As Emily's mom brings her breakfast in bed (really?), Chris Harrison heads to the dude's mansion to ramble on about the dates. One group date, two individual dates - no surprise.
Chris' solo date card says "love in a steady climb" so let's get ready for the first extreme date of the season. What starts as a nice stroll through Charlotte ends as dinner on top of a building and to get to dinner they have to throw on some harnesses and climb up. It's not even extreme, it looks stupid. It's just taking steps in the air, not against the building, and sorta pulling up. Emily freaks out when thunder and lightning starts, rightfully so. Shouldn't they take people down when poor weather comes? Nah, they'd rather catch a death on camera. They get to the top, the people below cheer, and Chris gives Emily a celebratory high five? At first I thought c'mon dude but you know it was a little early and also I love a good high five. Over dinner, Emily admits if she saw him at a bar she wouldn't have the balls to approach him. Chris says he'd definitely approach her eventhough he's sort of a timid guy and then they play porn background music? WTF is up with this date? Chris' relationship background brings up that he is 25 and Emily's like "Whoa, red flag." Yeah, being one year younger is such a red flag because 25 year olds never have kids. Chris defends his cause and that he's here for Emily and all the other stuff (family). Emily's always date older dudes but Chris is mature and she digs it, so she gives him a rose. The date continues to another in-town concert with some country artist I don't know (Luke Bryan) and awkward dancing in front of a crowd. Chris wants to be respectful so he asks Emily if he can kiss her at the end of the song, she urges him to try, and he gets the smooch. The crowd woooos like a Saved by the Bell studio audience.
Second date is a big ol' group date with the teaser "let's play." Emily and her men get together in a park to toss a football, Tommy Wiseau style, and have a few laughs. Emily disappears for a minute and all her girlfriends are chillin' at the park and will get to meet all the guys and judge them. Emily head's back and brings back her flock of dudes ("are we getting manicures?" says one sexist guy) and they're like oh shit soccer moms hate my guts. Guess who the ladies like? Single dads and dudes who have experience dating single moms. Best question, "So what's the deal with the guy with the egg?" Yes, he brought it to the freakin' park and ugh, the Party MC shitty dances more. I want to be besties with Emily's friend Wendy who asks absurd questions and makes them strip. But the fun doesn't end with soccer moms: bring in a convoy of children!! The guys get mobbed by a bunch of kids for the weekly Emily-teaches-you-what-real-life-is-like date. Won't lie, a fun idea for a date to let kids and guys who are overgrown kids wreaking havoc on a playground. Ryan makes the mistake of saying Emily shouldn't get fat by being lazy and that if it happened he'd love her but probably not love on her. Great work, doofus.
With the playground interrogation over, Emily and the guys have a night date at a club called Butter. Emily takes her friends advice and decides to make sure to get to know Sean and Doug better. Sean has no dad experience but knows he's been raised right to be a good dad, and Emily wants to know more about Doug than his single dad status (he was a foster kid). Tony is bummin' because he misses his son so much, especially after playing with rando kids that day. Emily and single dad Doug both make attempts to pep Tony up and a phone call home doesn't help matters. Emily sets Tony free because she doesn't want to keep him if he isn't definitely the one. Sorry this section of the date is lacking in snark; Tony's depression is harshin' the snarkage. The downer night ends on the upbeat note of giving Sean the rose.
Emily and Arie go to the greatest theme park in the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee region: Dollywood!!! Guys, I loved Dollywood when I went as a kid; we'd go to Pigeon Forge and pan for gold, ride Go Karts, shop at the Peace Frogs store... now I want to go back. Of course, I didn't get there via private plane so slightly different. They stroll hand-in-hand around the park, sipping fresh lemonades, and taking Emily on her first rollercoaster. I'm dying of theme park jealously. Emily and Arie head inside a theater where there's two mics and a piece of paper telling them to write a love song, when we see a thin pair of legs and glittery boots walking out. "Well hello there," says DOLLY FUCKING PARTON. Emily loses her shit at the sight of her idol. Emily's reaction at seeing Dolly Parton in person is the most genuine, real moment this show has ever produced. Emily calls this the best day of her life, as she and Arie smile and dance. Even better: Emily gets alone girltalk time with Dolly. Can we address how impressive it is that Dolly strums a guitar with those long acrylic nails? Super impressive, guys. Also, judging by the way Emily is smiling at Dolly I think we might have a real twist ending at the end of the season. Dolly, will you accept this rose?
After being swept off her feet by Dolly, Arie gets his groove back at a private barn dinner. They talk about Arie's relationship with his ex's kids, how close it was and it was hard to leave them. Talk turns to Emily and Brad's failed relationship which seems to be that Brad wasn't necessarily ready for marriage and fatherhood. Arie believes he's ready. Arie wonders if his busy race car schedule would impact their relationship and Emily embraces it, but I think the message is it's all cool as long as you don't go bangin' on the road. Emily gives Arie the rose after messing with him, and a quick kiss. They finish the night with a romantic carousel ride in the boring seats making out and not on the awesome horses. Emily is smitten because Arie reminds her of Ricki's dad. Ok prediction time: Arie is Emily's end pick. No spoilers, I haven't read Reality Steve. I just feel like this is the pick.
Emily gets all glammed up for the cocktail party and rose ceremony in her sparkly dress and probably too much perfume since she let the kid spray her. First to get Emily time is Heli-Kalon, who Emily laughably calls genuine when he is wearing fake hipster glasses. Heli-Kalon doesn't like sharing because he's spoiled. He also says he's coming to terms with the idea of his first kid not being his own, then gets mad at her for not letting him finish. Mind you, moments before he cut off every time Emily spoke. Emily wonders if there's more to him and by Emily I mean producers who want the season dick around. Egg guy Travis takes the advice of Emily's friends and gets rid of Shellie the egg. Shellie is smashed on the ground; America weeps. The guys give a final toast and pour a little out for Shellie. It's a beautiful moment. Emily and some dude Alexandro have a terrible conversation where he honestly talks about Emily and Ricki being a compromise. Yiiiiiikes. Emily gives him the boot right away and says he's leaving like the gypsy king. And he's confused he got cut? Did someone give this guy drugs in the house or something? Emily wants to run away and takes a moment to chill out with Arie and kiss a bunch. Again guys, pack your fucking bags because Arie has this shit on lock. Meathead Ryan is pissed. Sean swoops in to be the other kissed guy at the cocktail partying, helping Emily's shit night turn around, giving a beautiful little speech about wanting to be Ricki's father regardless of blood.
Rose ceremony timeeeee. With two dudes already dumped, I don't know how many else Emily will send to cry outside the mansion in the wee hours of the morning. Emily gives her final rose to some dude Nate we've never seen but it doesn't matter because she eliminates the horrible dancing Party MC. Heli-Kalon smiles, defeating his mortal enemy Stevie. Only one awkward dancer can be on a season Stevie, and that is Emily.
Next week: fuck North Carolina, we're heading to Bermuda.