Setting expectations, sexpectations, and love triangles in paradise.
Friends! Acquaintances! Strangers! Enemies! It’s been an incredibly long time since my last dispatches from the Bachieverse – we’ve managed to fit a whole global pandemic in there – but I’m back, as are so many of our old friends (and acquaintances, and enemies, and… look, if they import people from overseas franchises, probably some strangers too). It’s time for another round of Bachie-with-Jodi, digging deep into Season 3 of Bachelor in Paradise Australia, aka Bach in Paz.
This is an artefact from a simpler time. It seems a bit counterintuitive that a show about some hot people getting drunk and pashing on a tropical island in November could make us feel nostalgic, but…here we are. This is a piece of media from the Before Times, when social distancing was a phenomenon no one had heard of, and this Bachieverse take on schoolies gave no one even the slightest worry about infection (except maybe STIs – unlike regular Bachie, Paradise fucks). As such, I suspect it’s going to engender in its audience a peculiar cocktail of wistfulness and longing and delight that wouldn’t usually be provoked by a show which, let’s face it, is really not that complicated.
That said: there is something refreshing about Paradise which is usually a bit depressing in the central franchise. Bachie proper has a relentless kind of destiny (or, less positively, doom) at its heart: if you don’t click with the Bach, then romance is not for you. But Paradise — in which, if you’re not familiar, a bunch of previous contestants get together, drink fruity cocktails, and smash their faces and other body parts together on a beach in Fiji for a few weeks –has something different going for it: choice. If you meet someone and they’re garbage? Fine, you can move onto the next person. If that person is also garbage? Fine, toss them aside. Sure, you might need to check you know where your next rose is coming from, but broadly speaking, you get to control your own destiny in Paradise in a way that you don’t in the parent show/s.
This means that Paradise mirrors modern romantic culture a bit more closely than Bachie proper, in a way that I think is quite satisfying. Eva Illouz argues that choice is foundational to the modern marriage market (and, I’d contend, by extension, romantic culture): it ‘seems to operate through the seemingly unconstrained, free, and unfettered encounters between people whose faculty of choice is not only exercised, but ongoingly in demand’ (2012, 90, emphasis in original). We see choice in clear evidence in the main franchise, as the Bach decides which contestant will be the best long-term partner for them — arguably a very clear example of a choice which ‘far from being based on pure emotionality, actually entails a complex affective and cognitive apparatus to evaluate partners, to consult oneself about one’s emotion toward them, and to predict one’s capacity to sustain these emotions’ (Illouz 2012, 90). However, the choice only goes one way – that is, the Bachie has choices, but the contestant gets just one option. In Paradise, by contrast, everyone has the capacity to make a choice, because everyone is presented with options.
Illouz argues that modern choice is characterised by three elements:
- ‘it is exercised usually through a large number of options, real or imagined, or real and imagined;’
- ‘it is the outcome of a process of introspection in which needs, emotions, and lifestyle preferences are all weighed;’
- ‘it emanates from individualised will and emotionality, engaged and responding to another’s pure will and emotionality, which in principle needs to be constantly renewed’ (2012, 90-91, emphasis in original).
If we break this down, our three elements are 1) options, 2) consideration based on multiple factors, and 3) a promise between two individuals to continue making the choice. That last one is, I think, the most interesting, and it’s one we see in clear evidence in Paradise. A choice isn’t a moment, it’s a process, and it occurs between two participants. In regular Bachie, the promise on the part of the contestant is basically assumed, but in Paradise, we have more variables (ie. both variables, both lovers) in play. Lauren Berlant argues that ‘the form of love is an intention – not a compulsion – to repeat being attached’ (2008, 15), and that’s something that the format of Paradise abets: for a couple to be successful, they have to keep choosing each other, again and again.
…ah, it feels good to stretch the ol’ recap nerdle muscles again. I hope you remembered that this is what you signed up for when you dove back into Bachie-with-Jodi.
If you didn’t know this is what you signed up for: sorry (not sorry). The actual recap starts here.
In case you’re not familiar with the format: a bunch of ex-contestants are introduced into Paradise. Every week, there’s more of one gender than the other, and the gender which has the smallest number holds the power (symbolised by roses) for that week — eg if there are more men than women, then the women have the power, and each one can bestow one rose. He upon whom a rose is not bestowed must go.
(Is this extremely heteronormative? Yes. They’ve had bisexual contestants in the past — cf. Alex and Brooke last year– but we’re yet to see a same-sex rose exchange. One day, one day.)
This requires that we have an initial cast of characters to begin with, so here is our first dramatis personae:
Timm (Angie’s season): yes, it has two Ms. While he rarely strings a grammatical sentence together and seems to be perpetually munted, he revealed himself on Angie’s season to have the gentle heart of a sunflower prince. Also has great hair.
Abbie (Matt’s season): cast as the villain on Dr Space Bachie’s season, Abbie has revealed herself to be something of a feminist icon. She is a sex-positive and progressive legend and I want only the best for her.
Helena (Matt’s season): Helena managed to be both not especially interesting and try to dramatically leave on multiple occasions on Dr Space Bachie’s season, which really is an impressive feat.
Brittany (Honey Badger’s season): Britt is one of the two women that the Honey Badger dumped in his season finale. She is very charming and cool and astronomically better than the Badge, so here’s hoping something better is waiting for her in Paradise (sans Cockney rhyming slang).
Brittney (Honey Badger’s season): While this Brittney has basically the same name as the Brittany above and they were on the same season, they are very different. This is Conga Line Brittney from last year’s Paradise, and she is an intense burst of chaos. Also she ran in yelling IT’S BRITTNEY BITCH!, which I have to respect.
