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'The Bachelor' host Chris Harrison talks about Ben's season (Part 2)


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/14/2012 

The Bachelor star Ben Flajnik ended his second search for love on TV by rejecting Lindzi Cox and proposing to controversial bachelorette Courtney Robertson during Monday night's finale broadcast of the ABC reality dating franchise's sixteenth edition.

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During a Tuesday conference call, The Bachelor host Chris Harrison reflected on the conclusion of Ben's season and the life-altering decisions he has made in choosing Courtney amidst media scrutiny and public outcry. In the call, Chris talked to reporters about why he didn't give Lindzi a moment to shine during the After the Final Rose special, how much of Courtney's aggressive and manipulative behavior he personally observed during the season's taping, whether Courtney and Ben's situation following the finale was the most challenging scenario for him to moderate yet in his Bachelor career, and what significant changes will most likely be made to Bachelor Pad's upcoming editions.

Below is the second portion of Chris' interview. Click here to read the first half. Also be sure to read our separate interview with The Bachelor runner-up Lindzi.

You've moderated some dramatic scenarios between Melissa Rycroft, Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney, along with Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi. And then you recently had to deal with the Courtney and Ben situation. Which was the hardest to moderate?

Chris Harrison: Probably one of the most difficult things I've ever handled and done was the Jason, Molly and Melissa situation. This was just very different. This was more emotional and they're all different. They all have a different feel and I treat them differently depending on what their situation is.

With this one, I kind of -- the best analogy I can give -- is kind of wading into water slowly. I wasn't sure whether I was going to drop off and fall or if we were going to keep on wading, because I just wasn't sure how things were going to go.

So, I kind of delicately led them in that direction to see where it would take them. I'm glad it ended up in a good place, but I just wasn't sure. So, that wasn't as much trepidation as it was kind of delicately walking through and finding out what we were going to get.

What was the decision in not allowing Lindzi to participate in the After the Final Rose special since she was waiting backstage the entire time?

Chris Harrison: Yeah, I was sorry she didn't come out, and Lindzi probably had a good explanation as well -- and I talked to her after the show. One of the mistakes I think we made to go back to Jason, Molly and Melissa, is that we kind of forgot about our audience and the journey they're taking, and this time, we didn't make that mistake.

We took the approach of, "Okay, we're coming off this proposal. We need to keep this story going." And that story was Ben and Courtney and we kept that story going for you, especially -- the audience, I'm talking about -- and talked to Ben and talked to Courtney. And then when we brought them out together and they had that emotional scene and they're crying, to go then back to Lindzi, it just made no sense.

It left her nowhere to go and it would've put her in a bad light -- put her in an uncomfortable, awkward situation -- and so, we talked to her and she understood herself that she really didn't have any questions unanswered. She really didn't have any issues, and so all that being said, why put her out there in kind of a "no win" situation?

So we all agreed to kind of just say, "You know what? Let's just put [Ashley Hebert] and [J.P. Rosenbaum] on and we'll end on a high note." Because after Courtney and Ben were together and he put the ring back on, to kind of go backwards now, it would have been -- it didn't make TV sense and it didn't make sense for Lindzi.

Were you a Lindzi fan throughout the season? Were you rooting for her in the end, and do you think it's actually a good thing Ben ended up not choosing and proposing to her?

Chris Harrison: It's impossible not to be a Lindzi fan. She was my daughter's favorite too, so I kind of had this other thing at home. My little eight-year-old girl -- who doesn't watch the show, and really has never known a character on the show ever -- but for some reason, she must have been walking through that first night and saw Lindzi ride up on a horse, and that was it.

All of a sudden, she was a Lindzi fan. And then we were in Belize and my family was in Belize and met Lindzi -- because she's blonde and looks like my daughter -- and they just fell in love with her. So Lindzi was kind of a family favorite for this season, and so, she was so sweet and so easy to get along with.

She was great, but I don't -- not so much to say that Ben made the wrong choice. Ben made the right choice for him and I had my times when I got along fine with Courtney as well. Lindzi was just such a loving, lovable person. She was easy to get along with.

Do you think you guys will plan any TV updates with Ben and Courtney in the near future to keep fans informed?

Chris Harrison: We haven't talked about it. We'll see how things play out, but obviously, looking at the specials that we have coming up, will be [Emily Maynard]'s Men Tell All and Emily's After the Final Rose, and then into Bachelor Pad 3 -- where we have a chance again to update people. So yeah, if there's something of interest.

