I love ya, I love ya, I love ya (but bye)
We made it, pals! Through dangers untold, hardships unnumbered, a pandemic, Lockydown, and two fewer episodes than normal: we’ve made it to The Bachelor finale.
We’ve known since the beginning of the season how this was going to end, because it was in literally every ad: Locky in love with two women. The only mystery was which two women it would be… although after the premiere, the mystery was taken right out of that.
The previews last night showed Locky very explicitly telling both Bella and Irena that he’d fallen in love with them. This is something that has never happened in the Australian franchise before. As some scholarship in Continuum by a little-known academic called Jodi McAlister contends, the Australian Bachelor franchise is characterised by a comparative hesitancy around the use of the word ‘love’. It’s generally only used by the Bach in that final declaration scene, where they finally confess their feelings to the winner, and even then, it’s usually only uttered once. As that little-known academic argues, the utterance of ‘I love you’ is,
constructed as a moment in which the Bachelor/ette is finally able to overcome the narrative structures of the show and admit that which they had previously been prohibited from admitting. […] …it establishes that what the Bachelor/ette feels for the winner is ‘different [and] unique’ ([Illouz] 1997, 117). The utterance of ‘I love you’ (said by the Bachelor/ette at least once in every Australian scene in the corpus) becomes the end of the narrative and the beginning of reality (Kavka 2012, 113). In this sense, ‘I love you’ functions as what J.L. Austin calls a performative utterance, in that it does something to the world (1975; see also Fletcher 2008, 26) (McAlister 2018, 650-51).
To put this another way: ‘I love you’ really fucking means something in the Australian franchise when it comes from the Bachie’s mouth. They’re words that change reality, because they signal that a relationship between the Bach and the winning contestant can now commence, because the reality TV ‘journey’ is over.
But this is not what we’re going to see with Locky tonight, because we know he’s going to say these words to both Irena and Bella. In at least one of these cases, he’s going to say ‘I love you’ and it will not change reality: undercutting the ways in which these words have hitherto operated in the Australian franchise.
If we look to the US, we can observe multiple Bachies who have said ‘I love you’ to more than one person: for instance, Ben Higgins, Rachel Lindsey, Arie Luyendyk Jr (who really muddied the waters by saying ‘I love you’ to his winner Becca Kufrin and his runner-up Lauren Burnham, and then dumping Becca for Lauren a few weeks later). American Bachies also tend to utter the word ‘love’ a whole bunch more in their final declaration scenes: by my calculations, about three times more. I argued, therefore, that ‘I love you’ is not a performative utterance in the US like it is in Australia, but rather a ‘constative utterance – it says something, rather than does something’ (McAlister 2018, 651). These words do not change reality like they do in Australia: rather, symbolic objects (a final rose, usually an engagement ring) need to be exchanged to signal that the reality TV phase is over and an IRL relationship is about to commence.
This leaves us with a couple of questions. The first is this: given that he’s going to drop the L-bomb to two women, how is Locky going to signal that what he feels for the winner is Real True Love as opposed to Random Other Love? are we going to see some kind of special object exchange? some other manoeuvre?
And the second question, which we won’t be able to answer tonight, is this: what are the implications for the franchise going forward?
For all its faults, this season has been a special season. I wrote a little bit about the challenges of time in this season last night, and we can’t escape from that: because of the impact of the pandemic, Locky has known Bella and Irena for much longer than most other Bachies have known their contestants in the past, which leaves room for stronger feelings and attachments to have developed. Will his double utterance of ‘I love you’ be waved off as an aberration because of the unique circumstances of this season?
…or are we going to see Australia walking down the same path as the US, getting increasingly more comfortable with tossing the L-word around, meaning I’m going to have to write a sequel to my Continuum article?
Let’s not hesitate. Let’s get into our final adventure with sentient boulder Locky and see how he navigates this fraught ILY territory.
The finale always begins with the final two contestants meeting the Bach’s family. In this case, the role of family is being played by Locky’s mum, who I instinctively liked, because she has very ‘ugh, my large trash son’ energy.
And: oh my goodness! a second thing that I like?
