There have been many break-ups of the couples who met during the 12 previous seasons of ABC's "The Bachelor" and four seasons of "The Bachelorette." But until Monday night, none of the couples broke up while the show was actually airing.
Jason Mesnick, the single dad whose heart was broken by DeAnna Pappas at the end of "The Bachelorette 4," broke two hearts, not counting viewers who are dismayed by the way he chose Melissa only to dump her during the "After the Final Rose" special and pick Molly, who he'd rejected earlier.
The closest the show has ever come to this kind of conclusion is when Brad Womack rejected both of the final two women, and then later faced an angry studio audience at the reunion. Some viewers, it seemed, couldn't fathom that someone would refuse to make a lifelong commitment to a TV date.
In New Zealand, Jason told us, “I can see a life with both” Melissa and Molly, and struggled with his decision. “I am completely torn between two women. After everything I've been through, I've never been so conflicted about a decision in my entire life.”
DeAnna was no help. Her long-teased visit to Jason was over in minutes, and although previews made it appear as though she wanted him back and left him in tears, in reality, she just told him she screwed up by not picking him, and gave some greeting card advice: “I wouldn't say follow your heart, I would say lead it. I followed my heart.”
Jason and his heart dumped Molly and picked Melissa, and he proposed to her, although not before bawling after Molly left. Minutes later, but six weeks in real time, Jason reunited with Melissa and dumped her.
During the audience-less reunion, he told her, “We're not right for each other.” She said, “I don't believe you. I thought things were perfect,” and then started to talk about herself in the third person, which is never a good sign.
Eventually she got mad — “You're such a bastard” — and walked away. “Don't call me, don't text me any more, leave me alone, please. Thank you,” Melissa said.
A not-so surprising finish
As shocking as the ending may have been — ABC has been teasing it for weeks, and both Harrison and the show's executive producer, Mike Fleiss, have hyped it in the media — it was not a surprise. A little less than two weeks ago, the ending was revealed by a blogger known as Reality Steve, which also claimed that the ending was “fabricated,” although the blogger later admitted, “All the stuff I've speculated about (planned from the beginning, Jason doing what he was told to do, etc), I can't prove.”
In an Entertainment Weekly blog post, “Bachelor” host Chris Harrison insisted producers did not and would not fabricate or pre-plan the shocking ending.
That Jason would participate in a scripted conclusion seems highly unlikely, especially because he doesn't appear to be a good enough actor to fake his obviously genuine emotions both during the finale and during the “After the Final Rose” special.
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(Conspiracy theorists might argue that his emotions were about what he was doing or had been asked to do to Melissa, but that's how conspiracy theories work: every piece of evidence can be spun to support the theory.)
If anything, that the ending was scripted by producers seems like a comforting alternative, as it serves as some explanation, reason, or excuse as to why Jason did an about-face on both Melissa and on his reputation as a good guy.
That Jason would do this was the shocking part. He was totally devastated last season, so he knows what it's like to be on the dumped end of “The Bachelor.” And to hurt both women, even at different times, seems unlike him.
Jason wasn't without emotion, though. After dumping Molly in New Zealand, he cried on the balcony of the house before proposing to Melissa. And during the reunion, he admitted, “What I did to [Melissa] was horrible. But I don't want to live my life with any regrets.”
Trashing his good-guy reputation
His only regret may be doing all of that on national television, as his “horrible” actions have trashed his reputation, at least to some viewers. It seems like he bailed on one relationship because he knew he had another option — Molly — standing by. Although she told Jason, “we still have a lot to talk about,” Molly seemed into him, as her “feelings never went away.”
Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings Earlier, Jason told Harrison, “I had to give Melissa her chance,” but said that “Since this all ended, things have been different, and we're not right for each other.”
Considering that Jason discovered that in just a few weeks, Melissa had a point when she said that Jason “didn't want to fight for our relationship, he didn't want to try.”
Then again, this is love forged on a reality show, with camera and crew and an environment — never mind that the star dates multiple women at once, and this season, like many before it, fell in love with two simultaneously.
The biggest surprise, then, is that Jason couldn't make up his mind and switched when he could, but that this hasn't happened before. How many “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” stars were similarly conflicted but stuck with someone for the sake of their television reputation, at least until they could break up away from the cameras?
Although Melissa is clearly hurt, the odds said she and/or Jason would have been hurt eventually. All but three of the 16 “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” couples broke up, and one of those couples, Charlie O'Connell and Sarah Brice, broke up but reconnected a year later.
That it happened on TV is what's different this season, and along with accusations that Jason conspired with producers and criticism of his hurtful decision, maybe Jason should get a little credit for demonstrating on television that “The Bachelor” experience usually isn't a fairy tale.
Andy Dehnart is the editor of realityblurred.com and is a regular contributor to msnbc.com.
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