RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S8 E09

LOCKYDOWN II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

Welcome back to Lockydown, pals! We’re Zooming into the world of the Bach again for another week.

Somewhat alarmingly, this is our last episode of Lockydown – it looks like next week they’re heading back to the mansion. I know there was some time between them ending the first lot of filming and then picking up in iso, but the fact that they’re already heading back like things are normal? That does not jive with my experience of lockdown at all.

…granted, I live in Melbourne.

It’s a bit of a shame, though, because Lockydown genuinely is the most interesting part of the season. A lot of reality TV formats die after a few seasons because the format gets stale and people get sick of it. Even the well-established formats are often seasonal – think of Big Brother, for instance, which has had several different incarnations in Australia, and certainly hasn’t been running straight through for twenty years.

The Bachelor/ette is particularly interesting as a reality dating show because of its unusual longevity. The US version of The Bachelor started in 2002, The Bachelorette in 2003, and it’s been running ever since. Even in our humble Australian format, we’ve been going for a massive chunk of time: national icon Osher hosted the similarly iconic Australian Idol for its full run of seven seasons, but he’s onto his eighth year of Bachie now. This is a format which has staying power…

…but I think we can all admit that pre-Lockydown – even if we set aside the obvious stretching of content – this wasn’t exactly shaping up to be the freshest or most interesting iteration of the show ever. The #drama between the women seemed unusually manufactured for the most part, and Locky, bless him, seems like a nice enough man but doesn’t really have the skills that some of the better Bachelors have had (I’m thinking particularly of Matty J here, but also Sam Wood and the Space Bachie) in drawing out the most interesting aspects of their potential partners in conversation.

And so Lockydown – difficult as it must have been to pivot to the Zoom format – actually offered the franchise a fascinating opportunity. How do you do a show like The Bachelor when you’re not in a mansion together? When you don’t have the excessive, spectacular trappings of romance, like the fairy lights and the ball gowns and the Couches of Wine and Intimate Conversation and the trees dripping with lanterns? How do you do Big Romance when what you actually have are Small Living Rooms?

This is why I am genuinely bummed that we’re heading back to the mansion so quickly, because I feel like they haven’t even begun to explore the potential answers to this question. There are so many ways to experiment in the love-on-Zoom Lockydown format, so many things that they could try. They haven’t even begun to plumb the depths of the affordances of the format, and to think through the implications of long-distance love (something so familiar to so many couples – and something that many successful Bachie couples have to navigate once they’re off the show, Sam and Snez being the most notable example).

I can understand the desire to return to normal, and to put your Bachelor back in a space where he can pash his multiple girlfriends. But I can’t help but feel that they’re missed a trick here. I’m not anticipating that the rest of this season is going to be especially groundbreaking – I just don’t think we really have the ingredients for it. But this? Lockydown? This is groundbreaking: and even if elements of it didn’t work at least the questions about how they’re going to do are fascinating enough that you want to see them try.

Before I entirely eulogise Lockydown, however, we should check in and see how it plays out tonight. Let’s move on to the recap.

We open tonight with a reprise of Roxi vs Juliette, but I won’t bother recapping it: you can imagine how it went, nothing was new. Plus, it is interrupted fairly quickly by Osher. ‘So we’re really making some progress on this corona thing!’ he announces. ‘Things are starting to open up, so you’ll be able to come back to the mansion next week!’

As someone currently living in Melbourne: absolutely fuck you.

But there’s still a group date to do before then! ‘Roxi, Bella, Steph, Nicole – you’re on the group date today!’ Osher says. ‘But you won’t be the only people! One member of your family will join you on your couch in your extremely obvious AirBnB that is not your real home, and they’ll Zoom into the date too!’

As someone currently lives in Melbourne, whose entire family lives in NSW and who hasn’t seen them since January: ABSOLUTELY FUCK YOU.

Anyway. This is a very obvious reprise of the date where Dr Space Bachie’s friend Kate interrogated the women and their friends interrogated Dr Space Bachie last year, but without any pretence of equity. (Does Locky have no friends that could Zoom into the group date?) However, it is nowhere near as dramatic as the Space Bachie iteration. Here is a brief summary of what we find out:

  • Bella’s mum loves Locky nearly as much as Bella
  • I genuinely mistook Nicole’s sister for a contestant for a while there
  • Steph channelled her own dad in her Daddy persona
  • Roxi has an alterego called Ronda, named after Ronda Rousey, who comes out when she’s drunk and angry.

The four women talk to each other afterwards about how nice it was for their loved ones to talk to Locky. But do you know who did not talk to Locky?

ANY OF THEM!

Imagine this. Imagine you are on The Bachelor. Imagine you are on The Bachelor, and it’s on Zoom. You have so few opportunities to date this man that you’re actually happy about being on a group date.

