7:02pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelorette' Breaks Format for Twist Season Finale
Chris Harrison set up The Bachelorette season finale by promising a shocking conclusion "nobody could have seen coming." What played out was similar must-see, cringe-worthy TV to the breakup between Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Becca Kufrin that captivated the Bachelor audience last year. Then it was followed by an emotional live confrontation that delivered the Bachelor: After the Final Rose's first broken engagement for a final couple in years. And it all ended with an even bigger twist.
Going into Tuesday's show, the veteran host and star Hannah Brown, 24, had both said even they didn't know what would play out in the live ending. The two-night finale marked a first for The Bachelorette, priming Brown to follow in the footsteps of the unexpected and extended endings for recent Bachelors Colton Underwood and Luyendyk Jr.
But from the start, Harrison signaled that something was different: "We will witness great love, incredible trust and, unfortunately, the massive destructive forces of lies and betrayal. We'll also see a proposal that, in retrospect, can only be described as 'cringe-worthy.'"
Once the show quickly noted that Tyler Cameron, 26, was not Brown's pick, the "cringe-worthy" proposal was revealed to be that of embattled frontrunner Jed Wyatt. In an on-the-record interview with People much earlier in the season, Nashville-based musician Haley Stevens had claimed she and Wyatt, 25, were in a relationship for four months when he left to film The Bachelorette to promote his music career. And it was not a good look when Wyatt stepped up to the show's proposal site in Greece to sing Brown a song before popping the question. (Wyatt has not been able to respond publicly until his elimination, per ABC contract.)
Brown accepted that proposal months earlier in Greece. But then the show again broke format to follow the couple's rocky road since filming has wrapped.
"He is so real with me and I am so real with him and that's what I wanted from the very start," said Brown in a voiceover as selfie videos and photos from their time after filming played onscreen. "I thought I was getting this person that I could spend life with who was sweet and sincere and honest — and that's not been the case."
After they got engaged, Brown says Wyatt told her about Stevens and said he had broken it off before the show. But when the article came out, "it was not the same story that I was told," she says. "I love the person I got engaged to. I don't know how I feel about this person."
ABC's cameras then filmed a meet-up between Brown and Wyatt back in Los Angeles, where the star confronted her winner about the story. Wyatt confirmed the same timeline of events Stevens had told the magazine and Brown revealed she also had additional women texting her about inappropriate behavior. "I feel betrayed and, how would you ever be ready to be engaged? It feels like you were using me and our relationship for [your career and being noticed]," she told him. "This experience has been taken away from me. I was being told half-truths and lies." The footage ended with her taking off her engagement ring.
When Brown joined Harrison on the live show's stage in L.A., the star confirmed she and Wyatt have called off their engagement. "The engagement is over. We're not together. That's not what I said 'yes' to," said Brown, who ended their relationship in a phone conversation. "I know that I deserved more than that."
Brown, Harrison and The Bachelorette team have been describing the star as an empowering choice ever since the season began. While the drama was unfolding in her relationship behind the scenes, Brown was indeed putting on a strong face and doing interviews about standing her ground on the show, while also pushing back against critics over her faith and sex-shaming from a controversial contestant.
The live finale also welcomed Wyatt to the stage so the exes could face each other for the first time since calling off their TV engagement. "Now that I've had time to review my past and my behaviors, not only to you but to other people, I fully see that I wasn't the best that I could be," he told Brown after entering to awkward applause. "I'm sorry that I took away that experience from you. I'm sorry this has hurt your family, friends, Bachelor Nation, my family, everyone. I am responsible for this. I will own up to it all day."
He continued, "When I was reached out to about doing this show I just never would have dreamed that I would meet the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with on a reality TV show."
Brown was in tears when she accepted his apology and acknowledged the difficult time he and his family have also faced. "I did fall in love with you. I know that person is in there. I just hope that from this you will be honest and learn and grow into the man I do believe that you can be for whoever in your future." Despite Wyatt's remorse, Brown told him: "I don't love you like that anymore. And it's not something to clap about. It's sad. I know you've hurt me, but I'm not trying to hurt you right now."
The down mood, however, immediately changed when Cameron was introduced with audience fervor to the stage. The exes had a clear chemistry and both admitted they had been looking forward to their reunion. Speaking to Cameron, Brown said he had been respectful to her both during and after their journey: "Everything I said I meant and I felt, and it didn't just go away. I have feelings!"
She blushed as she told her runner-up: "I want somebody to be bold and I'm bold and make bold moves. You're an incredible guy and I'm a single girl. I thought maybe we could go for a drink and just hang out."
In response, he said he would love to: "Just tell me when." Brown told Harrison they wanted to be normal people and hang out. "Take it one day at a time," he added.
The twist ending of a star proposing a relationship to her second pick is not the first time a lead has ended up with a runner-up. Luyendyk Jr. and Jason Mesnick both famously broke it off with their winners and proposed to their runner-ups. While both men went about their TV swaps the wrong way and were villainized (even though they each remain with the women they picked in the end), this marks the first time a star will be collectively celebrated for trading in her winner for the one that got away.
"This love is forever right here," Cameron had told Brown before she cut his proposal short back in Greece. "The future holds for us a love and a bond that will never break. I want her more than anything I've ever wanted in my life."
Brown will continue to speak out about her decision as the week continues and next week sees the return of summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise (Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC). Read Brown's post-finale interview with THR here.