Good night, sweet prince.
Once more unto the Bach, dear friends! We’re two thirds of the way through this season, and we’re taking a hard turn into the land of shit-gets-real: the land where oh no, everyone has the feels.
Someone that definitely has some feels – and not necessarily feels of the good kind – tonight is your boyfriend and mine, the beautiful Ciarran. These are not, though, the feels that we expect to see in this context, ie the feels that have been generated by Angie, so in tonight’s nerdle, I want to explore the structures of the show a little bit and talk about what that tells us about emotions.
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette belong to what Misha Kavka calls the ‘second generation’ of reality TV shows. In the first generation, the shows sought to document reality: think here of the all crime reality TV of the 1990s (or even of some of the grosser examples of reality TV still extant, eg Border Security). This eventually culminated in things like The Real World and Big Brother, which documented real life, but in artificial settings. This led to more gimmicky second generation shows like The Bachelor/ette etc, which seek to intervene with reality rather than just document it. Survivor is another example of this kind of reality TV (and, interestingly, a long-term survivor – a lot of the reality shows that premiered in this era, the early 2000s, died quick deaths). The contestants are placed in very structured, obviously artificial situations, and reality is positioned as something that lies in front of them, that they can improve (or at least affect) by participating in the show (Kavka 2012, 113). If you win Survivor, you get a bunch of money. If you win Bachie, you get true love. You get the picture.
Effectively, even though this is ‘reality’ TV, and the show follows what the participants do/say/etc on a day-to-day basis, there’s still this sense that what’s happening isn’t really real – that it takes place outside the realms of the real. This is actively engendered by the show, which places their contestants in a bubble. Essentially, they’re cut off: no phone, no internet, basically no contact with the outside world. The only way they can return to that outside world – to reality – is by exiting the show. The bubble itself is not, in many senses, real.
That’s what makes things like tonight’s Ciarran incident all the more shocking – or at least left field – because these are not emotions that are typically permitted in the bubble. The bubble is structured to do one thing: cause these contestants to fall in love with Angie (sometimes with horrifying results, as we can see from Jamie and his brethren from previous years). All other emotions are ancillary to this romantic drive – while the contestants might make friends, say, it’s understood that that is to be subordinate to the relationship with the Bach (although this doesn’t seem to always play out this way in real life, where contestants make lifelong friendships). The ever-mentioned ‘drama’ usually results from conflict that arises because of this singular narrative and emotional imperative. Jamie again is a perfect example: he’s furious that the bros have said bad shit about him to Angie, and so he seeks to find ways to destroy them.
Ciarran’s emotions tonight, though, are not bubble emotions. They come from a different source: from reality, from outside the bubble. And what they do is reveal both the fragility of the bubble and the force of its emotional imperative.
On the former: the strength of Ciarran’s emotions, coming from that reality outside the bubble, reveal to us how tenuous and artificial this environment is. It also endows him with layers and complexity that we often don’t get to see in other contestants, because we see him react to a situation that has little to do with Angie. Often we’re told information about contestants and their pasts and their lives outside the bubble: with Ciarran tonight, we’re shown it. We get a rare glimpse into reality while still being inside the bubble, because these reality-generated feels burst it, if only for a second.
On the latter: tonight’s Ciarran incident shows us that the emotions generated inside the bubble are not false. They may be circumstantial, and they may pale beside the reality-generated emotions, and – who knows? maybe they fade quickly once you leave the bubble – but they’re real emotions. They’re genuine feelings.
I just wrote a whole bunch about how the structures of the show are artificial, and the bubble isn’t really reality. But the bubble really does generate emotions, and those emotions aren’t faked (at least not in this case, unless Ciarran is the best actor in the universe). In that sense, the promise of Kavka’s second gen reality TV show is true for everyone. Even if you don’t win the show and find the love of your life, it’s still going to intervene in your reality. It’s still going to leave you with some feels.
…which might be exactly why Bachelor in Paradise is such an intriguing prospect for so many of them. Huh. I worked that out just as I wrote it down.
Okay. I’ve talked about this Ciarran incident in very vague terms. Let’s talk about it in specific concrete terms and get into the meat of the recap.
We pick up exactly where we left off last night: Ciarran has just flipped out at munted philosopher king Timm over something very minor, and stormed off. ‘What’s going on?’ Angie asks, as we see Ciarran being stripped off his mic by a producer and peeling away his formalwear.
When Ciarran emerges, he’s in the most casual, normcore look we’ve ever seen from him: and that’s how we know something is wrong. ‘No!’ Angie says, aghast. ‘No!’
‘I have to talk to you,’ Ciarran says, and bursts into tears.
And then I burst into tears. Only very slightly kidding. It is very hard to see this man cry.
What’s happened is this: Ciarran’s grandmother – to whom, we must remember, he is very close – has died. ‘I don’t want to go,’ he sobs to Angie, ‘but I have to.’
She folds him up in a huge hug, because what else can you do? Those real world emotions trump bubble emotions any day of the week.
But the bubble emotions are still real. ‘I really like you,’ Ciarran whispers to Angie. ‘This is so hard, because I really wanted to be the one at the end.’
‘I don’t want you to go,’ she whispers back, ‘but I’d never come between you and your family.’