And that's the great thing about this show, is that it really is a modern-day soap opera and these stories will continue to play their way out in the media and in the public eye, so of course. If there's nothing big, whether it's a proposal or I guess a marriage, because they're already engaged -- marriage plans of anything significant -- then yeah, absolutely we'll update the fans.

Were you aware of Courtney's behavior while filming The Bachelor or did you watch it unfold on TV when the season aired like most people?

Chris Harrison: A little bit of both. I'm more in the Ben camp than the viewers' camp. I didn't see and hear everything, but I heard and saw a lot and I heard and saw enough, and so did Ben. So when people are saying, "Harrison, why didn't you talk to Ben about this? Why didn't you warn Ben?" I'm like, "There was nothing to warn him about."

He knew. He was making that choice and he made the choice to, maybe not ignore those things, but get past those things and propose. And he struggled with it all the way to Interlocken when [Kacie Boguskie] came back, and that really threw him for a tail-spin. He knew. He may not have heard 100% percent of everything, but he knew plenty to make a good decision, and so did I.

I knew what was going on and I knew enough to question him at about every deliberation we had. But he, again, decided to look past it and move on. And so at some point, I passed the point of being the good guy and bringing something up, and now I'm just pestering him. So at some point, he's gotta be a big boy and make his own decision.

Was it hard to watch Ben get teary-eyed about his "soiled" engagement when he watched his proposal back during After the Final Rose?

Chris Harrison: Yes and no. Part of it -- and this sounds weird -- part of this, I was actually happy to see. I think it was a culmination of Ben just being exhausted and they've been beaten up just left and right by the press and the fans. It's a lot. Even the fans that were in our live studio audience were kind of booing and giving the cat calls.

It's tough and it was kind of nice to see that both he and Courtney let down their guards and you saw a very real emotion for them. I was happy to see that they have that in them together, and that when they were together, that's when it happened.

Because I think a lot was that it happened when they felt safe together and they came together, and that's when that real emotion came out. I know that may be a little deep and a little too psychological to get in an interview, but I was relieved to see that and I was happy to see that.

Do you see the nice, sweet side of Courtney that Ben has seen all along now? Do you think her emotions and words are genuine, especially when she apologized to the girls about how she had treated them during the season?

Chris Harrison: I do see a genuine side of Courtney. I see a very vulnerable side and again, I know -- I can hear the fans in my head right now booing and saying, "Oh, you're drinking the Courtney koolaid" -- I'm not. I'm not justifying anything.

I'm not saying she's Mother Theresa. I'm not saying she's the greatest woman in the world, but what I do know about her, is this situation got the best of her. She did not handle it well, but in the end, there is a very vulnerable, scared girl that I saw on my couch two weeks in a row crying -- that was sincere, that was real.

The reasons that drove into that emotion, was it because she felt really bad and would do it over? I don't know. But I do know that there was definite real emotion there and she does care for Ben. Good or bad, that's the most important thing that I can see as far as Ben and her leaving and going off to live their lives.

Were you surprised about the level of the audience's reaction to Courtney during After the Final Rose?

Chris Harrison: Yes and no. I think that it's easy to see how one begets the other and there is this tidal wave of emotion and then the press picks up on it, and then that drives the emotion even further. So, I see how it happens and I've seen it before.

Once you get this momentum going, it's hard to turn it around and even though she's had the chance the last couple weeks to do a 180 and she kind of has, it's still taking a lot to turn around public opinion. I think deservedly so.

She really made some mistakes and she really did some inappropriate things and said some inappropriate things. And so, whether the entire anger and resentment towards her is justified, I don't know, but I do understand it. And again, that's the great thing about our show. That's the fan's choice. That's their prerogative and we all have to deal with our own actions. She's definitely dealing with it now.

Do you think that Ben and Courtney have a real chance of lasting now that the finale has aired and the show's season has concluded?

Chris Harrison: Definitely. The distance and time between shows is always the tough part for any couple even if you're happy. But to deal with all the tabloid rumors and stories and all of that, and to watch the show -- Ben was hearing a lot more than he had even heard before -- it was tough for him just to try to talk on the phone and have their time every now and then.

That's definitely what drove them to break up in the middle of all this. So definitely if they put the effort in and if they put the time in and really spend time together and see each other, then this will definitely be easier than the past couple months.

The Bachelorette's next season is apparently going to start in North Carolina, because that's Emily's hometown, but will the show get on the road and travel to other destinations during the season? 

