RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S8 E03

A plot so thin you can barely see it

Has it been six days since we were last here together in the Bachie-with-Jodi corner of the internet? What a positively luxuriant amount of time! I haven’t known what to do with myself now that we’re not taking a leisurely swim through the bin juice of Paradise four hundred times a week!

Apparently the premiere episode of the quest of Locky the spice-hating oversized river boy last Wednesday was the lowest rated premiere since Tim Robards’ season, and I have to think that Paradise is a big part of the reason why. While it was a really solid season of Paradise – much better than last year’s season, in my estimation – by putting it on right before the beginning of the franchise proper, and by putting it on a million nights a week, my feeling is that they’ve created some serious viewer fatigue.

That million nights a week factor is, I think, the biggest part of it. We’ve been well-trained for many years now that Bachie is a two-nights-a-week deal: this isn’t MAFS. By putting it on that many nights, they violated a kind of implicit contract they had with their viewers.

And that’s what I’d like to nerdle a bit about tonight: contracts. Not legal ones – although I remain very curious about the scope of Bachieverse contracts and am holding out some hope that Jamie Doran’s lawsuit will expose some detail in this regard. Rather, I want to talk about social contracts, and how the drama of this show is predicated on violating them.

We could make a case that monogamy is one of the fundamental social contracts we have in our society. Unless you have an explicit polyamorous set-up to which all parties are consenting, the assumption is that if you’re in a committed romantic relationship, you’ll be monogamous.

…unless, of course, you’re the Bach, and you’re dating, like, twenty people at the same time.

Now, obviously those twenty people have consented to this set of arrangements, but also obviously, it’s highly unusual, and it’s very difficult to shed yourself of years of cultural programming: just look at how jealous contestants get when someone else makes a move on the Bach. While you might know in your thinking brain that in the artificial situation of Bachieworld the regular rules don’t apply, the rest of your brain doesn’t approve of someone else making a move on your romantic interest. If that happened in the regular world, that would be a major violation of the social contract (especially if the person making the move was one of your friends – and we know that the friendships formed on these shows frequently outlast the romantic relationships).

This violation of the social contract is at the heart of the show: it’s the central conceit. From this locus, more violations of the social contract continue to ripple. The central conceit is so unreal it essentially causes the world of the show to function as a carnivalesque space in the way described by Mikhail Bakhtin. Even as the inhabitants of the show’s storyworld try to cling to aspects of the regular social contract, they find it disintegrating around them.

Take the drama last week with Zoe-Clare and Areeba. All the rules around when it’s okay to steal the Bach from another contestant are kept deliberately vague by the show (if you keep the social contract vague, then no one can ever know when they’re violating it… and sometimes the endpoint of that is Rights For Redheads). Areeba took Locky from Zoe-Clare in a way that she deemed a violation of the social contract…

…but in Bachieworld, those rules don’t apply any more, not really. Even if we leave the world’s most unforgettable monologue out of it, Zoe-Clare still probably would have come out of that situation looking like the loser, because she failed to recognise that the regular rules of social conduct don’t apply in this world characterised by so many artificial structures.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about how the storyworld of the Bachieverse is inherently carnivalesque, but let’s save that for some future pre-recap nerdles. I should probably get to telling you what happened in the actual episode.

Even though – spoilers – it’s basically nothing.

We ended last week in a bit of an odd spot: right after the traditional second episode photo shoot date, but before any kind of rose ceremony/cocktail party situation. (A cynical person might suggest that they’re trying to milk every drop of content they have out of their pre-Lockydown material, but… let’s just leave that thought there, shall we.)

This is where we pick up. All the women who were on that date arrive back at the mansion. ‘Oh no!’ they moan to the other women. ‘Today was awful! There was an intruder!’

I’m not sure whether someone can really productively be classed as an intruder when they arrived, what, a day? after everyone else, but… who am I to gainsay their experience? If they call her an intruder, an intruder she is.

