RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E11

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E11
The Bachelor Australia Season 5
Background photo via Canva

We’re down to eight ladies – about a third of the harem Matty started out with – and so we’re well and truly into the shit-gets-real portion of the show. Almost everyone has had a single date, and almost everyone has feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings.

Well, except Lisa, according to the dearly departed Jen, but that whole plotline seems to have disappeared when she did.

We start off tonight with a single date, and the recipient is Dr Jodi A McAlister’s Official Pick For Bachie Winner 2017: Laura. ‘Do you believe your destiny is written in the stars?’ the date card reads.

Now, if I did believe in destiny, I might take this as a bad omen, because the most common evocation of stars + romance is the concept of ‘star-crossed lovers’, which comes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life. (R&J, I.I.5-6)

What this means, quite literally, is that their destiny is ‘crossed’ by the stars. The stars don’t want them to be together (if they did, their stars would be aligned). Romeo and Juliet are doomed before they even begin: their doom is written in the stars.

But there is something romantic about the stars as well: less about the destiny, and more about infinite possibility they represent. I’ve talked about this in respect to the ocean before, but you can multiply that a thousand-fold when it comes to space. The great beyond is an unexplored vastness, a place of endless potential, just waiting to be explored. It’s dangerous, but it’s exciting – just like a new romantic relationship.

As I am a dyed-in-the-wool Matty+Laura shipper, I am extremely happy that they’re going on this date with all this symbolism of intense potential and possibility, let me tell you.

They head to the Sydney Observatory, where a psychic is waiting for them. She starts off by doing psychometry – ie jewellery reading. This has a certain level of aptitude considering that Laura is a jewellery designer, but they don’t even RAISE this, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.

‘Do you feel I really understand who Laura is?’ Matty asks the psychic.

‘Not yet,’ the psychic’s answer basically amounts to.

This kicks off a thread that weaves its way through the whole date: Matty is worried that Laura isn’t ‘surrendering to the experience’, and that she’s ‘guarded’, not being ‘open’ and ‘vulnerable’ enough to him.

‘Vulnerable’ is one of those words that’s used in strange ways in Bachie. In some ways, it’s construed as a constituent part of ideal femininity, a kind of inherent fragility. But in other ways, it’s used as a kind of substitute word just to mean communication and/or confession.

Put a pin in this thought. We’ll return to it shortly.

Matty and Laura go up into the observatory itself. Matty spouts some stuff about destiny being written in the stars, and the astronomer who’s there helping them with the telescope is not pleased with all this astrology being bandied about, judging by her facial expression, but then Matty and Laura do something I thought was genuinely quite romantic. They’ve adopted a star together, and now they have to name it. (‘Does Matty realise he’s made a ten-billion-year commitment to me?’ Laura wonders.)

They name the star Mataura, in case you’re wondering, because even though Brangelina, TomKat and Bennifer have been over forever, the portmanteau ship name is still going strong.

Then it’s time for the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, where we return to this whole idea about vulnerability. Matty presses Laura about being guarded, to which she replies that of course she’s guarded, because he’s not hers yet, and she’s afraid of not being disappointed.

Then, in response to an expression on his face which clearly says ‘…and?’, she confesses her feelings to him. She does really like him, she tells him, and that’s what makes this so hard. She cares so much, and that’s what makes her scared of getting hurt.

Matty’s face lights up. His head goes so far to the left (his natural kissing direction HELP I CANNOT UNSEE THIS I ANALYSE ALL KISSES NOW HELLLLLLPPPPP) that he nearly breaks his damn neck. ‘I’ve been waiting to hear this forever,’ he says, and lo! the pashing! it is mighty.

This is related closely to some of the stuff I wrote about last week re secrecy and confession. Confession, particularly the confession of love, is crucial to the romance – as Lisa Fletcher writes, ‘”[l]ove” is the secret which motivates the romance narrative’ (2008, 41). This isn’t quite a confession of love – it’s not what Pamela Regis (2003) would call the ‘declaration of love’, one of her eight elements of the romance novel – but it’s a confession of serious liking. And thus here, because Laura has made this confession, and been, in Bachie parlance, ‘vulnerable’, she and Matty have (figuratively, if not practically) taken another step in their relationship.

This new step for Matty and Laura is also expressed in other ways, but they’re later in the episode, so we’ll get to those. First, we must, of course, discuss the group date.

All eight remaining ladies are on this date. ‘Matty wants to get to know your pasts, because they’ve made you who you are today!’ Osher announces to them all. It’s a weird mish-mash of activities – like, there’s competitive donut eating in there, for some reason – but it all takes place while the ladies and Matty wear T-shirts with their baby pictures on them. And before they put these T-shirts on, Matty has to match the shirt to the lady.

So: what’s romantic about baby pictures, exactly? This is fundamental to this whole date, so let’s do some digging.

There are a couple of things going on here, I think. The first is an appeal to that classic dating embarrassment: you’re a teenager getting ready to go out on one of your first dates ever, and when your date gets to your house, your parents excitedly sit them down and show them a whole bunch of pictures of you as a baby. It’s embarrassing in that oh-my-god-why-would-you-even-do-that-to-me way, but it’s something so familiar it’s become a cultural reference point, a ritual embarrassment that’s embedded in a lot of romance narratives.

But why is it a ritual embarrassment? Why do your parents even feel the need to whip out the ol’ family albums (assuming they don’t just want to humiliate you)?

