Stay tuned for an upsetting ending
And we’re back! To something resembling normalcy! The fascinating period of Lockydown is over, and we’re back to business as usual.
Business as usual does not reeeeeeeeally seem like it’s going to be that interesting – I wrote a lot about the missed opportunities Lockydown presented in my recap of the most recent episode – so first, I want to begin with an advertisement for something that is interesting (I hope, anyway). I recently appeared on an episode of the podcast Slow Love, where I talked all things romance and research, covering romance fiction, Australian romance culture, my new monograph The Consummate Virgin, and, of course, the Bachieverse. If you like my written takes, probably you’ll like my spoken takes too, so check it out in the pod places.
But let’s get to our nightly nerdle.
One thing that particularly interested me in Lockydown was the framing of the Bachelor mansion as the site of romance. When Bel and Nicole were eliminated, Osher told each of them solemnly that they would not be returning to the mansion. Returning to the mansion was a constant impetus through the Lockydown episodes. There wasn’t really a sense that Lockydown would something that would persist over the season – that there would be Lockydown hometowns, a Lockydown final breakup and declaration. Rather, it would clear that for any of the love stories to continue to develop, they must return to the mansion: these periods of isolation were strictly interim measures.
I wrote a lot last night about how the interim measures are the most interesting part of this season, and I wish they’d been in place a little longer, but let’s come at this from another angle and think about what it means that the mansion was positioned so strongly as the only location where romance could take place.
I’ve quoted many times in these recaps from Misha Kavka, who describes shows like The Bachelor/ette as ‘second generation’ reality TV shows, which intervene with rather than strictly document reality (2012). The structures of the show are clearly artificial, even though all the characters are real people. Reality is positioned ‘as something that lies “before” the participants, that is, in the participants’ future as a result of the interventions of the reality TV apparatus’ (Kavka 2012, 113).
The mansion is the site of that intervention. It is the locus of all these artificial structures. So much of the show is not possible without those structures, that format. As Lockydown showed, many of these structures – the group dates, the single dates, the cocktail parties, the rose ceremonies – can be replicated digitally, but still: the setting was somehow too real.
To frame this slightly differently: coronavirus impinged on the season in way that was very recognisable and very realistic. We all recognised a lot of the pandemic tropes and moods evident. But that recognition may have been, to an extent, a problem. Part of the reason we like The Bachelor is because of its familiar artificiality: there’s something quite comforting about that. We know what those big spectacular artificial rituals should look like, with the fairy lights and the couches and whatnot.
And so of course the show forcibly positioned Lockydown as interim – even though, as those of us in Victoria know all too well, it could feasibly have stretched on much longer. It was too real: an intrusion of the real on the show’s determined artificiality. Reality is only supposed to exist after the show, not during it.
So let’s have a look at the return to artificiality and dive into what happened on the return to the mansion.
We begin with an Osher monologue in which he basically tells us that Locky is so horny – SO HORNY! – that his horniness has overcome a global pandemic, allowing everyone to return to the mansion. You can’t stop a giant overgrown river boy when he wants to make out with nine girlfriends, covid or no covid.
What follows is a kind of truncated first night red carpet – a soft reboot of the premiere, if you will. We already know all the characters, so there’s no need to do another dramatis personae, but I would like to note that nearly all the women are wearing sequins, and they look amazing. I would also like to note that if you’re relegated to the montage in a soft reboot it’s probably not a great sign, so… sorry, Steph, Maddy, Kaitlyn.
Inside the cocktail party, we also return to very well-trodden ground, in that it becomes immediately clear that a) pretty much this whole fucking episode is going to be a cocktail party again (WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY), and b) the producers are still determined to lean on Roxi vs Juliette as their primary source of conflict. Yet another argument between the two about absolutely nothing kicks off, and… look, I can’t even recap it, there’s nothing to recap, truly, it’s so pointless. Just know that they’re arguing.
Also on the outs are Irena and Bella. The reasons here aren’t terribly clear, but Bella seems to be upset that Irena is openly admitting that she’s dating Locky. Like, when they were in Lockydown and the two of them would chat on the phone, Irena would mention that she’d spoken to Locky. The guy she’s dating.
I – um – well. It says something that the logic in this still makes more sense than whatever the fuck is going on with Roxi and Juliette.
