It is the moment we have all been waiting for, friends! Like, I’m not just exaggerating about the beginning of another paint-by-numbers Bachie season! It’s finally here, the slew of firsts that the seventh season of The Bachelorette Australia represents: we have the very first First Nations lead, and the very first queer season of this long-running franchise.
And not just in Australia. These firsts are global, my friends. The Australian Bachie franchise has not historically been, shall we say, experimental, but this time, they’re doing something genuinely new, genuinely fresh, and genuinely exciting.
I published a conveniently-timed academic article this week about the practice of Bachie recapping, and I identified that the dominant mood across a whole bunch of recaps was exhaustion. To be fair, I was using recaps of Locky’s particular exhausting 2020 season as my corpus, but I think we also saw this in massive evidence in Elly and Becky’s season last year, and definitely in Jimmy’s season, where a lot of people just didn’t watch. Even if Brooke’s season doesn’t end up being the Absolute Pinnacle of Reality TV Ever Made, it’s the first time in a long time people have been genuinely excited to watch this show.
This makes this the absolute smartest move the franchise could have made, because if they continued the way they had been, then it would have been the beginning of a long, slow slide into oblivion. The Australian Bachie franchise does not have the “Bachelor Nation” apparatus around it to sustain it in the same way that the US franchise has, which makes things that much harder.
Plus, even with that major established fanbase, the parent US franchise has been going through its own trials and turmoils and necessary refreshes over the last few years. They’ve particularly been doing this with regards to race (although definitely not entirely successfully, as the Chris Harrison debacle showed). Rachel Lindsay was the first Black Bachelorette in 2017, and has since been succeeded by Tayshia Adams (2020) and Michelle Young, whose season also starts today. Matt James was the first Black Bachelor in 2021 (although his season was deeply inflected by the Chris Harrison of it all), and recently, Riley Christian and Maurissa Gunn became the first Black couple to get engaged on Paradise. It hasn’t necessarily meant massive changes to the format, but it has definitely changed the types of stories being told (for the better!).
There is a comfort to be found in the familiar. I spend a great deal of my time writing, reading and researching popular romance fiction, and that’s a classic example: if you take away the happy ending, people are going to be furious with you, because that’s not romance. However, if you tread the same ground over and over again, people are going to get extremely bored. To use romance fiction as an example again: if you got to the happy ending the exact same way every time, or if it was always the same archetypical characters getting to that happy ending, then it would be very dull.
Storytelling relies on a mixture of expectations (this is what I expect when I consume this particular kind of text) and questions (how are they going to meet these expectations?). In recent years, the Australian Bachie franchise has fallen down massively on the questions part: they’ve prioritised the familiar at the expense of the fresh. Brooke’s season is an extremely welcome correction to this. Even if there’s not OMG MASSIVE DRAMA (something the franchise loves to emphasise at the expense of narrative, which I have a whole other set of feelings about), this season is necessarily going to pose different kinds of questions. The endpoint of the Bachie season – the Bach declaring their love to the winner – might be the same, but this year, there’s genuine questions, and thus excitement, about how we’re going to get there.
So let us not prolong the anticipation any longer! Let’s dive into the recap of Brooke’s season: our first ever bisexual First Nations Bachelorette.
Firstly, a quick recap on who Brooke is: she is a Noongar-Yamatji woman, and she first came to our attention on the Honey Badger’s season, where she was the clear frontrunner right up until the point she quit at the final three stage. She later did a quick tour of Paradise, where she revealed that she quit because the Badge had told her that he wasn’t planning to pick anyone in the end. While in Paradise, she had a brief romance with the very hunky American Alex Bordyukov, and shared the Australian Bachie franchise’s first ever same-sex kiss with Alex Nation, but ultimately, decided to leave, deciding her person wasn’t there (and also, reading between the lines, because a horde of some of Bachie’s worst bros were basically stalking her around the island trying to date her, and she absolutely did not want it).
All of this establishes Brooke as not just a desirable but an unusually decisive figure in the Bachie franchise. She’s done two shows, but she has never been eliminated. In each of her two seasons, she has been the one to choose to leave. This gives her, in my opinion, the best quality a Bachie can have. A wishy-washy Bachie is no good. Neither is one with no real sense of who they are and what they want – not least because if they don’t know, it’s very difficult to construct them as a compelling character for the audience. Brooke’s decisiveness is something which will absolutely stand her in good stead as a Bachie.
But who will she be choosing between? Let’s do our regular Night One dramatis personae and meet the contestants who will be vying for Brooke’s heart.
(Before we do, though – I want to note that when Brooke meets Osher on the red carpet, there is a proper welcome to Dharug country. I sincerely hope that they keep this for all future seasons! It is great!)
Okay. The contestants:
Holly: Holly is 27, white, and works in marketing. However, I promise she is a different person to the white 27yo Holly who won Jimmy’s season. She’s a dancer, and she and Brooke slow dance on the red carpet and it is cute as hell.
Darvid: Darvid arrives on a lawnmower. I was worried this was going to be a weird joke about cutting other people’s grass, but it’s just because he’s a landscaper. He is Persian, pours Brooke tea, and gives her a genie lamp, granting her three wishes – a very solid intro bit IMHO.
Beau: Beau is either a villain or he’s Littney. I can’t tell. The music wasn’t quite haunted carnival enough to be Littney, but it wasn’t straight-up fuckboi either.
