Welcome back again, friends! Thank you to each and every one of you that’s thought, “you know what I want? to read 2,500 words on The Bachelor by Jodi” for the third day in a row.
Before we dive into the happenings of tonight’s episode, I want to spend a little time unpacking something I put a pin in during last night’s episode – the rhetoric of choice this show has been leaning heavily on.
One of the many OMG EVERYTHING IS NEW AGAIN format shifts they’ve been leaning heavily on is the idea that the contestants, as well as the Bachies, have a choice. It was highlighted in the very first blind date, when Catelyn rejected Jed and his response was to snark, “I thought I was the one making those decisions!” It’s been reiterated several times since, especially when Osher has openly been encouraging Bachie-switching.
It’s easy to see why they made the decision to lean on this. The whole one-man-chooses-from-a-bunch-of-women aspect of the show has always sat a little bit uneasily, ever since the very first US season back in 2002 – it is, I suspect, a big part of the reason they decided to do the first Bachelorette season in 2003, to at least give a veneer of equality. The Bachelor has its roots in a 2000 show called Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire?, which was essentially a beauty pageant where a man shown only in silhouette picked from fifty women – ie. a deeply sexist format. In the year of our Osher 2023, it makes sense that they’d want to be like, “guess what? the ladies have a say too!”.
The thing is: the women have always had a choice. It’s just that it has become systematically de-emphasised over the two decades the show has been running internationally. The possibility that women might refuse the rose of Bachelor Alex Michel was brought up quite a lot in the first season of US Bachie. None of them did, but in the second season, starring Aaron Buerge, two women – Anindita and Frances – both refused roses. (They were also both women of colour, which probably says something about the well-documented racism of the US Bachelor universe.)
My best guess here is that not enough contestants were taking up the option to refuse for it to be emphasised narratively. This has only become truer once we moved into the Instagram era of the show: even if you’re not feeling it with the Bach, why would you leave when there’s money to be made and influence to be gained? The default assumption is that the Bach is desirable and you want to date them – it’s now a big deal if you’re just like “eh, you’re not the one for me” and peace out.
I also guess that a key reason they’re emphasising choice in this season of Bachie is not because of some huge desire to be feminist, but rather because they want to give the women as many opportunities to Bachie-swap and thus create ~drama~. However, it’s actually quite an interesting throwback to the very earliest iterations of the show, where the choice of the contestant was much more a part of the conversation.
…god I hope some people reject Felix. That is a man that needs to be rejected more.
Will it happen tonight? Let’s see.
First up: we have to talk about the storytelling choices in this episode, because they are fascinating.
We open with the rose ceremony. Not the one from last episode – the one from this episode.
It’s an argument. Numerous women (notably Krystal and Jasmine) are telling our villain Tash that she has Done Something Bad™.
And then a caption comes up: 24 hours earlier.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen flashback and flash-forward used as a storytelling technique on this show before; and it’s such an interesting choice.
…or at least it would be if they hadn’t given us the entire crux of the episode in the preview which immediately preceded this. Analepsis and prolepsis work because you’re hiding key information: you see the drama, and you need to flash back to see how we got there. But here, they’ve already given it away. The lede was not buried.
Basically: it’s an open secret among the women that Jessica (one of Felix’s contestants) has a boyfriend, and Tash has taken it upon herself to spill the beans.
She sits down with her Bachie – Jed – and tells him. He immediately calls over Felix and tells him.
“Where’s Jessica?” Felix says.
“Are you going to talk to her?” Tash asks.
“More like give her an exit interview,” Felix growls.
Before we talk about Felix and Jessica, we absolutely must talk about Tash. She has clearly studied hard, because I have never, in my life, seen someone come in and serve such perfect villain from the jump. She’s got the strategy. She’s got the language. She understands exactly which buttons to push.
It is incredible. I’m pretty proud of Lily Fireball, the villain in my Marry Me, Juliet series (cough please buy my books cough), but I think even she would have grudging respect for what Tash has pulled off here.
Seriously. Felix isn’t even Tash’s Bachelor and she’s pulling stunts like this. Absolutely next level.
Tash gets in an argument with several of the other women – notably Krystal (and, given Krystal is a Black woman, I don’t love some of Tash’s approaches in this particular fight. Some of it feels a bit… charged). It eventually leads to a perfectly pitched crying fit and accusations that everyone is being a bitch to her, and Jed – who clearly has not done his homework – falls for it, and asks her on a single date.
And Tash has gone a step further than most villains. She’s found her way onto the Courtney Robertson track: she’s a villain, but also potentially a contender.
This has a high degree of difficulty, but she pulls it off. Jed feels bad for her, because she was crying. On their single date, he just gets sucked in further when she tells him that Jessica having a boyfriend triggered her because she’s been cheated on. “Tash and I always had the sexual chemistry, but now she’s opening up to me,” Jed enthuses, over a montage of them pashing. “She’s vulnerable, but with the edge of confidence.”
Thomas also goes on a single date. It’s with Leah (who is afraid of being “left on the shelf”, yikes). They stare into each other’s eyes, talk about how into each other they are, and kiss.
That’s it. The end. Thomas is impossible to pay attention to.
So let’s – like this episode – travel back in time a little and go back to Felix finding out about Jessica being polyamorous.
He pulls her aside. “Do you have a boyfriend?” he asks her.
She takes a breath. “I’d been hoping to talk to you about this properly on a single date,” she says, “but yes. I do have someone at home. He’s very supportive of me being here. We’re in an open relationship. How do you feel about that?”
“What the fuck?”
Felix’s reaction isn’t as bad as it could possibly be – “non-monogamy is great, but it’s just not for me,” this man dating eleven women tells Thomas. He’s clearly not into the fact that Jessica is in an open relationship, but he at least tries to be a little even-handed about it to her face.
