The Boys™ Are Back In Town
We all know time is weird in 2020, and so it simultaneously feels like I’ve been writing these recaps for forever and for… nope, just forever. Stacking three shows on top of each other, back to back (Bach to Bach?), was cruel of Channel Ten. No wonder their ratings are down: they’re fatiguing their audience.
Of course, this might also have something to do with the fact that they haven’t served us up the most compelling protagonists in the whole world, first with Locky and now with Elly and Becky. With the latter, I think they’ve made a crucial mistake: by focusing so hard on the novelty of the fact that hey! there’s two of them!, they’ve forgotten to imbue them with any kind of defining characteristics. I learned more about Elly from Dr Space Bachie’s season of The Bachelor than I have from this season of The Bachelorette, and all I know about Becky is that she’s Elly’s sister.
TL;DR: as I put it last week, all we know is ‘crikey! they’re sisters!’
The one bit of characterisation we have been allowed (although it applies to both sisters, and so serves little purpose in helping us discern why a contestant might prefer one sister over the other) is that ‘crikey’ bit: they’re from the country. The show has gone so hard on the country angle. I really hope no one is doing a shot every time they say the word, because they would be dead.
I want to spend a bit of time in my pre-recap (precap?) nerdle up here unpacking this, because this emphasis on rurality is not, I think, coincidental. There seems to me to be a reason that they’re leaning so hard on the country angle in this cursed year 2020, and it’s because of what ‘the country’ has historically been associated with.
Probably the most famous scholar on this topic is Raymond Williams, who wrote a very widely-cited book called The Country and the City. His argument, essentially, is that in England, the countryside has stood for simplicity and peace and quiet and innocence for many hundreds of years, while the city functions as its opposite: a hub of all the worst things about modernity, where it’s dark and dirty, and even though there’s bajillions of people you’re forever alone.
Obviously he’s writing here about England, and there are some different nuances when we apply this to the Australian setting, but given, you know, colonialism, a lot of these thought patterns are still in play. Even despite everything we know about how incredibly difficult rural life in Australia can be – I mean, just look at everything that happened over summer with the fires, to say nothing of extended droughts and floods and all the various natural disasters that are regularly visited upon us – we still have very strong tendencies to romanticise it.
In this formulation, the country becomes a kind of Eden, where there are wide open spaces, and everyone knows their neighbour, and there’s a community-minded spirit. If you ever hear the phrase ‘it’s a great place to raise kids’, it’s usually buying into this rhetoric of the country as simpler and slower and more innocent than urban spaces. The existence and continued popularity of rural romance and The Farmer Wants A Wife are classic examples of this romanticisation: and it’s exactly what we’re seeing with Elly and Becky in this season of The Bachelorette.
Given what capitalism has done and continues to do to us, it’s unsurprising that many of us are yearning for something simpler and slower. The 2020 factor has intensified this. I know Elly and Becky weren’t the network’s first choice to lead this season, but now they have them, I understand why they’re pushing this rural romance angle so hard. The way we think about and romanticise rural spaces is deeply flawed, but it makes sense that they’d want to craft love stories about things being simple, when so much about this year has been so complicated.
However, they have oversimplified, in that it’s impossible to tell the two women apart. McLeod’s Daughters had two distinct heroines, Channel Ten. Let Elly and Becky be different people, I beg of you.
Will that happen this week? Let’s turn to the recap to explore.
We begin our episode tonight with a single date. The Bachelorette on this date is Elly, the contestant is Frazer, and the date itself is plagiarised directly from the first season of The Bachelor, when Tim and Anna did it.
If you cannot remember back eight years: our couple go to the Blue Mountains, where they go on a cable car, and then – rappel? abseil? some form of aggressive descent that Locky the adventure man probably does for fun three times a day? – out of it to a seat, where they sit precariously in midair and drink some champagne.
Elly and Frazer talk a lot about how into each other they are, but I have to confess I don’t really see it, probably because when you’re talking about how into each other you are, it’s likely a case of the lady doth protesting too much methinks. But while they don’t say anything interesting, they do have a midair pash, and they both seem to have a good time.
I’ve written about the science behind why they always do these high places dates: basically, the Capilano Suspension Bridge experiment (and many more experiments) showed that people often mistake adrenaline/anxiety/fear/whatever emotion is generated by extreme situations for arousal. It’s unsurprising, then, that Elly and Frazer seem to be bonding. It might not mean much for their relationship in the longterm, but then, Tim and Anna went on exactly the same date and they’re married, so…
They go on to a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, where they pash some more and Elly gives Frazer a rose. I assume they talked as well, but I have to confess I tuned most of it out because I was so overwhelmed by the loving shots of the cheeseboard. It’s back, friends! The dread cheese ban of Locky Gilbert has ended!
