We are crawling, crawling, crawling towards the end of this week, my friends. After tonight, we get three whole days to take our breaths before we dive back into another four episode stretch on Sunday.
Sob. I just want to sit down and watch the tennis. Why must you do this to me, Channel 10? When every episode of this show you air means I have to sit down and write a couple of thousand words?
(OK, fine, I don’t have to, but your pal McAl has books to sell! Buy Here For The Right Reasons! Pre-order Can I Steal You For A Second?! Keep your eyes out for the thing I can’t talk about yet! Make this all worthwhile!)
(Also I have thoughts. I always have thoughts.)
Before we get to the recap part of this recap, let’s pick up on something that was a huge part of last night’s episode: polyamory.
There has been plenty of commentary about how what Jessica is doing isn’t reeeeeeally polyamory or an open relationship. We got some more detail on her arrangement with Damien last night. She says she doesn’t want to end up with two boyfriends (although she might be wavering on this, as we saw at the very end). Her ultimate goal appears to be monogamy, although she does mention that she just doesn’t know if people can realistically commit to sleeping with only one person for the rest of their lives.
Neither of the two men she’s dating want an open relationship. Damien says he loves her and he only wants to be with her – in their relationship, she is the only one dating other people. Felix, meanwhile, is clearly extremely uncomfortable with the idea of an open relationship, particularly the idea that his partner might be sleeping with someone else.
(Although I bet he’d be pretty cool with the idea of him sleeping with other people. I have no proof of this, but it doesn’t seem like a difficult inference, given his… everything.)
Basically, as several people have observed, what we have here is less polyamory and more Jessica keeping Damien on the backburner. While it might technically be ethical non-monogamy, in that everyone knows and nominally consents to what’s going on, considering neither of the men seem especially happy with the situation it feels a little… grey.
I am not here to judge or to draw lines around what is and isn’t polyamory. I really feel for Jessica, to tell the truth. It must be incredibly difficult to suddenly become the Face of Australian Polyamory and have people asking all kinds of questions about your personal life. I feel for Damien too – although I do not feel for Felix. I refuse to feel for Felix. Some lines I do not cross.
What I actually want to talk about is how this situation, as outlined by Jessica, mirrors the Bachelor process quite closely.
In last night’s episode, Abigail made a pretty on-the-nose observation about how Felix was also exploring polyamory, on account of dating eleven women. She’s not at all wrong – his multiple partner setup is very similar to Jessica’s – but: is it polyamory?
The answer is… kind of, I guess? But also kind of not, because what both Felix and Jessica’s situations have in common is mononormativity: the idea that a partnership between two people to the exclusion of all others is the ideal. While they might be polyamorous in the moment, in that they might be exploring their options, it is in the service of finding a monogamous partner. Polyamory is the means, monogamy is the end – that white picket fence that Felix has talked about a few times.
By contrast, what we might think of as “true” polyamory (a value-laden term that I don’t really like, but I’m just using it here for ease of meaning) does not have this means/ends thing built in. Rather, one simply enjoys having multiple partners, and has little to no interest in narrowing that down to one.
If the franchise does continue beyond this season, it would be fascinating to see some more representation of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy. The franchise itself is so mononormative – the idea at the end is always the couple – that seeing that genuinely shaken up would be great.
For now, though, let’s get into this episode.
One thing I like about this season (although they haven’t always stuck the landing) is that every episode is about something. There’s some kind of narrative throughline – last night’s episode being a great example.
Tonight, the throughline is Tilly. You know how Felix has that problem where he just makes out with people in front of everyone else all the time? Often, that person is Tilly, and the other women – especially Krystal – have noticed.
The three Bachies turn up at the mansion to invite some women on single dates. Jed invites Angela (who I don’t think we’ve seen since their tennis date in the premiere, but who he was really into. Thomas invites Lauren, who he says “caught his eye from the very beginning”, although personally I cannot confirm that I have ever seen this woman before in my life.
Felix invites Tilly.
And the other women – who were already grumbling about how aggressive Tilly is in taking Felix aside, and how he just goes along with it – are pissed.
This is actually a triple date. The three Bachies and their three dates to a Gold Coast burlesque club and watch a performance. Jed enthuses about the art. Thomas makes some typically cult-ish comments about the dancers’ connections.
Felix is horny.
All the metrics we’ve previously used to measure Bachelor horniness are broken. Felix’s horniness is infinite.
After the performance, Jed and Angela have a fairly reasonable conversation about how they both find it hard to be open, and it’s probably due to the fact that they both have divorced parents (and they don’t say anything about “letting down walls” once, which must be some kind of Bachelor record). Thomas is fascinated that Lauren can a) ask questions and b) is vaguely keen on getting married.
Felix and Tilly stick their tongues down each other’s throats.
“Do you want to go back to the Bach Pad and, um, talk?” Felix asks Tilly, in one of the rare moments where they come up for air.
“Yes,” she replies.
Then they make out some more, and Felix calls a producer a cockblock when she tells them to wrap up the shoot.
All three Bachies take their dates back to the Bach Pad. Jed and Angela continue their conversation and have a bit of a smooch. Thomas and Lauren have a quiet wine in the pool and then a bit of a smooch.
“The whole point of this date was to have a conversation with Tilly,” Felix says, over a montage of them swiftly rounding several bases in the pool.
The pool is typically where things get horny in the Bachieverse, but this absolutely breaks the scale. Easily the horniest pool scene in Bachie history – which is remarkable when you consider that Thomas and Lauren were also in the pool.
“Get out, Thomas,” Felix says in his interview. “We need the space. This is playtime.”
That’s not me editorialising. That’s basically verbatim. My soul just about left my body in revulsion. This terrible man has turned me into a prude.
When the three women return to the mansion, Tilly is looking very pleased with herself, and Krystal notices immediately. “My gut says they’ve had sex,” she tells the camera.
I’ve written a lot of academic articles talking about how rarely sex is part of the narrative in the Australian Bachieverse. Guess I have to go and write a bunch of addenda now.
The next day, at the group date at a distillery, Krystal’s suspicions continue. Tilly prevaricates, so Krystal decides to go straight to the horse’s mouth and ask Felix.
“Oh, it was nothing!” Felix says. “Just a steamy pool session!”
These might be the three most cursed words I have ever heard. I can’t even with this man.
And as well as being a root rat, Felix is a HUGE gossip. He immediately runs straight to Tilly and tells her what happened and – you know how contestants often shoot themselves in the foot by getting entangled in drama with another contestant instead of focusing on their romance? Somehow Felix manages to do this *as the Bachelor*.
(Also: it isn’t relevant to the plot, but Felix mistakes croquet for mini-golf on this group date. I feel like I would have some things to say about this if we hadn’t already suffered through the “can you make tea in a microwave?” saga, but now I can only shake my head in weariness.)
At the rose ceremony, Jed and Thomas get to keep all of their contestants, but Felix has to lose two (for… reasons? The rose maths this season is very oblique). That means he has to keep two – and predictably, it’s the two who have been feuding this episode, Tilly and Krystal.
The ending of this episode is not predictable, though – well, unless you’ve seen the ads. TASH IS BACK is the hook they sold this whole episode on.
…which is understandable. FELIX IS EVEN HORNIER THAN NORMAL would probably not be good for viewership.
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