My kingdom for a couch
Finally! We made it! It’s the last Bachie episode in this cursed year of 2020, and I can hang up my recapping pen for a while. THANK GOD.
It seems kind of fitting that we should end our Bachie year with a whimper: hardly anyone watching, whatever press tour there’ll inevitably be drowned out by much larger news. This has not been a good year for the Australian Bachie franchise. A relatively strong season of Paradise aside, they really missed some opportunities in both of the central shows.
Granted, 2020 had a massive complicating factor with the pandemic – which impacted the central shows but not Paradise, which filmed last year. However, the US Bachelorette season currently airing has shown that you can make this a feature, rather than a bug. Ratings numbers here have been down, but there have remained stable, and that should really tell you something.
Therefore, I want to end Bachie with Jodi for 2020 with a list of things that I think the franchise needs to learn.
(Yes, this is yet another not-so-transparent pitch for the show to hire me as a consultant. Seriously, Bachie. I’ve got a PhD in romance. I’m offering. I won’t even charge you that much. LET ME HELP YOU.)
What makes things difficult also makes them interesting. The pandemic royally fucked things up for the Bachieverse this year. There’s no doubt about that. The landscape in which they needed to conduct the show changed dramatically.
However, this also comes with opportunities, because it provokes genuine curiosity in how the show will handle it. People are fascinated by the mechanics of things like this (as the popularity of Unreal demonstrated). It presents opportunities for creative solutions, for new spins on an increasingly all-too-familiar franchise. The current season of US Bachelorette began with a full half-hour on the show’s corona protocols. In Australia, they did their best to pretend it wasn’t happening. I’m fairly sure that they’ve been banned from saying words like ‘covid’ in the current Australian season – cf. Elly vaguely describing ‘the current circumstances in the world’ as the reason last night for why she couldn’t meet Frazer’s family.
When you’ve got a complicating factor: make negotiating it part of the narrative. This goes not just for the pandemic, but also for structural things. The biggest question people had going into this season of The Bachelorette was ‘how are this going to work given there’s two of them?’ We’re in the final episode now, and the show just… never explained it.
Characterisation is key to investment. I feel like I’ve said this about a thousand times, this season especially, but if you want people to invest in a romance, they have to be invested in the characters first. Precious little effort went into characterisation this year, especially in The Bachelorette. Becky is one of the leads, and I know maybe three things about her.
Relationships are about interpersonal dynamics. That’s where the frisson comes from, the tension, the conflict, everything that drives a storyline forward. But if you don’t know who one or more of the partners are, then it’s necessarily going to fall flat, because that dynamic is un-parseable. How is the audience going to be able to care about whether someone finds love – or who they find it with – when they have no real grasp on who they are?
Often, I think the show prioritises plot – or, to use Bachie terms, ‘drama’ – over character. However, even this doesn’t really mean much if we don’t have a real sense of who the players are. The show also loves to show people talking about their feelings and rehearsing the same set of Bachie cliches again and again. Semantic satiation has been reached now, eight seasons into The Bachelor and six into The Bachelorette, so if you want these cliches to mean anything, you’ve got to show us who the people are first. Show, don’t tell, Bachie.
Theorise your dates. What do you want a date to achieve? What do you want it to communicate? What’s the end goal from a date?
The dates in Bachie have become rote at this point. They’re also recycling dates a lot, and it feels like they’ve really lost sight of what a date is supposed to be: a way for two people to get to know each other.
I’m not necessarily opposed to the adrenaline dates – as I’ve discussed previously, they can drive romantic bonding, even if it’s through misattribution. But there have been a lot of dates where it just isn’t clear what the point is: for the participants, or for the viewer. What does the viewer get out of two people flying around in a helicopter saying ‘wow!’ at the landscape, beyond some nice shots of the landscape? If we wanted that, we’d watch Slow TV.
This is one area in which there is so, so much room for creativity. In 2021, this is where I really want the show to put in some serious effort.
…and they could do that by hiring your old pal Dr Jodes, as a start. I have ideas. I can help. LET ME HELP.
Those are my dreams for 2021. But we still have one more episode of 2020 to get through, so: let’s get into it with the final dates.
Elly and Joe
Elly picks Joe up on the banks of the Nepean. It’s a new variation on the boat date: a haunted steamboat!
Seriously. There’s a fleeting shot of the captain’s hands, and I’m pretty sure they put it in solely to prove to the audience that the boat wasn’t crewed by old timey ghosts.
The boat date transitions into a paddleboard date, wherein Elly and Joe splash around on the river a bit and then pash. It solidified a suspicion I’ve had for a while now: someone in production has got it into their head that if you want to invoke romance, you show a shot of two tiny people against a very dramatic vista. They’re not wrong, necessarily… but it’s not the only way, you know?
