as Chantal said he might. Ooooh, animals don’t lie! Chantal said that she was ready and willing to “move to Austin for love” despite her tight connection to her family at home.
Later, as they wheeled their way toward Chantal’s parents home, Brad nervously anticipated the meeting. They arrived at a truly enormous ‘house’ and met mom Billie Jo, dad Michael and brother Connor. They settled into a totally museum-like living room for a pow wow. Brad shared the story of their initial meeting (the famous slap heard ’round the country) and Billie Jo was appalled (in a joking sort of way, of course). While they ate, Brad made fun of himself and effectively loosened the already light mood even more, and Chantal stepped outside for a private talk with her dad (who, in case you live under a rock, is former NFL player Mike O’Brien). Their talk was brief: He basically said he’d talk with Brad more. Okay. Later, Mike took Brad outside and showed him a statue representative of the “self-made man” and the two had a conversation about starting out with nothing and rising to the top. Brad confessed that he hadn’t gotten along well with his own dad, and Mike shared that he’d been the same way with his own dad. Brad shared that “happy to me means family” and asked if Chantal was really ready to settle down; he said that yes, she sure was.
In another room, a tearful Chantal sat with her mom and talked about her feelings. She shared that it was “weird” to have serious feelings for another man after her divorce (from musician Jason Vena, in case you live under two rocks). Back with the men, Mike gave Brad “a total blessing” to marry his daughter. Aw. Too sweet. And Brad didn’t even have to ask! Brad said that he felt “honored” to be accepted into the O’Brien family, and said he could truly see a future with her.
So hometown date number one is in the books, and went pretty fantastically well. Big points for Chantal.
Up next on “The Bachelor” 2011 week 8 was Brad’s hometown date with bachelorette number 2, Ashley, in Madawaska, Maine. Ashley awaited his arrival nervously, and hoped that the “chemistry” and “sparks” would return when they met again. The first place she took him was the restaurant where she had her first job in high school. Brad said that he could see himself living there, and Ashley was pleased. He then dorked it up by saying ‘si’ in response to a question from a server in French. Duh. The pair ordered one of Ashley’s favorite dishes, cheese and gravy covered french fries. He shared that he was “so confident in whatever it is that we have”, but chided her for using the term “disconnected” as often as she does. She lamented the time they’d spent reassuring one another, and he agreed completely.
Before heading to meet her family, they did some shopping together, including a stop at an honor-system driven farmer’s market. He was very happy to see her so happy and relaxed.
Finally, after the sun had set, a bubbly Ashley knocked on the door of her parents’ house and screeched as she greeted her mom. Brad was immediately comfortable. Sister Chrystie thanked Brad for choosing Ashley during a dinner toast, and they all sat down to eat. Brad corrected her immediately, noting that Ashley had to choose him in return. Mom Laurie noted that Brad “seems to adore” Ashley and asserted that if she’s not in love with Brad yet, “she’s getting there”. Dad said that it’s clear that he “likes” his daughter, but wanted to find out how deep the emotion went. To find out, he took Brad outside for a private chat.
Back inside, Ashley chatted with the rest of her family. She admitted to continued skepticism over his feelings for her, and when pressed, said that she needed to know more about Brad before she’d get engaged. Brad moved inside to talk with Chrystie about Ashley’s career goals, and Brad felt better about the situation after she pointed out that the timing was good. (And man, this was a totally frenetic date so it was hecka hard to keep up with the convos!)
Brad said that meeting her family “enhanced” his feelings for her, but he worried that he might wind up holding her back from achieving her dreams. He lamented having to leave, and was “so happy” to say that Ashley was the kind of girl he wanted to be with for the long haul. Ashley was also very excited post-date, and said she was pumped to see what the future might hold for them.
Two successful hometown dates down on “The Bachelor” 2011 week 8, and two to go. It seems, based on what we know, that the two most drama-less dates led off the show. Things should be more interesting and decidedly less lovey-dovey from here on out. Fasten your seatbelts.
Chico, California was Brad’s destination for date number three, this time with Shawntel. He looked forward to meeting her. And then… things got weird. Instead of meeting the bachelor in a beautiful lakefront spot as Ashley and Chantal had done, Shawntel opted to have Brad brought straight to the funeral home, which she admitted would be a make or break move. Brad was visibly uncomfortable as she took him on a tour of the facility and told him that she wanted to be cremated. He openly stressed to the camera that he wasn’t sure that he could handle constant conversations about death. Uh, no kidding. I was skeeved out just watching it. As she took him into the embalming room, Brad stood about 10 feet away from Shawntel until she suggested showing him how she does her work. He laid down on a table and stressed more. And more. Ugh, what a disaster. Brad was open with Shawntel and confessed that he doesn’t “handle death well”. Shawntel said that she enjoys helping survivors to feel better. Brad said that he was creeped out, but was “impressed” with her passion for the job. Shawntel was super impressed with Brad’s willingness to go into the funeral home and lie on the prep table, noting that it was the first time that had ever happened for her. (Gee, I wonder why.)
As they drove toward Shawntel’s parents’ home, she admitted that although she’d always planned to take over the family business, she felt herself warming to the possibility of moving to Austin. Shawntel greeted her mom Colleen with a squeal and a warm hug. They sat down to a meal with her mom, dad Rick, and sisters Destiny and Vanessa. Brad questioned Rick about his 40-year career, and dad was excited that Shawntel was ready to “step up to the plate” and take over the business. Shawntel very awkwardly explained that she was falling for Brad, and that the plan might change. Brad worried that Shawntel’s family doesn’t want her to leave Chico. Rut-roh, impasse?
