Here we are, two weeks in and at the two thirds mark! Time is a flat circle! I once thought December would be a month where I could write zero words, and we’re edging over 20K on The Bachelors alone!
Something that added to my December word count was this article I published in The Conversation today. You know how Wesley is the scab I can’t stop picking at? I wrote about male virginity on reality television, with an obvious Wesley lens.
And now I’m going to keep picking at the scab, because I just can’t fucking help myself. Let’s talk about the Three Cs of Love on reality television and how they’re manifesting with our three Bachies – especially (sorry) Wesley.
Regular readers of my recaps will have heard me talk about the three Cs before, but if you’re new here, I theorise that love in the Bachieverse – and many other reality dating shows, which share similar language – has three key components:
Chemistry: often referred to as a “spark”, this is something ineffable to do with attraction. While you can fan a spark – indeed, Wesley used exactly this language about Jade in episode two – you can’t ignite one in a dead fireplace. Either you have it or you don’t.
Connection: this is simultaneously both more intellectual and more emotional, and can exist on different levels (you will sometimes hear Bachies discussing how they have an emotional but maybe not a sexual connection with someone, for instance). Unlike chemistry, you can develop this over time, as you establish greater intimacy with a partner.
Compatibility: this is the least sexy part of a Bachie love story, because it’s the most concrete and practical. You know how sometimes they get to hometowns and they haven’t discussed very simple, basic things like “where are we going to live?” and it suddenly becomes a huge problem? It’s because the show has prioritised chemistry and connection over compatibility.
Something the show has done this year, though, is really think about compatibility. Unlike the vast majority of previous seasons, they’ve made this a key part of their romantic storytelling.
This is obviously especially true with Wesley, because he has such obvious and clear points of difference with many of the contestants.
- Holly broke up with him allegedly because she didn’t feel a spark (a chemistry problem), but I think we all saw her face change as that oh no, he might be a creationist thought hit her scientist brain in episode two.
- Jade breaking up with Wesley last night was an even clearer example of this – there was no possibility of compromise (another C!) between his firm “I won’t live with someone before marriage” stance and her “I must live with someone before marriage” position.
- Then there’s the ongoing narrative with Brea. They tried to highlight their compatibility last night, but there’s the ongoing “she loves sex / he doesn’t have it” sword of Damocles hanging over their head…
However, the show hasn’t only done this with Wesley. They haven’t really done it with Luke – he’s been so charmingly talkative they haven’t really needed to do much with him yet, to be honest – but we’ve seen it with Ben a few times.
- Ben wants kids, and he’s not willing to compromise on that. This is why he broke up with Holly, and it’s also one of his key points of overlap with Angela.
- Ben has some capital-T Thoughts about how to handle conflict, and when Amelia behaved the way she did around FlowerGate, it put him right off.
Usually, the show shies away from compatibility in favour of chemistry and connection, but I think it’s such a mistake to do that. It leads us to places we were commonly in Locky and Jimmy’s seasons, where the Bach would essentially just be asking contestants “how do you feel about me now? how about now?” in a way that felt very disciplinary.
The heart of any romance narrative is another C – conflict. You can’t tell a love story without giving the lovers an obstacle to overcome.* And it’s in the practicalities of romance, often – the unsexy business of compatibility – that the best obstacles, and thus the best possibilities for narrative generation, lie.
* “We’ve got to have obstacles to overcome if we want the audience to be invested in the love story.” – producer Murray O’Connell to Bachie Dylan Jayasinghe Mellor, Not Here To Make Friends, p. 61.
Okay, before we get to the single dates in this episode, we need to hit two quick points.
- Wesley is considering “compromising” (his words) some of his deeply held conservative values in the pursuit of romance, after being shaken by Jade’s departure. He calls his stepmother, who’s like, “never compromise! the right partner for you will love you just the way you are!”. This isn’t terrible advice in the broader scheme of things, but it further solidifies the potential for Wesley to end this series just catastrophically dumped.
- Mckenna is feeling very upset by the fact that Amelia was going around saying that she basically got a pity rose last episode – ie. that if Jade hadn’t self-eliminated, Ben would have cut Mckenna.
Ben and Angela’s single date
There are two things I don’t like about this date:
- TRANSPORTATION IS NOT A DATE. Granted, this is a boat, and there is a provision in my policy on this matter for boats, but it is a small boat, which they do not leave, or, like, even park. (Do you park boats? As the creator of Olympic-gold-medal-winning sailor Bachie Dylan Jayasinghe Mellor, I feel like I should be slightly more boat-literate.)
