RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S8 E02

They really could have got a bigger boat

Once more unto the Bach, dear friends! Last night, we met our cast of characters: giant adventure man Locky the oversized river boy, and the many women who will be competing for this affections.

Notably, we met some women who are clearly being set up to be among the series’ villains. I don’t want to spend too much time on Zoe-Clare, founder of the Rights for Redheads movement – many other people have written about that deeply bananas moment in reality TV history (Punkee reproduced her whole speech, in case this movement is, ah, of interest to you).

No, I want to talk a bit about two of the other women who seem to be being set up as villains: Areeba and Laura. Both are being defined by their embodiment of specific kinds of neoliberal ideology, so I thought we could spend some time at the top of this recap unpacking this a bit.

Let’s start with Laura. I know it’s hard to remember just one contestant when the premiere throws you into an ocean of them, but she was pretty hard to forget, given that the first thing she demanded of Locky was that he buy her an expensive birthday present. She self-identifies as a snob and the way they’re constructing her character is as deeply consumerist: she wants things, and she wants them now. In addition, there were several moments in last night’s episode where she discursively positioned herself as a desirable and up-market object that Locky might like to possess – think here of her disgust when he showed preference for Rosemary in the penguin costume and Nicole in the carnivale outfit.

This is what we might – perhaps pejoratively – refer to as a kind of trophy wife positionality. Laura wants nice things, and she’s willing to position herself as a nice thing if it will help her accrue nice things. It’s an ideology that has roots in old-school notions of marriage as being about an exchange of property, although the woman is endowed with more subjectivity, because she’s actively buying into the system. I will act as your possession, she says figuratively in this schema, if you give me access to many possessions.

On the other side of the coin, we have Areeba. She used the word ‘boss’ about eighty times, stating that she’s a boss at home, she’s a boss at work, and she’s a boss in her relationships. One reading of this is that she is not willing to cede power to the Bach – which I like a lot! (Low-key: I think Areeba’s great.) But there’s no getting away from the fact that ‘boss’ is a word with a whooooole lot of capitalist and neoliberal baggage attached to it.

Areeba is explicitly not willing to position herself as a possession of Locky. Rather, by leaning on the word ‘boss’, and enforcing that she expects to be one, she figuratively places him in the position of employee, and their relationship becomes a neoliberal endeavour: specifically, one in which she manages his participation. The power structure in the model embodied by Laura is flipped. It’s not a precise flip – Locky becomes a participant rather than a possession – but he is still a participant who is actively managed.

Both, in short, involve unequal power dynamics inscribed explicitly in economic models which both women figuratively seek to mobilise for their own benefit. Interestingly, though, Locky doesn’t seem keen on either model. He rejects Laura’s, when he’s like, ‘I, uh, don’t like spending that much money on gifts,’ and he didn’t seem especially keen on Areeba being like, ‘I AM THE BOSS,’ either, although he didn’t reject it quite as firmly.

Dare we say that Locky is Goldilocks when it comes to choosing his preferred neoliberal ideology – he prefers something in the middle, something balanced between the two, something just right? We could contend that what he’s after is Anthony Giddens ‘pure relationship’, a ‘relationship of sexual and emotional equality, which is explosive in its connotations for pre-existing forms of gender power’ (1992, 2), but… the man’s on The Bachelor. As Wendy Brown argues, one of the hallmarks of neoliberalism is the ‘casting of every human endeavour and activity in entrepreneurial terms’ (2011, 118), and what is being on The Bachelor but monetising your romantic life? Locky’s deep in it where neoliberalism is concerned.

I’m sure that’s exactly what you came here to read about in this fun Bachelor recap. Neoliberalism.

Let’s get to the part where we talk about what, you know, happened in the episode.

We begin tonight with a single date!

Actually, no. We begin tonight with a debate among the women about who will get the single date. It turns out to be Bella, but Areeba – who is swiftly becoming my queen, despite her adherence to various neoliberal girlboss ideologies – tells the camera she’s not worried. ‘The girl who gets the first date hardly ever wins,’ she said.

And she’s right! It’s true! You want to win in this franchise? You’ve got to get the second single date! Laura! Snezana! Anna! We have a student of the show among us, and this fills my heart with joy. If you want to do a PhD with me, Areeba, let me know.

