RECAP: The Bachelorette Australia – S5 E02

Toxic masculinity has… consequences?! Bring me my smelling salts.

It’s Bach o’clock again! I’m slightly less jetlagged, slightly more coherent, and slightly more ready to write this recap than I was of the premiere.

Last night, we met our Band of Bros. Some early delights emerged – I have high hopes that Carlin might turn out to be a beautiful wood-nymph, a la Todd, and I also found myself surprisingly charmed by Two Ms Timm. But we also met some villains. There’s Kayde the fuckboy, who’s a villain-type that we’ve seen numerous times before, so I don’t think I really need to explicate.

But then there’s Jess. He’s a villain-type I don’t think we’ve necessarily seen before. Sure, he’s a shithead, and they’re a dime a dozen in the Bachelorette mansion. But notably, he’s a politician.

In last night’s episode, Fireman Jamie said a bunch of stuff about how fireman is the most trusted profession (while sobbing, because Jess had filled him with a bunch of negative energy). Someone rejoined with ‘yeah, you know who’s the least trustworthy? Politicians.’

Not wrong. Not wrong at all.

Politicians are spin doctors, which is why it’s so hard to imagine them as compelling romantic leads. I’ve talked a lot in these recaps (and in my research – seriously, this is, like, a whole thing for me) about how communication and intimacy are fundamental to romance. Key to that is truth. You can’t be intimate with someone – remembering that intimacy is generally created via conversation and communication – if they’re not telling you the truth. And who’s notorious for lying…?

(It’s politicians, in case that isn’t clear.)

Romance fiction loves a powerful man – think of how many billionaires and bosses we get. Now, to my mind, these aren’t especially sexy either (the world isn’t exactly populated with wonderful billionaires right now), but at least their whole image isn’t tied up with spinning the truth in the way that the politician’s is. This is why, I think, we get so few romances about politicians. We might get kings and princes, but they’ve had power thrust upon them. People who seek out power – particularly in our contemporary climate, where we have this strong image of the weaselly politician – become suspicious.

I think this is probably a bit gendered: we do, after all, have a wonderful archetype of the political heroine in Leslie Knope, who genuinely wants to go into politics to make the world a better place. But even then, one of her defining features is truthfulness. She doesn’t lie to get what she wants, or spin the truth – and that allows her to be a protagonist (notably, in one of TV’s most beloved romances).

Essentially, there’s a reason we don’t get many politician heroes in romance fiction. The only two I can think of (or at least the only two that have worked well as heroes) are Phin in Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie and Ben in What Kind of Day by Mina Esguerra. And even then a) Phin is desperate not to be the mayor of Temptation, and b) Ben is a staffer explicitly working for, like, the one honest senator, so the image of the weaselly politician is mitigated.

Long story short: even if he wasn’t such an active shithead, Jess was always going to be a villain. I just don’t foresee a pathway to likeability for a male politician character in one of these shows. Not in this political climate.

Anyway – on to the recap!

We begin tonight with the first single date – and it’s the 24 hour single date that Carlin won last night.

It’s a glamping date, as Angie takes Carlin out into the wilderness. I have to assume that this is because she was testing whether he’d invite some of his fellow wood-nymphs out to play if she took him out into his natural environment.

This is a DRAMATIC DATE, for a couple of reasons.

  1. They eat on camera. I repeat: THEY EAT ON CAMERA. This never happens. (But is it subject to the semiotics of the cheeseboard, where if you sample food on screen, you’re doomed?)
  2. Carlin makes a major admission to Angie: he’s married.

Obviously there’s more to it than this: he’s also separated, and he and his wife have filed for divorce. But whatever producer coached him through this speech obviously prevented him from saying the word ‘divorce’ until about twelve minutes after he said ‘I’m married’, and so Angie’s jaw dropped… and dropped… and dropped.

IMO, this is not a huge deal. It makes sense, honestly, that someone would want to marry someone who seems like such a beautiful wood-nymph. But the way the speech was framed made this seem MASSIVE.

Angie does raise a super legitimate concern. ‘Are you just doing this to prove to your ex that you’re over her?’ she says to Carlin.

‘No, not at all,’ he reassures her. ‘That feels like a whole other part of my life.’

(Sidebar: given that Carlin is a beautiful wood-nymph, are we sure his ex was human? Perhaps she was his selkie bride, and she found her sealskin and returned to her home in the sea, meaning that they are never, ever, ever getting back together.)

‘I’ve never been in love,’ Angie says to him. ‘Does that make you nervous, given that you’ve experienced something that intense?’

‘Of course not!’ he says earnestly. ‘I’m here for you, and to give this a real chance.’

And then she gives him a rose, and they pash, and you guys: it’s a good pash. Like a really good, pan-to-the-campfire pash.

‘He can give me pash rash any day!’ Angie tells the camera, which: bless. And also: #straya.

The next day, Angie and Carlin are cuddled up all cosy by the campfire when their date gets crashed by all the other bros. That’s right: the single date bleeds riiiiiiiiight into the group date.

It’s the traditional photo shoot date. ‘Normally, these are sexy and intimate, but I wanted this to be fun and silly!’ Angie says. ‘So you’ll all be dressing up as animals!’

This year, it’s for the Daily Telegraph. I was devo that it wasn’t for romance novel covers this year, TBH, like in Georgia’s and Ali’s seasons. You’ve got at least three bros in there with Fabio hair! Opportunity missed. OPPORTUNITY MISSED.