- They are drinking Calabria Bevi prosecco. Calabria has vineyards in NSW and SA but not state-of-filming Victoria – but Victoria is where most of Australia’s best prosecco grapes (glera) are grown (notably, in Prosecco Road in the King Valley)! They should be drinking Pizzini or Dal Zotto, not Calabria… especially considering Bevi retails at about $15, you cheap bastards.*
These things aside, this is a really lovely date. I don’t have that much to say about it, honestly, except that I genuinely believe Ben and Angela together as a couple. Ben is a hard person to warm to, given how conversationally-challenged he is, but it always seems to flow when he’s with Angela. They seem comfortable together – and if that isn’t another major C word when it comes to romance, I don’t know what is.
* “Jeff’s favourite hobby, when we watched the episodes, was trying to ID the alcohol.” Not Here To Make Friends, p. 317.
(Who is Jeff, beyond someone with one of the same annoying habits as me? You’ll have to read the book to find out.)
Luke and Aarthi’s date
This is kind of another Pretty Woman date? Except they don’t call it that this time – they frame it simply as “Luke likes Aarthi so much he’s willing to undergo every man’s worst fucking nightmare – going shopping”.
This entire date takes place in noted romantic location David Jones. Luke tells Aarthi to try on a bunch of dresses, and to pick one. She does. She looks pretty. It’s not much more complicated than that.
They do have an interesting little conversation afterwards, where Luke is like, “so your family don’t want you to be here – if you brought me home, what would they think?”, which has some good stakes. However, considering Aarthi’s answer is “they’d probably like you” it gets undercut pretty fast.
This makes this sound like it was bad television, but it wasn’t. I am so surprised by how much I’m enjoying Luke as a Bachelor. He has such a good vibe with all three of his remaining contestants, but I think his vibe with Aarthi is my favourite – she explicitly says she likes the only thing that most of the viewership have found to dislike in him, ie. his love of calling everyone “darl”.
Also, I must note that Luke and Aarthi are drinking Moët on this date – a much more acceptable Bachie Bevvy than a prosecco you can buy as a canned mixed drink spritz.
Wesley and Natalie’s date
Natalie is a person I genuinely only realised was on the show yesterday, but here she is, one of Wesley’s final three women, off on a single date with him.
They go ice-skating, which is a great date idea – especially considering they’re both garbage at it. This loosely fits under the bracket of the commitment date, which I discussed (via my man Murray O’Connell) yesterday. Give two people a task that’s either ridiculous or will make them look ridiculous, their capacity to commit to it will symbolically mirror their capacity to commit to each other.
Wesley and Natalie commit to the ice-skating. But that’s not the problem.
Production have done a really good job suggesting that there’s not really a connection between Wesley and Natalie without coming out and saying it. Because they’re both novice ice-skaters, they both fall over – and notably, trip each other – a lot. It’s a visual signal of a lack of connection and a lack of compatibility, which very firmly places Natalie as Option #3 in Wes’s three options (Brea is obviously light years ahead, but at least Nella is also into Jesus).
Ominously, at the end of the date, Wesley says that he doesn’t want to lead Natalie on, but he does want to reward how hard she tried that day.
The… cocktail party?
I’m not entirely sure what this post-single-dates event is, but it functions like a cocktail party.
The Bachies – who have given their respective dates roses – accompany Angela, Aarthi and Natalie home. Wesley immediately makes a beeline for Brea, and it becomes even more clear that she is the only one he’s remotely interested in (which I’m one million percent sure is foreshadowing for the next episode, given the teaser at the end of this one).
The real action, though, comes from Ben’s group of contestants.
Remember how Mckenna is pissed at Amelia for suggesting that she got a pity rose last night? She pulls her aside during this cocktail party, bringing Angela and Evie (another person who has definitely been here the whole time and did not sneak in the back) along as backup. “You saying that I only got a pity rose really upset me,” she says.
“I never said that,” Amelia replies, despite the fact that she is on camera, saying this.
Amelia is getting a heavy villain edit now, so I don’t want to go too hard on her, especially given the fact that a lot of her dialogue is extremely obviously Frankenbitten (and, like, not well? have they got a new, less good audio person, or am I simply too reality TV literate now? it’s so clear to me). But she is definitely on camera, saying this thing, so lying about it is a sure way to put yourself on a villain track.
Though on the subject of extremely obvious editing: my goodness, the thing that happens next nearly made me cry with laughter.
So, Ben is eavesdropping, and he overhears some of this kerfuffle (which goes on for a while – FlowerGate is raised, it’s a whole thing). Clearly, he walked into the room near the end of the conversation, which probably promptly caused it to end.
But they’ve edited it together to make it look like he entered the room mid conversation, and he’s just standing there silently listening to the airing of all these grievances, while the women have no reaction at all to his entrance.
You know how they fucked up the emotional logic in that Luke/Ben/Ellie love triangle edit in the hot springs episode? This is even worse. Murray O’Connell would be livid if someone he trained connected the dots this badly.
