RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E14

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E14
The Bachelor Australia Season 5
Background photo via Canva

We’re entering now into the very final stages of Bachie. We’ve passed shit-gets-real, because now, shit has got real. This is the home stretch on the journey (drink) to lurrrrrrrrrvvvvvvvvvve.

This, my friends, is a special step in the ritual process of Bachie: this is hometowns.

So – why is visiting your four girlfriends in the place where they live romantic?

I wrote about this in my recap of the hometowns episode of Richie’s season last year, but to recap: when you visit hometowns, you’re taking another step in that journey towards the intimate knowing of another person. You’ve seen them out of context, but now you’re seeing them in context. You’re understanding the places and spaces that have built them into the people they are.

Moreover, you’re meeting their families. If we’re going to cast our eyes back over history, meeting the family of your potential spouse was obviously important, because marriage was a dynastic alliance, a bringing together of two families. (NB: this is true for the upper and middle classes, but matters in working class history are considerably different. That said, if it was convenient for the blacksmith’s son to marry the other blacksmith’s daughter and consolidate their smithies? Totes might happen.) Indeed, there’s a strong chance you might meet the families before the actual prospective spouse.

With the intervention of love into the marital relationship in the Western world, obviously this has changed, in that you generally meet your partner before you meet their family, and we tend to think of marriage as something which unites two individuals rather than two dynasties. But it’s still important to meet and get along with your partner’s family, because not only have they had a massive role in creating said partner, there’s a solid chance they’ll also have a big impact on whether you and your partner can grow together or whether you will, as I discussed in my recap of last night’s episode, grow apart.

As an example of this: even though he didn’t get eliminated until the final episode, I’d contend that the hometown date was the beginning of the end for Matty and my TV best friend Georgia Love last year. She knew he wanted to have kids, like, yesterday, but it’s one thing for him to say that and another to meet his family, who were all like, ‘BABIES! MATTY WANTS BABIES! HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BABIES?’ and thrust an actual baby into her hands the second she walked in. G Love, who didn’t want kids for at least a few years, was understandably a bit taken aback by this, and diegetically, it became one of the obstacles that she and Matty could not surmount on their path to love.

So who will pose obstacles this time? Will any be unsurmountable? Let’s see!

Date #1: Tara

Matty meets Tara at Movie World, where Tara literally bodily flings herself at him. She’s so excited, and it’s so gorgeous, and honestly, I am at the point where I would fight a duel with anyone who impugned her honour, because she is so great.

(I am not the only one who feels this way, as we will find out when we meet her brothers.)

What follows is a fairly standard articulation of the ‘county fair’ romantic trope we’ve all seen in so many American high school shows. They go on roller coasters, scream together, laugh together, then Matty performs some feat of skill and wins Tara a giant teddy bear. I am not quite sure how and why this became romantic, but it features in so many teen dramas that it’s definitely embedded in our romantic consciousness now.

What’s most interesting – although it’s also a bit sad – is the way Tara frames herself during this. She tells us that she has a big personality, that she’s loud, and in the past, partners have required her to curtail these elements of her personality. What she’s looking for is someone who doesn’t do this.

Whether or not this is Matty is kind of beside the point here. This idea, though, is something that many women share. The notion that you, a woman, are too much, too loud, too bright, too excessive, too spectacular, too much, is one that permeates a lot of women’s thinking. I really hope that now Tara has named this idea, she can fight back against it.

(Or I will FIGHT IT FOR YOU! I challenge this pernicious cultural notion to a duel in your honour, Queen Tara. I will be your champion and wear your favour upon my sleeve.)

Next, it’s time for Matty to meet Tara’s family. Tragically, her romance reality TV royalty mother and Dexter the Robot are not in attendance. Nevertheless, Tara plays it smart by introducing him to the little kids first: this is a smart girl that knows that Matty J’s biological clock is tick-tick-ticking.

‘DO YOU LOVE AUNT TARA?’ one of the kids demands.

‘I, uh, like her very much,’ Matty says.

He repeats various versions of this to all of Tara’s family members at one point or another. You can see the gradually dawning awareness in his eyes that if he breaks this girl’s heart, there is a whole bunch of people who are going to break him: starting with Tara’s family, and followed soon thereafter by THE WHOLE COUNTRY.

