RECAP: The Bachelors Australia – S11 E05

Once more unto the Bach, dear friends! Gird your loins, because we have another one million episodes coming at us this week.

I’m aware that I’ve devoted a lot more time in these pre-recap nerdles talking about Wesley compared to the other two Bachelors, but guess what, we’re doing it again. Sorry.

Honestly, Wesley is like a scab I can’t stop myself from picking away at. Luke and Ben are both archetypes we’ve seen before on Australian reality TV. Wesley is a little bit different – and it doesn’t hurt that he happens to fall squarely into the identity category I wrote my PhD on.

That said, I don’t want to talk about the virginity stuff again tonight. I want to talk about the Hillsong of it all, because this isn’t the first time Pentecostal churches – and Hillsong specifically – have popped up on reality TV in Australia.

So: I’m sure most of you know what Hillsong is, but if you don’t: they’re a charismatic Pentecostal church, famous particularly for the enormous amounts of Christian rock they produce (and for quite a lot of scandals – the controversies section on their Wikipedia page is lengthy). They were affiliated with the US-based Assemblies of God for a long time, but they split off a few years ago to go their own way.

Wesley is not the first Hillsong person to have popped up on Australian reality TV, but he is unusual in that it’s on this particular format. Perhaps not surprisingly, given Hillsong’s long association with music – their music is in large part their brand – they’ve been most visible on singing competition shows before.

In 2007, there was a minor scandal about vote-stacking on Australian Idol, with claims that churches were pushing members to vote for Assemblies of God contestants. It is worth noting that this scandal about a Channel 10 property was pushed heavily by Today Tonight – a Channel 7 property – and that there is nothing technically wrong with groups coming together to support particular contestants: as the Idol EP said at the time, “I don’t think it is different to any other group that may be supporting somebody… Nobody was kicking up when the whole of Condobolin was running lamington drives for Shannon Noll a few years ago.”

Nonetheless, even if the scandal was a mountain/molehill situation, these Christian contestants were certainly visible, and that’s continued on post- the death of Idol. In 2021, Hillsong member Bella Taylor Smith won The Voice – after doing a duet with her coach Guy Sebastian (the OG Idol winner, also associated with Hillsong) – which drew some more criticism: less because of vote-stacking, but more because many of the things on the controversies section of the Hillsong Wikipedia page were very much in the news at the time.

But let’s talk about Guy Sebastian for a minute, because even though his case is older, it might be the most revealing.

He has had some ties to Hillsong, but in his Idol days in 2003, he was affiliated with Paradise Community Church in Adelaide (which went on, somewhat ominously, to be called Influencers Church), another Assemblies of God church. One of the pastors at this church was Andrew Evans, who was also leader of the very conservative Family First Party.

In her book People in Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story of A Life In & Out of Hillsong, Tanya Levin writes:

“In 2002 Andrew Evans won a seat in the South Australian Legislative Council under the banner of the Family First Party. It showed him that there was support around. But could he make God famous? Was there Christian voting loyalty out there? There was one way of finding out, before he could feel confident of going federal with their politics.

Paradise Church knew that Hillsong advertised number-one CD sales. It also knew that all of those albums had been bought at Hillsong conferences, leaving the ‘mainstream’ claim an illusion. There was one way of checking faith and prosperity nationally and in 2003, Channel 10 showed Australia Paradise.


Pentecostal thumbs text-messaged like there was no tomorrow, since many of them believe there isn’t. Guy Sebastian was Australia’s first Idol, and evidence that the Christian vote was strong nationally. Andrew Evans was now ready for the big time, ready to teach Australia about family.” (2007, 219-220)

There’s a few things worth noting here, including that this vote overcame those Shannon Noll lamington drives in Condobolin, and that while Family First has never really been a major political player, their senator Steve Fielding was part of a bloc that held the balance of power in the senate in the late 2000s. The line between reality TV and politics isn’t quite as clearly drawn as the extremely clear and obvious one we’ve seen in the US presidency, but it exists.

So where does Wesley fit into all of this?

I want to preface this by saying it’s all speculation (and I want to be clear about that, because this is very much guesswork, and not anything I can prove) – but my feeling is that Hillsong might very much like having one of their congregation cast as a romantic hero at the present moment, even though I suspect that the Bachelor process does not really align with how they’d like their members to be finding partners.

My best guess is that it’s not a political test case this time – rather, it’s image rehab. If you return to the Wikipedia controversies section, you’ll see that 2022 was an especially bad reputational year for Hillsong. In particular, they lost their figurehead, the “face” of the Hillsong brand, in global senior pastor Brian Houston – and it’s worth noting that the new global senior pastors are South African.

