RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S9 E04

Once more unto the Bach, dear friends! We’re well and truly into the swing of things now, into the routine of single dates and group dates and cocktail parties and rose ceremonies.

This is what we might think of as the courtship phase. It’s still early days – we’re before what I usually call the “shit gets real” phase – but people are starting to develop some feelings. No one has thrown the L-word out there yet (well, I mean, except Sierah on the photo shoot date, but she walked that back pretty fast), but what we’re seeing is a whole lot of like.

I was very complimentary about last night’s episode, and this is why: this year, they’re actually focusing on the process of people falling into like with each other. In previous years, and especially last year, they’ve sacrificed a lot of getting-to-know-you business on the altar of drama. This year, there’s a demonstrable re-focus on the process of relationship development.

This is extremely good in terms of the long-term trajectory of the show. Sure, it’s always fun when there’s a spot of drama, but it’s for the most part, a short-term thing: it’s a fun episode, but not necessarily a good season, especially when the apotheosis of each season is the establishment of a romantic relationship that they want you to feel good and happy about. If you put the work in early – if you see the relationships develop – you not only have the opportunity to feel some emotions about that final relationship, but also the relationships sacrificed along the way, because you understood why the Bach liked the contestants and what they’re giving up by letting them go.

I follow the twitter discussions when I’m writing these recaps (indeed, I kind of use my tweets as my note-taking process, shhhhh). I saw quite a few tweets last night about Jimmy not having chemistry with either Ash and Carlie, the two women with whom he spent single time. I don’t necessarily disagree (I’ll write a nerdle another time about chemistry, because that’s such an amorphous concept), but I don’t think that necessarily made the episode dull. Your mileage may vary, of course, but even if we didn’t exactly see fireworks between Jimmy and these two women, we saw the reasons that they might like each other.

We sometimes devalue “like” and overvalue “love”, but liking someone – just truly enjoying their company – is really very important when constructing a romance narrative. Friends to lovers is a popular trope for a reason: it’s built on that foundation of enjoyment and respect. When we think of enemies to lovers, we often think of hate to turning to love and of that fiery passion, but that’s as much a journey to learning to like each other as it is to love each other. “Like” might not be the whole of a relationship, but it’s certainly the foundation of one, and it’s an incredibly powerful element: think, for instance, of one of the most iconic love declarations in pop culture, Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt’s “I love you and I like you”.

This is all a very long-winded way of me saying that if they continue this focus on Jimmy’s developing like of his contestants, even if there aren’t any instantaneous sparks, I won’t be mad about it. Indeed, I’ll be pretty happy about it, because it should set us up some very good feels down the track.

Are we continuing down the path of feels tonight, or will we be diverted into drama? Let’s get into the episode and find out.

Tonight’s single date recipient is Holly. Before we get into this single date, there are two things you need to know:

  1. Holly is essentially picked for this date by Jimmy’s beautiful dog, Billy
  2. While she’s on the date, Steph calls her a cunt.

Oh, and there’s a third thing, although it’s not part of the diegesis:

3. There’s been a bit of a scandal around some of Holly’s social media content. Steph is edited as the villain in this episode, but given said content, I’m not entirely sure how deserved that is.

But let’s get back to the date. Jimmy takes Holly stand-up paddleboarding in the pouring rain, along with his dog Billy. Both Billy and Holly fall in, and Jimmy elects to save Billy first, which is, of course, the good and right thing to do (and which Holly realizes is the good and right thing to do, so… that’s something, at least).

Just like the dates last night, it’s nice! They have some nice banter! They pash in the rain on his paddleboard! That’s also nice! Or it would have been, if I wasn’t so busy wondering where the dog was and whether she was all right!

They go back to the Bach Pad for their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. They talk about Jimmy’s career – Holly wants to know if he’s planning to be a long-haul pilot and what their lifestyle might look like if they were together, because her parents had that kind of relationship and it went very south.

It’s exactly the kind of shit you should talk about, and from a storytelling standpoint, it establishes beautifully what potential conflicts in their romance might be. A romance narrative is about overcoming conflict, after all, and this just sets up the stakes so clearly.

Imagine. You can find out about what people want and need and who they are instead of just yelling DO YOU LOVE ME? HOW ABOUT NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW? at someone. A revelation, truly.

