If you’ve seen “The Bachelorette” this season, chances are good that you’ve muttered some choice expletives at the TV screen as Bentley, the 28-year-old dad from Utah, goes about the business of breaking Ashley’s heart while insulting her behind her back. But why on earth is he so determined to be such a royal jerk on national TV? That was the question presented to host Chris Harrison on Wednesday during a conference call. Though he’s as in the dark as the rest of us (“I don’t know what his end game was or what his motivations were,” Harrison admitted), he had plenty to say about the man who almost grounded this season of “The Bachelorette.”

“I thought he was going to be trouble from the moment Ashley told me he was going to be trouble,” he said. “We talked that night… and I was pretty adamant about my feelings about him. When you have information about the guy before he ever gets out of the limo, that is beyond a red flag. And she never heeded any of the warning signs.”
 
Harrison thinks may have overlooked the warning signs due to her experience on “The Bachelor.” “I think she was so anti-everything she had done on Brad’s season, where she was closed up and she didn’t let herself go and this season she kind of threw caution to the wind.” While he’s still not sure why she fell for Bentley (“She never really could answer that. Is it the bad boy? Is it the mother syndrome? I found it very perplexing myself”), he notes that, as fake as Bentley’s wooing was, Ashley’s feelings were, sadly, real. “I do think she was falling for him or in love with him. It happened fast. I don’t know why it happened so fast.”
 
While some have wondered if Bentley was a studio plant, Harrison bristles at the suggestion. “Couldn’t be further from the truth,” he says. “We didn’t put this guy in there. People give us too much credit and it doesn’t turn out to be a good thing for Ashley or for us, and we almost had to shut down production.” He adds that, had it been a few weeks later, it might have been impossible to continue filming. “This made her question everything,” he said. “The rest of the guys, herself, if doing the show was worth it. It was rough for her, but it was rough for us to keep her on track.”
 
He also dismisses the idea that the producers had any more information about Bentley’s plan than Ashley did before the show started. “He didn’t say all of those derogatory things in casting. He might have said it would be cool if it’s Emily [as the bachelorette] but he obviously didn’t say he’d use Ashley and destroy her.” And don’t forget that the producers gave Ashley an out. “We actually gave her the option, before the limo ever pulled up, you don’t have to meet this guy… but she said no, I want to meet him. I want to give him a shot.” Still, after Monday’s episode, he knows, “We’re absolutely going to catch some shrapnel. I’m already prepared for being absolutely attacked, how dare you, how can you not protect her? But at some point, you can’t stop what’s happening.”
 
He credits the other bachelors for playing a role in keeping Ashley committed. “The guys are a little older, more professional group, not frat-type guys,” noting they aren’t the “frat” types often seen on the show. “If not for those guys the show could have fallen apart.” But he notes that Bentley’s plot wasn’t evident to them, either. “It happened early, so the guys weren’t ready to warn or guard and protect Ashley. When he leaves, it catches everybody off guard [because] he does such a good job of not showing his hand. I think the guys will be watching this and be shocked.”
 
As to a recent interview in which Bentley claims his words were taken out of context, Harrison isn’t buying. “You can’t splice together when you see somebody like that. And honestly, you can’t really take the things he said out of context. Even in joking they’re not appropriate. You don’t talk about a woman like that. I would love to hear what his friends have to say about the stunt he pulls when he’s leaving, because I think that is worse than anything he says before.”
 
But that doesn’t mean Bentley couldn’t return to “The Bachelorette.” Harrison has his fingers crossed he’ll appear on the Men Tell All episode (“Not that I want to pick him apart, but I really want to hear his explanation”), the decision is not in his – or the producers – hands. “We would only do what Ashley wants to do. It’s up to Ashley.”
 
Speaking of Ashley, she’s only getting the full picture of what a jerk Bentley was as the episodes air. “She called me last week and said, ‘I can't believe all these things. I feel like such a fool and so played.’ Again, this is hindsight... She's seeing him for who he really is. It's funny, she said, 'why didn't you say something?' 'Ashley, I did.' And she'd say, 'I know.' That's the way it works. When you're friends with someone, that's all you can do. Let them fall on their face, then give them a big hug, pick them up and move on.”

On a lighter note, Harrison mentioned there will be one more big event on Monday's episode: Jeff, the 35-year-old "Masked Man" will (gasp!) remove his mask. "The joke went on a little too long, and it almost took over the person he is," Harrison said. "It's another big bomb being dropped on the show. It's ironic that the guy wanted to Ashley to see him for who he was, but by the time he takes it off, I think he doesn't know he he is anymore."

 

"The Bachelorette" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.