Neil Lane would never.
This is it, friends! The ends! Finally, we, the collective Sisyphus, can stop pushing this collective rock up a hill! This is the final episode of Bachelor in Paradise!
…I should note that The Bachelor starts on Wednesday. And I’ll be recapping that too. But let us take our victories where we can find them.
Before we dive into today’s happenings, I wanted to take a little time to talk about ritual. The Bachie franchise is predicated on ritual, and we see a very clear example of one of these in tonight’s commitment ceremony.
In Cold Intimacies, Eva Illouz writes that, ‘[i]f they only live in the minds, cultural ideas are weak. They need to crystallize around objects, interaction rituals, and institutions’ (2007, 48). To put this another way: we need a way to make some of our dominant cultural assumptions concrete in order to make them seem real and meaningful and lasting.
Romance is a classic example of this, and, in fact, we can see marriage embodying all three of the things Illouz lists: marriage is an institution, entered into via an interaction ritual (the wedding ceremony), and symbolised by objects (eg. rings). These make that commitment to the ongoing romantic relationship official: they symbolise that it is a real and concrete thing, even though ‘marriage’ is just a concept really (albeit one with tax implications).
The commitment ceremony in Bachelor in Paradise isn’t exactly as firm as a marriage, but we have a lot of the same baggage here. We frequently see the exchange of rings in these ceremonies – even if they’re not engagement rings, they’re framed as symbolising a commitment. Similarly, we could argue that the notion of the romantic relationship is kind of an institution, although a less formal one than marriage.
The most interesting part, however, is the ritual itself, which is what Illouz describes as an interaction ritual. There’s a bunch of research out there which suggests that the biggest thing people struggle with in contemporary romantic culture is ambiguity: are we dating, or are we not dating? I’ve done some research around this specifically with respect to breakups, and I contend in a forthcoming piece of work that the breakups in the Bachieverse are actually fantasy versions of breakups: that while not giving someone a rose is pretty clinical, it’s also clean, and so you always know where you stand, rather than it being a drawn out ‘are we together? are we broken up? are we back together? are we not?’ thing (McAlister 2021, forthcoming).
In the commitment ceremony, we see the flipside. The other side of the vague breakup is that question of defining the relationship: are we together? are we seeing each other? are we boyfriend and girlfriend? what are we to each other? (If you think back to this point last year, you might remember Alisha and Jules having a very frustrating conversation along these lines.) The commitment ceremony makes everything concrete, everything clear – it’s a ritual which helps everyone know where they stand.
Essentially, while I’m fairly sure the commitment ceremony has been created for narrative convenience and clarity, I think it actually acts as a kind of fantasy in a romantic culture plagued by ambiguity (and umbrellas thereof). Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to waste energy wondering where you stood with someone, and you went through a ritual where they would just tell you?
Speaking of those rituals – we have some of them ahead! So let’s get into the recap of the finale.
You might remember that when we left things, Kiki was laying into Ciarran for being, in her mother’s words, ‘a lying cheating dog’. ‘Look,’ she says to him, ‘after all the things you’ve done, why should I believe that you’re not going to treat me like you treat other women?’
‘Um, because I won’t?’ he says.
‘Everything you do makes it seem like women are disposable, Ciarran.’
‘But you’re not disposable,’ he says stubbornly. ‘And you should believe me because I’m the most honest person in here!’
I’m sure that Ciarran is also an amazing waterskiier.
This situation isn’t really resolved when the men and women split off into separate little gendered groups. ‘Renee’s grandparents just wanted to know that I wouldn’t lie and cheat on her, given what she’s been through,’ remarks BMX Matt.
‘By the way, everyone knows that you told Renee that you’d rekindle things in here,’ BMX Matt goes on. ‘So given the way you’ve messed with her, I’d rather if you stayed away from her on the outside.’
‘I did no such thing!’ Ciarran exclaims.
Methinks the Most Honest Person In Here doth protest too much.
Ciarran is less worried about Renee, however, and more about Kiki. ‘She and I need to get out of here,’ he says to camera. ‘Who knows what the fuck those girls are telling her?’
Hmmm, a man trying to isolate a woman from all other company in case they reveal his bullshit to her. That’s not a red flag at all.
Over with the women, Kiki is trying to repress, repress, repress. ‘Look, my head is telling me that Ciarran is a shit, but my heart is telling me to give him another chance,’ she says.
‘Um… maybe you should listen to your head?’ Alisha suggests gently.
‘Remember Jess? and Abbie? and Renee?’ says Mary.
‘You know he told me that no one could ever replace me, like, five minutes ago, right?’ Renee says.
‘…ah, shit,’ says Kiki.
