Emily O'Brien: 'Bachelor' Ben Flajnik's not the type of guy I'd take home
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 02/16/2012
Emily O'Brien, a 27-year-old PhD student from Chapel Hill, NC, was eliminated along with Rachel Truehart, a 27-year-old fashion sales representative from New York City, NY, during Monday night's Rose Ceremony by Ben Flajnik -- narrowing The Bachelor star's love search to four women during the ABC reality dating series' sixteenth season.
During a Thursday conference call with reporters, Emily talked to Reality TV World about her The Bachelor experience -- including what her reaction was to host Chris Harrison suggesting she was more of a sister to Ben than a romantic partner, whether she'd be surprised if Ben's relationship with the bachelorette he selected when the conclusion to his love journey was filmed last fall is already over, and why she wasn't too upset to be eliminated when she was and when she came to that conclusion.
Below is the first half of Emily's interview. Check back with Reality TV World on Friday for the second portion.
Reality TV World: In an interview this week, Chris Harrison suggested although you had all the perfect qualities a man would be looking for in a woman down on paper -- such as being smart, beautiful and funny -- Ben was starting to see you as more of a sister to him. What is your reaction to that? Does that frustrate you or even turn you off a bit, because obviously sisters and brothers don't kiss each other and such.
Emily O'Brien: (Laughs) That's a great question. So, yeah, Chris Harrison. I love the guy, but I wasn't happy to read that and it particularly hit home because of my history of being mapped to close relatives on online dating websites. So, that was a double whammy. But yeah, I think that Chris sort of had an inside look as to what was going on.
He probably had some conversations with Ben, so obviously Ben did express some doubt about our compatibilities as a romantic pair. I think that's such a common thing, but I think that you're not going to have chemistry with everyone and if I felt like it was there and he didn't, then that's just part of life and that's part of dating someone.
It's figuring out if it's there for both of you, like if you're on the same page. I think that his chemistry with some of the other girls was sort of off the charts. It's possible that I just didn't compare to those women in that regard.
Reality TV World: There has been a report that things are already over between Ben and the bachelorette he picked at the end. If that's true, what's your reaction to that and would that surprise you?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, I have heard those. I don't know if they're true or not. I really have no idea. I have a feeling, a persistent feeling from watching the show, that I'm not completely certain that Ben was ready for a long-term commitment. It's possible he was and I just didn't see it.
So, in that regard, it wouldn't be all that surprising to me if he went out with her at this point. But it's difficult to say without knowing who he chooses in the end. What I can say is that I think it's a difficult environment to have to get engaged to someone and then not be able to see them on a day-to-day basis and not be able to experience sort of real life with them.
I think that it's an integral time in a relationship, the fact that you have to be away from someone before the finale airs. I think it's difficult and I think that, in that sense, it's not surprising that anyone breaks up after that. But I do think that he knows himself well and if he is single now, I think he has probably taken quite a bit from this experience and learned a lot and I think he'll certainly land on his feet.
Reality TV World: Chris Harrison has also said this week that it really bothered Ben about how you had discussed Courtney Robertson during your alone time with him and he "saw it as a personality flaw," so you couldn't ultimately redeem yourself. What's your response to that and do you think that's a little harsh considering it seemed like you were only looking out for Ben and what was best for him?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, I do think it's harsh. I don't think that honesty and caring about someone is a personality flaw, but I do think that I could've handled it probably a little bit better than I did.
I think that if you look at the example in Belize where [Nicki Sterling] and [Kacie Boguskie] speak with Ben about what's going on and the whole situation with Courtney, I think that they both handled it a lot better than I did and definitely approached it in a more appropriate way.
So, in some ways, I think that I probably could've taken a page from that book and been a little bit more tactful about the way that I brought it up to him. But it came from a genuine feeling of concern for Ben and it came from me wanting to help him and it ended up, I think, really hurting my relationship with him.
But in a sense, I think it was a blessing in disguise, because I thought two things. I thought that he didn't really respect my opinions, and I also thought that he was already really far gone for this girl. So, I think that it gave me all the information that I needed at that point.
