An actual amazing waterskiier
Hello again, intrepid friends! We’re inching ever closer to the end of Bachie season for the year, after a truly epic slog. Soon, soon we can rest.
It sounds like Channel Ten have learned some lessons about making us slog through three seasons of this show in a row, because it looks like they won’t be running a season of Bachelor in Paradise in 2021. Pour one out for all the people who went on the main show just so they could spend a month getting drunk on an island somewhere – and please laugh uproariously every time steampunk Adrian invokes ‘the boys’ this season, not knowing that drunken time with the boys is going to be denied him.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. Rather, I want to think about a different Bach story – a success story – and what Australian Bachelor can learn from it.
In my first recap of the season, I talked about the three dual Bachelorette seasons of the show airing in 2020. Bachelorette NZ with Lesina and Lily is already in the books, but when I was writing that first recap, Bachelorette US, where Clare is swiftly replaced by Tayshia, had not yet aired. However, the first episode has now aired: to ratings unchanged from last year, even though it was competing against an enormous football game.
To put this another way: Bachelorette US is looking like a big ratings winner. Bachelorette Australia, on the other hand, has not been.
There are a few reasons for this. One is fatigue: as someone who writes about two thousand words about each episode of the franchise, slogging through three seasons in a row is a lot – and all it gets you is Paradise cancelled for a year. Two is that Elly and Becky are not the most compelling heroines the franchise has ever seen (although they are definitely a step up from Locky the sentient boulder, in my humble opinion).
But the third is that the Australian franchise seems to have no idea how to capitalise on what is most interesting in the season. They’re seemingly intent in replicating the same kind of show over and over again (including plagiarising dates, as we saw last night) and fitting things into it. The US version, on the other hand, is continually focused on one-upping itself: there’s a reason that ‘the most dramatic season ever’ is a Bachie cliché in the US, but it’s one of the few that hasn’t managed to hold water here.
Look at the way Clare’s season has been sold in the US. They’ve weighed up the benefits of suspense vs scandal, and gone with scandal. They could have tried to keep it a secret that Clare gets replaced with Tayshia fairly early on, but instead, they leaned into the leaks. Everyone knows what’s going to happen – that Clare is going to fall hard and fast for one of the men, so hard that she and he leave the show very early – and now they’re watching for it. They’re leaning in so hard to the aspect of the show which is new and allowing people to speculate on how it’ll play out – denying them just enough information to make it titillating – rather than trying to emphasise the format’s bones.
Narrative theorist H Porter Abbott argues that texts need to operate at two levels: the level of expectations and the level of questions, and that a balance between them needs to be achieved (2008, 58 – he’s adapting Roland Barthes’ notions of the proairetic and hermeneutic codes here, if you want to get real nerdy about it). Let’s think about a crime novel, for instance. I have expectations that must be met: there needs to be a crime, it should be solved by the end of the book, or it’s not going to be a very good crime novel. But I also need to have questions (how is the crime going to be solved? how does the mystery fit together?) or it’s going to feel very generic and stale.
The Bach franchise is exactly the same. We have expectations about the show, because we’ve watched a million seasons and we know how it goes: the Bach will meet a bunch of contestants, they’ll go on dates, they’ll narrow it down, and they’ll find the one.
But what the US franchise is succeeding at – and the Australian franchise is not – is the level of questions. How is the season going to play out? What will make it different to other seasons? How will the Bach get to where they need to go?
This season gives the Australian Bachelorette a great opportunity to raise questions. One everyone had before the season is simple: now that there’s two of them, how is this going to work, exactly? And there’s the mechanics of doing the show in the pandemic, which is fascinating. But the show has chosen to explicitly address neither: instead, all they’ve done is try to make it into just another season of the Bach. They’re meeting the expectations of the format – but they’re not using that level of questions to generate interest.
In short: please call me, Channel Ten/Warner Bros/etc. I can help.
All right. On to the recap.
We begin tonight with another single date. It’s Becky’s this time, and she picks surprisingly ripped café man Pete.
Before we go to the date, though, I want to quickly cover a bit of the bromosocial conversation that goes on. Pascal is chatting with the boys, and he’s like, ‘what’s her name? is it Ally or Elly? I don’t even know!’
Keep your eye on Chekhov’s Disrespect, is what I’m saying.
Back to Becky and Pete. This date begins fairly originally, in that they meet beside water and then DON’T take either a boat or a helicopter to get where they’re going (they take a car).
But that’s where the originality ends. This date is shamelessly plagiarised from Sam Wood’s season, when he and Nina did the Harbour Bridge climb.
(I’d also like to point out that they meet about a hundred metres away from the base of the bridge? And yet they somehow take a car to get there? I know you have a car sponsor, but think about the environment, I beg you.)
