'Bachelorette' Meredith: Ian's Her Man

02/25/2004 at 01:00 PM EST

In the end, passion beat stability. At least that appeared to be the case during ABC's two-hour conclusion of "The Bachelorette," during which Meredith Phillips chose Brazil-born hunk Ian McKee as her Mr. Right.

When Meredith broke the news to Ian, the 29-year-old New York investment banker dropped to a knee and proposed to her -- a decision he had said he wouldn't make until the moment he was chosen.

That, of course, meant someone had to lose. Matthew Hickl, a 28-year-old pharmaceutical salesman from Texas, lost out on his bid for the 30-year-old makeup artist's heart.

"There's nothing that I don't love about you," she told him. "But there's a 'but.' And the 'but' is I feel more strongly for someone else." The stunned Matthew took the moral high road and declared he was a better man for having known her.

Initially, Matthew seemed to have a lock on Meredith's heart. During a visit with her family in Portland, Ore. -- which included her parents, brother and an uncle -- the couple endured a dinner filled with probing questions, and then Meredith's protective sibling gave the thumbs-up to the friendly Texan.

It seemed to be a done deal when, after dinner, Meredith told Matthew that she hoped to come away from the show with a ring from him.

But what a difference a day made. The next night, Ian was subjected to the same grilling. As Meredith struggled to shake off memories of her prior evening with Matthew, both she and Ian worried that the depth of their relationship would not be readily apparent to outside observers. "All I can offer Meredith is my heart," Ian told the camera.

But he, too, proved to be a hit with her family, who noticed the changes Meredith underwent while in Ian's presence. "It's unfortunate that you have to pick," her mother said.

During the final two nights, Meredith was given one last date with each guy. After entertaining Ian with a slightly burned pizza, he pressed her about her final decision, as he debated whether to propose to Meredith.

Matthew, on the other hand, couldn't wait to propose to her. "I'll be wearing a grin from ear to ear (if chosen)," he says. At his individual date, he told Meredith that he would do anything to stay with her.

But it was not to be.

As for the happy couple, Meredith and Ian will be reunited for the first time since the filming on "The Bachelorette: After the Final Rose" live in New York on Thursday.

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