"You've got to be joking!"
This is what Chris Harrison just told me his response was when he found out that The Bachelor of the hour, Jason—whom Chris calls "the most hated man in America right now"—had changed his mind and wanted to reconcile with last night's runner-up, Molly.
"People think this is all scripted," Harrison says. "But it was not. I was stunned! We all were."
Last night's jaw-dropping season finale pulled in huge ratings for ABC (the fourth largest Bachelor finale ever), prompting outrage from many of the fans who assume the network and producers must be behind it all.
So did the producers know? Did they orchestrate the whole thing? How did it really go down?
Chris is separating fact from fiction and gives us this inside scoop...
The Producers Were Just as Shocked As You Were: "When we left New Zealand, we were all high-fiving, thinking this is great, 'People are going to love this guy and love the story,' " Chris 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."
The Producers Did Not Want This to Happen: "People think we wanted to pull this stunt off, but we didn't!" Harrison insists. "This isn't good for us. I mean, the ratings were insane and all that, but we would've much rather had him end up with Melissa and have them get married. In the long run, that's a better story for us."
There Had to Be an Ending: "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."
Melissa Knew: "Melissa obviously knew [about the breakup]," Harrison clarifies. "She was not blindsided. 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."
Molly Did Not Know: "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."
Molly and Jason Are Going Strong: "I can't believe how well they're doing," Chris tells me. "That's part of the special tonight—what's happened in the six weeks since we shot that last special back in January. And they're doing amazingly well. I talked to [Jason] 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."
What do you think of the big Bachelor twist? Is Jason a total slimeball or does he still deserve a chance at love?
(Originally published March 3, 2009 at 1:56 p.m. PT.)