After more than 20 seasons, the show aired a completely unedited scene, and sent shockwaves through Bachelor Nation. The scene showed Arie Luyendyk Jr. breaking up with his fiancee, Becca Kufrin, upon arriving at what she thought would be a private weekend for the two of them.
Many fans and Bachelor/Bachelorette alumni, including Ben Higgins and Sean Lowe, spoke out against the move, saying they didn't think the split should've been filmed. ET spoke with Robert Mills, ABC Entertainment's Senior Vice President of Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night Programming, about what actually went down behind the scenes.
ET: Overall, do you feel good about how the first night of the finale went?
Robert Mills: It got a reaction, and everyone's talking about it. That's really all you can do. You've heard from people today saying, 'I've never watched the show before,' so when you get that [discussion], you can't help but feel this thing came out great.
When and why did you make the decision to air the breakup unedited?
Once we saw the footage it was a two-second thing. Instant. We really needed everyone to see this and have kind of the same reaction we were having. It's like the old saying, there's three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth. And no one's lying. And that's sort of the case here, where the more of that that we can capture, so everyone can actually see it, and not say, "Well, I said this," "No, actually I said this." Last night, there was no doubt as to what went down there, between Arie and Becca. You now know everything, whether you agree with it, or disagree with it. You see it all, and you're able to make your decision on how you feel about it.
What were the logistics of how this unedited on-camera breakup happened? How was it explained to Becca that there were camera crews on what's called a "happy couple weekend" for the lead and his final pick?
I think it was told, basically, we just want to get an interview about how things are going, and there's no reason for her to sit and say, "Oh my god, a camera's here? He's breaking up with me!" I think that she really just didn't think anything of it.
What was different about filming the breakup because it was an unusual scenario?
It was definitely a skeleton crew.
What about the decision to go split screen for viewers?
It was just because you wanted to see both faces. You know, it's like ... especially as we talked about, there was a real economy of words here, so I think what you wanted to see was the emotion in the faces, and you didn't want to have to go back and forth, so that was really it.
There's been some fan and alumni backlash. How do you respond?
Whenever anything controversial happens, good, bad, or ugly ... there's going to be a backlash, so that always happens. So did we expect it? Yes. Breakups are really hard. We do have the philosophy that there is this unwritten contract that, you have said you're going to share this relationship with everybody, with the audience. It's amazing [that] there's so much outrage over this, but we filmed him breaking up with Lauren! I don't really see what the difference is. I think that the thing with this is, those breakups, the final breakup, there's all the prep time and there's music under it and it swells and it's very romantic and it's this place that's not real. This was real ... which is why it resonated with so many people. None of us get broken up with usually in a place like Peru or Switzerland or St. Lucia or any of these over-the-top places, but we've all certainly gotten broken up with in a house or in a living room on a couch. So I think that it just really hit home and it felt very personal. But, you know, that's the aim of this.
Some fans have argued that Arie was "forced" to break up with Becca on camera by production. Could Arie have done this breakup off camera?
Of course he could have done it off camera if he wanted to! I think we certainly would have explained why ... this still would have played out fairly similarly. We would have had Chris Harrison say, "Arie's had a change of heart.'"And he'd have to say, "I went back to Virginia, and I told Becca," and then you'd have Becca saying, "Well, Arie went and it was incredibly cold and he did this and I can't believe this." You'd just have people telling this instead of seeing it. So I think that we definitely wanted him to do this, and like I said, there is the thing of people are going to see this romance play out before the camera, everything, from beginning to end. And there's a lot of good and there's a lot of bad. But could he have? You can't force somebody into doing something.
Monday night, we heard Arie and Becca talk about a conversation he'd had with Lauren since their split. How did he get in touch with Lauren?
