In the end, similar to the long-running reality franchise's ongoing ratings decline, ABC's third The Bachelorette edition ended not with a bang but with a whimper.

Demonstrating that the bloom is definitely off The Bachelor rose regardless of whether a man or woman is doing the picking, Bachelorette Jen Schefft set a new Bachelor breakup record during last night's season finale, rejecting the marriage proposals of both her Final 2 suitors -- including that of selected final suitor Jerry Ferris.

During the broadcast of the pre-taped portion of the evening-long three-hour Bachelorette event, Jen rejected the proposal of John Paul Merritt, a 25-year-old Oklahoma entrepreneur who appeared to be the preference of her friends and family.

After listening to Jen tell him "you are incredible" and "I think you have every quality I look for in someone," Jen shocked John Paul with words that he didn't expect to hear -- "but... something is just not there."

"There's that gut feeling... oh my god, this guy is great and he's every quality that I'm looking for, [but] I just don't know if it's there forever," explained Jen in a comment that alluded to the possibility that despite her public comments stating otherwise, time has not yet fully healed the wounds left by the 28-year-old former Bachelor 3 bachelorette's breakup with fiance Andrew Firestone.

Stating that he was "angry" and "upset," John Paul reacted strongly in his post-rejection limousine ride. "I'm not going to lie, it hurts, it hurts bad," said John Paul. "Jen let the wrong guy go."

"I think Jen made a mistake. I think six months from now she'll regret it. Jen's going to wake up, she's going to be 32 and [still] looking for a husband... looking for someone she knew was there and passed up, and it will be too late at that point," he added in what would become a strangely prophetic comment.

Despite being the final suitor selected by Jen, Jerry, a 29-year-old art gallery director from Los Angeles, also didn't exactly get the response he was expecting after proposing to her.

"I have 100% fallen for you but I've been here before and just want to make sure that we do it right. I want you to keep that, I want you to give it back to me if you feel the same way about me down the road that you do now," Jen told a surprised Jerry. "I just want to make sure that we do it right. I so want that ring and I so want this to work and I hope you know how committed to this and to you I am."

"I'm not going anywhere," was Jerry's quick response, setting up the live After The Rose event in which Jen would finally respond (after more than three months) to Jerry's engagement proposal.

Reunited on stage, Jerry -- no doubt already well aware of what Jen's response would be -- casually pointed to the ring he was still holding and asked "I guess the big question is what the heck am I supposed to do with this thing?"

Trying to salvage some portion of her previously positive public image that she had reportedly hoped to parlay into a television career similar to that of former Survivor sweetheart Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Jen quickly launched into full spin control mode seeking to absolve herself of sole responsibility for the breakup.

"OK, well you know... I think that you know I was so committed to this -- I hope that you know that -- and I really tried to make it work but I think we talked a lot and we saw each other and I think that we both came to the realization that we were better as friends," Jen told Jerry as the live studio audience gasped audibly as if on cue (and apparently ignorant of the numerous media reports that had indicated the couple's relationship had quickly ended.)

After sharing an embrace, Jerry replied with what appeared to be a well-rehearsed response of his own. "I love you for that and I said it before [but] I love you for reintroducing me to a part of my heart that I hadn't felt in the long time," he told the woman who had allegedly just shocked and broken his heart.

"I'm ready to love again [and] I'm open to it, but I respect you for knowing more about the situation than I do," Jerry added as he launched into full player mode. "It's been hard and I'm sorry that I couldn't have been there for you more than I have been and I hope that on some level I can be there for you forever and I just want us to define whatever that is."

While failing to disclose any details as to why her relationship with Jerry unraveled, Jen did comment on the status of her rumored relationship with Chicago nightclub owner Billy Dec, her boss. "My boss is my boss, he's my friend. We're not dating, I'm not dating anyone," she replied to Bachelorette host Chris Harrison.

In the end, at least one former Bachelorette finalist finished the night a winner. Over on NBC, Ryan Sutter, the Bachelorette bachelor who famously married original Bachelorette Trista Rehn, won the network's two-hour Fear Factor: Reality Stars counter programming special. Cheered on by wife Trista, Ryan defeated Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn, Survivor: The Amazon winner Jenna Morasca, The Amazing Race 4 co-winner Reichen Lehmkuhl, American Idol 1 second runner up Nikki McKibbin and The Apprentice villainess Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth to win the competition's $50,000 cash prize.

The Bachelorette 3 was the lowest rated Bachelorette edition yet, averaging only 8.76 million viewers prior to last night's finale and ranking 60th in the 2004-2005 primetime season standings. With The Bachelorette 3 having failed to reverse The Bachelor franchise's ongoing steep ratings decline (including its finale numbers, last fall's The Bachelor 6 averaged 8.79 million viewers) the future of ABC's long-running signature reality relationship show is now considered to be very much in question.

While a seventh The Bachelor edition starring Charlie O'Connell will premiere on March 28, whether the series will be part of ABC's 2005-2006 primetime schedule is uncertain.

Out of the franchise's nine matchmaker relationships, only two couples remain together. Shattering the post-Trista and Ryan theory that the show's format only worked when women were doing the picking, in addition to The Bachelorette 3's unhappy ending, Bachelorette 2 couple Meredith Phillips and Ian McKee also recently announced their breakup.

Of the six Bachelor couples, only Byron Velvick and Mary Delgado, the most recent, remain together.

Like Meredith and Ian, Bachelor 5 couple Jesse Palmer and Jessica Bowlin, fourth edition couple Bob Guiney and Estella Gardinier, and third edition couple Andrew Firestone and Jen Schefft all also appeared on Extra to formally announce their own breakups (although Bob and Estella's demise had been widely reported prior to their appearance.) First and second season couples Alex Michael and Amanda Marsh and Aaron Buerge and Helene Eksterowicz also failed to develop a lasting romantic relationship on the ABC reality show