8:00am PT by Kimberly Nordyke
'Bachelorette': Chris Harrison on Brooks' Surprising Exit and What's Next for Desiree
The Bachelorette host Chris Harrison says he thinks Brooks Forester's breakup with star Desiree Hartsock was probably the most "devastating" moment in series history.
Talking to reporters in a conference call last week, Harrison said Brooks' surprising exit doesn't really compare to Frank Neuschaefer's departure during Ali Fedotowsky's season or even to Jason Mesnick's about-face when he broke up with fiancée Melissa Rycroft to start dating runner-up Molly Malaney.
"I think it’s kind of a one of a kind situation I can’t really remember in 11 years anything happening this late in the game and being this devastating to our Bachelor or Bachelorette," he said.
As viewers saw, Desiree had previously confessed to Harrison that she was falling in love with Brooks. She also had played a game with Brooks where they each described their relationship using a verb: She had used "running," while he had said they were "jogging." Looking back, Harrison said that should have been a big "red flag" that something was wrong, along with the fact that Brooks was the only one of the final four who had not told Desiree he was in love with her. Still, Harrison said he was as surprised as anybody that Brooks actually did what he did.
"I don’t think anybody saw this coming," he said. "I kind of took her word for it that she was pretty sure about him. And nothing led us or I think any other producer to think that this guy was going to really just do a 180 and bolt. But there were you know definitely signs along the way that she was much further along than he was, and much easier at expressing her feelings than he was."
Desiree also told Brooks that she loved him, to which Brooks replied that he wished she had told him sooner. Harrison said that it was "pretty simple" to everyone else to see that she was falling for him, and that perhaps he "completely misread every signal she had ever put out" if he couldn't see the same thing. But Harrison also said that he thought that Brooks' comment was a "defense mechanism" and "a little bit of a cop-out."
Harrison said that, while Brooks appeared confused during his talk with the host, he believes that he actually made up his mind before visiting his family to talk about his feelings. But at the time, when Brooks asked producers if he could go back and visit his family to have that talk, producers didn't realize what the outcome was going to be.
"We really wanted to facilitate that thinking really it was only going to lead to a positive end; we didn’t think he was really looking for that reassurance to leave," Harrison added.
The host also believes that Brooks is "not a bad guy" and did the right thing by not leading Desiree on.
"He didn’t do this with you know malice or ill intent," Harrison said. "He didn’t come on here to, you know, screw her over and be the bad guy. He was very sincere and very sweet, and when I talked to him you could tell that he was torn about this. And he had really done his, you know, due diligence, and he had thought this out and talked to his family. … I would have been disappointed and more upset with him if he had gone through with all of this and … he has this fake proposal and they just kind of go out for a few weeks and it doesn’t mean anything and he breaks up."
At the end of last week's episode, an emotional Desiree told the cameras, "It's over for me." Harrison said that he and his fellow producers were legitimately worried that she might leave the show during filming.
Harrison said that, since the goal of the show is for Desiree to find love, while Brooks' exit made for good drama, it's not necessarily what producers like to have happen, especially so late in filming.
"This was a little bit of a curve ball that was more of, I don’t know, more of a hindrance and more of a pain for us as producers than the thought of, 'This is going to be great drama,'" Harrison said. "Just because we were kind of in that homestretch and thought you know this was going to be a great season with a great ending, and we’re home free. And then the entire show was kind of dumped upside down in the final two weeks of shooting."
He said Monday night's episode kicks off with his conversation with Desiree about what happens next, especially considering there were still two men left -- Drew Kenney and Chris Siegfried -- who had no idea what had just happened.
"There are still a lot of questions out there, and it still may not be much of anything next week other than her saying goodbye and having to talk to the other two guys," Harrison said, adding: "That’s a scary thing as a producer no matter you know what show whether it’s you know Idol or Survivor or whatever, those were kind of game shows they have a beginning and an end. Our show really at the end is pretty wide open."
So what does all this mean for Drew and Chris?
"That’s part of the problem we have to solve in the finale on Monday is that we keep them separated usually for good reasons, positive reasons at this point, because we just want it to be about them dating and then getting to that ultimate happy proposal," Harrison said, adding: "We've never run into a problem where now we have these two happy guys that have no idea that the Bachelorette just had her world rocked."
Asked if, hypothetically, it would be possible for Brooks to return, Harrison said: "Of course I think it’s absolutely possible for him to come back in the game. She cared about him; she loved him; she said as much; and you saw him in tears; you saw his look. So absolutely you know that’s a possibility just because of where they both were."
The second half of the Bachelorette two-part finale airs at 8 p.m. Monday, followed by the live After the Final rose special at 10 p.m., which also will include the announcement of the new Bachelor.