So in Australia in particular, Hillsong could do with some new faces attached. You’ve got a 2021 The Voice winner in your back pocket… but if you want to make over your image, having one of your members (and graduates – Wesley’s MA, which he did at Hillsong College, has been mentioned several times, and it’s worth noting that his is the first student testimonial you see on their handbook page) positioned as one of the nation’s most desirable men probably isn’t the worst idea in the world.

…although, as figures like Blake Garvey and the Honey Badger and the three deadshit leads of last season showed us, being the Bachelor can also go completely sideways. It’ll be very interesting to see how we feel about Wesley at the end of this whole thing – and to be honest, it might be in Hillsong’s best interest (if not Wesley’s) for him to end up heartbroken, because that’ll probably engender a sympathetic reaction in the audience.

Will that happen? Let’s see! Recap time.

We kick off again with three single dates, but before we get into that, we have a little time in the mansion with the women – where Luke turns up, and asks to have a private chat with Brea.

And that means it’s time for conspiracy corner!

The way the show plays this is that Luke and Brea have a profoundly platonic, almost fraternal, relationship. He just wants to check that she’s okay after all the rose ceremony shenanigans last night, and he’s like, “I want to be a friend to you. If ever you’re feeling low, let someone know, and they’ll get me on the phone straight away.”

This is, as far as I can remember, the only time we’ve ever seen Luke and Brea on screen together – which strongly suggests that there was no other footage they could use to build up a friendship narrative.

And what that says to me – who, as the creator of highly competent producer Murray O’Connell, has spent A LOT of time thinking about how these narratives are put together – is that Brea actually was one of Luke’s options, which they tried to make us think was a flat-out lie from Maddison in the previous episode.

This conversation might have actually had a more romantic lens overlaid on it, instead of “oh look, our romantic hero is even more heroic because he cares about women he doesn’t want to fuck!”* It might even have included a breakup element which became a friendzoning, which the show has edited out in the interests of clearly dividing the women into the good ones (eg. Brea) and the bad ones (the villain clique).

* “This is a broad-strokes medium. Here, men giving a shit about women they’re not intending to fuck is extremely Prince Charming shit. The bar is that low.” – Murray O’Connell to Dylan Jayasinghe Mellor, Not Here To Make Friends, p. 99.

Wesley and Nella’s date

This date is outrageous to me.

It’s not because it’s basically an ad for Christianity. Wesley zeroed in on Nella during the tennis date in episode three when she mentioned the word “faith”, and they spend this whole date talking about Jesus. (We also learn that Nella, a single mother, is practicing celibacy – although she tells this to the camera, not to Wesley, which feels like a tactical error.)

It’s not because Wesley is either steadfastly refusing to believe or simply doesn’t understand that he’s not attracted to Nella (which is wild, she’s stunning). “I didn’t feel that initial spark with her, but maybe I can find it,” he opines, which is a sure sign that he won’t.

It’s not even that he tells her he wants five children (five! as one of five, I can tell you that that is so many fucking children!).

It’s because this date is a fucking ROAD TRIP.


Luke and Lana’s date

I have to say, I did not expect Luke to be such a good Bachelor. I wrote in my pre-recap nerdle for episode four that he’s coming across as the most ready for love of the three, but I think it’s safe to say that he’s simply ready for love. I thought perhaps his tendency to fall head over heels would lead to him being portrayed as immature, but he’s coming across as the most emotionally intelligent of the three by a long way.

…which feels strangely at odds with his continual use of Honey Badger-esque slang? But perhaps that is me bringing assumptions to the table, and is nothing to do with him.

Luke and Lana bonded over food at the tennis date, so he takes her out to a nice lunch. They talk a bit more about food, but also about parenting. Lana has a daughter, and so it’s important to her that anyone she’s with be on board with being an involved step-parent.

Luke chokes up at the thought. “My stepdad is my best mate, and he’s a great man,” he says tearfully. “The thought that I could be a stepdad like him – that’s so important to me.”

And you know what? It’s charming as hell. I’ve been burned before by asserting this – let us all not forget how we were burned by Ciarran – but Luke seems like a lovely man.

Ben and Angela’s date

Ben takes Angela to the National Gallery of Victoria. His mother was an art teacher, he explains, and so art is very important to him.

I was initially not sold on this as a date, but I came around on it, especially when I realised what the logic was. Ben clearly has absolutely no chat – we’ve seen this over and over again – but because we have this emerging narrative about him opening up, production has put him in a place where he’ll always have something to say, because he has to explain the art to Angela.

Do I love the sort of mansplain-y dynamic? No. But does it get Ben through the awkward beginnings of a conversation? Yes. And when he and Angela relax into it and start making up little stories about the paintings, it really starts to sing.

