RECAP: The Bachelor Australia – S9 E14

The end! We made it! It feels like we started this journey (drink) with Jimmy both five minutes and five years ago! Lockdown melts your sense of time! Who can keep track of things like days and months and years and numbers of episodes!

For all that we’ve been watching this season in a weird time, and for all that this season has not rated well, in my opinion, it’s been pretty solid overall. It probably won’t go down in the annals of all-time great Bachie seasons, but when you consider the nightmarishly bad storytelling we were dealing with last year in Locky and (especially) Elly and Becky’s seasons, this is a marked improvement. This season has felt like the show getting back on its feet.

The reason I think this is that there’s been a renewed focus on narrative. Sure, there’s been drama, but there’s been a strong tendency in the past for the show to sacrifice their broader narrative arcs on the altar of drama. There’s definitely still some work to do in this arena, but we come into the finale having a strong sense of both Holly and Brooke, and what their varying futures might look like with Jimmy.

When we think of romance plots, we often jump immediately to the ending. Romance ends happily. It’s the central promise of the narrative. But by focusing so heavily on the ending, sometimes we forget the journey (drink) that leads us there. The happy ending doesn’t work unless it’s been earned – which means we have to see the couples overcome obstacles and/or barriers.

To put this another way: “We met, we liked each other, now we’re together,” might be a fairly common love story, but it’s not an interesting one. “We met, we overcame obstacles, and by doing so we were able to get together,” is. I’ve quoted the legendary scholar of romance Denis de Rougemont about a million times in these recaps; specifically, his claim that “happy love has no history” (1945, 15). To explain this, he uses the image of the lovers Tristan and Iseult, who symbolically sleep with a sword between them. That sword represents the obstacles they need to overcome to be together – the thing that makes their romance a story.

What this season has done relatively well is explain to us what the sword is between Jimmy and Holly and Jimmy and Brooke. They haven’t just given us “oh, these two people vibe, I guess it’ll be them” – there’s been some real effort put into building a narrative.

Jimmy and Holly, for instance, had that rocky patch through all the Steph stuff, and there was the question raised as to whether their approach to conflict was too similar, which would lead to problems down the road. Specifically, that question was raised by Jimmy’s sister, which means we should get an interesting narrative loopback and (hopefully) something like a resolution on this tonight.

And then you have Jimmy and Brooke, where they’ve leaned into this even harder over the last few weeks. Brooke is, by her own admission, a dependent person, and probably would not cope well with Jimmy’s career and lifestyle. “Fuck logistics,” she declared last night – but is that enough for them to actually overcome that obstacle?

Where the show could potentially fall down tonight is by not giving us a resolution, not allowing us to see how they’ll overcome the barrier, how they’ll remove the sword between them. Obviously these are real people, so it’s not going to be as tidy as it might be under other circumstances, but if they just pretend the problems away… that’s not going to be especially satisfying. We need to see a real way forward if the show is going to properly land the plane (sorry).

All right. Shall we see how they manage?

Brooke meets the family

We’ve met Jimmy’s family before. His sister and his cousin had dinner with the contestants and his mum had lunch with them (although that was while Brooke was on leave). His dad – who we encountered briefly in the premiere – is also there, and he’s clearly so delighted to see Jimmy again.

(It’s really nice.)

Jimmy fills them in on what the deal is with the ladies before he introduces them. His mother keys in on the whole “both Brooke and her brother have said that she has dependence issues” thing straight away, and you visibly see her put her psychoanalyst face on.

Brooke, on the other hand, has put on the most intensely excited face I have ever seen in my life. She tells us in interview that she’s had some bad interactions with partners’ families in the past, and so… I assume this is overcompensation?

They could have given Brooke a stage five clinger edit right from the beginning. I’m glad they didn’t, because that edit sucks, but they’re in real danger of shooting right past that edit and into, like, bunny-boiler territory here, because Brooke comes across as so intense during this interaction. I can’t even put my finger on how she does this (although she does refer to going on the first single date with Jimmy as “deflowering” him, which is… quite something), but the vibe is clear: all of Jimmy’s family identify that she is A Lot.

Jimmy’s mum takes Brooke aside and asks her about the whole dependence thing. Brooke basically confirms what we’ve been hearing for the last few episodes, and also refers to herself as “immature”, which… I don’t know what to do with this, friends. I’ve never heard a grown woman refer to herself in such infantilising terms before.

Although, I will say this: Brooke clearly knows herself. She knows what she can and can’t take. And that is definitely not nothing.

Let’s sum up the meet-the-family this way: Jimmy’s family has concerns about Brooke, and even though she feels like the meeting went well, their concerns are not assuaged. She and Jimmy might have chemistry and connection, but there’s a compatibility problem for sure.

Holly meets the family

There are also some concerns about Holly going in. Firstly, there’s that thing that his sister identified about their conflict styles. Secondly, there’s the fact that she told him she loved him, and the family is a little worried that that’s… a bit much.

(I mean, they’ve just met Brooke, though. Surely their barometer for “a bit much” has been reset somewhat.)

It seemed pretty clear to me that the edit is invested in making Holly seem poised and measured compared to Brooke. There’s a huge emphasis placed on Holly’s independence as opposed to Brooke’s dependence. When Jimmy’s dad takes her away for a one on one chat, she talks a lot about how her mother was left in emotional and financial strife when her father left, and so she places a lot of weight on having her shit together. She also asserts that she likes that Jimmy’s family is full of strong, independent women, and that’s something she respects and aspires to be.

It seems pretty clear which woman the show wants us to lean towards. Holly = chemistry + connection + compatibility, right?

But Jimmy’s dad doesn’t agree. “Holly is very similar to women you’ve dated before,” he tells Jimmy. “I think you should pick Brooke, because those old relationships? They didn’t work.”

