Look at you, Bachie, grown up all big and strong and playing with time!
We’ve made it to the end, loyal readers! Dr Matt the Space Bachie has whittled his posse of twenty-eight girlfriends down to two. Tonight, he’ll make his fateful decision, and we as a nation will decide whether we still like him or not.
A fair amount is said about the social media flack a lot of the contestants on the show cop, especially if they’re given a villain edit. Abbie, for instance, has been the target of a ton of shitty online comments, and the subject of lot of commentary on said shitty online comments. But as far as I can see, not a ton is said about how much shit the Bachie must cop: particularly during this finale period, as the narrative reaches its apotheosis.
The audience adjudication on the contestants is done quite early. We can work out relatively soon in the process who we like, who we don’t like, and what we think. But for the Bachie, that period of adjudication really is located here, at the end. As they make their final decision, the audience makes their final verdict.
It’s fairly clear-cut which Australian Bachies we like, and which we don’t, and why. Bachies like Sam Wood and Matty J – who picked a winner, and stayed with them – are the Bachies that get to come back to advise future Bachies. They’re success stories. But other Bachies, who don’t uphold the promise of the romantic narrative, like Blake Garvey and the Honey Badger, swiftly take on the mantle of Australia’s most unpopular man. It turns out that even though Australia has, in many ways, a very anti-emotional culture, we still want our reality TV romances to have a happy ending.
Last night, I looked at the three different love stories the show had set up for Matt with Chelsie, Abbie, and Helena respectively. Tonight, before I get into the actual finale recap, I want to think through some of the possible post-diegetic narratives that could be shaped around Matt, depending on how things play out.
Option #1: The Sam Wood success story. A few episodes back, I wrote that Chelsie is getting the ‘Snezana edit’. She’s been set up as the mature one who stays clear of all the infamous ‘drama’ (we saw zero references to anyone uttering the word dogcunt come out of her mouth). Should the show end with Matt and Chelsie galloping off into the sunset together, then I suspect that what we might see post-show is a narrative very similar to the one shaped around Sam (and, to some extent, Matty J). Matt really was there for the right reasons. He really did want to find love. He picked the right person, and he’s earned his happily ever after.
(The reason this narrative was slightly complicated for Matty J was, I think, his history with Georgia Love on The Bachelorette. That particular season set up such a compelling romance – and the audience was so disappointed when they didn’t end up together – that even though Matty and Laura seem very happy now, it had a bittersweet overtone that Sam and Snez’s HEA didn’t.)
Option #2: The Richie Strahan oh-you-poor-fool story. When Richie’s season came to its end, everyone thought he’d choose fan favourite Nikki, even though the depth of his attraction to Alex was very clear. When he chose Alex instead, the audience collectively shook its head.
The reasoning here was, basically, that Richie had prioritised the wrong thing: he’d chosen with his peen instead of his heart, gone with lust over love. While Matt and Abbie’s relationship is, I think, more complicated than this (and, indeed, so was Richie and Alex’s), the narrative that’s been constructed around them is one which relies very heavily on a sexual, rather than an emotional, connection. If Matt chooses Abbie, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a reaction similar to the one we saw when Richie chose Alex: that is, a lot of people berating him for having made the wrong choice.
Option #3: The Blake Garvey nation’s-most-hated-man story. When Blake Garvey chose (and proposed to!) Sam Frost, then promptly ditched her for second runner-up Louise Pillidge, the audience reaction was… unsubtle, shall we say. He was immediately recast as a villain, and basically became Public Enemy #1.
There are rumours going around that Matt will do the same thing: ie. pick Chelsie, but ditch her for Abbie. If he does do this, look for him to be swiftly recast as a villain – even though, unlike some other Bachies, such as Richie and the Honey Badger, Matt’s likeability factor has remained fairly steady across the whole season.
What would be really interesting is if he picked Abbie and ditched her for Chelsie. I’d be so fascinated to see what the audience reaction would be then. Part of me thinks that the audience fury comes from a lack of decisiveness, which is a necessary trait in a romance hero, but given how strongly the audience wants Chelsie to win (and, realistically, Abbie to lose, although this is thoroughly undeserved), I’d be fascinated to see how that ultimately played out.
