About 20 million people watched Trista Rehn, the rejected runner-up of ABC's first edition of "The Bachelor," pick Vail firefighter Ryan Sutter on the Wednesday night finale of "The Bachelorette," and give him strong indication that she expected to be proposed to on the spot.

"I see smiles and laughter, I see babies and grandbabies, I see comfort and safety; I see me in a white dress and I see it with you," the 29-year-old physical therapist and former Miami Heat cheerleader cooed at the former University of Colorado football player as they stood in their formal wear, knee deep in flower petals on a romantic patio, looking just like the cover of a Harlequin romance.

Sutter, no slouch in the take-a-hint department, fumbled in his pocket for the engagement ring thoughtfully provided him by Disney and Harry Winston, dropped to one knee and did as he was told.

The handsome 27-year-old, who was volunteered for the show by a college roommate who is now engaged to one of the original contestants from the ABC reality series "The Mole," had met Trista only six weeks earlier and had for most of that time shared her with a slew of other men. Nonetheless, he insisted on the finale that he loved her "with every ounce of who I am."

Meanwhile, Alex, the predator on "The Bachelor" who had dumped Trista, has reportedly split up with the woman he picked instead. And if that's not enough, Aaron Buerge and Helene Eksterowicz, the crazy-in-love couple from the second edition of "The Bachelor," are apparently splitsville, too, because, Aaron suggested during promos for last night's "The Bachelor: Aaron and Helene Tell All," he was miserable.

Yesterday, during one of those post-engagement telephone news conferences from New York that have become a regular part of the TV beat, Trista snarled at a reporter who asked whether she was concerned about the track record of "Bachelor" romances.

"I'm going to shoot one right back at you -- do you have any concerns with the divorce rate in America?" she snapped.

Poor Trista may not have been at her best after learning that her "Bachelorette" finale's 20 million viewer average, while making it the most watched program of the evening, fell about 6 million shy of the finale when Aaron made that proposal to Helene that he has lived to regret.

That would explain why, when during that same news conference another hardworking journalist just trying to get a "Bachelorette" story into the next day's paper tried to engage Trista in a conversation about the earlier rumors on the many fan Web boards that said she had picked Ryan's rival Charlie Maher, the smooth-talking, brilliantined account executive, Trista growled: "People have a little too much time on their hands and need to be doing something more productive." It's an interesting comment from a woman who has moved from Miami to Los Angeles and gone on this dating TV series not once but twice in hopes, she has said, of launching a Hollywood career. During yesterday's news conference, Trista said that if no offers came her way, she would move to Vail, where her fiance has a job.

(This may not be welcome news to residents of Vail, where the newspaper Vail Trail reports in its online edition that on Wednesday night the acronym for the town's trendy FuBar stood for "Fans Unbelievably Bummed About Ryan." One local resident, reflecting the view of others, said, "It's too bad she picked [Ryan]. He looks so cool, and she looks really lame and annoying. I feel bad for him.")

When a reporter from the Denver-based Rocky Mountain News asked Ryan what he had to say to the folks back home, Trista responded for him: "I have something to say -- he's taken."

Trista also said she plans to stay in touch with all 25 of the male contestants who attempted to win her affections during the series, because "Ryan was just the one who won my heart." That includes Bob, with whom she says she has been "talking under the table" -- whatever that means -- since the show wrapped filming in mid-November.

She got testy when one reporter asked Ryan about his tousled hair, which the reporter seemed to find objectionable.

"I guess you can't please everybody," Ryan started to reply, when Trista cut him off -- again. "He pleases me -- that's all that matters."

Asked why they thought reality programs were so popular, Trista speculated that "it's because they're real people, not playing characters," but added quickly that actors and actresses "inspire us."

Fences were mended, however, when yet another reporter suggested that Ryan looked like a young David E. Kelley.

"Oooohhhhh!" Trista gushed happily. Ryan had no idea who TV producer Kelley was. Trista quickly filled him in on all of Kelley's credits.

See the mother of Michael Jackson's two oldest children insist that the kids wear masks and veils in public, not because their dad is eccentric and a recluse who sometimes wears masks himself but because she has received threats that the children will be kidnapped. Hear her say that the pop star dangled his youngest child over the balcony of a Berlin hotel because the fans "wanted to see the little one so he showed them the little one" and blame the press for making too big a deal of it.

The February sweeps' Jacko mania continued last night, with "The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See."

Last night was Fox's turn; ABC got its crack last week with its broadcast of the British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson"; NBC's at-bat was Monday with the "Dateline" special "Michael Jackson Unmasked."

Jackson provided most of the footage used in last night's program, which set out to discredit the documentary that aired on ABC, for which journalist Martin Bashir had interviewed Jackson several times over eight months.

In that program and in an interview with ABC News, Bashir said he feared for Jackson's children and that the performer's behavior had become increasingly bizarre. Jackson says Bashir took him in and then betrayed him.

You know, kind of like Connie Chung did to Newt Gingrich's mom back in '95 when she told Kathleen Gingrich that if she would whisper to her what her son said about Hillary Clinton it would be "just between you and me," and then she broadcast it on national television.

Ironically, last night's program be hosted by Maury Povich, Chung's husband.

Povich -- the man who killed shame -- said repeatedly in the show that it was an objective presentation of facts, to enable viewers to decide for themselves.

The footage you were never supposed to see consisted mostly of Debbie Rowe talking about her relationship with Jackson, Jackson saying that while his dad beat him, "he's a genius," a discussion of an accident in the '90s in which Jackson's head was badly burned, Jackson explaining why his chimpanzee Bubbles no longer lives with him and how chimps used to help him clean his house. The most damaging part to Bashir was that clip you heard in the promos for this program, in which he seems to say to Jackson that "your relationship with your children is spectacular" and "almost makes me weep."

There's also some footage in which Bashir sympathizes with Jackson about how misunderstood he is and bemoans the fact that people are always trying to misrepresent him.

Fox said several times in the two-hour broadcast, both in words seen on-screen and through Povich, that Jackson had no editorial control over the content of the program.

Of course this is the same network that told newspapers to inform their readers that Evan Marriott would absolutely pick between contestants Sarah and Zora last week.

Funny how those little white lies come back to bite a network in the behind.

Jane Pauley will be leaving NBC News in June after 27 years with the network. Pauley anchored the "Today" show for 13 years before the brain trust at NBC News unceremoniously dumped her when the show's ratings sagged because in TV news, low ratings are always about the woman. Mysteriously, the ratings did not immediately improve when Pauley was replaced with Deborah Norville. Oh yeah, but they did immediately improve a few years later when Bryant Gumbel finally left.

Getting back to Pauley, she has anchored "Dateline" for the past 11 years. Yesterday she said that she had decided it was time for a change. Pauley, 52, had recently returned after taking several months off to write a book. After several strong years, "Dateline" ratings have sagged this year.

Will Wednesday night's "Bachelorette" finale be just the beginning for Trista and Ryan? Or will they end up like toothy Aaron and Helene, at left, of "The Bachelor"? One way or another, America is sure to find out.