RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S8 E12

Love through SEO

Once more unto the Bach, dear friends! It looks like this is indeed our penultimate week, and after a long journey through Paradise and Lockydown, I might finally be able to rest sometime soon.

(LOL. Of course I won’t. They’re already showing promos for The Bachelorette. I’m not going anywhere.)

I wrote a little bit yesterday about what makes a villain in the Bachieverse, and the turn we’re starting to see Bella take. She really steered into it last episode by telling Locky that she thinks Irena is a massive liar, and it nearly cost her a rose, as Locky took her outside to tell her that he didn’t really like that side of her personality.

In my nerdle yesterday, I used Rachel Dubrofsky’s 2009 piece ‘Fallen Women on Reality TV’ to make the point that women are narratively disciplined by the show by displaying emotion which is constructed as inappropriate and/or disproportionate. Not all of them will become villains, but it becomes very clear who’s a contender and who’s not a contender. For instance, last night, Irena told Locky that she’s falling in love with him. This is a display of emotion, but because it’s at an appropriate point in the narrative, it’s constructed as proportionate. If she’d made the same confession in, say, episode 2, then that would have been seen as inappropriate and disproportionate.

I want to build on this a bit and think about what takes a woman from being marginalised by the narrative to actually villainised, as Bella is being here. I’ve got a little theory which builds on Dubrofsky’s: I think that women become villainised when they force the Bachelor to do work which he thinks is not appropriate or proportionate work for him to have to do, especially when that work is emotional.

Roxi is a great example. She was forever requiring work from Locky, whether that meant him abandoning Areeba to comfort her or explaining why he snogged Bella at that cocktail party when he’d been on a date with her that day. In the real world, this would be very sensible and proportionate – indeed, if I went on a date with someone, and they kissed someone else at a party I was at later that night, I’d have some questions. But in the world of the Bachieverse, this is inappropriate work to ask from Locky, and therefore, farewell Roxi.

When Bella told Locky last night about what she thought about Irena, she required work of him in a way that she hasn’t before – and he really hated it. He’s now put in a position of arbiter: he can’t enjoy Bella and Irena as two separate (forgive the wording here) experiences, but instead he has to mediate his experience of one through the lens of the other. That’s hard, and he doesn’t want to do it.

Note that we actually have no idea whether Bella’s arguments are substantial. The show is leading us to think that they are not, but – you know, reality TV, things are not always as they seem. Locky is in the same position as the viewer here: but the thought of having to work seems to be a bit horrifying to him.

This is not always the case. Abbie regularly required work from Dr Space Bachie last season (cf. the eliminations of Monique, Sogand, and Elly), but he seemed to quite enjoy doing it. The narrative, however, still constructed Abbie as a villain, and suggested that the work she was requesting of him was inappropriate and disproportionate – even though he was consenting to the work, so to speak.

In conclusion: work. Dr Space Bachie might have been okay with it, but I don’t think Locky likes it. Let’s see if that holds up in this episode.

We begin with the women gathered round, talking to an obvious producer prompt: what happened when Locky pulled Bella out of the rose ceremony last night?

‘Oh, we just had a little disagreement,’ Bella says airily. ‘It’s so hard when you can’t just text each other the next morning and check if you’re all right, you know?’

I am so exponentially more interested in the communication norms – shifting from mansion to Lockydown and back to mansion – than I am in anything to do with this disagreement.

This is interrupted by Locky coming in with groceries. ‘Let’s have breakfast!’ he declares. ‘BTW, I can’t cook (so I guess you’re making it, girlfriends).’

…I’ll just let you imagine my face.

Breakfast magically appears from somewhere, and the five women and Locky have breakfast in a tableau that looks exactly like the opening credits of Big Love when Osher walks in. ‘It’s the final group date today!’ he announces. ‘You all have to write a toast to your future with Locky, and then the best one will win the final single date!’

I feel like I really need to point out that ‘homework assignment’ =/= ‘date’. This shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but here we are.