But he follows up his comment to Thomas with, “threesomes are great, but I don’t want to be in one with my wife,” which really seems to reveal something about his understanding of and attitude toward ethical non-monogamy.
Felix had intended to take Jessica on a single date, but he ultimately leaves alone. The next time we see him is at the group date, where all three Bachelors have taken a selection of women to a place with absolutely unmatched romantic ambience.
Seriously. YMMV, but I can’t imagine a less conducive place to falling in love than a Gold Coast theme park.
Felix has brought Jessica on this group date, but he’s not really paying attention to her – and she notices, big time.
So she pulls Thomas aside. “I’m feeling so distant from Felix,” she tells him. “Do you know what he’s thinking?”
Thomas is the most boring man on earth, so his response is nothing to write home about (he mostly just nods), but I LOVE that this conversation is happening.
Usually, every Bachie conversation comes with an agenda. You’re either talking to the Bachie, or you’re talking to one of his other girlfriends. But here, Jessica talking to a different Bachie than the one she’s dating allows for a conversation without agenda – and one that might actually provide a window into the Bachie’s inner life (pick your Bachie, this could mean Thomas or Felix).
Of course, there is the possibility that these chats could lead to Bachie-swapping – and I bet the show would love that – but I really like the potential this mechanic provides. So interesting.
This group date also reveals that Jed is terrified of roller coasters, and he spends a lot of time screaming and swearing in fear. It doesn’t do anything to the plot, but I like it as a character moment. You learn more about people when they’re in high-pressure situations (like roller coasters).
This episode is so fascinating structurally, because we head to the rose ceremony about halfway through, when historically it’s almost always at the end.
Part of this is due to the new rose ceremony format. Osher is living his best Jonathan LaPaglia life and throwing questions at the women like it’s tribal council on Survivor (although I suspect the inspiration is actually the dinner parties on Married At First Sight).
Basically, they’ve turned rose ceremonies into an opportunity to start shit. Osher starts by asking Tash about why she spilled the beans about Jessica’s relationship, rather than waiting for Jessica to do it herself.
I want to be clear here. Some of the shit Tash says – and the subsequent implications about ethical non-monogamy – is pretty gross. The phrase “old school romantic” is doing some heavy lifting, for instance, implying that monogamy is the only truly loving form a romantic relationship can take.
But my goodness this woman knows how to work a reality TV shoot. It’s remarkable.
Jessica gets a right of reply, and responds with a very measured, eloquent monologue about polyamory, what it is, and why it works for her (if the franchise wasn’t on its dying legs, I’d be begging them to send this woman to Paradise. She’d be such good value).
…but Tash grabs the spotlight back. She gets into it with Krystal. She gets into it with Jasmine. Before the men even come in, she’s constructed an “everyone hates me! me against the world!” narrative with remarkable efficiency.
The actual rose ceremony is not particularly interesting. Each Bachie eliminates one woman, and they’re all people I’ve never seen before in my life (farewell Abby, Emma and Aylin, we barely knew you. In fact, we did not know you at all).
However, the fact that Jessica gets a rose gives Tash a launching pad for this “everyone hates me!” narrative she’s constructed.
She pulls Jed aside. Swiftly, she turns Jessica getting a rose into a story about how everyone is attacking her just for being a brave truth-teller who just guilelessly wanted Felix to have all the right information.
“It’s actually really hard for me, staying in this house,” she sniffs – and Jed falls for it immediately, and basically falls to his knees telling her that the only thing that matters is her and him and begging her to stay.
Interestingly, some of the other women intervene in this. Krystal (who is one of Felix’s contestants) sits down, and says, “Jed, yes or no: do you agree with how Tash handled this situation?”
(Sidebar: just like I love that this new format allows for people to have non-agenda-driven conversations, I also love just how many opportunities it presents for the women to be mean to the men. Krystal has no incentive to be nice to Jed, a man she is not dating, so she doesn’t pull her punches.)
Jed prevaricates a bit, but ultimately, he backs Tash.
This draws the ire of Jasmine – who is a) one of Jed’s contestants, and b) Tash’s new target. Seeing that there’s no mileage left in needling Jessica, Tash essentially announces to the room of women that she’s incredibly virtuous, because she hasn’t told Jed that Jasmine has an OnlyFans account.
…this is another one of those moments where Tash is being objectively pretty gross. You didn’t need to watch an episode of MAFS to see how their OnlyFans scandal turned out last year, and all the concomitant slut-shaming.
But god, she can manipulate narrative so well.
We end with something of a cliffhanger. Jasmine is horrified and distraught that Tash has publicly outed her OnlyFans account. “Jed defended Tash every step of the way,” she tells the camera. “If he’s prepared to be with someone like her… then I don’t think he’s the right man for me.”
BACHIE-SWAPPING. IT’S COMING.
Finally, though, I want to give a shoutout to Tash’s sidekick. Tash is accompanied by the same blonde woman wherever she goes, and is constantly whispering little comments to her.
But we know nothing about this woman: who she is, what her name is, who her Bachie is. It must deeply frustrating to have positioned yourself so close to the locus of attention and then get shut out so comprehensively.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this recap – thank you! I assume that means you enjoy my writing, so don’t forget that I’m the author of a couple of reality TV rom-coms. Here For The Right Reasons(which is about a Bachelor-esque lead falling for a contestant he eliminates on the first night) is out now; while Can I Steal You For A Second?(which is about two contestants falling in love with each other instead of their Bachelor-esque lead) will be out in April and is available for pre-order.
You can also catch me on my website: jodimcalister.com.au