RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E02

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E02
The Bachelor Australia Season 5
Background photo via Canva

Dr Jodes gives us the lowdown on Bachie’s ritual structure. It looks like we’re in for yet more transpo dates this season.

The Bach is back! Welcome to the second instalment of Bachie-with-Jodi for 2017. We met our cast of characters yesterday: now it’s time to settle down to the routine of dating.

Bachie, as those of you who have ever watched an episode or read a recap know, is highly ritualised. There is a certain pattern to every episode, particularly in the first few weeks. If you’re new to this whole Bach thing, here is what it is:

  • The Bachie chooses (‘chooses’ – obvs the producers also have something to do with it) one person to go with them on a single date.
  • The Bachie chooses (‘chooses’) a bunch of people to go with them on a group date.
  • There is a cocktail party, usually with some drama.
  • There is a rose ceremony, where one or more people are ritually rejected.

Occasionally, you will get variations on this theme – for example, Matty’s first single date last year was a surprise single date, because actual queen Georgia Love had already been on a single date and a group date in that episode. But generally speaking, this is the pattern the show will follow until we get to the final four, when a whole new ritual opens up. That ritual looks like this:

  • When four people are left, there are hometown dates, in which the Bachie travels to the hometowns of the remaining contenders and meets their families.
  • When three people are left, they have all day single dates. In almost every other Bachie franchise, this is the fantasy suite date, where the Bachie and the contestant can choose to spend the night together. However, we don’t do this in Australia. It was on the table in the very first Australian season in 2013, but Bachie Tim Robards flatly refused to partake in it, and sex has been figuratively removed from our Bachie narrative ever since.
  • When two people are left, they fly to some exotic location (unless, like Bachie Sam Wood’s season in 2015, their budget is tiny and they do the whole thing in the driveway instead). The two remaining contenders meet the Bachie’s family, and then there are two final single dates before the Bachie makes their choice.

What this illustrates is just how tightly structured Bachie is. Its ritual structures are designed to mimic a modern romantic relationship (a monogamous one, even though the Bachie is dating a zillion people at the same time). The first section – single date/group date/cocktail party/rose ceremony – is meant to mimic the getting to know you portion of the romance. It’s relatively casual, which figuratively excuses the Bachie dating a bunch of different people: they might get up to a second date, but rarely much further than that. The second section for the final four is meant to mimic the growing seriousness and depth of a relationship, when families and deeper commitments are invoked.

Obviously this is deeply artificial, and a lot of the rituals of Bachie are pretty ridic and not that realistic – the group date, for instance, is not something that you would find much of in the modern romantic landscape. (Although if a bunch of handsome men want to put themselves through a bunch of semi-humiliating challenges for the chance of having a glass of wine with me, like, I’m open to that.) But what it also indicates is how much of modern romance is itself bound up with particular rituals. Eva Illouz argues that:

At the turn of the twentieth century, romantic love ceased being an ‘altar’ to which lovers ‘consecrated’ a cult conceived in the terms of Christian devotion. In the process of becoming secular, romance took on the properties of ritual (1997, 8).

These, she argues, are rituals of consumption, which came with the emergence of dating as a social practice. At exactly this point of my recaps of Richie’s season, I also quoted Illouz, who said dating ‘marked the symbolic and practical penetration of romance by the market’ (1997, 14): think here of how many of our standard dates – dinner and a movie, for instance – involve spending money and other modes of consumption. Bachie is no different in this regard, although its consumption tends to be a little grander than a Netflix subscription obtained for plausible deniability for Netflix-and-chill purposes.

What I’m getting at here is that the rituals of Bachie are a bit silly, but they also mimic a modern ritualisation of love in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I quoted a bunch of scholars last night talking about the link between ‘love’ and ‘story’. Bachie relies on these rituals because they play into our understanding of what the narrative of a modern romance is supposed to look like.

So, hey, Dr Jodes, you might say. That’s real cool. But you’ve written like 750 words and we still haven’t gotten to Matty J. Are you going to do that any time soon?

Yes. I am. Right now. Okay. Let’s do it.

The ritual of the first single date begins as it always does in Bachie: with Osher marching into the mansion, pulling a date card out of some pocket that should not be sartorially possible, and leaving. ‘Who could it be?’ the contenders wonder for some time, until finally the producers decide they’ve wondered enough and let them read it.

