This is your regularly scheduled reminder that epic transportation does not a date make.
The finals are upon us! Eight weeks ago, we were introduced to Dr Matt Bachie and twenty-eight of his potential girlfriends. Now that number has been whittled down to three, and our Space Bachie is almost ready to declare his Space Queen.
…whether he stays with that Space Queen remains to be seen. There are tons of rumours circulating that he might have pulled a Blake Garvey, ditched the winner, and potentially taken up with the runner-up. That’s something which, as American Bachelors Jason Mesnick and Arie Luyendyk Jr can attest, is very hard to come back from, even when you marry and have kids with said runner-up.
But maybe these rumours are just that: rumours. We won’t know till later. For now, let’s take stock of where we are, and the potential directions things could take.
One thing I like about this season, particularly now we’re at this point, is that some really distinct romance narratives have emerged. Not only are they distinct in that we can, you know, identify them; they’re distinct from each other in that they’re different kinds of stories.
Something I’ve written over and over again in these recaps is that for a romance story to work, we need an obstacle. A romance where two people meet, they get along, they decide to be together, and they live happily ever after is not a compelling story (even though it might be good in real life!). A romance narrative relies on obstacles to keep our interest: what Pamela Regis calls the ‘barrier’ (2003). We have to understand why the couple aren’t together to be able to invest in them overcoming that barrier and being together.
One very obvious obstacle in every season of The Bachelor/ette is the fact that the Bachie is dating multiple other people. However, it’s an obstacle with an expiration date, so if it’s the only obstacle we see in a relationship, it’s hard for us to invest: probably because it’s hard for the contestant to get enough screen time for the producers and editors to craft a story around them.
Real talk: the show is not always great at this crafting of story. Something I’ve criticised them for many times is the prioritisation of ‘drama’ over romance, which means that some of these final episodes fall flat because we don’t care enough about who the Bach actually ends up with. But this season – whether by accident or on purpose – we’ve got three clear romance narratives, with relevant obstacles.
Chelsie is, on paper, perfect for Matt. They get on well, they have the same interests, and they’re both sexy nerds. She lives in Melbourne, so there’s no relocation drama, and she’s an appropriate age for him. So far, so good, right?
Chelsie was curiously absent from the narrative for a lot of time, and it’s precisely because of what I said above: it was really hard to craft a compelling romance narrative out of ‘these two people are perfect for each other’. However, the obstacle has been made clear in recent weeks. Due to what sounds like a nightmarish previous relationship, Chelsie’s quite emotionally guarded and cautious. Think back to last week, when she managed to get out the first half of the phrase ‘I’m falling in love with you’ but not the second. Just as the barrier is an essential element of the romance, so too is the declaration of love (Regis 2003). If Chelsie can’t declare her love, the romance might fail.
Narrative: Can you fall in love when you’re too scared to say ‘I love you’?
Abbie has been the villain of the season – though personally, I’ve warmed to her more and more, and I’m not the only one who has. She really made her presence felt in the fourth episode, when her explosive physical chemistry with Matt became evident, and that thread of intense physical attraction has wound its way through the whole season. The way the narrative has been put together, Abbie almost looks like she’s ensorcelled Matt, and he’s sacrificed other girlfriends – Monique, Sogand, early frontrunner Elly – to pursue this chemistry with her.
But! We have other issues. Firstly, Abbie is 23, and Matt is 32. The word ‘timeline’ has been a particular favourite this season, and a lot of it is because Abbie’s and Matt’s don’t really match up due to their age difference (despite some of her assertions to the contrary). And then there’s the fact that their connection is so intensely physical. While they’ve shown that they’re very comfortable with each other and they bounce well off each other conversationally: how much potential for a solid long-lasting relationship is actually there underneath that veneer of physical passion?
Narrative: Is it love or lust?
