Tonight: Dr Matt Bachie adds another eight women to his harem!
What? You read a solid 3000 words from me yesterday with all my opinions on a) academic precarity, b) astrophysics, and c) my feelings, and only really a soupçon of d) recap, and you’ve come back for more? My goodness you’re a glutton for punishment, but welcome back to Bachie-With-Jodi, the most longwinded (but also educational!) recaps of the romantic race that stops the nation that you can find.
Tonight: Dr Matt Bachie adds another eight women to his harem! Which means we’re going to have to do a second dramatis personae!
But we’ll get to that (and it won’t even take 32984793274928794379843 words this time, I promise). Last night, I recapped a little of Space Bachie’s research. Tonight, I want to begin by stepping back into a research space I’m a little more comfortable with — ie my stufF — and talk a little bit about the entanglement of romance and the idea of the ‘stars’.
As anyone who has seen even one promo for this season will know, the marketing is saturated with images of stars, because did you know Dr Matt Bachie is an astrophysicist? I’m pretty sure they said he was an astrophysicist, you guys. This is a very handy occupation for him to have, because stars appear regularly in the language of romance.
One major writer in English who regularly used star imagery was old mate William Shakespeare. Some of his most famous quotes are astronomical/astrological (I’m sorry, Dr Bachie, for conflating these two things, as it is extremely obvious that it annoys you): eg ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our selves’ (Julius Caesar) / ‘Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star’ (Hamlet) / ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers took their life’ (Romeo and Juliet). In all of these examples, stars are tied to ideas of destiny. Caesar rejects the idea that there is a pre-written fate and champions personal choice and autonomy; Polonius tells his daughter Ophelia that Hamlet is a prince and thus not destined to be with her; and Romeo and Juliet are, of course, ‘star-crossed’, in that fate is conspiring against them.
Destiny is a fairly frequent trope in romantic narratives. Think, for instance, of the proliferation of the ‘fated mates’ trope in paranormal romance. In these senses, the couple’s love is cosmic, transcending petty human concerns: it becomes grandiose, epic, so spectacular that even the universe cares about it, because the universe willed it into existence.
(Look at how many space references are in there! I’d just like to reiterate that I am available to consult, Bachie. I know you’re doing fine with your space puns rn, BUT IMAGINE WHAT I COULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU.)
To take this further: famous lit-bro scholar Frederic Jameson argues that ‘romance unfolds beneath the sign of destiny, either benevolent or malign’ (1975, 153). It’s worth that noting that the ‘romance’ he’s referring to here isn’t the contemporary romance genre: ‘romance’ has been a catch-all for non-realistic and fantastical narratives for a whole lot of literary history. Nevertheless, this is a paradigm we often see in romantic narratives:
1. We have benevolent destiny, where two people are destined to be together. Even in books that don’t explicitly deal with destiny, we could argue that the mandatory HEA is a kind of destiny: we know what these characters are doomed to as soon as we begin.
2) We have malign destiny, because every romantic couple worth their salt has obstacles (internal and external) waiting to tear them apart. Denis de Rougemont, in his famous book Love in the Western World, actually argued that romantic love actively generates these obstacles and is not possible without it. ‘Happy love has no history. Romance only comes into existence where love is fatal, frowned upon and doomed by life itself,’ he writes (1945, 15). He uses the example of the doomed adulterous love of Tristan and Iseult, the obstacle perpetually represented by the sword they place between them as they sleep.
To tie this back to the Bachie franchise: they’ve made a big fucking deal of the fact that Dr Matt Bachie has definitely picked a winner this year. That HEA is 100% locked in. No one’s going to pull a Honey Badger or a Brad Womack: we’re definitely going to get a romantic denouement. We’ve got a guarantee of a benevolent destiny: it’s written, if you will, in the stars.
At the same time, only one of these women are going to get this happy ending. For everyone else, it’s a malign destiny, and one that they won’t be able to overcome. Those love stories are doomed, those lovers star-crossed.
Anyway, long story short: ‘star-man’ is a great occupation for a Bachie, because there are tons and tons of romantic narratives you can draw on: this is just the tip of the iceberg. Will we see the show actually draw on the depth and breadth of these narratives, or will they just throw out an endless stream of space puns? Time will tell, I guess.
One last note, before we get to the actual recap part of the recap: there’s considerable evidence to suggest that in IRL romance, ‘destiny’ (and thus things being ‘written in the stars’) is not an especially useful concept if you want to have a healthy and sustainable relationship. My Deakin colleague Gery Karantzas, who works in social psychology and relationship science, published a great piece about this on The Conversation a couple of weeks ago; and we were on Myf Warhurst’s show together last week to talk about it.
Okay! Gratuitous self-promotion and academic nerdling over! Let’s get to what actually happened in our second encounter with Dr Bachie Starman.
There’s a certain routine that we settle into post-premiere: single date, group date, cocktail party, rose ceremony. This episode is no exception.
It’s always interesting to see who gets the first date, because next to the first impression rose/golden ticket/whatever gimmick they’ve gone with, it’s the biggest tell of Bachie interest. Dr Bachie’s choice for his first single date is Sogand, who tricked him into proposing to her in Persian last night. Seems legit — I mean, at least she didn’t try to talk to him about astrology.
