‘The Bachelor’ tries to do damage control after disastrous finale, but only makes things worse
On Monday night, the internet erupted during a particularly horrifying season finale of “The Bachelor.” Arie Luyendyk Jr. proposed to winner Becca Kufrin. And then six weeks later, he changed his mind and blindsided her in front of a camera crew that eagerly captured their breakup, as he explained he wanted to get back together with the runner-up, Lauren Burnham.
The furious reaction from fans was swift, especially over Arie’s choice to dump Becca on camera and ABC’s decision to air the emotional footage. So on Tuesday, the network gifted “The Bachelor” with a couple hours of extra programming for a live “After the Final Rose,” where everyone — but mostly Arie — tried to do damage control.
“I wish everyone out there could meet Arie, because he is a nice person,” said Jason Mesnick, in the studio as the only other Bachelor who has also dumped the winner to go back to the runner-up.
“This show can really mess somebody up. Unless you’ve been through it, you just don’t get it,” Mesnick said Tuesday night.
Throughout the live two-hour special, host Chris Harrison sat down with Arie, Becca and Lauren to discuss everything in grueling detail.
Honestly? It just made things worse. Here’s how:
1. Arie revealed that he reached out to Lauren behind Becca’s back.
Arie proposed to Becca around Thanksgiving of last year. But as they spent more time together, he started to have doubts and feel extremely guilty about not choosing Lauren. At some point, Becca told Arie she would be fine if he reached out to Lauren to get closure. Then, on New Year’s Eve, Arie sent Lauren a private message on Instagram and asked if she would be willing to talk on the phone. Hesitantly, she agreed.
This phone call apparently set everything in motion — while we don’t know what was said, it gave Arie the confidence that if he dumped Becca, Lauren would be there waiting.
“As soon as I heard your voice, I was like, ‘Ohh … I’m in trouble.’ Because there’s no denying that I love you so much,” Arie later explained to Lauren. “That conversation that we had changed everything for me because I knew that there was still a chance.”
A week later, he told Becca about the phone call and confessed that he still had feelings for Lauren. Still, he obviously didn’t explain the extent of those feelings, as Becca thought everything was fine – they were still looking at houses together and planning for the future. Then, shortly after, they got together for what Becca thought was a romantic couples weekend … and he dumped her.
Not only did Arie secretly reach out to Lauren, it took him days to tell Becca about their phone call. “Why did you hide that from me for so long?” Becca asked, as they sat uncomfortably on the couch in front of Harrison.
“I didn’t want to be rash. I knew that there was all these feelings, and I wanted to be certain in my decision,” Arie said. “And that wasn’t easy for me. You were working and we were apart … but that time was the time I needed to really square up my feelings.”
Eventually, Becca told Arie she forgave him. As you can imagine, the whole “blame Becca for working” and “reaching out on Instagram” explanations went over really well on Twitter.
2. In his breakup talk with Becca, Arie acted like he didn’t know if Lauren would take him back.
The show also featured a pre-taped scene of Arie going to Lauren’s home town of Virginia Beach to see if she would give him another chance after he dumped Becca.
“I’m terrified,” he confessed to the camera outside Lauren’s house, adding he was on the verge of a panic attack. “My biggest fear is that I go to Lauren and it doesn’t work out and that I risked it all.”
But then Lauren opened the door and jumped into his arms, giving him a huge hug. As it turns out, they had talked on the phone again, and Lauren already knew he had broken up with Becca. It took only a few minutes of conversation before she happily agreed to get back together, and they started making out.
During the special, Harrison invited some other contestants from Arie’s season (Kendall, Tia, Bekah M., Seinne and Caroline) to give their thoughts, and they were all annoyed about that misleading tidbit.
“One thing that probably wasn’t seen was the fact that he had confirmation from Lauren going into it that she was going to get back together with him before he broke up with Becca,” Seinne pointed out. “And I think that makes a huge difference.”
3. Arie’s weak explanation about why he filmed the breakup.
The biggest source of anger among “Bachelor” fans — and former cast members — on Monday was the fact that Harrison kept boasting that they would show the entirety of Arie surprising Becca with a breakup, in the first entirely raw, unedited scene in reality TV history. So fans were treated to stomach-turning scenes of Becca breaking down and trying to escape the cameras.
Harrison brought up multiple times on Tuesday that he and the network had “gotten a lot of heat” for airing the footage, though the other contestants emphasized it was Arie’s choice to film the breakup. (A “Bachelor” producer confirmed this.)
So why did Arie bring the camera crew along? “I think that the reason why I did it in the way that I did it was because I wanted everyone here and at home to know that this was on me. And it wasn’t on you,” Arie explained.
Hmm. If he wanted to be so transparent and truly take all the blame, why didn’t he film that pivotal phone call with Lauren on New Year’s Eve when he was having second thoughts? Or their follow-up conversations in which he told her he broke up with Becca? Something doesn’t seem right.
4. Arie and Lauren are so blissfully happy together that they didn’t watch Monday’s finale.
Arie and Lauren also got their time together on the live special, where they cuddled and kissed, and acted like the whole “he messaged me on Instagram while he was engaged to someone else!” was a really adorable story.
“The first thing she asked is if Becca knew we were talking, or if she knew that I was reaching out,” Arie said.
“I wanted to make sure we were both respectful of Becca,” Lauren added.
Never mind that it seemed Becca had no clue they talked until a week later – the new couple wanted to assure everyone that, despite the extreme backlash, they couldn’t be happier. And they confirmed they didn’t watch Monday’s finale. So, lucky for Arie, he didn’t get to see the damage he caused Becca, and Lauren won’t know, either! The two plan on leaving the country for a few weeks and staying off social media, so maybe they can live in denial.
“I have never been more in love with him,” Lauren declared. “We’re very, very happy together.”
“I think this has, in a crazy way, made our love stronger,” Arie added.
Harrison noted that a lot of people are very angry at Arie, so he asked Lauren what she loves about him.
“The one thing that is present right now to me is just his bravery and his honesty, and I think that he did an amazing job at handling this whole thing,” Lauren explained. (Cue eye-roll from the audience.) “He couldn’t have gone about it in a more respectful way, and I’m really proud of him.”
5. Arie followed up his “heartfelt” apology to Becca … by proposing to Lauren in front of her.
Becca probably winced at a lot during “After the Final Rose”: The scene in which Arie begged to get back together with Lauren and assured her he was “1,000%” over Becca. The part where Arie said if there’s one thing he regrets, it’s the fact that he proposed to Becca at all. The line where Arie described Becca as “the wrong decision.”
And then there was the proposal. That’s right – with Becca waiting in the wings, Arie got down on one knee and Lauren tearily accepted.
The wary audience cheered, but many viewers may have felt otherwise.
While Arie and Lauren will try to live happily ever after amid all the backlash headed their way, ABC announced at the end of the episode that Becca has been named the new Bachelorette – the season kicks off on May 28. So who’s really the winner here?
Emily Yahr is a writer for The Washington Post.