Love triangles and basic narrative truths
It’s Bachie time again! We barely escaped one cocktail party last night, and I’m pretty sure we’re about to get launched back into another one post-haste (the last one before Lockydown? let’s wait and see…).
One of the things that was briefly teased last night during Irena’s date with Locky is that she’s swiftly become Bachie BFFs with Bella, she who went on the first date way back in episode 2. I’m not sure I actually mentioned it in my recap last night – I was too distracted by the agonisingly extended episode where they made Locky and Irena jerk off a champagne bottle – but trust me, it happened.
That’s what I want to nerdle about tonight. It sounds weird to say that they’re setting up a love triangle on a show like The Bachelor, where obviously the love geometry is much more complicated (is it a love cone? one single point at the top and then an infinite number of points on the radius of the circle beneath? explain this for me, mathematicians), but that’s essentially what it looks like the show wants to do, by exploring the dynamics of Bella and Irena’s friendship through the lens of their shared romantic attraction to Locky. So let’s talk about this a little bit.
A lot of the scholarship on love triangles focuses on triangles where the apex is a woman and the two potential lovers are men, but I think we can mostly flip this without too (two, lol) much drama, at least for the aspects of it I want to discuss. Perhaps the most famous theorist of the love triangle is Eve Kosofsky Segwick, who writes in Between Men that ‘[t]he bond that links the two rivals is as intense and potent as the bond that links either of the rivals to the beloved… the bonds of “rivalry” and “love,” differently as they are experienced, are equally powerful and in many senses equivalent’ (1985, 21).
To put this another way: when a love triangle is set up, it functions in that way because the bond between the two rivals is both as strong and interesting – if not moreso – than the bond between either rival and the potential partner. That’s why we can call what the show is setting up between Locky, Irena and Bella a love triangle, even though there’s obviously many more romantic options available to Locky than just the two of them: the bond between Bella and Irena is the most interesting and complex part of the equation.
This seems like a very long and complicated way to say ‘hey, the dynamic between the rivals is actually the most interesting part of a love triangle’. But I think there’s also another dimension here in the Love Cone realm of the Bachieverse. While a lot of emphasis is placed on civility between the contestants, especially in this early stage of the competition, the impetus of the show is in essence a selfish one. You might come across as a villain if you explicitly say you’re not there to make friends, but at the end of the day… you’re not there to make friends, you know? The oft-touted ‘right reasons’ are really only one reason: to find love with the Bach.
Given this, one would think that the narrative focus of a season would be on the growing romances between Bach and contestant. However, over and over again, we see intra-contestant conflict become the focus. Perhaps the people behind the scenes have been reading a little too much Sedgwick: they’ve internalised the notion that the relationship between the rivals is the most interesting thing a little too deeply.
But how are Bella and Irena going to remain friends when everyone goes into Lockydown? (Real talk: I’m genuinely more invested in their friendship than I am in either being with Locky at the present moment, much as I usually advocate for more focus on the romance.) Let’s dive into another episode and trudge through another cocktail party so we can find out.
We begin tonight with a group date that is stunningly well-designed. Like, SHOCKINGLY well-designed. Long-time readers of these recaps will know that I am regularly very critical of how these are put together (which is why I regularly enjoin the show to hire me, Dr Jodi McAlister, PhD in romance, as a date consultant), but this one rules.
Essentially, it’s a human chess game. I was a bit iffy at first – most literary representations of human chess are very violent, eg. Alice Through The Looking Glass, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – but this is great. The rules are a little complex, but basically: if you and Locky have the same answer to a basic compatibility question (eg. ‘have you ever sent a nude?’), then you move forward a square. There are also some squares you can land on where you get the opportunity to move other players back on the board.
Great! Hurray! The premiere aside, there’s been so little to enjoy in this season! Finally –
AHAHAHAHAHA NO WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE NICE THINGS, FRIENDS.
You know what they do with this beautifully designed date, which gives us a wonderful opportunity to get to know Locky and the contestants in considerably more depth than has hitherto been possible?
THEY FUCKING CUT OUT 90% OF THE QUESTIONS.
Literally. They just show people saying ‘yes’, ‘no’, etc without actually showing the questions, and focus instead on Roxi and Areeba trying to fuck each other over.
You know I love Areeba, pals, but this is OUTRAGEOUS. There have been some major failures of narrative construction in this season, but this one hurt.
Eventually, a contestant we’ve never seen before called Gemma wins. She and Locky have some awkward time on a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation where she tries to tell him about being a beauty queen and he isn’t interested, and he tries to tell her about base jumping and she isn’t interested.
