If you show a chilli in the first act, surely Locky should have eaten it by the third act
It’s hometowns time, pals! Perhaps mercifully, we’re being put out of our misery early this year: this is the penultimate episode of this godforsaken season.
I am not alone in thinking that this has been an Extremely Not Good season of The Bachelor. We’ve suffered through some seasons with unappealing Bachies before – we all still bear the scars from the dread reign of the Honey Badger – but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a season waste opportunities quite as liberally as this season.
Obviously there were unique challenges to be faced. The impact of the pandemic on the show is massive, and has skewed the regular time-frames enormously. Dealing with that push and pull of the temporal issues at play was clearly a huge problem. How do you craft a narrative when you’re desperately trying to pack content into a tiny space of time, trying to beat border closures and second waves? How do you craft a narrative when your protagonists are isolated from each other, and their only modes of communication are digital, and that time apart from each other stretches out and out and out?
The Bachieverse isn’t the only form of media that’s had to deal with the impact of the pandemic (I mean, obviously, this goes without saying). Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that one of the true loves of my life is soap opera – in particular, The Bold and the Beautiful, which I’ve watched religiously since the late 1990s. Like the Bachieverse, there’s a certain inevitability and reliability to soaps. We know that every year, Osher is going to be introducing us to a new Bachelor and Bachelorette, and we’ll walk through the show’s same structures again and again. Soaps are the same, only more: you know that come hell or high water, they’ll be there on your screens every weekday of the year, for decades and decades and decades, walking through the same kinds of stories again and again.
Not this year, though. It’s been on the air since 1987, but The Bold and the Beautiful, like every other show in the universe, had to stop filming because of the pandemic. For a couple of months, the audience were treated to something which never, ever happens in the world of soap: re-runs.
For obvious reasons, most shows are still not back on the air. Bold, however, is: it was, to the best of my knowledge, the first show to start filming again, and we’re now a couple of months deep into new episodes.
Now, I haven’t told you all this just because I love The Bold and the Beautiful with all my heart and soul and talking about it is one of my favourite things to do (although this is true, and if you ever want to talk soaps, you know where to find me). I’m telling you this because Bold has successfully done something that I don’t think the Bach was really brave enough to do this year: they innovated.
The show is filmed socially distanced: all the actors have to remain six feet apart at all times. At first, they were planning to take all the snogging out, but they pretty quickly realised that it’s hard to work in a genre like soap without snogging, so they put in place some workarounds. The one that has gotten the most press is their use of mannequins, but the one I’m most interested in is their use of body doubles. When they want to shoot a particularly important kiss scene, they’ll bring in the actors’ IRL partners and use them as kiss doubles, shooting over the shoulder so you can’t see their faces.
And this has clearly forced them to think about what a kiss scene should do and achieve and communicate. When it’s a fairly incidental kiss, then, sure, they just bust out the mannequin and put a new wig on it. But when they need to communicate something big, they bring in the body doubles. I tweeted a little bit about this socially distanced pash between the characters of Steffy Forrester (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) and Dr John Finnegan (Tanner Novlan) this week, where they brought in Novlan’s wife Kayla Ewell (herself ex-Bold – she played Caitlin Ramirez in the mid-00s) to be Steffy’s body double. This was Steffy and Finn’s first kiss, and it needed to communicate a lot of things: their shy, slightly awkward attraction to each other, their curiosity about each other, and the growing intimacy between them. They had to be very deliberate in the shots they chose – and, in my opinion, it worked great.
Now, obviously I’m not suggesting that the Bachieverse needs to get in body doubles or break out the mannequins – the problems of soaps filmed in the US are not the problems of the Bach filmed in the relatively more COVID-safe Australia. But the lesson here that the Bachieverse needs to take is commitment. You’re in challenging circumstances, sure: but how can you turn those challenges into opportunities?
For better or worse, Lockydown was always going to be the most interesting part of this season. It would have been a huge challenge, sure, but it’s also a point of interest – and a chance to innovate and think about what you really want to communicate, what points of the format you really need to replicate, and what the unique affordances of that kind of virtual environment are. For me, the biggest failure of this season hasn’t been that Locky is not terribly compelling as a romantic hero, or even that they keep cutting out the inciting incidents of the various narratives they’re setting up and forcing everyone to rely on So Dramatic! to work out WTF is going on. Rather, it’s been a dramatic failure of imagination – of clinging so hard to the old and trying to replicate it that they’ve missed the truly interesting parts about doing a dating show in our uncomfortable new world.
So… have they demonstrated any further imagination in tonight’s hometowns episode, usually a staple of the format? Let’s get recapping and find out.
It’s kind of hard to tell how much imagination they’ve put in because once again they have refused to give much information about the mechanics of how this works (a subject a million times more interesting than most of the other shit this season). I’m guessing that they’ve flown in families where they can and put them up in AirBnBs around Sydney, but… JUST TELL ME, UGH.
There’s always a little activity that the contestant makes the Bach do before they meet the fam, and in Izzy’s case, it’s yoga.
I may not ever forgive her for this. Not because I object to yoga – I have become a lockdown devotee of Yoga With Adriene – but because she makes Locky strip down and put on yoga pants and I just don’t want to look at his BLOOD AND SAND tattoo or see the top of his Bonds undies hanging out any more. No thank you.
(He does apparently have a third nipple, tho? I couldn’t tell if he was joking – and I don’t think Izzy could either – but that seems like it might be one for the record books, if they’re keeping a list of Bachies With Third Nipples.)
Locky is bad at yoga, but Izzy doesn’t mind. ‘I can’t wait for you to meet my family,’ she enthuses. ‘My mum, and my other mum, and my cousin!’