“I’ve got the opposite opinion,” Jimmy’s mum says. “Pick Holly. Brooke will smother you.”

“…gee, thanks,” Jimmy says. “You’ve really made it easy.”

Brooke’s final date

They spend a surprisingly short amount of time on this date. This is probably because it’s surprisingly uneventful, especially when you consider all the concerns Brooke’s brought to the table over the last few episodes.

They meet early in the morning and go hot air ballooning. Tourism Northern Territory (did I mention yet they’re in Alice Springs? They are) gets their money’s worth, because there are tons of beautiful vistas and whatnot. Brooke and Jimmy don’t see that many of them, because they are making out basically the whole time (much to the disquiet of the hot air balloon guy, I imagine).

When they’re done, they have their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation next to a billabong. “I’m absolutely, incontrovertibly falling in love with you,” Brooke tells him. “And I know this isn’t going to be the last day for us. Is it? Is it?!

Jimmy has to really, really work to not give her an answer there.

“I like her so much,” he tells the camera. “But are we going to get six months down the road and realise that we just can’t make it work?”

Holly’s final date

We all know Jimmy is hot for transportation, so it comes as no surprise that our final date is a transpo date. Specifically, it’s an aviation date. Jimmy and Holly take a small plane and fly over Uluru, making sure that Tourism Northern Territory reeeeeeeeeeeeally gets its money worth and that everyone in lockdown feel that little bit more locked down.

When they land, they have some champers and look at Uluru, when one of my favourite ever moments ever in this franchise happens. “Hey Jimmy,” Holly says, “your parents are over there.”

Whether or not this is a genuine accident (it could be, this is a tourist destination!) or the machinations of the producers (let’s face it, likely), this is such an interesting pair to that little snip a few weeks ago, when Jimmy thought filming had stopped and told his sister and his cousin that it was going to be Brooke. They go from this very artificial spectacular date to being a couple randomly running into a set of parents – and it feels natural, nice, normal.

Misha Kavka (2012) argues that second generation reality TV shows like The Bachelor don’t necessarily show reality – rather, they show real people in artificial conditions designed to produce reality. That reality is the romantic relationship that will exist post-show. Here, though, it felt like we saw that reality for a second, like the veil slipped.

They still have to generate some jeopardy, so when Jimmy and Holly get to their Couch time, he asks her about the thing wherein she’s very similar to his exes. “Well… people are all different,” she replies. “I love you, and I just have to trust that what we have is unique. And enough.”

I also need to note that we finally, finally saw our first ad for The Bachelorette. It lives!

The verdict

“I can’t imagine feeling like I do, and it not being me,” Holly tells us.

“I know I’m not perfect for Jimmy, but he loves me in spite of that,” Brooke says.

They’ve done a much better job setting up the two disparate romantic narratives this year than they did, say, last year. Holly is stable and independent, but maybe too similar to Jimmy’s previous partners. Brooke isn’t similar to them at all, but she has issues around dependence and what seems like an incompatible attachment style.

We all know the rules. Apart from that time a few years ago when they tried to fake us out, the first one out of the limo is the one who’s getting dumped. And that is…

Holly.

But no, wait! It’s Brooke.

Nope, Holly again!

But is it Brooke?

THEY FUCKING TRIED IT AGAIN.

The breakup

…it’s Brooke, obviously.

Channel Ten, I assume you don’t read these or you would have hired me to consult for you by now (I assume my constant pitches would have eroded away your resistance), but if you are, I promise you: YOU DO NOT NEED TO CREATE MORE JEOPARDY IN THIS SCENARIO. You’re not losing viewers because they’re bored right at this moment. They’ve come this far. Just let them process who got out of the fucking limo.

This breakup is brutal. It’s never easy – being dumped never is – but given Brooke’s obvious emotional fragility (I mean, her grandpa just died!) this feels especially cruel. That’s not to say that Jimmy should have pity-picked her, but if ever there was a candidate for one of those breakups where you don’t put someone through the full ritual, this was it.

It also feels pretty mean that Jimmy does the full “there are so many things I like about you but PSYCH! it’s not you” speech. Like, just rip the bandaid off. Let this poor woman down as easy as you can, I beg of you.

Brooke cries – quite a lot – but she manages to hold it reasonably together. “Maybe you’re not for me,” she says. “I need someone to take risks with me.”

But then in the limo, she really breaks down. “I love him,” she sobs. “I don’t know what to do next.”

This poor woman. I hope she was looked after, and I hope she’s all right now.

The love declaration

Surprising exactly no one, it’s Holly who takes out the Bachie crown, in recognition of her possession of chemistry + connection + compatibility with Jimmy.

“Holly, when I think of love, I think of getting home from work and cooking with you,” Jimmy says. “I think of leaving a note for you on your pillow. And I can’t wait to do those things in our future together.”

(Sidebar: they really should make the Bach describe what love is earlier in the season. This is a lovely description, and plus, I personally would find it interesting.)

They pash. “Wait, I’m not finished,” Jimmy says. “I love you.”

And then they pash some more. The end.

The ending always feels a bit anticlimactic. Like, you get the payoff, and then BOOM done. I felt it especially this year, though, because we didn’t really get Holly’s input on this at all.

I wrote an academic article a few years back on declarations of love in the Bachieverse. In the Australian franchise, the winners don’t really say that much, but they usually say something. I don’t think Holly said more than one sentence in this whole love declaration. Maybe ten words, tops – which would be a new word count low.

We’ve spent the whole season getting to know these people. At least let them have a take on their own new relationships, for heaven’s sake.

But for now, I will leave you! I’ll be back for the new season of The Bachelorette, whenever that will be, but if you’re ever in desperate need of some Bachie takes, you know where I am, fam.

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

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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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