Anyway, Ben takes Mckenna aside afterwards. “I’m really sorry Amelia made you feel like you got a pity rose,” he tells her. “You didn’t. I really like you. The deepest conversation I’ve ever had is with you.”
While shit-talking – however passive-aggressively – one of your contestants isn’t what I would think of as great Bachelor behaviour, Ben comes off well here. This is classic historical romance hero shit again: recognising the worth of someone who’s become a bit of a wallflower, and simultaneously the shallowness of someone in the foreground. In Bridgerton terms, Amelia has become the Cressida Cowper.
A brief interlude
Sorry, before we leave this cocktail party, I simply must talk about wine again. This episode has so many wine crimes in it that I cannot leave unaddressed.
Some of the women are drinking sparkling from coupes. This, I don’t have a problem with. Sure, it’s a surefire way to ensure it’ll go flat in about five minutes (do you want your sparkling wine to stay sparkling? use a flute! you want as little surface area exposed to air as possible!), but there is a long-standing tradition of drinking sparkling wine this way.
What I absolutely cannot tolerate, though, is drinking RED WINE from a coupe. No no no no!
Even the regular wine glasses they have provided are terrible. When you’re drinking still wines, you want a larger bowl that narrows in towards the top – both exposing surface area of the wine to air and trapping aroma in the glass. These are not good wine glasses! They will make your wine taste worse! Glassware matters!
The group date
I thought the cocktail party would take the place of a group date, but no – that was some other, different, wine-crime-y event.
All of the remaining women have been invited on this group date. The promo said it was a hot yoga date, but it seems to be more of a day spa situation, with some light cultural appropriation of South Asian culture by white ladies laid over the top.
This date really makes clear just how many contestants Ben has left compared to the other two Bachies – they have three apiece, he has six. His portion of the date must have taken so much longer to film!
This is, essentially, an intimacy date. Each Bachie and his contestants go through a series of “workshops” (what is this, Too Hot To Handle?), designed to establish intimacy. We’ve got:
- Women running their hands over blindfolded Bachies
- Bachies + contestants staring into each other’s eyes
There is a world where this could have been a super sexy, super revealing group date (and been verrrrrrry interesting for our poor virgin Wesley). However, they made a critical error when putting it together, which is that each interaction takes place with the other contestants in the room – eg. when Lana’s rubbing her hands all over Luke, Ellie and Aarthi are there watching.
I’m assuming they did this to provoke conflict, but all it did was provoke awkwardness and prevent disclosure. They would have been much better off sequestering each Bachie and contestant away: not only would this have genuinely built intimacy, but the things the women would have imagined about what happened between their Bachie and the other contestants probably would have been way worse than what they witnessed.
(As his creator, I can tell you that this is for sure what Murray O’Connell would have done.)
As a result, there’s no especially good drama on this date. The only things that really happen are:
- Ben has a revelation about just how extremely into Mckenna he is.
- Ben’s six remaining women give him a massage at the same time, and I hate it very passionately.
- Definitely-here-the-whole-time Evie, another one of his contestants, is like, “well, there’s really no point me hanging around, I can see the writing on the wall”, and leaves.
The rose ceremony
It’s obvious that one of Ben’s contestants will be leaving tonight. Even with Evie self-eliminating, he still has five to the other Bachies’ three.
His first rose goes to Mckenna, who’s now being positioned as the main contender to Angela for Ben’s heart. He also gives a rose to Maddison, which leaves him choosing between villain Amelia and terrible-first-date Caitlin.
He ultimately gives the rose to Amelia, so look for her villain edit to continue next episode, but we simply must salute how far Caitlin has come. To make it to episode eight after a date that disastrous in episode two, which revealed that she and Ben have absolutely nothing going on between them… a remarkable achievement.
Okay, I don’t normally talk too much about the promo for next time, but this one is intriguing. Wesley is apparently going to sit down with his contestants, and with the other Bachies, and announce that he’s doing something never done before in Bachelor history.
Here is my prediction, based on the foundation they laid in this episode – Wesley is going to cut both Nella and Natalie, leaving Brea as his only remaining contestant. However, he’s not going to then leave the show (something which does have precedent – Clare Crawley did this in the US Bachelorette, where she ran off with her chosen man Dale Moss very early and the show had to parachute in Tayshia Adams as a replacement Bachie).
Instead, he’ll seek to step through the rest of the process with Brea as his only option, as a sort of test as to whether their relationship will work in the real world. This will be an extended – and, I hope, fascinating – narrative about compatibility.
Then she’ll dump him in the finale and he’ll end up crying on Luke’s shoulder.
If I’m right about this, and there’s another season of this show, and they still don’t fucking call me to consult… I swear to god.
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