Tonight, Emily Maynard’s journey on The Bachelorette continues (ABC, 8 p.m. ET) with an episode that includes guest appearances by country singer Luke Bryan and Dolly Parton. Emily surprises race car driver Arie with a flight to Dollywood, which is open to just the two of them, and Parton surprises Maynard with a private concert debuting a song she penned for her. “So I got to dance while Dolly Parton is singing a song she wrote just for me. I mean, when did this become my life?” Maynard tells EW. ”One of my favorite moments of my whole life, not just of being the Bachelorette, was meeting Dolly Parton. I can’t even put into words how excited I was. And I had no words when I met her. I couldn’t get away fast enough. I just froze. I was so embarrassed.”
The week’s other one-on-one date goes to Chris, who scales a building with Maynard and is treated to a show by Bryan, who sings his sexy summer anthem “Drunk On You.” “I’m from West Virginia, I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, I love country music,” Maynard says.
Is it a deal breaker if a man doesn’t? “I wouldn’t not fall in love with a guy just because he doesn’t love country music, because he’ll learn to love it if he’s gonna learn to love me,” she says, laughing.
This evening’s group date is also one of Maynard’s favorites: Her friends get to meet the guys, grill them, and see if they’re really as good with kids as they say they are. Things will get tense at the cocktail party when some of the men get honest about how they view being a stepfather. In the promo, Alessandro refers to it as a “compromise.” In the preview for the season, we saw that later on, someone will refer to Maynard’s six-year-old daughter, Ricki, as “baggage,” and Emily tells him to get the “f— out.” “It’s not one of my prouder moments, for sure,” Maynard says, “but I would go back and do it again. If my daughter is luggage, she is the finest luggage money can buy…. Anyone who has kids knows what it’s like when anyone crosses one of your children. The mama bear inside you just comes out.”
Answers to a few burning questions:
• Yes, Maynard wanted men to tell her when they thought someone was fooling her. “I like to think that I’m a pretty good judge of character, but I don’t get to see what’s going on in the house, and some of the guys are completely different in the house than they were with me,” she says. “So I was really grateful for any information the guys wanted to give me beyond just their opinion. I don’t really care if they don’t like what a guy wears, but solid things that would affect my life, I was really grateful that the guys felt comfortable enough with me and cared enough about me to want to tell me.”
• No, she doesn’t know why so many men cry this season. She only found out watching the ‘This season on The Bachelorette promo’ because they did it in their confessionals away from her. ”I watch the teasers and episodes along with everyone else, so I had no idea that so many of the guys cried,” she says. “I’m interested to see why they’re crying, too.”
• Yes, she cried meeting Kermit and Miss Piggy. “I remember walking into Miss Piggy’s dressing room and standing there between her and Kermit the Frog and tears coming out of my eyes and not being able to control it. The more I told myself, ‘Stop crying,’ the harder I wanted to cry,” she says. “I’m not even a big crier, but it was just one of those moments when I thought, how in the world did I get here and what did I do to deserve this?”
• No, Ricki didn’t meet the guys on that group date. “That would be way too early. But I would be the worse mom ever if I didn’t bring her to meet Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. She had no idea what was going on,” she says. “She just hopefully thinks I’m the coolest mom ever for being onstage with Kermit.”