(One Locky legacy has remained, though: the one bit of the conversation I did catch was Frazer waxing lyrical about Elly’s eyes. The Bella Varelis Memorial Eyes Discourse is still going along.)
Next up is a group date, featuring both Bachelorettes and a swathe of men. They meet in a theatre. ‘Becky and I used to be real performers as kids!’ Elly announces. ‘So we want to see what your talents are!’
I am taking this as a tacit admission that Elly and Becky were eisteddfod kids. This makes them more relatable to me than any invocation of the country could ever do.
They have a selection of props, and each man has to pick one which he will perform with: think a guitar, magic tricks, a joke book, etc. There’s a little montage of the Bachies checking in on the boys as they practice, but one thing we need to take note of here for plot reasons is Becky’s check-in with Adrian. She’s quite keen on him (even though he basically mansplained to her why hearts are considered romantic last episode), but she’s given pause when he says that he doesn’t think they should even think about the future – they should just focus on the present.
He also says he’s having fun with ‘the boys’. I’m not sure there’s a bigger Bachie red flag than positively referring to your relationship with the boys.
Oh, and Adrian absolutely sucks when it comes time to perform in the talent show. He’s got a set of juggling balls and does sweet FA with them. He had a golden opportunity to recreate the iconic hacky sack scene from She’s All That, and he wasted it.
Two men do stand out from the pack, though, at least for our Bachelorettes. Becky picks Sam, who does a truly frightening ventriloquist bit with a dummy (which, apropos of nothing, looks exactly like the one from the first season of Buffy). Elly picks her old pal Joe, who is forced into David-Bowie-in-Labyrinth tights for the second time in as many episodes as he performs some interpretive dance with a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon.
Quick sidebar: this date is part of a school I’m going to refer to as the Wazza Date. Are you willing to make yourself look a bit silly for love? Then you past the test. If you storm off in a snit because you have to wear a chicken costume? Then you’re a real Wazza.
They do their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation time separately. Elly and Joe get a room so full of candles that it must be a truly enormous fire hazard. Like, they’re all over the floor, and all it would take is for one cameraman to trip…
Becky and Sam, on the other hand, are sitting on top of a box on a rug in front of a chainlink fence, in the most half-arsed Bachie set I have ever seen. I would bet some money that they just kind of forgot that they needed to set up two Couch sets.
Becky and Sam’s conversation is nice, however. They have a chat about how they’re at similar life stages and they both want to settle down, and they have a cheeky pash.
Elly and Joe’s conversation is also nice, albeit a bit more layered. ‘I, um, really have feelings for you,’ Joe tells Elly. ‘You’re the one that got away for me.’
The look on Elly’s face makes it clear that she’s living out a fairly common fantasy for straight women: the one where your fuckboy fuckbuddy finally admits that he has emotions beyond ambivalence, and actually cares about you.
But let’s return to Becky, because that’s where the central drama of the cocktail party lies. Remember Adrian and Chekhov’s Invocation Of The Boys before? It only grows bigger here.
‘Look, Adrian,’ Becky says. ‘I want to settle down. I want to buy a house. I want to build a future with someone.’
‘Counterpoint,’ Adrian says. ‘Why don’t we just live in the moment?’
And then he runs off again to spend more time The Boys™, where he claims that all red wine tastes the same. I know this is nowhere near as big a sin as any of the others, but it made me angry.
(Perhaps this is all part of a Paradise audition? You need to worry about not dogging the boys in Paradise, and you also need to embrace drinking red wine in a completely unsuitable climate, which suggests to me you don’t appreciate it properly.)
Adrian does, however, make it through the rose ceremony – despite the fact that four men (ie. 25% of the mansion!) are sent home, which makes me think this season is going to be short. We say farewell to ginger Andrew, Mr Italy Rudy, Trent (nothing), and Saj. RIP Saj – your red carpet entrance will forever be one of the best ones.
Tomorrow it looks like some proper villainy might finally emerge, so… see you then, pals.
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: not only do I write about rose ceremonies, but I’ve written a book with a rose on the cover! If you like my writing (which, if you made it to the end of this monstrously long recap, I assume you do), don’t forget to check out my YA Valentine series, and you can always check in on me at my website: jodimcalister.com.au