National Treasure Sophie Monk now has a well-balanced harem, and we’re heading towards the middle of the season (tragically, Bachelorettes get less episodes than Bachelors, because of SEXISM and PATRIARCHY and THINGS NOT BEING FAIR). We’re at the end of the getting-to-know-you phase: be prepared for shit to start to get real.
And, having rescinded my initial pick of Jarrod, I’m still not prepared to make a new pick for the man who will win Sophie’s heart, because she is excellent and this group of men is… not great.
(Except you, Apollo, you sweet baby angel. You keep doing you.)
Tonight doesn’t do a whole lot to change my mind about the merits of the cohort tbh. There’s a reason that ‘sexy schoolboy’ is not a trope like ‘sexy schoolgirl’. But I digress. We’ll get to that.
We start, as we usually do, with a single date. Tonight’s recipient is James, which is an absolutely quality decision, as he is one of the few men in the house who seems to be… you know, bearable. (I have absolutely no idea how they’re going to find next year’s Bachie in this crew. They might have to dip back into my TV best friend G Love’s season.)
You know how Heath Ledger wins the affections of Julia Stiles back in 10 Things I Hate About You by sacrificing himself on the altar of humiliation and singing It’s Just Too Good To Be True to her across the football field? The same romantic principle underpins this date, in which James and Sophie are dumped on a stage in the middle of Circular Quay with a box of props, and forced to perform for the crowd.
Perform what, you ask? Why, Dr Jodes, you have forgotten to explain the bit where Sophie sat down and painstakingly tested James on all the lyrics to Bardot’s greatest hits before they went on stage! Did not the date card say that they were ‘entering Sophie’s world’?
No, no, I did not. Literally, they were just shoved on a stage and expected to perform … something. Because Sophie’s world rap improvised while wearing a $2 Reject Shop feather boa, apparently.
This isn’t the only thing that’s vaguely insulting about the setup. Sophie picks James up for the date in a water taxi instead of in the super yacht she deserves. And the sparkling they drink on their substandard ride? They have to open it with a bottle opener instead of with a cork. LIKE PEASANTS.
On behalf of Australia, I would like to apologise, Sophie. You are a national treasure and do not deserve such slights.
Despite all of this, and despite the fact that James is clearly shit-scared of improvising random shit in the middle of Darling Harbour – which seems to indicate he is a very sensible dude, so ten points to Hufflepuff – they have a blast together. They both sacrifice themselves on the altar of humiliation, kill themselves laughing, and bond.
It’s something James actually thanks Sophie for once they get to the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. ‘You made me face my greatest fear and you made me laugh while doing it,’ he says. ‘You’re awesome, Sophie.’
And … you know what? I might ship it a little bit. Because they have a great conversation about kids and the future and their priorities and where they see their lives going. And – be still my beating heart – James asks her to define one of those Bachie terms that gets so overused it doesn’t mean anything. (The name for that linguistic phenomenon is semantic satiation, by the way, if you read these recaps for the sweet sweet knowledge and not my sweet sweet jokes.) The term he asks about is ‘genuine guy’, and Sophie’s answer sums up just what he seems to be: someone not blinded by fame, who loves her, an excellent lady named Sophie, and not Sophie Monk, Celebrity.
I’m not the only one who ships it a little bit either. ‘Is it all right if I kiss you?’ Sophie asks James. He assents, and it’s a good pash, guys. A goooooooood passssssssshhhhhhhhhh.
(Less good is the fact that they’re at some Sydney rooftop bar looking directly over the trainlines. ‘Wow, is this like the New York skyline?’ James asks, starry-eyed, as the hourly Bomaderry-Central Cityrail train goes by right in the foreground.)
Oh, and James gets a rose, obvs.
Then it is time for the group date, and guys… guys.
I regularly (jokingly, but … like, only a little bit jokingly) offer my services to Bachie as a romantic trope consultant, and it’s dates like this that prove that they need me.
We’re operating under the same altar-of-humiliation principle as in the single date. This date takes place at a school, and the eight dudes in attendance are wearing parodic schoolboy uniforms, complete with pulled up socks and ridiculously short ties. (Apollo is not one of these eight dudes, presumably because there’s no way they could find a shirt his biceps would fit in.) It’s one of those competitive group dates, like the Manly Man challenge a few episodes ago, where there are multiple challenges, with contestants eliminated in each round.