Reality TV World: You've made some comments that suggest you weren't too upset to be eliminated, so could you clarify what you meant by that? Had you already decided Ben wasn't the guy for you while you were still on the show or have you only come to that realization while you've been watching the show at home?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, it's a good question. There was sort of a negative element to our relationship after I talked to him about Courtney in Park City and I sort of was questioning things just based on how he reacted to me throughout the course of the next couple of weeks.
I wasn't sure where things were going to go. I wasn't feeling a whole lot from him, as I said before, I felt like he was sort of going through the motions and all of that makes sense to me now watching the show, because I think his heart and his mind were somewhere else.
So, yeah, I was upset to leave. I thought that maybe we could get back on track and I thought that maybe he would show himself to be perceptive and to be smart and to make a big decision about the people he was going to eliminated.
In my mind, he didn't do that, so I think that sort of solidified my feeling that this was probably a blessing in disguise and that I wasn't the right girl for him and he wasn't the right guy for me. So, at that point, I think I was sort of ready. I knew that our time was coming to an end and that he was already sort of focused and sold on someone else.
Reality TV World: So it sounds like based on what you've been saying, you were actually relieved or somewhat happy that Ben eliminated you before the hometown dates and didn't wait until after he met your family to do so, right? I mean, do you think your connection with Ben would have been strengthened had he gotten to know your family and that the outcome might have been different?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, at that point, I was still really trying to be open to him and to the possibility there. I thought that, in my mind, I was trying to separate out what was really there for us and what had sort of transpired maybe that set us back a little bit. So, yeah, I think in some sense, things could have moved forward had he come home to meet my family.
Watching it now, I am completely thankful and relieved that it didn't get to that point. I wouldn't wanted to have involved them. I certainly am glad that that was the point where he chose to eliminate me, because I think it probably would have been a huge mistake to bring him home knowing what I know now.
So at that point in time, there was a lot of things I didn't know about -- just the way that he acted and what he was looking for. As I watched the show and have gotten some time to think about it, I think it's obvious that he is not the type of guy that I would want to bring home to my family anymore and I'm certainly glad that things did not go down that path.
Reality TV World: Ben didn't seem to mind when some of his bachelorettes voiced their concerns about Samantha Levey and why she was on the show, but then he clearly had a problem when you and the other women confronted him about Courtney. So what do you think made the difference there because it seemed like kind of a double standard. Do you think he was simply just more into Courtney than he was into Samantha so he was on the defense when Courtney was discussed?
Emily O'Brien: I think that the connection with Samantha was just not there the same level that it is with Courtney. I think, as I said before, Ben is very much an individual and he marches to the beat of his own drum and he doesn't particularly like for people to question his judgment.
So, I think it was because the judgment of the other women about Samantha aligned closely with what he had already decided. I think he reacted negatively because the judgment of Kacie and Nicki and myself and some of the other girls who had talked to him about Courtney was very opposite about what he was thinking about her. So that's why I think he pushed back quite a bit when he was confronted in that sense.
I understand that. I think we've all been in that situation where we feel like maybe everyone else doesn't know the whole situation or they don't know us that well or we know what's best for us -- that kind of thing. So in that sense, it does make sense to me why he reacted the way that he did. I still think it was a big mistake.
I think that you need to be open and not let your judgment be clouded by other superficial concerns instead of taking into account the concerns of people who you respect and their opinions. I don't think, unfortunately, that that's what he did.
Reality TV World: Why do you think it was that you were the only bachelorette to confront Ben about Courtney until this week's episode when Kacie B. and Nicki voiced their concerns about her on the group date? Did you ever try to convince other girls to approach Ben about Courtney's behavior as well? Did other girls want to but were just scared to bring it up or something?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, well what I can say is that this is a group of really spectacular women who I did get along with phenomenally. And most people don't like confrontation, don't like drama, and really just wanted to have a positive and pleasant experience where we all got the most out of it and got along with one another.
And for the most part, that did happen. So, I think that people were reluctant to stir the pot and I think that they had seen the writing on the wall from seasons past that this isn't a good move to make.
Part of the reason I thought that this might be -- that I might be the good one to be the messenger -- was that we had such a great date in San Francisco and I really thought that Ben respected what I had to say and if he were going to listen to somebody about this, that he would probably listen to me.
So that was part of why I chose that time and I knew that things were getting more serious as more and more women were eliminated. I didn't want him to make a mistake of sending someone home early on who might be a really compatible match for him if he didn't have all the information that we had from spending mostly all of the time we had around each other.
