We made it, pals! It has been an incredibly long and an incredibly short three weeks, but we made it to the final of The Bachelors! This is our last outing with these three dipshits we’ve come to know and, for the most part, dislike.
Given this is the finale, let’s spend a little time at the beginning of this recap doing a season retrospective. What’s worked? What hasn’t worked?
Let’s start with the practical – how’s the show been going?
Like I wrote last week, while the overnight ratings aren’t great, The Bachelors has been performing quite well in streaming. Interestingly to me, given the fact that everything about the way this show has been aired suggests to me that the network is trying to kill it, Channel 10 and Paramount have actually been coming out and talking up the fact that the show has been performing well on demand. The word “happy” has been used.
Specifically – noting that I don’t know how these figures are calculated – The Bachelors has served the network their biggest yearly start to TenPlay ever. 100 million minutes have been viewed: and that is a lot.
Will that mean a renewal for the show? That remains to be seen. But the messaging seems to be something that I highlighted last week: there absolutely is an audience for this show on streaming.
If they pursue this audience, though, I think they need to prioritise them, and that means a bit of a change in focus. In particular, I think it entails a move away from suspense – which is the chief tool in the arsenal of appointment TV – to character.
To an extent, this season has moved in this direction. There’s been a lot less OMG WHO WILL GET ELIMINATED AT THIS ROSE CEREMONY and more emphasis on some of the narratives.
The problem is, though, that with three Bachies, shorter episodes, and a reduced episode count, only a few narratives have been emphasised. One narrative, really: this has been a season more about Jessica, Damien, Felix and the problems of poorly-defined polyamory than it has anything else.
If you look at shows which are huge streaming successes – eg. Love Island – the key feature is the investment in multiple characters over time. More specifically, it’s the investment in multiple couples over time, both ones that come from Day One and ones that emerge along the way.
The Bachelor does not need to be Love Island. Love Island is Love Island. (Bachelor in Paradise is also Love Island.) But I think it can take a lesson from it in this respect. More time, and more granular character detail, leads to more investment.
That, I think, means more episodes. I’m not talking MAFS sixty episode territory, but we need more than twelve – and certainly more than three weeks. We need time and space for these stories to develop: and that becomes more possible when the sole focus isn’t the suspense-bait of “who gets eliminated tonight?”.
And, I think, the show needs to pay attention to its casting.
The three men this year were Not It. I don’t think it’s remotely controversial to say that. I’ve developed a little soft spot for Jed, but it’s only in comparison to the other two. Thomas has terrifying cult leader vibes and Felix is a walking red flag. And then there’s the fact that they’re all straight white men, which is ridiculous, coming off the heels of Brooke Blurton’s season.
If you want your audiences to become invested in romances, you’ve got to make sure that the people you’re hanging those narratives on are at least a bit likeable. You have to want them to find their person, to fall in love – and for at least two of our three Bachies this year, the only happy ending I’m hoping for is a kind of Man O Man style one, where they get pushed into some large body of water.
There’s also a level of Australian specificity to this. It’s not accidental, I think, that the two seasons that have performed the best in the ratings starred Sophie Monk and the Honey Badger. Yes, they’re both celebrities, so you have that level of pre-existing investment, but also, they’re celebrities who were cast against type. These were two likeable people (at least at the beginning of the show, in the case of the Honey Badger) who you would never expect to see in the role of romantic lead.
One thing that comes up in my research over and over again is that Australians find the whole concept of emotions a bit embarrassing. This is why casting a Bachie against type works here: they’re often the last person you’d expect to be showing emotions in public… and yet here they are. It’s not exactly schadenfreude, but it’s not unrelated either. Underpinning is a desire to see these people become a little bit vulnerable, to see the gooey underbelly – to let down their walls, in Bachie parlance.
I am not interested in seeing any of our three Bachies let down their walls at all. And that, I think, is what it all hangs on: I have to be interested in how these people are feeling.
Anyway, that’s enough free consulting advice for Channel 10. If they want more of my expertise, they are more than welcome to contact me (and like, please do, I have many qualifications and a lot of relevant expertise and I can help you!). For now, let’s get into the finale.
This whole episode takes place in a space I can only describe as Bachie Narnia. Our three dipshits and the six final women are in some secluded place in the middle of a rainforest, unlocated in the greater context of the Gold Coast. There’s a real liminal, almost portal-fantasy energy to it – a place outside of time.
Osher sits the three dipshits down. Here’s where they’re at:
Thomas: eerily calm, dead-set on proposing.
Jed: nervous about proposing, but knows what he wants to do.
Felix: losing his entire mind.
This presupposes that he has a mind to lose, but let’s put it this way: never has a man been less ready to propose.
Kind of weirdly, the women can also speak to each other in this liminal love grotto. It tracks for me when, like, Alésia and Leah can talk to each other – they’re not competing for the same Bachie, they have no horse in each other’s races – but Jessica and Abigail (Felix’s final two women) have a whole big blow up over whether or not she’s still going to sleep with Damien, and it just feels… weird.
Obviously this has been done for ~drama~ reasons. But in Ye Olden Dayes of Bachie, the contestants were kept mostly separate from about hometowns (ie. final four) onwards. The implicit suggestion was that they were all so in love with the Bachie that they couldn’t bear to look at each other. Now, having the final contenders just be able to chat to each other kind of undercuts the whole feeling of seriousness… which is odd, in your big EVERYONE’S GETTING MARRIED season.
Speaking of drama: guess who’s found his way to the magical love grotto!
They include a scene of Damien talking to a producer which makes it very clear that he was invited here. I wonder very much whether, after all that weird controlling shit he did in the last episode, they did this to make explicitly clear that he’s not stalking Jessica.