You’ll note I haven’t said anything about what Joe and Elly said to each other. That’s because I don’t think they actually did say anything. Mostly they just sort of laughed at/with each other.
They do have a bit more of a conversation once they get to their Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. ‘I’m falling in love with you,’ Joe tells Elly. ‘I can see a future with you.’
They pash, as Elly wonders… ‘am I falling in love with Joe?’
Let’s ignore that writing on the wall, though, because once again, I could barely pay attention to this conversation. Instead, I paid attention to the following:
- This wasn’t a Couch of Wine and Intimate Conversation. It was a Some Cushions on the Tray of a Ute of Wine and Intimate Conversation.
- There was NO CHEESE. Elly came from Dr Space Bachie’s season, where there were always loving, lingering shots of the cheeseboard. She has to have noticed this.
- Joe spent the whole time holding a glass of champagne in his crotch???
The criticisms of this season being boring are not unfounded, shall we say.
Becky and Pete
‘Pete’s such a man, you know?’ Becky enthuses. ‘He’s really got his shit together.’
I was like, ‘wow, that does sound appealing’. And then I was like, ‘god, the bar is truly so abominably low.’
Becky has taken Pete on a skydiving date, because she hopes it will ‘get him out his comfort zone’ and shake an emotional declaration out of him.
I don’t think I need to say too much about this. I’ve written several times this year about the high places adrenaline date and the principle of misattribution of arousal that lies underneath it. They skydive. They yell WOOOOOOO. It continues to seem like a bad idea to go on a date where you have to strap yourself to a whole other person to me.
What is more interesting is their Couch time (again, not a couch – it’s a picnic blanket. Truly their budget is running dry). Becky is clearly trying to get a satisfactory emotional declaration out of Pete, and it’s just not happening. ‘Do you even like me?’ she asks him.
‘Yes,’ he replies. ‘But I self-sabotage a lot, when I like someone.’
‘You’re only recently separated,’ Becky says. ‘Are you ready for this?’
‘I don’t know when I’ll ever really be “ready”,’ Pete says. ‘But I don’t want to create a reason out of nothing. I don’t want to find a “why not”. I want to find a way to make it work.’
It’s quite unsatisfactory to Becky, but given this is the best developed story we’ve seen all season: I don’t hate this as a narrative moment.
Elly and Frazer
They clearly spent all of Elly’s date budget on that haunted steamboat, because this is the most budget Bachie date I’ve ever seen.
Elly meets Frazer in a paddock. They drive aimlessly around in a tractor for a bit.
THAT’S THE DATE.
Seriously. That’s the date.
I promise, Bachie, even if the budget is a shoestring, I can put together something better for you than ‘drive around in a tractor for a while’.
They also can’t afford a couch, because our old friend the bathtub (best known from the chocolate bath incident, but also appearing in Dr Space Bachie’s season and scarring us in Locky’s) is back. Elly and Frazer splash about in the copper tub for a while and talk about their feelings.
The gist is this: feelings – they have them! but Frazer doesn’t want to leave Queensland and Elly lives in NSW!
‘I’d move,’ Elly says cautiously, ‘but it would be a huge sacrifice for me.’
Then they pash some more. It’s not only a low budget date, but it’s pretty dull tbh.
Becky and Adrian
This is another budget date. Becky meets Adrian beside a pond. They strip down to swimmers, and then they smear mud on each other.
It’s a classic ‘oooh, let’s get messy and rub our hands all over each other’ date. These are a classic for a reason, but I can’t help but notice that the show took that five minute mud bath spot from Locky’s season, and turned it into two WHOLE finale dates.
(Once again: I CAN HELP. CALL ME.)
As he and Becky get down and dirty, Adrian obviously takes the opportunity to say a lot of things like ‘I like it when things get filthy’. I’m sure you can fill in at least ten more such things for yourself.
After washing the mud off in a waterfall (which I assume Adam the sweet rock boy lives behind), they actually get a couch! Or at least a bench with some cushions on it pretending to be a couch!
‘I had chemistry with you the first time I saw you!’ Becky says. ‘Before we even spoke!’
Reminder: the first time she saw him, he was wearing a steampunk hat. When you have chemistry with someone without speaking, and they’re wearing a hat like that, you really have to ask yourself some serious questions.
Then Adrian says he’s falling in love with her, they pash, etc.
The stage is set like this:
- Elly says that being with Joe would be easy, because she knows how he would fit into her life, and he’s also confessed his feelings. Being with Frazer would require huge sacrifice, and he hasn’t confessed his feelings. But she’s still torn.
