This is how questions work
Oh my god, we’re Bach again (sorry). Even though we’re only about five minutes into this season of The Bachelorette, we’re already at a top ten – which effectively means a top five for each of the sisters. Does this mean that we haven’t really had adequate time to develop an interest in any of the prospective romances? Yes, yes it does.
There have been some interesting narrative manoeuvres this season, some good, some less good. The fact that we haven’t really had the space to develop compelling narratives is something caused by the double Bachie problem: each only has half the time, so it’s harder for us to invest. That was always going to be a struggle. But one narrative decision that’s been quite curious this season has been the lack of a villain.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it was very clear last episode that Pascal was a huge villain. I think they did a great job editing that together: his negging, his snide little comments, his Amazing Waterskiier moment, and then that epic dressing down from the sisters was a lovely arc. But it was an arc confined to one episode. I’m not sure we’ve seen a season of the show before where we haven’t had a villain whose arc encompasses a season – or at least the first part of a season, before they winnow away all the drama contestants to focus on the romance contestants.
This might actually have been a good decision on behalf of production (how many times have you heard me say that this year? My guess is somewhere in the vicinity of negative three). Because the time for our dual Bachies is effectively cut in half, in a season which seems like it might already be truncated, it makes sense to put as much focus as you can on the developing relationships, and not the interpersonal drama between the contestants. After Locky’s season, none of us want to watch an episode that’s all cocktail party ever again, and the editing on this season has been much tighter. By taking villainy out of the picture for the most part, the focus is on the romantic, rather than the homosocial interactions.
But the flipside of this is that romances need obstacles in order to be compelling. The whole nature of the franchise – ie. competitive – is one obstacle, but that’s not enough on its own. As the famous theorist of romance Denis de Rougemont once wrote, ‘happy love has no history’ (1945, 15). If a romance is just about two people meeting, being attracted to each other, falling in love, and committing to each other, then that’s not that interesting (even if it’s a lot of fun for then). We need a sense that they’ve overcome something in order for the payoff to be worth it. Villains in the Bachieverse can offer this kind of opportunity by acting as this obstacle to be overcome. They don’t always fulfil this role – the editing (and, I assume, the behaviour of the people) varies – but they can. If this season could just find that conflict, then a lot of the romances they’re focusing on would suddenly become a lot more interesting.
Are we going to find some conflict tonight? Let’s dive into the recap and see.
We begin tonight with a group date, and you know what? While it is unnecessarily complicated, this is actually reasonably well thought out! It’s a Halloween date. All the lads are in costume, and we get to see them get performatively scared as they go through a makeshift haunted house, and it’s great for revealing personality and character and that sort of thing.
You know what would have been more revealing, though? If they’d shown even a little bit of the lads workshopping their costumes. That would tell us so much about who they are and how they think.
For context, notable costumes include Aggi in a bright purple wizard’s costume, Shannon as a werewolf, Damo as a cop, and Adam (beautiful sweet shy Adam) as a vampire.
Once all the lads are inside, this turns into a fairly standard party game date. They start out with some icebreakers (‘what is your favourite body part?’ the ladies ask, and all the men are like, ‘hehehe, definitely not my dick, lol’, except beautiful sweet shy Adam, who is like, ‘ahhh… my brain?’), before it turns into a strange combination of Never Have I Ever, Truth or Dare, and a Bula Banquet, complete with the submission of anonymous questions.
We get a few interesting tidbits out of this:
- Several of the lads have cheated on previous partners – as has Becky, although she quickly states that it was a long time ago and that’s not something she would ever do now.
- Beautiful sweet shy Adam has never been in love.
- In response to a question about whether they’ve hooked up before, Elly admits that she and Joe have spent ‘a weekend’ together. ‘BUT WHAT DOES WEEKEND MEAN?’ wonders Frazer, which: good question, bro. A lot of the language we use about the early stages of relationships is very vague (eg. ‘hanging out with’, also employed by Elly and Joe), and regularly leads to this kind of confusion.
For me, though, this was a massive missed opportunity, because they fell into the same trap they did with the human chess (chest) game in Locky’s season. They showed a lot of the questions: BUT HARDLY ANY OF THE ANSWERS.
Bachie. My friend. When you ask questions, you have the perfect opportunity to get more information out of people and add layers to their character. You gotta show the answers, bro.
