Either way, it’s a strong set-up for the season’s first commitment ceremony. As per the show’s arbitrary rules, both partners have to vote ‘leave’ to secure a fond farewell, which is convenient for Nine’s ratings.
First up are the boring ol’ safe stayers. Cam and Jules flatter the experts over their matchmaking skills. Heidi and Mike are fine, but are advised to talk more, bang less. Matt and Lauren both feel «so lucky». Mark and Ning, Martha and Michael and Mel and Dino are given eight seconds of screen time between them and the cattle prod: are you guys good? Ok, get off.
Which brings us to Elizabeth and Sam. Things get off to a testy start when he reveals he’s not attracted to her, never has been, never will be. She says he gets defensive when she questions him on his dismissive behaviour. «Bullshit,» he replies.
As you might suspect, he votes to leave. Unfortunately for him, Elizabeth votes to stay. «Thanks for being a jerk, Sam,» she adds. They do sound like a married couple.
At this point, Bald Mike decides to pop up. «Why are you staying?» he yells at Elizabeth. «You haven’t said one good thing about him! So what, you’re just going to punish him for a week?»
Not to be a Bald Mike, but speaking to Elizabeth this week, I also questioned her decision to stay.
«I had an inkling Sam was going to say leave, but I was like, you know what, give me a week, give me something,» she explained. «I hadn’t put everything on the line just to be pushed aside like that… I was seeing a different aspect to him than what was on camera. I was not aware of the comments he was actually saying… But getting to know him, I wouldn’t put it past him.»
An interesting response, but doing the interview, as she was, under the glaring eye of a Nine PR person, didn’t allow much exposition. When I asked for her perspective on Ines and Sam and their burgeoning thing, she got coy.
«She’s a different kind of girl, he’s a different kind of guy… I can be subtle when I want to be,» she offered. I think I heard knives sharpening, but it might’ve been the phone connection.
The episode shifts to some more subtle stayers. Mick, who’s gone too hard with his «bloody rubbish» reaction to Jess’ outburst, is told to support her more. Cyrell’s sheepish over her dinner party tiff with Nic – she said it was going too good so she pushed him away out of a misguided sense of self-preservation, and apologises for behaviour. It’s a touching, vulnerable moment of self-reflection. We didn’t come here for this.
Thankfully, the main event arrives. Ines and Bronson couldn’t be sitting any further apart on the commitment couch. Bronson starts by taking a nice shot at the match-making experts. «I’m not what Ines wants — she definitely said no strippers,» he tells them, and they pretend they didn’t hear him.
Ines giggles. «This is the first time I’ve heard Bronson, like, speak. Usually Bronson only says, ‘hey mate’ and ‘that’s beautiful,’» she says. The playfulness is short-lived, though. «I don’t want him f—ing touching me. I don’t want him in the same room as me. I think that sort of says it all.»
She also reiterates her desire to partner-swap. «If anyone here wants to give me their husband, give him to me,» she asks the room. The camera, fairly aggressively, cuts to Sam. «I’m all about getting a divorce and finding a new husband. Like, I would never engage in sexual relationships whilst being married,» she adds, and Nine’s producers laugh.
For some reason, the experts are trying to salvage this mess. They say they matched the two because they’re both so independent. Ines says she «doesn’t f—ing care»; Bronson calls her The Hulk. He cops a lashing from expert Mel for using that sort of language «on a woman»; would she prefer She-Hulk?
The hatred is real, but we can all see where this is going. I don’t think Bronson’s pen even works, for instance. Ines votes to leave, [the Endemol producer who probably filled in the card for] Bronson votes to stay. «What the f—? I don’t think this could get any worse!» Ines screams. