RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S7 E08

RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S7 E08
Dr Jodes recaps: The Bachelor S7
Background photo via Canva

The contestants get peer reviewed, and Dr Jodes explains why the Bachie’s emotional narrative is a romantic whodunit, and explores the notions of romantic love and friendship.

Hola, pals! We’re at the halfway point now! I’m almost positive I know everyone’s names: I didn’t know Brianna’s name before last night, but she got eliminated, so problem solved. Shit is getting very real, everyone has the feels, and now our Space Bachie has to begin to solve the mystery of his own feels.

That’s a part of the Bachie narrative that’s quite under-theorised, tbh. They spend a lot of time on tracking the emotional journeys of the contestants’ so much so that there are recognisable milestones, eg ‘I could see myself with you’; ‘I’m falling for you’; ‘I’m falling in love with you’; ‘I’m in love with you’. But while the whole dating system is set up theoretically to help the Bachie work out what they feel, it’s in a way that curiously under-emphasises their whole emotional journey.

There’s a diegetic reason for this, of course, and it’s a simple one: spoilers. If they focus in too closely on what the Bach is feeling, then it’s going to ruin the ending, because we’ll work out who wins. What we have at the moment is an almost Agatha Christie-esque denouement: we the audience are all the people gathered in a room, and the Bachie is Hercule Poirot, finally revealing to us whodunit, wherein ‘whodunit’ is ‘who done stole my heart’. But this necessity for secrecy undermines some of the emotional impact, I think. If/when I get my hands on the Bachie reins, exploring the Bachie’s emotional journey will be high on my agenda.

But I don’t have my hands on the reins, so one of the favourite tricks of the franchise is for them to get in someone from outside, someone who knows the Bach well and who can speak to the contestants independently of them and give them a second opinion. (Notably, last season, the Honey Badger’s family interviewed all the contestants on a group date to which the Honey Badger didn’t even turn up, really stretching the definition of the word ‘date’ to its furthest limit.) That’s exactly what happens tonight, when the show ships in Matt’s pal Kate to give him the lowdown.

Three things I want to note here:

  • This is, essentially, peer review. This is something I like to insist on whenever I date someone, so I’m glad to see that even though he’s a scientist and I’m Humanities to the core, Dr Bachie and I have something in common. Do all academics date alike?
  • This further serves to obscure the Bach’s emotional journey, as peer review is quite a rational, brain-led process, as opposed to a heart-led one. (Not a bad thing IRL, but narratively it doesn’t work quite as well as we’d like.)
  • This might be the first time the show has presented us with a deeply companionate, thoroughly non-sexualised male/female friendship.

The Bachie franchise relies on not just a compulsory attraction to the opposite sex, but also a compulsory attraction to the Bach in particular. If you want to participate in romance, the situation means that the Bach is your only available option – which is the only reason that anyone even vaguely pretended to be into the Honey Badger last season.

I loved the fact that the show presented us with one of Matt’s female friends tonight, even though this is a kind of rupture point in its own narrative. Often, when the Bach breaks up with someone, they say that it’s ‘more of a friend connection’ – the phenomenon not un-problematically known as friendzoning. However, we never see evidence of these friendships continuing: they’re thoroughly squashed by the momentum and force of the romance narratives.

Here, we actually see a Bach valuing and respecting their friendship with a member of the opposite sex and treating it as important, not as second place to romance. We very strongly get the sense that Matt values Kate’s opinion. Even though there’s no romantic connection between them, or the possibility of one, they’re important to each other. They matter to each other.

This sounds basic to say, but this is actually really out-there for this franchise. The show often cultivates narratives about same-sex friendship: see, for instance, the narrative around Brittany and Sophie last year, or Sam and Lisa in Blake Garvey’s season. However, the only place we ever see even the mildest hints of male/female friendship is in Paradise (Nick Viall and Ashley Iaconetti in US Paradise spring to mind). Here, in the main franchise, the romance – and in particular, the mandatorily heteronormative impulse – mows down other possibilities. It was nice to see a Bach valuing a woman outside this paradigm, even though that is such a low bar that the bar has burrowed into the ground and disintegrated because it’s hit the molten core of the earth.

Ahem, Dr Jodes, you’ve talked for ages and you haven’t cited a single piece of scholarship! I hear you say. This is so unlike you! Are you all right?

