RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S9 E01

Friends! Acquaintances! Strangers! Enemies! We are back, baby, for The Bachelor Australia 2021.

If you have never dived into these recaps before, here’s a quick list of key things you need to know:

  1. I am an academic, and my primary area of research interest is representations of romantic love in popular culture.
  2. As a result, I have done a ton of thinking about The Bachelor, and have published many pieces of Very Serious Scholarship on it (McAlister 2016; 2018a; 2018b; 2021… there’s a lot).
  3. I have written recaps of the Australian Bachieverse since 2015, which are significantly less very serious and very scholarly, although they do sometimes have citations in them and you might occasionally learn something, eg. the reason why they like to throw contestants out of planes/off buildings/from high places so much (meet the Capilano Suspension Bridge experiment, friends).
  4. I have a BIG SECRET which I am DYING TO TELL YOU but CANNOT UNTIL TOMORROW, so make sure you COME BACK THEN.

I am very serious about 4) in particular. I am dying to tell you this, friends. Literally expiring before your eyes.

But you came here to read about what happened on the season premiere of The Bachelor Australia, not for me to be all “I have a secret, la la la, but I’m not going to tellllllllllll yoooooooooooouuuuuu”, so let’s get stuck into this episode.

(So it can be tomorrow even faster.)

Our Bachelor this year is Jimmy Nicholson. If you have seen, oh, three seconds of any of the million ads Channel Ten have been doing spruiking this season, you will have gathered that he is a pilot. They have been densely studded with aviation puns: think hearts soaring, think unexpected turbulence, think love taking flight, all set to “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong”. It’s not, shall we say, subtle.

If you have read these recaps before, you’ll know one thing I am very firm on is that Transportation Is Not A Date, even if the transportation is super epic. Transportation is how you get to the date, not the date itself, even if the transportation is a helicopter or a fancy boat or a horse and carriage. You can understand my concern, then, that – much like in 2019 how Matt Agnew’s whole thing was “space” and last year Locky Gilbert’s whole thing was “outside” – Jimmy’s whole thing appears to be “transportation”.

However! I am prepared to be charitable! The network has clearly done some listening, in that for once they have cast a person of colour as the lead (Jimmy’s heritage is Kiwi and Fijian, I believe), so maybe they have also listened to my continual rants about the over-emphasis on transportation.

In the extremely likely event that they haven’t, though, I wanted to talk very quickly about the intertwined histories of transportation and romance. Even though I remain the captain of the HMAS Transportation Is Not A Date, transport is actually very important in modern dating.

So: dating, as we think of it now, is only about a hundred-odd years old as a practice in Western culture. Before that, when people were into people, they typically went to visit them at their homes. That private, domestic sphere was the site of romance: it was where relationships were forged, marriages made, etc.

But, due in large part to a little thing called capitalism, which saw all this romancing going on and decided it wanted to make some money off it, in the early part of the twentieth century, we saw a shift away from this domestic visiting practice to what we’d now think of as dating. Instead of going to each other’s houses, a couple would go out into the world (and spend money). The site of romance became public: couples would go dancing and go to the movies and that kind of thing.

And how did they get to these places? Transportation! Predominantly, cars. One of my favourite ways of describing this shift in romantic culture is the title of historian Beth L Bailey’s 1989 book on American courtship practices: From Front Porch to Back Seat. As the site of romance became public, people had to put some serious energy into thinking about getting there.

Plus: when couples courted at home, they were supervised by family. When they dated in public, they were, well, in public. But in transportation on the way to the date? That was a chance they got to be alone – which is where you get Lover’s Lane style practices like parking (if you’ve seen, oh, I don’t know, any piece of teen popular culture ever, you’ll know that making out in a car is a time-honoured tradition).

So, while I maintain that transportation is not a date, it plays an important role in the way we think about romance. Just don’t go making all your dates revolve around the way you get there, Jimmy, and you and I will be cool.

While transportation is, of course, Jimmy’s #1 facet as a human if the show is to be believed, we do also find out some other things about him in this premiere episode. He likes the following things:

  • Fixing things (mostly forms of transportation)
  • Lists and manuals (mostly for transportation – he notes there’s no manual for love)
  • His family (incl. a long lineage of people working in transportation)

So yes, it’s still mostly transportation, but he does seem like a very nice man. When pushed by a woman I think was his sister, he said some really interesting things in terms of what he was looking for. He wants to find someone who’ll be a comfort to him, that he’ll think of first thing in the morning, last thing at night – a sort of north star (sky joke mine, not his: this is a crowded space but I’m still determined to make my contribution). This is a talismanic conception of romantic love, which is, speaking broadly, a bit old-fashioned. But he also wants someone who will make him a better person through love, which is an example of the relationship between love and self-improvement that Francesca Cancian, among other scholars, argues is typical of quite modern love.

He might turn out to be quite complicated, is what I’m saying, if you can look past all the plane stuff.

We don’t get time for much complexity on night one, though, as we have to meet all our characters. Let’s do a quick dramatis personae of the women who are in the competition for Jimmy’s heart:

Brooke: brings him a cake, which he really likes (understandable, it seems like a very nice cake).

Carlie: a corporate lawyer, who asks Jimmy to sign her Bachelor contract (does it contain any provisions about speaking to a “certain podcast”, I wonder?).