This is all leading, of course, to a confrontation. ‘I just don’t know if I can trust you,’ Kiki tells Ciarran sadly.
‘You know what I don’t trust?’ Ciarran says. ‘Any of this. I don’t want any of this. I don’t want a commitment ceremony. I just want you. Let’s leave.’
Kiki takes a deep breath. ‘Okay,’ she says. ‘Let’s try to make it work on the outside.’
And so we see them leave hand in hand… and then one of those true crime doco style screens pops up, with the white text on a black screen, which says, ‘Ciarran and Kiki tried to make it as a couple, but he ended it pretty quick, and she’s never heard from him since.’
What a surprise.
This leaves us with three couples going on to the commitment ceremony and making that ritual promise. Let’s take it couple by couple.
Renee and Matt
‘I hoped Renee would be here, but I never dreamed it could be this good,’ Matt says to camera.
‘I came to Paradise hoping for something with a bad boy, and I’m leaving with a good man,’ Renee says to Osher.
They meet at the side of the Paradise pool. ‘Renee,’ BMX Matt says, ‘when I got into Paradise, I had to choose between the bro code and you, and I chose you.’
Renee beams. ‘My Paradise didn’t start until you got here,’ she tells him. ‘You’ve made this experience so, so worth it for me.’
They exchange commitment rings. The whole scene is lovely, but it’s clearly scripted – Matt, bless him, is particularly stilted – until Renee tells him that she’s falling in love with him.
Then his eyes light up. ‘I love you too,’ he says. ‘You’re amazing. You’re amazing. This is amazing.’
He keeps telling her she’s amazing as they pash.
Look. I don’t think I have that big an emotional investment in Renee and BMX Matt long-term. But he’s clearly helped her get past a truly terrible man, and for that – bless your heart, you sweet bike-riding himbo.
Mary and Conor
‘The odds were stacked against me being here,’ Conor says to camera. ‘I’ve never been on the show before. But I’m so glad I am here, because I’m in love with Mary.’
‘The first few days in Paradise were very tough, because I didn’t have any connections with anyone,’ Mary says to Osher. ‘But then… there was Conor. And I can’t wait to tell everyone I have a boyfriend!’
(I presume she wasn’t thinking at that point she’d have to wait seven months between filming and actually being able to tell people she has a boyfriend – but okay, I’ll stop interrupting the nice confession of love scene now.)
They meet beside the pool. ‘Mary, I’m so glad I met you,’ Conor tells her. ‘I’m so in love with you.’
Mary is thrilled. ‘I’m in love with you too!’ she tells him. ‘And I can’t wait to introduce you to my daughter.’
They exchange rings (and Mary’s is way too big – the show clearly put no effort into sizing it!), and they’re both so happy, and it’s really very nice.
It’s impressive, honestly. I’m very invested in their romance, despite the fact that Conor might as well be a cardboard cutout with the word MAN written on it given how little I’ve learned about his personality.
(Oh, and they’re still together! The show’s Twitter posted a quick little video update from them – and Mary’s daughter – the second their mutual declaration of love aired. Mary’s moved to Tasmania to be with Conor, and it seems like they’re very happy. Happy sigh.)
Alisha and Glenn
‘I never dreamed I could find anyone like Alisha,’ Glenn says to camera. ‘She’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.’
‘I’ve never felt more seen, more appreciated, more loved than when I’m with Glenn,’ Alisha says to Osher. ‘I’ve fallen in love with him.’
(It’s quite a choice, by the way, to have the men talk to camera but the women to Osher. Osher is essentially the signifier of institutional power in the show, so having him talk to and kind of bestow his blessing on the women of the show demonstrates that they’ve been positioned as the points of identification and protagonists here: it’s them, rather than the men, that we want to see find love.)
They meet by the pool. ‘Alisha, I’m a cynic, but I fell in love with you the second I saw you,’ Glenn tells her. ‘I love you so much.’
‘You’ve made me rethink the whole way I think about love and relationships,’ Alisha says. ‘I have loved you the whole time we’ve been in here, and I’m not going to stop.’
They exchange rings (which are way too big! I much prefer the Australian franchise over the American one, but Neil Lane would never). They pash. They tell each other they love each other, and that they’re partners now, and if these two can’t make it work, then the rest of us might as well just give up on love, because it’s adorable af.
(And they’re still together! living together with Glenn’s twin Neil and his boyfriend! we can continue to believe in love!)
And that brings us to the end of a long and tumultuous ride, friends. It’s been real. I hope you’ve enjoyed these recaps!
…and I hope you enjoy the whole three days we get until this starts all over again. Catch you back here on Wednesday for the premiere of The Bachelor.
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.