Finally, we have Helena. While she, like Chelsie, blended into the background for a while, the last few episodes have been quite Helena-centric: mostly because she’s been freaking out, running away, and trying her darndest to dump Matt, like she did last episode. He ‘fought’ for her (NB: I hate this language and this trope – respect people’s no-s, folks!) and basically convinced her not to leave. This is something we imagine he wouldn’t do if he was just going to ditch her at the rose ceremony anyway, so there’s clearly a level of attachment there.
But the barrier is obvious. Matt might want to be with Helena, but if Helena really isn’t that sold on the idea of being with Matt, then the relationship can’t proceed. A romance narrative needs obstacles for it work, but it also needs determination. The protagonists need to, in the end, want to be together.
Narrative: Do they want to be together enough to try and overcome the obstacles?
On the surface, we have Matt choosing between three blonde women (physically, he clearly has a type). But if we dig a bit deeper, we can see how different all these narratives are. I don’t know about you, but I’m super interested to see which narrative is ultimately successful and how it all plays out.
So let’s get into it!
In the parent franchise in the US and in a lot of other international territories, this would be the sex episode. The Bach + contestant would go on a date, get a coy little letter from the host saying ‘so heyyyyyyy guys, here’s a hotel room key, you can totes stay together, wink wink nudge nudge’, and more often than not, get it on in the infamously named ‘fantasy suite’. However, in the Australian franchise, sex is taken right off the table, so these are just called the ‘fantasy dates’, and they’re usually not very well thought through.
(Can you imagine sweet prince Osher sending a note that was like, ‘hey friends, wanna bone?’? Sometimes I’m glad we’re spared the fantasy suites.)
Before we get to the dates, they show some footage of Matt walking up a mountain on a Feelings Hike. We get this kind of footage a lot, and I don’t usually put it in my recap because it’s not narratively important, but I had to mention it this time because at the apex of his Feelings Hike, Matt stripped off his shirt and had! some! emotions! and I couldn’t stop laughing for like ten minutes.
I love these two together. They’re adorable. They’re such beautiful dorks for this whole date, and I ship them together so much. One thing I really love is that Matt regularly fucks things up on their dates – eg. on their rappelling date, they both sucked, and on this date, he can’t work out how to open the car door – and they both just laugh and roll with it.
But this date still made me furious, because EPIC TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE. IT’S HOW YOU GET TO THE DATE.
They start off this date in a Porsche, which Matt talks about for approximately one million hours – something which really hammered home to me how aggressively I don’t care about cars. Then they shift to a sea-plane. All the way through, Matt’s been feeding Chelsie little facts and statistics. It’s kind of a scavenger hunt, he tells us. Because Chelsie’s a big nerd, like him, at the end of the date, Matt’s going to make her crack a code.
I’m in two minds about this. I love a logical puzzle, and if someone told me we were going on a scavenger hunt date, I’d probably be into it. But if someone sat me down at the end of a date and was like, ‘right, hope you were listening, now it’s time to take the pop quiz!’ I’d be livid.
What Chelsie has to do is solve an equation, involving numbers from all of their dates. The answer to the equation opens a safe, and in there is a gift box. Inside is a necklace, on which Matt has had engraved the chemical formula for oxytocin.
It’s a nice gesture, but bro, there’s a company in NZ that’ll do you an actual oxytocin molecule necklace for, like, $35. You could have done better on the statement jewellery. (I bought a dinosaur necklace from this company last time I was in Wellington and I love it. All their stuff is great. I am not being paid to say this, although if they want to pay me to shill for them, I gladly will.)
What happens next is really sweet, though. ‘You make me really happy,’ Chelsie says to Matt. ‘But you scare me.’
‘Why is that?’ he asks.
‘Because I’m falling in love with you,’ she whispers.
‘That makes me really happy,’ he whispers back.
I’m just all in on these hot nerds, pal. I’ll be so sad if they don’t end up together in hot nerd love.
I have the same problems with this date as I did with Chelsie’s. EPIC TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE. IT’S HOW YOU GET TO THE DATE.
