RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S9 E06

It’s Thursday night Bach time again! Let’s see what new forms of transportation Jimmy has found for himself tonight.

I’ve gone very hard on the whole TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE thing this season, and I stand by that. While transportation has a very important role in the history of romance, it is what you use to get to the date, not the date itself.

However! I do understand why they’re keen as beans to put Jimmy in as many planes as possible. They’ve decided that his whole personality is “pilot” (much as the US franchise did with Peter Weber a few years ago – although given Peter’s history on The Bachelorette, he also had “likes to fuck in windmills” as a secondary trait) not just because it’s his job, but for an important reason: it allows them to demonstrate, over and over again, that Jimmy has something he’s very, very good at.

This is a good example of a phenomenon that has, in recent years, been dubbed “competence porn”. It’s fundamental to how they’re setting Jimmy up as a romantic lead, and much as I must insist that TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE, it’s smart. There are few things sexier than watching someone be good at something.

Importantly, in competence porn, it doesn’t matter what the thing is that someone is good at, and it doesn’t matter if it’s something that interests you at all. It could be something completely random and a fundamentally useless skill in most areas of life. The appeal lies in watching someone completely rule at something, at having a circumstance completely under their control – and thus symbolically symbolizing their competence in other areas of their life.

One way I’ve seen this trope described is as the antidote to the thing where, in m/f chick-lit, heroines often make complete fools of themselves in front of the hero. I think this is very insightful, but I’m not sure it’s the whole of the thing. I think it’s also pushing back against the manchild/sitcom dad archetype: specifically, pushing back at the idea that this level of incompetence would be particularly appealing to a (presumably heterosexual, although competence porn has appeal to all!) female audience. “No, you will not have to mother me and manage every aspect of my life,” promises the competence porn trope, “because I can take care of myself”.

I know this is a lot to read into the fact that they keep showing Jimmy doing pilot things. And granted, it’s not the only reason that do this. It is, after all, his whole personality, for one thing. For another, I’ve written many times about why they take people to high places in this show. Granted, no one’s jumped down from Jimmy’s planes yet, but still.

But it is, I think, important. What I’d like to see is them building on this. The competence porn trope isn’t usually about one person being great at something and the other just observing. It’s usually about two extremely competent people, demonstrating that they can be a competent partnership. So show us what some of the women excel at, show! That way, we can get more insight not just into the appeal of Jimmy to them, but the appeal of them to Jimmy.

Will they do that tonight? Let’s get into the show and find out.

Tonight’s episode begins with Jimmy descending onto the mansion lawn in a helicopter, because this man is nothing if not horny for transportation. He’s there to pick up Jay, the recipient of tonight’s single date (to the chagrin of some of the other women, given that Jay has already had a bunch of time with him in the business lounge).

I know I just said all that stuff about how it makes sense that they show Jimmy doing pilot things – and don’t think I didn’t notice you cunningly try to edit this so it looked like Jimmy was flying the helicopter when he obviously wasn’t, show. But GUYS.

TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE.

SMDH.

Eventually, Jimmy and Jay land next to a lake. I was hoping that they had just used some very dramatic transportation to get to a date, but no, they’d used dramatic transportation to get to another form of transportation. “This is the fastest jetski in the world!” Jimmy tells Jay. “And because you blindfolded me in the business lounge the other night, you have to be blindfolded while holding onto me!”

Blindfolded jetskiing sounds like a great way to give yourself motion sickness. Indeed, Jay mentions that she feels pretty nauseated. But given what Jimmy put his contestants through with the surf lifesaving date yesterday, maybe he’s into making his girlfriends feel ill.

But there’s nothing he’s into more than he’s into transportation. That’s right, there’s a THIRD transportation component to this date: some kind of high speed car racing things. I blocked out most of the details because I was too busy shrieking MORE TRANSPORTATION, SERIOUSLY?! ALL I HAVE EVER DONE IS OFFER YOU LOVE AND GOOD PRACTICAL ADVICE, BACHIE, AND THIS IS HOW YOU TREAT ME?????!!!!! but I should note that Jay did win, which I liked.