Chris Harrison: Yeah, we'll continue to travel the world. I think that's something the fans have grown to love. It's part of the escapism. It's part of the soap opera that we have now become, and I think we take people to places that they only dream of going to or hope to go one day and we take you there and show you the greatest parts of it.

So you look at that proposal with Ben on this mountain in Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background, and it's stunning. You can't get that anywhere else, and unfortunately, we've kind of set the bar so high that now, we have to keep going. I think to just go back and be in L.A. or on a beach or back at a hotel room, it would be difficult to backtrack. So, we have to keep it up and we'll definitely keep traveling.

But along the way, we're definitely going to incorporate how different this show's going to feel with Emily as a single mom. She definitely has more -- different concerns than say what [Ali Fedotowsky] and Ashley and the other girls have had in the past. Her life isn't her own anymore. It's all about [her daughter Ricki] and the guy has to understand that.

There have been reports that Bachelor Pad is going to recruit fans for the show. How is that going to work? What will the process be like?

Chris Harrison: The way this came about was we've been talking about the culture of The Bachelor and the kind of fans that we have, and it's kind of unlike any other show. To that extent, last season, we went and showed up at some of these watching parties because we have such rabbid fans and they're so devoted, and so, we were talking about this.

And we thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to bring a couple of them into Bachelor Pad and let them compete?" And so, it was a kind of an idea that we had thrown out and we started kind of stewing it over and we thought, "You know what? That could work!" Our show really lends itself to opening it up to these uber fans. And so, we will bring fans in and they will compete for the $250,000.

I think it's going to be a great aspect to have these people that have watched the show and know these people from television to then be right alongside them competing and living with them and being part of the show. So, it's kind of an homage to our fans and a big "thank you." But it's also going to be a great television moment.

Do you have any idea how many fans will be invited to participate in Bachelor Pad?

Chris Harrison: I'm not positive yet. No, I don't know. I know there will be at least one man and at least one woman, but maybe more than that, so I'm not sure.

A lot of things have been thrown around depending on the number of cast members and all of that, because we haven't cast the show yet. So once we get our cast done and we realize how many people we want or have total, then we'll fill the rest with fans. And so, all that hasn't been dialed in yet.

If you end up casting only two fans, would you be concerned that the former bachelors and bachelorettes would band together to vote them out right away since they're not technically part of The Bachelor family?

Chris Harrison: What happens, if say, a cute guy comes in and a girl and immediately hooks up with one of the other competitors? -- or all of a sudden they get saved or win a competition? Again, anything can happen. One thing I see is that right away, they're going to have to get over the "fandom" and get into playing the game and make some alliances and make some friends.

If they're just kind of the annoying person, then they'll be voted out quickly. So, it'll be interesting to see how they play the game and maybe they're smarter. They've seen enough of these shows that maybe they'll outsmart and outplay them.

Would ABC ever televise Ashley and J.P.'s wedding?

Chris Harrison: Yeah, they might. Of course that's not up to me, but a lot of it goes into -- unfortunately it's not as easy as you think. We'd like to do an ABC thing, sure. But you actually have to find a hole in the prime time lineup to actually do a two-hour wedding, and obviously ABC long in advance filled that lineup.

It's not like week to week where you can just throw something on TV. So, if they can find a hole in their lineup and it works with J.P. and Ashley and it works with the location that you're using -- a lot of things have to come together.

It seems easy when we say, "Hey! We're televising a wedding!" But a lot of things have to align to make those happen, and they have to agree to do it and all that. So, there's a lot to be done, but hopefully we will.

Do you have any insight on what might have caused former The Bachelorette couple Ali and Roberto Martinez to break up?

Chris Harrison: I don't know. I've talked to both of them and I think it was just one of those things that they are definitely two -- the more they got together, I think they're just from two different lifestyles.

And it was kind of -- You go back to Ben and Kacie B. where Roberto is definitely more of a conservative low-key guy. Ali is more of a free spirit and does love the limelight and wants to be a television host, obviously, as I guess she's off chasing down jobs.

So I think that definitely did create a divide where he kind of wanted to slow down and settle down, and she wanted to speed up and continue a life in the limelight. So, I'm sure that was part of it -- not all of it -- but you'd have to talk to them to get the details. I'm sure that their lifestyles and choices definitely play a huge part.

Click here to read the first half of Chris' interview. Also be sure to read our separate interview with The Bachelor runner-up Lindzi.

(Photo credit ABC)


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