Oh, and there’s a couple of dares in here too:
- Damo has to do a striptease (or as beautiful sweet shy Adam says, ‘a, um, strip-dance?’) for Elly. Don’t love this, because imagine if the genders were reversed? Hard no thank you! Shannon’s enthusiastically consensual striptease for Becky was less problematic, tho.
- Frazer did a nudie run, which apparently he does around the house all the time anyway.
Plus, somewhere in there, James stormed off. Potentially it was to the bathroom, but… was it Chekhov’s Storming Off?
Before we can answer that question, though, we have to turn to our single date. It’s for Elly, and her chosen partner is beautiful sweet shy Adam the rock scientist.
I am cautious about declaring this. We all got fooled by Ciarran last year. But every so often the show will throw a genuine beautiful wood nymph (a la Todd King) into the sea of toxic masculinity which is the cast, and I think Adam might be this year’s nymph.
Cognisant of his magical natural origins, Elly takes him to the zoo. They admire some animals and joke about what a shit date it would be if they got eaten by lions before they undertake their main activity: bodypainting.
Look, I regularly offer to consult on dates for this show, because on the whole, they don’t do a great job. But credit where credit is due: I would not have thought to put together body-painting and the zoo.
I wish they’d shown a little bit more of the conversation here, but basically: Elly paints Adam as a giraffe (and he only takes his shirt off one shoulder – it just hanging there awkwardly destroyed me), he paints her as a zebra, they laugh a lot, and do a lot of kissing.
And later, we get not just some conversation on their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation, but my absolute favourite thing that has happened this season. ‘Ever since I heard you were a geologist, I was working out how to make this happen,’ Elly says. ‘I got someone to send me my childhood rock collection from home.’
Adam’s eyes light up. He opens the box and tells her about all the rocks, and… god, Bachie, something you really need to realise is that the most attractive qualities a person can have are passion and competence. Doesn’t matter what in. If you want to construct people as serious romantic interests, that’s what you need to draw out.
In short: this ruled. I hope they put the full thing on Tenplay.
Obviously, they also had the usual conversation about how they’re getting closer emotionally and did some more kissing and he got a rose, but the rocks beat that, hands down.
Next up, we get another mini-date. Becky has Sam over to the Bach pad, where they make pasta together. (Because he is Italian. I seriously hope they’d had a conversation about pasta before and that they didn’t just assume he knew how to make pasta because he’s Italian.) He asks her some more about the cheating thing, she explains more (‘I was young, I was dumb, I regret it’), he’s like, ‘cool,’ and they kiss. The end.
Oh, and while they were making pasta, they had a food fight. I would just like to put it out there in case anyone who ever wants to date me is reading: do not ever attempt to food fight with me. If you get flour in my hair, I will never speak to you again. I’m not joking.
Finally, it’s the cocktail party. We’ve got two major plot points here. The first is Frazer angsting over what really happened between Elly and Joe. ‘I know “a weekend” to me would mean an adult cuddle!’ he says after Joe steadfastly refuses to explain further, causing everyone watching to vomit at the phrase ‘adult cuddle’.
The second is James wanting to get some time with Elly so he can explain his answer to the cheating question to her: he has cheated, he admitted it in that Bula Banquet: Halloween Edition, and he wants to explain himself.
Elly arrives late to the cocktail party because she’s been having such a nice time with Adam the beautiful rock boy. Frazer manages to nab her pretty much straight away, and they go and have a long conversation about the whole Joe situation.
Do we see that conversation, though? No! Instead, we see James angsting about how he can’t get time with Elly, and then the cocktail party’s over.
BACHIE. IF YOU RAISE A QUESTION, YOU NEED TO ANSWER IT. THIS IS QUITE A BASIC FUNCTION OF HOW QUESTIONS WORK.
The rose ceremony is an interesting one, because they only get rid of one guy. Adam already has a rose, and they have eight roses total. This poses a problem with the suspense mechanic: when you get down to two men, it’s obvious who’s going home because of which Bachelorette is doling out the rose.
The final two men are James and Aggi, and Elly is the one handing out the rose, which means we farewell Aggi (too soon, IMO, he seems like he had more to offer – hopefully we catch him in Paradise in 2022). I have to think, though, that this mechanical awkwardness is a consequence of cutting too many men too fast in the early episodes. Was this pandemic-related? If not, I hope they learned the error of their ways… or, you know, how to do basic maths.
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