Tara’s brothers and brothers-in-law in particular give Matty a hard time. One just straight up calls him a liar when he says he doesn’t know which lady he’s going to pick yet. Another is like, ‘so, hey, you’re a good-looking bloke. Why do you need to go on this show to find a girlfriend?’

Matty makes some pat answer, but I am intrigued by the framing. We think of the Bachelor as an object of desire – and, indeed, that’s the way they’re cast by the narrative. But in the way it’s being framed here, the Bachelor is actually abject, someone pathetic and worthless that needs the help of TV and producers and helicopters and buildings to jump off and whatnot to find love.

In essence, Tara’s brother is asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ If you want to get all academic and fancy about it, he’s applying the hermeneutics of suspicion, and I’m here for it.

Nonetheless, Matty tells Tara – and the camera – that he really likes her family. ‘I could really see myself falling in love with you,’ she tells him, reaffirming the confession of serious like she made a few episodes ago.

This is another point of national distinctiveness, by the way. The phrase ‘I love you’ isn’t tossed around in Australian Bachie like it is in US Bachie. The difference between ‘I could see myself falling in love with you’ and ‘I’m falling in love with you’ or even straight up ‘I love you’ is ENORMOUS.

Date #2: Florence

When we (well, the camera) lays eyes on Florence, she’s holding a tulip, next to a bike, in front of a windmill. She’s not wearing clogs, but that’s the only concession to subtlety that Bachie gives us here, bless its heart.

‘Obviously my family can’t come here, because they’re in Holland, so I brought Holland to you!’ she tells Matty brightly.

And Matty – Matthew David Johnson – this guy has the nerve to be surprised that Florence’s family did not cross the earth to meet the dude that their daughter has been on two dates with who also has three other girlfriends.

As they bike around this not-Holland-totally-not-Holland part of Melbourne, Florence tells Matty that he’ll be meeting two of her fellow Dutch expat friends. She warns him to be nervous, because one of her friends in particular is a total hardarse.

And then, because she is excellent, when Matty wants her to comfort him and smooth things over and make things easy, by promising that things won’t be tooooooooo hard for him, she just totally refuses to do it. ‘Be nervous,’ she orders him. ‘It’s my turn to be the Bachelor.’

I love Florence. I love her. I want her to host a rebooted Man O Man and occasionally push some really egregious offenders in the pool herself.

I also love Florence’s friends, and Florence’s friends love her, and they’re all so excited to see each other that they forget Matty is there for a while and he just straight up sulks. Then Florence is like, ‘dude, let go of my hand,’ and he sulks some more.

…that abject rather than object of desire thing is starting to make a lot of sense.

Florence’s friends are as hardarse as advertised, and it’s great. ‘Why would you go on a show like this if not to find fame?’ one demands.

‘Um…’ Matty responds.

‘You can’t plan to fall in love, and that’s just what you did!’

‘I – uh – that is –’

This whole conversation is basically just Matty stammering in response to questions, so let’s have a quick think about this idea that you can’t plan to fall in love. This is something that is definitely part of our romantic discourse: we want to be swept off our feet, swept away. (This is why online dating was so pathologised for so long, btw.) We use the language of natural disasters to talk about love.

And yet, romance is also highly ritualised. There are things you have to do, paths you’re supposed to follow, milestones you’re supposed to pass. Moreover, modern love, as I’ve discussed a bunch of times, has this emphasis on communication, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the other, which suggests deliberate action. So there are a couple of contradictory notions at work here.

At the end of the day, love is messy and contains multitudes.

Also at the end of the day, Florence tells Matty that she thinks she can fall in love with him, but he’s getting increasingly worried that she’ll up and move back to Holland one day, so red flags are a-flying over this particular Bach-bond.

Date #3: Elise

Elise’s date is the inverse of Florence’s, in that she and Matty have no chemistry but have a date that makes Matty feel extremely comfortable and at home. They meet, they walk along on a beach, and they chat. Presumably they chat about something, but I can’t remember, because whenever they talk it’s so dull that all I can hear is white noise when I try to remember it.

What I do remember, though, is how excited Matty is at the prospect of seeing Elise’s dad Phil again. ‘We had a bit of a connection,’ he says of Phil. Using EXACTLY THE SAME TERMS to describe your relationship with your potential father-in-law as you do to describe your relationship with your potential girlfriend is for sure, um, a good sign. Yep. Totes.

