It’s our penultimate journey into the jungles of love with Matty J! Before next week, when Bachie-with-Jodi will be off on a brand new adventure with Sophie Monk, we have to find out the answer to this most medium-sized of questions: who will be Matty’s new girlfriend?
(cough it will be Laura cough we all knew it would be Laura from Day One cough)
We’re down to the final three: Laura, Elise, and khaleesi of everyone’s hearts Tara. And if we’re going to look at Bachie cross-culturally, this is the point where the Australian version differs most from the versions screened elsewhere. In the US and in almost every other iteration of the franchise, this would be time for the fantasy suite dates, i.e. the dates where the Bachie took each of their final three off for a day of fun and frolicking, before inviting them back to the fantasy suite overnight to … um, talk. Definitely to talk.
The first rule of the fantasy suite has generally been DON’T TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FANTASY SUITE. Everyone knows that when the doors close, then lo! it is on like Donkey Kong, but generally no one ever speaks about it. In 2014 in the US, when Nick Viall, runner-up of The Bachelorette season 10 (and later also runner-up of The Bachelorette season 11, and Bachie in The Bachelor season 21), asked Bachelorette Andi Dorfman why she ‘made love to him when she didn’t love [him]’, thus deliberately referencing the fact that fucking happens in the fantasy suite, it was a biiiiiiiiiiig deal: to the point where Andi actually turned up briefly on Nick’s season of The Bachelor so he could apologise to her for having explicitly mentioned the fact that they had sex in the fantasy suite on camera. In essence, everyone does it, but no one speaks about it: in US Bachie, sex is the subtext in the narrative that everyone is so! shocked! if you make into text.
(Nick Viall is a particularly bad culprit for this, BTW. In his second run on The Bachelorette, he and Bachie Kaitlyn Bristowe had sex before the fantasy suites, and that really set the cat among the pigeons, narratively speaking.)
But in Australia, the case is a bit different, because we remove sex from the diegesis altogether. Our version of Bachie is way less intense than the US version (and, indeed, some of the other iterations), because not only do we have no sex, our contestants are generally much more reticent to pull the I-love-you trigger. In hometowns last week, none of the four girls came out and said that they loved Matty. We got ‘I could see myself falling in love with you’ and ‘I’m falling in love with you’, but not the L-bomb itself.
We can read this a couple of ways. One is that perhaps we just have a different kind of emotional culture in Australia. Or maybe it’s more individual than systemic: maybe there are just a few people high up in the powers-that-be in Australia that decided sex in Bachie was just Not On™. I don’t know the reason.
But what IS interesting is the comparatively high success rate we have compared to other territories. Two of our four Bachelors are still in very serious relationships with their winners. You know what the success rate is in the States?
1/21. Or, if we’re being kind, 2/21, because one of the previous Bachelors married the runner-up.
It might be a correlation/causation thing, or it might be a direct consequence. You make the judge.
Anyway! Onto the bit of the recap where I actually, you know, recap the dates, which will in no way involve a fantasy suite or anything resembling sexytimes!
First up is Laura, and this is a date all about communication and confession. On hometowns, she told her sister that she really is falling for Matty and that she can see a future with him, but she refused to tell him that she was in it 100%, because he couldn’t say it back. However, as she got the final rose at the rose ceremony, she seems to have realised that this was a career-limiting move, because she’s determined to confess her feelings to Matty and tell him how she feels.
If we were applying the elements of the romance as outlined by Pamela Regis, we’ve arrived at the Declaration of Love. (For Laura, anyway. Matty can’t do any confessing yet, for contractual reasons.)
But first, she has to get through some… hang-gliding? Parasailing? I’m really bad at telling sports where you have to hurl yourself bodily from a high place apart, tbh. And it’s worth noting that Laura was on the skydiving date, and so this is not the first time she has been required to do this: ‘I’m a bit worried at the amount of times Matty has tried to push me off things or out of things,’ she says.
Which, like, legitimate fear, lady. If someone required that of me in a romance, I’d run so fast in the other direction that all you would see are those dust clouds the Road Runner leaves behind. (Though to be fair, I would do that as soon as anyone asked me to do anything that involved the wearing of a helmet.)
They’re separated on the jump down, but they have little walkie talkies where they can talk to each other, and they both laugh at a high-pitched ERMAGHERD Matty let out as they leapt off the cliff, and it’s just really cute and… yeah, I’ve been aboard this ship from the start, you guys, and if I get thwarted, I’ll be very annoyed.
Then it’s time for the Couch of Wine and Intimate Converation, where Matty has an agenda. He tells us that last time, he was trying to pull a confession of love out of Laura – because we obviously all know that’s how we all get the best, most sincere declarations of love: via passive-aggressive coercion – but that he’s going to pull back this week, and let Laura come to him, so to speak.
And come to him she does. ‘I don’t want to leave with any regrets,’ she says. ‘And if I left with my dignity intact but without you knowing how I really feel, I’d regret that. I’m really falling in love with you.’
2. I am so interested by the way that you somehow lose your dignity by confessing your feelings. It speaks bigtime to the (often gendered) binary we have in Western culture between reason & rationality vs emotion & sentiment.
