RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S8 E01

Honestly offended the dog was only in it for, like, two shots

Hello, friends! Miss me? No, you didn’t, because this franchise refuses to give you time to miss me! We’ve just tied a bow on the latest season of Bachelor In Paradise Australia, and now we’re diving right into Season 8 of The Bachelor Australia.

And you know we’ll be jumping into The Bachelorette Australia the second this wraps up too. I will be like the tell-tale heart beneath your floorboard, ever beating, and you will never be free of me.

Ahem. We should be talking about hearts in the romantic sense, not the Gothic one.

The first episode of any given season of The Bachelor/ette is always a bit of a get-to-know-you episode, as we’re introduced to our cast of characters. Key among these is, of course, the Bach, so I want to spend my pre-recap nerdle time tonight talking a bit about our new Bachie and why it is that he’s been chosen to be the nation’s romantic lead for 2020.

Obviously the most important qualification for a Bachelor in the Australian franchise is that they have to look good while standing in some kind of outdoor shower situation, and our new Bach Locky delivers. He’s tall. He’s handsome. He’s got muscles upon muscles upon muscles. He’s got a tattoo which I think says STRENGTH AND HONOUR across his chest, but which I can only see as BLOOD AND SAND. Basically, he looks like a river boy from Home and Away (albeit about 25% bigger than a regular river boy, like someone’s altered the aspect ratio).

In many of the other international franchises – including the primary franchise in the US – the Bach is almost exclusively drawn from the pool of ex-contestants. We’ve certainly had our fair share of those Bachies in our past (cf. Richie, Matty, Ali), but another primary Bachie-selection strategy has arisen in recent years: the celebrity Bachie. We’ve had Sophie Monk. We’ve had the Honey Badger (much as we all might wish to block that particular incident in history from our minds). We’ve had Angie Kent. And now we have Locklan ‘Locky’ Gilbert.

Our most recent Bachie Angie is the closest analogue we have to Locky, because her celebrity, like his, arose from reality TV (specifically, Channel Ten reality TV). She rose to prominence on Gogglebox and then I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here. Locky, on the other hand, comes from Survivor. He finished fifth on the second season a couple of years ago, and was the first member of the jury on the most recent season, Australian Survivor: All Stars.

This seemed to me an interesting choice for Bachie, given Survivor’s emphasis on lying, cheating, stealing, fucking people over, etc… all the things that you presumably don’t want in a romantic partner. But Locky didn’t win either of his seasons, so perhaps he wasn’t very good at it…?

(Full disclosure: I have not watched much Australian Survivor, although I did see the episode in Locky’s first season where he got dacked and completed a whole challenge rolling around in the mud naked. I, ahem, would not be surprised if this contributed somewhat to his casting.)

What Survivor does have associations with, though, is survivalism: of fighting for something that you want against all the odds (realistically, given the nature of the franchise, it’s money; although the visual and mimetic associations are with… you know, survival). And that is a quality that is typically associated with romantic leads: the ability to push through, to overcome obstacles, to face challenges, and not to give up.

It’s kind of a shame that Locky ended up being the Bachie on the Lock(y)down season, though. Survivor aside, apparently his main job is as an adventure tour guide, so he would have been great at all the jumping out of planes and ziplining and abseiling and whatnot that this franchise generally requires.

…though maybe that’s not such a shame. It’ll be fascinating to see how Adventure Bachie goes when they take the abseiling away from him and make him do his dates on Zoom.

(BTW: you can bet there is going to be some seriously nerdling about how the pandemic has affected the show’s structure coming. I don’t want to go too hard too early in these recaps, but I have thoughts, friends.)

So: that’s Locky. He tells us in the intro that he’s a hopeless romantic – a phrase that one day I am going to do a detailed study of, because I suspect it’s a very swiftly moving target – and that the next woman he enters into a relationship with he wants to marry… which means he’s threatening to propose at the end of the season. Yikes.

But who is he threatening to propose to? Let’s face it: this franchise is much less about the Bachie than it is about the contestants. So let’s meet them!

Steph: I can tell you two things about Steph: 1) she looks identical to Ali Oetjen; 2) she loves burritos. This gives me a chance to learn two things about Locky: 1) he also loves burritos; 2) he hates spice.

Izzy: I can tell you three things about Izzy: 1) she looks identical to Steph; 2) she is to asthma what Stacey McGill is to diabetes, and 3) she loves chilli. She makes Locky eat one and his head nearly explodes, which teaches me 3) that he is maybe not as tough as Survivor made him out to be.

Nicole: enters in a Brazilian carnivale samba outfit. It’s pretty gimmicky, but she gets Locky to pick her up and dip her, so as far as gimmicks go, it’s a smart one.

Irena: sound the alarm, we have a wifey. Irena tells Locky she’s a nurse, and he should come find her at the cocktail party so she can listen to his heart, and Locky just about melts into an Alex Mack puddle at her feet.

Marlaina: brings a dog. I like her already.

Maddy: Maddy is a teacher, and so she wheels in a blackboard to teach Locky some things. I take this as a covert protest about the resourcing of public schools, as really, everyone should be using whiteboards at a minimum by now.

Areeba: Areeba is – quite consciously, it seems – the embodiment of the concept of girlboss. While this is a concept laden with many problematic layers, Areeba very firmly tells Locky that she will be in charge of the power dynamics of their relationship, thank you very much, and although I suspect she’s going to get a villain edit, I have to respect that.

