It is time for … THE CHOICE.
It’s been eight weeks and sixteen episodes (NB: the Bachelors get more episodes than the Bachelorettes, and I am NOT OKAY with that), but finally we’re here. It’s finale time, and we’re going to find out, finally, at long last, who Matty J is going to date for the foreseeable future.
Even though we all knew it was going to be Laura from the first episode. Ahem.
In my recap last night, I wrote a bit about how Australian Bachie differs from other iterations of the franchise, particularly US Bachie, in its structure for the final three (ie in the States, they bang; here, they don’t). But our lack of fantasy suites isn’t the only way we differ here in Oz. We also have a few important differences in the stage we’re at now, where only two contestants are left:
1. Australian Bachie is wholly diegetic: that is, there’s no breaking the fourth wall and exiting the Bachie bubble. In the US, after the fantasy suite dates, there’s an episode called ‘Men Tell All’ (or ‘Women Tell All’, depending on whether it’s The Bachelor or The Bachelorette), where Chris Harrison (their version of Osher) will host a talkshow in which all the contestants bar the final two participate. Old intra-contestant grievances are aired, and contestants have the opportunity to confront the Bachie.
Similarly, after the finale airs and we know who the Bachie has chosen, there’s another talkshow called ‘After the Final Rose’, where the Bachie must be confronted by their runner-up before publicly snuggling with their winner.
We don’t do either of things in Australia. Sure, the Bachie and his winner go on an epic press tour afterwards that mirrors the conditions of some of the public snuggling, but we don’t have any dedicated forums where eliminated contestants can publicly confront the Bachie. (Except for, like, New Idea. And the Daily Mail. And the internet. But none that Osher is moderating.)
2. We have way, way, WAY less of a marital impulse in Australian Bachie. Sure, the Bachie usually talks – as Matty has this season – about finding someone to spend the rest of their life with, but in the US, the show is specifically set up to facilitate a proposal. Like, there’s a creepy jeweller that the Bachelor (or the final two contestants if it’s The Bachelorette, because heaven forbid a lady propose to a dude) must visit to pick out a ring. And if there’s no proposal? That’s a big fucking deal, my friends. That’s an out and out snub.
So far, we have had exactly one proposal in Australian Bachie history, and it was in the relationship that went off the rails the quickest. In season 2 of The Bachelor, Blake ‘dirty street pie’ Garvey proposed to Sam Frost, only to ditch her before the show even finished airing and going on to date Louise Pillidge, who’d placed third, for eighteen months. (And then when Blake and Louise broke up, they did this HILARIOUS photo shoot for New Idea where they stood on a cliff and looked sadly in opposite directions.) When Sam then went on to become the Bachie herself in season 1 of The Bachelorette, she was very clear that there would be no wedding bells at the end of the season: ‘let’s just try boyfriend-girlfriend for a while first, hey?’ she said.
And since then, there has not been even a HINT of nuptials around Australian Bachie. There have been a few rings, but they’ve been ‘commitment’ rings. It’s part and parcel of the same impulse that means we have no fantasy suites here, and contestants are way less likely to confess their undying love for the Bachie. There just aren’t quite the same narrative pressures placed on them in the Australian iteration of the franchise.
So, now we know how the narrative framework we’re in is different to the narrative framework of US Bachie, let’s dive right into it. Who will Matty choose, and how certain is it that it will be Laura?
Let’s do a quick review of our final two contestants.
Bio: 31 years old, jewellery designer, says she’s from Sydney but is actually from Wollongong (and is pretty much the same age as me, so howwwwwwww did we not cross paths as teenagers), looks a little like Matty’s ex/my TV BFF Georgia Love, has an excellent dog called Buster.
Pros: Matty is clearly super into her, and she’s pretty into him, and they seem like they really get on.
Cons: We’ve all known she was going to win since forever so there’s not a lot of suspense here.
Romantic narrative breakdown: He went looking for love … and she was right under his nose all along: a) in that he totally realised she was winning this by Episode 3 at the very latest, and b) she lives like two minutes from where he does.
What Jodi will do if Laura wins: Be smug and celebrate in her rightness.
Bio: 28 years old, from somewhere in South Australia, ex-Hockeyroo (which, like, is incredibly boss as far as a career history goes), not a doppelganger of anyone as far as I know, dog ownership status up in the air.
Pros: Matty is completely obsessed with her dad Phil, and has discussed having a ‘connection’ with him.
Cons: She and Matty have no chemistry and she was never, ever going to win this.