I also wonder whether this might be the start of a villain edit for Bella: which would genuinely be very interesting, especially at this point in the season, and especially because it’s been made so, so clear that she’s winning this thing. Irena has been the only real potential competition, but even then that love story has seemed to pale in comparison (or at least in textual emphasis), so this seems like it could be the beginning of a genuinely interesting twist.
Although maybe Irena isn’t Bella’s only real competition. Locky finally gets to meet intruder Bec IRL, and he seems pretty smitten.
…that said, I’m not 100% convinced of the level of Locky’s object permanence, so he might just seem smitten with whoever’s in front of his face at a given moment.
Back to Bella and Irena, though. Irena tells us that she’s missed Bella, and so she pulls her aside to have a chat. What we get is something like this:
BELLA: Um, you lied to me about Locky calling you?
IRENA: Um… he did call me?
BELLA: But you texted him first?
IRENA: …he still called me tho?
BELLA: But he told me that you were texting him all the time?
IRENA: …yes, but he still called me, that is a thing that happened?
BELLA: I can’t with you, you’re such a liar, I thought we were friends!
Exit Bella, pursued by a few other women in sequins, some of whom surely must be as confused about this Year Nine bullshit as I am. Irena certainly seems nonplussed, and… look, fair enough, but surely both of them should have realised that mediating information through their shared boyfriend was probably never going to end well.
So: our stage is set, our conflicts established, and Osher is here to raise the stakes. He whips out a date card, and tells the women that Locky will be giving it out – for the first IRL single date since Lockydown – at this cocktail party.
…but then the stakes aren’t that stake-y, because Locky gives the date card to Bec almost immediately. (Extenuating circumstances, I know, but is this the first time that someone has got two single dates in a row?)
So back on the whirligig of conflict we go. Roxi spends some time telling Locky how he was a real dick to kiss Bella at that cocktail party right after their single date (which is a few episodes ago for us, but actually months in in-universe time), and then some more time telling him she’s over it (‘I don’t think she’s over it,’ Locky tells the camera, because even though he doesn’t seem like the most emotionally literate man ever, this isn’t really hard to read).
And then later, when Roxi’s sitting on the couch, Juliette has the audacity to… exist near her? seriously, it’s very unclear what about Juliette is setting her off, but off Roxi is set. ‘I CAN’T DO THIS!’ she declares. ‘I CAN’T BE IN THE SAME PLACE AS THIS BITCH! I’M LEAVING!’
Juliette watches after Roxi, bemused, as she struggles out the door with her bags. ‘She left because of me?’ she says. ‘Um, thanks for burying yourself in your own bullshit, I guess.’
This season has been so confusing, friends. I’m so tired.
And it’s going to get more confusing! Because… it’s the next day now! Bam! Snap! Immediately! No rose ceremony, no input from Locky on Roxi’s exit, just… the next day.
‘Oh yeah, it was a bummer that Roxi left, but I’m psyched for my date with Bec!’ Locky exclaims.
They’ve spent no less than eight episodes building up this Roxi arc, friends. And then they just… ended it five minutes before the end of an episode, and segued into the next section like it was nothing.
I understand they’ve had challenges putting this season together, but come on, Bachie. Surely – surely! – you can do better than this.
But to Bec and Locky’s date we must go. It’s whitewater rafting. He’s all, ‘I’m a pro at this!’ and she’s like, ‘I’ve done this once!’ and they raft around and he barks instructions at her and then she falls out and he yanks her back in with one of his massive arms and they pash.
I know Locky is an adventure man, so doing all these adrenaline dates make sense, but instructor/instructee is among the least sexy dynamics I can imagine. Word to the wise: if you ever try and teach me something on a date and I have not explicitly consented to being taught, there will be fucking trouble.
They seem to have a nice time, though. They progress to a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, and talk about how much they like each other and how much they like outdoorsy things like camping, and… look, I’ll level with you, I missed most of this conversation, because I was reeling at the fact that Locky described what they were drinking as ‘warm gin’.
It was a hot toddy.
Can you think of a phrase more upsetting than that?
And that was the end of the episode. Not only did the structure make a truly miniscule amount of narrative sense, it also ended on fucking warm gin.
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