No one ever said it would be easy. After nine intense weeks of globetrotting, hand-holding and Tierra-bashing, Sean Lowe's journey on The Bachelor is finally nearing its very emotional end. On Monday night's episode, the Dallas native was forced to make a tough decision -- yes, the "toughest decision he's had to make so far" -- and whittle his final three ladies down to two.

The week kicks off with Sean looking pensive in various scenes throughout Krabi, Thailand. The studly bachelor stands atop a boat, sits thoughtfully by a fountain and even swings in a hammock as he contemplates his (un)enviable position, having to figure out which of the three women -- Catherine, Lindsay, or AshLee -- he feels the most connected to.

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The problem, he muses in voiceover, isn't that he hasn't clicked with anyone on the show, it's that he's found a connection with two too many.

And following last week's hometown dates, Sean knows that there's even more at stake now, so he'll need to tread carefully going into these final outings with his top three women. After one final lonely dip in the hotel pool, Sean is ready to face his first finalist: Lindsay.

The instant Sean reconnects with Lindsay, the pair can hardly keep their hands off each other, stealing kisses and holding hands and acting like a pair of "high school sweethearts," as Sean puts it. The couple hops into a Samlor -- what looks like a moped with a carriage attached to its side -- and head to a local market, where prankster Sean can't resist testing Lindsay's limits.

Sean dares Lindsay to eat first a larvae, then a grasshopper -- and the substitute teacher amazingly obliges.

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"Oh my God, I ate a bug. That was out of control," the 24-year-old Army brat exclaims afterward. Tricks complete, Sean decides to take his good-sport gal pal down to a monkey beach to spend some time exchanging googly eyes and feeding the monkeys.

At dinner that night, the pair nestle in for their meal amongst several huge Thai floats and candles embedded in flowers. The mood is there, the lighting is there -- now all Lindsay has to do is tell Sean that she loves him. But right as she's about to, music starts up and a dozen Thai dancers descend upon the lovers. Has the moment passed?

Kind of. Sean later hands the North Carolina native the fantasy suite card, and she excitedly agrees to a "night of no distractions, no interruptions." And there, awkwardly trying to put off saying the inevitable until the cameras leave, Lindsay confesses her love.

"I love hearing you say that," Sean manages.

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The next day, Sean takes earnest AshLee out for their date, which involves plenty of surprises for the control-loving gal. The pair travel by boat to a calm part of the water, where Sean reveals that they'll be spending some time on a private beach of their own -- one that can only be accessed by swimming through a dark cave. 

"I don't do caves," AshLee deadpans during confessional. But the metaphorical risk taking overwhelms the nervous bachelorette, and she follows Sean into the dark cave, where they curse and bump into walls and eventually find their way to the other side. 

The reward? Close shots of lizards and a beautiful beach where the pair smile at each other. A lot.

That evening, the couple manage to get in a few bites as they chat over dinner, but AshLee has something heavy hanging on her mind: the overnight date.

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"The idea of spending the night together, I don't take that lightly," she says gingerly during her confessional. "I'm not willing to put myself out there lightly." Well, good! Because neither is Sean, who insists that he just wants to stay up and talk all night.

AshLee is won over and talk they do -- with AshLee saying two things of note: "I believe my ring finger is 6.5" and "Sean's my soulmate." Looks like someone's intensely head over heels!

Sean's last date in Thailand is with free-spirited Catherine, who is a ball of energy as she runs up and hugs Sean from behind when they meet. The bachelor can't stop smiling at the sight of her, and the pair keep things standard Bachelor for their date, with plenty of navel-gazing on a boat and the eventual cannonball (in this case, backflip!) into the water.

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"I love your weirdness," Sean says at one point. The pair talk about kids and about Catherine's past. At dinner that night, however, the subject turns to their potential future together, and Catherine admits that the entire process has been a difficult one because she hadn't expected to fall for someone so quickly.

The Seattle native is also a bit nervous about the next part of the night -- the fantasy suite -- and admits to Sean that the thought of it "freaked me out, honestly."

"I want to be seen as a lady, not somebody who's like that," she clarifies. But Sean convinces her that whatever vulgar thing she's thinking is not his intention at all. And so they retreat to the suite, presumably to also stay up all night talking.

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"It's crazy. We're like, in a relationship," Catherine says with a giggle as they smooch in the pool.

The only problem for Sean, obviously, is that he's in three relationships. The next day, after a chat with a suit jacket-less Chris Harrison and a few moments of staring at the three women's pictures one last time, Sean has his mind made up.

"I'm worried she won't be okay once this is over," he says in voiceover as he puts on his best pensive face to address the three ladies at the rose ceremony. And, as it turns out, "she" doesn't seem like she will be, at least for a while.

At the ceremony, Sean calls up first Lindsay and then, after an excruciating pause, Catherine. AshLee doesn't bother to say goodbye to the other two as she stalks past Sean toward the exit minivan. Sean chases her down, but there are hardly any words to describe the fury in AshLee's eyes.

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Her last words to him: "All right," as she pushes him out of the way and boards the van. A devastated Sean sits with his head in his hands as the car drives away.

"This wasn't a silly game to me," AshLee says in her final confessional. "This wasn't about a joyride. And about laughter and joking and having fun … it's hard to say goodbye to Sean because I let him in and I loved him. I just feel real heavy in my heart."

This article originally appeared on The Bachelor Episode 9 Recap: Sean Lowe Picks His Final Two Women in Thailand After Overnight Dates