The penultimate episode! I would say “at last”, but we only just started this five minutes ago! What is time? I don’t know any more!
In some ways, this Bachie season has fucked with my sense of time more than lockdown did. And I live in Melbourne.
(Was it a coincidence that the last time my sense of time was fundamentally disrupted and I was mad about this show – ie. Melbourne lockdown, during the Lockydown season – I wrote the first draft of a book in basically a month? Because that now-considerably-more-edited book is Here For The Right Reasons, and if you’re reading this recap, you’d definitely like it.)
(You’d also like the sequel. Can I Steal You For A Second? went to print today, and it’ll be out in April.)
(Self-aggrandising plug over. For now.)
Before we get into the meat of tonight’s episode, I want to do a quick season retrospective. Let’s think about how this has all hung together, story-wise.
The TL;DR answer here is that it’s a mixed bag. There are some narrative decisions this season that just make absolutely no fucking sense. Why, for instance, did we only meet Lauren in Episode 7, given she’s one of the final two contenders for Thomas’s heart? They had nine months to work out how to play this! Even if she was a completely still, silent statue for the first six episodes, show us that! A woman who never speaks or moves is a point of interest!
The speed at which we’ve whipped through this season, in terms of the three-week airtime, the reduced episode count, and the fact that most episodes have been fairly short (tonight’s being a notable exception, it went for-fucking-ever), have meant that there haven’t been as many opportunities to get to know the women as we really needed.
We’re down to our final six women – Alésia, Angela, Jessica, Abigail, Leah and Lauren – and, setting Jessica aside, we haven’t had that much time to dig into their stories. I know that Alésia seems to really connect with Jed, for instance: but what more do I know about her than that? beyond the fact that she’s like, “wow, the thought of getting engaged after having known you for five minutes is a bit much” – a thought that I think most reasonable people would hold?
Broadly speaking, they’ve sacrificed the character development of the women (historically the most interesting part of any Bachie season) at the altar of our three hero dipshits.
However: one of my most oft-repeated criticisms of the show in the past has been the lack of any character interrogation of the leads. Perhaps the worst offender was Elly and Becky’s season, where they told us literally nothing about these two women except that they were blonde sisters from the country, but it permeated a lot of the show in the last few years: tell me something about Jimmy Nicholson that isn’t “pilot”, for instance.
I like that they’ve thought about the men as characters this year. I might hate all of them, but at least I have a sense of who they are.
One of the benefits of having three of them is that you can slot them into different places in the story. They can occupy different roles, do different things – and that allows some narrative dynamism that has been missing from many seasons in the past.
All the way back in episode two, I was like, “oh, Felix is the villain”. I still think that – and the suggestion, sprinkled through, that he might pull a Honey Badger will reinforce that, if that’s what happens – but he’s also weirdly become the protagonist. He’s been heavily assisted by Jessica in this, but so much of the overarching narrative of the season has hung on him. If we to pick a “main” Bachie, we’d probably have to point to Felix.
Jed (who I maintain I like the most, and I might even occasionally genuinely like) is, I think, the deuteragonist – a sort of sidekick Bachie – but the role he’s actually come to occupy in the text is narrator. He provides a great deal of the colour commentary, which is a lot of fun, but in terms of the overarching narrative, his love story reads to me like it was a foregone conclusion the second he met Alésia.
(Which I don’t really have a problem with, tbh. When you have three Bachies, not everything has to be about suspense.)
Then we have Thomas.
I would contend that Thomas is, while maybe not the worst man, the worst Bachelor – and it’s because he’s so closed. He talks a lot about his feelings, but his thought processes are frequently quite opaque. Tell me something about Thomas that isn’t “in an MLM” and “looking for a woman to bear his rictus smile seed”.
Basically, they’re playing by the old Bachie character development rule book with Thomas – and that’s a rule book they should throw out.
I could write a lot more about this, but we have a LOT of episode tonight, so let’s get into it.
Tonight, we’re smashing together a whole lot of old Bachie traditions – eg. hometowns, meet the Bachie’s family – into one. Each Bachie and each of their contestants will sit down with their respective families in one big family mash.
Let’s go date by date.
Felix and Abigail: Abigail is torn over whether she should tell Felix that Jessica still wants to have a sexual relationship with Damien – and says as much to her friend, who is filling the traditional family role.
“Don’t do it,” her friend advises. “This has got to be about you and him, not him and Jessica.”
Guess what the majority of this date is about.
Felix’s family like Abigail fine, but nearly all of the airtime is taken up by the spectre of Jessica, not the reality of Abigail.
Her friend should have told her to run.
