Forget the ring, throw the whole man away.
Let’s take another dive back into the bin juice, friends: it’s time for yet another episode of Bachelor in Paradise!
As you might have seen in my recap last night, I recently recorded a bonus episode of the (excellent!) podcast Nearly Beloved, talking about all things Bachieverse and romance reality TV. One of the things we discussed was a potential queer version of the franchise (something I also discussed in these recaps last week), and I realised about halfway through our discussion that there’s another format which would work perfectly for this.
Allow me to introduce to your new fave, Bachie-with-Jodi friends: meet Ainori.
Ainori is a Japanese dating show which is unusual in its longevity. The Bachelorverse aside, reality dating shows don’t tend to sustain themselves for more than a few years, but Ainori ran from 1999-2009 in Japan (it predates The Bachelor, which first aired in the US in 2002), as well as a Vietnamese version of the franchise running for nine years. In 2017, it was rebooted for Netflix under the name Ainori Love Wagon, and three seasons have aired so far: two seasons of Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey and one of Ainori Love Wagon: African Journey.
(Seriously, if you want some wholesome lockdown viewing? Ainori Love Wagon has got your back, my friends.)
The format is kind of Bachelor in Paradise meets The Amazing Race meets Gogglebox (coincidentally, three properties that Channel Ten own, ahem). Seven strangers from all different walks of life board a pink mini-bus called the Love Wagon (the word ‘Ainori’ literally means ‘love ride’/‘love journey’), which drives them all around the world: eg. in the first season of Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey, they go to Vietnam, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. They have just enough money for a cheapo trip, backpacker style – while the Love Wagon is their primary transportation, they have to figure out food and accommodation themselves.
The seven passengers on the Love Wagon are allowed to talk to each other about anything and everything – except any potential feelings they have for each other (although these obviously come out in talking heads). This leads to some incredible tension, and the panel of commentators – remember, there’s a Gogglebox element – can spends ages dissecting even the smallest hand touch to the nth degree. You want slow burn? Ainori’s got it in spades.
But just say a passenger can’t hold their feelings in any longer. Then, they go to the bus driver and announce their intention to kokuhaku – that is, to confess their feelings. The bus driver will give them two tickets back to Japan. The confessor will then confess their feelings to the object of their affections. Said object has a night to think about it, and the next morning they make their response.
If they reciprocate the affections, then they kiss and go back to Japan together, an official Ainori couple. If not, then only the confessor leaves. Either way, a new passenger or passenger/s will be introduced onto the Love Wagon so that the numbers remain at seven and new relationships and couples can begin to form.
This show has the feels, friends. I was vaguely acquainted with the 2000s version (one of my grab-bag of undergrad majors is in Japanese), but when I dived into the Netflix reboot, I ploughed through the first season in, like, three days. It’s got everything. It’s got all different styles of romance, from love at first sight to enemies-to-lovers to friends-to-lovers. It’s got iconic contestants (wait until you meet Depparin, pals – she rules). It’s got painful rejections. It’s got some incredible confessions of love. It’s got genuinely breathless moments – when you see someone walk towards the Love Wagon to get their tickets and confess their love, your heart is genuinely in your throat.
There are a lot of reasons Ainori works, but the main one is jeopardy. When someone goes to get their tickets, you don’t know what the response will be. When they kokuhaku – make their confession of love – it’s just so much, because you don’t know what the response will be. And the next day, on the unmei no asa – the morning of fate – as the confessor waits to see whether their affections will be reciprocated or whether they’ll have to return to Japan alone, the tension is almost excruciating.
The Japanese version of the show (at least, to the extent that I’ve seen) is hetero: there’s usually four men and three women on the Love Wagon at a given time. But let me leave you with something of a pitch, Channel Ten…
…can you imagine this show with seven bisexual people on the bus?!
Sadly, we are not in the wholesome world of Ainori now, friends. We are on the beach of perpetual heterosexual horniness. Let’s see what the residents of Paradise are up to.
We begin tonight with an announcement: there will be no new entrants into Paradise.
‘Well, I’m out!’ Keira announces. ‘No need to pretend any more!’
I honestly can’t tell if Alex the sentient emoji is offended or not. All he ever does is smile.
Anyway: with them gone, that leaves six couples to undergo what Osher calls ‘a playful amount of pressure’ but is realistically a corporate team-building activity. They have to build a raft out of bamboo and rope, and the first couple to sail it around a buoy wins.
What do they win, you ask?
But what they do get is observed! even more than they usually do in this horny drunk panopticon! As they build their rafts, they’re watched by a guy called Steve, who is described as a ‘human lie detector’ and has apparently helped solve like eighty murders.
I would like to interrupt this recap with a pitch: HIRE JODI AS A ROMANCE EXPERT ON AN EPISODE OF THE BACHELOR/ETTE [IN PARADISE] 2021.
Seriously. I know I haven’t solved any murders, but I have a PhD in romance! Post-PhD, I have another five years academic track record working on romance! I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about multiple aspects of romantic love, based on exhaustive research! I’ve published multiple scholarly articles on this franchise! I’ve devoted my life to understanding how love stories work! WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET ONE OF THESE GUEST SPOT GIGS?!
Is it solving a murder? Because if it is, just tell me, and I’ll see what I can do.
Ahem. Back to the recap.
It turns out the rafts don’t count for anything. Personally, I’d be pretty mad if someone made me do hard physical labour in the sun just so I could be observed by Steve, but… anyway. Steve has compiled some data, and now he wants to interview the couples one by one, both individually and together, to find out if their relationships are ‘real’.