…but then you don’t talk to him at all? he talks to your mum instead?

Bachie. I say this all the time, but call me, please. If nothing else, we need to have a discussion about what the word ‘date’ means.

(Spoilers: ‘has a chat with potential in-law’ =/= date.)

Afterwards, Roxi Zooms into a chat with Irena for some reason, and is all, ‘ugh, Bella and Bella’s mum basically think she’s married to him!’ This pisses off Irena, who, we might remember, is close friends with Bella. ‘It’s becoming harder and harder to be friends with Bella,’ Irena says. ‘She seems to think she’s the only one Locky is interested in.’

But oh no! the field of women Locky is interested in is getting bigger, not smaller! Because the next day, Osher springs an intruder on Locky for the single date. This is for no good reason that I can see, beyond them panicking and flinging a whole woman at the problem.

Imagine this. Imagine working behind the scenes on The Bachelor. Imagine doing this during Zoom and trying to troubleshoot on the go and it being super hard and you panicking.

Imagine not going ‘hey, Dr Jodi McAlister has offered like fifty times in her recaps to consult with us, and she has a PhD in romance and a strong research track record in the space, including multiple published pieces about our show, and she could definitely provide some very useful input and creative solutions’.

IMAGINE NOT CALLING ME.

Ahem. Solipsistic rant aside, I have another imagination prompt for you.

Imagine this. Imagine you’re in charge of casting for The Bachelor. Imagine that someone has panicked and told you need to add an intruder.

Imagine looking at the nine women you have left, seven of whom are blonde, and saying, ‘ooooh, we’re running low on blondes, better add another one!’

So this intruder is called Bec, she’s basically an amalgam of the seven existing blondes, and Locky falls in love with her on the spot when she layers several of his favourite words and phrases – ‘adventure’, ‘outdoors’, ‘I would be fine living in a tent’ – into her intro video. ‘Bec’s amazing!’ he enthuses.

(If you had to add an intruder, literally the only person who would be interesting to throw in at this point is Locky’s Survivor girlfriend Brooke, who he reportedly ditched to be the Bach.)

(This is the kind of input you could have got if you called me, Bachie.)

(Just fucking call me next time.)

While the women are being introduced to the fact that Bec exists – predictably, they are not exactly thrilled – Bec is on a single date with Locky, wherein ‘single date’ = ‘fairly standard Zoom call’.

They also have a fairly standard conversation, wherein she says more of his favourite words and phrases and he lights up like a Christmas tree, but I have to confess that I tuned out of a lot of it, because I was consumed by the truly enormous cheeseboard sitting behind her. I have an ongoing theory that Locky hates cheese and has banned it on set, but Bec clearly hasn’t been apprised of this.

Locky doesn’t hold Bec’s cheese-love against her, though. He gives Bec a rose, even though he knows how much it’ll upset the nine other women.

Notably, he does this about two seconds after saying his biggest flaw is selfishness. At least the man’s honest.

The women are obviously not thrilled about an intruder sliding into the top ten – especially considering she turns up with a rose – but Bec’s presence isn’t the central drama of the cocktail party. Rather, once again, this is another iteration of Roxi vs Juliette, where Juliette is like ‘so what do you think about Bec being here now, Roxi?’ and Roxi being like, ‘WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH ME? RONDA WILL BE HERE ANY MINUTE!’, and them both rage-quitting the chat.

Imagine this. Imagine you’re cutting together the narrative for this show – in an already challenging season. Imagine planning to build a whole narrative arc around Roxi and Juliette not liking each other.

Imagine giving us exactly zero of the backstory way back when so the entire rest of their multi-episode arc makes basically no sense.

The choices they have made this season, friends. Their ways are mysterious and ineffable.

We finish up with another of those unintentionally hilarious rose ceremonies. (I cannot with the thing where Locky has to repeatedly pick up and put down the same rose, friends. I can’t. It kills me.) But tonight there is a bit of a surprise victim. We say goodbye to triple threat date winner Nicole, the cruise ship dancer who Locky tricked into both abseiling down and climbing up a cliff on the same day.

This is one of those instances where the form of the season – Lockydown, that is – has clearly genuinely affected the outcome. If they’d stayed in the mansion and the season had played out over the usual length of time, instead of this extended period, then I doubt Nicole would have been eliminated here. That three-pronged date would have carried her a little deeper.

But communication is communication at the end of the day: and that lone plate of poorly cooked chips and gravy so many months ago does not hold the significance in Lockydown as it might have in a regular season.

There’s a bright side for Nicole, though. She doesn’t have to return to the mansion, so the chances of Locky surprising her with more cliffs are extremely minimal.

Tomorrow – we’re returning to the mansion too! Catch you then, friends: may you all dream of a world where the franchise made some better (or at least more sensible) choices.

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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