Emily makes some choice cuts in Croatia -- though one guy nearly talks himself back into the running for a rose.

By Kristen Baldwin
June 19, 2012 at 05:03 AM EDT
ABC
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Maybe it’s just me, rose lovers, but it seems like Emily’s “journey” is going by remarkably fast. Only seven guys remain as the Bachelorette’s love ship docks in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where the stairs are steep and the production assistants are too cool to carry Emily’s luggage. Of course, it’s also “the perfect place to fall in love,” as Jef points out. (At this rate, the only locations left on the planet that won’t earn that title will be Siberia and the Mall of America.)

Knock knock knock! It’s a Bachelorette at the door! Emily greets the guys at their hotel and hand-delivers the date card to Travis. I’m going to call it right now: Mississippi Boy is not getting a rose. Place your bets, everyone! Aaand let’s go to the videotape:

Having put on his best pink plaid shirt for the occasion, Travis meets Emily for a walking tour of the Old City of Dubrovnik, where he buys some kind of cross-shaped knick-knack and attempts to stand on the “Balancing Stone,” a magical rock jutting out of a building that grants luck in love to those who stand on it and undress. Unfortunately for Emily, Travis stays clothed. “I’m really bummed out Travis didn’t take his shirt off,” sighs the Bachelorette. “I’ve been wondering, ‘What’s underneath that shirt?'” A good ol’ country boy, that’s what! But will he ever be more than a friend to Emily? Back at the hotel, the guys are debating this very question. “I don’t think there’s anything romantic there,” declares Sean. Ryan, who has creatively manscaped some negative space into his facial  hair, agrees: “I see the woman he’s with having kind of a funky, crazy personality too.”

Or, you know, a personality. (I kid! I kid! Emily has about 14 times the personality of your average Bachelorette.) Anyhow, dinner is a candlelit, private-dining-in-an-ancient-stone-courtyard affair, and Emily is certain that if sparks are ever going to fly between her and Travis, it’ll be now. She’s impressed by Travis’ assessment of why his previous engagement broke up (“I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I don’t think she did anything wrong… At the end, it just wasn’t right”), and shocked that he hasn’t dated in the two years since it happened. You can tell that Emily really wants to feel something, but the closest they get to romance at dinner is a friendly hug. And sure enough, when it comes time to deal with the rose, Emily sadly tells Travis there’s no motion in their ocean: “I don’t know if we have that romance. You know what I mean?… I can’t give you the rose tonight, I’m sorry.” The poor guy doesn’t even get the courtesy of a Reject Minivan; instead he’s condemned to walk alone on the gloomy streets of Dubrovnik, where he tosses his umbrella aside dramatically and does his crying in the rain. Perhaps he’ll stroll all the way back to Bachelor Pad — there is one slot left, you know.

The next day, Emily meets her group date crowd — Arie, Sean, Jef, Doug, and Chris — and treats them to a little product placement: A screening of Pixar’s Brave. With that bit of business out of the way, the guys learn what their date is really about: competing in “The Highland Games”! This requires them to strip down in the lobby of the movie theater and change into kilts and tight sleeveless t-shirts [insert gratuitous close-ups of boxer-briefs, bare pecs, and biceps here]. After sashaying htrough the town square, the men mount donkeys and ride to the playing field. “In Croatia it is customary for men to ride donkeys into battle,” explains Emily, citing the Encyclopedia of Things Team Bachelorette Made Up to Compound Contestant Humiliation.

