RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E07

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E07
The Bachelor Australia Season 5
Background photo via Canva

It’s Bachie-with-Jodi time again! Tonight, Matty gives up on actually talking to ladies himself and sends in his sister to do it for him, because, like, ladies speak a secret language that only other ladies can interpret. Or something.

…is it obvious that I’m not loving some of the discursive manoeuvres that happen in this episode? Because I don’t.

What actually happens is this: Matty’s sister Kate is making a cameo for an episode, after her popular turn on last year’s The Bachelorette where she grilled my TV best friend Georgia Love for an extended period of time as to whether she wanted children. Because Matty apparently needs someone to peer review his harem, he’s sending her into the mansion to talk to all his girlfriends and see if she can uncover any secrets.

Okay, let’s talk about this concept of secrets real quick, because they’re something which has historically played a big role in our romance narratives – and which continue to play a big role, although in a different way.

Writing about ‘dangerous lover’ romances of the nineteenth century (think here Heathcliff, Byronic heroes, that kind of crowd), Deborah Lutz refers to ‘the almost ubiquitous plot device of the undisclosed secret(s) between the hero and heroine’, where ‘the hero and heroine keep secrets from each other, causing misunderstandings and distance’ (2006, 22). In these romances, ‘the hiding and disclosing of the secret both create eroticism’ (2006, 23-24) and ‘[i]t is in the very flight from the beloved, through postponement by the secret that the strongest erotic tensions shake the ground of being’ (2006, 24, emphasis in original). While there is a certain impulse towards uncovering the truth – ‘the desire of… romance is to reveal the truth’ (2006, 23) – that secret, that level of mystery, is also eroticised and romanticised, and the beloved’s unknowability is a key part of their erotic attraction.

However, while this kind of idea still does turn up in some romantic narratives, the way we approach secrecy has definitely changed in romantic discourse the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. Generally speaking, we’ve moved away from ‘secrets can be erotic’ to ‘secrets are terrible and will destroy your relationship’. This is because we’ve moved towards a model of romance that scholars often use the term ‘intimacy’ to describe. Lynn Jamieson describes intimacy as ‘a very specific sort of knowing, loving and “being close to” another person… The emphasis is on mutual disclosure, constantly revealing your inner thoughts and feelings to each other’ (1998, 1).

I’ve gone on quite a lot in these recaps about how Matty’s particular mode of romance is communicative. It’s a mode which fits much more into this modern construct of intimacy than the ‘dangerous lover’ narrative I described above. Therefore, secrets are anathema in the romantic model he’s constructed for himself, because the emphasis is on mutual disclosure and revelation in order to grow closer.

Okay, so emerging out of Love Nerd Mode into Recap Mode: what does this mean?

It means that if any of the ladies have things that they have not yet disclosed to Matty – even though this might be for very valid reasons, such as they don’t want their personal business aired on national TV – they’re immediately going to be treated with suspicion. Elora puts it quite succinctly when she says that, ‘You can probably accept the truth but not really forgive a lie’: that is, it doesn’t really matter what the secret is, it matters that you have one.

The locus of all this is Leah, and it’s for… yeah, guys, this is really a bit slut-shamey and gross. Apparently there are rumours going round that Leah is a ‘party planner’ and she plans a ‘certain kind of party’. This then becomes ‘bucks’ parties’ – and eventually Elora tells Kate that it’s possible that Leah might be an exotic dancer.

We all see why this is heading right down Problematic Boulevard, right? I don’t have to explain this one?

Anyway, while all this is going on, Matty is on a single date with Alix. Alix was initially one of my picks to be in Matty’s top four, but after this date, I’m convinced I was wrong, because… yeah. It’s pretty aggressively meh.

Here’s what happens:

  • Matty takes Alix wakeboarding.
  • Matty is excellent at wakeboarding and Alix has never done it before.
  • Matty explains wakeboarding to Alix at length.
  • Matty excels at wakeboarding in front of Alix.
  • Alix repeatedly fails at wakeboarding in front of Matty.

I don’t know about you, but if someone took me on a date which began with them explaining things to me and ended with them forcing me into failing at something multiple times while they laughed, there wouldn’t be a second date.

The meh continues into the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation portion of the date. Matty is quite good at drawing people out, but there’s just… nothing here. Sure, Matty gives Alix a rose, but then she keeps bringing up the fact that there are other ladies, and he starts getting a bit salty about it. Because when your girlfriend brings up the fact that you have thirteen other girlfriends, somehow she’s the problem.

Significantly, they don’t kiss, which doesn’t seem like an especially good sign.

All this said, I would rather have been on Alix’s date than the group date, because my very least favourite Bachie classic has reared its ugly head again: the Mum Test Date.

