I’m putting this out there now: even if Matt ends up being a total shithead this season, I have to respect this level of hustle.
When I was near the beginning of my PhD, someone gave me some advice that I never forgot: ‘Whatever you do, don’t fall in love.’
I didn’t really understand at the time why they’d told me this. Nor did I set out to follow this advice. It was coincidence that I didn’t fall in love with anyone while I was doing my PhD, not anything deliberate. But I’m really glad I didn’t, because if I’d been putting a bunch of time and effort into a romantic relationship, then my research career would almost certainly have suffered.
I know you came here to read a recap of The Bachelor, not for a personal essay, but what I’m getting at is this: this particular season is deeply relatable to me, because I absolutely understand what it’s like putting your sole focus on something for a massive chunk of your twenties, to the exclusion of any kind of romantic life whatsoever. Then suddenly you’re in your thirties, and people start to ask you why you’re single in a kind of pitying tone, with extremely clear subtext: ‘what’s wrong with you?’
Oh, and on top of that, you’re feeling very lost, because that thing you’ve been focusing all your energy on is somehow both out there in the universe being examined, untouchable to you, and something you feel like you should still be working on, because the word ‘finished’ has lost all meaning. And also your scholarship has run out, and even though people have been telling you for years that there are no jobs, it turns out there are really no jobs, and one did not mysteriously appear in your lap the second you submitted your thesis. You’re looking down the barrel of a long stint in the precariat — if you can get academic work at all — and no truly secure income for a long, long time. (Want to read about the scandalous amount of insecure work in the Australian university system? Read this piece from The Saturday Paper.)
But Matt Agnew has found the best way of navigating this deeply confusing and directionless period of post-submission precarity I’ve ever heard of: becoming the goddamn Bachelor.
I’m putting this out there now: even if Matt ends up being a total shithead this season, I have to respect this level of hustle. Spent years focusing on one niche area of research to the exclusion of having a personal life? Easy! Get Channel Ten to gather together a bunch of ladies just for you! Scholarship’s run out? No biggie! Get that sweet Bachie money! Not sure if you’ll ever secure a fulltime academic appointment? That definitely won’t be quite so big a deal if you can score some Instagram endorsements!
…I should put it out there that I don’t actually know what Dr Bachie’s employment situation is (he’s from the sciences, where the conversion rate of postgrad to permanency is perhaps a little higher than my home in the humanities). I also don’t even know if he’s technically Dr Bachie yet, but calling him Doctorandus Bachie would be unbearably wanky, so: Dr Bachie it is. But what I do know is that if the Bachie folk had turned up on my doorstep after I had submitted my PhD and had no idea what I should be doing next and was scraping together a meagre income by tutoring high school students and writing TV recaps, and said, ‘hey Jodes, want to be the Bachelorette?’ I would have said yes instantly. Instantly.
TL;DR: I relate deeply to our new Bachie, and I understand exactly why he’s made the choices he’s made. Whether I’ll continue to understand the choices he makes remains to be seen, but oh, man, do I understand why he is where he is right now.
So now that we’ve got the necessary part of this recap that’s all about me and my feelings out of the way, let’s talk about our new Bachie, Dr Matt Agnew.
He’s an astrophysicist, and he’s just finished (but maybe not technically graduated yet? IDK) his PhD at Swinburne. Because I am a curious soul — and, let’s be real, I couldn’t not do some digging re the research of an aca-Bachie — I went and read some of the articles he’s published.
…okay, fine. That’s a lie. I didn’t read the articles. Even I’m not curious enough to try and properly read material from a discipline this far outside my own. But I skimmed the intros and conclusions of four pieces he’s co-authored in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and this is what I know about his research:
- He’s super interested in finding ‘Earth analogue planets — planets that might have the right conditions for life to both exist and be detectable’ (Agnew, Maddison and Horner 2018).
- Given the only planet we know can sustain life is Earth, one of the key things he and his co-authors are looking for solar systems similar to ours, with a planet about the same mass as Earth, a sun-like star, and a planet like Jupiter nearby, because apparently Jupiter is a big influence in how the solar system works.
