Here we are again, friends! Just a few episodes to go, and then, finally, I can rest.
(For five minutes. Not Here To Make Friends comes on January 3. This is me shamelessly begging you to pre-order it – if you like these recaps, you’ll probably like my books, and pre-orders really do make a difference!)
Before we get into the recap tonight, I want to talk about the idea of intimacy. This is directly relevant to my favourite scab to pick at, Wesley, but it’s a theme in this whole episode tonight, because our various couples are getting therapised.
I’ve written many times before in these recaps about cultural studies scholar David Shumway and his theorisation of passion vs intimacy, but guess what, we’re doing it again.
Broadly speaking, the former (which he calls “romance” but I find “passion” a more useful term for) “offers adventure, intense emotion, and the possibility of finding a perfect mate.” The latter, by contrast, “promises deep communication, friendship, and sharing that will last beyond the passion of new love” (Shumway 2003, 27).
Passionate love, in this formulation, is something that happens to you. It’s beyond your control. Your eyes might meet across a crowded room – and boom, perfect match, without you ever needing to lift a finger. (Is this tied to the seductive-but-not-constructive ideas of the “natural” and the “organic” that I wrote about the other night? Absolutely it is!)
Intimate love, by contrast, is something that you work on – something that happens between people, rather than to them. Intimacy might feel like magic sometimes, but it isn’t: it’s the product of time and work and disclosure between the partners. As Shumway puts it, intimacy is “partly a function of who they [the lovers] are as individuals, [but] it is also a function of how they behave in the relationship” (2003, 25).
Ideas of intimacy became extremely prevalent in the twentieth century. There are a lot of reasons behind this – the rise of psychoanalysis and the therapeutic is one, which is obviously directly relevant to the episode we have at hand – but one of them is narrative. As Shumway notes, passion “may give an account of an extended courtship ending in a marriage made in heaven, but it cannot tell the story of a marriage” (2003, 21). If we want to see what a relationship looks like beyond the getting together, we need to think about ideas of intimacy.
And here we circle back to my favourite scab to pick at, because his decision to ditch everyone and focus only on Brea is allowing the show to do just that – a narrative manoeuvre I find fascinating.
With most Bachies, watching them do what Wes and Brea are doing – step through the Bachie process even though she’s already won – would be pretty dull. It would be the honeymoon stage, the beginnings of (as Brea puts it in this episode, invoking an interesting narrative term) their happily-ever-after (HEA). We would be in what An Goris terms the “post-HEA” (2013) – a space that romance narratives have often had trouble depicting, because conflict is necessary for narrative but simultaneously you don’t want to disrupt a couple’s romantic happiness and thus undermine the promise of the HEA in the first place.
However! Wes and Brea might be together, but they have problems! We have moved beyond the space of passion to the space of intimacy, because this relationship is going to require intimate work if it is going to function – to put them in a space where we can actually believe they have a HEA!
There are two ways this can go:
- The show convinces us that they love each other enough to do this work, and they reach a point in the finale where we believe yes, they’re going to be OK.
- This all falls apart and this is alllllllll foreshadowing and Wesley ends up weeping in Luke’s arms.
I believe I have made my position on which one of these I think is more likely very clear.
Anyway! I will make it even clearer as we go on! Let’s get into the recap!
The therapy group date
There are no single dates in this episode. What we go on is technically a group date, but we deal with discrete couples on it – Wes and Brea, and then the three potential couplings Ben and Luke respectively still have in play.
This is a therapy date. I am not entirely sure whether the person they’re talking to is an actual therapist – her job title is “executive matchmaker”, and a quick perusal of the website and its deeply classist language seems to suggest this means she makes matches for executives – but she performs that sort of therapeutic function for our seven potential couples: a neutral third party who can see the obstacles in the couples’ path with clear and unclouded eyes.
IMO, this is a great idea for a date – and a significantly better execution of it than in the last season, where it mostly seemed to revolve around the exhausting polyamory narrative, Thomas being reproductively creepy, and Alésia not wanting to get engaged to a man she’d known for five minutes and what an OMG HUGE PROBLEM that was.
(Oh my goodness, can you imagine if they’d kept the horrifying looming promise of the engagement rings in this season and Brea had that hanging over her head?! Jesus fucking Christ.)
The reason I think that this is a great idea for a date is that you simply cannot have a romance narrative without conflict. This is fundamental to romantic storytelling, what Pamela Regis describes as the “barrier” between the lovers in her eight essential elements of the romance (2003). A couple needs to earn their HEA by overcoming an obstacle, and the question of how they’re going to overcome it is what drives the narrative forward.
This is the reason, by the way, why we see so few romance narratives about people who meet on dating apps. If you meet on an app, the assumption is that you’re both looking for and are ready for love. It’s incredibly difficult to generate conflict from that premise.
So: this is a great idea for a date! It’s all about identifying obstacles!
I’m not sure the execution is all the way there, though. It’s not terrible, but I feel like they could have gone a bit harder here.
Luke does his level best in his chat with Aarthi and the matchmaker to generate an interesting obstacle when he raises the spectre of her disapproving family, but Aarthi is like, “yes, they don’t approve of me being on the show, but they’d love you” and undercuts that right away.
His chats with Ellie and Lana are similarly non-eventful – Luke has simply, it seems, chosen extremely well when it comes to his final three.