I’ve laid a lot of the responsibility for this positive course correction at the editors’ and producers’ doors, but some of this is clearly Jimmy. Unlike certain other Bachies, he’s very gifted when it comes to carrying a conversation and drawing out his partner – and that’s honestly the best quality a Bach can have.

Anyway, he and Holly pash, she gets a rose, I yell at them for pashing while holding glasses of red wine because they’re going to spill it and they’ll never get that stain out of the couch, etc.

(Don’t forget that Steph called her a cunt, though. And that this segment prominently involved a dog, which might make it the heir to the greatest Bachie drama of all time.)

Next up: this might be my favourite group date ever?

It takes place in the Southern Highlands at a hedge maze. In the maze, there are questions (some compatibility questions, some straight up riddles) with two potential answers, each denoted by an arrow pointing a different direction. The women have to pick which one is the right answer. The one that Jimmy thinks is the right answer will lead them towards him, the other one will lead them away from him.

And also there are two guards, one who always tells the truth and one who always – well, no, this is a lie, but that last paragraph is true.

Here is a fun fact about me: I FUCKING LOVE MAZES.

Here is a fun fact about my new books Here For The Right Reasons and Can I Steal You For A Second?: there are mazes in them. I don’t want to claim I thought of a maze date before the show did, but we definitely thought of them concurrently.

The woman who finds Jimmy first (and “rings his bell”, which all the women thought was a euphemism but Osher had to assure them was a literal bell) wins single time with him post-date. This woman turns out to be Brooke, much to the chagrin of the other women: they don’t want a frontrunner getting even more ahead of the pack.

(This is an interesting dynamic that the hypercompetitive Australian group date formula can abet, actually – you can become a frontrunner just by winning a lot of group dates, if you really put your mind to it.)

Brooke and Jimmy have quite sweet Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation time. They have some little card game set up which I don’t really understand but involves him feeding her a strawberry at one point, but it’s their chat which is more interesting, in that she reveals to him that she loves medieval cosplay and he’s like, “I like cooking shows… nothing weird like you,” which she then laughs about.

Remember last year’s Bachelorettes, Elly and Becky Miles? I can tell you these three things about them: 1) blonde, 2) from Parkes, 3) in possession of a sister. That was after a WHOLE SEASON of watching them.

I know more about Brooke from these four episodes – some of which she’s barely in! – than I ever found out about the Miles sisters. And it’s not just Brooke, either: they’re putting in such an effort with characterization this season, and it’s really paying off.

All right: time for cocktail party drama. We’ve had all this nice stuff about people falling in like, but this is the Bach, there’s always going to be drama.

Here’s what happened:

  1. Holly gets single time with Jimmy, despite already having a rose
  2. Steph calls her a cunt again
  3. DRAMA, because calling someone a cunt just isn’t NICE

Look, it’s no Dogcunt Incident. It’s not as much fun as when the drama is over whether or not a woman called another woman a cunt instead of being about whether one of the contestants called the Bach a dogcunt.

They’ve edited this so you’re very much supposed to be on Holly’s side here. And yeah, when confronted, Steph is like, “whomst? I? call someone else a cunt? I would never do such a thing!”, which is not great.

But a lot of the drama is just pearl-clutching about how DREADFUL and TERRIBLE it is for a woman to call another woman a cunt and what a horrible, hurtful word it is, which… shrug. Some people have very strong takes on this word, and to others it’s like punctuation. (If you grew up in regional Australia, chances are you’re in the latter camp.) Tone-policing is never going to be the most interesting (or endearing) form of Bachie drama.

While all this is happening, Jay has taken Jimmy to the business lounge again, and has set up a little Wimbledon thing for him with table tennis and Pimms (because she used to live in London), and it’s very cute. I didn’t really see it in the first episode, but I’m increasingly in on Jimmy and Jay.

Finally: the rose ceremony. The Cunt Drama has no effect on anything – we farewell Tamlyn (???) and Hannah (the one who brought the love lock – will they now take the boltcutters to it?). It does, however, look like it will continue next week, which I’m not particularly excited about…

And it looks like there’s another transportation date next week. I like Jimmy a lot so far, but MY GOODNESS is he hot for transpo.

Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: you have to wait until 2022 for my reality TV rom-coms Here For The Right Reasons and Can I Steal You For A Second?, but my Valentine trilogy is available right now for your lockdown reading pleasure. You can also catch me on 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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