Being the Bachie must be surprisingly good practice for your thesis defence
It’s hometowns! We’re only three episodes from the end now, and things are so serious that the whole narrative structure of the show has changed. And also now that there are only four of them the women aren’t really allowed to talk to each other? Because they have so many feels for Matt that seeing each other would be unbearable? This particular part of the narrative logic has never really been spelled out and I would really like it if it were, so can you oblige me, Bachie?
Ahem. Anyway. Structure!
If this is your first foray into the world of the Bach, here is what happens structurally from this point in.
Final four: the hometown dates. The Bach visits the homes and meets the families of all four of the final contestants.
Final three: the ‘fantasy’ dates. This is very under-theorised. In the US version – and many of the other international franchises – this is the point where the banging starts, as Bach + contestant go to the infamous ‘fantasy suite’. However, apparently sex hasn’t been invented yet in the Australian franchise (which might be part of the reason people are so keen to shit-talk wannabe Esther Perel Abbie?).
Final two: the faraway dates. This is kind of a combo of the other two. The final two contestants meet the Bach’s family and go on one final date, usually in some kind of faraway setting (this is a bonanza for tourism product placement).
Final four seems like quite an arbitrary point for these new structures to kick in: what’s so different from final five, or six? But the line had to be somewhere, and it’s quite important that there is a line, because this represents an important new step in the Bachie love stories. Here, for the first time, we get the opportunity to see the contestants (and later, the Bach) in context.
In my creative writing class this week, we were discussing setting. One of the things I was trying to communicate to my students is that character and setting are inextricable. It is only through the characters’ eyes that the setting becomes meaningful (which is why prologues that begin with any variation of ‘IN A WORLD WHERE’ are terrible, because they’re introducing us to the setting without giving us a way to care about it yet). And the characters are creatures of their settings, shaped by the world around them. What’s Harry Potter without the interaction with the Wizarding World? What’s Anne Shirley without Green Gables? What’s Mr Darcy without Pemberley?
In the Bachieverse, they make a concerted effort to present us characters almost entirely divorced from their settings. The Bachie mansion is, in many ways, not a setting at all: they have to leave it for dates and whatnot for anything real in their relationship to progress. We’re viewing the contestants in isolation. We see them shaped by this new setting (or not-setting), sure, but what we’re not getting is that intense emotional connection between person and place which is so crucial for narrative.
This is why the Bach and the contestants have to go out in the world for their connections to progress (sorry for the Bachie lingo – it really has infected my brain at this point). To work out who the right person for them is, the Bach needs to make sense of the contestant in context, to work out how they make sense in a real-world setting, as opposed to the liminal non-place of the Bachie mansion.
This is why, for instance, you often see issues like ‘oh, you live SO far away from me’ rear their head at this stage. The Bach and the contestant might know this in the abstract, but when you escape the no-place of the mansion and set foot in reality, suddenly this starts to make sense. The story begins to become legible, and obstacles begin to become visible. I often talk about the middle section of The Bachelor/ette as the ‘shit-gets-real’ stage, because everyone starts to develop feelings, but this part of the narrative, where they venture forth into the real world, is where shit gets serious. This is where you need to really consider how your love story works and how you function as romantic leads in a real world setting. And if that setting doesn’t make sense? Then neither do the characters, and neither does the plot.
So what love stories make sense and what fall apart for Matt in hometowns? Read on, gentle readers.
‘Abbie and I have great sexual chemistry, but do we have anything more than that?’ Matt wonders.
Abbie does her best to make sure he doesn’t find out. When Matt comes to her hometown Brisbane, she takes him to an infinity pool on the top of a building, strips down to her tiniest bikini, tells him that she’s in danger of some nip slip action, and then they make out in the pool for about forty-five minutes.
I have so much respect for this woman’s intelligence, honestly. She knows that pools are the horniest location in the Bachieverse, and she goes straight for it. 10/10.
They have to put their clothes on again to meet Abbie’s family, however. ‘Um, I want kids soon,’ Matt says to Abbie’s mum. ‘Is that what Abbie wants?’
‘Yeah, why not, if she’s established her career and met the right person?’ Abbie’s mum replies.
Matt’s eyes light up, because he can’t fucking wait to get down to impregnating Abbie. ‘She’s been genuine this whole time!’ he exclaims. ‘Huzzah!’