(In fact, Gemma refers to it as ‘Space Jumping’, and I’m choosing to believe she’s referring to the iconic theatre sports game, which probably provides about the same adrenaline rush as all of Locky’s favourite cliff-related activities. Someone should try the Capilano Suspension Bridge Experiment with theatre sports.)
And that’s the end of that date. They had a fucking perfect opportunity to dive really deep into a lot of the characters – even more perfect, given the fact they need to stretch their footage over multiple episodes! – and they threw it away like it was trash garbage.
Call me, Bachie. I say this a lot, but truly: call me. You need me.
Next: it’s time for another. fucking. cocktail party.
You might remember Charley from episode one – one of the few people to recognise Locky from Survivor, and who likes to swear on her eyebrows as her object held most sacred. She pulls off what is, in my estimation, a massive flex in this cocktail party: she makes Locky get into a mud bath with her.
Despite the formalwear! Despite the fact there’s a million other contestants! Despite the fact that we’re all still scarred from the chocolate bath incident! Truly, I have to respect Charley’s game.
Predictably, though, the other women aren’t happy with the fact that Charley has taken their besuited Bach and spent ages rubbing mud in his hair and on his abs. However, she isn’t the target of the majority of ire this episode…
Remember Kaitlyn, the intruder (if you can call someone who came in in Episode 2 such a thing)? She’s one of Areeba’s girl gang, and she tells them what she has planned for that evening: she wants to kiss Locky.
And she does! It’s not much of a kiss – more of a peck – but it happens. And it sends Roxi spiralling biiiiiiiiig time.
I have to assume that no one knows about the fact that Locky and Bella were pashing on (pretty hardcore) at the cocktail party a few – episodes ago? I can’t remember any more, everything is one long cocktail party to me now. If they did know, then this reaction is deeply disproportionate. Bella’s still cast as a fairytale princess, but Roxi is trying to position Kaitlyn as, in her words, ‘Gold Coast trash’.
Let’s put a pin in this for a second, because there’s another thing making Roxi mad. You might remember that yesterday, Irena defeated Locky in a swordfight, he helped her jerk off a champagne bottle, and then she got a rose. Despite all this, he still wants to spend time with her and the cocktail party, and seeks her out to whisk her away.
This upsets not just Roxi, but Bella. ‘Irena is my best friend in the house, and I’m happy for her,’ she sobs. ‘But Locky hasn’t looked at me once tonight!’
When Irena gets back from her (admittedly quite sweet) time with Locky, she spends the remainder of her time comforting Bella. ‘I love you,’ she tells Bella.
‘I love you too,’ Bella weeps.
They bond a lot about how they’re in a unique position, because only they can understand what it is to have such a strong connection with Locky, but… look. All that theory I dropped from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in my nerdle before? Sedgwick also theorises that the homosocial bond between romantic rivals can easily blur into a homosexual one.
To put this another way: if this season ends with Bella and Irena riding off into the sunset together, I will forgive all its (many) sins.
But back to all the Roxi shit. She is still fuming at Kaitlyn, and it boils over. ‘You need to leave!’ she yells at her. ‘You and your fake hair, your fake lashes, fake tits – get out!’
Kaitlyn’s response is ‘I don’t care’.
And honestly? Neither do I.
Like, I get that they had to screen this. When you’ve got contestants screaming at each other, you’ve got to. Conflict is the heart of narrative, and so they have to show conflict. I spend my life studying and teaching narrative theory. I understand this.
But I also understand that when a show is called ‘The Bachelor’ and is supposed to culminate in an emotionally satisfying love story, you should probably spend some time featuring the, um, Bachelor?
Let’s be real. I was probably never going to be particularly emotionally invested in Locky. But I definitely can’t be invested in the love story of a man I never see. By showcasing all of this here, they’re effectively hamstringing themselves later on, when they need to deliver on the emotional promise of the romance narrative.
And this is especially the case when you consider the fact this whole show is about to go on Zoom! Locky is necessarily going to be the focus! You can’t just ignore him for functionally six episodes and expect me to care! This is Narrative 101! I need to care about the protagonist if I’m going to care about the story!
Speaking of Zoom – let’s rush through this rose ceremony, because there’s an important plot point coming at its conclusion. It’s mostly business as usual, but we do farewell some characters who have been strongly featured: Rosemary (the penguin) and Kristina (a PhD candidate who has mostly served as Areeba’s 2IC, and god would I like to know what field she’s studying in).
But then Osher re-enters. ‘Ladies, Locky,’ he says. ‘There’s something important I need to tell you.’
Can we call the pandemic we’ve all been living through for six months a cliffhanger?
Either way: that’s where we leave it. Catch you next Wednesday for Lockydown, friends.
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