RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S4 E14

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S4 E14
The Bachelor Australia Season 4
Background photo: Robert Sheie (Flickr)

Bachie seeks to play up the idea of men (figuratively) controlling access to their female relatives. Yeah. Not my fave.

Bachie-with-Jodi is back again! Tonight’s episode focuses on one of Bachie’s peculiar rituals: the hometown dates, where the Bachie visits the homes and families of the final four contestants.

This hometown ritual is not 100% old-fashioned — I mean, the whole ‘meeting the parents’ thing is definitely a modern romantic ritual — but it does have its roots in older, pre-dating modes of romance. ‘Dating’ is nominally a public ritual, where the couple go out into the world and do stuff (like dinner, movies, etc). The hometown date, by contrast, is private: romance is coming into the domestic sphere.

In older romantic traditions, such as courtship, romance was conducted almost entirely in this private sphere, with gentlemen coming to call on ladies in their home. (This is all, obviously, deeply bourgeois: working-class traditions of romance are definitely pretty different in practice, if not always in theory.) The hometown date in Bachie is straight out of this courtship discourse: particularly because there’s this element where the Bachie is both assessing and being assessed by not just the lady, but the family.

The first lady that Richie goes a-courting in this episode is Alex, who lives on the Mornington Peninsula. Actually, she appears to live right in the middle of a vineyard, but that could just be that fantasy of conspicuous consumption getting cunningly edited in.

Alex, we must remember, has a son. She tells Richie that she’s not comfortable introducing him to her kid until she’s the last lady standing. Richie accepts this with good grace. This could have been turned into OMG DRAMA but it isn’t, and I’m pretty glad about that. Well done, Bachie.

I’m a little less enamoured of this narrative of male surveillance that Alex tells about her older brother Adam: according to her, he’s the kind of brother that would wait at the door for his sisters to get home from dates and casually try to intimidate their boyfriends. This is obviously endemic in dominant modes of masculinity, particularly Australian masculinity, but the way that Bachie seeks to play up this idea of men at least figuratively controlling access to their female relatives is … yeah. Not my fave.

Anyway, Alex’s family ask Richie a lot of fairly basic questions: ‘Would you move to Melbourne to be with her?’ ‘Have you been around kids much?’ ‘Have you ever cheated on a woman?’ Richie sweats and squirms through all of them. This is not, I think, because he’s being disingenuous — he really is just spectacularly bad at conversation.

We get more of Richie’s bad conversing when Alex’s brother Adam takes him outside for a Manly Man Chat: basically, Adam asks questions and Richie repeats the word ‘mate’ 4694723947 times, which leads Adam to say that Richie sounds ‘rehearsed’. (Of course he is. Have you heard how bad at words Richie is? IT’S BAD.)

Oh, and Richie says that he ‘protects’ his mother and his sister, and I know that this is all meant very well, but this narrative of male protection really just raises my hackles.

(In case you were interested in Richie’s actual answers to these questions: he hasn’t been around children but is willing to, he’s a fly-in-fly-out worker so he’d move anywhere, and has never cheated on a woman. He also apparently goes to bed at 9pm with a glass of milk, tucked in all nice and cosy, away from those bad mean party kids from the wrong side of town. He’s the straight-edge Mr Bingley of FIFO workers.)

Source: Tumblr

Alex doesn’t seem to mind that he is a crappy conversationalist, though, because after the dinner is over, she tells him she’s falling for him and snogs him on the front lawn; while, I suspect, her brother scowls at them through the curtains.

Next up is Olena. Richie might not necessarily be falling in love with her, but I sure am.

She begins the date by taking him to Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney. ‘Let’s play tennis!’ she says brightly.

… of course, it turns out that Olena is a SECRET TENNIS PRO and Richie does not win a single point against her. I am so stealing this move for my own dates. They will all now begin with me ritualistically defeating my gentleman caller in something at which he does not know I am good. BRB preparing my list of super secret super skills.

Then we meet Olena’s family. Her father Andriy is an ex-boxer, and their house is strategically covered with pictures of him punching people while bleeding. The first thing he makes Richie do is take a shot of chilli vodka. Then, when Richie casually mentions that he took Olena out on a motorbike, he attempts to murder him with his laser-stare.