The first shoot is a lake-themed one. BMX Matt is dressed as a merman (merman! Moisture is the essence of wetness, etc). Two Ms Timm, however, has been forced to dress as a lobster.

It’s… not a great costume, shall we say. But Timm makes the most of it – in that he plays around with the character, and not in that he shows Angie his junk (although he does do that, albeit accidentally). As a result, Angie is super into it.

It also serves as a good comparison point to the next photo shoot, which is a farm scene. Fireman Jamie has been chosen to dress as a farmer (which he thinks proves that Angie sees him as her husband: truly, the pot plant Jarrod energy is strong in this one), and a bunch of bros have been deputised to dress as the farm animals.

One of these is a dude called Warwick, who’s been forced into a chicken costume. But when he walks outside and the other dudes start laughing, he storms off in a huff. ‘Nope,’ he declares. ‘Take me back to the mansion. I’m done.’

Then he tears his shirt off, and reveals that WAZZA is tattooed across his back, and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about him, I don’t know what will.

Also, Timm utters a line which I hope will go down in the annals as an all-time Bachie best: ‘Wazza made an even bigger cock of himself now that he’s chickened out’.

Consider this your official break for applause.

Okay. Warwick fucking off isn’t the only problem with this shoot. Jamie is being a wee bit intense, but that’s not the half of it either.

Politician Jess has been cast (by some genius producer) as Back Of Horse, and he’s managing to make it as gross as possible. This is especially true when the photographer suggests that Angie get on the horse’s back. ‘Sweet,’ he says. ‘I’m going to be the first of the guys to get a ride.’

‘Dude, shut up and stop being such a sleaze,’ Carlin tells him.

(Carlin, by the way, is dressed up as a cow. It says a lot about him that he can go from hardcore pashing Angie to dressing up as the Sunrise cash cow in five minutes and still keep his cool.)

Jess’ grossness continues into the next photo shoot, as the dudes observe Angie and Meat Pie Jackson, dressed as penguins, get pretty snuggly. ‘If it was me, I’d just lay one on her,’ Jess proclaims. ‘Slip the tongue in.’

Sounds like another politician I know, TBH, cough Access Hollywood cough.

‘Oh my god, shut up,’ Carlin tells him.

Then we get a shot of Carlin talking to the camera. ‘This is making me and the other guys uncomfortable, so I can’t even imagine how it’s making Angie feel,’ he says. ‘It’s my responsibility to tell her.’

Oh my goodness. A Bachie man understood that it was his responsibility to do something about toxic masculinity. No wonder his selkie bride consented to marry him, even if only for a short season.

At the cocktail party, we deviate from this plotline long enough for Warwick to take his ball and go home (before Angie gets there, which leads to her saying ‘I guess even the Bachelorette can get ghosted,’ and if that isn’t an indictment on modern dating, I don’t know what is). But then Jess gets even more gross and disgusting – like, they legitimately intercut this with a scene of him hitting on a producer – and beautiful wood-nymph Carlin decides enough is enough.

‘I have a responsibility as a man to stand up when someone speaks about women like this,’ he declares, making it extremely evident that if he doesn’t end up with Angie, he’s going to have no shortage of future potential selkie brides.

I do wish that he’d actually said more to Jess’ face, but instead, Carlin goes to Angie. ‘Look, Jess has been creeping us all out,’ he tells her. ‘It’s not just about you, either. He’s been hitting on the makeup ladies, and the producers, and it’s really awful.’

‘Damn straight it is,’ Angie decrees. ‘I’m not standing for this.’

Jess, while this has been going on, has been chatting to some of the other dudes about what a bitch Angie is. ‘Hey, don’t call her that,’ BMX Matt says (oh my goodness, don’t tell me there’s more than one good dude in here! my mind might explode). ‘The way you talk about women, dude? It’s disgusting.’

‘It’s a joke,’ Jess smirks. ‘Angie wants someone with a good sense of humour, remember?’

And that smirk stays on his face the whole time that Angie is telling him that what he did, what he said, and how he behaves is completely unacceptable. ‘It’s not just me you’re making uncomfortable – which you really did do on the photo shoot,’ she says. ‘It’s the makeup artists and the crew too. And if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I’ll never allow any man to fuck with my sisterhood.’

‘Babe,’ Jess says, ‘can’t you take a joke?’

‘Jess, get out,’ she orders him tersely.

And Jess leaves. ‘It was just a difference of opinion,’ he tells the camera. ‘I’m going back to Noosa to find the love of my life in some dingy nightclub.’

I’d love to be able to end this recap on a ‘good luck becoming mayor now, shithead’ note, but sadly, I’m not convinced, in this political climate, that this will have any impact on Jess’ political career whatsoever.

I can end it on a positive note, though: NEXT WEEK THERE ARE PUPPIES.

Oh, and a new contestant enters, someone that Angie apparently knows from the outside. But more importantly: PUPPIES.

Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: I write books! Please read them! If you do, maybe someone will give me money to write the thinly veiled Todd/Abbie fanfic of my dreams!

Jodi is a Lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. Her research focuses on the history of love, sex, women, and popular culture, so reading romance novels is technically work for her. Shed a tear for Jodi. Jodi is also an author, and her series about smart girls and murder fairies is published by Penguin Teen Australia. One time, the first book, Valentine, was featured on Neighbours, and she nearly fainted with joy.

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