Bachie-with-Jodi is back again! We’re well into the season now – over halfway! – and yet we only get our fourth boat this episode. They really are pinching pennies at Channel 10.
We’ve been on a whirligig of second dates for a couple of episodes now, but today, we take a few steps back. There are still a few ladies in the house who haven’t yet had a first date, and today, Matty is finally, like, remembering they exist and deigning to take one of them out.
Today’s date recipient is Elise, she who got the one-on-one time after the group date yesterday and so sparked the Fury Of Jen™. (And hoo boy, you can bet that Jen is STEAMING that Elise got this single date and she did not.) Matty picks her up on a red London-style bus. I was wondering for a bit whether this was a ‘love bus’ thing the show was going for, but nope, it’s just because Matty used to live in London.
(Real talk: there are some great romantic reality TV franchises that pair love and buses. #1 on the list would have to be the Japanese show Ainori – lit. ‘love-ride’ – but I have to give a shoutout to Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels, which remains the trashiest piece of pop culture I have ever consumed. Given my profession, THIS IS SAYING A LOT.)
On this date, Matty is taking Elise to places in Sydney special to him. Yes, he’s doing this on a London bus, because… reasons, okay, shut up. The first stop is a florist, where Matty buys Elise flowers, and then promptly tells the camera that he doesn’t normally buy flowers for girls, just for his mum. Way to make a perfectly normal gift seem super weird, Matty.
Next up is a park with a gorgeous view of the harbour. Here, Matty has set up a lemonade stand, because… he just has, okay, stop asking WHY all the time, god. There’s also a hockey goal, because he wants to see Elise in action. Elise used to be a Hockeyroo, so of course she handily destroys him in their penalty shoot out. He says this is hot, to which I nod and say ‘correct reaction’.
Finally, there is what is, by my count, only the FOURTH boat we’ve seen in ten episodes so far. This basically counts as a catastrophic boat shortage in Bachie terms, so you can tell that the pursestrings are tight over at Channel 10. But at least this is a fancy boat, with a spa in it. Matty and Elise strip down to their swimwear, float around, drink champagne, talk about how their romance has been a slow burn but oh it is burning now, kiss, rose, end.
…yeah, I’m not feeling it too much, tbh. I remember who Elise is now, which I couldn’t say, oh, last week, but I still don’t see her going THAT far, no matter how much the show labours the whole slow-burn comparison to Matty’s arc on The Bachelorette last year.
Next up: it’s time for a group date! This time, we’re headed to a place that we’ve spent surprisingly little time at this season: the beach.
(Seriously, what’s up with that? Picnic-on-the-beach is a Bachie classic. We’ve only had four boats this season and have been totally deficient in beaches. Is this some cost-cutting measure from Channel 10? Do beaches cost, like, a ton of money?)
Matty has said a few times this season that his ideal date is a day at the beach, and he’s finally getting his wish. So: why is the beach so romantic?
In Australian Beach Cultures, Douglas Booth writes,
During the course of the twentieth century, millions of harried Australians flocked to the beach to escape the stresses, strains and complexities of industrial and post-industrial life. The beach became a sanctuary at which to abandon cares – a place to let down one’s hair, remove one’s clothes – and of uninhibited social interaction; a paradise where one could laze in peace, free from guilt, drifting between the hot sand and the warm sea, and seek romance. The beach was life at its most joyful and simplest. (2012, 3-4)
This isn’t to say that romance at the beach is a peculiarly Australian thing, but it is particularly emphasised, I think, in our romantic culture. At the most obvious level, it’s a place where you don’t have to wear many clothes. But moreover, it’s something associated with summer, with holidays, with long lazy days. It’s something liminal: a place when time stops, caught between civilisation and the wildness of the ocean. Liminal spaces can be uncanny, but they’re also spaces of possibility – much like romantic love.
This sounds all fancy, but this is not a fancy date. ‘Today, we’re going to play some good old-fashioned Aussie beach sports!’ Matty announces, and the date begins with that most romantic of traditions: the PE Class Picking Of Teams.
(There’s always one person left over in this ritual – I’m pretty sure it has never been performed with an even number of people, like, ever. This time, it’s Simone. And yes, she feels appropriately awkward.)
The first activity is beach cricket, in which the ladies catch balls with nets, for some reason. Maybe I just haven’t played enough beach cricket, but this does not seem to be the normal way one would play this.
Next up is thong-tossing, where the most interesting thing that happens is that Elora does not know the Australian vernacular ‘thong’ and Tara bursts out laughing, exclaiming ‘oh my god, Elora thinks we’re throwing around G-strings!’
Finally, there’s beach volleyball, and apparently it’s very tight and very tense, but honestly, it is just not very interesting television. All you need to know is that a) Jen is very competitive, b) Jen’s team loses, and c) Jen is salty about this. This is largely, it seems, because Lisa is the captain of the opposing team, and Lisa isn’t attracted to Matty.
…were we just supposed to, like, know this? Why hasn’t this been part of the narrative before?