Option #4: The Honey Badger clusterfuck. I think we can be relatively sure that this won’t happen again, but if Matt picks no one, audience retribution will be swift. The North remembers.
Or maybe none of these will come true. Maybe next year, when I’m writing my finale recap, there’ll be an option in there called the Dr Matt Agnew, because he’s carved his own path. Only time will tell.
So: the finale. There are several distinct sections to this:
- The Bachie and the final two contestants travel to a faraway place
- The contestants meet the Bachie’s family
- The Bachie goes on a final date with each of the contestants
- The Bachie ditches the loser
- The Bachie macks on with the winner
There’s a slight difference this season, wherein the contestants are meeting two of Matt’s friends (Kate, who we’ve met before, and Jason), not his family, but the recipe is otherwise still the same. Let us not delay any further. Once more unto the Bach, dear friends.
The narrative is established pretty early. ‘Chelsie’s great!’ Matt enthuses to his friends. ‘She lives in Melbourne, she’s a nerd like me… I’m just scared it might be too good to be true. And then there’s Abbie, who’s basically a decade younger than me but who I really really want to bone like.’
Kate’s face turns from a smile to a scowl. ‘Abbie,’ she growls.
Turns out that while Abbie has been charming the pants off Matt (almost off, anyway), it didn’t work the same way on Kate when met Abbie all those episodes ago.
Abbie meets the friends
‘No one has ever outwardly disliked me in my life!’ Abbie tells the camera. ‘I give great parent.’
‘Oh, you’re meeting my friends, not my fam,’ Matt says. ‘Remember Kate?’
Abbie’s face turns from a smile to a scowl. ‘Kate,’ she growls.
Here is a red flag. Even if Abbie is not the villain she’s been made out to be – which I firmly believe she is not (I like her a lot) – not getting on with someone’s friends is not exactly a great sign at the beginning of a relationship.
And this isn’t just mild dislike. ‘I’m sorry, I just need a minute,’ Kate says, and walks away within about a second of sitting down with Abbie.
Quite interestingly, we see her talking to a producer. ‘I don’t think Abbie’s here for the right reasons,’ Kate says. ‘I want to change up the questions.’
I think this is the first time they’ve openly admitted that production have a hand in shaping these discussions. Admittedly, it’s an open secret, but actually including that in the diegesis is a big step.
Whatever Kate did, it worked, because in my (professional) opinion, the questions Kate asks Abbie are great. ‘So what do you actually have in common with Matt?’ she asks.
‘What a good question!’ Abbie says, while gritting her teeth.
She gives a fairly pat answer. ‘But what does that actually mean?’ Kate asks: a question which is one of my favourites to ask, because it cuts through cliché and rhetoric better than just about anything else.
What we eventually get out of this discussion is that Abbie, having been through a lot in her life, wants stability, comfort, and reliability – but that Kate doesn’t buy it. ‘She seems like a party girl,’ she says to the camera. ‘And we’ve seen that before.’
This tells us exponentially more about Matt’s dating history than we’ve ever heard to this point. How interesting.
Chelsie meets the friends
The narrative set up from the Abbie-meets-the-friends bit pays off almost immediately. If Abbie is the girl Matt’s friends have seen before, Chelsie is the girl they wished they’d seen.
Kate and Jason love her. Like, they love her. ‘Tell me about your timeline for marriage and kids,’ Jason asks her.
‘I have some things I want to do in my career, but I’m thinking in about three to five years,’ Chelsie says. ‘I also want to make sure we take some time to enjoy the relationship.’
‘I love being around Matt,’ Chelsie says. ‘He makes me really happy.’
‘Would you say you… love him?’ Jason asks.
Chelsie blushes and nods.
‘You need to tell him!’ Jason urges.
‘I know,’ Chelsie says. ‘And I will. Me leaving because I didn’t tell him would be worse than me laying it all on the line and getting my heart broken.’