- There’s a fancy new spectrograph that will help do this work, and its name is ESPRESSO (Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations). I find this deeply adorable, and I hope it features in a date at some point.
- The words ‘chaos’ and ‘stability’ are used very consistently. I have no idea what their scientific implications are, but I will 100% be on the lookout for them in this season, because they can definitely be applied and mobilised in the language of romance.
- One thing our Bachie definitely seems to be interested in is finding and analysing ‘regions of chaos’ (Agnew, Maddison, Thilliez and Horner 2017; Agnew, Maddison and Horner 2018), and wouldn’t you know it? he’s walked right into one. Boom tish.
Long story short: he wants to find another Earth, and Jupiter is involved, probably chaotically. (Is Osher Jupiter? I could see him as a Jovian kind of figure.)
So, what we have here is a career Bachie! This is fairly unusual, because career hasn’t been terribly emphasised with our previous male Bachelors. We’ve kind of known vaguely what they do (eg. Tim Robards in Season 1 was a chiropractor), but setting aside Nick Cummins last year, career hasn’t really been a big part of the Bachelor narrative. Even with Nick, who rose to fame playing rugby, the emphasis wasn’t on his career, but on his whole ‘Honey Badger’ persona. This is a new type of story we’re seeing here.
But it’s not altogether new, because you know where we’ve seen this career-identity before? In The Bachelorette: specifically, with Georgia Love in Season 2, whose career as a journalist was deeply entwined with the narrative they told about her. Two things to note here:
1. Georgia was my favourite Australian Bachie (you can read my recaps of her season here on Book Thingo — I’m pretty sure at one point I said I wanted to solve mysteries with her, which is the highest compliment I can pay someone), so I’m now even more psyched for this season with Dr Bachie.
2. Georgia is also psyched for this season, and wrote about it and the parallels it has with her season today. Go read her hot take — it’s a good one.
So: Matt is a different kind of Bachie. But he is also the same in many ways, because he is an extremely handsome tall white man with dark hair and many muscles, who we meet while he’s running on a beach.
Let us pause just a second to do some quick maths. I know I’m a humanities person, but go with me here:
1. PhD. Let’s say you’ve got a reasonably healthy attitude to your work and you’re working 50 hours a week.
2. Teaching. I’m not sure what the norm is in the sciences (actually, do they RA more than teach?), but let’s say you’re putting in about 10 hours a week there.
3. Maintaining the physique of a Greek god. Let’s say you’re spending three hours a day in the gym. I can’t imagine it takes less than that. 21 hours a week.
4. Running on the beach. If we assume you do that three times a week, for an hour each time, that’s 3 hours.
5. Driving to the beach. From Swinburne in Hawthorn, it’s easily half an hour each way. 6 hours a week.
TOTAL: 90 hours.
6. Let’s say you’re being sensible and sleeping for 8 hours a night. 8 hours x 7 nights = 56 hours.
TOTAL: 146 hours.
TOTAL NUMBER OF HOURS IN A WEEK: 168 hours.
Please help me budget this. My family is dying.
These estimates are all very conservative. I probably averaged about sixty hours a week on my PhD (and I’ve known some scientists who spent truly bonkers hours in the lab). Also, I have genuinely no idea how long it would take to maintain that rig, but it must be fucking ages. And what if there’s traffic on your commute to the beach — or, god forbid, you take public transport?
What I’m getting at here is that I understand why this handsome man is single. You can be as handsome as you like, and as nice as you like, and have as many muscles as you like, but if you don’t have time for romance, you don’t have time.
Dr Matt Bachie tells us that he’s chosen to do the show because he’s a man of science, and he follows the evidence. The Bachelor, he tells us, works: it produces solid, successful couples.
