After an entire week and a half of this show airing, we’re now past the halfway mark. Theoretically, we should now be well on our way down the slippery slope towards the end, but truly, when they air the show this fast, it is so hard to tell.
There’s no point complaining about the airing schedule, because the decision has been made, but… oof, it really does not encourage emotional investment.
Which is a shame, because some of the narrative work they’re doing is quite good (even though it could have been better if they’d just fucking CALLED ME).
Anyway! Before we get into the recap of tonight’s episode, I want to pick up on a point I mentioned briefly in last night’s – the seductive, but not necessarily constructive, idea of the “organic”.
A refresher: Jade pressed Wesley for some more information on how far he’d be prepared to go with a partner (yes, sorry, we’re talking about Wesley again, the scab I can’t stop picking at). He, like he did with Brea last week, stonewalled her – the closest we got was him agreeing that any kind of relational and/or sexual progress would need to be “organic”.
Oh, friends. Let’s talk about this fucking word, because it has popped up in my research a few times.
In the work that my sociologist pal Lisa Portolan and I did on the ways in which people think about romance on dating apps, “organic” came up over and over again. People desperately wanted to find romance “organically”, and it was one of many things which made them feel deeply ambivalent about being on the apps, because it felt like getting the process of romance jumpstarted artificially.
(One particular way this manifested was in the desire for a meet-cute – if you want to read more but you don’t have institutional access to read the article linked above, here’s a link to a Conversation article we wrote about this aspect of it.)
It also came up over and over again in the work I did for my PhD-thesis-turned-monograph The Consummate Virgin. I read about 800 autobiographical virginity loss series for this book, and a common theme was the idea of virginity loss as an organic or “natural” next step in a romantic relationship. If you remember back to a few recaps ago when I talked about Laura Carpenter’s three scripts for virginity loss – this idea of sex as a natural next step in a relationship and/or in a process of sexual maturation figures heavily into the rite of passage script.
This all seems well and good, right? We love organic! We love natural!
But these terms have a dark side, because they’re often code for “without talking about it”.
This came up repeatedly in my research on virginity loss. While (thankfully) the idea that communication is antithetical to the natural seems to be ebbing a little bit, it certainly hasn’t gone away. A running thread through a lot of virginity loss stories was this desire for sex to happen magically at the right time with the right person and – because of this constellation of rightness – to be just as magically excellent (spoilers: it usually wasn’t).
You can even see it in the dating apps research: if you begin a romance by talking, instead of through bumping into someone and spilling your coffee on them and magically falling in love – especially if you begin talking abetted by technology – then that becomes unnatural, somehow.
But to be frank, we need to get over this. Another running thread in my virginity loss research was that people who had “active” virginity loss experiences (in that they actively thought about and discussed what they wanted it to look like) had a much better time overall than people who had passive ones (“it just happened”… usually underwhelmingly).
Moreover, when we worry too much about the “organic” and the “natural”, we’re ascribing too much power to the universe instead of ourselves, IMO. The dominant discourse of modern love is intimacy – as Lynn Jamieson writes, “[t]he emphasis is on mutual disclosure, constantly revealing your inner thoughts and feelings to each other” (1995, 1; cf. also Shumway 2003). Love is something that happens between lovers, not to lovers – and romanticising clear and direct communication, rather than handwaving things away and hoping they will just happen “organically”, is (in my really quite educated opinion) very important.
Will he be any better at communicating tonight? Let’s get into the episode and see.
As always, we start with single dates, but also as always (well, as mostly), we begin with an ominous chat between some of the women setting up one of the overarching concerns for the episode. Jade is still thinking about Wesley declaring he wouldn’t move in with someone before marriage, and when one of the other women asks her if that would be a dealbreaker, she basically says yes.
We also get a weird… mini-date, I guess? between Ben and Amelia (amazing that they put this man in yet another position where he would have to – gasp! – talk to someone). “So… how do you feel about the flowers situation yesterday?” he tentatively asks her.
“I hate it and I think Angela is an awful person for doing it,” she essentially says.
Ben somehow interprets this as “Amelia has withdrawn her Angela-or-me ultimatum”. I’m sure this is just the editing, but it really does make him seem just as bad at listening as he is at speaking.
Ben and Maddison’s date
This is a really good date idea! Ben and Maddison do an aerial silks class together. It’s a great idea for several reasons, but let me once again deputise my man Murray O’Connell to explain this date format to you:
“This was a play on one of our classic single date formats: the commitment date, where the lead and the contestant had to totally commit to some ridiculous task as a way of symbolically demonstrating their capacity to commit to each other. It was a great way of making it seem like two people were compatible when they weren’t, so I’d been intending to send the Dylans on a commitment date in Episode Eight or Nine. However, if you made the task absurd enough, it could also be very funny – and as I wanted to infuse Episode Six with lighthearted hijinks after the serious drama of Episode Five, I’d decided to use it here.”
– Murray O’Connell, Not Here To Make Friends, p. 217 (on why he decided to send cinnamon roll Bachie Dylan Jayasinghe Mellor on a single date with terrifying villain Lily Fireball).
This silks date is not the most absurd example of a commitment date, but it functions the same way. Ben and Maddison have to work together to do the silks stuff, with the added benefit that it’s a) sexy and b) awkward enough to be funny. Maddison in particular does a great job of carrying our conversationally-challenged Bachie Ben through with some light-hearted banter…
…but given we see zero post-date wine-and-cheese chat from them, I’m confident Ben later shat the conversational bed again.