Carissa: Carissa is lovely! She tells Brooke a sweet story about how she started seeing rainbows after her parents died, and she feels like those rainbows have led her here. I definitely regret knowing that this is also a plot point in an Ice Planet Barbarians book, because I felt like it undercut the emotion of this a little for me personally.
Konrad: Konrad absolutely fucking nails the red carpet. He turns up in hi-viz, which I wasn’t so big on for Matt Canavan reasons, but it’s because he’s a carpenter. He hauls out a bunch of wood and he and Brooke BUILD A BENCH TOGETHER. Did he read that stuff I wrote about romantic creativity and dates during Jimmy’s season? Because this is perfect!
Jamie-Lee: Jamie-Lee was an intruder on Honey Badger’s season, and she and Brooke were quite tight in the mansion. After Jamie-Lee left, she wrote Brooke a letter, and she read it to her on the red carpet, and – this is just perfect Bachie stuff, friends. Chef’s kiss. 10/10. No notes.
There are also a bunch of montage people, and while there are, of course, some cringe-y ones (a guy called Matt raps), there are also some really solid ones as well that might develop into more down the line. Something that’s really notable about this episode is the way we can already sense strong vibes between Brooke and a lot of the people there. I talked a lot last season about how love in the Bachieverse is based on chemistry, connection, and compatibility – and we’re seeing a lot of the first C here tonight.
Then, we launch into the standard cocktail party. As much as things are different this season, so many more things remain the same, in that everyone feels incredibly awkward about interrupting and stealing Brooke for a second because they’re not used to the Bachie World rules yet.
(And also everyone goes a little weak at the knees when they meet Osher. May this phenomenon never cease.)
There’s a limited chance to develop narrative in this first episode, focused as it is on introducing us to our characters for the season, but a few threads emerge. People are a wee bit threatened by Jamie-Lee’s history with Brooke, for one. All the women absolutely rule at stealing Brooke for a second while all the men absolutely suck at it, for another.
But the most notable one is LoveSeatGate. You might recall that Konrad the carpenter and Brooke built a bench on the red carpet. He’s put it in the garden, and, under the advice of one of the women (Taje, who was one of the montage contestants, but who seems very fun), he’s put some cushions on it to cosy it up. He’s all geared up to go and steal Brooke for a second so he can take her to sit on the seat for the very first time…
…but then another one of the contestants, Jess, cuts in first, and she takes Brooke to the loveseat.
Everyone is AGHAST at the breach in decorum. Konrad looks like someone’s kicked him directly in the heart. It’s early days, friends, but LoveSeatGate? Same energy as PotPlantGate. IT HAS THAT POWER.
Eventually, Konrad goes and interrupts, and he and Brooke finally get their loveseat moment. He reveals that he’s been planning it for weeks, and… guys, it’s cute, it’s so cute, it’s cute as hell, Konrad is totally one of the frontrunners, especially as far as the men are concerned.
And Jess is well on the road to villainy. She also makes her own piece of Bachie history: she’s the first ever woman in this franchise to be accused of dogging the boys.
But this isn’t the last of our many firsts for this evening. We have our first ever first night kiss in the Australian franchise.
Now, these happen all the time in the US franchise. They’re pure chemistry, pure attraction, pure people trying not to get eliminated on the first night, and you know what, they’re fine.
But this kiss, friends? This kiss is perfect.
Jamie-Lee and Brooke go to a secluded corner in the garden. “I had feelings for you in the mansion, but I couldn’t say anything, because if you ended up with the Honey Badger then I would have lost you as a friend,” Jamie-Lee says to Brooke.
“I had feelings for you too,” Brooke tells Jamie-Lee. “Strong feelings.”
They hug. “I really want to kiss you, but I’m not going to,” Jamie-Lee whispers.
They pull apart.
Then they go in again, and Brooke kisses her.
It is not at all an exaggeration to say that this kiss is imbued with more emotion and feeling, in narrative terms, than all the kisses in Locky’s season, Elly and Becky’s season, and Jimmy’s season COMBINED. This is true, pure, intense friends-to-lovers shit, a slow burn full of pining and yearning and it is so fucking good.
I think a lot of people – including me – were worried that this season might not be good. But so far? Just so good, my friends. So good.
Jamie-Lee doesn’t get the first impression rose, possibly because this is not her first impression on Brooke and that might be a bit of a contradiction in terms. That goes to Persian lawnmower man Darvid, who wins the first single date as his reward. Brooke absolutely yes-ands his whole “you have three wishes” gimmick but saying her desire to go on a date with him is one of them, and we simply must applaud Queen Bachie shit.
However, Jamie-Lee does get a pre-ceremony rose. This is nominally because she isn’t feeling well and isn’t able to attend. I assume it’s because she’s unable to stand for that long because BROOKE SWEPT HER OFF HER FEET.
We only lose one person at the rose ceremony tonight – a man called Johann, who wore a pink suit and about whom I know nothing else. Even in this historic season, we still have our whomst?s. But in terms of setting up narrative and character and stakes… this is the best episode of this franchise we have had in years, my friends: and I am so, so glad that the Australian Bachieverse took this jump.
Sneaky end-of-recap reminder: you have to wait until 2022 for my reality TV rom-coms Here For The Right Reasons and Can I Steal You For A Second?, but my Valentine trilogy is available right now for your lockdown reading pleasure. You can also catch me on my website: jodimcalister.com.au