It was yes and no – and then no again – on the season finale of ABC's The Bachelorette Monday night, when Jen Schefft picked Jerry Ferris, a 29-year-old art gallery director from Los Angeles, over fellow finalist John Paul Merritt, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from Oklahoma.
But then the bachelorette turned down Ferris's marriage proposal, saying that she just wanted to remain friends with him.
Earlier in the night, Schefft let Merritt down easy, saying: "I think you have every quality I'd want in a man." Exit Merritt, looking shell-shocked as he collapsed in the backseat of a limo that sped away.
Despite the downbeat outcome, the lengthy three-hour finale still went through the standard rituals: introducing the two bachelors to Schefft's parents, shopping for rings and showing the towel-clad boys hopping out of bed and shaving their faces in the morning.
There were also teasers suggesting all would end happily ever after. Even so, as PEOPLE reported last week, sources in Schefft's adopted hometown of Chicago have linked the 28-year-old publicist to her boss, local nightclub promoter Billy Dec, 32.
"I said from the beginning that I didn't think she was gonna get hitched out of this," says one friend. "She wasn't really into any of the guys."
The fizzling romance marks another potential blow for the ailing ABC franchise, which has suffered dwindling ratings in its last few outings. This season's Bachelorette averaged 8.7 million viewers, ranking a very modest 61st among all prime-time broadcast network shows.
Of the nine love matches struck on the Bachelor and Bachelorette shows, only two couples – Trista and Ryan Sutter and Byron Velvick and Mary Delgado – remain together.
Unless ratings improve, says one network source, the next installment set to begin this spring and to star actor Charlie O'Connell (twin to Crossing Jordan star Jerry O'Connell) as The Bachelor – will likely be the last.