And look, if we’re talking about simple competition with a school theme, this works well enough. The rounds are as follows:
- Paper plane making + flying
- Shooting basketball free shots
- Maths problems
- Spelling bee
But there is a problem here, in that none of these have anything to do with romance.
The Manly Man challenge was built on some pernicious rhetoric, but at least it kind of made sense within the context of Sophie saying that she wanted a ‘real man’ who could do stereotypically manly things. Like, within our cultural images of romance, that makes sense. But this date?
This makes no sense. Because you know what isn’t romantic? Primary school boys. And this is a date rooted in the image of primary school.
Romanticising school at all comes with some major problems imo, but if they’d chosen to base this around high school, there are so many tropes they could have drawn on. Like, go and watch one single episode of Heartbreak High and you’ll get a thousand nostalgic images of Australian high school in the era of Sophie Monk, any of which you could spin into some kind of date-style challenge. (BRB, designing a Drazic challenge in my mind.) High school is a time that is the locus of romantic ‘firsts’ in cultural discourse, and there is tons you could do with that, so many romantic tropes you could explore.
But no. They went with this super weird primary school thing. And they didn’t even try to make Sophie justify it with some ‘I just wanted to see which of the guys would get out of their comfort zone!’ bullshit, because even that wouldn’t make sense here.
Ahem. Call me, Bachie. I can help you avoid disasters like this in future. Although I feel like you could have helped yourself with this one if you’d put in even the barest amount of thought.
Anyway, the winner of the Problematic Schoolboy Challenge is Ryan. And that’s where shit got good (despite the fact that Bachie did not force him to keep wearing the problematic schoolboy outfit to the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, something which, as a villain, I feel like he deserved). Below is a summary of their conversation – paraphrased, but only slightly.
‘So you want completely different things to me and all the things you say you like are completely different to the way I am,’ Sophie says.
‘Yeah, but, like, I’m here,’ Ryan says. ‘And if I decide I like you, then it’ll all be worth it.’
‘What do you mean, if you decide you like me?’ Sophie says. ‘You don’t already like me?’
(Honestly, if I were national treasure and actual queen Sophie Monk, I would have reacted a bit more dramatically, because who could not like her? But perhaps the fact that I would react differently is part of the reason that I am not national treasure and actual queen Sophie Monk.)
‘I don’t know you,’ he rejoins.
‘Yeah, but other guys here like me, and they’re here for me,’ she says. ‘I’m obviously going to pick them over you. So I think you should go.’
Ryan is not happy. Hoo boy, he is not happy. ‘This is bullshit,’ he mutters on his way out, which seems to stun Sophie a little.
She doesn’t quite articulate it, but there’s something percolating below the surface in what she says next: ‘In the past, I would have let him walk all over me, but I stood up for myself.’
Good on you, Sophie, for ejecting and rejecting an embodiment of toxic masculinity. Good on you.
There’s plenty of toxic masculinity still in the Bachie mansion, though, and it pops up again at the cocktail party. And this time – oh god, I can’t believe I’m writing this – the contested territory is a pot plant.
Remember a couple of episodes ago when Jarrod made Sophie scuffle about in the dirt with him to plant that potplant? Well, hers has started to sprout but his hasn’t, and he is sure there has been (DUN DUN DUN) SABOTAGE.
This leads to him confronting the rest of the dudes, who are only barely controlling their laughter. There’s just something about a dude yelling at a bunch of other dudes and demanding to know who pissed in his potplant while getting redder and redder and redder that is … um. Yeah.
Let’s just say that you would almost certainly not see this on other national iterations of Bachie, and leave it at that.
It becomes clear that Blake, our remaining villain, is the one who pissed in the potplant, although he doesn’t say it. He just laughs and denies and laughs and denies and Jarrod gets angrier and angrier and looks more and more like a serial killer until he storms off, mumbling ‘he’s acting like a child’ under his breath. For verily, it is he, the one chucking a tanty over a potplant, that is the mature one here.
None of this potplant drama gets anyone eliminated, though. Tonight’s victim at the rose ceremony is Guy, one of the intruders from last night. I’m pretty sure that, introduction aside, he said exactly zero words the entire time he was there, so this isn’t exactly heartbreaking.
You know what might break my heart WITH JOY next week, though? Apollo in a onesie. Because, according to the promo, that’s happening.
(I mean, they’re all wearing onesies. But why would I bother caring about the rest of them when I could care about Apollo?)
The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.