At first, I was worried that the show was falling into one of its classic traps. Matt met Sogand beside a helicopter, and I’m pretty sure you could hear me shout EPIC TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE three suburbs away.
(It’s not, by the way. I don’t care how epic it is: transportation is a way to get to a date, not the date itself. No exceptions.)
But I was pleasantly surprised! The helicopter dropped Matt and Sogand off somewhere in the middle of the bush, where they promptly stumble across…formalwear.
Here is an important public safety announcement. If you run across formalwear in the middle of a forest, I can guarantee you that it is cursed. One million percent. Trust me. I wrote three books about fairies. That shit is cursed as fuck.
But Matt is a man of science and doesn’t believe in fairy curses, so he and Sogand put the formalwear there on.
Then lo! what is there? it’s an orchestra (definitely not cursed)! and a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation (also not cursed)! and there is also a cheeseboard (100% not cursed, you guys)!
And look: I know Matt is a man of science, but this date proved to me that he definitely does believe in fairy curses, because he does not touch that cheeseboard. I’m only a few years out of grad school, and I know what it’s like. If there’s free food, you lock that shit down immediately. The only possible reason not to touch a cheeseboard that beautiful would be that you knew if you consumed even a morsel, you would be trapped in fairyland forever.
Oh, and he and Sogand have a lovely conversation, he gives her a rose, and she gets the first pash of the season. Early days, but I’m predicting a top four finish for Sogand.
On the pash: a few years ago, I read an article that claimed that most people tilt their head to the right when they kiss, much like most people are right-handed. (I think it was during Matty J’s season that I got obsessed with it and wrote about it in, like, every second recap? I don’t have time to check the receipts.) Matt and Sogand, interestingly, both seem to be left-headed. Is this a physical sign of compatibility? Only time will tell.
Next up: the group date! It’s spectacularly uneventful. Matt takes all the women to an archery range. They shoot some arrows. (You know who else shot arrows? Cupid. Dr Love out.) He gives a rose to Chelsie, and that’s it.
But this uneventful date should clearly be a sign that some serious shit is going down. For one, they should all know that the first group date is always a photo shoot for a magazine, and when it’s not, they should be alarmed.
But they all seem stunned when Osher makes a big announcement: eight new ladies will be entering the mansion, and will meet Dr Matt the Space Bachie for the first time at the cocktail party.
So! It’s time for Dramatis Personae II: Electric Boogaloo. Here are some notable new entrants.
Julia: a children’s entertainer, who plays Matt a little song on her ukulele. He seems to be deeply, deeply into it. One to watch.
Monique: a lingerie designer. ‘I like lacy lingerie!’ she tells Matt. ‘I also like lacy lingerie!’ he replies, in a way which could have been smooth or skeevy but ultimately came off extremely dorky, bless him. She also like boxing, because she contains multitudes, etc.
Tara: listens to his heart with a stethoscope. We do not learn whether or not he still has the oxytocin tattoo still directly above his left nipple, which seems like a missed opportunity.
Nikki: comes dressed as a cheerleader. Made me all too aware that the emotion I experience most acutely is secondhand embarrassment.
Danush: is Persian, much to the horror of Sogand. Apparently being Persian is like being a highlander, and there can be only one? (Real talk, though: considering the contestant pool is usually entirely Anglo, the fact that there are two Persian ladies on this season is stunning, in the good way.)
What ensues is some extremely predictable and minor cocktail party drama. Oh no! the new ladies are talking to Dr Space Bachie! Oh no! the old ladies think they should back off! Oh no! no one seems to realise that there’s no fucking way that would ever happen, because why would it?!
I don’t need to recap it, really. You can fill in the gaps yourself. The only thing we really need to note is that Emma is getting a NIGHTMARE of a ‘stage five clinger’ edit. While obviously the words do actually need to come out of your mouth for them to incorporate it in the diegesis, it seems deeply unlikely to me that she was actually as intense as they’re making her out to be.
The fact that there always is a token stage-five clinger (eg Cass last year) is very interesting, though. It highlights some cultural narratives about the speed at which we assume love should happen. The Bachie franchise is premised around the fact that you can really hurry love along if you do it in an intense and focused way. However, if you fall in love too fast, then that’s bad, because you look desperate.
The line is pretty arbitrary, and, I suspect, is less a line and more a curve. If you’re the first one to be all I’M FALLING IN LOVE, no matter where it happens in the season, I suspect that you’d be the #1 target for the stage five clinger edit. It’s a kind of disciplinary discourse, demonstrating the boundaries of appropriate behaviour without ever actually telling you where they are.
Then it’s the rose ceremony. It’s entirely uneventful. We say farewell to six women, none of whom have made much of an impact, with the possible exception of Danush. It looks like Sogand will be the only Persian woman in the house after all.
To be honest, I was paying more attention to the interior decoration in this scene than the roses. I’m an embarrassingly huge sucker for the Bachie aesthetic, with its massive amounts of flowers and candles, but once I noticed the wallpaper — which is truly disgusting — I couldn’t unsee it.
Until next week!
PS Sneaky reminder that if you’ve read all the thousands of words I’ve written about the Bachie franchise this week and you still can’t get enough, some of my research on the subject is open access: for instance, my article in Participations, and this chapter from Small Screens: Essays on Contemporary Australian Television. I’ve also got an article in Continuum which is paywalled, but if you want to read it, LMK and I’ll hook you up.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.