So, I think the women were smart to stay away from it and to just kind of let things happen and let him see things for himself, because I think that obviously it didn't make a difference in his mind what we had to say. If anything, I think it made him think negatively of the people who did come forward to talk about Courtney.
Also during the call, Emily told reporters what factors she believed led to her ouster besides confronting The Bachelor star about Courtney's behind-his-back behavior, whether she was falling in love with Ben, what she wished she had done differently to make a better impression on Ben and compete more closely with her fellow bachelorettes, and at what point of the process she wished she had "walked out the door."
How shocked were you at the Rose Ceremony when Ben denied you his final rose?
Emily O'Brien: To be completely honest, I wasn't totally shocked. When Ben pulled Courtney aside, it was sort of like a last glimmer of hope for me. I thought maybe he was finally listening to all of us and what we all saw, but I think I kind of knew at that point that he was going to keep Courtney and that Rachel and I were going to be going home. It's just a feeling I had.
Ben seemed to mention many times how smart you are. Do you think he was intimidated by how smart you are at all?
Emily O'Brien: No, I think that Ben and I connected really well on an intellectual level. I think that he also saw sort of a goofy, funny side of me and that I don't like to take myself too seriously. I think that came across to him or at least that was my intention. So, he certainly didn't seem intimidated, but it's a possibility.
Most of the time, I felt very comfortable around him and I think he felt comfortable around me also. So, I think that we were pretty much on the same page in that regard.
Aside from your conversations with Ben about Courtney, what factors do you think led to your elimination?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, well it's hard to know what Ben was thinking. I think that with the six women that were there, he felt like any one of us was a possibility and I think he saw things that he was attracted to in each one of us. But I think what it really came down to was just a comparison of chemistry between him and each of us and how that compared.
I really think that Ben and I connected really well on a friendship level, but I'm thinking he maybe had more of a romantic chemistry with some of the other girls -- [Lindzi Cox] and especially Courtney. So I think that was absolutely a factor of me going home.
It seems like viewers are outraged with the moves Ben has made with Courtney on the show, so while you've been watching it all unfold on TV, has anything really surprised you?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, I have seen the outrage and I've sort of been surprised by it because I think that as much as Courtney might not be anyone's cup of tea, she's still a human being and it's gotta be difficult for her to hear what people are saying and to know that she's not being particularly well received.
But yeah. I was a little bit surprised by how well he connected with Courtney on their first date in Sonoma. I was watching it with my mouth open and thinking, "No wonder that he was so closed off to me when I tried to speak with him about Courtney maybe not showing her real self to Ben" because I thought she was very charming and I thought they certainly had a connection that wasn't there between him and me.
I don't know. Everything started to fall into place when I watched that episode and saw how well they got along and how obviously attracted to her he was.
So, I didn't see that when I was there and I think I maybe would have acted a little bit differently. I would have maybe stepped up my own game a little bit if I knew he was connecting with other women on that level. But yeah, watching it, everything is starting to make a lot more sense.
Were you really falling in love with Ben or do you think you just got caught up in the competition?
Emily O'Brien: You know, it really is a great question and I'm fairly competitive. I think most girls on the show have some element of competitiveness to their personalities, and I think that it's really hard to disentangle that when you're there and you're in the moment. I think that I was probably on the right track to falling in love with Ben, I was just not in love with him when I left.
But I saw some things in him that I really liked and I thought that we had some really great times together. It's hard because you're in these beautiful vacations and the dates are perfect and everything is set up for you and you're with this great guy who's also there only completely focused on you and also wanting to find love.
So it's hard to know how much of it is the environment and how much of it is what's really going on in your own heart. But for me, I tried to really adjust and adapt as time went on and ignore everything else other than what was going on between the two of us.
In that sense, I felt like my feelings were strong. I wasn't at the point of being in love, but I certainly really liked the guy and I certainly liked the direction that things were going.
Jake Pavelka was the last Bachelor who picked bachelorette Vienna Girardi whom viewers greatly disliked at the end of his season. Do you think Ben is headed down that same path and might make the same mistake?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, you know, it's hard to say it would be a mistake. I think what might be right for me or what I was maybe looking for coming into the experience, it may be different than what Ben was looking for coming into the experience. I know he was open with finding love, but from the beginning, he said, "I'm not here looking for a wife. I'm looking for someone to fall in love with."