There’s a bit more juice in Ben’s potential matches, obstacle-wise. We don’t see much of the chats with Mckenna and Angela, but the matchmaker is frank when it comes to Amelia. “What you’re looking for – it’s not her,” she says.
This is meant to reflect poorly on Amelia, per the edit, but much as I’ve been surprised in how much I’ve come to like Luke, I’m equally surprised by just how powerfully I’ve come to dislike Ben. His requirements for a partner are, “can hustle, can chill, can party,” which the matchmaker distils as “the ultimate plus-one” – and my friends, if anyone ever dared suggest my role in a relationship was “plus-one”, I would burn the world to the ground.
(Ben also talks about his “unspoken connection” with Amelia a lot in this section, and… my dude, just say you’re hot for her and drop the pretence.)
I am not the only person who can see just how catastrophically Wesley is going to get dumped at the end of this.
I assume that Wesley and Brea presented several of their issues to the matchmaker, but the one they zero in on is the living and spending time together situation. The expectation is apparently that Brea will always fly to see Wesley (not the other way around) and that she’ll stay in an AirBnB (because of sex reasons, but also because he has a flatmate? and no one has ever crashed on the couch in a house with a flatmate before?).
The matchmaker asks to talk to Brea alone. “One of you is doing all the compromising,” she tells her bluntly, “and one of you is entirely inflexible, and I think you know which way around this is”.
This season has had its flaws, but one thing it’s done a good job at – unlike, say, in the Honey Badger’s season – is actively making me hope for a couple to break up. Wesley is not doing the work of intimacy with Brea, and what it’s telling us as an audience (or me, anyway) is that these two people not being together might be the happiest possible ending.
If Wesley and Brea do miraculously end up together, I don’t think they can make that feel like a HEA at this stage. #FreeBrea will be trending on any social media platform still around for it to trend on.
The cocktail party
This cocktail party is an odd little affair. There are bits and pieces in here I’m not entirely sure what to do with (although I will, of course, venture my opinion).
The bit I found most bemusing was Ellie sitting Luke down, and saying, “look, I never want to talk shit about the other women, but Aarthi has been going around saying she just wants to get to the end”. She never utters the magic words – not here for the right reasons – but the implication is clear.
I don’t know quite what to do with this, because we have seen literally zero things to suggest that Aarthi has been doing this (she doesn’t deny it when Luke confronts her about it, but it sounds like she’s just been making fairly innocent low-stakes jokes with the other women). With all the girl chats they’ve filmed, they didn’t have anything on camera that could support this narrative?
There’s also curiously little reaction to the fact that Ellie did a spot of snitching here – something which is generally not considered winner behaviour. I depict this in Not Here To Make Friends, where Murray spends a great deal of time frustrated that his frontrunner Dylan G keeps tampering with the “classic, pristine, rising-above-the-drama winner edit” (154) he wants to give her by getting in fights with villain Lily Fireball.
The lack of reaction actually kind of makes me think Ellie will win (well, reinforces my conviction, I already thought that)? Otherwise, surely they’d use this as an opportunity to make Lana look great and Ellie look worse so we were pulling for the “right” team come the finale? And maybe we would have spent more time with Luke and Ellie in the matchmaker date so it was clear that they weren’t perfect for each other?
Overall, though, it was a strange piece of television that really seemed to be missing some narrative scaffolding. Murray O’Connell would be having some stern words with people for not flowcharting it out properly.
The other piece of this cocktail party is a bit more successful, though (although I must note that Amelia’s dialogue in this section is frankenbitten to absolute shit. This feels like a classic example of how a villain edit can be manufactured out of extremely little).
The narrative, as we’re told it, is that Amelia is incredibly confident that she’ll get a rose. She’s positive that she and Angela will be the final two for Ben. This is something we do actually have narrative scaffolding for, because it arose out of that rose maths drama a few episodes ago: the seed that Amelia believes she is way ahead of Mckenna in the fight for Ben’s heart has long since been planted.
But! We, the audience, know that Ben has been having Big Mckenna Feelings lately, full of profound moments! The language of exceptionality has been used a lot of times about her – eg. he had the deepest conversation he’s ever had in his life with her.
So he takes Mckenna outside. “The reason I haven’t spent as much time with you is because I had questions for the other women,” he says. “I have no questions about you.”
(NB: show me proof that Ben knows what a “question” is. His whole communication problem this season seems deeply rooted in the fact that he has never discovered the question mark.)
And then, ahead of the rose ceremony, Ben gives Mckenna a rose – another way in which she is being marked as exceptional – which means that one of Amelia and Angela will be going home.
The rose ceremony
Ben and Luke each have to cut a woman tonight, bringing them down to a final two each (while Wes and his final one Brea look on).
The cocktail party clearly sets up the way this will go – reasonably elegantly in the case of Ben, and deeply inelegantly in the case of Luke. Luke picks Lana and Ellie and cuts Aarthi; while Ben, having already picked Mckenna, picks Angela.
Actually, no. The way this is played is not that he picks Angela – but that he doesn’t pick Amelia. The camera is on Amelia’s face the whole time, and we get her heartbeat in the sound mix as she realises she’s lost.
Just like the lack of drama around Ellie snitching has reinforced my conviction that Luke will pick her; this has reinforced my conviction that Ben will pick Mckenna. If you really want us to be on board the Ben and Angela train, you’d probably put a bit more effort into this rather than positioning Angela as simply Not Amelia.
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