It’s an exciting time tonight in National Treasure Sophie Monk’s journey to find a boyfriend! Tonight: THE INTRUDERS. SILVER FOX INTRUDERS.
But before we get to the handsome older gentlemen, we must spend some time with the youngest (I think?) man in the house: perfect cinnamon roll Apollo the sexy magician, who is the recipient of tonight’s single date.
And look. As I wrote last week, I am almost positive that Apollo and Tara would be a perfect match. (And maybe the newly announced Australian version of Bachelor in Paradise can make that happen…?) But if our queen Sophie decided that she wanted a 24yo hunk of magical beefcake for herself, who am I to gainsay her?
This is a 1950s-themed date. I have a lot of thoughts about why the 1950s are made unnecessarily significant in cultural images of romance (hint: what you are romanticising right there is patriarchy, my friends), but Apollo and Sophie look adorable in the old-school getup, so I’ll let things lie. They have one of those old-fashioned camera (which I think are fin-de-siècle, not 1950s, but… eh, whatever) and they’re doing a photoshoot.
There is a lot to like about this photoshoot – cf. my comments about them looking adorable – but I think my favourite thing is that Apollo reveals he is afraid of butterflies.
Oh, and Sophie is all, ‘I can’t believe you’re only 24. Are you sure you’re not a vampire who is really a million trillion years old?’
BRING ME THE URBAN FANTASY ABOUT THE VAMPIRE WHO GOES ON THE BACHELORETTE IN THE GUISE OF A 24YO CINNAMON ROLL MAGICIAN AND WHO IS ALSO TERRIFIED OF BUTTERFLIES BECAUSE OF MYSTERIOUS REASONS FROM HIS VAMPIRE PAST. BRING IT TO ME NOW.
One of the things Sophie asks Apollo on their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation is why he’s so mature. He talks a bit about how his mother had breast cancer, and he had a heart attack, and how it made him grow up fast, but then he says he’s an ‘old soul’ and I’m right back at the vampire thing. Someone please write me this book at once.
Sophie is quite enamoured of him – for obvious reasons, as he’s a darling – and he gets a rose. And I was all like, ‘hmmm, I don’t know if they’ll ever be romantical, but they are going to be friends 4 lyf’ when Apollo just laid one on her and it was easily the hottest kiss of the season.
Insert pun about Apollo working his magic here. I can’t bring myself to make it. It’s too easy.
So: Sophie has been out and made out with the youngest dude in the house. But now it is time for… SILVER FOX INTRUDERS.
I’ve always found the word ‘intruder’ quite an interesting one in reality TV, because it highlights the unreality of the form. Generally, it’s a word you find in shows which rely on people being in a confined space: Big Brother is the classic example, but we could also talk about Survivor, where the contestants are confined to their tribal camps, and, of course, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and any romantic reality TV show where the participants are confined to what is essentially a harem. In real life, we don’t tend to talk about people being intruders, unless they’re burglars or similar, breaking into a space where they don’t belong. ‘Intrusion’ as a concept is quite aggressive – it suggests someone or something entering a space where they’re not supposed to be.
But in reality TV, it’s to do with more than physical space. It’s also got to do with what we might call narrative or diegetic space. We don’t watch a show like Bachie in the hopes that the Bachie will be like, ‘eh, not really feeling any of these people’ and send them all home.* No, we watch (nominally, at least) for a love story, and there are certain expectations that go along with that. One of them is that we will, actually, you know, meet the protagonists: and do it near the beginning, not halfway through. Although Pamela Regis’ eight essential elements of the romance novel can technically occur in any order, there’s a reason that the meeting between the hero and heroine occurs so early on that list, preceded only by ‘society defined’ (2003).
This is one of the reasons Lana Jeavons-Fellows was so unpopular in Sam Wood’s season of Bachie in 2015, where she made it to the final two. She was an intruder, and didn’t appear until episode 9. In real life, you can meet the love of your life or The One or whatever romantic name you want to give your ultimate romantic partner (if indeed you have such a thing) at any time. You might meet them when you’re a kid, or you might meet them when you’re ninety – hence the proliferation of news stories about nonagenarians marrying with the ‘you’re never too old to find love!’ rhetoric attached. But if you’re in a love story, even one which, like Bachie, is supposed to be real (well, ‘real’)? Then you better not turn up halfway through, my friend. How is the audience supposed to root for you then?
So here’s a lot of set up to tell you why intruders never win and why they’re never especially popular with audiences.
But! There is a but! I think things might be a little bit different in Sophie’s season, and there are two words that sum up why:
Before Sophie’s season started, a lot of the coverage was about the fact that almost all the men are younger than her (and, indeed, she eliminated the two oldest men in the house on the very first night). While some of this was along the ‘yaaaaaaassss, gurl, get it’ lines, a lot more of it was disappointed, hoping that Sophie would have a wider spectrum of men to choose from.
