“The Bachelorette” entered uncharted waters on Monday night, when producers decided to air the real time reactions of the cast members to the death of a former contestant. Viewers already knew of the tragic death of Eric Hill, who perished in April following a paragliding accident in Utah, but on the July 7 episode of the ABC reality show, Chris Harrison broke the news on camera to “Bachelorette” star Andi Dorfman and the final four contestants.
“You all know Eric Hill,” Harrison told the group. “He, a couple of days ago, was in Utah paragliding and was in a serious accident. We knew he was hurt bad we just didn’t know how bad. We learned this morning that he passed away.”
The shocked cast broke down, and Dorfman and contestant Marcus Grodd actually walked out of the room. When "The Bachelorette" star returned, she was sobbing about her last conversation (which, unfortunately, was an argument) with Hill.
“I can’t believe that was my last conversation with him,” Dorfman sobbed, referring to the episode that aired last month which had Hill leaving the show after accusing “The Bachelorette” star of being a TV actress and having a “poker face.”
While the emotional footage was difficult to watch, show host Chris Harrison stands by ABC’s decision to air the scene. He told TV Guide, "There were people within the show that didn't want us to shoot us talking to Andi and the guys and those that didn't want it to be televised at all, but I vehemently disagreed and fought like crazy to shoot it and eventually use it."
Harrison admitted that producers weren’t sure if they would actually use the footage, and added, “[Creator] Mike Fleiss called me and said, 'I'm sorry we shot this,' and I said, 'We had to.’ I don't think you get to pick and choose when you shoot things and when you turn the cameras off. This show is built on the fact that we show you everything and just because something is uncomfortable for me or the producers, we all of a sudden turn the cameras off? It seems hypocritical."
The longtime host also added that he knows that some people will think producers took advantage of the tragic situation for ratings. “But I stand by the fact that we didn't milk it and didn't sensationalize it,” he said. “I’m proud that we had the guts to show it.”
Of the moment she learned of Hill’s sudden passing, Dorfman told People magazine, “I was devastated. Shock, devastation, grief. It's something you never could have predicted [or] expected.” She later said she was sure she and Hill would have made amends at the “After the Final Rose” taping.
Last month, Hill’s sister Karen Tracy addressed her brother’s death via a piece for Today, and revealed that the family was comforted by seeing some of Hill’s final days play out on camera: “People ask if it's difficult to watch him on the show, and I do get a little nervous until I see the handsome brother that I know and love,” she wrote. “I get a little tearful, but I know Eric would want his audience to enjoy the journey with him, and seeing him makes me smile.”
“The Bachelorette” airs on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.