Even while MTV's popular reality series "The Hills" was in its heyday, its own cast members admitted that the drama was heavily manipulated by producers. So it wasn't too shocking when Tuesday night's 10th anniversary special revealed that the most famous fight in the show's history (in which star Lauren Conrad accused her ex-best friend, Heidi Montag, of spreading rumors that she made a sex tape) was also apparently set up.
However, it was somewhat surprising on "The Hills: That Was Then, This is Now" special to see previously unseen footage of the argument — and how, at the time, Conrad was furious at MTV and producers for manipulating the messy situation.
The incident occurred during the third season premiere in August 2007, just as the show was hitting its peak as MTV's breakout hit. Montag had just moved in with her universally despised boyfriend, Spencer Pratt, driving a wedge between her and Conrad. But Conrad and Montag went from simple ex-friends to mortal enemies when Conrad believed that Pratt and Montag spread a rumor that she made a sex tape with her ex-boyfriend.
During the episode, Conrad and her friends were at a birthday party at Les Deux nightclub (RIP) when Montag and Pratt showed up. Conrad stormed out as soon as she saw them. Eventually, Montag confronted Conrad and demanded to know why she was upset. It turned into a screaming match of "You guys are sick people. . . . You started a sick little rumor about me!" (Conrad) and "I didn't start any rumor about you!" (Montag) and Conrad's infamous line, "You KNOW what you did!" After it aired, the Conrad-Montag-Pratt feud dominated the gossip cycle for months.
Anyway, the scene really is a work of reality show art, and turns out it's because the producers basically knew what was going to happen. In Tuesday's special, former producer Sophia Rossi even showed Conrad an advance script of how execs hoped the night would go. ("The party is in full swing. Heidi and Spencer may or may not make an appearance. Heidi and Lauren eye each other from across the room.")
"This was written before we got there?" Conrad asked incredulously, grabbing the piece of paper. "You know this is super creepy right? … I wish I had known."
Still, at the time, Conrad figured something weird was going on when Montag and Pratt showed up at the nightclub. "I definitely felt set up," Conrad admitted to Rossi. "I was so hurt by these people I didn't want to be in the same room as them."
Conrad and Rossi then watched unaired, behind-the-scenes footage from the episode, which featured Conrad very upset as she spoke to producers off-camera — viewers couldn't see anything, but could hear her audio.
"MTV should care what Spencer did to me. It's not okay that they let him up here," Conrad is heard saying to a producer at the club in grainy footage, her voice hoarse from crying.
And even though viewers would love the drama, Conrad was not amused at the time: "It's not f—ing funny when you guys do that," she told the crew. "I'm gonna go home now. I don't want to film in the same vicinity as them."
Speaking of creepy, there's nothing that takes you out of a reality show faster than hearing a person refer to the fact that they're being filmed. Clearly, Conrad knew producers (or "MTV") arranged for Montag and Pratt to arrive so they could have a blowup fight. So it's just one in an unsettling series of reminders how much executives can manipulate everything — even if cast members think they're way too smart to fall for it.
More in Arts & Entertainment: