Michael Stagliano may have won Bachelor Pad with his former fiancée Holly Durst, but the finale proved to be as complicated as it was celebratory.
Still recovering from the shock they’d heard only an hour before, they spoke with PEOPLE exclusively at the finale’s taping last week in their hometown of Los Angeles.
Before you won, Chris Harrison dropped the bomb about Holly’s engagement to Blake.
Holly: I was really upset. Last night, I called to tell him, but they’d already taken his phone. I was thinking, “Well, at least I will be able to tell him before the show so he isn’t blindsided.” But I wasn’t allowed to speak to him prior to walking out on stage. As soon as I sat down, I whispered that I needed to talk badly and then the bomb was dropped almost immediately. He was blindsided. That was the lowest thing they could have done for ratings.
Michael: I was caught off guard, humiliated. I know neither Holly nor Blake wanted it to go down like that. I’m now even more thankful for the talk we had two weeks ago, which provided closure I didn’t have before. If we hadn’t had that that, it would have been so much worse tonight. I might have just walked off stage.
Did you ever think you’d be sitting in the winners’ chairs?
Michael: Definitely not. Not once, the whole time, did I say to myself, “This is looking good. We could win this thing.” People knew that we were going to couple up and as soon as you are deemed a power couple, a target gets put on your back. I always felt we were on the chopping block.
Holly: I thought every week people were going to suddenly realize that we were solid and that’s dangerous in a game where two pairs compete. We kept Kasey and Vienna around. If they’d gone home, we would have followed shortly. But they acted like a shield. They were so dramatic and outspoken that everyone focused on them.
Michael: Everyone always wanted them off, which meant they weren’t paying attention to us.
Don’t belittle your synchronized swimming abilities.
Michael: Is there a men’s national team? I’m really gonna push for that. I can afford a $125,000 campaign now for London 2012. Or at least more lessons.
Did either of you consider not sharing the prize?
Holly: No way. We were a team from start to finish and I wouldn’t have any money if it weren’t for him.
What will you do with the money?
Holly: Pay rent (laughs). No, a big chunk of the money will go toward publishing my children’s book Chocolate Socks.
Michael: I’ve read it. It’s adorable. I’m so happy she has the money to finance her dream. I’m going on vacation, seven days somewhere tropical with a lot of drinking. And I’m going to save a lot, help start a charity with the church I attend and pay off student loans. But vacation is first on the list.
Are you happy for Holly?
Michael: Absolutely. We were engaged and therefore I will always care about and love her so it makes me happy when she is happy. I wish we could have been happy together but we’re always going to care about and love each other. I have no reason to be mad at Holly or Blake. You can’t help who you fall for.
Holly: If we had walked out there hating each other, I don’t think we would have gotten as many votes. He’s the best guy and I can’t wait for him to find the right girl.
Michael: And now I have some money to go on a few first dates.