We made it! Three weeks, nearly thirty thousand words, and (allegedly) three men falling in love. Now I can rest.
…until January 3, when Not Here To Make Friends comes out. If you’ve enjoyed these recaps, friends, please pick up my books – you’ll like them!
(A producer with very Murray O’Connell appears in tonight’s episode, comforting Wesley. I was delighted.)
In our last recap of the season, before we get into the recap itself, I want to spend a bit of a time on a retrospective. This isn’t so much a victory lap about how I was right about everything – which, for the record, I was, 100% clean sweep on the endings for your pal McAl – but an overview of what worked, what didn’t work, and what might need to change if the franchise is to move forward.
This is, FWIW, the free level of advice I give out. If you want my full professional opinion, Bachie, you will have to call me up and pay me some money to consult for you.
So: the good!
I think they made much more of the affordances of the narrative structures this year. Not pre-assigning women to a Bachie early on created more compelling stakes and drama. Framing this within a Bridgertonian historical romance vibe made a lot of sense, and is something that they could have made much more of, to be honest – if you want to create fairytale romance, first create the vibes of the fairytale.
I feel like they also made the most of what they had this year, and attempted to graft some strong narratives onto at least two of their Bachies. Luke is the one where they fell down with this a little, but he was a good enough speaker with a warm enough vibe that they could kind of get away with it. I’m not entirely sure the narrative they tried to craft around Wesley and risk-taking was entirely successful – the man showed no appetite whatsoever for taking risks – but there was definitely a strong arc around him and Brea. When it came to Ben, I really was impressed with how they tried to take what they didn’t have – a Bachelor with any capacity to have a conversation – and turn it into story.
That’s something they need to work on next time, though. I was initially cautiously optimistic on the casting, but I turned a corner on Ben in particular. If you want a Bachie to feel like a romantic lead, a proper aspirational one – which they clearly did with Ben, unlike with Wesley – then you need someone with innate curiosity who is capable of holding a conversation. You can have a narrative about being emotionally closed off if you want! That’s fine! But his terminal lack of chat really hampered the show and hampered his own ability to inhabit that role of romance hero.
This also leads to another big thing I think needs to change – with the possible exception of Brea, I have so little idea of who these women are. I know their ages, and I know roughly want they want in a partner: but who are they as people?
One thing the show did last time which helped a little with this was that initial round of dates-around-Australia. I don’t think that would be a good thing to bring back, but having women organise (well, for a Bachie level of “organise”) some of the dates would really open up their characterisation. Tell me something about Ellie other than “into Luke”, for instance! That’ll make me more invested in the story!
This can’t make up for the biggest problem, though: time.
This manifests in a couple of ways. The first is the airing schedule, which is absolutely fucking exhausting, and just not conducive to any real investment in the story, because it’s over too soon.
The second is inescapable given the three Bachie format. When your narrative real estate is consumed by three stories instead of one, you necessarily impact our ability to invest in any given story because you haven’t given it enough time to develop.
I don’t think the solution is here is more episodes, AKA moving to a MAFS or a Love Island model. Rather, I think the solution might be… one Bachie.
I think we had it right all along, friends. Much as this multi-Bach format can engender conflict, is it really worth it to sacrifice the real capacity to invest in the outcome?
I’ll leave you with that thought as we get into the outcomes themselves. Recap time!
One thing to note here: they have significantly disrupted the classic “loser gets out of the limo first” structure. I understand why – it’s to create suspense – but I’m not sure that’s the right move here either? The dramatic irony – that feeling that we know something the characters don’t – is crucial to the emotionality of those final breakups and declarations, and that’s another thing I don’t know if it’s worth sacrificing, because it’s key to them feeling climactic.
That said, it’s hard for much to feel climactic in this episode, where we have to go through the same rituals multiple times. Without the final dates contained within the episode leading up to it, that impact is hampered.
(Please call me, Bachie. Please pay me some medium dollars and let me help you.
Luke, Ellie and Lana
You remember that episode a few nights back where I pointed out that every Bachie had a moment of realisation that I theorised would be key to his ultimate ending? Guess who was completely right about that.
Ellie is first out of the limo. Seasoned Bachie viewers are meant to be OMG SHOCKED that Luke is dumping her, but he’s not great at keeping his feelings off his face, and it’s obvious extremely quickly which way this is going to go.
“My darling Ellie Louise, I love you,” he tells her, and she beams, and they kiss, and it’s all very nice.
It seems super weird, though, that he hasn’t broken up with Lana first? The two rituals haven’t just been edited out of order: Luke says “well, I’ve just got to go and have a conversation with Lana, and then our lives together can begin”.
