Time once more to discover: a) what new piece of Cockney rhyming slang will fall out of the Honey Badger’s mouth; and b) how the producers will manage to make it incredibly boring! It’s Bachie-with-Jodi o’clock.
Like I said yesterday, I’m not sure what the team behind Bachie were thinking would happen when they cast Nick Cummins, but I’d bet a good amount of money they didn’t think he’d turn into Richie: The Sequel. I’m assuming they were hoping for laughs! and larrikin hijinks! and maybe some touching vulnerability once some of the ladies got beneath the hijinks and found the man! But what they got was … this.
It’s not all Nick’s fault. It looks like he’s trying his best. But what this season has illustrated to me is that we didn’t know what a good thing we had with Matty J. He copped a lot of shit for being boring, but you know what he could do? Carry a conversation. He drew the ladies out, so we got a real sense of their personalities, and we could invest in some of the bonds he was forming.
Maybe that’s the metric they need to be casting on in the future, instead of going for a kind of stunt personality in their Bach. Look for someone who can make other people talk about themselves, and can ask interesting questions which are revealing without being invasive.
Anyway, let’s return to this season. Tonight’s single date recipient is Rhiannon, who I am one thousand percent convinced has never, ever been on this show before. Literally, I have never seen her once in my life. I am positive that she just snuck in the back.
You know what is a recipe for a not-very-interesting date? Put someone who has hitherto expressed little personality and someone whose entire personality seems to be made up of catchphrases in a small space where they cannot get away from each other.
This is a hot air balloon date — and before you ask, yes, the hot air balloon is shaped like a heart. I wouldn’t say hot air balloons are a romantic trope per se, but they do play into a few of them: most notably, forced proximity. There’s no escaping each other when you’re in a hot air balloon. There’s just you and them and the sky and the view and that incredibly loud flame/gas thing that goes WHOOSH that keeps you in the air and, oh yeah, the person actually flying the hot air balloon, but ignore them, ignore them, they’re not really there. All you can do is talk.
…or snog, I guess. But if you’re putting a romance together, the snog really does need to be earned.
Nick and Rhiannon do not snog. They AGGRESSIVELY do not snog. Instead, they go up in the hot air balloon, and have such interesting conversation as ‘what are those?’ ‘cows?’ ‘oh’.
You know when you meet someone, and they seem perfectly nice, but you just don’t click? That’s this.
Even Nick notices. ‘We, ah, don’t have that same great chemistry that I’ve had with some of the other ladies,’ he says. ‘But, ah, you can see some massive properties from the air. With cows. Massive properties. You can’t see them on the ground, but you can, ah, see them from, ah, the air.’
Things don’t get too much better when they get to the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. The producers have panicked and given Nick some prompt questions to ask Rhiannon (eg ‘what does love mean to you?’) but it doesn’t produce anything even resembling interesting conversation. They drink wine (awkwardly) and Nick gives Rhiannon a rose (awkwardly, presumably to signal the end of the date), and then they just look at each other and try to work out whether or not they’re going to kiss.
‘Do you want to kiss?’ Rhiannon asks him.
‘…let’s hug?’ he replies.
Cue strained hug in which I’m positive both of them pull muscles due to the awkward positioning.
‘…do you want a grape?’ Rhiannon asks him.
‘Sure,’ he replies.
‘They’re massive,’ she says.
This is the closest thing to a natural conversation they have on the whole date. Like, it’s so awkward that at one point Rhiannon looks off-camera at one of the producers and asks ‘done?’.
Then the most interesting thing BY FAR that has happened in the course of this season goes down: the show breaks the fourth wall. It draws attention to its own artificiality — to the fact that nothing about this is natural, that it’s all a construct. It starts with direct dialogue between Rhiannon and her producer in her little talking head interview, but it then breaks the fourth wall down further, as the camera follows Rhiannon and her producer walking to the car.
‘I know this was my only opportunity to kiss him — like, there was pressure to kiss him — but I’m not sure I can do that, you know?’ Rhiannon says.
‘You can do what you want,’ her producer replies.
It’s such a small moment, and it’s designed to draw attention to the fact that Nick and Rhiannon are not clicking at all, but what it actually does is draw attention to how unreal and constructed the situation is. The Bachelor/ette belongs to what Misha Kavka calls ‘second-generation’ reality TV shows, where the shows intervene with rather than document reality, where artificial structures produce an improved reality after the show rather than focusing on gritty reality during it (2012, 113). Basically, no one thinks that Bachie is a natural experience, that it’s ‘real life’.