I’ve been writing a lot about how they haven’t innovated with the format this season as much as they should have, but they’ve rolled out quite a fun little innovation here, just under the wire. Normally, the contestants meet the family separately, but here, Bella and Irena have to meet Locky’s mum together.
It’s very revealing, in that it paints in broad strokes that an audience can understand. Irena’s response to awkward situations is to go quiet, while Bella’s is to just talk and talk and talk. ‘I’m really happy to be here with Locky!’ she says. ‘I’m so happy to be here right now! Not that thrilled to be here with Irena, because we were good friends and now we can’t stand each other, but it’s so nice to meet you, Locky’s mum!’
The number one thing Locky’s mum seems to be looking for is someone who can ‘stand up’ to Locky (part and parcel of her ‘ugh, my large trash son’ energy: she doesn’t seem to have an especially high opinion of him and his decisions). Bella, she decides, is the more confident, whereas he might walk over Irena…
…but when Locky asks her for her opinion, she just says they’re both great, and refuses to pick a side.
‘What am I supposed to do now?’ Locky says plaintively.
He has one more date with each woman to work out what he wants to do.
‘Remember how you love the outside?’ Locky exclaims to Irena. ‘Time for another outside date!’
I wonder just how much Irena regrets telling him this. Even if she genuinely is a lover of the outside, surely Locky’s made her sick of it by now.
Some context: usually they go out of the country for the finale (eg. South Africa last year), but obviously there’s a pandemic, so they’re in the Hunter Valley. If you don’t know much about the Hunter: it’s a beautiful wine district, featuring over 150 wineries (wine wanker interruption: I’m a big fan of Hunter Valley verdelho in particular, so give it a try if you get a chance).
So we’re in a beautiful wine district. Irena’s wearing a beautiful outfit. But what does Locky make her do?
GO OFF-ROADING IN A GIANT JEEP THING AND DO BURNOUTS IN MUD PUDDLES.
I’m so angry on her behalf, friends. So angry.
Sure, she seems like she enjoys it. She and Locky are very cuddly when they snuggle up (ON A TARP IN THE MUD NEXT TO A POND) and he’s like, ‘my mum was a bit worried that you won’t be able to say no to me,’ and she’s like, ‘oh, don’t worry, I can say no to you’, but she’s NOT EXACTLY FILLING ME WITH CONFIDENCE ON ACCOUNT OF THE FACT SHE HASN’T SAID NO TO THE ENTIRE CONCEPT OF THIS DATE.
(Look, I’m obviously projecting here. Maybe Irena truly does love mud puddles! But… there are so many nice wineries in the Hunter, and this is where he’s brought her?)
Later that night, they soak in a hot tub together. ‘The thought of not being with you in the end kills me,’ Irena tells Locky. ‘I’m never the girl that gets picked, and the thought that that might happen again… I love you, Locky.’
‘I love you too,’ he replies.
L-bomb count: 1.
(Actually, a correction: he says ‘I’ve been falling in love with ya’. It’s hard to capture the flavour of dialogue in recaps sometimes, but I feel like that nuance is important.)
Bella’s date is not as offensive to me as Irena’s, although I would like to point out that they still go to zero wineries. She and Locky go in a chopper and fly high above the Hunter, marvelling at its beauty.
The chopper is a Bach classic, and I suppose they’ve had limited opportunities to bust it out this year. But why would you take to the skies when there are so many lovely wineries on the ground?
Locky does tell Bella that he’d rather stay in the helicopter with her than jump out of it, though. There’s some high praise right there.
There’s a little interlude where they listen to a classical orchestra plunked in the middle of a paddock (I would like to point out that outdoor classical music post-chopper was literally the first date in Dr Space Bachie’s season last year, I see you recycling, Channel 10, just fucking CALL ME) before Locky’s like, ‘hey Bella – remember how way back in Episode One you told me to wear my heart on my sleeve? how about you roll up my sleeve?’
She does. I LOVE YOU, he’s written there.
L-bomb count: 2.
The immediate thing that struck me about this is that it’s clearly premeditated. This made me suspect producer intervention, probably for reasons of suspense. If he said ‘I love you’ to Irena and not Bella, there’d be no suspense, so it had to be evened out.