Rosemary: turns up in a penguin suit, which gives you an indication of how far she’ll go in the competition.

Zoe-Clare: not here to make friends, which also gives you an indication of how far she’ll go in the competition.

Leilani: The ‘do you want to get lei’d’ joke has extremely Been Done in this franchise, but her name is Leilani and her nickname is Lei, so I’ll allow it.

Laura: a clear contender for the villain edit, Laura tells us that she’s a snob and she’s all about the big brand names, and asks a taken aback Locky how much he’d spend on her birthday present. I’m anxious to see how her version of neoliberal consumption clashes with the girlboss ideology embodied by Areeba.

Charley: interestingly, she’s the only one who recognises Locky from Survivor. I’m a little bit surprised the show pointed this out, considering Survivor is on the same network as the Bachie franchise and it’s not really saying great things about its cultural penetration.

Bella: fire up the wifey siren again, twice as loud. Locky is into Bella. She pins a little heart pin to his sleeve (so he can remember to always wear his heart on his sleeve, I’m sure you don’t need me to spell this metaphor out for you), and he Alex Macks all over again.

It’s been barely an hour and I’m already pretty much prepared to make the call that Bella and Irena are the final two, but… who knows what COVID will do to the situation. It might blow my romance radar way off course.

The stakes for the opening episode come in the form of a pre-ceremony rose. Unlike most other franchises, which simply dub this the first impression rose and don’t imbue it with any special powers beyond being given out at the first cocktail party, the Australian franchise always gives it a gimmick. This time, it’s the triple threat rose, which guarantees its recipient a single date, a spot on a group date, and some extra one-on-one time with the Bach.

I don’t care for the gimmicks, to be honest. I don’t think you need the bells and whistles to tart it up, and if you imbue it with too much power it becomes much too strong of an indicator of what the Bach is actually thinking (cf. Richie giving Alex Nation the gimmick rose in their first episode, and him clearly being gone on her for the entire rest of the season).

But: it creates stakes, and a concrete single object for the women to vie for, rather than just the many roses that the Bach has on offer. So that’s important.

Let’s cover off some of the drama that happens at the cocktail party, which I suspect will feed into future episodes, as it sets up feuds.

  1. Rosemary the penguin gets the first chat, much to the chagrin of some of our more villainous characters. She pulls off the penguin costume to reveal a stunning black ball gown, and: what a move, my goodness.
  2. Zoe-Clare, one of said villains, nabs the Bach next, and pulls him aside for a chat.
  3. But then Areeba, in an extreme power move, just goes and… sits with them, and brazens out the awkwardness until Zoe-Clare cracks and gets up and leaves.

I thought originally Areeba was going to get a straightforward villain edit, but it might end up being a little bit complicated. She might come out of this in Abbie territory, honestly, although I’m not sure I see her going quite as far as Abbie did.

This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s just such a power move, and her complete refusal to feel embarrassment is truly incredible.

Secondly, she has picked a very strategic opponent in Zoe-Clare. It’s hard to believe this was on purpose, given they’d been there about two seconds, but Areeba came out of this interaction looking like a champion, because Zoe-Clare had an absolute meltdown.

I don’t even know how to describe this meltdown, friends. Zoe-Clare somehow gets it into her head – despite literally no evidence, something confirmed by other contestants and her interaction with a producer, so I don’t think we can just chalk this up to a bad edit – that Areeba interrupted her because she was bullying her specifically because she’s a redhead. ‘I’m going to prove to people that you can’t bully redheads!’ she sobs to camera. ‘Everyone tries to put us down all the time, but I won’t let them!’

It is, ahem, a look, to be a white woman accusing a woman of colour of bullying you because she’s discriminating against redheads.

After screaming in Areeba’s face for a while (at which Areeba is entirely unmoved – her complete refusal to be embarrassed by things is so incredible, and a skill I wish I had), Zoe-Clare is conspicuously absent from the rose ceremony. She receives a rose in absentia, but it’s clear that she might have had a wee bit too much to drink.

I’m not at all convinced you can use that as an excuse for going on a tirade about people being racist against redheads, but… let’s just see if the show addresses it. I don’t have a lot of confidence in them when it comes to issues of race and representation, but maybe we’ll get one nice thing in 2020 and they’ll prove me wrong.

Before we get to the rose ceremony, though, we have to talk about the triple threat rose. I was genuinely surprised which way Locky went with this – especially after there was a scene where Irena made him unbutton his shirt so she could listen to his heart, a la Chelsie applying the oxytocin tattoo to Dr Space Bachie’s pec last year. He gave it to Nicole, she who entered in the Brazilian carnivale outfit. ‘You’ve just made everyone smile all night,’ he told her. ‘I like that in a woman.’

Laura, the brand snob, does not fail to notice that the women who did gimmicky things – the penguin, the dance costume – got singled out. ‘I could wear a penguin costume!’ she sniffed. ‘I could do a high kick!’

…methinks I can sense an Amazing Waterskiier on the premises.

As it so often is in the early episodes, the rose ceremony ends up being pretty anti-climactic. We farewell two women we barely met (goodbye Nadine, goodbye Paige, I’m sorry I know nothing about you and will presumably to continue to know nothing about you). But it looks like there’s going to be some real #drama in tomorrow’s photo shoot date, including a potential intruder, so… watch this space.

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

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.

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