All the women further bemoan that Locky and Kaitlyn the intruder have so! much! chemistry!, but I have to confess that I don’t really see it. This is intercut with footage of Locky and Kaitlyn on their one-on-one Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation date, and all they really seem to be doing is telling each other that they’re hot.

But whether or not this means the dictionary definition of ‘chemistry’, it clearly works for them, because when Kaitlyn walks into the cocktail party on Locky’s arm, she’s got a rose.

And the women go apeshit.

Honestly, this all feels a little thin. Sometimes it’s really obvious when the show has wrung every little last drop out of something in the interest of #drama, and this very much seems like one of these situations.

For instance: allow me to explain the central drama of this episode.

(inhale)

So there are a lot of women there because this is only the second rose ceremony and so all of them are thinking about how they can get time with Locky, right? and Areeba – who the show is setting up as a villain but really has more mischievous trickster energy to me – has a plan: she teams up with Kristina and Juliette and is like, ‘let’s make our own group date!’ and they successfully corral Locky like sheepdogs (seriously, it’s very impressive) and sit down with him and he looks a bit like he’s standing in front of the gigantic wind fans they use for Eurovision because he has so little personality and they have SO MUCH and they’re blowing it right at him, but he takes it all with good humour.

(inhale again)

But then when their little improvised group date ends, Juliette slips Locky a little note that she wrote earlier, and even though every woman there is fighting to get time with him he manages to sneak off to the driveway to read it, and he’s like, ‘awww, how nice, she wrote me a letter about how she doesn’t normally wear ballgowns!’ (even though, like, who always wears ballgowns?), so he grabs a rose and jogs back into this cocktail party, and is like, ‘Juliette, I loved your letter! Will you accept this rose?’ and she’s like, ‘OMG yes!’ and is thrilled.

(inhale a third time)

But you know who is not thrilled? Areeba, who was the mastermind of the intra-cocktail party group date plan. ‘Juliette, you have betrayed me and you have betrayed our friendship!’ she declares. ‘You should have told me what you were going to do! but now you did not, and so you are dead to me!’

(collapse, panting)

Look. This is thin. All that stuff I was talking about re the social contract in my nerdle? This is another example of it being violated and how the boundaries are a moving target in the carnivalesque space of the Bachieverse, but as far as examples go, it’s a fairly minor one. It would be interesting as part of an episode – an interstitial segment between ads, perhaps – but this really isn’t enough to be the central narrative spine.

It makes me a little worried about the rest of the season, honestly. They’re clearly trying to stretch their in-mansion content as far as they can, and if they spread their narrative butter on the toast that is an episode any more thinly, it’s not going to taste like anything.

The remainder of the drama of the episode comes from another social contract violation. Bella, you might remember from last episode, already has a rose, but, right near the end of the cocktail party, she grabs Locky for a chat, even though there are women who haven’t talked to him yet.

They show us a bunch of women in tears, but the level of emotion they seem to be displaying at what is really only quite a minor faux pas (as far as I can tell, anyway) seems jarringly disproportionate. I suspect there might be quite a lot of editing happening here.

…or maybe not. If you were going to cut this episode so it made more sense, you’d edit it so they seemed to be upset not so much that Bella and Locky got time together, but that they are macking on again. She’s made out with him twice when everyone else is at zero: now that seems like something to be upset about.

On this: Locky is perhaps the worst Bachelor we’ve ever had in terms of concealing his feelings. It is really, really clear which of the women are his favourites, and Bella is the top of the list like a rocket.

(Is it bad for the suspense inherent in the franchise? Perhaps. Is it quite nice television, and a bit refreshing? Absolutely, yes. There’s something very lovely at watching someone apparently experiencing real feelings in a highly artificial and constructed situation.)

They try and build some drama into the rose ceremony with some music cues which sound like they’ve been stolen from The Weakest Link, but really, nothing of note happens… unless you count the fact that one of the three women Locky eliminates was the woman who entered with her dog.

You fool, you giant oversized river boy. You fool.

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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