I’ve written before about the idea of intimacy as foundational to modern love. Karen Lystra, in Searching the Heart, describes a similar sort of practice as ‘sharing the self’ (1992, 32). Lystra is writing about 1830s America, so the nuances are a bit different, but she puts it quite neatly when she says,

revealing one’s “true self” was both the ultimate idea and the measure of romantic love. […] One of the most powerful and consequential assumptions of the romantic idea of self was the belief that conventions, rules, and etiquette obstructed true communion in intimate relations (1992, 32).

To break this down: the idea of sharing everything about yourself with a partner is foundational to romantic love, and societal norms often get in the way of this sharing.

Because, as I mentioned, Lystra is writing about 1830s America, what those social norms are have changed somewhat. But let’s circle back round to this idea of embarrassment. Why are you embarrassed when you’re a teenager and your parents whip out the baby photos? Because, even though it’s a cliché, that’s a super weird thing to do, especially with someone you don’t know very well. You’re embarrassed a) because you’re a baby in those pictures, and so a bit more of your self has been shared than you were perhaps comfortable with at that point, and b) because your parents have contravened social norms.

But guess what? your parents have internalised that idea about ‘sharing the self’ as super romantic, and are just straight up flinging you into the deep end by starting that sharing process for you, social norms and your own personal embarrassment be damned.

So circling back round to the date, there’s a modified version of all these ideas in play here. There are no parents involved (directly, anyway – one assumes that they had to get those baby photos from somewhere), but the notion is the same. By all these baby photos being revealed to Matty, he’s participating in a deeper knowing, sharing the ladies’ selves: and by having to match up which baby photo belongs to which lady, he’s having to prove that he knows these ladies more than just a little, meaning they have a solid foundation on which to continue to build an intimate relationship.

Most of this same stuff applies to another aspect of the date, where the ladies share the resonances of an object from their childhood with Matty. (The narrative implies that he has a glass of wine with each lady individually, so he must be sauced by the time he gets to the eighth one.) Seven of the ladies share quite sweet stories with Matty, but the eighth – Simone – doesn’t recognise the object from her childhood that has been sent at all (it’s ballet shoes, btw). And instead of telling Matty what it is, she just straight up makes up some shit.

She’s the only lady who hasn’t had a single date, and once again, she’s the odd lady out here. The only reason you wouldn’t be able to read the writing on the wall is because the writing is too giant to be read with human eyes.

She does have one moment that is just utterly winning, though. Another part of this date – although what it has to do with the childhood thing I have no idea – involves Matty being blindfolded, and the ladies sticking a love heart sticker on the body part of his they like the best. A few go for eyes, a few go for heart, a few go for smile… the same ones. Tara, bless her heart, predictably goes right for his arse.

And Simone?

Florence summed it up perfectly, so I will just quote from her directly: ‘She stuck the heart on his little manhood right there.’

That’s right. There was Bachie peen groping in this episode.

It also meant that Osher, tasked with peeling these stickers off Matty, uttered the incomparable phrase, ‘Matty Johnson, I’m just reaching for your johnson.’

How has the nation not twigged yet that this year’s Bachie literally has a phallic name? I know that I, personally, am kicking myself.

Somehow from this incoherent jumble of activities Matty decides that Elise did the best and they go for some one-on-one time. There’s much discussion about how their relationship is a slow burn! and there’s a spark there, totally there is! but considering all Matty ever really says about Elise is ‘she likes the outdoors and so do I!’ and ‘her dad is cool’, I reeeeeeeeeally don’t see this going terribly far.

Finally, it’s cocktail party o’clock. And I want to come back to Laura here, because after she made that confession of serious like and symbolically passed a romantic milestone in her single date, there’s an interesting focus placed on her by the narrative. Laura, we hear for the first time, is getting jealous of the other ladies (especially, it would seem, of Tara, because she can tell that Matty really likes her).

One way of reading this sudden emphasis on Laura’s jealousy is negatively. Villains – think here in particular of Jen in this season – are regularly cast as jealous, begrudging every second of time that the Bachie spends with another contestant. Now that Jen is gone, we could potentially read this as a heel turn for Laura, taking on the villain mantle for her own.

However, I don’t think that’s what the narrative is going for here, especially because we’ve moved beyond the getting-to-know-you stage into the shit-gets-real stage. Diegetically, we’ve been assured of the fact that Laura has real feelings for Matty. So the nuance here is a little bit different: Laura’s jealousy is being emphasised as further proof of the depth of her feeling for Matty.

Lee Comer writes that ‘[l]ike so much butter, romantic love must be spread thickly on one slice of spread; to spread it over several is to spread it “thinly”’ (1974, 219). Laura’s butter, so to speak, is spread thick, and she’s becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the thin scrape that the narrative requires that Matty provide her in return, and so she’s started coveting the butter he’s granted to other ladies. This is what Stevi Jackson calls ‘jealousy as the proof of love’ (2005, 40): Laura’s jealousy has become proof of the fact that she’s really, really into Matty.

La la la Laura is going to wiiiiinnnnn la la la that’s why they’re putting this manoeuvre in here la la la you heard it here fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirst.

Not that the other ladies aren’t jealous, of course – there’s plenty of screen time given to, say, Elora’s jealousy (which looks like it might be foreshadowing something in tomorrow night’s episode, according to the ads). But the focus on Laura really hammers home that this lady is going far.

I think, anyway. I could be wrong. (But I bet I’m not.)

There is one thing that none of us were ever going to be wrong about, however: there was never any doubt about who was getting eliminated in this episode. Au revoir, Simone. You made the nation realise that our Bachie’s surname was a euphemism for peen, so thank you for your service.

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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