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His method is disengaging

Jason Mesnick rethinks his proposal to Melissa Rycroft on 'Bachelor.'

March 04, 2009|Jon Caramanica

Have you ever seen a dead woman walking?

Such was the sensation watching the Monday night finale of the 13th installment of "The Bachelor," in which Jason Mesnick's decision to propose to Melissa Rycroft rather than Molly Malaney was drawn out for the usual two hours. This season, though, the normal suspense was replaced by something very different: preemptive sympathy.

For at least two weeks, spoilers about what developed after Jason's proposal had spread from Internet fan sites to the tabloid weeklies. Melissa got the ring, but she did not get Jason's heart; he had dumped her for Molly.

So when Melissa spoke with her mother from the couple's romantic getaway in New Zealand, it was hard not to wince when she confessed, through tears, "I've completely fallen for him. I absolutely told him I loved him, and that was huge."

And when, after the proposal, Jason, Melissa and Jason's son, Ty, all jumped in a pool after Melissa had shouted "I'm gonna be a Mesnick!" it was hard not to reflect upon how perfect moments are fabricated just like imperfect ones, and as subject to unraveling.

Jason's eventual flip-flop isn't without precedent. But as a divorced father who himself had his heart broken on "The Bachelorette" last year, Jason seemed to be the person least capable of wounding someone else in this context.

Still, there was Jason, six weeks after the taping of the season finale on the follow-up show, "The Bachelor: After the Final Rose," letting Melissa go and, in essence, his old self as well. "Everything I was ever looking for at that time in my life was Melissa," Jason told Jimmy Kimmel in an interview that aired after the finale. "Even the way she looked, I would say, was exactly what I was looking for."

Or, in other words, cutting Melissa off was little more than a ritual dumping of DeAnna, the Bachelorette who'd spurned him.

In the finale, DeAnna -- whom Melissa closely resembles in both appearance and temperament -- visited Jason in New Zealand without explanation, warning him, "I wouldn't say follow your heart; I would say lead it," her artless, loveless way of hinting she'd made a mistake by picking the puckish Jesse instead of him.

It's unclear which of those directives Jason ultimately opted for, likely because neither romance felt particularly intense, even if Molly's massage date in New Zealand did recall the Zalman King oeuvre (though not as much as Jason's hot-tub dalliance with second runner-up Jillian, who will be the next Bachelorette, a couple of weeks ago).

Depth of feeling this season was conveyed only through loss. When Jason eliminated Molly on Monday night, he practically doubled over in pain, bawling. And on "After the Final Rose," Melissa's hurt was clear. "You're such a bastard," she whispered.

Cameras zoomed in on Jason's and Melissa's faces with telenovela intensity, capturing the alternating currents of affection and chill between them. And the frank conversation between the two produced details that, on a show preoccupied with fantasy, rendered their love comfortingly mundane. "Don't call me," Melissa told Jason. "Don't text me."

Later, on Kimmel's show, Jason, in characteristically clumsy fashion, suggested that Melissa and Molly had made about as much of an impression on his 4-year-old son as had members of the show's production crew. (Asking Jason more about Ty, Kimmel teased: "Is there any chance you will dump him and replace him with a blond child?")

Jason suggested to Kimmel that he and Melissa had broken up before the taping of "After the Final Rose" and that their televised split was essentially a contractual formality. That in turn suggests that, as tabloids have hinted, Molly was not exactly surprised to learn that Jason wanted another shot.

That chain of events might explain the lack of spontaneity in their connection Monday, after he revealed to her that he'd ended things with Melissa. The dumper and the dumped made up. They kissed. They promised to give it an honest try. And yet, without the familiar cues -- the applause, the music, the rose -- you could be forgiven for mistaking this for an unhappy ending.


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