It’s been a long road, and the end is in sight for Brad and three lucky ladies. After an incredible week of hometowns and a very emotional rose ceremony, Brad told the women about our next stop, the beautiful country of South Africa, home of the 2010 World Cup (as a soccer fan, this is a huge deal). Emily, Ashley, and Chantal were extremely excited. Every week they tried to guess where we were going next, and none of them ever guessed that Brad would take them halfway around the world. We’ve traveled all over the world, but there are very few places that take longer to get to than South Africa. But after over 20 hours in the air, we arrived at Kruger Mpumpalanga International Airport, and let me tell you, from the moment we landed, it was worth every second. Lush rolling hills, friendly people, and the promise of the most anticipated dates of every season of The Bachelor, the overnight dates.
Yes, it’s that time again, where Brad will have to hand these women an envelope with an all-too-familiar message. But before we go any further, I want to address a question that a lot of people have asked me: Yes, for the most part, people know what’s in the envelope and are not surprised about the fantasy suite, but that doesn’t take away from the nerves, excitement, and anticipation of finally being able to be alone with someone after weeks of dating. All day, they have to consider whether or not they’re ready to take that next step, and when the envelope arrives, it’s really a telling moment.
Now, on to the dates. All of our dates took place in or around Kruger Park, which is one of the largest game reserves in the world. When I say large, I mean massive. They told me it’s roughly the size of Israel. It’s the very definition of epic and it’s probably the best place to see Africa’s “Big Five.” On a great safari, you’ll see all of them – lions, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, and leopards.
Chantal got the first date, and pretty quickly they saw four of the big five. Only the leopard eluded them. But those weren’t the only animals that they saw. The hippo that was joining them for lunch was close enough to charge, but they didn’t know how dangerous hippos are until after lunch. Of course, we had guides nearby to make sure everyone was safe, but that hippo was not kidding around. During lunch, the animal hi-jinks continued, as Brad tricked Chantal into eating worms. It looked a lot like beef jerky and Brad didn’t let Chantal think anything different until after, when he explained worms are a local delicacy. This didn’t sit very well with Chantal and I don’t recommend any man tricking his date into eating worms. Once the fantasy suite card arrived, they got to see one of our coolest locations ever. The tree house is unbelievable. It’s literally out in the middle of nowhere and has a complete 360 degree view of the African bush. Needless to say, there were huge flying beetles dive-bombing the canopy and as we drove away for the night, we could hear the loud growling of lions. We just hoped Brad and Chantal would make it through to the morning. I talked to Brad the next day and he told me it was one of the most amazing and scariest experiences of his life.
As soon as Emily found out she was going to South Africa, she said that one of her lifelong dreams was to ride an elephant. Brad didn’t know this, but he picked the elephant riding date especially for her. I think a big part of that had to do with Brad thinking what a cool story this would be for little Ricki. As soon as Brad and Emily got on top of Tembo, they immediately started talking about her hometown date. He told her how much it meant to him to meet Ricki, and Emily just wished that Ricki could have been with them both in Africa. We took some pictures so Emily could take them home to share the experience. The elephants were really well cared for, but they are still wild animals. Our crew had to hide in bushes all over the trail to make sure that none of the elephants got spooked. The watering hole where the elephants stopped and played was a real highlight. It was amazing to see such big animals playing like little kids. Emily and Brad spent a long time watching them. Although at one point the elephants took their play to the next level; you’ll see what I’m talking about next week on the Women Tell All special! Let’s just say I may have given the fantasy suite card to the wrong couple.
The dinner location for Emily’s date was spectacular. Things were going really smoothly all day, but to be honest, no one knew if Emily was going to accept the fantasy suite card. After all, she has a daughter at home, and she always put her daughter first. That said, she made it clear that she just wanted time to spend with Brad, especially if she was going to move forward in the relationship. Just to make things awkward, when Emily opened the envelope, the key fell to the ground, slipped through the cracks of the floorboards, and disappeared into the water below. Luckily, we had a spare.
The final date of the week went to Ashley. Who would have thought that Ashley would be afraid of helicopters? This is The Bachelor! She was pretty quick to come around and hop in, but this helicopter ride was a little different. Brad’s side of the chopper didn’t have a door, so he was just about hanging on the outside. When they landed at God’s Window in Nelspruit, the name spoke for itself. Views like this just don’t exist anywhere else. During the aerial tour of the bush, they even got to see something really rare: a pack of wild horses running through a clearing. While this was going on, back at base camp, an angry hyena tore through one of our coolers with its teeth and drank a lot of our water. Of course, we held off on dinner for Brad and Ashley for a while until we were sure the coast was clear. Maybe this was a sign, as this was a very emotional date for Brad and Ashley, and I think their up-and-down relationship was starting to wear on Brad. It’s a little close to the end to keep “retracting,” to use Ashley’s words. (On a side note, as we drove in for the rose ceremony, we finally did see a leopard up in a tree. Check that one off, and the “Big Five” was complete.)
It was good to be back in the deliberation chair with Brad. We’d talked every step of the way, but now, I could see that Brad was really starting to feel the pressure of his decisions. He’s been making bold decisions this whole way and now he felt like he had to make another one. I really respect Brad for pulling Ashley aside and trying to make sure he was doing the right thing by letting her go – it was a tough and surprising moment for everyone.
I have so much more to say about Ashley, her exit and her relationship with Brad, but I’m going to hold off until next week. Next Monday night, all of your favorite bachelorettes from this season will be back to talk about everything you did see and some things you didn’t on The Women Tell All. This turned out to be one of the most surprisingly aggressive and emotional Tell All specials I’ve ever hosted. I can’t begin to tell you how blown away you’ll be by Michelle. It’s a special you won’t want to miss! As always, you can find much more about the show on abc.com/bachelor, and be sure to follow us at @Thebachelortv and @chrisbharrison on Twitter. Have a great week and I hope to see you all at the Tell All next Monday night!
More on The Bachelor from EW:
The Bachelor episode 9 recap: Get out of Africa
And check out Brad’s Bachelor blog on people.com