RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E09

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S5 E09
The Bachelor Australia Season 5
Background photo via Canva

It’s that time of week again! We’re down to our top ten, and things are getting serious here on Bachie-with-Jodi…

So remember last week I talked about how we were entering the shit-is-getting-real phase? This week’s group date is a perfect example of this. We’ve moved beyond getting-to-know-you, and are moving on to more serious romantic milestones and rituals. It’s time to meet the parents.

…well, it’s time for Matty to meet one lone parent of four ladies – Jen, Cobie, Elise, and Simone – anyway. It would be a bit much to have all the parents of all the ladies running around.

Let’s talk about ‘meet the parents’ a bit before we dive into the main body of the recap. This is an idea which is deeply tied to older modes of courtship yet which is still quite modern in some ways. Speaking very generally – like, this is a massive simplification of something very complicated, and also something very middle-class – the dominant mode of romance transitioned from ‘courtship’ to ‘dating’ in the first half of the twentieth century. The historian Angus McLaren calls this ‘front porch to back seat’: that is, if you’re a woman, you went from meeting your potential romantic partner in your house (on the front porch) to going out with them in public (in a car, where you might end up in the back seat).

In courtship, obviously meeting the parents is a given, because they’re right there with you in the house, and so are along for the romantic journey right from the very beginning. They perform a (symbolic, if not necessarily always actual) chaperoning and gatekeeping function: if they don’t approve of a boy, then sorry, buddy, you can’t come in. No romance for you.

In dating, however, the parents are removed from the equation a bit more, and they certainly aren’t there from the very beginning: dating is all about going out into the world away from the home, and so you might not encounter parents for ages. Therefore, meeting the parents becomes an important romantic milestone. It’s still an approval thing, but it’s not so much a gatekeeping thing. Instead, it’s affective, it’s emotional: it’s ‘I might love this person, and will these people I love – my parents – love them also?’

So that’s the discourse we have in play here. We good? Good.

This date is basically a riff on the idea that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Each parent has brought with them a family recipe, which they and their daughter will prepare for the group. At the end of the date, Matty will select one lady to spend more time with alone (without a chaperoning parent, importantly).

Let’s just blow right by the super gross implication that this is a Get In The Kitchen And Make Me A Sandwich, Woman test, and admire the fact that Matty has constructed a date where he gets served a four course meal, doesn’t have to do anything, and is still somehow the hero. Would that we could all bend the world to our will in such a way.

I should note that Matty does say that this is not a cooking test, which mitigates the Kitchen Sandwich Woman thing a bit. Instead, he’s looking for ‘how the girls are with their parents’. I genuinely have no idea what this means or what metric of evaluation he’s using. He picks the ladies who seem to like their parents the most? Whose mode of interaction with their parents is closest to the way he interacts with his parents? Whose parents he would most like to have as in-laws? IDK.

(It is emblematic of the way Bachie regularly sets up its contestants in competition and backs off, though. ‘Do this task! Do it competitively! But the winner won’t be based on fairness, because then it would look like you could perform enough tasks to win my heart, and love is ineffable and cannot be pinned down thus! Instead, the winner is based on my feels, which makes this whole competitive challenge thing kind of pointless but NO SHUT UP it’s totally not an exercise in ritual humiliation!’)

So all the ladies and their parents cook, and it is really not very interesting. Like, I’d give you highlights, but there are none, apart from the fact that Jen is smug about the quality of her cooking, and thus is horrified that the person Matty picks for one-on-one time is Elise, whose dish she thought was the worst. Remember this, because it’s a plot point later.

But for now, let’s talk about Elise and Matty’s one-on-one time. ‘I need to explain why I haven’t taken you on a single date yet,’ he tells her. ‘Basically, I forgot you were here.’

(Okay, fine, he puts it in a more diplomatic way than that, but that’s basically what he says.)

‘But I know what it’s like to have a slow burn with someone,’ he goes on. ‘And I think that might be what we have here.’

