How small decisions by the Bachie shape the other romantic narrative of the season, and the continuing effects of The Dogcunt Incident.
First of all: there’s going to be a lot of nerdling before I get to the actual recap part of the recap. I keep swearing I’ll change my ways, but I have so many opinions, you guys. SO MANY.
My opinions tonight pick up on some of my opinions from last week, where I talked about the way they cast Matt as a kind of anti-Nick, someone who would deliver on the romantic promise of the Bachelor narrative. Tonight, I want to complicate that a tiny bit, because – GASP! – maybe Matt is not in fact the exact inverse of the Honey Badger, and only mostly the inverse.
So: as we discussed, Dr Bachie the Space Man was clearly cast as a reaction to the Honey Badger, and represents a clear course correction. Nick embodied that ‘larrikin’ archetype: the everyman, who’s not too worried about book learning but who definitely wants to smash back a few beers at the pub. Matt, on the other hand, is clearly an intellectual (did you hear he was an astrophysicist? I could swear someone told me he was an astrophysicist), constructed diegetically as exceptional rather than ordinary. Nick said of himself in the premiere to his season that ‘I don’t have a jaw that could cut a cake, I don’t have the tan of a mahogany seal … it’s pretty clear I’m not your standard Bachelor,’ which was a fairly polite way of saying he looked like a 1970s porn star. Matt, conversely, embodies that standard romanticised image of ‘tall, dark, and handsome’.
But I think that imagining Matt as the anti-Nick is a tiny bit fallacious. There’s a couple of reasons for this:
1. They both embody what Chris Rojek calls ‘achieved celebrity’ (2001, 18), a form of celebrity which derives from accomplishment. Both only embody it to an extent. Nick came to public attention because of his rugby career, but what kept him there was the whole Honey Badger persona. Matt was an unknown before the show, but it’s clear that his achievements (I gave a short rundown of his research in my recap of the first episode but his PhD supervisor has given a much more lucid and rigorous one here) are what positioned him in this celebrity role, ie. Bachie-worthy.
2. Relatedly: because they embody this particularly kind of celebrity, they’ve both been cast for what we can loosely call ‘personality’.
Nick’s personality was, of course, established pre-show. Matt is not a celebrity, but he’s also not that cardboard cutout unlucky-in-love handsome man that we had with Richie and Matty J in previous years. He’s been cast because he embodies a recognisable archetype. Interestingly, coming from the world of romance fiction, I think we’d have a case for labelling this archetype ‘hero’, the ideal bachelor. He’s exceptional in his field. He’s tall, dark, and handsome. And importantly, as we see in tonight’s episode, he’s decisive: and I think that’s key.
I’ve been thinking about why the audience reaction against the Honey Badger’s refusal to choose a partner in his season was so strong, and there are a few explanations:
1. A gendered explanation. The women who got to the end were all well-liked by the audience, and it was immensely frustrating that none of them received the show’s ultimate promised reward – what Kathryn Frank calls ‘love itself’ (2007, 93) – even if said love would be with Nick. If it had been a Bachelorette rejecting two of the human-swarm-of-locusts men that have made up the majority of the cast for the past couple of seasons, things might have been different, but Nick rejected two women that were clearly way too good for him and there for the infamous right reasons.
2. A romantic explanation. I’ve said several times that if Nick had framed his ultimate decision better, as ‘you’re great, but I’m not in love with you, and I want to wait for love because I’m serious about it,’ then he would have got away with not choosing way better than he did by saying ‘I’m just not ready for a relationship’.
3. A decisiveness explanation. The promise of the Bachelor franchise is decision, every step of the way. Every rose ceremony is a ritual of decision. Nick’s ultimate decision to choose no one was in fact a lack of decision. He couldn’t make up his own mind, and he just noped out of everything, which was very narratively frustrating.
One thing that’s been heavily emphasised in the marketing for this season is that Dr Matt the Space Bachie for sure picks someone at the end. The ultimate promise of the show is going to be fulfilled: he, unlike the Honey Badger, will offer the audience that narrative denouement. He is ready for a relationship. He is serious about love. He is someone who knows what he wants. We’ve got that promise at the macro-level of the season. In this episode, we get it at the micro-level of the incident.
