"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."
Bachelor Contestant Becomes Next Bachelorette
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."
It's a message that Pappas agreed to deliver to Womack in person. Last month, she traveled to Austin to meet with Womack after his "20/20" interview, two-and-a-half years after their last tearful encounter at the "After the Final Rose" taping.
While waiting for Pappas to meet him on the rooftop of his Molotov Lounge bar, Womack described himself as excited, but nervous.
"Actually it's awkward because it feels like I'm seeing kind of an ex-girlfriend that I haven't seen in years, so of course, drums up those feelings that, uh, I wonder if I'm going to say the right thing, do the right thing," Womack said. "The last time I saw her was actually pretty brutal."
For Pappas, it was an opportunity to let Womack know that she understood his decision, as painful as it had been for her at the time. "I consider him more a friend than an ex-boyfriend now," said Pappas.
After a huge hug, Pappas and Womack were immediately on friendly terms, discussing their new relationships and their new perspective on dating on reality television.
"It wasn't until ... I became the Bachelorette, and did the show myself until I fully understood like the pressure that you can be under," Pappas told Womack. "How you get halfway through and you're kind of like, is this really real?"
"It's very weird and, and I guess cool how things, when the show doesn't work, everyone seems to find happiness," Womack said to Pappas. "Maybe in a roundabout way the show does work."
Pappas, the former host of the Lifetime show "Get Married," is pursuing a career in television and has found love again, this time with teacher Stephen Stagliano, the twin brother of Michael from season 5 of "The Bachelorette."
As for Womack, he is out of his recluse stage, and says he has learned valuable lessons from his Bachelor experience. "I'm not a sellout," he said. "I'm really proud ... I've learned that I'm a little more strong than I at one time thought. "