He was very confused probably from say late December through mid-January, which is when this all went down. I think it started with, "Well, is it just something that's going to pass and I'm just confused?" or is this full blown "I made a mistake. My gut, my heart is here and I need to go back to this woman?" And once he realized without a doubt it was the latter, and he needed her, that's when he did let us know, and we made arrangements to get him and Becca in a room together as quickly as possible so he could talk to her. And [to talk to Lauren] he could call the producers and say, "Hey, I spoke to Becca. She knows, and I'd love to get in touch with Lauren." And then I would assume they'd check with Lauren and see if it's OK, and then they'd give him her number.
So why did Arie want to have it filmed? Some people have wondered if it was so Lauren could see what really happened.
You know, I don't know. I can't speak for Arie, but I think that's a really interesting thesis. I mean, it could very well be. There's certainly no doubt, if she wants to watch that, as to what happened, and the one thing I do know is [Arie and Becca] have not seen each other [or spoken] since. So if that's what he wanted to do, Lauren can now watch it all with the rest of us.
Becca took her ring off during the breakup. Where is it now?
Becca's ring is back with Neil Lane, safely!
Arie's known a lot of the crew and producers for years. How did everyone on staff react to what he wanted to do?
Arie is somebody who is really, really well liked by the producers, myself included. He's a great guy, so I think there was a lot of sadness. I think there was a little bit of, "Oh my God, did we fail that he didn't come to this realization in the first place and not pick Lauren?," which was kind of a bummer. People were not jumping up and down high-fiving, saying, "Oh my God, the ratings are going to be amazing."
This is being touted as the most dramatic Bachelor finale ever. Does that make Arie the biggest "villain" ever?
Do I think he's the most flawed Bachelor? Maybe. I think we have to see what happens with Arie and Lauren. Isn't it worth it if Arie and Lauren do end up marrying and together in the long run?
Several contestants from Arie's season have said they don't think he's ready for marriage. Do you?
When I first hung out with him, this was August or September, right before we were starting, he could not have been more sincere in that's what he was looking for. But I think he's a complicated person. I think we saw it in the dates with the parents, and hearing the parents talk about Arie, why they like Becca, because she's going to give you the kick in the ass that you need. So I don't know. I think he certainly loves the idea of being married. But is he? I don't know.
Did any part of you expect this outcome from him?
I think Arie's biggest problem is that he loves too much. He just loves everybody, and I think that's what gets him into trouble. It's never his intention. He doesn't want to hurt anyone. He would never do anything deliberate. I mean, that's why, to me, the most interesting thing, and I've mentioned this before, his big thing, whether it was Emily breaking up with him and breaking his heart, or when he's breaking up with these girls, he always wants that closure hug. Oh, give me a hug. And the fact that Becca would not give him that, it's interesting. Arie really... that's his problem. He wants to give everybody a hug, and sometimes you can't do that. So I think that's when you get into trouble.
Arie made headlines for making some unhappy comments on the official Bachelor Instagram. What's his relationship with the network like now?
This is a hard role no matter who you, what you've done, and whether you're a model Bachelor or Bachelorette like Sean Lowe, or somebody like Arie, where there's controversy and bad feelings and I think it was getting to him. It's hard because on the one hand, we are an "entertainment show," so you're trying to entertain people, and now social media is a big thing and we've put these things out there, and I think our social media is incredibly clever and the best, but sometimes there is that feeling of "Oh my gosh, aren't you guys supposed to be on my side?" So I think that was sort of a one-time incident because we did rectify that, and I think he gets that. I don't think there's any hard feelings. I think his relationship is fine with us, but we also have to be cognizant of he is a real person and going through a lot of trauma as well as Becca.
Some are saying Becca for Bachelorette. What do you say to those saying she hasn't had enough time to heal?
I do understand that. But I think certainly, when Jason said goodbye to Melissa Rycroft, we wanted her to be the Bachelorette, and she said, "Absolutely not. This is not something I'm comfortable with." So I think that it would be a mistake to make Becca the Bachelorette if she absolutely wasn't ready, no matter how much time has gone by. But if she says, "Look, I'm willing to try this and enough time has passed," then I think we'd be silly not to consider it.