Rick took Shawntel aside, noting that she’d already missed an important funeral during the taping of “The Bachelor” 2011. I felt badly as he made her feel guilty over wanting to explore other life options. Ouch, ouch, ouch. In the kitchen, Brad talked with Colleen, asserting that he knew family was important and that it wasn’t his plan to take their daughter away from them. Back with Shawntel and Rick, she again asserted that sometimes love changes things. When the four got together again, Rick gave Brad his blessing to marry if things progressed to that level. Brad recognized that it was a “pretty big deal” that he gave his seal of approval. Always a straight talker, she confessed that she wasn’t just falling in love, but that was “in love”. He gave her a blank look. More awkwardness. Methinks the memory of the funeral home visit was lurking in his mind.
Three down, one to go.
The final hometown date on “The Bachelor” 2011 week 8 belonged to Emily, in Charlotte, North Carolina. But this ‘date’ began in a different sort of way as Emily was reunited with her daughter Ricki for the first time since the show began. As Brad walked toward their meeting place in a beautiful, lush park, he said he was “rock solid” about his feelings for Emily, while Emily stressed about the implications of letting her daughter meet Brad. The little girl hid behind Emily’s legs (as ALL kids do!), and came out to say hi to Brad and accept a present — a butterfly kite. Ricki refused eye contact with Brad, and Emily stressed that he wouldn’t “get a good feel for who she is”. Okay, so it was a little awkward, but they made it more awkward by stressing over the awkwardness. The shell cracked a little when they flew the kite, and Brad said he would “cherish the opportunity to be a father figure to little Ricki”. Emily was very pleased with her decision to let him meet her. Well that’s a sigh of relief!
Later that evening, the trio pulled up to a big, beautiful house and went inside. Ten minutes in, Emily was pleased by how “comfortable” it all felt to her. Brad called it “the perfect image” of what his life could be as he, Emily and Ricki played a board game together. Ricki made a picture for him, and then Emily called him upstairs to say good night to her. Blah, those tricky TV producers made it look like a disaster date! Emily shared that she could see herself falling in love with Brad, and that she could just “eat him up” and wanted him to kiss her. In an odd twist, Brad said that he didn’t want to kiss her because Ricki was upstairs asleep. Emily was clearly bothered, saying it was “very sweet” but that she wanted him to be himself. As she rightly pointed out, if they were to wind up together, Ricki would always be “upstairs sleeping”. Oh good grief Brad, you made a great date incredibly, horribly awkward. Why the heck didn’t you kiss her, you moron? Emily shared with the camera that she was “really disappointed” but was trying hard to keep it to herself. But she got aggressive, saying that “Brad Womack is not getting out that door without kissing me first”, and they did indeed kiss. Emily called the day “perfect”, and said that she was “definitely ready for Brad to change my life forever”.
Emily’s date leaves me asking one question: What the heck is wrong with Brad? And of course, it’s rhetorical: It’s clear as crystal that despite his praise of Ricki and his claims that he would be happy to be a father figure to her, he was totally spooked by the idea of having a ready-made family. Poor Emily. You know Brad, you’ve been right all along: You don’t deserve her. But anyway, major digression.
With all four dates completed, Brad returned to New York and met with host Chris Harrison to review his experiences. He copped to having “very strong feelings for Chantal” and shared that he’d really enjoyed meeting her dad, Mike O’Brien. Brad said that he’d felt extremely comfortable with Ashley’s family and had been pleased to see her revert to her original form. He told Chris that he could relate to Shawntel’s passion for her job. Uh, yeah. Finally, he expressed gratitude over Emily allowing him to meet her daughter. He said that he “loved every second” of his time with her. Chris pointed out that Ashley was the only woman who hadn’t expressed her love for him during the hometown dates, and asked if that would affect his decision. Brad, in a round about way, said no, because it was his decision and he’d find out the truth of her feelings eventually anyway. Chris left Brad alone to make his decision.
Chris greeted the ladies, and introduced “The Bachelor” 2011 week 8 rose ceremony. Brad addressed the gals, telling them that he’s simply following his heart. And then he got down to business. The first rose went to Ashley. (Interesting move, given that, as was previously mentioned, she’s the only one who hadn’t expressed her feelings for him during the hometown dates.) Up next? Emily. Guess those cold, icy feet thawed a little between Charlotte and NYC. The final rose went to Chantal, leaving Shawntel as the odd woman out. Are we surprised? No. He was completely freaked out during their hometown date. She hugged the other girls good-bye and even blew them a kiss as she exited with Brad. He asked her to sit down outside, and told her that he didn’t “feel the way a man should feel when a woman tells him she loves him”. She replied that he’d “set the bar high” for her and that she appreciated the way he’d treated her all along. In contrast to Michelle’s silent departure, Shawntel wished him much happiness as she got into the car and drove off. She lamented “I definitely didn’t see this coming” and “he’s so perfect”. She hoped to meet someone else like him who would treat her “like a princess”. Aw, she’s a good gal. Next Bachelorette?
Back with the remaining three ladies, Brad revealed that they’d be headed to South Africa for the next leg of the show. Ah, the joys of international travel! Really gives you a good idea about what real life with the ladies would be like, huh? Meh.
So that’s it for “The Bachelor” 2011 week 8. When push came to shove, Brad probably made the right choice by giving Shawntel the boot. And I seriously hope the casting department will give her a gander when it’s time to choose the next Bachelorette. Nice girl. Weird career, yes, but nice! Tune in next week for more and find out who’ll advance to the final two.