For a week, the celeb gossip universe has been obsessed with The Bachelor's "After The Final Rose" special, which some perceived as pure public humiliation.
While the show's season finale and the reunion special were shown back-to-back, six weeks of real time had elapsed between the finale, when Jason Mesnick chose Melissa Rycroft as his bride, and the special, during which he announced that he had changed his mind and professed feelings instead for runner-up Molly Malaney.
As Rycroft fought back tears, and as Mesnick turned to Malaney, many fans became enraged, decrying Mesnick as a "jackass," "playboy" and "bastard."
This particular chapter of reality TV struck some as a little too real.
Yet The Bachelor creator and executive producer Mike Fleiss says the March 2 spectacle reflected not the worst, but the very best of reality TV.
"I'm not really surprised by this, it's just a sign that the show is working," he told Time magazine. "That's really your job, to create television that the whole country will sit down at one time and watch together."
"Honestly, I really don't see the difference between [Jason Mesnick] dumping Molly in New Zealand and then dumping Melissa [weeks later] in Glendale."
Some say the difference is that Malaney knew there was a chance she could get kicked off the show during the competition, while Rycroft's departure occurred long after she had already been picked as the winner and gotten engaged.
But Fleiss insists Mesnick's actions came as no shock to Melissa.
In the weeks leading up to the special, Fleiss said he started to hear word from other producers on the show that Rycroft and Mesnick were not getting along.
Two weeks before the reunion, Fleiss heard Mesnick was still interested in Molly Malaney - whom Fleiss had approached about starring in The Bachelorette (third-place finisher Jillian Harris would eventually be tapped for that role).
All of of which set the stage for the most unpredictable "After the Final Rose" event in The Bachelor history - as host Chris Harrison accurately hyped it.Opting to film the show without a live audience for secrecy reasons, and unsure of how Malaney would respond to Mesnick's affections, Fleiss said there was plenty of uncertainty when cameras rolled - just not when it came to Rycroft.
"She knew they were essentially finished before walking out on stage," Fleiss said of Rycroft, who debuted last night on Dancing with the Stars. "But doing it for real, making it official and handing back the ring caused real emotions."
In various interviews, as well as in e-mails between Jason and Melissa that were leaked to the press last week, The Bachelor star blamed the producers for some of the emotional fallout surrounding his choice of Molly Malaney.
Specifically, Mesnick claimed numerous times he was obligated to dump Rycroft in front of the cameras. But Fleiss says that's only half the story:
"We didn't want Jason to necessarily spill the beans prior to taping, to keep it as real as possible. But he's a good guy and didn't conceal anything - he let her know before that show that he didn't think this was going to work."
Fleiss seems to be basking in the buzz of the past week, but he also claims the emotional outcry that's accompanied this season's Bachelor denouement is a sign of the passion this new wave of reality TV contestants is bringing to the set.
Before, he says, it was nearly impossible to recruit plausible contestants, or even hosts, to reality TV projects. But the genre has grown increasingly mainstream, and producers have been able to find people who are not just exhibitionists.
And that, he says, is the true impact of Jason Mesnick.
"Believe me, I've seen Bachelor couples stay together who really didn't care about each other," he said. "Some of them feel an obligation to the show to try to be a couple, since we spent literally millions of dollars as their matchmakers."
But rather than playing to the expectations of producers, or viewers, says Fleiss, Mesnick dared to reveal his true emotions, and to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that love is not always a programmable enterprise.
"More than any other Bachelor in history, he was committed to love and to truly following his heart even though he knew he was going to have to go through hell to do it," Fleiss said. "It's really a romantic notion, that he sacrificed chunks of his popularity to at least try to be with the woman he loved."
Will Jason and Molly get married?