But if it really was just for production reasons, then Locky is genuinely being a bit of a dick later that night. ‘Tell me what you see us doing next year,’ he asks Bella. ‘Next three years. Next five years.’
‘I don’t care,’ she says steadfastly, staring into his eyes as they float around in a pool together (yes, they jammed as many Bachie classic dates as they could on this one date). ‘I don’t care what we do, as long as we’re together.’
‘I love you,’ he says, and the pashing, it is on.
‘I feel like I’ve already won,’ Bella tells the camera. ‘He wouldn’t tell me he loves me and then pick someone else… right?’
I feel like you can see where this is going.
They make a big song and dance about Locky breaking down and weeping about how he loves both women and how neither of them deserve to have their heart broken and how hard his choice is, but I don’t think the edit was particularly subtle re which way he was going to go.
‘Hi,’ Bella says to Locky, and he promptly burst into tears.
I was a bit torn about how I feel about this. On one hand, I’m very here for men openly displaying their emotions. Show me a crying man any day of the week, and I’ll be there for it.
But on the other: Locky clearly wanted Bella to do the emotional work in this breakup and make him feel better, and – no thank you.
Bella, bless her, refused his clear invitation to pat him on the back and say, ‘there there, it’s all right, I understand’. ‘Why did you tell me you were in love with me if you were going to dump me?’ she demands.
‘I am in love with you!’ he protests. ‘But I need a little bit more certainty in my life, and I don’t think you know where you’re going, really.’
‘Can I go?’ she says bluntly. ‘I’m leaving.’
Her reaction during and after the breakup makes it very clear that when he told her he loved her, Locky crossed a serious line: a line that should not have been crossed. We’ve seen some heartbroken and angry reactions from runners-up before (Abbie, for instance, was clearly pretty mad last year), but I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a strong sense that a boundary has been transgressed. ‘Who does that?’ Bella asks. ‘Who tells someone they’re in love with them and then ditches them?’
Once one Bachie in the US did the multiple ‘I love you’ thing, a bunch of them did it. It was like Pringles – once they popped they couldn’t be stopped. But if Bella’s reaction is anything to go by, it might be a minute before we see this line get crossed in Australia again.
This transgression is the part of the episode I was genuinely most interested in, but I have to do my duty as a recapper and a romance aficionado, so let’s get to the happy ending.
‘Irena,’ Locky says, smiling, much more cool, calm and collected than when Bella approached.
I’m assuming someone wrote this speech for him, because it sounds exactly like he’s going to dump her at the beginning before the twist comes, and I’m not convinced he has the skill to do that himself. ‘I need someone who’ll stand up to me, who’ll say no to me,’ he says. ‘And that’s you, Irena. I love ya. I want to spend the rest of my life with ya.’
He pulls a ring out of his pocket (which has apparently been floating loose? not even in a box?). ‘This is to show my commitment to ya,’ he tells her. ‘I want us to be together forever.’
‘Thank god,’ Irena says, as he slips the ring on her finger. (As with the Bachelor in Paradise rings, it does not fit. Neil Lane would never.) ‘You scared the shit out of me. Oh my god.’
That last bit is verbatim, by the way. Only in Australia would a big romantic narrative end on the line ‘you scared the shit out of me. Oh my god.’
And so we have reached the end, dear friends! But never fear: I’ll be back with recaps of The Bachelorette – ie. 2 Bach 2 Furious, starring Elly and Becky Miles – when it starts in two weeks.
- You can buy my books anywhere books are sold! My Valentine series are full of romance, so if that’s your thing: check them out.
- If you’re an academic, I’d love it if you could order my new monograph The Consummate Virgin for your university library! It is also about romance!
- I have a very fun, very exciting, very romance-related new project coming up which I’ll be officially announcing soon. I can’t give too much away, but if you like these recaps, you’re going to absolutely fucking love it, so make sure you follow me on Twitter at @JodiMcA for all the latest goss (and all my spiciest takes).
It’s been real, friends. Catch you in a fortnight!