It’s an unfortunate way to undercut your best romantic hero. This positions Lana as a bit of an afterthought, a mere inconvenience to be got past on the way to Luke and Ellie’s happy ending – and we know, from watching the season, that’s not the way at all.
This is redoubled by the fact that Luke breaks up with Lana on a fucking PARK BENCH instead of in your classic Bachie high romance setting. It’s not quite as offensive as Thomas’ breakup with Lauren getting 0.7 seconds of screentime last year, but it’s not great either.
Lana is really upset. “I just feel stupid,” she sobs – and this is the note we’re left on with Luke’s arc for now, a bad taste in our mouths around the Luke/Ellie romance that I really don’t think it was in the show’s interest to create.
Wesley and Brea
The Wesley/Brea piece of this actually sits between Ben’s breakup and his declaration, but for the purposes of this recap I’m going to do it here.
I knew exactly what would happen in this segment – I think we all did, the fact that Wesley has been cruising for a dumping has been obvious for a long time now – and yet it still managed to be entirely infuriating.
The reason it is so infuriating is that Brea doesn’t dump Wesley, not exactly. He asks her to be his girlfriend, and her response is basically “not yet”. “You haven’t shown me that you have the capacity to compromise,” she tells him. “In what we have, I would be making all the compromises and you would be making none. That’s not a good basis for a relationship. I’m not closing the door on us, but you need to give me a little more.”
“I can’t believe this is all happening because I don’t want to sleep with you in a single bed,” Wesley says.
“It’s not just that,” Brea says. “That’s one thing – one small thing – and you can’t even give me that.”
“I see,” Wesley says. “Then for my own sake, I’m going to close the door completely.”
Then a gust of perfectly timed wind blows all their vases of roses over and they smash on the ground. Murray O’Connell would be delighted by that pathetic fallacy.
I HATE that it was essentially Wesley who broke up with Brea in the end. HATE HATE HATE.
I think the show understands this, though, because it spends a while on Brea afterwards. She does a talking head while walking – meant to show, I assume, that she’s walking away from Wesley. “I stood up for myself, and I’m proud of myself,” she tells the camera. “Maybe I fell in love with myself on this journey.”
It doesn’t really exist anymore, but… what a layup into The Bachelorette.
Then the producer who looks like Murray comforts him, and Luke is summoned, and we get that shot we saw in the premiere of Luke hugging Wesley while he sobs. “Couldn’t you just buy a queen bed?” Luke wonders aloud.
Ben, Angela and Mckenna
I feel really bad for Angela here. The show hasn’t entirely committed to a pride-cometh-before-a-fall narrative with her, but it’s definitely flirted with it, and I’m not convinced she’s really earned that.
She’s the first out of the limo to meet Ben. He beams at her, and then reads approximately 63947324 words about how good and perfect she is and how much she likes her.
(They all read their declarations this year, which I don’t love? Like, I know the earpiece has historically been very much a thing here – Murray gives Dylan JM one in Not Here To Make Friends – but it’s got some real “kid reading their assignment in front of their Year Nine geography class” energy.)
“But I have to be honest,” Ben says abruptly. “My heart lies with someone else.”
“…oh,” Angela says.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve come to really dislike Ben, but the “you’re so great” / “not for me tho” turn felt so sharp here. Usually, you can feel the “but” coming, but Angela got slapped in the face with it like a fish.
“Back to the beginning,” she murmurs as she leaves Ben – which I really want to point out is a classic example of how we think about our love lives in narrative terms, but I feel like I should let her have her moment.
That means, of course, that Mckenna (25) is the winner pick for Ben (36). “We have such a strong emotional connection,” Ben enthuses. “I’ve fallen for you, Mckenna.”
The show has done their best to scaffold this narrative – I’ve pointed out the language of exceptionality they’ve used with her a few times, and we had that moment of realisation a few backs too – but it simply hasn’t had the real estate to land. Ben and Mckenna are a classic example of the show’s problem with time.
One thing the show did last time that I really liked was to have the rejected women hang out together and drink their feelings, but Angela, Lana and Brea simply melt away, and we don’t hear from them again.
The three Bachies and the two winners have a little drink together, though. Ellie and Mckenna are delighted that they’ve both won, and it really would be quite nice… if it weren’t for Wesley fifth-wheeling.
And that brings us to the end of this marathon. It almost always feels a bit anti-climactic, even in the glory days of Australian Bachie, because we don’t have that immediate transition into the After The Final Rose show to unpack everything, but allow me to leave you with this thought: imagine how much more we would have been horrified by the Wesley/Brea narrative if they’d pushed the idea of getting engaged as hard as they did last season.
…I would also like to leave you with the thought “wow, buying Jodi’s books would be a great idea”. I promise that the season of Marry Me, Juliet we cover there is an absolute banger.
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