Matt picks Abbie up in a boat. This is, he tells us, because in their rooftop pool date in Brisbane, they did a ‘a lot of water activity’, which is a hell of a euphemism.
I’m not sure this is a wonderful sign, tbh, if all he can come up with re Abbie is ‘likes water’ and ‘likes making out with me, possibly in water’. But we’ll see.
Most of what happens in this date is very on brand for them: making out in water. They go to a private beach and make out An Affair to Remember style on the sand. ‘I really want to have sex with you,’ Abbie whispers to Matt. ‘This isn’t the timeslot for all the things I want to do with you.’
Then they go onto a bigger boat and do some more making out, after Matt enthuses about the cupboards.
There’s also a bit where Matt tries to explain some science thing to Abbie. ‘I was prepared to fake excitement, but that’s actually exciting,’ she tells him. ‘Explaining things to me is like the best thing in the world.’
…I can’t adequately express how little I relate to this sentiment. I promise you, Abbie, men explaining things to you gets very old.
Abbie gets a chance to explain a few things to Matt, though. ‘I really see a future with you,’ she tells him. ‘I love you.’
He beams, and they snog for a hundred hours.
In Chelsie’s date, I feel like that narrative question I highlighted in my nerdle (re emotional closedness and romantic declaration) was answered, because she told Matt she was falling in love with him. Abbie takes it a step further here in terms of feels by telling Matt she loves him, but I’m not convinced the question is quite as answered. The ratio of talking to making out in this date is super skewed – it’s very much still the lust, not the love, that’s getting the bulk of narrative time.
Matt picks Helena up in some vintage car. He talks about it for about forty-five minutes, but honestly, whenever people talk about cars all I hear are sad trombone sounds, so I couldn’t tell you what he said.
They pull up to some… farm? IDK. ‘Since you taught me French on the red carpet, I thought I’d teach you some Spanish from when I lived in Argentina!’ Matt tells Helena, and hands her an A4 piece of paper with a few vaguely romantic Spanish phrases scrawled on it.
A few things to note here:
- I was worried this was going to be another test. Stop putting quizzes in your dates, Dr Bachie.
- Way to gloss over the fact you not only forgot the French, but forgot she spoke French at all.
- I’ve been doing Duolingo for like eight months and it’s totally working, because I understood about half this Spanish and I was very proud.
While Matt skirts around the fact that he forgot that Helena taught him French, he does dive right into the hometown date debacle (before they’ve even had time to drink much of their pitcher of sangria, which seems mean, honestly). ‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know – I just got in my own head,’ Helena said. ‘I just had to see if you really liked me. And I figured… if you fought for me, you did.’
‘That’s not the healthiest way to start a relationship,’ Matt says. (Less diplomatically, to the camera, he says, ‘THAT’S PRETTY SHIT, TO BE HONEST.’)
‘I know,’ she says. ‘But this whole experience… you know.’
‘How do you feel about opening up some more?’ Matt asks.
Helena shrugs. ‘I think I’ve been pretty open with my feelings.’
If nothing else, this really hammered home what a narrative milestone the Declaration of Feels is. If you declare your feels too early, a la Emma, then it’s a bit much, but if you leave it too late, then…
There’s no point even trying to build suspense here – and to its credit, the show didn’t even try. It was, of course, Helena who was sent home.
‘I want someone who wants me like I want them,’ Matt says. ‘And I want someone who’s willing to work at a relationship when things get hard, not run away.’
If we return to the romance breakdown I did earlier: the obstacles in this particular narrative were too big to surmount – especially considering Matt has two very strong alternatives in Chelsie and Abbie.
But which will he choose? Will he choose one, then change his mind and choose another, a la Blake Garvey dumping Sam Frost for Louise Pillidge? Considering the finale looks like it takes place in South Africa – the same place Blake Garvey’s finale took place – then maybe things are looking ominous…
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: you know the drill by now. I write books, and you should read them. Check out my Valentine series.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.