If you can think all the way back to 2015, you’ll remember that Sam and Nina were set the very awkward task of breaking the longest ever on-air pash record. Yet somehow what Becky and Pete are asked to do is even more awkward. They’re met by a singer on the bridge, who sings her new single to them, and they have to dance.
This might seem normal, but I would like to remind you that they can’t play music during filming. So this poor singer was likely singing totally sans backing track, on top of a windy bridge, while Becky and Pete awkwardly bopped around and tried not to fall.
CHANNEL TEN. CALL ME. JUST DO IT.
There’s a bit more meat than we’ve seen so far this season in Becky and Pete’s Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. ‘So, I have something I need to tell you,’ Pete says. ‘I was married. My wife and I are separated, and have been for about a year.’
‘I know exactly how you feel,’ Becky says. ‘I’ve been hurt too, and it’s disgusting.’
I feel like Becky has made some assumptions that don’t necessarily follow from what Pete told her – like, she seems to be assuming that Pete’s ex actively hurt him – but Pete doesn’t correct her. Instead, he’s just so glad that she could be vulnerable with him! and they pash and he gets a rose, the end.
(Yes, if you were wondering if this narrative sounded familiar, Pete is Carlin Sterritt: the sequel.)
Next up is NOT a group date. Rather, Elly is pioneering a new date format: the mini-date.
I think we would all appreciate a rubric as to what constitutes a mini-date vs a maxi-date (THE MECHANICS ARE INTERESTING, CHANNEL TEN, MAXIMISE THE AFFORDANCES OF WHAT YOU HAVE), but as far as I can tell, a mini-date does not contain a transportation component. Rather, James meets Elly at the Bach Pad. They have some Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation time, where James tells Elly that he has a vulnerable side as well as a ‘smartarse’ side, and then utters an immortal romantic declaration: ‘I’m inta ya, heaps’.
And then what do you know, it’s only Episode Four and we’re suddenly in the midst of a hardcore Bachie pool pash. Just how condensed is this season going to be?
(Also, Becky had an early lead, but now the sisters are level in the pash stakes, coming in at 3-3.)
Now it’s time for the group date. This is a fairly standard water sports date: Becky and Elly take the lads waterskiing/wakeboarding/I don’t fucking know, something water-related. However, this is not the true meat of the date.
Rather, this is a classic Bachie surveillance date. Last year, we had the undercover brother; a few years ago we had Sophie Monk’s sister cosplaying as Marion; and this year, the two drivers that take the boys to the site are undercover, listening to how they all talk about the women.
It becomes immediate very quickly that Pascal is a bit of a shit. He dives immediately into some slut-shaming of the women (and one of the drivers actually uses the word ‘shaming’, which I thought was interesting). The chat of the men in the other car make it clear that Pascal is not, shall we say, there for the right reasons: they don’t even know which of the sisters he’s interested, or if he even knows they’re sisters.
To add insult to injury, at the water sports place, Pascal spends a lot of time talking about how legendary he is at this kind of thing (even trying to compare himself to international wakeboarding champ James), and then falls on this face pretty promptly the second it’s his turn. That’s right: Pascal is an extremely literal embodiment of the Amazing Waterskiier Fallacy.
The undercover operatives alert the sisters that Pascal sucks. They file this information away for future use.
And you need to file it away for future use too, because we have another plot point we need to hit first at the cocktail party. Harry takes Elly aside and is like, ‘look, I miss my kid, so I need to know now if you really like me, because otherwise, I want to go home to him’.
‘…yeah, I’d go home to him,’ Elly says.
Back to the Pascal plot. Becky pulls Aggi (who seems handsome and nice and has good fashion sense – I know we were all mightily fooled by Ciarran, but please: more Aggi) aside and asks him what the deal is there.
‘I’ll be straight with you,’ Aggi says. ‘He’s made some comments.’
‘Like “why couldn’t they get some better looking chicks”?’
This (and apparently not the slut-shaming bullshit, which I found a bit interesting) sends Becky over the edge. She storms off to find Elly. ‘Oh, what a prick,’ Elly agrees.
They pull Pascal aside. ‘Look, we’ve heard you’ve made comments,’ Elly says.
‘I?’ quoth Pascal. ‘I have never made a comment in my life!’
‘So you didn’t say that you were upset about us kissing guys?’
‘How would you do it better?’
‘This is all hearsay!’
‘And you didn’t say that you wished they’d got better looking chicks?’
‘You are both beautiful angels. I would never say a word against you.’
‘Yeah, we don’t believe you,’ Becky says. ‘Leave.’
‘You can’t fire me, because I quit!’
Pascal storms off to the limo in a snit, after having attempted and failed to gaslight both women into believing his nonsense point of view. It really takes something to try that when you’re literally being filmed.
…which I suppose is why they trot out the undercover operative date so often. But isn’t it interesting (ahem, “interesting”) that this date is only ever featured on The Bachelorette, not The Bachelor?
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