Only three episodes remain (thank god, because this season, despite their stunt casting, has been boring as batshit)! We’re up to hometowns, aka the beginning of the end.
I’ve written about why visiting the family of your prospective partner is tied into romantic tropes in my recaps of the previous two seasons of The Bachelor (Richie’s season, Matty’s season), so I won’t rehash old ground here. (Basically: it’s tied into old notions of courtship, where the primary site of romance was the home, rather than the public sphere.) Let’s dive straight into the hometowns.
Well, not quite. We should note that in his intro to the hometowns, Nick utters the phrases ‘wow-ee,’ ‘it’s all happening,’ and ‘four top sheilas’ in the space of about two sentences. I can only assume he’s playing some kind of Strayan bingo with us all.
Cass, like Nick, lives in the Northern beaches, and it is clear from this whole date that she comes from money, money, money. Before they go to see her family, she and Nick go horseriding, and… look, that is not something you can pick up if you are not bleeding money out your ears.
Hometown aside, I’m a bit surprised Bachie doesn’t do more horseriding dates. The horse carries a lot of meaning in romantic symbolism – there’s a reason they turn up so frequently freaking out in the background on old skool romance covers.
Actually, it’s less romantic symbolism than sexy symbolism (if you ever have the misfortune to read any old psychoanalytic/sexological texts, the horse-y business is a bit … weird). As Kevin de Ornellas argues:
Sexual progression is manifested through the urgency of the represented equines. Speed is of the essence. Lusty, sexual desire is troped by the speeding horse imagery. Horses turn the discourse of togetherness and closeness into the discourse of physical craving. Romantic satisfaction is visualised, turned into insatiated sexual appetite by the loud voracious animals bodied forth through metaphorical and mythical imagining (2013, xix).
This is about Romeo and Juliet specifically, but it can be applied a bit more broadly. There’s, like, some weird sexy stuff associated with horses.
Nick and Cass’s horse-riding date is pretty tame, however, and soon afterwards, they head for Cass’s home. ‘Watch out for my sister!’ Cass giggles. ‘She’s an elite crossfitter, and she’ll have some questions!’
I’ve been pretty hard on Nick this season, but I have to give him props here. If someone told me they were going to introduce me to an elite crossfitter, I would flee so fast there would be a Jodi-sized hole in the wall.
This hometown date progresses exactly as you would assume it would. There’s not a lot of drama, beyond Cass’s mum being all, ‘oh, darling, isn’t this the boy from last year? The one you put on your vision board?’ and Cass being all, ‘OMG MUM SHUT UP IMMEDIATELY,’ presumably because she doesn’t want anyone to know she’s a practitioner of The Secret.
The crossfitting sister directly asks Nick if he could see himself with Cass at the end, and, when he weasels around it, is like ‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!’ But beyond this, this isn’t a date full of a lot of conflict. It’s so chill, in fact, that Cass’s mum sends Nick away with leftovers in a Snap Lock bag.
Did you know that Nick plays footy?
I know that. You know that. The entire universe knows that, because the show has beaten us across the head with it so many times.
But I’m not convinced that Brooke knows that, because she elects to meet Nick at a footy oval so she can ‘teach [him] some stuff’.
Either that or she’s super confident in her ability. Which, like, I love.
(Yeah, yeah, yeah I know this is AFL and Nick plays rugby. But you know … at some basic level, footy is footy.)
‘Who am I going to be meeting?’ Nick asks Brooke, after they run around and toss the ball a bit and tackle each other mostly so they can make out.
‘I don’t have a traditional family,’ Brooke replies, because her family is a found one.
I desperately want Brooke to be next year’s Bachelorette. After year on year on year of white people, give me an Indigenous bisexual Bachelorette with a found family. She’s the romantic heroine we need right now.
Her found family is, understandably, suspicious of the dude she’s brought home, given that he has three other girlfriends. And Nick does not handle it well. ‘I’m never going to be able to get a feed,’ he sulks. ‘Can’t get me spag bol into me gob because they’re too busy asking me questions.’
Brooke is a queen, but I am really not that impressed with Nick in this section at all. ‘Brooke lives here in Perth, but you live in Sydney,’ her best friend asks him. ‘How are you going to handle that?’
‘I … uh … thought she would change her whole life to suit mine,’ Nick basically replies.
Her friend raises an eyebrow. ‘Brooke needs stability, Nick.’
Nick tries to internalise this, but ends up at ‘what really matters is how I feel about Brooke, not anything that she wants or needs’.
Brooke’s seemed like the unbackable winner this whole time, but part of me hopes she doesn’t win. Nick is nowhere near worthy of her.
(What I really love about this date, though, is that it’s one of the first hometowns I’ve seen that genuinely looks like someone’s house. They sit there in their little dinette and you can see the fridge, covered in magnets, behind them, and it’s one of the first times I’ve actually believed they’re in someone’s real home.)
The show really hasn’t worked out to do with Sophie. Everyone has a personality, so I don’t know how they’ve missed hers, but the most personal thing they can think of for her to do on this date is take Nick out on jetskis, because she likes the water.
I’m sorry, but ‘likes the water’ is not a personality trait. It just isn’t.
