Penultimate recap of the 2020 Bachie season, friends! It’s been a long year, and I hope, if nothing else, this recap can be a brief distraction from… you know, the world.
I want to begin my pre-recap nerdle – the penultimate nerdle! soon my nerdling fingers can rest! – tonight by thinking about discipline. This is a word you probably hear a lot about if you’re an academic like me, but probably don’t think a lot about if you’re not. It’s also not a word you’d probably associate a lot with shows like The Bachelor/ette, but there’s an argument to be made that reality television is itself a deeply disciplinary form.
If you’ve ever heard of the term ‘panopticon’, you know what I’m talking about. This was a kind of prison first theorised by Jeremy Bentham, wherein all the prisoners could at any time be watched by a guard. They weren’t being watched all the time; however, they never knew when the periods when they were being watched were, so they had to behave as though they were being watched constantly.
Michel Foucault (bet you’ve heard of him if you’ve ever been anywhere near an Arts degree) picked up on the idea the panopticon and argued that it was fundamental to the kind of discipline he was thinking through in his book Discipline and Punish: one where people were disciplined not by excessive force but through the internalisation of discipline. If you never know when you’re being watched, you have to internalise the discipline – something that’s more effective than, say, getting electric shocks every time you step out of line.
There’s a solid case to be made that reality TV is a bit, well, panopticonical. The cameras are on you constantly, but you never know what’s going to make it to air or not, or how they’ll cut your story, so – in theory, anyway – you need to be on your best behaviour constantly in order to maximise the chance of getting a good edit. Also, we know what a good edit looks like: it means being edited as a ‘wifey’, a genuine romantic possibility for the Bachie.
The Bachie is also subject to this kind of discipline. We could argue that they’re subject to it moreso, because they have more camera time, but given that the Bachie essentially functions as the straight man to the contestants’ funny man, I think it’s harder for them to fuck up. The only times this really happens is when they step outside the rules: they don’t pick someone at the end (Honey Badger), they tell two people they love them (Locky), they pick someone immediately and run off with them in like episode 3 (Clare Crawley in the US Bachelorette rn, which is about a million times more interesting than this Australian season).
And the disciplinary enforcer? Us! We’re the guards in the panopticon, pals. But through this process, we’re also being shown what romantic leads should look like, which is in itself a form of cultural discipline…
We could go down that rabbit hole for a long time, but I wanted to tie this back to where we are in the season at the moment, ie. hometowns. This is, I think, one of the few moments in the show when the Bachie is subject to discipline in the diegesis. The whole format revolves around the Bach observing the contestants: not panopticonally necessarily, but production ensures that a whole lot gets back to them. Hometowns is where the Bach is themselves observed by the families of the contestants.
Long story short, this is why there’s always so much emphasis placed on family members making the Bach feel really, really uncomfortable. They’re pushing back on the artificial disciplinary relationship that’s been set up in the show. Often, they set a whole other kind of boundary here, which is then used to discipline the Bach: are you sincere? do you really love [my family member]? and isn’t the whole show kind of awful anyway?
There’s an entanglement of discipline here, is what I’m getting at. A Gordian knot of it. Let’s see if there’s anything we can possibly untangle in this second hometowns instalment.
Elly and Frazer
Elly and Frazer meet on an oval. ‘I like AFL, so I thought we’d kick the old footy around a bit!’ Frazer says.
NB: this is paraphrased. I am sure he said actual football words, but I do not know what they are.
‘Whenever I see Frazer, it’s like I’ve been walking on concrete for a week and then I’ve stepped onto soft grass,’ Elly says to camera, starry-eyed.
NB: this is not paraphrased. Also, Frazer is literally a concreter? Which I feel like takes this into some very strange places?
Anyway, they kick the ball around and laugh and pash. It does not sound like a good time to me, but they both enjoy themselves, so you do you, kids. Then they head back to chat with Frazer’s family on Zoom. The camera switches on while they’re kissing, and it’s basically a repeat of that time when Bella’s family walked in on her kissing Locky, but the Zoom version.
We’re supposed to pay attention to Frazer’s mum, who he describes as ‘a traditionalist’ and who self-describes as ‘judgmental’. But I’m much more struck by Frazer’s brother Rhys. Frazer calls him a ‘wizard’, and just like… why? It’s never explained, and I really want to know how literally he means this.
But back to the mum. She goes in on hard on Elly, asking her about her motives for becoming the Bach and questioning the whole concept of going on TV looking for love. She also makes it clear that Frazer is never, ever leaving Brisbane: if Elly wants to be with him, she’ll have to move.
(When Bachie gives me control of the dates, they’re all going to be talking VERY EARLY ON about the practicalities of where they’ll live. They won’t necessarily have to decide, but it’s a conversation that can reveal some true incompatibilities, both of location and personality.)
