"You've got to be joking!"
This is how The Bachelor host-pimp Chris Harrison says he reacted when Jason Mesnick told him that he changed his mind and wanted to end things with the winner, Melissa Rycroft, and reconcile with runner-up Molly Malaney.
The shocking "After the Final Rose" special, in which Jason dumped Melissa for Molly, sparked controversy, outrage, big ratings and unanswered questions.
Did the producers know? Did they orchestrate the whole thing?
Both Harrison and The Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss spoke out about it in the aftermath, and the short version is that Jason legitimately did change his mind (for reasons still unknown), but the public exchange was a total ratings stunt.
A contemplative Jason Mesnick ponders ruining Melissa Rycroft's life.
Here are some quotes from The Bachelor powers that be ...
They were just as shocked as we were: "When we left New Zealand, we were high-fiving, thinking this is great, 'People are going to love this guy and love the story,'" Chris Harrison recalls. "I talked to Jason when we got back, and things were going great. And then the next thing I hear, the producers are saying, 'He wants another shot with Molly.' And I just said, 'You've got to be kidding me!' We were all blown away."
Not their idea: "People think we wanted to pull this stunt, but we didn't!" Harrison says. "This isn't good for us. I mean, the ratings were insane and all that, but we would have much rather had him end up with Melissa and have them get married. In the long run, that's a better story for us and for the fans."
Seriously, not their idea: “It was [Jason's] choice in New Zealand who he proposed to,” says Fleiss. “But after the show wrapped, he was not in love with Melissa anymore and instead he was in love with Molly and needed to make a change.”They wanted to show the resolution: "We had a really big dilemma when this happened," Harrison admits. "It wasn't like a normal deal where, after the show airs, the couple doesn't work out and they just go on their way. It was right when the show started airing; he wants to make this switch to the girl he just broke up with. So what do you do? You can't just show him proposing to Melissa and then have People magazine reporting that he's dating Molly. We had to put something together. I don't know if it turned out right or wrong. That will be debated for a long time."
Beginning to unravel: When Fleiss learned Jason and Melissa were not getting along, and that he had never stopped thinking about Molly, “My first thought was, ‘Oh, too bad,’” he says. “My next thought was, ‘Wow, that’s almost too good!’ I knew that was a remarkable twist. At that point, the decision was made to bring all three parties into the studio to film After the Final Rose, the most shocking After the Final Rose in Bachelor history."
The light bulb moment: “At that point, a decision was made to bring the parties in to film After the Final Rose, the most shocking After the Final Rose in Bachelor history,” Fleiss says. “But it was never anyone’s plan.”
The incomparable Bachelor mastermind, Chris Harrison.
Melissa Rycroft totally knew what was up: "Melissa was not blindsided," Chris says. "She didn't think everything was great and show up that day to talk about the wedding date and then realize she was going to be dumped. She was pissed and angry, but she wasn't blindsided. Not that it makes it any better for anybody, and I totally understand why people are still mad, but she wasn't the complete unsuspecting little lamb that you might think she is."
Molly Malaney totally did not know what was up: "There are the ridiculous stories in the media about how set up this was, how Jason and Molly had been seeing each other. When those came out, I talked to him again, and I said, 'Tell me, was there anything? Text messages? Phone calls?' I know they hadn't seen each other, but was there anything? And he told me, 'No, not until we got on stage.' That really was the first time she knew that he wanted her back," Harrison reflects.
In the ensuing six weeks, Molly and Jason are going strong: "I can't believe how well they're doing," Chris said. "They're doing amazingly well. I talked to [Jason Mesnick] again this morning to see how they were holding up, and obviously he realizes that he's probably one of the most hated men in America, but that too will blow over. They're going to make a go of it. They're doing good."