And we are back (Bach?) yet again, my friends. The wheel of Bachie grinds ever onwards, and it has no concern for we mere mortals.
We’ve already ploughed through an incredible amount of the show in the last week and a half, and we have miles to go before we sleep. I saw a tweet from someone in the US today where they were like, “The Bachelor [their version, obvs] starts on Monday! Enjoy your freedom while it lasts!” and I laughed so hard I almost cried at the idea that their mere one episode a week might constitute anything like a commitment.
I wrote in my pre-recap nerdle of the premiere that it’s extremely obvious that the network is trying to kill the franchise. I want to dig into that a little deeper tonight before we get into the recap, thinking specifically about this question of time.
I’ve written before in my recaps about the difference between “clock time” and “narrative time” or “human time” (Abbott 2008; Ricoeur 1984). Basically, clock time is the time as measured by clock units – seconds, minutes, hours etc – while narrative or human time is measured by events.
The way that the Bachieverse gets away with (sort of) convincing us that two people can fall in love over the course of the show is by speeding up narrative time. While they might lack clock time, a given couple goes through so many events and milestones – dates, rose ceremonies, hometowns, etc – that we can kind of get on board with the fact that they might be ready to embark on a serious committed relationship (or – GASP! – an engagement).
However. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, because there are other factors involved in the way we, the audience, perceive the passage of time on the show (what we might call diegetic time).
If we, like the US version, have one episode per week, our default is to believe that one episode = one week of time. If, like we’ve previously had here, there are two episodes a week, we’re probably going to believe that two episodes = one week of time. Even if we know in our conscious mind that the filming schedule is different, this is what we’re going to sense.
Guess what happens when there are 21797098404283094830948093284093 episodes a week.
We know that it took longer than three weeks to film. We know this. But when we watch it… it still kind of feels like these people are falling in love – and getting ready to fucking propose – in three weeks.
Part of the ongoing success of the Bachelor franchise in the US – where, unlike here, the franchise is not on its last legs – comes from audience investment in “Bachelor Nation”: the pool of contestants who have featured on the show (ie. the meat and potatoes of Bachelor in Paradise). To get invested in those people, and especially to get invested in the relationships they form, you need time. You need at least a little belief that this could be something real. Their one-episode-per-week schedule isn’t the sole reason for that, but it certainly helps.
I mentioned in both a recap the other day and in this piece I wrote for The Conversation that this season of The Bachelors has been copying the homework of Married at First Sight and Love Island. Both of these shows air 21797098404283094830948093284093 episodes a week, so if we were being charitable, we could theorise that might be the reason behind the decision to air the show this way.
However, there is a much, much stronger correlation between clock time and narrative time in those shows – especially Love Island, which has a Big Brother model and thus is only a hair away from being in real time. They also run for many, many weeks, which combats this whole “um, you can’t fall in love in three weeks” problem.
I am not keen for The Bachelor to turn into MAFS. I cannot watch sixty episodes of this show, which is a) what MAFS does, and b) what it would take to get this clock/narrative time problem back in balance.
And I think that also means that, if there’s a miracle and we do get another season of Bachie, they need to return to something resembling their old schedule. If I was consulting for them (and I am available to do so! please call me!), I’d be pointing at the American Bachelor Nation and using that as a starting point for discussions. How do we create that ongoing investment in people and relationships?
Speaking of people and relationships (sorry, this is a very generic transition!), let’s get into the episode.
We start tonight’s episode with a group date. It’s a fairly standard group date format: the friends and family date, where the contestants have an opportunity to introduce a loved one to their Bach.
But there’s a twist. One of the people on the group date is Jessica – and the person she’ll be introducing to her Bach Felix is her boyfriend, Damien.
(Thank god there’s a twist. Each Bach takes three women, and every single one takes two women they’ve clearly vibed with and one I’ve never seen before in my life. There would be no suspense at all without the twist.)
The other eight women on this date all bring a friend. But let’s not bother doing some kind of round-up. This whoooooole thing is about Jessica and Damien.