That said, there is one very strange reach of a question, which I have to assume was fed to Ben by production: they’re looking at a painting of a man who got castrated so he could be a better opera singer, to the chagrin of his mistress, and Ben parlays that into, “what have you sacrificed for your career?”

Then that becomes a question about children (they both want them), and Ben nods at the painting and says, “by the way, I haven’t cut my nuts off.”

See prev notes re lack of chat.

He and Angela really seem to vibe, though. They pash later – and then they pash in a place where they’re seemingly unaware there’s a camera on them (we see a cameraman shooting something else, then Ben and Angela laughing and kissing, then Ben glancing up and accidentally looking right down the barrel of the camera). My man Murray O’Connell would be delighted by this – there’s no better way to communicate that two people are into each other than capturing them where it seems like they’re not aware they’re being filmed.

The group date

Each of the men invite three women on this hot springs group date. Notably, Ben invites Ellie – despite the fact she tried to break up with him last episode in favour of Luke.

That’s one of the plotlines in this episode, but let’s deal with the other one first. Lisa has not been invited on this date, but – much like fellow villain clique member Maddison did last episode – she’s decided to take matters into her own hands anyway, and turn up to try and win over Wesley.

I thought about making unpacking this the subject of my pre-recap nerdle tonight, but there would be no point, because it’s so lacking in subtlety that it doesn’t need unpacking. Lisa is positioning herself as temptation itself, with the ultimate aim of deflowering virginal Wesley.

It’s a lot of bark for no bite, really. She turns up at the hot springs in a bikini and talks to Wesley, but there’s no sizzle. It’s pretty clear that Wesley isn’t into her – “oh,” he says mildly, when she turns up, “I like that you took a risk” – and so the whole Jezebel angle they’re going for doesn’t really land.

The preceding bark, though, is A Lot. Even Murray “subtext is for cowards” O’Connell and profoundly unsubtle villain Lily Fireball would probably be like, “okay, okay, maybe consider reining it in,” when Lisa says that as a German, she can’t resist stirring the pot: “after all, we started two wars”.


The other drama, though, is the Ellie/Ben/Luke love triangle, which is some of the most manufactured shit I’ve ever seen on this show.

So: Ellie and Luke steal away, she tells him she only wants to be with him, and they pash (notably, unlike human swarm of wasps Felix from last season, they’re careful to do it out of sight of everyone else). “I’m going to have a conversation with Ben and make this clear,” Ellie says.

She does. Ben actually seems to hear her this time. But then they hug it out, and then Luke apparently sees, and is like, “what if Ellie is into Ben and is telling me lies?”

NB: I am confident that the footage of him spying on them is actually him looking at something else, and that this audio is a grab from much earlier (maybe even the first night). Welcome back to conspiracy corner.

The rose ceremony

The manufactured drama continues on here. This feels like a narrative that production has really forced on everyone involve, because no one’s motivations or emotional responses track.

All the roses are handed out bar one. Lisa, despite Wesley barely even noticing her attempt to seduce him, gets a rose from him. (Ben also gives one to Caitlin? I would have thought after their disastrous first date, she would abandon him for other Bachies.) There’s one rose left, and it’s between Ellie and house hype girl Mel.

The calculus appears to be that if Ben is giving out the last rose, it’ll go to Mel (on account of Ellie breaking up with him). If Luke is giving it out, it’ll go to Ellie.

Ben steps up to hand out the rose.


“Ellie,” he says.

(We are all stunned!)

“I was going to give you this rose, but I can’t,” he says. “Instead I’m going to give it to… Luke.”

And then Luke gives Ellie the rose, and they kiss outside, and all is well.

But it genuinely doesn’t make sense. Even if Luke did suspect Ellie was lying to him, there’s no universe where he’d cut her without talking to her. And if Ellie did think he was trying to punish her – noting that she nominally doesn’t know that he apparently thinks she might still be carrying on with Ben – surely she would have been much angrier afterwards, when she was just like, “yay, I’m still here, you and me forever.”

Over here in conspiracy corner, I’m wondering if they forced this because Ben refusing to accept Ellie breaking up with him last episode was very un-heroic, and they needed to show that he does, in fact, understand boundaries.

Whatever the reason, though, they needed to join the dots on the emotional logic a bit better. Murray O’Connell would never.

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:

Jodi is a Lecturer in Writing and Literature at Deakin University. Her research focuses on the history of love, sex, women, and popular culture, so reading romance novels is technically work for her. Shed a tear for Jodi. Jodi is also an author, and her series about smart girls and murder fairies is published by Penguin Teen Australia. One time, the first book, Valentine, was featured on Neighbours, and she nearly fainted with joy.

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