In which a guy who describes himself as ‘sexual Willy Wonka’ is actually very charming, and a hot fireman with a puppy is terrible?! This show contains multitudes.
We’re back! We’ve past the hurdle of the first couple of episodes and now we’ve found our usual rhythm: single date/group date/cocktail party/get out.
This also means we’ve found another rhythm – one to do with character. One thing we see a lot in the Bachelor/ette universe are archetypes. The show is very keen to cast certain people in certain roles, and communicate to us clearly what role that person plays in the narrative. Anyone’s who’s watched UnReal will be familiar with this: the ‘wifey’, for instance, is a contestant that has the potential to be a romantic protagonist and make it all the way to the end (think Carlin, BMX Matt, maybe even too-many-Ms Timm).
But I want to begin this recap by talking about another archetype: the one being embodied by Jamie.
I want to make it clear that Jamie played himself on this one (to an extent, anyway – I know the contestants have producers in their ears all the time, but bro, at some point all this shit had to actually come out of your mouth). He had all the right ingredients to be slotted right into that wifey position. I mean, come on, he’s a hot fireman who entered with a puppy! The last hot fireman with puppy associations we had on this show was Fireman Cam on Georgia Love’s season, and everyone in the universe loved him!
(Including Georgia, BTW. Even though they had no romantic spark, according to Georgia on her Cocktails and Roses podcast, apparently she and Cam are, like, really close friends now, which I find incredibly wholesome.)
Jamie could have been Fireman Cam: the sequel. But what he’s actually become is the sequel to a much more pernicious archetype: the Bro Who Can’t Take No For An Answer.
I wrote last week that Jamie has strong Pot Plant Jarrod energy. This is still true, but I don’t think that Jarrod is really the closest analogue to him. Rather, Jamie is coming across as the sequel to Charlie in Ali’s season last year: the bro so toxic that Ali was forced to keep human-swarm-of-locusts Bill over him, despite the fact Bill had just taken her on a hometown date where he made her eat dinner with his Tinder date from the dog park.
Charlie was possessive. Charlie was controlling. Charlie couldn’t stand to see Ali look at another dude even for a second, despite the fact he clearly knew what show he’d signed up to be on. Charlie was a bag full of red flags in a human suit: and Jamie looks like he might be just as bad.
Sometimes, the show tries to laugh this off. They paint this Bro Who Can’t Take No For An Answer as the male analogue to the Stage Five Clinger that we see in The Bachelor, someone like Cass last year or Emma this year. And sure, Cass and Emma were full of feels (maybe too many feels? I’m not here to judge the appropriate level of feels), and I assume they didn’t love seeing their respective Bachies jamming their tongues down the throat of other women, but it was never articulated in the same way. When Emma saw the Astro Bach seesawing between Elly and Abbie, her response was not to throw a possessive tantrum, but to turn to her mate and mutter, ‘I’d rather be in the pub.’
We’re often conditioned to think of women as excessively emotional. Indeed, Rachel Dubrofsky contends that a lot of The Bachelor revolves around eliciting this emotional money shot from women, and then punishing them for being too emotional, for doing love wrong (2009). I’d contend that The Bachelorette often does the same thing, but the emotion it elicits doesn’t come out in the same way – ie tears, maybe a light tantrum. Instead, what we see are these explosions of possessive feeling, this anger that the Bachelorette cannot be controlled: and frankly, it’s pretty fucking terrifying.
Basically, what I’m getting at is that we need to have a serious conversation about the way men are socially permitted to express their feelings, and the way many seem to have imbibed the message that women are property (not all men, not all men, I know, don’t @ me). This has been, in previous years, a conversation that the show has been super unwilling to have, and the emotional displays by the men have been tacitly endorsed: think of, for instance, how many awful nightmare men get another chance in Paradise. This year, at least, the show seems a bit more willing to start a conversation about what an appropriate relationship dynamic is – think, for instance, about how they dealt with the Jess incident last week – but there’s still miles to go before we sleep.
So I’ve just hung a bunch of shit on Jamie, but I haven’t actually told you what he’s done yet. Continue on, gentle readers, and find out.
We begin tonight with a single date. Angie’s decided to take Meat Pie Jackson, who she says ‘intrigues’ her, even though he’s only 25 – and she is, by her own admission, ‘a bit ageist’.
There are a few notable things about this date:
1. THEY CONFUSE EPIC TRANSPORTATION FOR A DATE. A HELICOPTER IS NOT A DATE! HOW MANY TIMES DO WE NEED TO GO OVER THIS?
2. Angie gets motion sickness, and voms the second they get out of the helicopter. (One for the official Book Thingo Vomit Romance List?) Will this, perhaps, mean that they will stop confusing transportation for a fucking date this season?
3. This date appears to be product placement for helicopters, in that they show the company name several times. Is there really that much of a market for casual helicoptering? (Fuck, I hope people aren’t using them for dates. If you are, we need to have some serious words.)
There also appears to be a whole middle chunk of the date cut out between Angie throwing up and she and Jackson heading to their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, but they seem to have established a good enough rapport in that time that the conversation flows easily. (I mean, I can’t imagine all that rapport comes from him undoing her shirt and loosening her seatbelt so she didn’t puke all over him in the helicopter.) He tells her about his dreams of being a young dad, she tells him about how she’s now ready for love, they pash, he gets a rose. It’s all very genial, if not very thrilling, and they don’t touch any of the petit fours they’ve been provided, so by the rules of the semiotics of the cheeseboard, I assume it went well.
Next up: the group date! This is, as Osher tells us, the first ever Bachelorette dog show!