NEXT: “He shaves his legs and plucks his finger hairs and stuff”

The games begin with archery (all of them hit the target except for Chris, whose arched-back-butt-out stance does not give him much leverage), and then moves on to the caber toss, which involves throwing a giant log with enough force to flip it. All of the guys except for Jef and Chris manage to flip the log (that sounds dirtier than it should), but Sean raises the emasculation bar the highest by tossing the timber so hard, it breaks. “I’m not gonna lie — it was impressive,” confesses Emily, wide-eyed. “Sean looked friggin’ hot.” The final event is some kind of seated tug-of-war/shoulder dislocation game, and once again Chris — who foolishly chose Doug to be his tug-of-war opponent — gets his ass handed to him. But here’s a twist: She LOVES it. Because he was so gung ho throughout the games even as he lost every event, Doug wins the coveted “Bravest Guy” mug — and some much-needed alone time with Emily.

The smooches continue at the post-date drink-up: first Emily and Sean exchange pecks, and then Arie — who’s still apologizing about how “shooken up” Emily was by “the whole Kalon thing” —  presses the Bachelorette against a wall and proceeds to eat her face. Jef goes for a more intellectual approach, telling Emily, “You give me the type of feeling that people write novels about,” before going at her for his second kiss of this “journey.” But it seems no lips can compare to Chris’ soft heart. “You are one of the kindest, sweetest, most handsome men I have ever met,” Emily tells him, handing over the rose.

The guys are disappointed, but it’s nothing compared to the letdown they feel the next day, as Ryan engages in an elaborate beautification ritual before his second one-on-one date with Emily. “Ryan is kind of a jackass,” says Chris. “It takes the guy three hours to get ready. He shaves his legs and plucks his finger hairs and stuff. It’s weird.” That is weird, but not as weird as the awkward “You’re the pearl” exchange Ryan has with Emily in the living room, as the guys try so hard to avoid eye contact with each other they practically pull a muscle. Once the date begins, Ryan is doing his half bad-boy, half Prince Charming act, telling Emily what a safe driver he is (indeed, every other car on the road passes him, and one old lady practically flips him off), while cheekily insisting that he’s “trouble.” The dual dynamic continues during their picnic lunch, when Ryan tells Emily, “I feel like God makes a promise to us to give us great things in our life. You’d be a pretty good promise.” Oh, if only he had stopped there, but he doesn’t: “You’re like a trophy wife.”  While Emily bristles at Ryan’s second use of that term (“Trophies don’t talk back,” she chides), she seems satisfied with his explanation — “That’s what you want to put out in front of you, saying this is the very best” — and ultimately can’t decide how she feels about the former pro footballer: “I go back and forth hourly.”

NEXT: Oh crap — Ryan’s penned another masterpiece

Emily’s pendulum seems to be swinging towards “He’s dreamy” territory during dinner just look how the gold-gowned Bacheorette’s eyes crinkle when he teases her about dressing like a trophy!  But it jerks back to the “What an a-hole” zone as soon as Ryan pulls out another narcissistic missive: “12 Things I Want in a Woman.” As he lists them off (loyal, logical, encouraging, faithful, nurturing, confident, magnetic, loves laughter, assertive, unselfish, beautiful…), you can practically see an army of tiny construction workers putting a wall up between Emily and Ryan. But rather than shrink from the moment, Emily confronts it. “Can I be honest with you? Sometimes I feel like when I’m around you I find myself feeling the need to be perfect all the time,” she begins, speaking slowly so he’ll understand. “I don’t want to be someone’s mold — I don’t want to be married because I fit into someone’s mold.” Ryan’s rebuttal is less than encouraging (“That is a fair statement,” he murmurs), but it’s what he doesn’t say that does him in. “On the top of my list would be a loving family, not a perfect one — that would be the top of my list, and it wasn’t on yours,” Emily tells him. “I don’t know if what we want out of a relationship is the same… That is why I can’t give you the rose tonight.”