This is a fairly standard boat date. Locky picks Bella up at a pier in a boat, and they sail about Sydney Harbour and yell ‘wooo! This is amazing!’ a lot.

It’s quite a large boat, but I shudder to think what a giant boat they would have got if they knew that all they’d have to pay for later in the season was a Zoom subscription. It would have been fucking gigantic.

The other notable thing about this date is the absolute glee Locky takes in it. They always shout ‘woooo! This is amazing!’ on boat dates, but our Adventure Bach is just absolutely fucking stoked to be on this boat, and it’s really quite nice.

Their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation is actually a picnic blanket on the back of the boat, where we find out a very shocking piece of information: Locky does not know how to pop a champagne cork. This low-key blew my mind, because I guess some part of me had weirdly assumed that all prospective Bachies were put through, like, Bachie 101, where they covered very basic franchise skills.

…maybe popping champagne corks is too basic, though. Maybe that’s in Bachie 96: Remedial Bachie.

Anyway, they end up diving into the ocean, even though I’m sure you’re not supposed to drink and swim. ‘Wait here,’ Locky says, and dives down for a has-he-been-taken-by-a-shark amount of time.

But he hasn’t been taken by a shark! Instead, he re-emerges with a rose, which he gives to Bella, and they have a lovely ocean pash. I know he got it from some strategically placed producer, but truly, I love the implication that he dived down to the bottom of the ocean and plucked that rose from a mermaid’s garden.

Next up: it’s our first group date of 2020 (and oh god am I interested to see how these are going to play out on Zoom)!

This is the customary photo shoot, and it begins with Osher explaining the plot beats of a romance to the contestants, complete with happy ending.

I would just like to point out that there is someone in Australia that happens to have a PhD in these kind of stories, and to have written hundreds of fucking thousands of words about this franchise, who would gladly appear as a romance expert in a segment like this.

Ahem.

Anyway. We’ve got a bunch of scenarios here. Let’s go through them.

Scenario #1 is a blind date, where Locky is… apparently a shithead who set up two blind dates at the same time at the same bar, and then also started hitting on the bartender? I hesitate to say this, because we should never speak his name again, but maybe he should take some lessons in time management from Ciarran.

The bartender is played by triple threat rose Nicole, but more pertinently, the two blind dates are Areeba and Rights for Rangas Zoe-Clare. I bet the producers were rubbing their hands together with glee when they realised they could make that encounter happen.

Scenario #2 is a family dinner. Locky’s girlfriend is played by Irena the nurse, and she’s brought him to dinner with her family: her sister (played by Laura the self-professed snob), her mother (played by Maddy the teacher), and her dad (played by Ali Oetjen clone Steph).

Irena does very well to get some under-the-table leg-groping in, but Steph is the clear winner of this date. She embraces her moustachio’d dad role, and honestly, it might be the best piece of Bachie costumery since they dressed Sam Frost and Richie Strahan up as old people and sent them off to the RSL to play bingo.

Scenario #3: This is an engagement scene. Rosemary (of penguin fame) is paying the shop clerk, while Roxi (who really didn’t do much of note yesterday) is playing Locky’s fiancée. Predictably, she gets annoyed when Rosemary, like, insists on being in the photos. You know how these photo shoot dates go.

And so we come to the end of the date… or do we?

We do not! There is a secret fourth photo!

Scenario #4: This is the first dance between a bride and a groom at a wedding! And the model is – gasp! – an intruder! Meet:

Kaitlyn: I don’t know, she’s blonde? I didn’t really get any distinct signs of personality from her.

Her personality isn’t important, though. What’s important is that she’s there, and the other girls are spewing.

Then, to make matters worse, Osher – who has apparently been taking shit-stirring lessons from our old mate Timm – announces, ‘hey Locky, the only time you’ve had with Kaitlyn has been this photo shoot! why don’t you take her aside for some wine and cheese? and everyone else, you should go back to the mansion, because someone’s for sure getting eliminated tonight’.

And scene.

It’s an odd place to end an episode. The Australian franchise doesn’t tend to deviate much from the single date/group date/cocktail party/rose ceremony structure. The ads for next time make it seem like the whole episode might be cocktail party, though, and I’m always interested in ruptures in structure, so check back Wednesday to see what happened.

(Wednesday? That’s a whole six days from now! Truly, the death march which was Paradise has broken my sense of time more than coronavirus has.)

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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