Romance narratives hinge, ultimately, on a decision. Lauren Berlant writes that ‘the form of love is an intention – not a compulsion – to repeat being attached’ (2008, 15): that is, modern love is the act of actively and repeatedly deciding to be and stay together. While love isn’t necessarily something protagonists decide on in a romance narrative – sometimes, it sneaks up on them totally unawares – being together is something they must agentically choose. Indeed, often, when this decision is made, the book/film/whatever is over, because all they have to do now is keep repeating that decision. That decision to be together is the critical narrative promise of romance.
By emphasising Matt’s decisiveness, both at the macro and micro levels, the show is reinforcing the promise it makes to the viewer, the promise that Nick broke last year. This time, the hero is worthy. This time, the hero will live up to the expectations of the narrative in which he has been cast. This is a protagonist with a clear ability to decide: making him worthy of being a hero.
…so, Jodi, what micro-decision contributing to this macro-narrative did Astro Bachie make tonight? Read on, Macduff.
We begin tonight with Dr Matt in massive breach of Bachie protocol: he’s running with his shirt on. Clearly he was so upset by last night’s Dogcunt Incident that not only did it kill his boner and prevent him macking on with Chelsie and Helena, but it’s made him forget the rules about mandatory shirtless exercise.
The producers are also all off their game, because instead of doing the obvious and sending Abbie and Monique on a Thunderdome two-women-enter-one-woman-leaves date with Dr Bachie, they send them both on a group date instead.
This is one of those group dates that is weird and competitive and thus distasteful, and also weirdly themed. At least the theme is vaguely romantic, if a bit frightening: it’s wedding-themed, because Matt has apparently been a groomsman at more than half a dozen weddings.
(He can’t remember the exact number, which is honestly quite strange. You’d think a man who works with lightyears could remember numbers larger than six.)
There are two rounds of challenges, with the goal that the last woman standing will get some extra time with Matt:
Stage One – Slingshot Bouquet. Here, Matt, as a bride would, launches a bouquet into a crowd of women, and the five women that catch it the most times move on to the next round. However, ‘because he’s an astrophysicist,’ he can’t just throw it with his hands, he has to launch it with a slingshot.
Is there an implication here that he uses a slingshot to do astrophysics? I am only a lowly Humanities PhD, but I feel like slingshots aren’t one of the most-used tools in the discipline. When I skimmed his research, I found some spectrographs, but zero slingshots.
Anyway, Abbie gets right in there and catches like a million bouquets, while Monique doesn’t try at all and gets eliminated, much to the chagrin of the Astro Bach.
Stage Two – Multiple Choice. Multiple choice doesn’t seem like it’s wedding-themed, but anything is wedding-themed if you do it while wearing tuxedos and/or bridal gowns. ‘This date seemed good on paper when I planned it,’ Matt tells the camera. ‘But in reality, when I’m faced with five brides, it seems weird.’
Ahem. Never let a science PhD do a humanities PhD’s job. CALL ME, BACHIE. I CAN HELP YOU WITH THIS.
Anyway, all the questions are compatibility-based, eg. ‘where do you see yourself in five years? a) kicking career goals, b) married with kids, c) travelling the world with my partner, pointedly no d) all of the above, because apparently all of these things are mutually exclusive’. If a lady and Space Bachie get the same answer, then she’s safe. If not, then the women can sabotage each other by cutting bouquets with garden shears. IDK. The rules are complex. I stopped paying attention.
What is notable is that all the women immediately sabotage Abbie: she is persona non grata with them rn. The ultimate winner turns out to be Vakoo, who looks absolutely incredible in her wedding gown.
It’s a Pyrrhic victory, though, because when she and Matt get to their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, she can’t stop giggling for like fifteen minutes, and there’s clearly no chemistry there. She not only doesn’t get a snog, but she doesn’t even get a rose. ‘I don’t think it went that well,’ she confides to camera.