I also really want to know what the generic conventions of a toast are, because I’m not sure I know. Do the women get some kind of template? Do they get to look at the rubric that Locky is grading them on?

I still don’t have that clear an idea of what a toast constitutes, because the show edited out the majority of them (my goodness they love nothing more than editing out the interesting bits this season!). My sense is that you could probably approach it like SEO: if you throw in enough of Locky’s buzzwords – ‘adventure’ / ‘mountains’ / ‘outside’ / ‘I absolutely love jumping off cliffs and living in tents’ / ‘Bali’ – then you’d probably win.

What we do see, though, is the conflict between Irena and Bella intensify. This is one of those panopticon dates, where each woman is observed by the others watching on a TV (which seems to be hanging in a frame above the fireplace like it’s a painting most of the time and it’s only sprung to life where sinister surveillance is afoot), and both women are visibly uncomfortable watching the other toasting Locky and their connection.

I wrote a while back about how the show has established a love triangle between Locky, Irena and Bella – quite something, given he also has several other girlfriends. The apex is always the least interesting point of the triangle, but it really bums me out that two women who hitherto seemed relatively sensible are being torn apart by a man this basic with tattoos like those.

They don’t ever actually say that Bella’s won the single date, but clearly she does, because that’s who Locky takes on the final one before hometowns.

And… what is this I see before me?

IS IT A DATE THAT’S ACTUALLY WELL THOUGHT OUT AND MAKES SENSE?!

On their date, Locky and Bella do kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken things with gold and thus making the places things were broken stronger than before. Their relationship is a little battered after the events of the previous episode: this gives them a chance to talk it out.

Yes, it’s a heavy-handed metaphor. But it’s no more heavy-handed than ‘want to fall in love? then how about you fall out of this plane?’. Plus you actually get to have a conversation while you do it instead of just screaming WOOOOOOOO in each other’s approximate vicinity.

Basically, Bella says she doesn’t really want to talk about Irena: she just wants to focus on her relationship with Locky, and she got upset because she felt like they were on the rocks.

‘They don’t like each other, and that’s all right – they don’t have to,’ Locky said. ‘As long as there’s no drama, I’m fine.’

This speaks directly back to that concept of emotional work I nerdled about up top. ‘As long as I don’t have to put any thought or work into it, I’m good’ is effectively what Locky’s saying here.

…suffice it to say that I’m not sure this is the greatest energy to be taking into any romantic relationship.

Bella doesn’t seem to mind, though, because when they get to the Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, she tells Locky she’s falling in love with him, and they have a big ol’ pash and a snuggle.

‘Bella makes me feel things that I haven’t felt for a long time,’ Locky says enthusiastically to the camera, looking like the heart eyes emoji.

(At the beginning of the date, he told the camera that he was a bit mad at Bella, but he always forgot about it when he looked at her eyes. ‘She’s a little shit – can’t wait to see her,’ he said, verbatim. Locky is definitely not my favourite Bachelor of all time, but I do enjoy some of the nuances of his language of love.)

When they walk back into the cocktail party, Bella is clutching a rose. None of the women are especially happy about this, but Irena is particularly bummed out. ‘I really want to be with Locky, but I feel like I can feel him slipping away from me,’ she tells the camera tearfully. ‘Should I just give up now?’

This is overlaid over footage of Locky whisking Bella away to a secret cocktail party couch and snogging her face off, so… maybe?

(I’d put my money on a misdirect, though. This is setting Irena up for a classic underdog triumph narrative.)

The rose ceremony outcome is entirely unsurprising. Bella, Irena, Bec, and Izzy have all had two single dates, and Kaitlyn has had zero, so… farewell, Kaitlyn. I hope she goes on to contribute her dry narration in Paradise, where I really feel like she could blossom.

Next episode: hometowns! How do you do hometowns when there’s a pandemic and most of the state borders are closed? I guess we’re all going to find out…

Also apparently someone asks Locky about his views on feminism. That should be quite something.

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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