Romantic narrative breakdown: She was the girl he didn’t notice … until he did. (After he met her dad.) This directly mirrors the narrative that was constructed around Matty and G Love in The Bachelorette last year, but, I’d contend, this has been done less successfully.
What Jodi will do if Elise wins: Turn in her PhD bonnet, because she does not deserve the title of Dr Love.
We cool? Cool.
The first step on the final two whirligig is Meet The Family. It’s always in a glamorous location (except for 2015, the Budget Bachie year, where Sam Wood declared his love to Snezana Markoski in the driveway of the Bachie mansion), and this year is no different: we’re in Thailand on a tie-in promotion with AirAsia. Bachie NZ also did the AirAsia/Thailand double bill this year (albeit not for the finale), so I wonder if there was, like, some kind of package deal going on here.
But back to the point! Matty has met the families of his multiple girlfriends on hometowns, and it’s time for them to meet his.
(Dr Love hat on, it’s exactly the same dynamics in these dates as in hometowns in terms of what meeting the family means.)
First up is Elise. ‘You’ll love Elise!’ Matty tells his family brightly. ‘She loves the outdoors!’
I’m pretty sure that Matty doesn’t actually know anything about Elise beyond that she likes the outdoors. What an excellent foundation for a relationship.
Matty’s brother Tom takes Elise aside and starts peppering her with questions. The show gives Elise, like, one sentence in reply, and of-fucking-course it is ‘Matty and I both really like the outdoors!’ so I feel like it’s fair to say Elise knows as much about Matty as Matty knows about Elise.
Matty’s mum, though, basically falls in love with Elise on the spot. ‘Our family is very close,’ she says. ‘And sometimes people find that intimidating.’
‘Mine too!’ Elise says. ‘I totally get it!’
…there is some subtext here I’m not getting, I think. Like, are they both in cults? Is this cult talk?
And this cultishness is only compounded when Matty’s mum tells Elise that if it doesn’t work out with Matty, she can have her pick of her other sons. She knows a convert when she sees one.
The cult pitch doesn’t work so well on Laura, though, mostly because they can’t get a word in to make it. Laura, by her own admission, monologues when she’s nervous, and her verbal vomit is at epic levels when she meets Matty’s family. At one point she – GASP – keeps talking when Matty’s brother Tom wants to interject, leading him to growl that she’s ‘not compatible’. ‘With cult values,’ I’m assuming is the undercurrent there.
When Tom takes Laura away, he’s like, ‘I could see how compatible Elise was with Matty right away.’
‘…’ Laura says, speechless at last.
‘I don’t even know if you like the outdoors,’ he growls.
Laura reassures them that she does, in fact, like the outdoors, and he perks right back up. And then she wins over Matty’s mum by crying and telling her that she’s fallen in love with Matty, and that she can’t even think about the possibility of not ending up with him.
When Matty sits down with his family to get their opinion, his brothers are split on which lady to pick. ‘I would be happy to have either of those ladies join our family,’ his mother decrees.
Yep. Definitely a cult.
(Imagine if Tara had been on this date. Maybe Matty strategically sent her home, because there’s no way his family – or any family – wouldn’t be on their knees, begging him to marry her.)
And so, with uncertainty in his heart (lol not really it was always going to be Laura), Matty embarks on his very final dates.
Elise is first up. She and Matty are on a yacht in the middle of the ocean, where, as she tells us, it is ‘quite deep’. ‘Just like I’m deep in it!’ she adds.
Back off, Elise. Pointing out the symbolism is my job.
But deep in it she is, because on the yacht, she tells Matty not that she could fall in love with him, not that she’s falling in love with him, but that she loves him, and much pashing assumes.
Then, ‘let’s kayak to this island!’ Matty declares.
Look. If I was on a date, and I’d just confessed my most heartfelt feeling, and the object of my affections was like GUESS WHAT? SURPRISE KAYAK, they would not remain the object of my affections much longer, because I would throw them bodily into the sea.
But then, I guess I don’t ‘love the outdoors’ like Elise does.
They kayak to an island, frolic about on the beach and in the water (missing a golden opportunity to pull a From Here to Eternity), before heading to their final ever Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. ‘I’m in love with you,’ Elise tells Matty again, and they pash again, etc etc etc.
I have tried to understand the Matty+Elise thing. I have tried. But there is just nothing there at all that I can see.
…unlike lady #2, Laura, which we’ve all been able to see from basically the very beginning.