Glenn (Angie’s season): said nothing on Angie’s season. Jury’s out.
Niranga (Angie’s season): said a couple of good jokes on Angie’s season. Tentative approval.
Mary (Matt’s season): an amazing narrator on Dr Space Bachie’s season, I’m really hoping she gets an actual love story.
Janey (Richie’s season): tried to do a Cinderella bit on the first night in Richie’s season, didn’t really do much else.
Jake (Georgia’s season): was quite bland on Georgia’s season, but is better known for being a huge fuckboi on the first season of Paradise, where he screwed over Florence to be on-again off-again with Megan.
Ciarran (Angie’s season): perhaps the most beloved Bachelorette contestant in the history of the franchise, Ciarran was an icon of excellent suits and modern masculinity, and he really loved his granny. Also he got his peen out in an iconic life-drawing scene, and it seems like that’s going to be a common occurrence here.
Cassandra (Matt’s season): Cass wasn’t especially memorable on Dr Space Bachie’s season, but I feel like that was more his fault than hers.
Jamie (Angie’s season): Uggggggghhhhhhhhhhh Jamie was an absolute fucking nightmare. He was extremely awkward and obsessed with Angie and came off kind of like a serial killer. Extremely no thank you.
The threads we need to keep track of, as we begin:
- Abbie is hot for Ciarran. She openly admits that she’s put all her eggs in this basket, and when he turns up (naked but for some strategically placed grapes, which he offers to her), she just about swoons. However, while he’s into her, he also seems to be into Cassandra…
- If you weren’t on the show in the last couple of years, or you got eliminated in the first couple of episodes in your season, no one knows who you are. In particular, everyone is ignoring Jake and it’s fucking hilarious. He’s going to be this year’s American Jared: goes in thinking he’ll be a big deal, ends up as the weird kid no one wants to talk to.
- Jamie is really invested in a) being best friends with Timm (‘I think I’m Jamie’s best mate but he’s not my best mate,’ quoth Timm, which… woof), and b) trying not to look like a terrifying serial killer. I’m sure you can work out what effect his desperate efforts not to seem threatening have.
And now: the plot!
The first date card of this year’s iteration of Bach in Paz goes to Timm. Normally, this means he would get to pick one person to take on a date, but they’re innovating with the format: it’s a two-on-one date. In a regular Thunderdome date, one of the contestants would get a rose and one would be eliminated. The stakes aren’t quite so high here, but the men have the power in the first week, which means that the competition is still quite intense.
Timm chooses Brittany and Brittney. While this might seem like a recipe for confusion, it’s actually quite easy to tell them apart: one seems to be a relatively normal person who speaks in coherent full sentences, and the other one is…Conga Line Brittney.
I’m not if this is on purpose or not, but Conga Line Brittney is really coming across as a tragic figure. She laughs through every single sentence she says, and the frequency of that laughter makes it seem that the sentiment is serious. ‘If I don’t get a date card, I’m giving up on love and getting another cat!’ she declares — and then when she gets chosen to be on the date, she cackles through, ‘my first Bachelor date, and there’s another girl! oh well, you get what you get!’
Brittney holds her own for a while. She dances with Timm, and it’s silly and fun(n). But then other Britt dances with him, and instead of silly it’s sexy, and Conga Line Brittney is left sitting there on the couch alone.
‘I think that was a butterfly,’ she says, laughing. ‘Did that butterfly just go past?’
The quiet tragedy of this, pals. I literally can’t even.
Elsewhere, the other new residents of Paradise are having a dinner party framed by anonymous questions. They’re all allowed to submit questions, either for specific contestants or for the group, which will be answered over food and (even more) cocktails.
It’s a great conceit. It lets the contestants talk about their expectations, their sexpectations, and the uppermost age limit they’d date (which all the women cleverly use to exclude Jamie, who is forty). We get a question specifically for Ciarran, asking him what happened in his relationship with his ex Renee (also on Dr Space Bachie’s season for about five minutes). This was set up to be OMG DRAMATIC in the ads, but it’s not really: a bit of shine comes off his halo when he admits he cheated, but no one flips any tables…
…although Abbie nearly does a while later when they play a weirdly bowdlerised version of fuck marry kill/root shoot marry — seriously, Paradise, ‘friend kiss marry’? WTF? — and Ciarran says he’d like to kiss her but marry Cassandra.
NB: Cassandra is friends with Ciarran’s ex Renee and is the one who asked the question about his past relationship. She’s also interested in Ciarran now, so watch out for some major triangle format in the next few days.
Speaking of triangles, another one is forming between Glenn, Helena and Mary, despite the fact that the dominant discourse around Glenn in the media in the past few days has been ‘um, literally who?’ This’ll be one to watch.
But back to the Ciarran/Cass/Abbie situation. Ciarran takes Cass away for a chat (to a place that Paradise Veteran Jake assures us is ‘the hookup corner’, in the tone of someone who has clearly Seen Some Shit), and Abbie quietly has conniptions about it, despairing about her place in the competition to the extent that she considers accepting a rose from terrifying Jamie.
However! Cass does not hook up with Ciarran in the hookup corner! And then Ciarran spends the night in Abbie’s bed! Gasp!
What will happen next?! It’s a cliffhanger, pals. Catch you back in these prelapsarian (well, pre-2020) drunken hook-ups on the morrow.
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: not only do I write about rose ceremonies, but I’ve written a book with a rose on the cover! If you like my writing (which, if you made it to the end of this monstrously long recap, I assume you do), don’t forget to check out my YA Valentine series, and you can always check in on me at my website: jodimcalister.com.au
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.