Jason beams again.
‘So what did you think?’ Matt asks his friends after both the ladies have left.
‘PICK CHELSIE, BITCH!!!!!’ Kate and Jason basically scream in his face.
Abbie’s final date
Abbie’s last date starts on a picnic blanket next to a river. Given that they’re in Africa, I was a little concerned that a crocodile or a hippo or something was going to leap out and eat them, but probably they had some way of making sure that wasn’t going to happen? Probably?
‘So my friend Kate had a few concerns about you,’ Matt admits to Abbie. ‘Mostly about your age.’
‘I understand,’ Abbie says, smiling. ‘But I can’t change my age. And I’m nearly 24!’
(‘I HATE KATE MORE THAN ANYONE IN THE FUCKING WORLD!!!!’ she yells to camera.)
‘Of course,’ Matt says. ‘And while I listen to my friends… of course I’m going to go with my own heart here.’
They then get picked up in a helicopter, because there’s a certain number of chopper rides they have to take per season and Matt hasn’t quite made the quota yet. ‘OMG, science!’ he enthuses, and monologues about a giant crater made by an asteroid for about five hours.
Abbie does her best to be excited. ‘I’m excited because he’s excited?’ she offers.
And look, I feel her. Sometimes it’s boring when someone is nerding out next to you, but sometimes their excitement can be genuinely infectious, even if you don’t get why they’re excited.
They finish up with a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation in front of a bonfire (considering that fire is his thing with Elly, I have to imagine that she’d be pretty mad). ‘I know there are so many issues with our timeline,’ Abbie whispers to Matt. ‘But I just love you so much. I can really see a future with you.’
And then she bursts into tears with the strength of her feels, and she and Matt have to snog to calm down.
‘It’s a choice between your heart and your head,’ Abbie tells Matt. ‘And I think I have your heart.’
This is a really novel way of getting around the thing where Matt can’t say ‘I love you’ to her. Basically, she’s saying ‘you love me’. It’s bold, and I have to respect that kind of confidence.
Chelsie’s final date
Chelsie pounces on Matt the second they meet, and they make out for about forty-five minutes.
‘Wow, the difference in Chelsie from the day we met to now is chalk and cheese!’ Matt enthuses.
Him commenting on this seems a tiny bit weird, tbh. If Chelsie had pounced on him and started making out with him on the red carpet, he presumably would have thought she was a wee bit forward.
They go on a safari tour together, and… it’s just really cute, guys. Their guide starts describing a ‘Bachelor herd’ of impala to them, where one male and a whole bunch of female impalas run together, and neither of them can stop laughing. They’re both totally in awe over the pride of lions they see, and there’s just not much about this I can say except that it’s adorable and I’m all in on these sexy nerds.
Their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation is actually just some cushions next to a pool. ‘Matt, you make me so happy,’ Chelsie tells him. ‘I can see a future with you. I can’t see a future without you. And… I’m in love with you.’
They hug. They snog. They get into the pool, and they make out for another forty-five minutes, and I know the Abbie narrative is the one where all the sexual chemistry discourse has been located, but hoooooooo boy these two are getting it on.
‘I love you,’ Chelsie whispers again.
Matt doesn’t reply – he can’t, really – but he buries his face in her hair and they hug for a long time.
The two narratives here are essentially the same as they were yesterday. Has Chelsie opened up enough about her feelings for a relationship with Matt to work, or did she leave her declaration of love too late? Is it love for Matt and Abbie, or is it lust?
‘I’m confident I have Matt’s heart,’ Abbie says. ‘In a little while, we’ll be able to begin our lives together.’
‘What if I’ve left it too late?’ Chelsie angsts. ‘What if I wasn’t open enough, and now he’s fallen in love with someone else?’
There’s a clear set-up here. Abbie is hubristic. Chelsie is humble. We can see that the obstacle between Matt and Chelsie – her reticence to talk about her feelings – has been overcome. We’re not so sure about the obstacle in the Matt/Abbie narrative, ie. the love/lust question. We all know how the romance narrative works. We all know what to expect here.
