There have been harsh exits from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but leaving Kasey and his tattoo behind on an Icelandic glacier might just top them all. "We haven't seen him since," jokes host Chris Harrison. With the group heading to Turkey, Harrison tells TVGuide.com about what he says will be "the most talked-about episode in years." Plus: Did Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi's split surprise him?
TVGuide.com: I have to ask: Were you surprised to hear that last season's couple, Jake and Vienna, broke up?
Chris Harrison: I was. Last time I saw them, we had dinner with Jake, Vienna and his parents right after the Dancing with the Stars finale, and they were doing great. We discussed the future, everything they were doing to the house, so I was as surprised as anybody.
TVGuide.com: Back to this season, this episode seemed to be the easiest decision Ali had to make thus far.
Harrison: To the viewer, Chris N. was an easy choice and it probably was to Ali, but he is a lot better of a guy than we even showed. It was one of those things: You either search and try to bring him out in editing or you just let it play out the way it did. He definitely wasn't the ghost he appeared to be on the show, but it was a pretty obvious choice. They had no chemistry.
TVGuide.com: Kasey's explanation of the tattoo was less creepy than I expected.
Harrison: I think he realized that if he told Ali it was about her, she was going to run for the hills, so he definitely back-pedaled, covered it pretty well, and made it more about the journey being there and the experience. At that point, it wasn't enough to save him.
TVGuide.com: How awesome was the ice cave on Kasey and Justin's two-on-one date?
Harrison: The ice cave was there and our art department and locals made all the ice furniture. We left it so they can take tours there and it's on a glacier, so it's not going anywhere any time soon. Was that not one of the greatest moments, leaving Kasey on the glacier? That last shot when they pulled out and you saw him standing there — we haven't seen him since.
TVGuide.com: How come the show decided on a cold locale?
Harrison: Some people said, "You need to go to a warm climate." We'll end up in Tahiti and Bora Bora, so we'll get there, believe me, you'll have bathing suits and all that. After you've gone to 50 beaches, they all start looking a little bit the same.
TVGuide.com: What did you think about Kirk opening up to Ali about his illness?
Harrison: We knew about it as producers and it's like Chris L. and his mom dying. When these guys want to open up about traumatic things, [they will]. They don't want to make their first meeting all about that. But it almost cost him. Ali was starting to wonder if he was really that genuine. Could he be that positive? Once he finally explained that crazy, horrifying experience, it totally made sense and then she found him more endearing. He has this positive energy she loves to be around. They hit it off, much to Frank's chagrin.
TVGuide.com: Frank's confidence is certainly dwindling.
Harrison: Frank is insecure, which I can honestly say I would be too. You wake up every morning and see 10 buff, ripped guys dating your girlfriend. Some guys step up to the challenge and deal with it. Some guys deal with it like Frank, which is when he's with her, it's all good, but when he's away and sees what else is going on he gets very jealous and it's tough for him to handle. He almost made a fatal mistake at the group date of almost pulling away completely, and Ali notices that stuff. As much as she seems to be goofing around on the dates, she really notices who's stepping up and who's really trying. She noticed Frank wasn't and she called him on it, so he really had to save himself.
TVGuide.com: They finally aired your deliberation talk with Ali.
Harrison: It's cathartic for all of us to sit down and work through the problems, and the funny thing is, with Ali, as many times as producers interview her, we had never gotten to the issue I was able to get to last night. For some reason, I get them to open up and having done this 20 times over, you learn to listen. It was interesting last night realizing that, for the first time, she's not scared about falling in love — she knows she's falling in love — but now she's scared she's not going to be loved back.
TVGuide.com: Do you think she was taken aback by you calling her out?
Harrison: One of things I love about The Bachelorette is that all of them are in different ways very representative of everyday women — whether it's Jillian who always made fun of herself or Ali who feels like she can never go out with the hot guy. It's really interesting exploring that side of people and my job is to find out what that is, let everyone else in on it, but also to help them get over it. Ali is so strong and independent, so it's funny to have that dichotomy: Joan of Arc on one hand and on the other it's Bambi.
TVGuide.com: What can you say about next week's reveal that Justin has a girlfriend?
Harrison: In our defense, we do background tests, blood tests, but to a certain extent you have to take people's word for it. Next week is the explosion and implosion of "Rated R." He has his side of the story, which you'll hear, and we and Ali have our side of the story. It threw me for a loop. I just had this talk with her about how insecure she is in Iceland, and then literally two days later this happens. Like with Roslyn or Wes, you learn that you have to deal with it openly, tell Ali and then let the chips fall where they may. Even our most ardent critic will be like, "OK, they were extremely transparent; this was not contrived by the producers." It's phenomenal and not necessarily in a good way. It will easily be the most talked-about episode we've had probably in five years.
TVGuide.com: Does it affect Ali going forward?
Harrison: I will say this: I was and am so proud of how Ali handled it and even a little surprised. She's the man — it was awesome to see.