Welcome back (Bach)! If you’re still reading these recaps for the fourth day in a row after I’ve dropped a solid 2500 words on you three days in a row – I salute you, and I’m sorry. Will today’s recap be shorter? Who knows.
…probably not, hey.
Before we get into the recap itself, I want to talk a little bit about something that really jumped out to me in this episode – the idea of being “ready” for love.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the idea that you can’t fall in love with someone else before you fall in love with yourself, right? Or at least the idea that you need to be “ready” for love (and that if you’re not, you’re doing your potential partner a disservice)?
These ideas exist in interesting tension with some ideas that arose particularly in the twentieth century, and are often through-lines in a lot of romance fiction: that rather than one needing to be a better person in order to be ready for love, love makes one a better person.
I’ve written about this a few times before in my recaps. Francesca Cancian argues that twentieth-century America saw the rise of the idea that “to develop [your] individual potential, [you] need a supportive, intimate relationship with [your] spouse or lover” (1990, 1), which Hsu-Ming Teo notes spread to Australia (2006, 191). Lynne Pearce expresses it as an equation – if we denote the two lovers as x and y, then x + y → x’ + y’ – that is, by being in love, the lovers become the best versions of themselves (2007, 1).
So we’re kind of in a paradox – you both need to become a better person so you’re ready for love, but also become a better person by being in love. Love is complicated.
However, in tonight’s episode, we see a couple of different versions of this, which I was fascinated by. Having three Bachies means we can compare them, so let’s have a look at who the show is telling us is ready for love.
Luke: in the show’s narrative, Luke is, I think, presented as the Bachie most ready for love. We see this in his chat with Aarthi tonight, where he tells her that she wouldn’t have liked the man he was after his last relationship ended. Luke’s done work to get to a place where he’s ready for love. Indeed, his problem might be that he’s too ready, given his persistent problem with falling in love at first sight.
Ben: Ben has a clear obstacle he needs to overcome in order to be ready for love: an inability to open up and talk about his feelings. As I’ve noted several times in these recaps, this is some classic romance hero – and specifically, Anthony Bridgerton – shit. It’s also classic Bachie shit: we all know the language of letting down one’s walls, right? We’ve seen a real narrative arc from Ben in this regard: he couldn’t talk at all to Caitlin, only a bit to Ellie, had a breakthrough with Mckenna, that escalates again with Amelia tonight. Ben is becoming ready for love.
Wesley: Oh, Wesley.
As I wrote last night when I broke down some stuff about virginity, virgin identities and ideas of being “ready” are massively tied together. Just as we think about being ready for love, we think about being ready for sex: ideas which are, like I also wrote, fundamentally entangled. Wesley is trying his best to frame his narrative as being ready to take risks, but literally nothing about him suggests that he is.
For better or worse (NB: I am in no way saying I agree with this!), what the literature usually calls “maintained” virginity – that is, staying a virgin long after most people would assume you’d lost it – generally positions the possessor as perverse at best. You know that awful question people often ask of single people, when they’re like, “you’re single? what’s wrong with you?”? Times that by a million if the first half of the sentence is “you’re a virgin?”.
Now, there’s a world where they could have leaned harder on Wesley’s virginity being a decision. I read about 800 autobiographical virginity loss stories for The Consummate Virgin, and you can roughly divide them into active and passive – “I decided to lose my virginity” vs “it just happened”, with people having an active experience generally framing their narratives much more positively.
You could apply the same active/passive framing to maintained virginity – “I decided to stay a virgin” vs “I never had the chance to lose my virginity” have very different flavours to them. If Wesley’s narrative was framed actively, then this might come across better.
However, in his date with Brea tonight, he had the opportunity to talk about being a virgin in exactly those terms, and he missed the ball completely by equivocating and half-refusing to talk. Wesley, I think the show is increasingly telling us, might not be ready for this.
Let’s unpack this in more detail and get into the episode, because a lot of this plays out on single dates. Two key pieces of information that you need to tuck away in your back pocket, though, as they will be delivered on later:
- Maddison (who belongs to Lisa’s villain clique) tries to guilt Ben into taking her on a single date and it aggressively does not work. Not deterred, though, she starts scheming…
- Ellie is planning to tell Ben that she only wants to date Luke from now on (which she does on a coffee date with a few other women?? is this allowed??).
Luke and Aarthi’s date
Can I just say that I really hope these two are endgame? I’m positive (for now, anyway) that he’s going to pick Ellie, but he and Aarthi have such a great vibe together, IMO.
They go and see & Juliet together at the Regent Theatre (an excellent musical, highly recommend). They have a great time, but it’s afterwards that they really shine. They go and eat a kebab on the steps of the Town Hall, where Luke tells her about his past (as discussed above), and they have a very kebab-y little pash. Aarthi tells us that she wants to fall in love with her best friend, and… look, their vibe is not not-that?
This might be the couple I’m pulling for the hardest, TBH, even if I’m doomed to be disappointed.