So Matty has invaded a daycare – as one does on a date, no big – with six of his girlfriends. They’re going to make volcanoes, he tells the ladies, while he and his sister ummm… well…

There really is no nice way to say that they’ll stand there and surveil, because that sounds creepy. And you know why? BECAUSE IT IS FUCKING CREEPY.

God I hate the Mum Test Date. I hate it so much.

Anyway, the six ladies take care of six (white, blonde) kids, while Matty and his sister stand around basically taking notes on all their performances. All I can think about is how I would react if someone took me on a date that a) involved taking care of children and b) them evaluating me, and then I exploded in a fireball of rage, so forgive me if this portion of the recap is, ahem, cursory.

Two things, though:

  • Matty’s sister Kate pulls Leah aside and asks her about the rumours going around that she’s an exotic dancer (or, at least, that her party planning company staffs naked parties). Leah admits to occasionally being ‘wild’, which is an INCREDIBLY loaded word when it comes to women. Western society has typically liked its women to be controlled and contained, and the wild, unruly woman is a threat to that, just as Leah is positioned as a threat to the institution of romantic love here. Leah also indicates that she’s not the only threat– she suggests that Simone is also similarly wild. (For more on wild women in Western culture, see this book by Anne Helen Petersen).
  • I don’t have to explain the semiotic significance of the volcano, right? Like, we all understand the connotations of, ahem, eruption? (Around the CHILDREN, Matty? How could you?)

The winner of the Mum Contest is Laura. This honestly seems like a bit of a stretch, considering Tara is on this date and she is a professional nanny, but eh, Matty wants to spend time with who Matty wants to spend time with, and Laura is my pick to win, so I’m not complaining. (About this, anyway. I’ll complain about the Mum Contest foreveeeeeeeeer.)

Matty takes Laura on a boat, which THANK GOD, because we haven’t had a boat on this show for at least three episodes and I was beginning to wonder whether Channel Ten’s financial strain was beginning to show. They have a chat about kids, and when Laura says she wants kids, but not for a few years, Matty says something which PROVES he really likes her.

He says, ‘yeah, I don’t want to rush into it either.’

Let’s pause here for a second while we all explode with laughter, because basically every time Matty mentions his romantic future, he’s like I WANT TO FIND THE RIGHT LADY AND IMPREGNATE HER IMMEDIATELY, BECAUSE MY BIOLOGICAL CLOCK IS TICK TICK TICKING.

And maybe Laura is that right lady. He might not have kissed Alix, but hoo boy does Matty lay one on Laura.

Fun tip for those of you that watch the show: Matty is left-headed. Studies on kissing laterality show that most people tilt their head to the right when they go in for the pash, but Matty almost always goes left. (Seriously, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.) Because it’s a pretty safe bet that most of the ladies are right-headed, it’s relatively easy to tell who initiates a kiss. And when Matty kisses Laura, he goes, to quote our lady and saviour Beyoncé, to the left.

But then we must come crashing down from our Matty + Laura 4Eva happy place, because it is time for ladies hating on ladies at the cocktail party.

What happens is this:

  • Kate tells Matty that some of the ladies – especially Leah – have secrets in the form of sketchy pasts.
  • Matty pulls Leah aside and she confesses that while she no longer does it herself, her business employs topless waiters, and that she has done it in the past.
  • We all pause for a moment to admire the irony of the show slut-shaming someone for being a topless waiter when a very large percentage of previous Bachies have been topless waiters.
  • Leah tells Matty that Simone has also done similar things.
  • Leah returns to the ladies and tells them she’s told Matty. Elora remarks, ‘did he tip you?’ which, like, come on, Elora, don’t be that girl.
  • Matty takes Simone aside and asks her about what Leah said. She tearfully confesses that she did do topless waitressing once upon a time, but that’s not her life any more, and she hadn’t yet had enough time with him to tell him this. Matty appears to understand this fairly reasonable assertion, and they hug it out.
  • Matty takes Leah aside again, and is like, ‘secrets are bad, moreso than the actual content of the secret, but you know what is worse? DRAMA, and you cause it,’ and sends her home, because all her wheelings and dealings are distracting all the other ladies from the important business of falling in love with him. Wham, bam, no rose ceremony, just a limo straight on outta there.

There is a lot that I could say about the various pernicious discourses in this episode. We had slut-shaming of a few different varieties, a Mum Test, a date centred largely on mansplaining… like, there was a lot going on.

But you’re all intelligent people, and I’m sure you can work out all of those on your own. Instead, I’ll end on a question. I’ve written here several times about how the concepts of ‘love’ and ‘story’ are intrinsically intertwined – so, given this, isn’t it fascinating that creating ‘drama’ is the very worst thing you can do in Bachie?

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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