And they know it, too. The second Damien arrives, she starts freaking out, and they have to do some deep breathing feat. forehead leaning to calm down.
(The narration also describes Damien as a “silver fox” despite the fact that he is only 33 and his hair is barely grey. What are the constituent elements of a silver fox? If it’s age, I don’t think I meet the criteria, but if it’s only hair, my spectacular badger streak and I demand consideration.)
Felix starts low-key panicking the second he arrives and sees Damien, and he never really calms down. When they all sit down for lunch, he becomes visibly more and more uncomfortable.
He’s so uncomfortable that he clams right up, so it’s actually Abigail (remember her? the cat lady? who Felix borrowed a rose from Jed for?) who does most of the question asking. She asks Jessica, Felix and Damien what their expectations are.
This is summarising, but it seems to me that Felix and Damien are in roughly the same place. They both want one partner (and both have at least some interest in that being Jessica).
But Jessica just… isn’t sold on monogamy. She says she doesn’t want two boyfriends, but she also doesn’t really believe that you can just sleep with one person your whole life.
And so Felix gets more uncomfortable.
“Technically, Felix is also exploring polyamory,” Abigail snarks to the camera. “The only person here not in a polyamorous relationship is me.”
- I love Abigail.
- FINALLY. It’s taken twenty seasons across three different formats, but someone has finally, finally uttered out loud the truth at the core of this franchise.
Eventually, Felix straight up runs away from the table, and Damien has to follow him so they can have a chat.
“What are your intentions towards Jess?” Damien asks.
“I don’t know, I like her,” Felix replies. “What about you?”
“I love her,” Damien says bluntly. “I want to be with her. I want her to pick me.”
“…but I like her,” Felix says, slightly confused, a man who has never been denied something he wants in his life. “Does she love you?”
Jessica comes up to them, and it would have been the perfect time for her to answer this question – but then Jed turns into the guy who brings an acoustic guitar to the party (drums, obvs, but same vibe) by bringing his band out and the moment is gone.
Felix takes Jessica back to the Bach Pad to talk more. “Why haven’t you broken up with Damien?” he asks her. “Do you love him?”
Jessica manages not to answer. Presumably, like me, she is stunned that she has someone returned to the scene of the crime, ie. the place where Felix suggested making a cup of tea in the microwave.
The next day, there are some group dates. In place of the traditional date cards, the women are summoned by phone, and – look, as someone that accidentally watched all eight seasons of UK Love Island last year, seeing a phone on a dating show and not hearing someone bellow I’VE GOT A TEXT was very jarring.
Thomas summons Jasmine to go on a date with him, much to the chagrin of some of his OG contestants, who feel like she’s jumping the queue. Felix summons Krystal, much to the chagrin of Tilly. Jed doesn’t invite anyone (except maybe his drums?).
And Damien summons Jessica.
Let’s cover off the less interesting dates first.
- Thomas takes Jasmine to the middle of a forest, exclaims I LOVE SEX!, and makes out with her. I consider myself sex-positive and open-minded, but this made me physically recoil, so maybe I need to reevaluate.
- Felix takes Krystal for a drink and spends the whole time talking about Jessica and Damien.
Quick sidebar: Felix also tells Krystal how Jessica taught him the five love languages, and I am duty bound to point out that while many people find these useful, they were made up by a random Baptist pastor in the 1990s and are based on nothing.
Now let’s talk Jessica and Damien.
“I love you,” he tells her.
“I love you too,” she tells him.
And then she lays out their three options.
- She leaves Felix for Damien.
- She leaves Damien for Felix.
- She dates them both, and does exactly what she said she didn’t want to do: have two boyfriends.
There’s great suspense leading up to the rose ceremony. What will Jessica do? Who will she choose?
…we just kind of don’t find out? Felix gives her a rose. She accepts. But is she still dating Damien or not? I can’t believe they just left this plot thread hanging!
I hope she is still dating Damien, purely because if Felix ended up picking her, and she was like, “…yeah nah, it’s Damien actually,” that would be EXTREMELY funny.
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