The fact that it has taken them five seasons to get to something as simple and adorable as ‘dog show’ really says something about their date planning practices. This is your regularly scheduled reminder that I am available to consult, Bachie. Call me. I’m qualified.
The gimmick is this: the lads have to divide up into teams of two. Each team has a dog, which they’ll have to take through an obstacle course. One team will win, as judged by some lady who is a dog obstacle course expert (which sounds like a very rewarding career, tbh – tell me more). From that team, Angie will pick one bro with whom to share some extra time.
But! There is a twist! The dogs are walked in by a very handsome man – a man that has a tattoo of a dachshund on his arm, so I have no choice but to stan! Meet:
Ryan: a new entrant! He knows Angie from the outside – kind of. They had a dog-related Instagram flirtation, but then she announced that she was the Bachelorette, so all hope seemed lost. But not so much, it seems, not so much.
Ryan, of course, has no partner for this obstacle course, so he has to – oh no! – team up with Angie. You can imagine about how well the assorted other bros take that.
(I’m also super interested by the fact that an Instagram acquaintance is considered a proper pre-existing relationship by the show. There’s, like, some fascinating transmedia implications there, and some stuff about how the nature of acquaintance and intimacy has fundamentally been impacted by changes in technology. But me unpacking that might be too nerdy even for these recaps.)
Ryan is billed as the ‘dog-whisperer’, but he and Angie don’t end up doing terribly well at this doggo obstacle course. Instead, the day is won by the team of Ciarran (who you might remember from the first night as the Mancunian Fabio-haired bro who described his look as ‘sexual Willy Wonka’) and Scot (who you will not remember as I’m fairly sure he hasn’t been on this show the whole time). Angie chooses Ciarran to spend some time with, presumably because she also has no clue who the fuck Scot is.
And here we are at this season’s biggest surprise: Ciarran, who looks on the surface like the most enormous fuckboy you will ever meet, actually seems to be very pure and wholesome and charming?!
He’s completely transparent with Angie. ‘Tell me about you,’ she says to him, and within thirty seconds he’s revealed that a) he used to dance in a g-string in a gay bar, and b) he had a nose job last year. He is so entirely unabashed by anything about himself, and it’s infectious. ‘I think you’re a really beautiful person,’ Angie says to him, and gives him a rose.
Ciarran doesn’t go in for a snog, because he doesn’t want to come off like a playboy, and that only makes Angie more into him. ‘All good things come to those who wait,’ she says, grinning from ear to ear.
And somehow I was grinning too? Like, I’m not 100% sure I ship them together or anything, but Ciarran is actually so charming, and I did not anticipate it at all?
Things are not so charming back at the Bach mansion, tho. The rest of the bros have returned, bringing intruder Ryan with them, and once the lads have got past the traditional AAAAAAAHHH! GAAAAAHHHH! which seems to be what their communication devolves into the second there are more than ten of them in a room, there are concerns. ‘Ryan’s been sliding into Angie’s DMs!’ Timm announces to the house at large. ‘He probably knows her better than all of us!’
This is of particular concern to Jamie, who is livid at the idea that someone might have a closer connection with Angie than he does. ‘He’s real competition,’ he just about snarls at the camera. ‘I hate this.’
This all comes to a head at the cocktail party. The dudes, led by Timm, have decided on a truce. None of them will approach Angie, and they’ll let her choose who she wants to talk to. It’s quite sweet, actually: it puts agency firmly in her hands, to choose her own cocktail party destiny, if you will.
She immediately takes Ryan away for a chat, and Jamie sees red. ‘No!’ he exclaims. ‘This isn’t all right! I need my time!’
He starts pacing. He starts fuming. He clenches his fists.
And then he marches up to Angie, is like, ‘can we have a chat?’ and whisks her away.
Look, this is hardly the worst sin that a Bach contestant has committed. Jamie’s reasoning is clear: he’s here to fall in love with Angie, not to abide by some code that the bros have agreed to among themselves.
That code allowed Angie to make the choices, and he overrode it, and every time one of the other bros even looks her way his eye twitches, and when he says things like ‘you should only pick someone who’s here for genuine reasons, who’s here for you’ to Angie it’s very clear that the only person he sees that being is himself, and while one of these red flags in isolation might not be such a big thing, the red flags keep building and building until all the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end.
This is only going to get worse in future episodes. All the stuff I wrote at the beginning of my recap might seem hyperbolic now, but it won’t in a week or so. Mark my words.
A few other things of note about this cocktail party:
1. Jamie gets into an argument over the whole breach of the bro code thing with a guy called Haydn, also a firefighter. I honestly can’t believe Channel 10 didn’t take the opportunity to bill this as ‘fighting fire with fire’.
2. Intruder Ryan’s job is listed as ‘island caretaker’, which…what?
3. Carlin is wearing a pair of wire-framed glasses, and he looks so good in them I think I blacked out for several seconds.
4. Some guy called Mitch – who ditched the dog show date because he hurt his ankle? – gave Angie some sort of weird ultimatum about not giving him a rose unless she could see him at the end. The look she gave him was very, ‘um, sorry, who are you again?’
Clearly she couldn’t see him at the end, because Mitch was eliminated in the rose ceremony. We also said goodbye to Night One fuckboy Kayde (the wannabe Zac Efron), whose nascent villain arc ultimately went…nowhere.
But it looks like a new villain is rising, and it’s…toxic masculinity.
Sorry, did I say ‘new’? I meant old. I meant ancient. I meant the same fucking villain we see every fucking time. Ugh.
Sneaky reminder: read my books. I’ve slid a sneaky reference to The Bachelor/ette into at least one of them, so ten points to the Hogwarts house of your choice if you can find it.