Anyway, the winning team – Lisa, Cobie, Tara, Elora – get a barbecue dinner alone with Matty. The most notable thing that happens is not that Matty has eyes for no one but Tara (which just proves he’s sensible, because Tara is a perfect cinnamon roll, too pure, too good for this world), but that he takes her aside for some extra alone time by asking ‘do you want to take the sausage for a quick chat?’
And NO ONE LAUGHS. Not one of them. Admittedly it sounds a bit less dirty when you know Tara was halfway through eating a sausage at the time, but come on, there are five of you around this dinner table, how did NOT ONE of you spot this double entendre?!
(Matty helps Tara finish her sausage and then snogs her face off, btw. In case you were wondering.)
Then it is time for the cocktail party: where confessions are made and secrets are reveeeeeeealed.
Let’s talk a bit about the idea of confession and secrets being revealed for a minute. I’ve written a bit about secrets before, but it’s worth going over again, because secrets are pretty key in romantic narratives. According to Lisa Fletcher, ‘Romance narratives are regulated by a dynamics of secrecy and confession’ (2008, 36) – that is, secrets aren’t only common, but crucial to the form. Part of this is because romance narratives thrive on conflict: once the couple are together, the narrative is over, which is why the historian of love Denis de Rougemont says that ‘happy love has no history’ (1939, 15). However, it’s also tied to the way we think about romantic love itself.
Notions of truth and romantic love have, broadly speaking, been intertwined for a while now. Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim write that:
that is what modern love seems to promise, a chance of being authentic in a world which otherwise runs on pragmatic solutions and convenient lies. Love is a search for oneself, a craving to really get in contact with me and you, sharing bodies, sharing thoughts, encountering one another with nothing held back, making confessions and being forgiven, understanding, confirming and supporting what was and what is, longing for a home and trust to counteract the doubts and anxieties modern life generates. (1995, 175)
So if this is what modern love promises – authenticity, communication, understanding – then what happens if you lie? or if you withhold the truth? or if you don’t say what you really think?
It is BAD, that is what – which is why secrecy drives so much conflict in romance that it is in many ways intrinsic to the romantic narrative.
All of this drama is, of course, kicked off by Jen. ‘I feel bad that you don’t know who I am, because we haven’t spent enough time together,’ she tells Matty. This is a smart and good thing to say when we consider all that stuff I just wrote, because she’s telling him she wants that level of authentic communication with him! she just hasn’t had time!
‘You need to know that Lisa’s not attracted to you, and she thinks you’re just here to raise your profile,’ she says.
This makes sense, right? Jen has penetrated the mysteries of modern love, knows that it hinges on authenticity and communication, and so tells Matty that Lisa is not upholding her end of the bargain with him in that regard.
But this is not how things work in the world of Bachie, and so Jen must learn another lesson of Bachie communication: Girls Who Narc On Other Girls Never Prosper.
Matty, of course, immediately pulls Lisa aside to talk about all of this, because if she’s not being Real™ with him, then that’s a problem. Lisa smooths over the cracks and explains that Jen has misconstrued what she said: ‘I don’t think of you like a brother, but I talk to you like I would a mate,’ she explains.
As far as explanations go, this isn’t the most convincing – if we look at classical theories of love, eros (the love for a lover) and philia (the love for a friend) are separate enough to warrant different words – so look for this issue to rear its head again in later episodes. But it isn’t Lisa who is tonight’s casualty, or even the locus of its drama: it’s all Jen.
The other ladies are upset with Jen for selling Lisa out: the phrase ‘throwing under the bus’ is used numerous times. According to them, Jen should have talked to Lisa about this issue, not gone straight to Matty.
There are a few things going on here, not least of which we could best describe as ‘harem politics’. But if we’re going to analyse this in terms of a romance narrative, the mistake Jen has made is this: in her rush to be ‘honest’ with Matty – to be authentic and communicative and all the things you’re supposed to be in modern love – she’s been honest about the wrong thing.
Bachie relies on the fantasy of the couple – where, despite the presence of the many other contestants, the only truth you share is your own, in your little world of two people, you + the Bachie. If you raise issues about the other contestants, you’re admitting those relationships exist and are valid, and are so figuratively taking time away in which you could be relationshipping with the Bachie yourself. The contestant who worries about what the other contestants are doing instead of their own relationship with the Bachie is almost always figuratively punished for it, even if they are worrying about the other contestants because they’re worrying about the Bachie.
TL;DR: Bachie requires the contestants to suspend their disbelief re the existence of the other contestants on many levels. If they don’t do this, they’re usually positioned as transgressors in the narrative.
We’ll never know if Matty would have punished Jen for telling him about Lisa, because she doesn’t give him the chance. After the other girls lay into her, she chats to a producer (on camera, no less! I wonder if Bachie is more comfortable showing producers on screen in the post-Unreal era?), packs her bags, and walks on out of there. ‘I’m the girl who walked away from Matty J,’ she proclaims.
And maybe we do know what would have happened if this went to a rose ceremony, because Matty doesn’t follow her.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.