And in Australia? He’s not wrong. While from 23 American seasons, more Bachelors are married to their runner-ups (two) than their winners (one), in Australia, we’ve produced three solid couples (two married, one engaged) and three children (two from Sam and Snez, and one from Matty and Laura) from The Bachelor from six seasons. We’re also batting a solid two from four couples in The Bachelorette, which isn’t bad at all.
(Why does our franchise work so comparatively well? WELCOME TO MY RESEARCH AGENDA, MY FRIENDS.)
He also says that ‘you can’t have a cuddle with a PhD’, which might be true in spirit but not in practice. The very first thing I did when I got my testamur was hug it to me as hard as I could, because I was weirdly terrified that if I dropped it then the whole thing would have turned out to be a dream and I’d have to start all over again.
Matt tells us that what he’s looking for is a ‘best mate’, someone he can have an ‘equal partnership with’. When you’re in a relationship, he says, it’s ‘you and them vs the world’.
I’ll be really interested to see how this narrative plays out over the course of the season, especially if Matt intends to stay in academia. That kind of precarious, insecure employment — where, if you get a job, it might be in some whole other city you have to pack up and move to on a moment’s notice — is hell on a relationship. You’d have to be a ‘you and them vs the world’ kind of unit. And you’d also have to have some tough conversations about careers, which can be really hard on the ‘equal partnership’ thing. This kind of thing is why I don’t date other academics as a general rule: I won’t compromise re my career, and if I had a partner who got a job somewhere else…that would have to be that.
Matt also tells us that the quality he finds most attractive is passion for something (what the something is = irrelevant). I have to agree with him on this one: there is nothing in the world sexier than someone who is genuinely excited about and interested in something. I’ll be fascinated to see if there’s some effort to draw out the ladies’ passions over the season, or whether we’ll just see a string of vague space-pun dates.
(Your regular reminder that I am available to consult on your date construction, Bachie. I’m an email away.)
Okay. We’ve talked about our new Bachie. We’ve talked about me. Let’s get to the heart of the show and talk about the contestants. Who are the ladies entering this chaotic region to win Dr Space Bachie’s heart?
Here’s a dramatis personae of our key players:
Helena: First out of the limo, and takes the brunt of a clearly nervous, twenty-questions-firing Matt. Wants to ‘date a man, not a boy’. Speaks French, is thrilled Matt knows how to say ‘oui’.
Chelsie: a chemical engineer. She gifts Matt a temporary tattoo of the oxytocin molecule (oxytocin is commonly called the love hormone, although, nerdy note: this is encoded with certain presuppositions about romantic love). He immediately rips open his shirt and gets her to put it over his heart. If getting your nips out within thirty seconds of meeting someone isn’t a sign of interest, I don’t know what is.
Abbie: You’ve all seen this promo by now. When Matt tells her he’s an astrophysicist, she replies that she’s a Gemini. I’ve seen this clip about fifty times, and every time it makes me make that face that Chrissy Teigen does in that one gif (you know the one I mean). However, in context, Abbie seems quite charming.
Kristen: speaks Chinese, is thrilled Matt knows how to say ‘xie xie’. The music they put over the top of her bits is alarmingly Orientalist, and might ultimately mean these are the first ever reality TV recaps to go on an extended digression about Edward Said.
Hannah: does a Love Actually bit (you know, with the signs, where the Walking Dead guy creepily tells Keira Knightley he’s in love with her). Matt gets the reference, which delights both Hannah and me.
Nichole: arrives on a motorbike. Says she’s ‘confident’ in every second sentence, in that way that truly confident people always do. Also says she ‘doesn’t care about the other girls’, and is clearly angling for a Paradise spot by virtue of being a Keira-style villain.
Isabelle: a pilates instructor. Makes Matt do pilates with her. If someone tried to make me do pilates while I was in formalwear, I would immediately push them into the pool, Man O Man style.
Vakoo: a model, who arrives with a rolled up red carpet. Matt must have been extremely relieved it wasn’t another fucking yoga mat.
