RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S9 E05

Week 3, friends! I’m not sure how many episodes of the Bach we’re getting this year, but we’re approaching the part of the season we could describe as “the middle” frighteningly fast. Time, man.

(Granted, “the middle” really starts in like episode 2 and goes until, like, hometowns, but still.)

One of the primary conversations about the show this year hasn’t been about the show at all. Rather, it’s been about the ratings – about how few people have actually been watching. The bloom is off the rose (pun fully intended), and people are tuning out.

I’ve got a few thoughts about this and why this might be. The first and obvious one is scheduling. The premiere was scheduled against the finale of Farmer Wants a Wife, which it seems logical to assume would capture a similar demographic. This makes starting the show that particular week seem like an error, but when we consider that the Olympics started the next week, it makes a bit more sense. That’s an event that attracts audiences outside the usual sport-watching demographic, so it’s no wonder that it’s pulling some focus.

It’ll be interesting to see what the ratings do next week, once the Olympics are over. I dearly wish there was some kind of access to streaming numbers as well, because I assume the show is drawing a few eyes there.

But let’s dig a little deeper into why people aren’t tuning in – because while the schedule clashes sure as hell didn’t help, I don’t think it’s the whole reason.

One direction we can point the accusing finger is 2020. I mean this in multiple ways. First of all, 2020 imbued us all with a deep sense of exhaustion (and 2021 seems to be doing the same thing). Our priorities have changed and shifted and new things are important now. Last year, as I wrote a few weeks ago, the routine of watching The Bachelor/ette on Wednesdays and Thursdays was an important marker of time for me in hard lockdown (and eventually led me to the total mental snap that was writing Here For The Right Reasons). However, my experience is definitely not universal. I would not be at all surprised to find that people just find it harder to muster up the emotional energy to get invested in the Bach.

Secondly – and perhaps more importantly – there’s no getting around the fact that the 2020 seasons were just absolute duds. I thought we were scraping the bottom of the barrel with Locky’s season, which took everything that could be interesting about filming under pandemic conditions and threw it away, but then Elly and Becky’s season came along, and… well, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more dire season of reality television. I’ve been very complimentary of Jimmy’s season this year, and I stand by that, but why would people tune in this year when last year was so dire?

Moving away from 2020: it’s also worth noting the ratings patterns in the US. They too experienced a ratings dip around this point, about a decade into the franchise. Their ratings have also gone down in recent years – this year’s season of The Bachelor had the lowest number of viewers in both premiere and finale ever (if Wikipedia is to be believed). This might be a consequence of a shift to viewing on demand for some people, or pandemic exhaustion, or racism (this year’s Bachelor was the first ever Black Bachelor), or a combination of those things, but basically: it’s not just Australia.

In terms of that first US ratings dip about a decade in – I have to assume that’s due to format exhaustion. Familiarity can be comforting, but it can also get to a point where it’s tired, and it needs to be refreshed. That doesn’t mean throwing out the whole franchise and starting again, necessarily, but there needs to be some serious thought put into how to make the old new again.

Luckily, we have a great example of that coming up immediately after this season with Brooke Blurton and the first ever season with a queer lead and contestants of multiple genders. Keep an eye on the ratings of that season: that, rather than this season, will be more of a bellwether into whether or not the franchise is, as one headline put it, “dead”.

Of course, another reason the ratings are down is that you’re alllllll reading my recaps instead of watching, so I’d better tell you what happened in tonight’s episode of The Bachelor Australia.  

Tonight’s single date goes to Stephanie, much to the chagrin of several of the other women, who are still mad over (dog)Cuntgate 2: Electric Boogaloo. Stephanie is unfazed by their disdain, though, and expresses enthusiasm over what sounds like an aviation-themed date clue. Apparently she does the opposite of not hating the player but hating the game: she hates pilots but loves aviation.

(BTW, another minor spoiler for Here For The Right Reasons: my date cards rhyme. Gauntlet thrown, Bachie.)

She is correct about the aviation theme! Jimmy meets her in Darling Harbour, and is a little bit crestfallen when she immediately guesses that they’re doing a flight simulator. He recovers fast, though. “I thought it would be cool if you could see what I’m like at work,” he explains.