Luke and Lana’s date
This is such a sweet little date. I was wondering whether it might have been a better one to send Ben on – they’ve sent Luke on a couple of “go see a show” dates now, and given that involves more watching, less talking, it feels like a waste of Luke’s gift of the gab… but he’s so charming and reacts so well in this date that it would be a shame to see it reassigned.
Luke takes Lana to a comedy show, where he promptly gets roasted by the comedian. He’s so delighted by it, and responds so positively and winningly, and it also reinforces the gentle, playful nature of his connection with Lana. It’s really lovely television.
Afterwards, Luke takes Lana back to his Bach Pad. They initially bonded over food, and he does something he’s been saying he would for a while, and gives her his banoffee pie recipe (handwritten, which is a nice touch, although the fact he refers to himself as “Bato” is less so). Then he lifts her onto the kitchen counter and they make out, and… not going to lie, it’s really hot.
Also, apropos of nothing, a quick age check.
Luke is 28. His top three contenders – Ellie (29), Aarthi (30), and Lana (36) are all older than him.
Ben is 36. Arguably his very top contender, Angela, is about his age (she’s 37), but then if we look at the other pool of women he’s dating, we’ve got people like Amelia (25), Mckenna (25) and Maddison (24).
Makes you think.
Wesley and Brea’s date
It is such an interesting choice for the show to send its evangelical Christian on a Pretty Woman date THAT THEY EXPLICITLY CALL A PRETTY WOMAN DATE.
I would put money on the fact that Wesley has neither seen Pretty Woman, nor has any clue at all what the plot is, beyond “Julia Roberts gets nice things”.
Brea gets whisked away to a nice hotel, where she gets an afternoon of pampering, including beers in the bath (a nice touch, remembering that she prefers beer to wine), before being poured into a fancy red ballgown, complete with opera gloves.
She and Wesley go out to dinner, and then they engage in some music-less dancing (which they acknowledge is music-less, which I thought was a bit funny). She doesn’t raise the question of what Wesley is or isn’t willing to do sexually again – probably a good move, considering he’d probably just refuse to answer again. Instead, they talk about what they think love is (something very interesting to me, your friendly neighbourhood scholar on the subject!) and the things they want for their futures.
Brea wants to live in the country. She’s not interested in a nine-to-five – that hustle is too much for her.
“I’ve been a nine-to-five guy for so long,” Wesley says, and we think we’re in for another spectacular mismatch, when he adds, “and I’m dying to get out of it.”
Just about everything in this show has been screaming that these two people (and indeed, Wesley and everyone except maybe Nella) are wildly incompatible, so credit to the show for finding a way to highlight a way in which they are compatible.
“I can’t just see a future with Brea, I’m planning it,” Wesley says, surely foreshadowing his eventual heartbreak.
The group date
This date looks lovely! Each Bachie brings three women out to a truffle farm, where they have what looks like a beautiful lunch at a gorgeous outdoor table.
There is a lot of silly nonsense on this date, but one thing I loved: they actually eat. They actually drink. It all looks delicious, and they don’t waste it.
Luke has brought Ellie, Aarthi and Lana (who I think are the only remaining Luke Girls?), and their portion of the date is not remotely dramatic – they simply have a nice time – so let’s turn our attention to the other Bachies.
Ben has brought Angela, Amelia and Mckenna. I want to state up front that this sequence (and, indeed, this episode) contains some quite clear Frankenbiting, but the narrative is this: Amelia is still extremely salty over FlowerGate, and is making things very tense as a result.
Mckenna is positioned as a bit of a reprieve for Ben – he says as much when he takes her away to have a conversation with her – but it’s when he takes Angela away that he makes his position clear. “I loved the flowers you sent me, and I thought it was such a nice gesture,” he tells her.
Meanwhile, Wesley is having his own private chat. He’s brought Nella, Natalie (who has definitely been here the whole time???) and Jade, the last of whom pulls him aside. “So… how firm on you on this ‘let’s not live together before marriage’ thing?” she asks tentatively.
“Very firm!” Wesley replies cheerfully.
Earlier, in his date with Brea, he very gently hinted that he might be open to some (extremely) light compromising. That does not seem to be the case with Jade.
The rose ceremony
Only one woman is going home at the rose ceremony. Numerically, it would make sense to be one of Ben’s (Luke seems to have three contestants he’s courting, Wesley four, and Ben seven or eight, unless some of them are still, um, “misc”), and we’re set up to believe that it’ll be Amelia who goes, in punishment for FlowerGate, especially after Angela gets his first rose.
But then Jade puts up her hand. “Wesley, can I talk to you?” she asks.
She takes him outside. “What we want for our romantic futures is so different,” she tells him, “and I can’t in good conscience accept this rose from you.”
For the second time this season, Wesley has been dumped, making it ever clearer he’s heading towards a final, greater dumping.
It would make sense for Osher to confiscate a rose and thus make Ben also cut someone, but no: he hands out his final two roses to Amelia and Mckenna respectively. I have to assume this is in the interests of drama, as Amelia promptly makes it clear that obviously Mckenna would have been leaving if Jade hadn’t self-eliminated…
I guess with Lisa gone, they need a new lead villain, and it looks like Amelia might be it.
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