- Becky says that Pete would be a great partner, and would be loyal. Adrian is much more of a risk, and she’s not sure he’s serious. But she’s still torn.
So yeah, they’ve set up the same narrative for both sisters: ‘this man would be a great partner, but I’m dickmatised by the other one’.
The stage is set. For some reason, Becky will be declaring her love in front of a haunted shed. They’ve covered it in flowers, but it’s still a haunted shed.
In this choice between heart and head, Becky picks head. Adrian is the first out of the limo – he’s the one coming in second.
Not that you’d know it from the first part of Becky’s speech, which sounds for all the world like a winner’s speech. It’s going to be fascinating to go back and analyse it at a linguistic level, because on first listen, the conditional ‘would’ is doing so much heavy lifting – eg. ‘I would be happy to spend a life with you’.
But then: ‘I have to follow my gut,’ Becky says. ‘And it’s leading me to someone else.’
She cries. He comforts her. ‘I just want you to be happy.’
Then he walks away, loiters under a tree for a while, and mutters about how it’s all bullshit.
Becky’s happy ending
‘I can’t wait to tell Pete he’s a done deal,’ Becky enthuses.
And she does. ‘From the start, I’ve thought you were husband material,’ she says. ‘And you are. It’s you, Pete.’
They kiss. ‘Wow,’ Pete says. ‘I can’t wait to really let myself fall for you now that I know I won’t be hurt.’
And they kiss some more. ‘You’re my boyfriend!’ Becky declares.
This segment is SO SHORT it doesn’t even merit a whole segment between ad breaks. This show really never has been that interested in Becky.
The previews for this show teased that there would be OMG A TWIST THAT NO ONE SAW COMING!
It’s not that twisty, though. Anyone who’s watched the US season will recognise the Andi Dorfman manoeuvre of not taking your runner up all the way to the ritual breakup, and instead finding them beforehand and letting them down in a more ‘normal’ way.
So, yeah, it’s about par for the course for this season. You get hopeful for a second that something will be interesting, and it’s just not, really.
The unlucky recipient of this non-ritual breakup is Joe – ie. Elly has made the opposite choice to her sister, and picked heart over head. This fact could be SO interesting if the show made any attempt to explore it (spoilers: they didn’t).
This is an incredibly teary breakup, and it’s one of the more moving moments of the season. ‘I’ve loved all the time we’ve spent together,’ Elly tells Joe. ‘You’re amazing. You’re everything I could ever want. But when you told me you were falling in love with me, I didn’t feel like you’re supposed to feel, Joey.’
Joe comforts her. He says all the right things about her following her heart and wanting her to be happy. But it’s clear that he really is a bit crushed by this.
Typically of this season, what’s going to be really interesting is what happens next – off screen. Joe and Elly live in the same city. They move in the same social circles. His housemate is her best friend! And they have to negotiate this awkwardness, this tension, while Elly is dating Frazer long distance. The ex is there. The new boyfriend is not.
Doesn’t that sound like a scripted drama you’d kill to watch?!
Elly’s happy ending
For that amazing scripted drama to exist, we need the long-distance boyfriend, so: here we go.
‘Frazer makes me feel like that last puzzle piece in my life has fallen into place,’ Elly tells us. It’s a bit less on the nose than yesterday’s concrete metaphor, but I really quite like her love of descriptive simile.
The declaration itself is – as with Becky and Pete – quite short. ‘I’m crazy about you, Frazer!’ Elly says. ‘I’ve only been in love once, but I’ve never felt like this before.’
‘I can really see myself falling in love with you!’ Frazer replies, which is about as far as you can get from ‘I love you’ while still including the word ‘love’ in the sentence.
Elly doesn’t seem to mind, though. She and Frazer kiss, and then they meet up with Becky and Pete and they all toast with some champagne. ‘I can’t wait for Christmas!’ Elly says.
The show ends on Becky and Elly hugging: a good note, I think. The season didn’t do an especially good job of exploring their relationship, but it would have been a bit ridiculous if we’d ditched a Bachelorette half an hour before the end of the finale.
And that’s the finale recapped! And the final recap of 2020!
Two things, before I go:
- Thank you for reading. These recaps are long and often intensely nerdy, and it really fills my heart with gladness to know that so many people read and find value in these. You’ll all get me hired by Channel Ten to be their date consultant yet. X
- You might remember that I teased an exciting new romance-related project at the end of Locky’s season, which you’ll like if you like these recaps. It’s taking a little longer to come together than I’d hoped, but it’s still very much on the cards, so watch this space (ie. follow me on Twitter at @JodiMcA, because that’s where I live my life in public).
Until 2021, friends: when I hope the cheese budget has been restored to its full glory.
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