I’m taking this advice on board. If you want to date me, please be advised you will be required to sit quietly in the corner of my office while I teach a Zoom seminar and then painstakingly reformat my references for three hours.

Look, we all know I think transportation is not a date, and this is fake transportation. However, given Steph has a background in video games (she’s a streamer), this kind of makes sense. He’s impressed by her aviation knowledge, she finds it sexy that he is good at aviation, and they have a good time in the simulator, even when one fake engine catches fake fire.

Also, there’s a very obvious, not at all veiled joke about oral sex. I’m not sure this is the horniest season yet, but it’s definitely the most comfortable with casual sexy talk.

That’s not to say it’s not horny, though. When they arrive at a hotel to change, Steph is low-key hoping that they get it on. Then, on their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, they have a cursory discussion about Steph’s history with dating pilots before they get into some serious macking on.

(I feel like Jimmy should have asked more questions about her pilot dating history tbh. Not because it’s bad, or because he needs to right the wrongs of pilots gone by or anything, but because Steph’s social circle seems to be 100% pilots and that just seems statistically… unlikely.)

The group date comes next. I’ve been a fan of some of the group dates this season (the maze date! great!), but this one is a HARD NO.

I see how they got here. Jimmy is a surf lifesaver, and he’s brought his surf lifesaver friend Finn along (as said friend Finn has many abs, I assume he’s there as a honeytrap, although none of the women fall into it). It’s a fun excuse for him to do the Baywatch slow run along the beach. Very good! I support it!

I do not support making the ten people you’re dating do a surf lifesaving relay, though.

I had to do a surf lifesaving qualification when I was in high school, because PE is legally and educationally sanctioned torture. It was an incredibly miserable experience. If someone asked me to do that on a date? a date?!

…that date where someone sits quietly in the corner while I do Zoom teaching and then format my references sounds pretty good now, huh.

Like, it’s so physically difficult that Holly just about throws up. “I just want to participate in this really fun group event!” she sobs, while retching and shaking, ie. the normal reaction to most really fun group events. Eventually, she has to get taken off to hospital because she’s swallowed a bunch of seawater and there’s a chance it could be in her lungs.

If I may offer you some advice for free, Bachie: I know you like to make these group dates competitive, but they should still fit, however vaguely, under the umbrella of “date”. Most of the time, a date should not end with one of the participants in hospital – even if there are twelve people on the date instead of the standard two.

There’s no Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation time after this date. On the advice of his buddy Finn, Jimmy gives a rose to Tatum, but because there’s no Couch, there’s no conversation, no snog, no sense that she’s actually a meaningful contender. Perhaps most importantly, there’s no cheeseboard, which I would take as a very personal slight in Tatum’s shoes.

There’s no reason given for this deviation in format. There’s also no reason given as to why, at the cocktail party, everyone is dressed as their spirit animal.

Yes, they said spirit animal. They just decided “you know what would be super cool and fun and lighthearted to do this season? Just a big whack of cultural appropriation.”

Like… come on, Bachie. It is not a secret that this is majorly appropriative. This was a completely unnecessary misstep, a pothole that you went out of your way to stick your foot in. Do better, be better.

Blessedly, while this cocktail party does seem to have some very cursed energy (Steph describes it as “full moon energy”), not much happens. There’s some minor drama when Ash takes Jimmy off to the jacuzzi, and some other minor drama when Holly IDs Tatum as a bin chicken instead of a hawk, but… uggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh why Bachie why why why??? If you wanted to do animal dressups, fine, but you just cannot be out here saying “spirit animal”.

Jimmy is dressed as a wolf, which means he is shirtless except for a grey furry vest. They make him wear said vest to the rose ceremony, which is objectively very funny, if you manage to block out the cultural appropriation aspect.

It made me feel bad for tonight’s eliminee Elena, though. Imagine being dumped by a man wearing basically nothing except a furry grey vest.

…although it means she doesn’t have to sit through tomorrow, which seems like it involves an improv troupe.

Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: you have to wait until 2022 for 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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