After his appearance on “Good Morning America” this morning, “Bachelorette” host Chris Harrison chatted with ABC News to discuss Desiree Hartsock’s heartbreak, behind-the-scenes secrets from last night’s episode — and what to expect from next week’s dramatic season finale.
Last night’s episode was tough to watch.
It’s tough because I care about Des and I knew for a fact that she was in love with the guy. And I knew he was going to crush her and just devastate her which is what happened. She was gutted when she found out. So my deal was to figure out what this guy really was saying because he didn’t articulate it very well to me. And so several times if you heard I’m like, “Let’s make this clear. Are you not sure? Are you 100 percent sure? Do you need more time?” I was just trying to vet the whole thing out before he made any rash decisions, because at the end of the day, I know we have a television show, but we are there to actually help Des. So if we needed to extend it, if we needed to figure something out, let’s do that. And ultimately, [he said], “I’m not in love with her, and I’m definitely not where she is, so I need to take myself out of this.”
But you really did seem to be on Des’s side during your talk with Brooks. Did you want him to come around?
The great thing about my job is I’m not this impartial judge or this cold-hearted being that just floats around. I’m actually there for her. It’s kind of always been my job, whether it was Trista from season one all the way to Des, and whether it’s right or wrong or sexist or whatever, a double standard, I get protective over the Bachelorettes. When it’s a Bachelorette, I feel like it’s like a little sister or friend and I do feel a little protective.
How did you feel when you realized he was going to dump her?
When I knew she was going to be hurt – I don’t know if I was angry, I was just disappointed that it had gotten this far because that had never happened before. We’ve had people leave, but not where she’s literally ready to accept a proposal, and so it was devastating. And also on the flip side of the show, it’s like, okay, now what? We’re a week away so now what do we do, how do we finish this?
Didn’t you want to shake him? Or shake her?
When I would sit with her in the deliberation room, it’s not my job to say, “You’re crazy! He doesn’t love you!” or “He’s not that into you!” It’s just my job to try and ask the right questions to help her see that. Because again I’m not with them. Maybe she’s right. Maybe there are things he says and does that [to show his love]. I just don’t know. So for me to act like that, it’s not really my place. It is my place to now be there for her and all of a sudden I think my dad mode kicked in and I’m very protective. [I give] hugs, and let her cry it out, just listen. And with Brooks, in the beginning, he just needed someone to listen and vent to. But I think the first time I sit down with [Des], it’s a lot of just listening and just letting her cry. It was tough.
Every season, people maintain that they really didn’t know who to pick, but Desiree made it clear that she’d chosen Brooks early on.
He was definitely a front-runner. Whether he was the guy all along, [I don't know]. I think she did a good job compartmentalizing. I think she made a little more of it last night because she was so heartbroken, I think she kind of wanted to make him feel worse. But I think she kept her mind open with Chris and with Drew and with some of the other guys — even Zak to a certain degree — but he was always there. Brooks was always there. And I think back to Munich where she first told me, “I’m falling for this guy,” and I’m like, “Well, how does he feel about you?” And that was the thing — all along I kept asking her, “Has he said this to you? Has he told you he loves you? Has he given you any words of affirmation to let you know this is real?” and she’d always say, “No, but he shows it.” “No but he tells me in other words.” And if you watch the show, he really never did.
Right. But she didn’t see it that way.
It’s why this show is so good — because we’ve all been there. We’ve all walked through those warning signs, and you’re like, “No! There’s a cliff right there! You’re about to fall off it!” and you just aimlessly walk right off the cliff –and that’s what she did! There were so many signs as you watch back. We even showed it last night where they came up with these bizarre adjectives, but they were really verbs, about describing their love and at the same time she goes, “We’re running!” he’s like, “Jogging!” You could just tell they weren’t in the same place.
I’d never seen a Bachelor or Bachelorette say “I love you” before the finale.
It’s been said before. We just choose not to show it all the time. Obviously with this one, it was a bit of a mislead because of what happened, but it needed to be shown because if we got to this point you wouldn’t understand how she felt when this happened. Obviously we knew this happened so I think it was important to establish how in love she was with this guy and then how just how uncertain he was. It was such a bizarre situation that has never happened on the show before where we got to the end and had this curveball. The final two episodes are usually happy and we do the “Men Tell All” and it’s explaining which one of these great guys is it going to be and this beautiful music — and now we’re like, “Okay, do we have a show next week?”
I’d also never seen a prospective suitor go home before the finale. Is that normal?
No, that’s another thing: Again, you really have to let this thing be organic. So when Brooks wasn’t sure, usually you want to keep those external things at bay but that’s for happy reasons. Usually that’s because they’re in love and the only thing that can happen is bad things. So when he was questioning, “Should I leave the show? What should I do? I need to talk to my family,” we have to kind of let that happen because again, what we were hoping for was maybe he’d get the affirmation and reassurance he needed. That’s honestly what we thought would happen. But instead, he really just needed to be reassured, “Can I walk away from this?”
He knew what he wanted to do.
He had made up his mind. You could tell when he talked to his parents. You could tell when he talked to me. He just kind of wanted to be let out and someone to say, “Don’t do this,” and his mom gave him that out. And he was almost relieved when she said that, so I took that way from that conversation too — that his mind was made up when he went to his parents’ house. He knew. And what’s his mom going to say?! “No! Marry her!”
So, what can we expect from next week’s show?
[Last night's episode] ended with [her saying], “I just want to go home,” so it picks up with her and I sit down and we had a very honest, candid talk of, where do we go from here? What do you want and is this salvageable? Or do we just pack up our stuff and go home? That was a very real option because at this point, what do you do? The crazy thing about this show, unlike most television shows, producers have 100 percent control. Even “Survivor” or something like that, a quote unquote reality show, it’s still a game show that has a certain end. We don’t. At the end of the day, we’re left up to human behavior and this choice of free will, so if she wants to bolt and she’s done, we’re done. So that’s what we had to kind of embrace, which is scary as hell as a producer but it’s also the beautiful thing about this show. You don’t know what’s going to happen.
What will you do about the two other guys?
The other thing that’s crazy – the guys don’t know. They are separated at this point. Usually they’re separated for the reason of, there’s a happy ending coming and we’re trying to help facilitate that. So, Drew and Chris have no idea what just went down so obviously we have to deal with that as well. We have two guys who have already professed their love, they’re ready to propose, they have no clue what’s going on. So, you have Des and then you have these two guys. So there’s a lot to deal with next week.
Right. Wow. As a producer, you had be on the phone with the others in charge, saying, “Okay, we have a bit of a problem…”
That’s the thing, we’re constantly getting together after this — where do we go, what do we do? And you really have to take your hand off the wheel and let Des and the guys essentially lead the way.