Not surprisingly, Ryan’s confidence is not shooken, and he assertively rejects Emily’s rejection. “I’m very shocked,” he tells Emily. “I can’t help but feel like you’re making the wrong choice.” Sensing her weakness, Ryan presses ahead, and the Bachelorette does not make things any easier on herself as she chums the water with her uncertainty. “I don’t know, and this is the first time that I haven’t known for sure.” Eventually, though, his pressure forces Emily to articulate her concerns for the both of them. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t know if I would be the one to make you happy — and that is something that nobody wants to feel going into a relationship.” Translation: Take your reverse sideburns back to America, buddy! With a bitter goodbye hug — “You’re making. The wrong. Choice,” he breathes into her ear — Ryan climbs into the Reject Taxi and immediately begins warning Team Bachelor not to give him the villain edit. “One thing I definitely hope in all of this is that I am portrayed as who I really am,” he says. “For your guys who cut this up, do a good job portraying exactly who I am and not, you know, an arrogant ass.” I’m not sure those two things are mutually exclusive, sir. Meanwhile, a PA retrieves Ryan’s suitcase from the hotel, while the guys hug and high-five in celebration.

Once she gets back to the hotel, Emily doesn’t even get a chance to change out of her dress before Arie comes knocking at her door. While he purports to be there to comfort Emily after her tough date — “I knew that was probably hard for her to let [Ryan] go home” — he clearly just wants to make sure he still has a competitive edge. Survey says: yes! So much so that Emily gives him Ryan’s unused rose, thereby removing one-fifth of the mystery from the upcoming rose ceremony.

NEXT: Harrison to the rescue!

In fact, Emily seems to eliminate all of the suspense from the rose ceremony before the cocktail party even gets going: “I think that Doug and John are on the bubble for me tonight, and if I had to say who I think I’m sending home tonight, I would probably say John.” But she has no idea what kind of emotional fireworks J-Wolf has planned for their one-on-one time. In order to prove that he can “open up,” as they say, John pulls his grandparents’ funeral cards out of his wallet, and proceeds to get teary-eyed about their love story and the way his grandpa inspired him.  “I’m just really grateful that you felt like I’m somebody you’d want to share this with,” a misty-eyed Emily tells him. Okay, Doug — you’re up! The Bachelorette is hoping that Doug will be ready to make a move at last — “Scooch on in here!” she teases, snuggling up to Doug on the couch and placing his arm around her — but the single dad is choking, hard. “You know, that’s just the way I… People ask me that, like… I don’t know. Um…,” sputters Humble Doug in answer to a question from Emily. “At the end of the day, who should you end up with? Probably me.” I’m guessing this guy was not a star debater in high school.

So what does this all mean for the rose ceremony? First, the obvious news: Sean, Jef, and Arie get roses, leaving Doug and John sweating in the oppressive heat-aura of 284 candles. You’re gonna have to tough it out a little longer, guys, because Emily just made a break for it — and she’s still clutching the final rose! J-Wolf heaves a heavy sigh and rolls his eyes. “I love rose ceremonies,” he mutters. “Love them.” (What a coincidence — me too!) Emily heads out back to confer with Harrison, who maintains his ever-present equanimity. “I told you before, there are no rules here,” he says, quietly taking the final rose from Emily’s hand and sending her back to the guys. OMG WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Are Doug and John going home? They sure think so… until Harrison walks in with a tray carrying two roses.  Bubble boys for the win!!

Quite an eventful week, rose lovers. We said goodbye to Ryan, finally got to see an emotion from John, and watched an infomercial for Disney Pixar’s Brave. And next week promises to be even juicier, thanks to “shocking” “revelation” about Arie’s “secret” “past” with a Team Bachelorette producer! (I’ll reserve judgment until next week, at which time I plan to issue a lot of judgment.) Now that tonight’s episode is over, I want to hear your thoughts — were you surprised Ryan went home? Did John’s grandparental break-down really put him in the running, or is the race still Arie and Sean’s to lose? And will you see Brave? Post your comments now! Then be sure to head over to PopWatch for Chris Harrison’s exclusive blog. Now mount your donkey and let’s talk Bachelorette!

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Chris Harrison hosts the romantic reality competition series in which one single woman searches for her future husband amid a sea of studs. Will you accept this rose?
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