Frazer’s mum softens up a bit when Elly says that Frazer reminds her of her dad, and her dad is the best man she know, but this whole little section really hammers home what I was writing about in my nerdle: the primary function of the hometown date is disciplinary.
Afterwards, Elly and Frazer do some more pashing and he confesses that he’s falling in love with her. ‘When I’m with her, it feels like our souls are touching!’ he enthuses to the camera.
I can’t put my finger on why I think ‘our souls are touching!’ is so gross, but oh! I do.
Becky and Adrian
Becky is technically down to her final two now she’s eliminated Shannon. This means she absolutely can’t eliminate Adrian, because then the show will be over for her.
There’s no pre-family date here (although there’s some quick footage of Adrian indoor rock-climbing, and… when did that happen? where did that come from? what is its meaning?). Instead, they get right into it. ‘You’re going to meet my older brother, my mate, and my mum by Zoom, and my little brother IRL,’ Adrian tells Becky.
It all goes smoothly with the IRL meeting with the little brother. ‘This is going to be easy!’ Becky crows.
But she has not accounted for the chaos energy of the older brother.
I can’t remember the older brother’s name, but I can tell you that in thirty seconds, he became one of the most well-established characters this season. ‘I’m gagging to know which sister he went for!’ he exclaims. ‘Then I’ve got some questions, because it’s amazing what you can find out on the internet…’
This is some serious chaotic trickster energy, and it’s immediately recognisable in the little grabs we have. I know more about Adrian’s brother than I know about Becky, and… truly, therein lies the failure of this season. Gotta know who someone is to invest in them as a romantic protagonist, show!
Obviously, the chaotic older brother is the one doing the disciplinary questioning this time. ‘Tell me about your dog,’ he says.
Becky does. ‘It’s a small dog,’ the brother says. ‘Adrian wants a big dog.’
‘So I saw on social media you broke up with your boyfriend to come on here,’ the brother goes on. ‘Is that true?’
‘Kind of,’ Becky says. ‘I was dating someone, but I’m looking for my forever person. I knew it wasn’t him.’
‘So you’re not just here for fame?’
‘No,’ Becky says. ‘Honestly, I’m quite private. I had no idea how I’d cope with this at all.’
In the space of, oh, a minute? Adrian’s brother has got more information about Becky out than the whole show has all season. Give him a producer gig, because he’s clearly got a knack.
Afterwards, Becky and Adrian pash. ‘I want to lock you down,’ Adrian whispers. ‘I can see a life with you, Becky!’
‘My feelings for Adrian are stronger than ever,’ Becky tells the camera.
My feelings for him are also stronger than ever, in that I hate his fuckboi haircut more every time I see it.
Elly and Adam
‘I always wanted to be a geologist, so Adam is so special to me!’ Elly says.
This is completely new information. How has this not been built into her narrative with Adam all along?!
Elly meets Adam the sweet rock boy on a beach. He’s in a wetsuit stripped down to the waist. ‘I thought we’d spend some time learning to surf!’ he says.
Yes, the show 100% made him do this to get him to take his shirt off. I have no doubt at all.
They have a fun time splashing about and doing surf stuff before they get back to the house. It’s another Zoom hometown, where Elly will be meeting our sweet rock boy’s sister and brother-in-law.
(Obviously this made me regret once again that I have three brothers and have hitherto convinced zero of them to enter the Bachieverse. All I want is to be a Bachie sibling and ask the awkward questions!)
After the brother-in-law makes a hilari-awkward pun about Adam ‘rocking’ Elly’s world, Elly and the sister sit down together. ‘How do you feel about Adam?’ the sister asks.
‘He’s, um, great!’ Elly says. ‘Do you think he’s ready for a serious relationship? I know I’m the first girl he’s ever introduced to his family and he’s never been in love before!’
‘Sure!’ the sister says, but she’s read between the lines. ‘Elly turned the question back on us,’ she tells the camera. ‘She’s avoiding the question of whether she likes Adam.’
It’s clear to us that Adam the rock boy is a gem, but it’s also clear that the writing is on the wall. It only becomes clearer when afterwards, in the customary ‘pash and tell her how you feel’ segment, he gets all shy and tongue-tied and can’t get the words ‘I’m falling for you’ out. Alas, poor rock boy.
With Shannon’s elimination last week, Becky’s final two are set. That leaves Elly to choose between Joe, Frazer and Adam, and I think we all know which way she went.
Elly bawls when she says goodbye to the sweet rock boy Adam. He keeps it together a bit more, but it’s clear he’s on the verge of tears. ‘I liked Elly,’ he says quietly in his exit limo interview. ‘She made me feel special.’
Seeing this good sweet rock boy in emotional pain is yet more violence wrought upon us by 2020.
Tomorrow, for better or worse, it all ends. Catch you on the flippety-flip for the last recap of the season, 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