Ben and Amelia’s date
You know another way Ben is like a historical romance hero? His first night moment with 36yo Angela aside, he keeps pursuing women a full decade younger than him (Amelia, like Mckenna last night, is 25).
Ben and Amelia go to South Melbourne Market. She tries an oyster to please him, even though she’s obviously disgusted by the whole thing, and the manoeuvre works. They have some cosy couch time afterwards where that process of opening up that began yesterday continues, and Ben has his first pash of the season.
…it occurs to me that this has not been a kiss-heavy season. Even Luke – who pulled the snog-trigger on Night One – has only kissed two people.
Wesley and Brea’s date
Look, if production were even remotely interested in making Wesley seem ready for sex, then they wouldn’t have sent him and Brea to the fake beach surfing place in Tullamarine, arguably the most sexless place in Melbourne.
And the metaphor is heavy-handed here too. Brea can surf. Wesley can’t. He wants her to teach him.
Afterwards, they do a traditionally sexy Bachie thing, and get in a pool together. “So, um, if you won’t have sex with a partner, what will you do?” Brea asks.
Wesley’s answer – which is frankly astonishing – includes the phrase “I like to go on walks and out to brunch”.
Brea pushes harder – “what will you do, though?” – and Wesley just fundamentally will not say. This poor woman is a hair’s breadth from shouting HAND STUFF? MOUTH STUFF? DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE BASES? and he’s still at “brunch”.
He is apparently comfortable with kissing, because they do that, and… it doesn’t look good. Yikes.
To tie back to what I was writing about before: an idea that circulates a lot in virginity discourse is that if you’re not ready to talk about sex, you’re not ready to have it (there’s literally a whole Dawson’s Creek episode about it). Wesley isn’t ready to speak about it – and given how entangled ideas of being ready for sex and ready for love are, you can bet that it translates into “not ready to be in a romantic relationship”.
Maddison’s surprise visit
You know how last night’s episode was mostly about Holly? Tonight’s is mostly about Brea.
Remember the first of those two pieces of information I told you to hang onto? Maddison is determined to spend time with Ben / get screen time, so, abetted by production, she has turned up on his doorstep with a bottle of wine – and to spill some tea.
“Brea actually wants to get to know Luke,” she tells Ben. “She’s just accepting roses from Wesley so she can stick around.”
If you’re at all alive to reality TV editing, this is a classic example of how it’s used to shape a narrative re who we’re supposed to see as the hero and as the villain. We have never seen Brea express even the slightest interest in Luke, or talk shit about Wesley (beyond expressing uncertainty to the camera), which makes it seem like Maddison has made up this story out of the blue.
However, given that later, Brea a) never actually denies having an interest in Luke, and b) none of the women who jump to her defence are like “since when has Brea been into Luke?”, I’m assuming this fire has slightly more smoke than the edit makes it seem.
The cocktail party
In lieu of a group date, we have a cocktail party tonight, where Maddison’s bombshell forms the majority of the narrative impetus.
Ben pulls Wesley aside and lets him know what he’s heard from Maddison. Wesley in turn pulls Brea for a chat, who bursts into tears at the thought that women in the house could be being so cruel behind her back (but notably does not deny having an interest in Luke!).
This in turn feeds into the rose ceremony, where the villain clique (Lisa, Maddison, Anastasia, Lana) gang up hard on Brea. Wesley is handing out the last rose, and he has to choose between Brea and a woman named Dana. He picks up the rose, then puts it back (everyone gasps!), and then asks Brea to come outside with him.
“I wanted to pull you now, in front of everyone, to show you that I support you and I believe you and I have your back,” he says to her, and they embrace tearfully.
But this is exactly what happened with Holly last night, when he invited her on the group date! Wesley’s actions are spun positively – but he’s not saying I believe you to Brea in front of everyone else. Instead, he’s pulling her aside in a way that anyone even vaguely Bachie-literate will read as punitive.
Either this man is a) not that bright, or b) very petty. Neither is a good quality in a romantic hero.
But let’s circle back quickly to that other piece of information I told you to hold onto. Ellie tries to tell Ben that she wants to focus on Luke, but he’s like, “…oh, I was really hoping to take you out again, I really like you,” and now she’s confused, so it was not a successful breakup.
This made me wonder about some of the affordances of the format. Is there going to come a point where all the women are effectively assigned to a Bachie? Or is there a world where a woman is in the final two for more than one of the Bachies? What happens if, for example, Ellie is the winner pick for both Luke and Ben?
…that would a) explain the crying moment from the “we begin at the end” clip in the premiere, and b) be genuinely exciting drama. Murray O’Connell would love that.
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 three reality TV rom-coms. Here For The Right Reasons (Bachelor + the first contestant he eliminates) and Can I Steal You For A Second? (contestant + contestant) are out now; while Not Here To Make Friends (villain + producer) will be out in January and is available for pre-order.
You can also catch me on my website: jodimcalister.com.au