Yes. I’m fine. Here is the scholarship: I want to talk about why celebrating romantic love at the expense of friendship – something our society does fairly frequently, including, as I just demonstrated, in this show – is not great, because there are some fairly similar bases to the two.

One scholar I quite like on friendship and love is Bennett W Helm, because he makes plain that while the love we have for our friends is not romantic love, it’s still love. He argues that ‘[l]ove is generally understood to be an evaluative attitude: in loving someone or something we regard it as good or worthy in some way’ (2010, 1-2, emphasis in original). However, we can say this about pretty much anything: eg ‘I love Jodi’s Bachelor recaps, as they are both humorous and informative, and thus definitely good and worthy,’ you might say.

Where our love for romantic partners and friends differs is that we have concerns for their sakes, not just our own. You might love my Bachelor recaps for you; but if we’re friends, you love me for me. (I hope, anyway. Love you too, pals.) As Helm says ‘in personal love we must have a concern for others as persons and so not only be attuned to their interests but also respect their capacity for autonomy’ (2010, 2, emphasis in original).

Helm really, really doesn’t want to get into the difference between romantic love and friendship in his book: he gestures towards the Greek categories of eros (erotic love) and philia (brotherly love) and then kind of handwaves the whole question away. I think there’s probably a little more to the difference between romantic and friendly love than just the presence or absence of sexual attraction, but I too am going to handwave the question away for now (who knows? chances are I’ll get into it again in some future recap), for the purposes of reinforcing that the love we have for our friends is real and meaningful love and we should celebrate it more.

To the recap!

We have a single date to get through before we get to the stuff with Matt’s pal Kate, and the show is just as interested as skating through it as we are. On this date, Dr Bachie takes Kristen kayaking. Obviously, they start off in different kayaks, he tries to climb into her boat, and they capsize and frolic in the river together while scantily clad. It’s as fairly close to a by-the-numbers Bachie date as you can possibly get.

I’m fairly sure they put together this date on some kind of deadline, TBH, because the next part – while it has definite potential – is exactly the kind of thing you’d come up with if you had two minutes and you just. needed. to. get. something. on. the. page. They try and bill it as a day spa, but it is realistically just Matt and Kristen smearing various substances all over each other.

I think it’s safe to say that Kristen’s not going to win, or they would have spent a looooooot more time dragging out the sexual implications of this date. They clearly had all the material: I mean, Matt literally says ‘I am so turned on right now’ at one point. But no, they rush through it, and they only really admit to how sexy it is in the two most awkward ways possible:

  • They try and edit Kristen into the resident Sexual Innuendo Girl, even though most of the things they’re trying to make into double entendres are really…not.
  • They edit Abbie saying ‘Kristen’s not a very sexual person’ over Kristen being the recipient of what I’m fairly sure is the first arse-grab of the season.

But they smash through this so fast that we get no Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, no drinks, and no cheeseboard. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EVALUATE HOW WELL A DATE IS GOING IF THERE’S NO CHEESEBOARD?

Then, it’s time for the group date. Interestingly, rather than dragging everyone into this, as they have in previous seasons, only four women have been invited: Elly, Cassandra, Sogand, and (dun dun dun) Abbie.

Matt introduces them to his friend Kate (noting that he’s going to be in her groom’s party next year, which is honestly just adorable). Then he reveals to the women that if he has a friend present, then they should have one too, and reveals… Elly’s housemate! Sogand’s bestie! Cassandra’s business partner! and Abbie’s sister!

Everyone is very happy to see their respective pal, but Abbie loses her entire mind and starts openly sobbing. The other women, already definitely not members of the Abbie Fan Club, roll their eyes in a manner that can really only be described as aggressive.

After some time chatting with their folk, Matt departs with the Posse o’ Pals, leaving Kate to interrogate all the women individually. Here is a summary of her hot takes on them:

Elly: adorable! a bit young! but a total cinnamon roll!

Cassandra: perhaps a bit more interested in establishing her business than in the Bach?

Abbie: compulsive story-changer, parroting what Matt wants to hear (eg Abbie initially says that marriage and kids don’t matter to her, then that in five years, she wants to be married with kids).

Sogand: who can say? All she does is talk about Abbie.