You know what is more of a personality trait? The fact that Sophie lowkey tries to drown Nick several times when they’re out on the ocean. She’s on the jetski, towing him behind her on a donut, deliberately trying to throw him off. There’s something much more interesting going on here than they want to admit.
But they’ve imposed a particular discourse on Sophie. She’s the one with her guard up, the one with emotional walls, even though she hasn’t, to my eye, given any sign of being any more guarded than any of the other ladies.
‘I think he wants you to let your walls down,’ one of Sophie’s sisters tells her, giving Sophie a post-Nick-chat post-mortem.
‘But how do I do that?’ Sophie exclaims.
I don’t know, sister. I don’t know.
What I do know is that if you want to know more about the history of this notion of having walls up and romance, your girl Dr Love here has you covered.
Nick and Brittany, as we established all the way back in episode 1, were born in the same town, in the same hospital, a few weeks apart. The fact that the show hasn’t leaned on this harder makes me think that Britt is not going to win, because if she had, surely, SURELY, they would have crafted a stronger OMG DESTINY narrative around them than they have.
…not that they’re proven themselves to be particularly strong storytellers, so idk, ignore me.
Anyway, Britt meets Nick on a beach in Port Macquarie. ‘Want to ride some very romantic camels?’ she asks Nick.
‘Sure!’ he agrees, because we all know that nothing is more romantic than stackhats.
The ads for this episode made it seem like Britt’s dad would be the dad from hell, but predictably, once they get to her house (which I also believe is a real house, as it looks EXACTLY like my parents’ place), it turns out to be much more benign. ‘Before this, I had no idea who you were,’ Britt’s dad says to Nick. ‘I had never heard your name, and I didn’t have a lot of time for footy players, because I’d heard a lot about how they treat women.’
(Sidebar: great job calling this out on TV, Britt’s dad. The entitled behaviour of male footy players is a major problem, and I love, love, love that he’s not having it in any way, shape, or form.)
‘But you seem all right … so far,’ her dad continues. ‘I’m cautiously optimistic.’
Less optimistic are Britt’s siblings, though. ‘So you’re a handsome rooster –‘ Britt’s brother begins.
‘I’m straight, but!’ Nick says, because … ugh.
‘– but why do you like Britt?’
Nick’s answer is not exactly satisfactory.
Even less satisfactory is his answer to the line of questioning from Britt’s sister. ‘So there’s been all this media about you and Cass,’ she says. ‘What’s the deal there? Why should we trust you, when there’s so much there with this other woman?’
‘I – uh – um –‘ Nick stammers.
Britt’s sister relays all this to Britt, who is clearly not even a little bit into it. ‘What’s been going on with you and Cass all this time?’ she asks of Nick.
‘I – uh – um –‘ Nick stammers.
Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.
Britt isn’t done with any of this. We’re at the stage where they performatively separate all the ladies at the cocktail party, but she marches over to Cass. ‘I need to talk to you,’ she says. ‘I need you to tell me what went on before with you and Nick.’
I feel bad for both of them in this scene. I feel bad for Cass, who is literally shaking with terror as she tells Britt that she went on a few dates with Nick, and ends up openly weeping in a producer’s arms. I feel bad for Britt, who tells us that she feels stupid and duped for falling for someone who is committed to another woman.
But you know who else I feel bad for?
Because at no point in any of this did the show think to tell us that Cass was withholding this information from the other women. We all assumed they knew.
Here is a Storytelling 101 lesson. As the narrative theorist H. Porter Abbott says, ‘suspense is the engine of narrative’ (2008, 160). This is what drives narrative forward: what we don’t know, what the characters don’t know. The promise of knowing – or of the characters learning – keeps us engaged in a text.
At no point did we not know that Cass had not told the other women about her past with Nick. And therefore no suspense was created, and we had no reason to remain engaged with the plot.
This is incredibly frustrating. All the ingredients for a tantalising plot are right there. I’ve complained numerous times this season about how dull it’s been, but it didn’t have to be. They had everything, right there, and they didn’t use it.
This scene between Britt and Cass could have been a scintillating denouement. It could have been the resolution, after fourteen episodes, of dramatic irony a show like this can rarely maintain. This could have been their advertising campaign, writ large: after all this time, the ladies FINALLY FIND OUT ABOUT NICK AND CASS.
But they didn’t do it.
Sometimes I worry whether me castigating the Bachie crew for their lack of storytelling ability makes it sound like I want them to manipulate contestants in certain ways for the sake of the narrative (which, like, I don’t, because exploitation is bad), but that isn’t even the case here. All you would have had to do is ensure that over the previous episodes, it was made clear that the other ladies had no idea about the true nature of the relationship between Nick and Cass. Then this scene would have been a bomb exploding. As it is, it was barely a whimper.
Similarly, the elimination could have been explosive, but it’s a fizzle. Our eliminee tonight is Cass, she who loved Nick so deeply she put him on her vision board. In their haste to give her the stalker edit, the show missed the other, more compelling edits it could have given her, and omitted the narrative beats that could have made this incredible. We could have felt devastated by this elimination: betrayed, even.
As it is … all we felt is a little bit bad.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.