Our love-hate relationship with the "Bachelor" franchise has taken another hit. Trophy fiancé Ed Swiderski has been sullied by allegations that he carried on with not one, but two Chicago women after he proposed to Jillian Harris on "The Bachelorette."
Whether or not Ed is guilty of love in the third degree, one thing is becoming clear: "The Bachelor's" ewww factor now outweighs its awww factor.
"I feel gross, used and completely violated," Lindsey Johnson confided to Us magazine in its upcoming issue, claiming that Ed slept with her eight days after the proposal. The cover story: "Bachelorette Betrayed!"
Viewers, increasingly, feel the same way.
From season one, the show tried to balance fairytale love with lurid details. Yes, starter bachelor Alex Michel ultimately proposed to Amanda Marsh.
But not until after she slathered him in room-service chocolate sauce on their overnight date.
And let's not forget that he had given Trista Rehn a fairly thorough tryout on the show. There were reports that he pursued Trista after the final rose, too. Double ewww.
Whatever the case, Alex is still single.
Trista is really the best thing that happened to "The Bachelor," which may have had fewer seasons had she not made an honest man of Ryan Sutter after her season ended. Sweet Trista even moved from the beach to Colorado for her guy, opened up her wedding to TV cameras, and bore him two beautiful babies - as "The Bachelor" kept producing boors like Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Andy Baldwin, Brad Womack, Matt Grant, and Jason Mesnick.
The latter went from awww to ewww in 24 hours, dumping fiancée Melissa Rycroft on national TV.
Melissa triumphed by rebounding on "Dancing With the Stars." Awww.
She also rebounded by getting engaged to an ex within three months. Ewww.
Those of us who are beginning to suspect that producers are less concerned with true love than with ratings are surprised that, despite the show's faulty premise, sometimes "The Bachelor" succeeds despite itself. For instance, season seven's Charlie O'Connell chose Texas nurse Sarah Brice in 2005, broke up with her in 2007, and - shockingly - got back together with her in 2008. They are planning to be married.
And then there's Byron Velvick and Mary Delgado. They give "domestic" a bad name. They've been engaged since their season ended in 2004, but Mary has been arrested twice - once for public intoxication, and once for battering Byron.
Does the end justify the means? Is all fair in love and reality programming? Is Ed, after all this, a cad?
In the most recent season of "The Bachelorette," Jillian and Ed brought ewww to a new level with frank talk about their overnight date - and the lack of what they called a "physical connection."
Yes, that means what you think it means.
But they overcame that, and it looks as though they'll do their best to work through the latest accusations. Chicago's Lindsey Johnson, 29, and Betheny Steffen, 24, say that Ed wanted to have his wedding cake and eat it, too. Betheny says that nine days after the proposal, he sex-texted her to "bring beer and condoms" over to his place.
The betrothed bachelorette is facing the crisis head-on. "This is nonsense," she said Wednesday on "Good Morning America." "I feel like I'm in high school."
Ed was by her side. "It's actually not true at all," he said. "Jillian and I have been the target of being on of the very few successful couples on the show. We're clearly being targeted because we're happy."