March 5, 2009 -- The extemporaneous waterworks , last-minute change of heart and reconciliation with the show's runner-up has fans and critics questioning whether ABC's popular reality love competition, "The Bachelor," is fake.
The show's host, Chris Harrison, said not only was the nationally aired flip-flop real, but it also made for one of the most uncomfortable shows he's ever hosted.
"I was just as shocked and upset as anyone else," Harrison said today on "Good Morning America." "I wanted to see Jason and Melissa ride off into the sunset."
The bachelor, Jason Mesnick, broke off his engagement with Melissa Rycroft during the "After the Final Rose" show and rekindled his relationship with runner-up Molly Malaney.
Many viewers commenting on the show's ending said that Rycroft did not deserve to be dumped on national TV. But Harrison said that the relationship between Mesnick and Rycroft had fizzled in the weeks leading up to the "After the Final Rose" show.
"Melissa was not exactly blindsided on that show," Harrison said. "She knew things were not going well. And she probably had it in the back of her mind that they were going to break up soon."
Bachelor Says He Had 'No Choice'
Appearing on ABC's "The Jimmy Kimmel Show" this week, Mesnick told Kimmel before the bombshel that Rycroft "knew exactly what was going on," and said during phone calls they had before the breakup the "question was, are you even going to wear the ring because we're not together?"
Mesnick said the official breakup was on TV because the agreement with the show was that everything "would be done in front of the cameras."
"I hated it," he told Kimmel. "If I could of done it in person with her one on one, of course, that's the right thing to do."
Mesnick also told People magazine that he had no choice but to break up with Rycroft on camera, because it was "part of the deal. I signed up for it in my contract."
But Harrison disputed that.
"Well, first of all, unless we're in the old, you know, Soviet Union, I don't think you have to do anything," Harrison said. "There is no contract that says you have to get married. We have had people break up on this show. ... We've done it all."
"He didn't have to do anything he didn't want," Harrison continued, referring to Mesnick. "He didn't have to propose to Melissa in the first place. These were all choices that Jason made in his life. Uncomfortable, regrettable, whatever they are."
The genuine big surprise, Harrison said, was that Mesnick and Malaney were getting together. "And I think that was the bombshell that really set it off that day," he said.
Harrison said Malaney did not know that Mesnick was going to profess his love for her.
"Molly kept looking at me to wonder if this was real. She thought -- she really couldn't assimilate what was going on, and that speaks to the fact she had no idea when she walked on that stage what was going to happen," Harrison said.
Big Surprise = Big Ratings
When Mesnick, a 32-year-old single father and account executive, decided to rescind his proposal to Melissa in favor of Malaney, 25, in a show taped six weeks after the finale, the shock not only registered on Rycroft's previously enthusiastic face but also in elevated ratings.
The two-hour finale pulled in 15.5 million viewers, the series highest tally since 2005 and the "After the Final Rose" special following the show, outperformed the show itself.
In a Tuesday night follow-up to the finale news, Mesnick and Malaney defended themselves and their relationship, but admitted they're not quite ready to walk down the aisle.
Their union has fueled online message boards, which have decried the way 32-year-old Mesnick ended his courtship with 25-year-old Rycroft, a former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.