Also, back on their first date, Matty and Laura drew pictures of each other, and his picture of her was memorably terrible. ‘But I’ve been taking lessons!’ he exclaims. ‘And now I’ve drawn you another picture! A better one!’
He presents her with a much more skilfully drawn portrait, which she is appropriately happy about, but…
Okay, so there’s a school of thought that Laura and my TV best friend Georgia Love look alike. I haven’t really bought into it, because it mostly seems like this is based on the fact that both ladies have brown hair.
BUT YOU GUYS THIS IS STRAIGHT UP A PICTURE OF G LOVE. I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING.
However, Laura seems okay with it. ‘You’re all right, you,’ she tells Matty, and I’m not going to lie: this understated little declaration is the most romantic thing that has happened in this show to date.
Next cab off the rank is Elise. No paradiving hangsailing skygliding for her: instead, Matty is picking her up in a train.
‘It’s so romantic – like two lovers being reunited!’ Matty enthuses, as he lays one on Elise at the train station.
But look, I have a differing opinion here, if we’re talking tropes and trains:
1. The dominant romantic images of trains we have come from WWII, where couples were being torn apart. You know, those images where one partner is running along the platform, desperately trying to keep in contact with the tips of their partners’ fingers until the very last moment? Not a good omen.
2. The genre most closely associated with trains? Crime fiction. I mean, the classic train story has got to be Murder on the Orient Express. Also not a good omen.
And then, because things aren’t murdery enough, when it comes to the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, Matty has dragged Elise out to the middle of the bush. It was so much like one of those teen movies where pretty white kids confess their feels to each other right before the hook-handed killer comes out of the trees and chops them to pieces that I was legit expecting the camera to pan out and for John Jarratt to be standing there menacingly.
Oh, and they have a chat where she tells him she’s falling in love with him, but honestly, I have such trouble paying attention to their conversations due to their almost aggressive lack of chemistry that I couldn’t tell you what else was said. It’s no reflection on either of them individually, but when they’re together, I swear I just hear white noise.
But you know who is never, ever white noise? Tara, queen of all our hearts. ‘MY TWO FAVOURITE THINGS: MATTY AND A SEAPLANE!’ she declares, bounding down a jetty to a waiting Matty, because she is a perfect cinnamon roll, too pure, too good for this world.
Tara says that when she’s with Matty, she can be her true self. ‘No one tells me to be quiet or to stop laughing!’ she says.
I will personally fight anyone who ever, ever, EVER tells Tara to be quiet. Don’t you fucking dare.
(Obviously ‘sit down, shut up, be small, be quiet, be nice’ is something that a lot of women get hammered into their minds at a young age, but the thought that someone could dare to say that to Tara… HOW COULD YOU.)
Matty, meanwhile, as they move from seaplane to yacht, says that when he’s with Tara, he feels like he can escape from the whole rest of the world. Being with her is relaxing, an oasis away from everything.
I’m sure he means this in very modern, very lovely ways, but it’s worth noting that this idea of the woman-as-refuge is one with pretty pernicious origins. It’s one you see a lot in Victorian angel-in-the-house discourse, and in ideas of separate spheres. Here, the man goes out into the public world, and interacts with other men. When he comes home, his wife is waiting for him, to soothe his ills and listen to his problems and be his refuge.
Obviously some of this is nice and you should listen to your partner and whatnot, but this is a one-way street: the angel in the house never, ever bitches to her husband about her problems. She exists to be his oasis, and not the other way around.
However, I don’t think this is the kind of nonsense Tara would ever put up with. ‘If you leave a mess in the kitchen I’ll probably yell at you, but I think we could live together very happily in the world,’ she tells Matty.
So you know how I said I really liked Laura’s ‘you’re all right, you’ as a romantic declaration? I LIKE THIS MORE.
‘I can see myself falling totally in love with you,’ Tara finishes.
They kiss, and Matty tells us that when he kisses Tara, it feels like the world stops. And now I need to go and stop writing for a second. I’m totally not crying, okay. I just have to go and stand over here while it rains on my face for a bit.
And then it is time for the rose ceremony, and I should have just stayed over there where it was raining on my face, because Matty… oh Matty.
He gives Laura a rose, which, like, we were all expecting, because Laura is one thousand percent winning this.
We all wait for him to call out Tara’s name.
‘Elise,’ he says.
MATTY J HOW COULD YOU?!?!?!?!??!
(He did it so he didn’t break Tara’s heart even worse in the finale, right? RIGHT?)
Both Matty and Tara are crying as he takes her outside to say goodbye to her, and let’s be real, we’re all crying as well. ‘My biggest fear coming into this wasn’t falling in love, it was getting my heart broken,’ Tara sobs. ‘And now here I am. Heartbroken.’
1. MY EMOTIONS.
2. If Tara isn’t the Bachelorette next year, I’m demanding a Royal Commission.
3. You know what makes this worse? There was no cocktail party before this rose ceremony. Everyone had to face this elimination of utter injustice sober.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.