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Originally published December 16, 2009 at 10:52 AM | Page modified March 4, 2009 at 12:17 PM

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"The Bachelor" says "I do." And then: "I don't."

Kirkland single-dad Jason Mesnick chose Melissa as his bride, then ditched her for Molly, on the ABC reality TV show.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In just under an hour, Kirkland's Jason Mesnick went from Everyone's Favorite Single Dad to "The Bachelor's" Biggest Backpedaler. I didn't want to believe the Internet rumors about Jason changing his mind after the reality show finished taping in New Zealand, but the rumor-mongers won. And by dumping his first choice for the runner-up, Jason carved out a new spot for himself in the Bachelor Hall of Infamy.

Let's back up. The big news after "The Bachelor" finale was supposed to be whether the single dad chose sassy Molly, 24, or sweet 25-year-old Melissa. During the finale, the two survived some stern quizzing from Jason's parents, brothers and sister-in-law, and summoned up their best motherly instincts when they met Jason's son Ty, now 4.

And just to mix it up, "Bachelorette" DeAnna Pappas — the one who dumped Jason in an earlier series — finally made a cameo after endless promos teasing her appearance. DeAnna told Jason she regretted choosing snowboarder Jesse Csincsak (they broke up in the fall). Instead of choosing Jason, who had the qualities she wanted, she got caught up in someone who was fun. Ouch.

Did DeAnna's advice motivate Jason to choose Melissa? It's hard to say. When he sent Molly home, he told her he was in love with someone else. Molly pointedly told him he was making a mistake, but Jason disagreed. Until later.

But his proposal was earnest and cute. After Jason got down on one knee, Melissa got down on her knees in her flowy, lemon-yellow dress and asked him to marry her, too. It was all quite adorable and sweet. They jumped fully-clothed into a pool with Ty. Happiness and hugs all around.

But not for long, because if you're the Bachelor, there's always a backup. Those two hours all were just a build-up to the truly juicy portion of the night: "After the Final Rose," which was taped without an audience and made for an oddly silent set. Jason did a great job of being really nonspecific about why things weren't working with Melissa. He said something about how their chemistry was different and he had doubts. It seems like he was mostly thinking about Molly. But a guy with a mantra of "No regrets" is totally made for TV.

For someone dumped by her fiance on national TV for another woman, Melissa held up relatively well, with occasional forays into talking about herself in the third person. She accused Jason of having doubts and not fighting for the relationship. She took off her engagement ring and handed it back. She told him not to call or get in touch. She stormed off set. (I would have smacked him over the head with a handbag, at least.)

But wait! There could be a happy ending! It was Molly's turn, and host Chris Harrison got her to say she still loved Jason. And then to Molly's surprise and confusion, Jason told her things were over with Melissa and that he was still in love with her. Jason said it was important to follow their hearts, even if "it's not the classiest or coolest thing to do in the world." Hm, classy and cool are exactly the words that popped into my head.

And it's not over. We'll hear more about Molly and Jason's maybe-happy ending Tuesday night on the "After the Final Rose, Part 2." And the delightfully dramatic situation also creates a new dilemma for the franchise: Can viewers buy the romance if the first one fizzles so fast? Will viewers turn on Jason — and "The Bachelor"?

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