Emma: has probably been given a really bad edit, as her introduction is basically a supercut of her saying ‘LOVE! WEDDINGS! I LOVE WEDDINGS AND LOVE!’ over and over again.
Sogand: teaches Matt to say ‘will you marry me?’ in Persian, but tells him it means ‘will you accept this rose?’.
Elly: is from Parkes, home of the Parkes Radio Telescope, AKA the Dish. Matt is very excited about this (did you know he was an astrophysicist? I think I heard somewhere that he’s an astrophysicist), and then he sexily feeds her marshmallows. One to watch.
Rachael: turns up in a wedding dress and introduces herself as a ‘hot young bride’. Brings her best friend to be her bridesmaid. When Matt dares to talk to said best friend, she calls her a ‘little bitchface’. Somehow I suspect she’s not going to win, especially because she dares to declare that Matt is ‘not hot’.
One thing worth noting about these contestants is that a lot of them are significantly younger than our boy Dr Bachie (check out this analysis from my pal Katie). This might not be the greatest idea ever, true-love-wise: I can’t speak for Dr Bach, but everyone below the age of about 25 is categorised as ‘student’ in my brain, and the thought of dating a student is horrifying to me.
This said, Matt seems genuinely delighted to meet all these women, and it’s so refreshing, honestly. There’s a totally different feel to some of the earlier seasons, and I’m really enjoying it.
Once all the women have entered the mansion, Osher arrives, and he announces this season’s first episode gimmick. Matt will choose one woman to award the ‘golden ticket’. The recipient will go on a single date with him to his hometown (ie Melbourne).
I’m fascinated as to why the Australian franchise continually tries all these gimmicky first episode bits, rather than go with the classic first impression rose, which they use in the US franchise and quite a lot of the other international ones. Maybe it’s because the American first impression rose is too good a predictor of the ultimate winner (it’s a pretty high correlation)? Although I don’t really know why a gimmicky ticket would be any different, so…eh. I’ll think on it.
As always, this first night cocktail party has some drama. Here’s a quick overview of the main points:
- Emma gets the first chat with Matt, and everyone is mad about how in love with him she instantly seems to be.
- Matt tells us that he’s looking for someone with more to offer than just ‘a regular chat’ (I immediately want to know what he means by that). He singles out Sogand, and says approvingly that she’s ‘not afraid to be vulnerable’. If you had ‘vulnerable’ in your drinking game, you would have had to wait an unprecedented one hour and three minutes to be able to take a drink.
- Hannah interrupts Helena when she’s talking with Matt, and the music they put under it suggests that Hannah might have murdered Helena’s entire family.
- Vakoo does another stunt with her red carpet, and right when she’s in the middle of it, Nichole steals him away. (Will she and Rachael ultimately become allies, or will their mutual desire to be the season villain cause them to become nemeses? Only time will tell.)
- Matt reveals that he likes to cook and bake. I need to add that into my Extremely Fancy Maths calculations above: that’s even less time he has to cultivate a relationship.
- Matt finds another excuse to rip his shirt open in front of Chelsie. Seems like a tell, my dude.
The ultimate winner of the golden ticket, though, is Elly. Matt reeeeeeeeally seems to like her (he says she gives him butterflies and that he feels like he’s known for a long time, which is a combination of a couple of romantic discourses I don’t have time to talk about here but I’ve written about elsewhere ad nauseam and will definitely do so again soon), and she’s clearly one of the frontrunners. Keep an eye on this one, pals.
Finally — finally — it’s time for the rose ceremony. I won’t draw this portion of the recap out. I mean, we barely know the contestants at this point. All you need to know is that we lose two women called Keely and Sophie, who I am not entirely certain were in the episode at all. The last rose went to Rachael, and she was pissed, in that standard way that villains are pissed when they get the last rose and they’re clearly being kept because the producers have bullied the Bach into it.
Normally, it’s a steady decline in numbers from here, but apparently tomorrow eight new women are being thrown into the mix. It’s probably good that they’re being held over until tomorrow, TBH, because this recap is already the length of a short novel.
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.