So, in that sense, it's possible that whoever he ends up with, it really fits the bill of what he's looking for at this point in time. I think Ben is also -- he's a great guy and he's not really the type of guy to let others tell him what to do or how to think and he kind of marches to the beat of his own drum.
So I think that given that he really liked whoever he ended up with, obviously because he chose her, I'm not sure that anyone really could have said anything to detract from that because he's very much an individual and trusts his own judgment. I think those are good, strong qualities.
Do you regret talking to Ben about your feelings about Courtney so early on? Do you think that set you off on a bad foot with Ben?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, it's a good question. It's one that I've thought about a lot over the past couple months and over the course of watching the show and really, after our date in San Francisco, I thought that we were really on a good solid path and I got to see a goofy and smart side to this guy and I really liked what I saw.
But that sort of fun relaxed side I think disappeared very quickly after I talked with him in Park City. After that conversation, I just felt like there was some sort of negative element that became a part of our relationship. I think now, after that conversation, he started to sort of see me as antagonistic to what he wanted at the time at least, which was Courtney.
So, I did get the feeling that he was sort of going through the motions with me after that and you know, it's disappointing, because I wish that he responded differently. I wish that he had sort of supported me and encouraged me at that point and not react in the way that he did -- which was sort of telling me to be careful and what almost felt like a threat at that point.
So it made me a little bit uncomfortable in my interactions with him directly after that, and at some point, I think that we sort of got back on track to where we needed to be, but I think it was just too little too late.
I think that there were some red flags in my mind too. I'm looking for someone who respects my opinion and respects me as a person, and when I have a concern, they take that to heart and at least can respond in an appropriate way and in a way that's supportive of me and understanding, and that's not the way that I felt he responded.
Courtney was clearly very aggressive with Ben and always told him how she felt. Do you think you or the other girls should have been more aggressive like she was?
Emily O'Brien: Absolutely -- well, I really do. I thought about this a lot myself. It's an intimidating environment, especially when you're on a date with lots of other women and they're all beautiful and fun and outgoing and you know that he's also interested in all of them.
So I think that maybe it chipped away at my confidence a little bit, and I wish that I had been a little bit more forward in at least telling him how I felt, because he seemed to respond really well to that.
Watching the show back and seeing him and Courtney in the last episode, she seemed like the one who really cared and I kind of -- I don't know, I was upset to learn that because I felt like we all cared and we were all obviously there -- a lot of us uprooted our lives and none of us would have been there if we didn't care.
It was just an issue of not really showing it to the same extent that Courtney did. I think he kind of always knew where he stood with her. I think she brought up her concerns and was totally open, and a lot of us felt like maybe we couldn't do that with him.
I know I certainly did after I spoke with him in Park City because I felt like he wasn't very responsive to what I had to say. So I think that contributed a little bit to my being closed off.
But yeah, I wish that maybe I had been a little bit more forward or at least more expressive about the positive things I was feeling towards Ben.
When you talked to Ben about Courtney, he told you to "tread lightly." What went through your mind when he said that? Did it make you angry?
Emily O'Brien: Yeah, to be honest at that point, I felt like things were good and strong between us and I was expecting him to say, "I'm sorry you're going through this and please continue to come to me with these issues. I've taken them to heart and I'm planning on paying attention to these things." But he really didn't react that way at all.
I thought he was very defensive with the, "you better tread lightly" and "you might not know me as well as you think you do," those were not things that I was expecting to come out of his mouth at all. At that point, I felt badly because I felt like I was the one who made a mistake, but looking back, I think that that conversation really should have been a red flag to me.
I think it showed that he didn't really respect what I was saying and that, I don't think, is a great thing for dealing with conflicts in relationships. So, yeah at that point, I think I was maybe a little bit embarrassed and just surprised and sort of didn't really expect it.
So, I'm not sure I reacted in totally the right way. What I probably should have done was walk out the door. I didn't do that because I sort of felt like I was in the wrong and that I needed to make things right.
Check back with Reality TV World on Friday for the second half of Emily's interview.