Abbie’s uncle is less sure, though. ‘Why does Abbie like you?’ he demands of Matt. ‘Why are you so special?’
‘Um…’ Matt says. ‘I’m, uh, not special? I just, um, like Abbie?’
‘I don’t want Abbie to be disappointed,’ her uncle says. ‘What’s going to happen to her?’
‘I, uh, just want to be a supportive partner?’ Matt says, sweating. ‘I want a best friend, and I think Abbie does too?’
This apparently satisfies Abbie’s uncle, who declares that Matt is ‘all right’, somewhat anti-climactically.
And then Matt and Abbie make out for another forty-five minutes, after she tells him she’s falling in love with him. Notably, we’ve levelled up from ‘I could see myself falling in love with you’, so, as I said above, we’re in the end stages now: shit’s getting serious.
The first thing I need to note is that Matt is wearing a truly horrible jumper. How can you make something as lovely as knitwear so terrible, Space Bachie? Get your shit together.
They have a brief chat in quite a lovely-looking bar before they head to Chelsie’s family’s house. ‘So, Chelsie’s had her heart broken before,’ Chelsie’s sister asks Matt. ‘Are you going to do that?’
‘I, uh – I hope not?’ he replies.
‘What makes you worthy of her?’ she demands. ‘Are you a worthy partner for her?’
‘I, uh, I think so,’ he says. ‘We have chemistry on a lot of levels. Physical – she’s beautiful. Intellectual – obviously we’re both huge nerds. And emotional – that’s just getting stronger every day.’
Chelsie’s sister pauses.
‘It’s organic chemistry,’ Matt says helpfully.
I’m also positive he was expecting a LOL! look at you! you’re a nerd like Chelsie! response here, but either Chelsie’s sister doesn’t get it or doesn’t think it’s funny, and I think his heart broke a little bit.
Despite this, Chelsie’s sister is satisfied, and the hometown seems like it went beautifully: until right at the end. ‘I’m – uh – I’m falling – I’m –‘ Chelsie stammers to Matt.
But she can’t spit the words ‘I’m falling in love with you’ out. ‘I am falling in love with him,’ she tells the camera mournfully, ‘but feeling that and telling him that are two different things. I hope I haven’t left it too late.’
I am fascinated by this distinction. It raises so many ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?’ questions. Does love only become real when you declare it?
In a way, yes. You can’t have a romance narrative without a declaration of love, even if you feel it. That declaration is key to mutuality and reciprocity, and without it? the narrative stalls.
This weirdly gives me hope. You can’t have a romance narrative without obstacles, and finally – finally! – we have one for Matt and Chelsie.
Emma meets Matt in a dog park. She’s doing her best to redeem the Bachieverse reputation of dog parks, and I respect that so deeply.
(If she ends up on Paradise and gets into a thing with human swarm of locusts Bill, I’ll be FUCKING LIVID.)
Matt meets Emma’s dogs, and it’s fucking adorable, and I was super here for it. However, I was not as here for it as I was for Emma’s best friend, who was frankly iconic.
‘So tell me about Matt,’ she asks Emma, after sending Matt off with her husband. ‘Have you been on many dates?’
‘Two!’ Emma enthuses. ‘And I’m in love with him!’
‘Woooooowwwwwwwwww,’ the friend replies, in exactly the ‘oh honey, no’ tone you’d imagine.
Then, at dinner, ‘oh, of course I’d move to Melbourne to be with Matt!’ Emma says. ‘That makes sense!’
‘…but you’ve spent so much time getting your life set up here,’ her friend says.
‘Oh, but you’ve got to focus on your partner!’
I have a strong sense that this friend is forever the one giving Emma the real talk she so desperately needs, and that without it, Emma has dived off the deep end into an ocean of feels.
‘So, Matt,’ the friend asks when they’re alone. ‘Emma is in love with you. Can you give me any sense of your feelings for her?’
‘I, uh, am not at liberty to say,’ he replies, but it’s pretty clear the answer is ‘no’.
Afterwards, Emma tells Matt she’s in love with him. ‘I might fall in love with Emma,’ Matt tells the camera. ‘But I also might not in the time we have left.’
The bell is tolling, people, and it’s starting to toll louder and louder.