“I’m here to hold space for you,” he tells her. “To listen to you, and let you speak your truth.”
Much like the phrase “do life”, I have a strong – and perhaps irrational? – hatred of the phrase “hold space”. I don’t know why, but it absolutely gives me the ick.
And Jessica finally, finally spits an answer out. “I need to explore whatever this is with Felix,” she tells Damien. “And you deserve someone who’s all in with you.”
Damien’s response is to tell her he’s proud of her, and – honestly, he can go in the bin with the other three Bachies. If someone told me they were proud of me for breaking up with them, I would be livid. How patronising.
…I mean, it does fit with Damien’s kind of controlling, cult-y vibe, so it’s not surprising, but… we already have a cult-y Bachie. We don’t need a bonus one.
Speaking of cult-y Bachies – let’s talk Thomas! Who, in my opinion and also the opinion of many people on Twitter, although I have not done the maths, had less screentime than old mate Damo!
Thomas’ breakup with Lauren lasts fifteen seconds.
I’m not joking. This woman gets fifteen seconds of screentime. It’s the narrative equivalent of him screaming NOT REALLY VIBING! at her through his rictus grin.
That leaves, of course, Leah.
“It seems crazy, that I could love you so much after only a few weeks, but I do,” Thomas tells her. “Will you marry me?”
Leah accepts, through happy tears.
I’ll be real: this might be nice-ish, if I weren’t terrified that she was immediately going to get sucked into his MLM.
…although it promptly would have been ruined by Thomas exclaiming HAVE SEX! when a producer asks them what the first thing they want to do as a couple is. This man and his rictus grin have turned me into a prude.
I have been quite open about my soft spot for Jed, but myyyyyyyyyyyy goodness he does a terrible job at breaking up with Angela. Like, truly so bad.
“I, um – the practicalities of my job!” he says. “I travel all the time!”
“I told you I was cool with that,” Angela says.
“But, um, you deserve more,” he mumbles.
It takes a lot of prying before he finally spits out the truth – he’s fallen in love with someone else.
Sometimes, it truly is so obvious how young Jed is. This is the breakup of a boy, not a man.
Before we move into Jed’s proposal, I feel like I should note that they’ve staged him in a church. Doing this when his winner has been very, very clear that she doesn’t want to get married just yet is such troll behaviour from the show.
So. Obviously it’s Alésia.
There’s no jeopardy here. There’s never been any jeopardy here, not from the first time they laid eyes on each other. The second she walks into the church, Jed’s eyes light up and she knows that it’s her.
But then he proposes, and she’s like, “…fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.”
He gets up off the ground. “Talk to me,” he says. “What do you want?”
“I want to be with you,” Alésia says. “But I’m not ready to get engaged after seven weeks.”
“I want to be with you too,” Jed says. “And if we don’t get engaged until later – that’s absolutely fine.”
So that’s where they land. They’re together, but they’re not engaged.
Jed and Alésia have had the most palpable, real-feeling romance in the whole show. This declaration moment could have hit really hard, and been so romantic, if Jed had just respected the boundary that Alésia had set! Respecting boundaries is much more romantic than rocks for the sake of rocks!
We knew, going into this, that there were only going to be two proposals, and we’ve seen them. This immediately narratively indicates that the show is not going to escalate from here, romantically. Rather, we’re going to end in a more messy, dramatic place.
I hate it. Friends, I hate it.
I know this season has been about shaking things up and exploding the format. But there’s doing that and then there’s undercutting your core business – which has always been romance, at the end of the day. Denying your audience that final dopamine hit is not ideal.
(Although were we ever going to get that dopamine hit with this dipshit? Almost certainly not.)
The way this is all shot is very interesting. There’s lots of shots of production, a minor plot point about them having to hide from a paparazzi drone. It all draws attention to the fact that this is artificial, that it’s not reality.
I’m not entirely sure what this is meant to achieve, to be honest. It’s Brechtian, this function of highlighting the structures, of interrupting immersion, of reminding you that the story is a story – but I think all it’s really intended to do here is show that Felix is really confused? IDK.
Anyway, he breaks up with Abigail. “You’re the perfect person,” he tells her. “But I’ve been looking for something, and I don’t think I’ve found it.”
(“Good,” say we all. Abigail deserves so much better than this terrible man.)
But this leaves us in a place of Jess! And, as Felix reminds us, her situation is deeply complicated – and maybe he doesn’t want to get involved with that!
I really, really thought that Felix was going to pull a Honey Badger. The show has set us up for that several times.
He does not, though. “You make me feel so special,” he tells Jessica, after she reveals she’s broken up with Damien, and then lays a big smooch on her.
And here I thought we’d be able to escape this episode without seeing any more of this man’s repulsive kissing.
So: perhaps not quite as dramatic and messy an ending as it could have been. But still – have you ever seen a Bachie relationship less likely to survive? Including Blake Garvey and Sam Frost?
I do like the actual ending they give us. We cut between the three rejected women, nursing their wounds, but drinking wine and laughing together; and the three couples, also drinking wine and laughing together. It’s got a Shakespearean comedy vibe, ending with a fete, a real “strike up, pipers!” moment.
Still. This was filmed in mid-2022, and there are conspicuously no updates about where these couples are now. It’s not a stretch to think they’ve all broken up.
We’ll see, I guess.
Ahem. If you want reality TV romance with guaranteed happy endings? You know what you have to do. Read my books, friends. If you watched this show, I think you’ll be satisfied with the actual happy endings in them.
…will we be back here in another year or so for another season? I don’t know. But if this is our last ever recap together: it’s been a pleasure, friends. xx
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