Credit: ABC

With perhaps the unlikeliest final four in Bachelor Pad history, host Chris Harrison called tonight’s finale “one of the wildest, craziest, most dramatic and devastatingly stunning shows you have ever seen.” Between unexpected romantic pairings (and triangles… and quadrangles), game-changing eliminations, and some truly ear-shattering karaoke, the path to tonight’s episode has been anything but smooth. Below, Harrison reveals why he found this season “scary” but now thinks it may be the best to date. Then, EW offers an exclusive clip showing an uncomfortable confrontation between two showmancers that sheds some light on why even a 10-year franchise vet like Harrison found Pad‘s season-ender “hard to watch.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After last week’s karaoke challenge, have you officially retired “Sister Christian” from your iPod?

CHRIS HARRISON: No way! First of all, I’m a kid of the ’80s, so I love it. [I was excited] when they told me we were doing that and we got to hang out for two or three hours with the guys as they were doing their sound check. We had a blast, it was so fun. The guys from Night Ranger were really cool about it. They kind of got the whole thing and put on a show for us. It was really neat.

You seemed surprised Nick performed as well as he did. I know you’ve been giving him some gentle ribbing in your blogs.

It was a huge surprise. I didn’t know he was on the show! It was unbelievable. It is the craziest story that this guy has survived this long. I think he wasn’t interesting enough to vote out. There were bigger fish to fry each week because the alliances were trying to take each other — Erica versus Michael, and Chris and Blakeley. There were so many fights and so many battles that he was just kind of standing there, like, “All right.” He just survived. He didn’t make himself a big enough part of the game to be worthy of being voted out. Both alliances knew they could put him down whenever they wanted — they had the votes to get rid of him, so [they didn’t] worry about it. Nobody foresaw Erica changing the game so dynamically by taking Michael out. Then Rachel and Nick became a partnership. Then in that final challenge, the plan got away from [the dominant players]. You have to give him credit. He’s played it very well, and he’s survived. That’s what you have to do at Bachelor Pad — just survive.

This is a really unexpected final four. After she was voted out last week, Jaclyn said in anger that she would vote for Chris and Sarah.

The Jaclyn-Rachel thing is very interesting. When you’re standing up there, and you know your best friend is going to take you with her — you’ve had this alliance and taken care of each other and done everything you’ve promised… [it seems like] of course Rachel’s going to choose Jaclyn. Honestly, Rachel would have. She tried, but Nick got the better of her that night and kind of took advantage of her. She regrets it, and she was sad, but she definitely stabbed Jaclyn in the back. Jaclyn was bitter about it, pissed — and she’s still mad about it. It’s something else that changes the game. Rachel, as sad as she was and upset and regretful, as a friend you would still think, “What the heck? How could you not have taken me with you in the end?” That’ll definitely come into play when they have to vote.

Going into the finale, what are the strengths and weaknesses for the final four?

Well the weakness, obviously, for Chris and Sarah is that they’re not the most likable couple, but… you have to remember there are fans on that jury. The fans don’t really have an alliance. Then [Chris can count on] the other people that were in his alliance, so they have some votes already going in. Then there are a lot of swing votes this season. That was the main difference that you’ll see, and that’s what made Bachelor Pad different this season. You can usually look and you know all these people. Well, you don’t know all of them now, so there were a lot of swing votes up for grabs. As for, Chris and Sarah, say what you will about him, but he played the game well, and so did Sarah. They won challenges, and he schemed well, and he brought Erica into the voting booth and changed the game. You have to give him some credit in the way he played the game.

Then you look at Rachel and Nick, and they didn’t play the game. They [practically] just met a week ago and got thrown together. You could say Nick was a genius, but he was definitely a quiet genius. What did he do to really earn his [place in the finals]? Rachel really was riding on Michael’s coattails — she wasn’t calling the shots. As far as game playing goes, Chris and Sarah were far more dominant. That says a lot.

They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Obviously Rachel and Nick are a little more likable than Chris and Sarah, so is it a popularity contest? Is it gamesmanship? This definitely made for an interesting vote.