Matty and Laura’s date begins in a helicopter (thus sucking up the very last of Channel 10’s money), and then moves to an elephant sanctuary. I’m pretty sure this exact elephant sanctuary was in Bachie NZ, which gave me a lot of questions about how and if the two shows are tied, but I won’t subject you to them.
Because in the finale episode, ladies must be in bikinis and dudes must be shirtless, Laura and Matty get into the water with an elephant and give it a bath. They’re laughing and kissing and the elephant shoots water from its trunk right near Matty’s crotch, which I bet led to some hilarious screenshots, and it would have been really very charming if the elephant handler wasn’t hovering on the edge of frame, uncomfortably watching them pash.
Next, they go on a bamboo raft, and the poor guy poling the raft is in basically the same position. (I have a few things to say about the way this show disappears labour, but this isn’t really the time for this rant.) It starts raining, which means they’re doing the boat scene AND the rain scene from The Notebook all at the same time – clever double up on the romantic imagery there – before they finally make it to their very final Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation.
‘I love you,’ Laura tells Matty. ‘I don’t want this to be the end. I want it to be the beginning.’
1. I ship it.
2. This really highlights the way we think of love in narrative terms. Back in my recap of the first episode I wrote a bit about this, but to distil it: it’s hard to think of love without thinking of a love story.
And then: it is time for … THE CHOICE.
There’s a montage of everyone getting ready, putting on their fancy outfits like armour. Margaret Bradstock argues that one of the biggest changes in the romantic narrative in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was ‘the shift from shining armour to a ball-gown as basic battle-dress’ (1992, 54), and I think we see echoes of that idea here. It’s armour to find love, to win love, to declare love, or – for one lady – to lose love.
Each lady is in her own boat, heading to the island where Matty is. The first lady – the runner up, because one contestant must be let go before the other can win – steps out of the boat. And it is…
Come on, was there ever any doubt? You know who it is.
Elise steps out of the boat in an absolutely FIRE dress. Like, I don’t comment on Bachie fashion a lot, but her dress is incredible, and I hope she gets to keep it and repurpose it and wear it out on a date with a man with whom she has actual chemistry.
She walks down to where Matty is standing on a carpet. (Are they going for an a-whole-new-world thing here? As in, Matty’s new relationship is a whole new world? They also clearly spent all their money on that helicopter if they’ve just plonked him on a cheap rug for his ultimate declaration.) She’s smiling, but Matty looks serious, and her doom is spelled out on his face.
‘You’re so similar to me, and I love that about you,’ he says, apparently unaware that he is basically just talking up how great he is in this dumping speech. ‘You deserve something and someone really special. But it’s not me, Elise. Sorry.’
Elise holds it together spectacularly. She thanks him, tells him she’s glad she met him, and walks away.
She cries a bit in the limo – which, like, is to be expected, I suppose – but I’ve seen more crushed Bachie finalists (exhibit A: Matty J). I think Elise is going to be just fine. Especially if she gets to keep that awesome dress.
And then: the main event. The one we knew was coming since forever. The one which is allowing me to maintain my Dr Love credibility.
‘Laura is the most perfect woman I’ve ever met,’ Matty tells Osher.
And, like, we must remember that Matty has met a) my TV bestie Georgia Love, and b) Tara, so this is SAYING SOMETHING.
He takes his sweet-arse time spitting out his declaration of love, though. He – normally quite eloquent – stumbles and stutters over his words until Laura just tells him to rip the bandaid off, to do it, one way or the other.
He looks her in the eyes. And –
‘Laura, I love you,’ he says. ‘I think you are so perfect.’
She starts laughing and crying all at once. ‘I thought you were going to break my heart,’ she says. ‘I was waiting for you to break my heart.’
And then, of course, there is much kissing, and the camera swirls, and I can tell that they’re intercutting between two different kisses, because Matty is left-headed and Laura is right-headed, and that’s a difficulty they’re going to have to work out, but I’m sure they’ll be able to manage it somehow.
‘Give me your right hand,’ Matty says.
This is the point at which we all wipe our collective brows, because a) we’d seen Matty put a ring box in his jacket pocket earlier, b) Laura, who is normally wearing a thousand rings because she is a jewellery designer, is noticeably ringless, and c) the show has put her in a white gown that is not, shall we say, un-wedding-y.
But Australian Bachie has stayed true to form. This is not a proposal. It’s just a promise ring – a promise that they’ll be together for the foreseeable future.
And so I guess there’s just one last thing to say…
Oh, and PS: The Bachelor might be over, but check back next week, because Bachie-with-Jodi is diving straight into The Bachelorette with Sophie Monk!
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.