And tbh, while I was very distracted by how fervently I believe that transportation is not a date, I couldn’t help but notice that Jimmy and Jay are super sweet together. They have a really good vibe and a very natural conversation flow, and they also managed to get into some things like priorities and their shared Fijian heritage and the future. Importantly, Jay notes that she thinks she and Jimmy would be able to sustain a relationship once that initial burst of lust wore off – that they could still maintain that companionate friendship that underpins a longstanding romantic relationship – which I think is really important and nice.

So obviously they pash and she gets a rose. I don’t know if Jay is going to win, but I do know that I would like her to win.

Next up, it’s group date time. And this is… hoo boy.

So on last night’s group date, we aped another show that Osher narrates, Bondi Rescue. Tonight, we continue with that theme, except this time, it’s The Masked Singer. Effectively, what that means is that five of the women are locked in a room with microphones. Each of them is represented to Jimmy through one member of an improv troupe (a clown, a queen, a wizard, an adventurer, and a pirate) wearing an earpiece, who relays their answer.

The point of this is something about not judging a book by its cover (which, as an English lecturer, is a fundamental part of the reading experience; it’s called paratext and it’s a threshold of interpretation, so when someone tells you not to judge a book by its cover, send them to me and they can have my lecture on this subject). But realistically, it’s just a big ol’ mess… not least because, as a recovering community theatre kid, some of these performances hurt man.

The questions are not particularly high stakes, but that doesn’t mean drama doesn’t ensue. Sierah’s clown avatar takes the lead when she answers the “in primary school, what would you have in your lunchbox for recess?” question with “dunkaroos”. Then – GASP! – Ashleigh (whomst?) mentions through her pirate avatar that she also likes dunkaroos, and this makes her public enemy #1.

That’s right. We’ve gone from DogcuntGate to DunkarooGate. The Bachelor contains multitudes.

This displeasure intensifies when Ashleigh wins the next section of the date – in which they all have to write a letter to the Bach about the future – and thus gets alone time with Jimmy.

(This second section of the date is actually a great challenge, tbh – they didn’t need the first half, all they needed was this. However, it was a bit of an odd choice to do it this early on, and to do it with two comic relief contestants and three whomsts. I’d save this for, like, top six. You could preserve the anonymity/avatar aspect, but you’d be getting some actual insight into frontrunners at that point. They did something similar on Georgia Love’s season and it ruled – here, good idea, wrong place, wrong people.)

I’ve been quite hard on this episode – it has so much transportation, after all – but this little interlude with Ashleigh highlights something this season has done right: it’s allowed Jimmy to ask actual compatibility questions, rather than DO YOU LOVE ME? HOW ABOUT NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW? And what do you know: sometimes that reveals a fundamental incompatibility, and that creates actual stakes.

So the situation is this: Ashleigh wants to have kids in the next couple of years, because she’s aware of her ticking biological clock. Jimmy doesn’t want to have kids for at least five years, because he wants to be with someone for at least three years before he considers it, a mark when a relationship, to him, becomes truly real and solid and lasting.

Both respect the other’s position. And both clearly see something in the other worth liking, or she wouldn’t have won that letter challenge. But sometimes, your stars don’t align. You don’t have the same priorities.

Ashleigh returns to the mansion un-kissed, un-rosed. Jimmy changes into his cocktail party attire and marches between the neoclassical statues this new mansion has, trying to work out what to do.

But he knows.

He goes in, and takes Ashleigh aside. “You’re lovely, but we just don’t have that spark,” he tells her. “And if we don’t have it… we’re never going to have it.”

If you’re me, you’re immediately fascinated by the fact that Jimmy is eliminating Ashleigh on chemistry grounds rather than compatibility grounds. These are quite different things: you can have tons of chemistry with someone without being compatible, and vice versa.

But perhaps chemistry is easier to explain, precisely because it is so hard to explain. “That ineffable, magical thing? We just don’t have it,” is a bit of an easier sell than “our timelines don’t match,” because there’s no negotiation with the former. It’s all or nothing, there or not. You can’t meet in the middle.

Whatever the reason: Ashleigh goes home, after reassuring Jimmy several times that she has the utmost respect for his choice. It does a lot of work in cementing Jimmy as a good and thoughtful romantic hero, who understands what will work and what won’t.

This is the Jimmy I hope they start to focus on as we go forward, instead of hiding behind all that transportation. Sure, the competence porn has its appeal, but when you’re telling a love story, the skills can’t overshadow the person.

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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