Again, this narrative of male protectiveness of female relatives so doesn’t do it for me, but at least this iteration is a little more slapstick: especially when Andriy takes Richie out the back for a boxing lesson. Richie is all ‘OMG HE’S GOING TO KILL ME WITH HIS BARE HANDS’ while Andriy is clearly like ‘OH GOD THIS DUDE IS SO DULL.’ And then, when he invites Richie to hit a one-two combo punch, Richie misunderstands and hits with both hands at once and Andriy about kills himself laughing.

Source: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Tumblr

It is clear that Olena is not going to win. Olena is not interested in winning. At dinner, she sits so far away from Richie she about falls off her chair and is pretty ambivalent about him in the post-dinner conversation she has with her dad. But my goodness, I love her. While Andriy and Richie are boxing, she chats to her mother and her sister in the kitchen, and it ends with a three-way lady hug with them all declaring, ‘Don’t worry about any guy!’

Honestly, Olena’s family life seems like it would be an awesome TV drama. Ukrainian immigrants starting a new life in Sydney, ex-pro boxer dad, tennis pro daughter who’s thrown it in to be a makeup artist and go on The Bachelor, life-affirming ‘we don’t need no stinking boys’ lady-chats in the kitchen … would you or would you not watch the shit out of that? I would.

Next up is Rachael. She, like Richie, is from Perth, and he seems very keen to be back in familiar territory. She begins the date by taking him beach-fishing, which he enthuses about for what feels like a million hours. I tuned out, honestly.

The meet-the-family part is pretty undramatic. Rachael warns Richie that her dad’s intuition about dudes is never wrong, and so she listens to what he says. Richie is thus anxious to make a good impression on her dad (who spends nearly the whole lunch in stony silence), and apparently does, because he gets a ringing endorsement.

Less certain, however, is Rachael’s sister Jen, who really does not seem to have a whole lot of faith in the Bachie process. It is difficult to blame her — but fun to see a lady doing the interrogating instead of a paternalistic male relative.

So yeah, there’s no drama, and it all goes fine. But Rachael is not, I suspect, long for this show. ‘I’ll miss you,’ she calls plaintively after Richie as he leaves. The camera lingers on her standing there alone, and … yeah. Rachael is going home SOON.

Finally, we have Nikki. She’s also from WA. They meet. Richie wears trackies. They go to the races. They change into fancy clothes. And by the time they actually get to the family they’re already on their third wardrobe change.

… I wonder how I can insert costume changes into my dating life …

Ahem. Anyway, when they meet Nikki’s family, it’s a sea of love. Richie is whisked away almost immediately by her brother-in-law Snowy for some Manly Man Real Talk over the barbecue. ‘It’s all about whether you can see yourself with them every day,’ Snowy says sagely, while Richie nods.

But the person that really steps up to take that protector role is Nikki’s aunt Carol, who asks him a variety of questions, including the old classic, ‘What are your intentions?’ Richie’s answer is basically, ‘Um, good?’ but this appears to be deemed satisfactory: so satisfactory that Nikki confides in her sister that she’s totes in love with Richie. And in case you were in any doubt that she was going to win, this scene is underpinned by a soundtrack of soaring angelic voices.

She confesses her love to the sunflower prince himself a little while later. His response is ‘ha ha’, but probably only because he’s not contractually permitted to say it back.

The little speech Nikki gives is quite interesting, actually (to me, anyway). First, she tells him that she’s never felt anything like this before, which I think points to one of the key ways that our imagination of romantic love differs from other emotions: there are ideas of uniqueness bound up with love that we don’t have with other feelings. And then second, she hopes that this is her love story: she says that, ‘everybody has crazy love stories, and I hope this is mine.’ This is a pretty perfect illustration of the fact that love is one of the key ways we imagine our own lives as stories: it’s one of the narratives we use to make sense of and interpret life.

Then it’s time for the rose ceremony. Olena looks like she can barely stand to be in the same room with Richie at this point, and so …

… she gets a rose. Of course she gets a rose. Tonight’s victim is Rachael, doomed by that plaintive ‘I’ll miss you’ and the crime of being brunette. Richie is the anti-Robert Frost: in his case, only gold can stay. Alas, poor Rachael.

Source: Tumblr

But I suspect she’ll get over it, considering the ‘thanks for the memories’ chat she and Richie have ends with an impersonal ‘all the best’: more like a work email than an epic breakup.

The show airs on Channel 10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.

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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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