"I am about to be the biggest jerk in America."
That's what former "Bachelor" contestant Brad Womack said he was thinking immediately before the show's final rose ceremony in season 11, when Womack became the first Bachelor to reject both of the final two contestants.
Instead of offering a proposal or even a promise ring, Womack said goodbye to cheerleader Jenni Croft and real estate agent Deanna Pappas, leaving both women in tears.
Watch "Inside the Bachelor: Stories Behind the Rose" on a special edition of "20/20," Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
Womack said it was an agonizing and heartbreaking moment for him.
"Not only am I dumping two girls, but I'm doing it on national television," he recalled.
The backlash was immediate and intense. "I can't begin to tell you how many e-mails I received from countless people ... to my personal address which was a little scary," said Womack. "My family received some interesting phone calls. It was tough."
Womack said he went into hiding for weeks, despite owning four bars in Austin, Texas. "I stayed home for a little while and just did some self-analysis, wondering, am I really that bad?"
Womack, in his first television interview since the year his season ended, says he began the show with the best intentions.
"I do believe in the fairy tale that is 'The Bachelor,'" Womack said. "I believe, or I wanted to believe, that you can meet somebody, you can fall for them, you can try to make it work, kind of throw caution to the wind ... but I also believe in reality, true reality."
After weeks of dating, Womack said he realized he had not fallen in love, and that he wanted to leave the show the same way he entered it -- solo.
"The Bachelor" executive producer Martin Hilton admitted that Womack's choice initially made the producers nervous. "But in the end, it was clear that ... we couldn't force him to do anything, nor would we," said Hilton.
"We've never seen a guy choose no one," said Mike Fleiss, the show's creator and executive producer. "And so unpredictability is a good element in all these reality shows."
For the spurned Deanna Pappas, it was a shocking conclusion to a relationship she was convinced would have a happy ending.
"I was devastated, I was crushed, I was heartbroken," Pappas said. "I was just hurt and confused and I still kind of held onto something hoping that he would come to his senses and realize that he had made a mistake. And then once we filmed the 'After the Final Rose', that's when the anger set in. Because he didn't want me."
But Pappas would have a chance to find love again, this time on her own terms as the show's next Bachelorette.
"I wanted the fairy tale ending in the end. I wanted the proposal, I wanted the marriage, and I wanted someone that I could spend my life with," she said.
Her season ended with her accepting a proposal from snowboarder Jesse Csincsak, but they broke up months later. The experience led to a startling discovery for Pappas.
"Looking back ... I wish that I would have done what Brad did. And I probably shouldn't have chosen anyone in the end," said Pappas. "He didn't see a lasting relationship with me or Jenni ... And he stood up for what he thought was right in his mind ... I commend him for going through and doing what he thought was right."