The winner of the first single date is Elora, AKA the ‘Tahitian goddess’, AKA the only non-white contestant, AKA the one that everyone called an intruder last night in a way that was definitely not problematic, oh no no no. ‘I was drawn to Elora right away,’ Matty enthuses. ‘Now I want to demystify her a bit.’

Now, this word ‘demystify’ is an interesting one. There are some modes of romance that are built on mystery: Leah tried to pull a bit of this on Matty last night by not answering his questions, and who, of course, can forget the very successful mystery act that Laurina pulled on dirty street pie Bachie Blake Garvey in Season 2? In these modes, the beloved is a mystery that can never be solved, and that unknowability is at the heart of the attraction.

However, this is not the romantic style that Matty has shown he espouses. Instead, his mode of romance is particularly communicative: it’s based on intimacy and getting to know the other person through talk. It’s one in which there isn’t room for mystery. Therefore, we can read his urge to ‘demystify’ Elora in a couple of ways. We could read it as a romantic attraction outside his usual mode with which he is trying to grapple, or we could read it as an attempt by him to recuperate her into his particular romantic style.

(Or both. These are not mutually incompatible.)

Anyway: the date itself! They go to Port Stephens and go out on a boat, because Bachie hasn’t quite realise that transportation is not the same as an actual date. At least this is better thought through than some of the other random boat rides that Bachie has done in the past, though. There are dolphins, and so Elora and Matty strip down (you can 100% bet this show is going to take every opportunity it can to make Matty wear as few clothes as poss) and go swimming with them.

I wrote a bit about the ocean yesterday, so I won’t labour the point here, but by immersing themselves in the ocean, Matty and Elora are symbolically immersing themselves in both the unknown and possibility. It could be a bad unknown – the ocean is dangerous – but it could also be a beautiful and fruitful one.

(The ocean is also a symbol of fertility, and considering what an intense Hot Potential Father Of Your Children edit the show is giving Matty, look for it to pop up a lot.)

Also, HORROR OF HORRORS, Matty utters a phrase so off-brand for this franchise I’m amazed they didn’t fire him as the Bachie on the spot: ‘I think it’s too early for champagne.’

Matty. Mate. Come on now.

Elora and Matty seem to get on pretty well, but! I am going to make a prediction, and that is that this romance is not going to work out. This is why:

  • Matty says that he is ‘drawn’ to Elora, but he frames it in this way: ‘Elora doesn’t have to say much for you to be drawn to her.’ This is not the model of romance that the show has shown Matty espouses – he is all about communication and conversation.
  • This is reinforced by the fact that there is a long portion of this date where they just sort of stare at each other awkwardly. ‘Was there anything else you wanted to ask…?’ Matty asked eventually, and it was so job interview we all cringed.

It turns out Elora did want to ask about how he was doing post-Georgia Love (long live the queen), though, so that was quite nice. Matty’s response – that he respects and cares about G Love and wants her to be happy but he’s not in love with her any more – was perfect, and I was really glad to see the show (and Matty!) coding this as romantic. He/they could have so easily gone with the WHAT A BITCH SHE BROKE MY TENDER BEAUTIFUL MATTY HEART angle, and they didn’t, so well done on that front, Bachie.

Matty does give Elora a rose, but I’m making a call now that although she might get quite far, this is not the girl for Matty J.

Next! The group date.

The first group date is never particularly unpredictable: it’s always a tie-in photo shoot. The Bachelorette Australia has done really, really, REALLY well at these in its two seasons to date – who can forget a) the photo shoot which was just attractive shirtless men with puppies crawling all over them, and b) the Harlequin Mills & Boon cover shoot?

The Bachelor Australia, on the other hand, always does these in a way that feels a bit icky to me. Generally, they feature the Bachie and various ladies pictured in tableaux in various period clothing, effectively reimagining and repositioning the Bachie and contestants in love stories in the past. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it often draws on a when-men-were-men-and-asked-the-women-out-not-the-other-way-round-but-the-women-wore-pretty-dresses-so-it-was-all-okay idea, which, like, I’m not in love with.

The period they go with here, though, is the eighties, which is not too bad in terms of this particular notion. The theme is ‘awkward firsts’: first date, first dance, first crush, first kiss.

First of all, all that stuff about romantic ritual I wrote at the beginning of this recap? LOOK AT IT RIGHT HERE. These are all imagined as particular steps in a romantic journey, modern rituals of love.

Secondly, I wrote my PhD thesis on virginity loss and love, and I am VERY glad I don’t have to mobilise that particular area of my expertise in analysing this photo shoot.