Jay: Jay’s thing is that she’s good at chess. Jimmy has never played before. Jay tried to checkmate him in three moves, but… did not, alas.

Laura: this was another “my job is my gimmick!” bit… except Laura is a speech pathologist and her gimmick was thus to examine Jimmy’s oral cavity, which is, shall we say, probably not what I would recommend as an opening gambit.

Sierah: does a Tarot bit, where every card has a picture of her on it, culminating in a perfectly delivered “OMG I see myself in your future!” punchline. It might have been very cute if the show didn’t put spooky abandoned carnival music under it.

Belinda: arrives in a souped up car, which obviously speaks directly to Jimmy’s interest in transportation.

Holly: takes Jimmy a little way away to a “little wine bar”, where they have a very sweet chat over a glass of wine. She says that it doesn’t count as a date because she initiated it, which I don’t love, but they seem to have very lovely natural chemistry, which I do. Watch out for a wifey edit.

Hannah: brought a love lock, a la the love lock bridge in Paris. It’ll be awkward when one of the other women inevitably finds this on Day 2.

Chanel: a flight manager. Jimmy is a pilot, except he tells her he works in “aluminium tubing” and she doesn’t get it. He makes her go through a whole flight attendant “the emergency exits are located here and here” spiel before he explains it to her.

Stephanie: Stephanie streams World of Warcraft on (I’m assuming) Twitch. She and Jimmy really seem to vibe – but then, when she gets into the house, she discovers he’s a pilot.

The reason Stephanie hates pilots is that she dated one, and she gives a neat description of the lifestyle: “two hot men in uniforms, with a lot of money, in a hotel for a weekend… it’s a cocktail.” I’ll be really interested to see if this thread about the potential fuckboitude of pilots carries through the season. The show resolutely refused to admit that Locky was a fuckboi last year even though it very much seemed to be true – will they protect Jimmy the same way if it turns out he’s in the same boat (plane)?

Steph pulls Jimmy aside to have a chat about this, and then reveals… none of it to him. “I didn’t let on I knew about aviation,” she confides to one of the other women, although when Jimmy told her what kind of plane he flew, she was like, “oh, I know exactly what that is”.

Every year on the premiere, the women are competing for a gimmick rose with special powers. This year it’s a key rather than a rose (although it has very similar powers to the white rose that Richie Strahan gave Alex Nation back in the day). It’s the key “to the business lounge”, and if you’re granted access, you have access for as long as you’re on the show.

Feel free to imagine what my face looked like at the phrase “key to the business lounge”. Contrary to what I usually assert, it is possible to take a pun too far.

What follows is the usual first night cocktail party, as all the contestants try and get some time with Jimmy. Usually, this leads to some kind of drama about how someone cut someone off and it was just so rude (and possibly proved they were discriminating against redheads), but one thing the show did this year that I really liked was focus on how awkward this was for Jimmy. “I don’t understand the etiquette of the cocktail party,” he angsts to camera, and worries about hurting people’s feelings.

This is a very low bar, but if a man is worried about being rude to people, especially women? That’s generally a pretty positive sign.

In the midst of this, just as one of the women is urging Jimmy to take his shirt off and do pushups, he gets handed a walkie-talkie. “Is there room for one more in the cocktail party, Mr Bachelor?” asks a woman.

All the other contestants are like OMG AN INTRUDER! I have serious doubts about whether you can call someone an intruder if they arrive on the first night, but anyway – meet:

Lily: descends into the cocktail party from a motherfucking crane.

There is a thematic reason for this. It’s another “my job is my gimmick!” thing – she works with cranes. But I really want to know what the negotiation process for that looks like. Was this a producer’s idea, or did she rock up and say, “hey, so I want to arrive in a motherfucking crane”?

Lily and Jimmy have a nice vibe. “It’s usually really obvious when I like someone – I look at them really intensely – and I’m very conscious that all of these women are looking at me looking at her,” Jimmy says.

I might not be into how into transportation Jimmy is, but in terms of his self-awareness and emotional intelligence? It’s early days, but it seems to be pleasingly up there (by Bachelor standards, anyway).

He also asks a really good question of Jay a little later, once Lily the crane lady has been subsumed into the mass of contestants. “If I were the contestant and you were the Bachelorette, what would I have to do to win your heart?” he asks her.

Great question! Awesome question! This is the kind of question that can give you some actual insight into who people are! I’ve been quite critical in recent years about all the questions being things like, “so tell me how you feel,” because people’s feelings without the context of their character are not interesting. This gives us insight into character. Again, early days, but good job, Bach.

Jay is eventually awarded the key to the business lounge and the first rose: which sends us to the first rose ceremony.

The first rose ceremony is never terribly interesting. We’ve barely got to know anyone, and the people who get eliminated are usually not people who have made any kind of impact. The same is true here (although the sole redhead did get eliminated, so I’m sure Zoe-Clare is fuming about that somewhere).

But something did make an impact on me. Specifically, it made an impact on me by its absence. We’re in a new mansion this year, and it means that finally – FINALLY! – we are free of the hideous eyesore wallpaper in the old rose ceremony room. Eliminating that wallpaper was truly a good and righteous choice, Bachie.

See you back here tomorrow for the second episode, friends – by which time I will have been able to reveal my VERY EXCITING MYSTERIOUS NEWS which I very much hope you will also find VERY EXCITING.

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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