He’s a bit nervous to meet Elise’s family, but once he gets there, he’s amazed by how ‘at ease’ he feels. As soon as he says this, the camera pans to a cheeseboard that looks identical to all the ones that he has on his many Couches of Wine and Intimate Conversation, which gave me a bit of a laugh.

But wait! There is more symbolic food! Matty goes into the kitchen to help Elise’s mum cook. She gives him the potatoes to mash, but says that she’s a bit worried, because she doesn’t trust him.

We see how the potatoes are not reeeeeeally potatoes here, right? Right.

Matty, thankfully, also realises that the potatoes are not just potatoes, and begins reassuring Elise’s mother that he really likes Elise, and that even though their romance started off slow it’s picking up speed.

‘Have you ever seen the true Elise?’ Elise’s mum asks.

‘Yeah, I think I have,’ Matty replies, ignoring the fact that the framing of this question makes it sound like Elise turns into a bat at night or something.

Elise’s mum leans over. ‘Those are good mashed potatoes!’ she says.

…I’m totally setting this scene if I ever have to find something really obvious to teach metaphor.

And then they kiss and Elise tells him she could fall in love with him, etc etc, stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before.

Date #4: Laura

The most important thing about the first part of this date is that Laura has a three-legged dog, which makes me like Laura. And the dog likes Matty, which seems like a good sign. Like, that’s a classic tell, right? If the dog likes you, you’re probably okay?

Also, Laura is 31 and a jewellery designer and yet can somehow afford to live in Rose Bay, so I want to know all her secrets.

(Matty also lives in Sydney, so put this as a big tick in the convenience column. I’m not sure it’s quite as big a deal in this season as it was in The Bachelorette, but perhaps that’s because The Bachelor just assumes that all the ladies will gladly move to Sydney and reorganise their lives around Matty’s.)

Matty meets three generations of Laura’s family, including her grandparents, which is sweet, but the role of Designated Hard Question Asker has gone to Laura’s sister. ‘Is Laura the one for you?’ she asks.

‘You’re not going to like this, but I can’t say this yet,’ Matty says, trying to find a way to frame ‘contractual obligations’ in one syllable, Bachie-style words. ‘But I can tell you that I really like Laura. Like, I really like her. A lot.’

This seems to appease Laura’s sister, who tells Laura that the way that Matty spoke about her was ‘really natural’. This is related to some of that stuff I wrote about earlier in regards to planning and romance: what Laura’s sister is saying here is that Matty’s expression of his feels seems unplanned, artless, unrehearsed, and thus genuine. We use the language of nature to talk about love, and the way he talks about her is ‘natural’.

Laura isn’t quite satisfied, though, and she pushes back a little bit at the kiss goodnight moment (after they kiss, obvs, because Bachie isn’t quite THAT prudish). ‘Are you in this 100%?’ Matty asks her.

‘Don’t ask me that,’ she tells him. ‘Don’t ask me that when you can’t say it back.’

I’m not sure entirely what to make of the fact that reciprocity is so much bigger a deal in Matty+Laura than it is in Matty+everyone else, but I do have a few ideas. One is to do with depth of emotion, but I don’t really have any way of measuring Depth of Feels™. The other is to do with narrative framing. We know, because we’ve all consumed romance narratives, that they need obstacles – indeed, Denis de Rougemont, one of the most famous historians of love, argues that romance narratives purposely engineer obstacles in order to ensure their continuance.

Everything about Matty and Laura makes sense. They get on well, they’re a similar age, they seem to want the same things, she looks exactly like G Love so she’s clearly his type, and they live in the same damn city, for heavens’ sake. But if it’s that easy, and if it has no conflict, it’s not that interesting as a narrative (cf. Matty+Elise). This – this problem of reciprocity – is the narrative problem that’s been created so that when that payoff comes (and I remain certain that it will come), it will be more satisfying.

And who goes…?

The dream of the Matty+Laura payoff remains alive, because to no one’s surprise (except, allegedly, her own), Florence is tonight’s rose ceremony victim. Never let us forget her many iconic moments, including my personal fave, delivered to herself: ‘abort mission, you stupid bitch, go back to Melbourne and live your life, he’s not worth it!’

Can we have a show where she solves mysteries, possibly with Tara? Pleeeeeeeease?

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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