‘All women?’ Locky asks.
‘All women,’ Izzy confirms.
All fucking legends, more like. As soon as the family portion of the date begins, Izzy’s cousin takes her aside and her mums are like, ‘SO HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FEMINISM, LOCKY?!’
‘Um…’ Locky says.
‘HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MONOGAMY?’
‘IF IT DOESN’T WORK OUT, WILL YOU GIVE IZZY YOUR SPERM?’
Locky starts to sweat.
The mums later tell the camera that Locky is perfect! and gave all the right answers! but I feel like they’ve correctly diagnosed that he’s ‘given the right answers’ rather than ‘told the truth’. I also feel like they got drunk one night and put together a list of conversation topics most likely to make a mediocre straight white man uncomfortable, and: ten out of ten, ladies. Well done.
After the date, Izzy and Locky get a little moment to themselves. ‘I could really see myself falling in love with you,’ Izzy says, and they smooch.
I do not want to doubt her earnestness, but I do want to point out that this is about as far as you can get from ‘I love you’ while still including the word ‘love’ in an affirmative sentence.
Irena meets Locky in the middle of the forest (ie. the second of their dates in which, if someone asked you on such a date in the real world, you would assume they wanted to murder you). ‘I’ve brought Locky here today because I love hiking!’ she enthuses.
It’s a stunning piece of passive aggression. Somewhere, Bella is fuming.
The date itself is not very interesting. They pash under a waterfall, it looks like a shampoo commercial, they pash some more, etc. What’s more interesting is what happens when they walk back out of the forest. Osher appears out of nowhere and tells them that Melbourne has gone into COVID lockdown again, and so Irena’s family won’t be able to join them.
The way this season exists in relationship to time is so interesting. This isn’t just because the timeframe of the season itself has changed – although that’s very interesting – but also because it tells us a lot about the ways in which the pandemic has changed the way we measure and remember time. There’s a lot of theory on time and narrative, but the TL;DR reason is that we measure time primarily by events, rather than by units (‘narrative time’ or ‘human time’ vs ‘clock time’). Measuring things in respect to COVID waves is a perfect example of this.
Back to Irena and Locky: they bust out the ol’ LOCKYDOWN laptops and do a Zoom hometown, most of which is spent in conversation between Locky and Irena’s brother, while she and her parents just… do other things in the background, I guess.
Irena’s brother is a hardass, and is all, ‘I USE A PITCHFORK TO CHASE BOYS AWAY FROM MY SISTER!’ (I doubt any of my brothers read this, but word to the wise, boys: this is not cool.) Locky is sweating almost as badly as he did with the feminist questions, but gradually he wins the brother over by saying that he’s never seen a future in a romantic relationship before but he sees one with Irena.
Then they pash, Irena’s all, ‘I love you!’, and Locky is like, ‘wow, having four girlfriends really is tricky, whatever am I going to do,’ etc.
This one isn’t especially eventful. Bec and Locky meet on a beach, where she tries to teach him how to stand-up paddleboard. He is bad at it, but she is good, which I have to assume is a low-key audition for Paradise.
Bec’s mum loves Locky (her name is Jodi, which leads to Locky uttering the cursed phrase ‘me and Jodi have kicked it off’ – NO THANK YOU, SIR), but her brother is a bit more suspicious. ‘You were on Survivor,’ he says. ‘That show is all about lying. Why should we assume you’re telling the truth here?’
The fact that it has taken thirteen episodes for someone to bring up this obvious intertextual problem is yet another failing of this season.
The date ends, Bec and Locky kiss, the usual. ‘I’ve never been in love before, but I could see myself falling in love with you,’ she tells him.
‘Hmmm,’ Locky wonders. ‘If she’s never been in love, is she ready for it?’
This is clearly a nail in Bec’s coffin, but let’s be real: Bec came in five minutes ago, she was never winning this.
Bella and Locky meet in another very obvious AirBnB. ‘I thought we’d cook for tonight!’ Bella announces.
The camera pans to a whole lot of chillis sitting on the table. Locky visibly begins to sweat.
I thought these would be Chekhov’s chillis, but at no point was Locky forced to eat one. Instead, his discomfort came from another source. He and Bella were macking on when Bella’s family walked in, and her dad in particular was not a fan, to say the least.
At dinner, Locky weathers the usual round of ‘so this situation: pretty fucked, right?’ questions before Bella’s dad pulls him aside for a more intense round of questioning.
There are two things about this which are particularly interesting:
- Bella’s dad is a Survivor fan, and so he has some actual insight and knowledge into just how many people Locky has publicly dated, not least his Survivor girlfriend Brooke.
- His name is Steve, and he describes himself as a human lie detector.
Afterwards, we get a very tearful, very meta love confession from Bella to Locky. ‘I know you can’t say it back!’ she weeps on his shoulder. ‘But the thought that you might not know how I feel kills me!’
‘There, there,’ he says, hugging her. ‘I know how you feel.’
‘I do love you – immensely!’ Bella declares.
That’s a verbatim quote, by the way. I don’t especially want to criticise the way anyone expresses their feelings, but who knew Bella was a heroine from a nineteenth century sensation novel?
The biggest surprise at this rose ceremony is how fast they’re bailing out the ship. Locky has to cut not one but two women, because they’re going straight to the finale without even bothering with a top three.
It is not at all surprising who he picks. You don’t have to be a Bach genius to work out that this was always going to come down to Bella vs Irena in the end.
(I would like to point out, though, that I did call it, all the way back in the premiere. Gotta claim the credit where the credit is due.)
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