But is it tolling for Emma just yet? Because the next hometown was sold in all the ads as the MOST DRAMATIC EVER, so…
This begins with Helena trying to convince Matt to play tennis with her. He gets as far as dressing in Wimbledon whites, but then, ‘look, Helena, I’m so bad at tennis,’ he tells her, ‘like honestly, so bad,’ and instead they sit down and drink Pimm’s instead.
I appreciate that we’ve seen Matt be bad at a couple of things this season. Flaws keep someone interesting.
You know what he’s very bad at, though? Impressing Helena’s dad (who he’s been warned is terrifying). ‘So, um, what footy team do you support?’ he asks nervously.
Helena’s dad eyeballs him. ‘I’m a rugby union guy.’
Elsewhere, Helena bursts into tears immediately in front of her mum and sister. ‘This has been so hard!’ she sobs. ‘I’m so scared of getting my heart broken!’
Not an auspicious start.
Their dinner goes a little better, and everyone seems to be getting on, until some serious drama rears its head, because Matt doesn’t remember that Helena spoke French to him on the red carpet on the first night.
‘Matt,’ she says, ‘I spoke French basically the whole time!’
I’m really undecided over whether this is a mountain or a molehill. Like, if someone I was dating didn’t remember the details of meeting me, I’d probably be pretty upset, but if they’d also met 27 people the same night, I might be a little more understanding.
It’s definitely a mountain for Helena, though. ‘If he was really into me, he’d remember,’ she tells her family.
This leads to a DRAMATIC DRIVEWAY BREAKUP (on bin night, which is just such a lovely detail). ‘If you were really into me, I’d feel it,’ Helena tells Matt. ‘And you’d remember how we met!’
‘I –‘ Matt stammers, trying to work out what he can contractually say.
‘I can’t do this,’ Helena says.
‘Is this it?’ Matt asks.
‘Yes,’ Helena says.
She goes inside and cries prettily on her sister’s shoulder (conveniently right next to the front door) while Matt paces around in the street. ‘No, I want her here!’ he decides. ‘I have to fight!’
So he goes up to the door, and they have a long chat, and he’s all, ‘I want you to be here! I wouldn’t keep you here if I didn’t! I’m so sorry I forgot you spoke French to me!’ and they make out and all is good.
But then when he goes…
‘NOPE, I CAN’T DO THIS!’ Helena decrees.
And then the whirligig starts again. Helena goes outside to break up with Matt, and he convinces her to stay because he really wants her there, and she tentatively agrees to stay.
‘I have no idea if I’ll see her again,’ Matt says, half mournfully, half frustratedly.
I think it’s good for a Bachie to get broken up with now and again. Keeps them honest. But I can’t help but think that this is ruling Helena out of ultimate contention, unless Matt is motivated entirely by guilt. If you’re going to break up with someone, be decisive about it – and probably don’t do it twice in the space of ten minutes, hey.
I have to think that this – indeed, all of the hometown experiences – must have been great practice for Matt’s PhD thesis defence, though. A board of senior academics would have been barely intimidating when you’ve been grilled about the honour of your intentions four times on primetime TV and been forced to apologise at extremely great length for forgetting something you thought was pretty minor.
Emma, Abbie, and Chelsie are all standing there, awaiting Matt’s rose-related verdict. But… where’s Helena?
Late, apparently. When she strolls in, there’s some side-eye.
But there’s not as much side-eye as there is when Helena asks Matt if she can chat to him before the rose ceremony. ‘This isn’t fair!’ Emma fumes.
Basically, Helena reaffirms to Matt that she does want to be there and she just freaked out. Whether or not this changes his mind about his decision? We don’t know (although I suspect there’s essentially no chance that Helena is his endgame now).
But tonight, the bell tolls for Emma, she who was just so, so, so in love. It was perhaps a blessing for her that she went out under a Helena-related cloud, because she left angry and annoyed, rather than sobbing. I don’t know about her, but personally, I’d much rather go out that way.
And then there were three. Catch you for finale week, pals!
PS. I would like to point out that even though there was some #drama, none of the women introduced Matt to a casual ex from the dog park or refused to introduce him to anyone because they’d come over all toxically possessive and aggressively refused to understand how the show works. Here’s hoping our new Bachelorette Angie gets a better cast of dudes than her predecessor Ali.
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: I know a lot about romance, but not a lot about professional wrestling. That didn’t stop me from recording a podcast episode about it this week with On The Turnbuckle. I contain multitudes, etc.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.