Count Pierre Bezuhov from War & Peace is one of the greatest of all characters in all of literature. He's the central figure of Tolstoy's masterpiece, which I've been reading these past few months, and there hasn't been a second when I've formed the slightest dislike for this stout, gullible, sweet, generous, troubled, irresponsible, wholly lovable fellow. Everything he says or does – the time he tied a policeman to a bear, his descent into religious mania, his incredible stupidity which presented as incredible courage during the Napoleonic Wars – strikes me as wonderful. I think about him often when I'm watching The Bachelorette.
Partly this is an attempt to stay awake and hold onto the tattered rags of whatever sanity is left after watching every episode of the long-running dating show. But one of the most striking things about War & Peace is how modern it is, which is to say how timeless; Pierre and the rest of the enormous cast of Russian royalty are beset with the same doubts and desires that play out in our own lives and in the lives of the bachelors and hotties in The Bachelorette.
The ghost of the lovelorn Pierre hovered in that powerful scene a couple of weeks ago when Bachelor Steve awkwardly tried to express his feelings for Hottie Lesina. Pierre, too, knew all about hopeless love and the abyss of rejection. "Why are you so upset?", the beautiful Natasha asks Pierre. He longs to tell her that he loves her, but dares not. Natasha continues to ask him what's wrong. Tolstoy writes, "And she suddenly stopped. Both in dismay and embarrassment looked at one another. He tried to laugh, but could not; his smile expressed suffering, and he kissed her hand and went out without a word."
So, too, was Bachelor Steve dismissed from the show.
And there was Pierre again, in last night's show, hovering at the side of one of the greatest of all characters in all of reality New Zealand TV junk: Bachelor Aaron. Tolstoy would have killed to write someone as fascinating and despicable as this villain, with his dark eyes, his scheming ways, his really annoying habit of wearing a hat indoors.
The closest resemblance to Bachelor Aaron in War & Peace is Prince Anatole Kuragin. Things didn't end up well with Prince Anatole Kuragin. He got his leg amputated in battle. Bachelor Aaron will be lucky to get out of The Bachelorette alive.
There was a revealing scene last night at a cocktail party when Bachelor Aaron was sitting around with some of the other guys. One by one they got up and left. They can't stand the guy. In the end he was left alone, muttering: "They'll be back!" But they didn't come back. They were like Pierre in the scene when he spends the night drinking with Captain Ramballe, a French military commander, in an abandoned house in Moscow.
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"O women! O women!", exclaims Ramballe, and proceeds to tell Pierre all about his love life. Tolstoy writes, "His accounts of his love affairs were characterised by that peculiar nastiness in which the French find the unique charm and poetry of love." Pierre despises him, and leaves.
So much of Bachelor Aaron's behaviour in love has a "peculiar nastiness" about it. But perhaps he'll change his ways, find redemption, and win the heart of Hottie Lesina. I don't know how War & Peace will end. No one can guess how The Bachelorette will end. In a sense, neither the literary masterpiece or the reality TV junk will never, ever end; both will linger, and hover, and haunt.
• The Bachelorette New Zealand screens on TV2