They pash (like, a lot) before she finally puts him into the car. We don’t often think about the cinematography of this show, but we get a shot that’s genuine art as they kiss: his crucifix earring mirroring her crucifix tattoo. ‘I guess I’ll never know now,’ Angie weeps, as the car drives Ciarran away. ‘He could have been the one.’
One silver lining to this nightmare situation: it’s super refreshing to see a man openly weep on television. Even when he’s grieving, the internet’s boyfriend Ciarran is revising representations of masculinity.
Speaking of revising representations of masculinity: let’s talk about Timm, who gets the single date tonight. This is explicitly because Angie wants someone to make her laugh, which makes this the second time in 24 hours she’s turned to him for a specific purpose. In narrative terms, this seems very significant to me.
This is what Angie describes (about 85 times) as a ~fancy~ date. She turns up in a floorlength black gown and a tiara. He wears a tux and a top hat. And even though he looks like an extremely munted magician, I can’t help it: I’m into it. Send help.
In the limo ride, Timm is uncharacteristically quiet. This is because, he tells us, Angie makes him nervous. So does the formalwear – he just doesn’t know what to do or say. ‘Um, are we going to the polo?’ he says, when Angie asks him where he thinks they’re going. ‘Because I can’t think of anything worse, hey.’
It’s not polo, though. You know how on Survivor they do those horrifying food challenges? It’s that, but the ~fancy~ version. They get served some super fancy caviar that’s, like, $1000 an ounce. Timm doesn’t know what it is, and Angie describes it as, ‘you know when you have sushi and it has the little Nemo eggs on the top? It’s like that, but if Nemo wasn’t a peasant fish.’
I feel like I haven’t said it enough in these recaps, but Angie is the literal best. I love her.
Timm hates the caviar, but he tries to be polite about it, and things just get weirder and weirder as he gets quieter and quieter. ‘I don’t know what’s happening!’ he says to the camera. ‘I’m crumbling like a piece of old cake!’
(Imagine how much Ciarran would have loved this ~fancy~ date. I did, and I just started crying.)
Things get much better in the second half of the date, though. In lieu of a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, they have a bath (just regular – well, filled with rose petals, but not filled with chocolate). Angie picks a wedgie as she waits for Timm, and of course that’s just the second he comes around the corner, and it all turns around.
They splash around in the bath together and throw rose petals at each other. ‘Sorry for being so weird and awkward before,’ Timm apologises. ‘The suit…and everything…it just freaked me out. But I really like you, Angie.’
‘I really like you too,’ she says. ‘And…maybe I needed to see that other side of you. Maybe I needed to see that we could have a bad date and it would still turn out all right.’
It’s not a bad date now, though. She gives him a rose, and they pash, and the music swells, and it’s very good. ‘Oh no, I’m in deep,’ Timm tells the camera. ‘I never expected this. I think I might be in a bit of trouble?’
I am not convinced Timm is the winner. Indeed, I’m reasonably sure Ryan the Dog Man is the current fave, and Carlin is definitely somewhere in that mix too. But if Timm did win, I wouldn’t be mad about it. Not even a little bit.
At the cocktail party, we see that Timm really is entering into some Feels Territory, because he’s starting to get a little bit jealous, first of Carlin, and then of Ryan. He actually catches Angie and Ryan about to pash, which must have been super awkward. I wonder if we’ll get some more repercussions from this in the narrative as we go forward. It’s honestly the only incident of this kind I can remember in the Australian franchise, which endows it with some gravity.
(Angie gives Ryan a rose before the rose ceremony, by the way, because she’s super into him. I assume he has a personality and it’s just been edited out? Because I sure as hell haven’t seen anything we could describe as a distinguishing feature.)
But the drama, of course, lies with Jamie. ‘I WAS TOTALLY RIGHT ABOUT CARLIN,’ he tells Angie.
‘…were you, tho?’ she responds.
‘NOBODY BACKS ME!’
‘Um, bye,’ Angie says. ‘I have to go. Think. About things. Far away from you.’
Jamie clearly already knows the writing is on the wall. ‘No matter what happens here, we should have coffee!’ he begs. ‘Just one time.’
God, this is hardcore relatable. I had someone harass me at an event last year, and when I complained to the organisers, he backed me into a wall to ‘apologise’ and tell me how it would all be fine ‘if we could just go get a beer’. In case you’re ever thinking of trying this move: FUCKING DON’T.
We all know who gets eliminated at the rose ceremony: but not before he makes it awkward. Jamie insists on taking Angie outside and reading her A GODDAMN LETTER that he wrote her. Her smile is frozen in place on her face, but you can read FUCKING GET ME OUT OF HERE, YOU CUNTS in her eyes. Some producer is going to get yelled at, and they don’t have anyone to blame but themselves (well, and Jamie).
And now we’re down to six! Hometowns are next week. Apologies if I’m not quite as speedy as usual with my recap posting, but I’ll be on the road with my books and travelling between Adelaide and Brisbane. If you’re in either of those cities, come say hi to me at Supanova!
That’s not my official end-of-recap reminder, though. This time, it’s for a piece I had published in a book last year. Technically, it’s about my love of Roger Federer, but realistically, it’s about the incredibly intense cocktail of emotions I experienced when my grandfather died two days before my first book was published. This one goes out to you, Ciarran. Balancing Acts: Women In Sport.