And this is entirely unsurprising, because we are culturally programmed to see older man + younger woman as the romantic norm. Even the most cursory look at the history of the romance novel will reveal this to be true (and, indeed, Diana Gabaldon used the fact that Jamie is younger than Claire as one of the reasons that Outlander is not a romance novel, although she is completely wrong about that, in my humble opinion). While we tend to cast a bit of side-eye at older men with much, much younger wives – relationships that break the X/2 + 7 rule – there’s no equivalent word for ‘cougar’ for men who seek younger women. Older man + younger woman, within a reasonable age bracket, is our cultural baseline for romance.
Therefore, what we have in the entry of the silver fox intruders is two colliding romantic discourses. As consumers, we’re not predisposed to like intruders, because we like to meet our protagonists at the beginning, and presumably we’ve already picked our faves. But we’re also very predisposed to want to pair an older man with a younger woman. Kaboom. Discoursesplosion.
And honestly, I think the silver foxes are going to win out over our tendency to dislike intruders, because it’s not like the crowd of men Sophie has now are huge winners. (Except you, James. You’re lovely. And you’re a perfect cinnamon roll, Apollo, too pure, too good for this world, but I’ve already paired you up with Tara in my head and it’ll take a lot for me to give up this fantasy.)
So: let’s talk about the actual intrusion and the intruders, shall we?
It’s set up like a group date on which all the men are invited, but I’m not entiiiiiiiiiirely sure you can call something a date if it involves you inviting along four other dudes that you might potentially like to date more.
I was going to write a more detailed description of who the new guys are, but then I looked at my notes on this episode and decided they were pretty accurate, so here they are, transcribed verbatim.
Guy: English, optometrist, dimples.
AJ: chef, dad, bald.
Paul: kids, grandkids, mature age student.
Stu: owns a pub, met Sophie once, OWNS A PUB.
And… look. I’ve been calling them silver foxes all this time. But I was a little disappointed, both in their relative lack of foxiness (in my opinion, anyway), and especially in their lack of silveriness. The oldest one is 44, and the rest are all in their late thirties. (Yes, even the grandfather. He’s 39, so I’m assuming he had at least some of his five kids in a kind of Gilmore Girls situation.)
The one with the most potential is Stu, and not just because he owns a pub and I’m immediately 150% more predisposed to like someone if I can get free wine out of them. Sophie said at the beginning of the season that what she wanted was a ‘down-to-earth Aussie bloke’, and I’m not sure you can find someone who fulfils that archetype more than a 44yo publican named Stu.
Anyway, then they all play polo on bikes, and Jarrod gets so competitive about it that he manages to totally take out Blake. Who is on the same team as him. And so I reiterate that we need to talk about Jarrod.
Also: it is lowkey tragic that Bingham the polo player got eliminated before this polo date. I wonder if he watched it somewhere, a single tear rolling down his private schoolboy cheek to land on that sloth he was always inexplicably wearing around his neck.
The post-polo cocktail party is, for obvious reasons, a festival of dick-swinging. Not much notable is said, but there’s a whole lot of grumbling, and the word ‘connection’ is thrown round a bunch of times without ever really seeming to refer to the same thing. One of the primary topics of discussion is kids. Some of the younger dudes aren’t ready to have them, which they think will count against them, but what if the older dudes – several of whom already have them – don’t want any more?
‘I’d have more kids in a heartbeat,’ Stu says, breaking the hearts of several dudes around him and confirming for the audience that he’s going to be around for a whiiiiiiiiiile.
Because four dudes came in, four dudes have to leave at the rose ceremony. And – GASP – controversy ensues as Sophie chooses to eliminate three of her original dudes and only one of the intruders. She ditches Paul the mature age student, but she also gets rid of Harry (aka manbun #2), Brett (???), and Hayden (the guy who threw his undies in her face on the first night). However, none of these guys really made much of an impact on the narrative, so I doubt we’ll feel the loss much.
What is more notable is that Jarrod gets the second-last rose and nearly loses his shit at the proposition he might not get one. I don’t know whether I’m looking forward or really, really not looking forward to what will happen if/when he eventually does get eliminated, because that seems like it could be a hot mess of manpain.
And speaking of hot messes of manpain, it sounds like he’s going to get his knickers in a twist about that pot plant he dared to make Sophie plant with him during the last cocktail party, so we have that to look forward to tomorrow, I guess.
* Although that has happened before in Bachie history – see US Bachelorette Season 3, where Bachie Jen Schefft sent home both her final two men, in what was narratively spun as sort of a postfeminist Sex-and-the-City–style I-don’t-need-no-man manoeuvre. Bachie Brad Womack did the same US Bachelor Season 11, sending home both his final ladies, but it was much less popular – he became one of America’s most hated public figures. He had to do a whole other season of The Bachelor and actually pick someone – Emily Maynard, aka the Bachie contestant (and later Bachie) with the most tragic backstory ever – for him to be even a little bit forgiven for not delivering on the promise of the love story.
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.