The ‘slow burn’ thing is a callback to Matty’s turn on The Bachelorette last year, when I wasn’t even sure he was even on the show until about halfway through but then he came home STRONG to make it all the way to the final two. Matty, however, is the exception and not the rule, because Bachie is really not set up to support this kind of slow burn romance. Bachie buzzwords like ‘chemistry’ and ‘connection’ have an element of instantaneousness to them – either you have them or you don’t, and if you don’t, you go home. There’s just not really room in the romantic model of Bachie for the slow burn, which makes what Matty pulled last year all the more exceptional. I don’t see Elise making quite the run that Matty did, but it is interesting that he’s using the same discourse about her that was used about himself, so keep an eye on this.

Oh, and Elise gets a rose.

Next, it’s time for the single date. No Osher pulling date cards out of mysterious pockets this time: instead, Matty turns up in the front yard of the mansion on a camel, and summons Tara down to join him.

Two things:

  • The camel – and the Moroccan tent thing that Matty takes Tara to – is a pretty clear shout out to desert romance. It doesn’t go beyond the aesthetic trappings of it into the tropes, but there’s a long literary history in Western literature re the combination of romance and the desert. When I say long, I mean long, but perhaps most importantly in relatively recent history is The Sheik (1919) by EM Hull. This was famously made into a movie, starring Rudolph Valentino, and it (book and film) was kind of the Fifty Shades of its day in terms of explosive popularity. It sparked a whole range of copycats and re-energised desert tropes. We probably wouldn’t have quite so many sheikh romances these days without The Sheik and Valentino, and we might not have this date Matty and Tara are on either. (If you want to read more about desert romance: I recommend the work of scholars Hsu-Ming Teo and Amy Burge.)

On this date, Matty rather confusingly admits that he likes Tara because she seems to really like her family: that is, his romantic attraction is contingent on her capacity for filial love. This seems… strange to me, but eh, you do you, Matty.

More importantly, Tara, absolute legend that she is, manages to transform what could be something gross into something awesome. After a belly dancer performs for them, Matty suggests she give it a go. Her immediate response is ‘you too’, and she turns what could have been Dance For Me, Woman (which, in the same episode as Get In The Kitchen And Make Me A Sandwich, Woman, would have been… something) into her laughing hysterically as Matty awkwardly shakes his arse.

I love Tara. I love her more than anything. And I genuinely hope she does not win, because I want her to be next year’s Bachelorette SO MUCH.

Next up, it’s cocktail party time, where it is all about Jen. Remember how she was salty that Matty did not appropriately, like, honour her cooking? In response, she’s made him three separate desserts – which, in fairness, look pretty damn good – so she can air her hurt feels.

Actually, ‘air her hurt feels’ is the wrong term, because Jen doesn’t come at it directly. Instead, she uses passive aggression: ‘you’re impressed by the desserts, but not so much by me.’

This is, I suspect, going to lead to her eventually smashing up against a major pillar of the Bachie communication style, as this isn’t a show with room for implication and subtext (both things on which passive aggression relies). Because it’s a show which relies on the people in it to narrate their own feelings, it values directness above all else. There’s no room for veiled communication: everything has to be clear and direct.

This is also tied into some discourse about romance: think here of ‘just be honest with me’ and other romantic clichés, regularly rehearsed and reiterated in Bachie. It’s especially true in the mode of communicative romance that Matty espouses, which relies so heavily on conversation. Specifically, it relies on emotional conversation – on the open confession of feelings. ‘Sometimes I feel like Jen can sort of friendzone herself, because when our conversation gets into deeper territory, she skates over the surface,’ he tells the camera. Here, he’s explicitly equating ‘not communicating directly about her feelings’ with the aromantic space of ‘the friendzone’, which you can BET is going straight into, like, 74 articles I’m working on.

Jen doesn’t pay the price for indirect communication tonight, though. Tonight’s casualty is Michelle the cop, who offered some quality background banter but who spent maybe 0.5 seconds with Matty total.

Farewell, Michelle. We will always remember you at your moment of most supreme bossness: standing in a birdcage drinking wine while people played a lifesize boardgame around you, and then somehow winning it the second you got out. Would that your witty quips had had more screentime.

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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