Tuesday, February 18, 2003
New York Zora got the nod, and a diamond ring, from Evan Marriott when the "Joe Millionaire" finale aired Monday night.
Then the happy couple got a million dollars to split from the show -- the "shocking twist" viewers had been promised.
Zora and runner-up Sarah also got the truth: Marriott wasn't the fabulously wealthy heir he had pretended to be while choosing from among 20 lovely rivals for his affection on the hit Fox series. In real life, he had been a $19,000-per-year construction worker.
Monday's much-awaited episode -- actually taped last Thanksgiving -- brought to a close this "Bachelor"-like mating game combined with a sly joke viewers have been in on from the first: what the show called "television's biggest con."
The outcome was revealed at the French estate that has served as the series' home base through its seven-week run.
"It's been a real roller-coaster ride," said a nervous Marriott as he finally leveled with Zora Andrich, the dark-haired, 29-year-old schoolteacher from New Jersey. "I've chosen you.
"There's been something else I'd like to say to you that's been really weighing on my nerves," he added. "I don't have $50 million. I don't have $50,000. I'm sorry I lied to you, but I wanted to find someone who loved me for who I am."
Her bright smile gone, Zora rolled her eyes, looked stricken and said nothing.
Would she show up in the ballroom later to accept his proposal?
Yes. Though confessing to regrets about Marriott's deception, "the good news is, I was really turned off by the fact that you inherited all that money.
"I would like to continue the journey to see what happens," she said.
Then Paul Hogan, the show's resident butler, stepped up with the million-dollar check, declaring "all good fairy tales must have a bit of magic."
Earlier in the show, Marriott had met with the other finalist: Sarah Kozer, 29, a Californian identified by the show as the assistant to a mortgage broker.
"I did not inherit $50 million," Marriott squirmed. "I'm a heavy-equipment operator. That's what I do."
"Did you feel that was something I was concerned with?" she asked.
"I haven't chosen you," he said, cutting to the bottom line.
"It's been an adventure. Absolutely," she smiled bravely.
They hugged goodbye. Soon she was packing her bags.
Since premiering Jan. 6, "Joe Millionaire" has been a huge hit, given extra fuel by bits of scandal.
Although 28-year-old Marriott has worked in California in construction, photos of him emerged on the Internet posing in skimpy underwear for a catalog. Then reports surfaced that Sarah had starred in movies such as "Novices in Knots" and "Hogtied," and a foot-fetish film "Dirty Soled Dolls."
"I had stupendous amounts of school loans, so I did some fetish modeling," Kozer explained during a taped profile that was part of the finale's ample padding. "To me, no big deal."
Befitting "Joe Millionaire's" popularity, its two-hour wrapup drew stiff competition from ABC and NBC: battling exposes on Michael Jackson.