Kate relays all of this to Matt. They agree that Elly is a darling and she gets the group date rose, but they do not see eye to eye on Abbie. ‘Yeah, Sogand told me she changed her stories regularly,’ Kate said. ‘And also she did it right in front of me.’

‘Yeah, but you don’t know what we have!’ Matt said, which is the most euphemistic way of saying ‘yeah, but I really want to bone her!’ I’ve heard in a while.

Also, I understand why they’re doing it, because Matt is the Bachie and this season is all about what he wants, but man, I wish we could have a season again like my TV queen Georgia Love’s season where the Bach wasn’t absolutely gagging to get married and have kids. As my pal Katie tweeted: there has to be some middle ground between the Honey Badger and the Matts.

Next up: it’s the cocktail party! This convinced me that Matt never actually watched any previous seasons of this show, because he clearly doesn’t understand that in Australia, we do not pash at parties. He takes Helena aside, is like, ‘hey, I should have kissed you on our date the other week when I was all distracted by the Dogcunt Incident,’ and they pash so hardcore that her lipstick is smeared all over his face (‘I look like the Joker!’ he says to camera).

But while this is happening, shit is going down elsewhere. They’ve been teasing it all episode (and for a couple of previous ones), and now it’s time for the Abbie/Sogand showdown.

‘Sogand, can I talk to you, babe?’ Abbie asks sweetly.

‘Sure, babe!’ Sogand says, just as sweetly.

You know that tone? That tone of extreme passive aggression? If you’re a woman, and you’re alive in the world, you know that tone.

This is how the conversation proceeds:

ABBIE: so babe, I heard you said some stuff about me to Kate?

SOGAND: babe, I wasn’t going to lie to her!

ABBIE: but babe, I’ve clarified this with you? like so many times?

SOGAND: but I have to be truthful! what if she watches this back and is like, ‘wow, Sogand’s a liar!’

ABBIE: I don’t even understand this, babe.

SOGAND: babe, I just talked to everyone, and no one wants you here.

It is deeply polite, and savage as fuck.

Oh, and also, Abbie is wearing an incredible off-the-shoulder red velvet gown. She looks like the heroine (or actually, probably the villainess) of a pulp Gothic novel, and I am living for it. Matt spends a lot of time this episode wearing his hideous radioactive orange jumper, and I can tell you right now that someone wearing a jumper like that and someone wearing a gown like this do not belong together.

All the women are convinced at the rose ceremony that Gothic villainess Abbie is going to be eliminated, but of course she isn’t. Instead, we lose Cassandra, one of the last brunettes standing. As she has done basically nothing of narrative interest, it doesn’t really pack an emotional punch, but we’re coming up to the point where those punches are going to start landing.

Next week: apparently someone gets the hots for a crew member! I know that after the Dogcunt Incident everything seems dull, but we have to take what we can get.

Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: if you too value friendship as much as romantic love, I highly recommend checking out my Valentine series, where I did my best to write a friendship with as many ups, downs, peaks, troughs, and narrative milestones as a romance.

[ Booktopia | Amazon | Book Depository | Apple Books ]

The show airs on Channel 10. 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.

One comment

  1. All the right reasons says:

    Thanks as ever for the entertaining recaps (don’t ever drop your academic preambles — they’re what I come for). However, this last episode left me feeling very uncomfortable about the message the show is sending. The whole peer-review thing by Kate appeared to have one focus, at least as edited — finding out whether each girl was going to be a nice, biddable wife popping out the kids without letting nasty things like careers getting in the way. The portrayal of Cassandra’s career focus as a negative, in particular, I feel is extremely troubling — especially in a show that already removes almost all agency from the women involved.

    And then there’s Abbie. She’s been given a horror edit right from the start, but I’m still not sure how she ended up with the uber-villain role. If her intent was to “lie” about wanting marriage and kids in order to win Matt at all costs, then she followed through with this abysmally in the last episode by directly expressing her doubts about marriage and kids to Kate — the diegesis doesn’t make a lot of sense. (I suspect that Abbie is simply a 23yo who is not unreasonably torn about how she feels about both.) I hope I’m imagining it, but coupled with Cassandra’s exit it kinda feels as though the show is deliberately punishing those women who dare to not see baby-making as their highest priority. And I know I shouldn’t look to a show like the Bachelor to change patriarchal values, but it would be nice if it wasn’t continually reinforcing them with a blunt stick :(

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