Jed and Alésia: I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I hate the mandatory engagement ring thing they’ve done this season.On the other, it’s injected some jeopardy into the narrative of the show’s most obvious, from-Day-1 endgame couple.
Alésia likes Jed. A lot. But she’s really not sure about getting engaged, and her family really aren’t sure about either. (Alésia’s family also hate that Jed is a tattooed drummer, but that conflict is so surface level I don’t think it’s really worth saying much about.)
The prospect of Alésia getting engaged to Jed is treated the same way as the prospect of Alésia joining a cult might be. And honestly, as someone that has watched nine million seasons of the mandatory-matrimony US show, it’s refreshing to hear someone call this so clearly into question.
Alésia sits Jed down and lays this out for him. “I like you,” she tells him. “I want to be with you. But if you propose to me, that won’t feel genuine.”
According to Jed, this “rocks him to his core”. I assume you can find this in the dictionary next to “over-reaction”.
Jed and Angela: this honestly isn’t that eventful – it functions mostly to provide a contrast to Alésia’s date.
That one was rocky, but this one is relatively smooth. They try to pretend that Angela’s father also doesn’t seem too impressed by the fact that Jed is a drummer with tattoos, but even that is a fake-out. In fact, he’s so delighted by the idea of Angela getting engaged to Jed he starts happy-crying.
I’ve talked a lot of times about Bachie love being made up of the cocktail of chemistry, connection and compatibility. Alésia has clearly been the frontrunner on the first two – but the show is showing us here that Angela is ahead on the third.
Jed tells Angela he’s falling in love with her. Considering I’m still pretty sure he’s going to pick Alésia, this is a bit rough for poor Angela.
Thomas and…: we interrupt our regularly scheduled date programming for something a bit out of the ordinary!
The promos for this episode tried very hard to suggest that Thomas was going to pull a Honey Badger and walk out. And if they hadn’t put very clear audio of him proposing to someone over the promo right at the beginning of the premiere, they just might have sold it, too.
But that’s not what this is. Thomas is refusing to meet the families of Leah and Lauren because, as he tells his mum, he already knows which woman he wants, and he doesn’t have any more questions.
This is an interesting narrative manoeuvre, but… you know that thing I wrote earlier, about Thomas being consistently opaque, and how it relegates him to the position of tertiary Bachie? His three minutes of screen time here precisely prove my point.
Felix and Jessica: of course this was going to suck up eleventy times the air of all the other dates combined.
This starts off as a mess. Felix’s mum is basically in angry tears at the thought of even meeting Jessica. “Abigail said she tells the girls in the house that she’s going to keep sleeping with Damien!” she sobs.
“…really?” Felix says. “That’s news to me. She told me she was going to break up with him.”
Jessica, meanwhile – apparently unbeknownst to Felix – has decided to invite Damien on this date, and they’re hugging in her hotel room.
I want to note, as I did yesterday, that we should remember that this narrative is built on Frankenbitten audio. The scenes yesterday had basically every tell of reality TV narrative manipulation that I know. I’m going to engage with this on the terms of the story that they’re telling, but we should remember that it probably doesn’t have the, ahem, strongest relationship to what actually happened.
So that’s where we are. Jessica bringing the boyfriend she’d told Felix she’d dumped to meet his family.
This is – in Felix’s words – a clusterfuck.
Felix says if he’s with Jessica, it’ll be monogamous – no Damien. Damien says that he and Jessica will be in each other’s lives forever. Jessica equivocates, managing to commit to absolutely nothing.
It all breaks down. Felix’s mum grills Jessica. Then Damien takes Jessica aside and they do their weird forehead-touching breathing thing in front of Felix’s family. I’m aware I’m just making a list of things that happen, which is very poor analysis, but this is all so bananas that I’m not sure what I could productively add.
What a mess, what a mess, what a mess.
Everyone is talking. Felix and Damien have a chat, where Felix is like JESSICA HAS TO BREAK UP WITH YOU, and Damien is like WELL I LOVE HER AND SHE LOVES ME. Everyone has an opinion!
But someone who says very little is Jessica.
We end on a very fraught, weird conversation at the table between Felix, Jessica, Damien, and, weirdly, Jessica’s brother (who tries to call Damien out for interrupting, and Damien’s like, bro, go away – and look, there is clearly some shit with control going on here, but why was the brother part of this conversation in the first place?).
“Jessica, just tell me,” Felix says. “How do you feel about Damien? Do you love him? Will you break up with him to be with me?”
And Jessica, amazingly, manages not to answer.
I assume this is to do with editing, but if it’s not – this woman should be a politician. She can equivocate like no one’s business.
See you back here Sunday for the finale, friends! Apparently old mate Damien’s back again, so if you’re sick of this storyline… I do not have good news for you.
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