You know what’s amazing about this little mini-date, though? When they sit down, Matt immediately says, ‘you like cab sauv, right? I got you some’.
YOU GUYS HE REMEMBERS WHAT GRAPE VARIETALS THE LADIES LIKE.
…all right, I’m calm now. But I would like it on record that I now like him a solid 45% more.
Next up: it’s a single date! And I love it, because it’s my favourite two nerds: Matt and Chelsie.
They look great on paper, but they’re also super cute together IRL. Matt takes her to his Bach pad, and tells her they’re going to bake banana bread – because apparently when he’s really serious about a woman, he bakes for her.
‘Oh shit,’ Chelsie says. ‘I can’t crack eggs.’
So he tries to do that Ghost manoeuvre and help her crack the eggs… although realistically, it’s less Swayze and more like that theatre sports game Expert Double Figures you play in, like, Year Ten drama where one person has to act as the hands of the other and almost always ends up slapping them repeatedly in the face. I’m not sure they actually get the banana bread into the oven, because instead it devolves into a food fight and they smear flour and eggs and batter all over each other.
I would like to thank Chelsie for doing a public service. I’m normally a sucker for a man in knitwear, but Matt’s wearing a truly vile orange jumper, and she smears flour into it good. I hope it’s beyond repair.
Then they get into the Bach Pad pool. Matt spends a minute marvelling at the fact that Chelsie is cut like a diamond, and then they make out for like forty-five minutes.
…you guys, if we’re getting pools and hot tubs in the third week, imagine how horny the show is going to be when we get down to the pointy end?
Finally, they move to the obligatory Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. ‘Intellectual stimulation is so important to me,’ Matt tells Chelsie. ‘I’m so glad you’re smart.’
‘Me too,’ Chelsie replies. ‘And… I’ve never heard that before.’
That line? About never having had a man tell her that he was glad she was smart? That one hit me where I live. I legitimately teared up a little bit. I want them to work out so badly now. GET IT, YOU SEXY NERDS.
(They get it, obviously. Despite the fact they’ve been sitting about five feet apart on the couch for some reason, Matt and Chelsie then proceed to make out for another forty-five minutes.)
You all know where we go now: it’s cocktail party time! And even though Matt has now recovered enough to get his boner back and make out with people again, it is clear that the Dogcunt Incident is still weighing heavily on his mind, and he is determined to get to the bottom of it.
This is where we tie things back to my nerd ramblings at the beginning of this recap. This whole episode, Matt has been making it clear that he really likes Monique, that he had a great time on their single date, and that the feelings he feels towards her are real.
But still: he has boundaries.
‘Tell me what happened,’ he implores Monique.
‘I don’t remember,’ she stonewalls.
‘How can you forget calling someone a dogcunt?’
She shrugs. ‘I like swearing. My memory is shocking.’
‘It’s not that she called me a dogcunt,’ Matt tells the camera mournfully. ‘It’s that she lied.’
But he bites the bullet, and he makes a call which the narrative has made it very clear is a tough one. ‘I really like you, but I think it’s best you leave now,’ he tells her.
By making it clear that this was hard for him – that he had real emotions bound up in this – the show is emphasising his ability to decide. This is the micro-incident that’s evidence of the macro-promise: Matt is no Honey Badger. This Bach is a decisive Bach, even when the decision is hard.
This is followed up with that ritual of decision: the rose ceremony. Somewhat unsurprisingly, tonight we farewell Vakoo. Even if a man remembers your favourite wine grape, it turns out he doesn’t love it if you just laugh in his face for like fifteen solid minutes.
More intriguingly, though, is the setup for a new rivalry between Abbie and Sogand. Sogand is annoyed that Abbie told Matt about the Dogcunt Incident in the first place, and she seems to firmly believe that Abbie is a ‘compulsive liar’ with a ‘hit list’. Look out for sparks to fly in this space next week: maybe these are the two that’ll get sent on the inevitable Thunderdome date?
Until then, though, let us farewell a remarkable week in Bachie history. I do a lot of work on word and phrase usage in this franchise, and my dataset is now going to be forever skewed by the word ‘dogcunt’.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.