But that said, they hardly ever draw focus to its artificiality like this, especially to its narrative structures. Rhiannon mentions several times the ‘pressure’ to kiss Nick. That’s narrative pressure: she knows what this love story is supposed to look like, and how she’s supposed to play her role in it. It’s so, so rare that you see the show’s diegetic bones exposed like this — that it owns its own unreality — and it was FASCINATING.
…I think so, anyway. YMMV.
Okay. Group date time, feat. a group of six: Romy, Alisha, Cass, Brittany, Shannon, and Vanessa Sunshine (ie a fairly combustible group of personalities). I’m torn about this group date because a) it’s one of the better thought-through dates they’ve done, but b) I personally find it extraordinarily unappealing. It’s a camping date.
Word to the wise: if you want to go on a date with me, do not ever, in any circumstances, take me camping. Especially if you’re going to invite your five other girlfriends as well.
[Kat’s note: SAME.]
But I do understand why they’ve done this. Once again, we have forced proximity. When you’re in the wilderness — even if it’s very much ‘the wilderness’, rather than the actual wilderness — there’s nowhere you can go. You have to stick together if you want to make it through the night.
Obviously that sounds way more dramatic than it actually is — and way more like a horror movie — but those are the associations we have in our minds when we see circumstances like this played out. This is particularly true in an Australian context, where the bush is regularly figured in literature (including my books cough buy them here cough) as dark and threatening and mysterious. Two people + danger = true love. That’s basic romance maths. Romaths, if you will.
…of course, here, there are significantly more people than two. This has more of a school camp vibe than anything else, which is considerably less romantic.
That said, I’m not convinced they could do an overnight single camping date in the Australian franchise, because it’s so averse to sex. This is the show that made Brooke use her Bach pad key at breakfast, just to really hammer it home that this is a No Bone Zone. If you took the Bach and only one contestant and dropped them in the bush overnight, there would be some very different implications.
To put it succinctly — there’s a social contract in the Australian franchise: no one bones the Bach. No one even thinks about it.
And it is precisely this social contract that Romy breaks on this group date when, in the middle of the night, she sneaks into Nick’s swag.
I know. GASP.
There’s some stuff before this, where Romy tries to drag Vanessa Sunshine and it doesn’t work out because old mate VS turns out to be fucking amazing at camping, but this is the lynchpin. There’s a reason that they’ve marketed the shit out of this incident all week, even though they have basically no footage of it. (You can’t fit a full camera setup in a swag, Bachie. Should have thought that one through.) By sneaking into Nick’s swag for implied sexytimes, Romy has not just broken the social contract that governs this show, but smashed it to smithereens.
And the person that sees her doing it? Poor crush-ridden Cass.
Cass — nervously — asks Nick about it the next day, and you can tell she’s terrified to know the answer. This is for two reasons, I think: 1) She doesn’t want anyone getting it on with her man (which, given Romy’s track record, might involve eating his ear); and 2) she’s worried about how that will change her opinion of Nick. How can she have a crush on a man that would hook up with Romy only a few feet away from five of his other girlfriends?
‘THE ZIPPER TO MY SWAG WAS OPEN THE WHOLE TIME,’ he tells her. ‘NOTHING HAPPENED WITH ROMY.’
If this didn’t seem like school camp before? It sure as shit does now.
(Actually, the school camp thing was confirmed when Romy told Alisha she spent ten minutes in Nick’s swag, and Alisha was like, ‘oh, a good chunk of time!’ Only by, like, Year Ten standards is that a good chunk of time.)
Cass is very relieved, and this scene takes a turn — for the sweet. ‘You’re peaceful for me, Cass,’ Nick tells her. ‘Because I know you from before, I can just be myself with you.’
Last night, I floated the possibility of a different edit they could have given this Cass plotline: the chick-lit edit. Imagine trying to get over your crush by going on The Bachelor, and then discovering your crush was the Bachelor. If they’d drawn out that narrative, this little scene would have been wonderfully sweet and wonderfully loaded, weighted with the past and the promise of the future. But because they’ve given her the stalker edit, the best it can come across is mildly cute.
They do a mini-rose ceremony out in the bush — six girls enter, one gets Hanging Rock’d away. Cass gets the first rose, which, once again, if they’d framed this story better, could have been such a great moment.
Sigh. I would have done right by you, Cass.
The final two are Romy and Vanessa Sunshine. Romy receives the final rose (with its implicit dose of slut-shaming), and tragically, we have to say goodbye to Vanessa Sunshine, camping savant.
‘Whatever. I don’t really care,’ she says.
And you know what? I believe her. I 100% believe that this woman, with her stunning hair and refusal to laugh at jokes that aren’t funny, is not at all upset that she’s been dumped in the middle of the bush by a man who dresses and looks like a daggy 1970s dad.
Please come to Paradise next year, Vanessa Sunshine. I can’t wait to see you deflate some male egos.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.