Thirdly, isn’t it interesting that the photo shoot is meant to encompass inept, bad, awkward romance? I mean, I’m not sure they actually live up to the awkward part – I think the fact they’re all dressed in 80s clothes is the one gesture in that direction – but still, that is quite unusual in a show like this one.

So! The photos.

First date: this is in a pool, because of shirtless Matty reasons. Jennifer the villain is in this shot dressed like an eighties lifeguard and she’s still salty that someone called her dress ‘putrid’ yesterday but Florence says her hat looks like a condom and she looks like a ‘Jewish banana’ (ummmm) and Jennifer reacts not at all, so there’s that, I guess.

First dance: the highlight of this photo is that one of the girls does the worm in a sequined eighties party dress in an effort to get Matty’s attention. I love the implication that this is how you get boys to like you.

First crush: Matty is dressed as a jock and three ladies are dressed as cheerleaders. I don’t know how this teams with the theme, but one of the ladies – Simone – is super canny, because she engages Matty in conversation at every chance he gets. Because, as we know, he’s into conversation, he’s into this.

First kiss: this is a solo photo with Leah the other villain. It’s supposed to be the 80s, but she looks like Olivia Newton-John in Grease, which is the 1950s via the 1970s, so… eh. Anyway, this is not the most interesting part of this date. What is is that Leah goes in for the pash, Matty is like, ‘nope,’ and all the girls see.

‘She pashed and he dashed!’ Tara exclaims. ‘You’d be devo!’

If you were wondering whether the Australian version of Bachie was different to Bachie from other countries… yes. Yes it is. #straya

Normally, this is where we would go to the cocktail party, but GASP MATTY IS SO UNPREDICTABLE because he turns up at the house with a basket of muffins and whisks Lisa away on a surprise single date.

Lisa apparently confessed to him last night that she’s good at tennis, which I don’t remember because I didn’t think their conversation was very interesting, but eh, Matty’s the one looking for love here, he likes what he likes. ‘I’m nervous, I’m excited, I’m slightly shitting myself,’ Lisa tells the camera, chalking up another point for Bachie’s national distinctiveness. #doublestraya

So they play tennis, she is much better than him, and so he tries to get her to do that thing that men always do to women where they stand behind them and mansplain golf swings to them while putting their arms around them in a HAHA TOTALLY NOT SEXUAL WAY, but in a tennis context wherein he is the one who is being embraced and she is the one doing the explaining. And then she totally kicks his arse at tennis and he isn’t at all salty about it, so I decide to forgive him for pointedly asking her if she wears a lot of makeup and saying ‘right answer’ when she says she doesn’t. (But watch yourself, buddy.)

They relocate their date to a pool, where Lisa just straight up pushes Matty in. Man-O-Man, the greatest ever romance reality show, has shown us that when Australian women push men in pools it means they don’t like them, so let’s see what this means for Lisa and Matty in the long run.

But in the short term, she gets a rose.

When they walk into the cocktail party, Elora is not happy about Lisa’s rose-havingness, and this somehow leads to an epic fight between her and Simone (on one hand) and Jennifer and her clique on the other. It’s an enormous mess of lady-hate – like, it gets really quite nasty – and I’m super not into it, so instead, I will comment only on my favourite part of the cocktail party, which is that although they’re wearing sparkly dresses and drinking fancy champagne from designer glasses, they’re also all chowing down on red frogs. #triplestraya

There is only one casualty at the cocktail party, which is frankly quite concerning because there are like a hundred ladies here and I can’t tell most of them apart. The lady eliminated is Laura-Ann, whose only contribution to the show was using the phrase ‘ovaries tingling’. And, like, that’s not a terrible way to go out imho. Remember that contestant in 2015 whose only legacy was repeating the phrase ‘anal glands’ over and over again?

What is really tragic is that she was one of the few brunettes, and thus one of the contestants whom I could immediately distinguish from the approximately eighty blonde women whose personalities I could not yet fathom. Cast better, Bachie. Cast better.

The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.

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Jodi is a literary historian currently working as a lecturer at the University of Tasmania. Her research focuses on the history of love, sex, women, and popular culture, so reading romance novels is technically work for her. Shed a tear for Jodi. Jodi is also an author, and her debut YA paranormal novel Valentine is due out in February 2017. One time, she was invited on a special private tour of the set of The Bold and the Beautiful, and it was the single best hour of her life.

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