To watch The Bachelorette is to enjoy and luxuriate in a beautiful nostalgia for the way things used to be. The setting for the dating show, in which seven remaining bachelors um and ah and generally converse in beaky nasal Kiwi monosyllables in their attempts to impress two eligible women, is in a country estate somewhere outside of Buenos Aries. There they gambol and smooch, and plot and fret, in golden light and in the shade of strange trees. Buenos dias, buenos nachos; buenos times, all the time.
Filming took place some time before our Age of the Plague. The world could come and go as it pleased. It was an inspired choice of destination to set the show in Argentina; it looks so gorgeous, so warm - 37C, one of the bachelors noted in last night's show, trying to make conversation – and so lively. News to hand: Argentina has closed its borders to non-residents, shut down schools, and is considering a nationwide lockdown. It has 45 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
These developments will hold particular sadness for the Kiwi contestants on The Bachelorette. It's blazingly obviously that they've loved every second of their time there. Buenos Aries was a sensation of bars and restaurants, and the countryside has presented itself as an exquisite land of meadow and river. Who knows when tourists can return to Argentina?
But the show has operated as an exercise in nostalgia on another, deeper level: nostalgia for the way New Zealand men used to be, in the magnificent shape of Bachelor Michael, the kumara grower from Dargaville. All the other bachelors are yuppies of one stripe or another. They're metropolitan layabouts, drinkers of espresso slop, with matching tattoos and matching half-beards and matching urges to conform. Bachelor Michael wasn't like that. He was rural, modest, decent, long-haired, good at fishing, strong as an ox, and only seemingly dumb as an ox, too.
He was his own man. He paid a steep price: he left the show last night of his own accord, after giving a powerful speech about the lack of respect he'd been shown by Hottie Lesina, who refused to go out with him on a single date. "It's really emotionally draining, eh," he said. And: "It blows my mind, eh." Also: "I'm over being mucked around, eh."
He left with dignity. What a neat guy. The other bachelors could see his good qualities, his intelligence, his humour; Hottie Lesina failed to see it. Her loss, and the show's, too.
But the remaining seven contestants, those smooth devils, have good qualities too. Hottie Lesina now has to choose between Bachelor Mike, Bachelor Aaron, and Bachelor Logan; surely Logan won't last much longer. Hottie Lily has to choose between Bachelor Richie, Bachelor Quinn, Bachelor Jesse and Bachelor Terence; surely the latter won't last much longer.
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Mike vs Aaron. Richie vs Quinn. The gunfight is about to go down on the South American pampas. Their shadows are lengthening; the golden light is turning orange, then red; healthy Kiwis in the prime of their life, on foreign soil, without a care – The Bachelorette is essential viewing, a sign of the way things were, and will be again.