Don’t think it’s escaped me that this reality TV show is wrapping up by having an existential crisis about what is real and what isn’t. But if I got into that now we’d be here for many, many thousands of words, so: this is a summary of Steve’s findings.
Scot and Mia
‘DO YOU SEE A FUTURE WITH MIA?’ Steve bellows at Scot.
‘I, uh… it’s early?’ Scot replies.
‘DO YOU SEE A FUTURE WITH SCOT?’ Steve bellows at Mia.
‘…maybe?’ Mia replies.
‘Scot and Mia really need to work out where they stand – they don’t seem very serious,’ Steve concludes.
I would like to remind you all Scot and Mia have known each other for two days.
Glenn and Alisha
‘You two are perfection,’ quoth Steve, as Glenn and Alisha beam at each other. ‘You’re all good.’
It’s lucky he said this, because if Steve profaned the beauty of Glelisha, there would be some big fucking trouble, let me tell you.
Jackson the Pie Man and Pagliacci Brittney/Conor Cleanskin and Mary
IDK, they get no screentime, I assume they’re perfect too.
Renee and BMX Matt
‘I’m not jealous of Ciarran, but I do feel a bit weird about him,’ BMX Matt tells Steve.
‘Hmmm, surely he should be more confident?’ wonders Steve, who clearly has not been following the #drama that closely or he wouldn’t ask such a ridiculous question.
‘I’m over Ciarran,’ Renee tells Steve. ‘I know I deserve better than that.’
‘Hmmm, I don’t know if that’s true,’ says Steve.
Look, I know I’m going a bit hard on Steve here, and it is a hundred percent because I’m jealous, but come on, bro: you have to know about fake it til you make it, right?
Ciarran and Kiki
‘Mate, you’re a big fat liar,’ Steve tells Ciarran, as Ciarran lies to his face like twenty times in a row (eg. ‘I don’t know how to use Instagram’ – fucking lol, my dude).
‘I don’t know what you mean by that,’ Ciarran snaps.
‘He doesn’t think about other people,’ Steve concludes. ‘He only thinks about himself.’
Can’t argue with you there, Steve.
Steve ultimately concludes that Kiki and Ciarran’s relationship is staged and might be a foundation for ‘a future Instagram family’, which is possibly the purest example of the ‘how do you do, fellow kids?’ meme I’ve ever seen.
While Steve is doing all his interviews, the contestants are all chatting among themselves. Importantly, we get two key pieces of information:
- Renee and Ciarran broke up only one week (!!) before coming to Fiji – and in that week he managed to hook up with Kiki and a whole bunch of other girls. (His time management. My goodness.)
- Alisha has found a ring in Renee’s luggage engraved with the date she and Ciarran got together.
Ciarran, unsettled by his interaction with Steve, once again tries publicly apologising to Renee. But, ‘no,’ Renee says. ‘I don’t need you to make yourself look good in a public setting. You should have this conversation with me privately!’
‘Fine!’ Ciarran says. ‘Let’s fucking go and have a chat, then!’
BMX Matt watches them go. ‘I hope Renee realises that he’s just trying to rewrite his narrative,’ he says. ‘He knows he’s going to look like a dick on TV, so he’s trying to make it better.’
The fact that this show is drawing attention to the fact that reality TV identity is performative is also fascinating. Insert another ten thousand words here.
Because Ciarran is trying to do exactly what BMX Matt said he was – ie. position himself in a way where he won’t get a villain edit – Renee gets nothing from this conversation. ‘I’m not going to get any of the closure that I want,’ Renee sighs to camera. ‘You know what’s frustrating, though? I spent all this time working with Cass on this stupid ring that was going to be an anniversary gift for him, and the day it was finished was the day he cheated on me.’
Renee bursts into tears and runs away to her cabin. BMX Matt, blithely playing cricket with the boys, doesn’t notice, but you know who does?
Alisha. Her friend.
And what follows might be my favourite scene in all of Bachelor history.
Alisha goes to Renee. She gets her to confess what Alisha has suspected all along: Ciarran told Renee they were going to get back together in Paradise, which was why she brought the ring.
‘Let’s throw it away,’ Alisha tells Renee. ‘Let’s throw him away.’
They take the ring. They walk out into the ocean. And there, supported by her friend, Renee throws the symbol of her terrible ex – a symbol that has been hanging over her head – away forever.
Fuck Lord of the Rings. This is my favourite ring destruction of all time.
Up on the beach, everyone is watching them do it. ‘What’s happening?’ Kiki asks.
‘Renee’s throwing away the ring,’ Mary says.
‘What ring?’ Kiki says.
‘The one she had made for Ciarran,’ Mary replies.
‘That ring?’ Ciarran says, popping up beside her. ‘That’s an eight hundred dollar ring! What a waste!’
‘You knew about it?’ Kiki exclaims.
There’s one more rose ceremony to go: one where each couple will exchange roses. If each member of the couple says they want to continue, then they will, but if one of them doesn’t, then they’ll leave Paradise.
We don’t get to the full rose ceremony tonight, but we’ve got some suggestions as to how it might turn out. Renee is on top of the world after throwing the ring away, and BMX Matt is thrilled that she’s got rid of her baggage. Kiki, on the other hand, is very annoyed, and instead of throwing a ring away, it seems like she’s considering getting rid of the whole man…
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.