NEXT: Watch Michael get defensive during his reunion with Rachel, then learn why Harrison called the finale “disturbing”

It seemed like Rachel had secured what would effectively be a second win for Team Stagliano, but, given their confrontation, it seems like he’s burned that bridge.

Michael’s come out of every situation smelling like a rose. He has been this sympathetic figure — in large part because of the Holly situation. He’s played that well. He’s played the whole heartthrob thing well and the “poor old boy,” but it’ll be interesting to see if he comes out of this situation smelling so sweet. Now he’s the guy who hurt the girl. He’s the one who broke the heart. He’s not the nice guy in this situation. He’s not the victim. He played the victim very well, and he’s used that in every facet of his life, from his music and everything else. But he’s not that poor, sweet, innocent guy anymore. That’s not to say he’s a bad guy. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I don’t think he’s evil, and I don’t think he did anything to harm Rachel, but he did. Rachel is upset, and he definitely has to answer for it.

Michael came into this season saying he was looking for love, but he also said the game is all about lying. In hindsight, I could see how people might think he was playing Rachel.

Yeah. Well… played her, used her… the thing is, he could have used her and played her without the romance and affection. They were partners anyway. He didn’t need to take it to the next level and the level beyond that. That’s what Rachel is saying, like, “Look, what we did was well beyond the game.” She even said that: “We were sleeping together.” That’s really different than just playing the game and being buddies. He has to answer for that. It’s the first time he’s been put in that defensive role and had to explain himself and his actions. I was proud of Rachel. She stood up for herself in the finale, and they will definitely have to deal with that, and it’s emotional. It’s hard to watch, and it was definitely hard to sit there.

What exactly made you call this particular finale the “most dramatic” yet?

There were so many things that happened. If one or two of those happened [in any other season], we would have left and, at the end of the night, been like, “That was a good show. That was really cool. All right good season. We wrapped it up.” This one, we all just were stunned and speechless at the end of the show. … I don’t even know how they could edit just two hours. There were so much, so many stories, and there was so much drama, and there was so much emotion, we hadn’t even gotten to the game yet. Whether it was Lindzi and Kalon, or Rachel and Michael, or Blakeley and Chris and Jamie and Sarah. There were so many stories, that it was hard to even get to, “Okay, now we have to decide who’s going to win a quarter of a million dollars.” And then once we did that, we had that intrigue and that drama. It was a wild night.

Any closing thoughts on this season?

I didn’t know what to expect this season coming in. This group of contestants, the alumni so to speak, I didn’t know what kind of dynamic they would bring to the table because they didn’t know each other that well. We had a lot of newcomers that weren’t part of the fraternity, so to speak, yet. Kalon and Chris, they were on the show, but they haven’t hung around with everybody for a while. Even Blakeley and some of those girls — because they’re new. We didn’t have that built-in fraternal dynamic that you’ve seen in past seasons. Then you throw in the newbies, the fans who didn’t know anybody, and I wasn’t sure what the show was going to be. That’s a little bit scary as a producer and a host. When you go into an interview, you should know the answer to a question before you ask it. I didn’t know what this show was going to be, I didn’t know what we were going to get. I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing [it turned out]. It may be our best season ever as far as drama and intrigue. The couples that have come out of it were so surprising. You can’t be surprised that Kipton and Tenley are together. They perfect in every way. But you can be really surprised that, say, Blakeley and Tony are together or that Lindzi and Kalon are together. That’s shocking. It’s amazing that these couples are coming out of this show. And the way the show ended — with the alliances being absolutely blown apart and the show turning a 180 at the end, it’s been an amazing, pleasant surprise for not just the host but for the fans as well.

Judging from this clip of Michael and Rachel, it’s going to be a stunning finale.

It is emotional, and it is disturbing. It is an incredible finale. It may be two of the best hours that we’ve ever produced in the 10 years that we’ve been doing any franchise. It may be the best show that we’ve ever put on the air. And I know it’s going to get lost in the end-of-summer, football, and other shows are on, but it’s incredible. It’s one of those things. I almost wish it could have a bigger, better stage than early September, which is kind of the dead part of television, because it is incredible. It is absolutely amazing — one of those Emmy-worthy shows for sure.

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Chris Harrison reassembles former rose-contenders for a second chance at reality fame, love, and televised skankiness
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