The rule with Bachie is that the first person out of the car is the person getting eliminated.
The car door opens. We all know who it’s going to be. We know how this formula works, right?
‘I love Matt so much,’ Chelsie tells Osher. ‘I really want this to go my way.’
But then… what is this? Is it another car pulling up?
I’ve never seen a season of Bachie where they’ve played with the chronology to mess with the audience like this before. I’m almost weirdly proud, tbh? Look at you, Bachie, grown up all big and strong and playing with time!
You know what it’s like, actually? You know the movie version of Breaking Dawn where they put in that fakeout battle scene near the end where, like, half the Cullens die? But then SURPRISE! it was a dream? This was the Bachie version of that.
Of course – of course! – they couldn’t develop a hubris/humility narrative like this and not pay off on it, not if they didn’t want an uproar on their hands.
And so Abbie walks up to Matt, a broad smile on her face.
‘Abbie, you’re amazing,’ Matt tells her. ‘I’ve loved every moment I’ve spent with you. But I have to be honest. My heart is with someone else.’
Abbie’s silent for a long time. One thing I really liked about this was the show didn’t edit in music over the top: instead, they just let it be quiet, and they let it be awkward.
‘Can I ask why?’ she asks.
‘It’s nothing you did,’ he says. ‘It’s just… my heart’s with someone else.’
‘But what we had was so special.’
‘I know. I know. I’m sorry.’
‘Fine. It’s fine,’ Abbie says, and walks away.
The scene that follows in the car afterwards is genuinely heartbreaking. There’s been a lot of criticism of Abbie this season, saying that she wasn’t really into Matt, that it was all an act, but this? this felt so real.
‘I’m actually fine,’ she declares. ‘Maybe I don’t love Matt. I’m actually just annoyed about the flight home now.’
‘Are you sure?’ a producer asks.
‘I just feel silly. Thinking it could work out.’
The tears start to well.
‘I couldn’t even cry about it if I wanted to,’ Abbie says, as the tears start falling.
But we can’t follow this narrative any further (although I hope we do find out what happens to Abbie sometime, and that she achieves that dream of becoming a sexologist. I, for one, will listen to her Esther Perel-style podcast). Instead, we have a sexy nerd happy ending to get to.
Chelsie walks up to Matt. ‘Hi,’ she says.
‘Hi!’ he says. ‘Look, so I’d never met a perfect woman until I met you.’
‘It’s not just that we have things in common,’ he says. ‘It’s not just that we’re both into science, or we have the same sense of humour, or any of that.’
‘We’re at the point now where I have to tell you my feelings,’ Matt says. ‘And Chelsie: I love you.’
‘What?!’ she exclaims. ‘But… I thought you were dumping me!’
Bless. Bless her heart, honestly. I’ve written an academic paper on declarations of love in this franchise, and trust me when I say that this was the least suspenseful one ever. It was extremely clear right from ‘so you’re perfect’ which way this was going, and she still didn’t get it.
‘Not a chance,’ Matt tells her. ‘Chelsie, I love you, and I want to be with you.’
He slides a ring onto her finger (a commitment ring: even though I’m fairly sure this is the exact set that Blake Garvey proposed to Sam Frost on, it’s not an engagement ring). They kiss. We pan to the setting sun, because we couldn’t end this without a slight reference to space. (Did you hear Matt was an astrophysicist? I think he might be an astrophysicist.)
And: bam. The end. Suddenly Gogglebox is on.
The ending of this is always so abrupt, especially considering what a marathon it is. There’s no time to bask in the happy ending: it’s just done.
…until all the interviews start coming out, anyway. One thing that’s fascinating about this show is the way the story exceeds the diegesis.
Until next time! Which is next week, because now Space Bachie has found love, it’s time for Gogglebox Angie on The Bachelorette!
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: I write books, and you might like to read them.
The show airs on Channel 10. You can catch up on previous episodes via TenPlay.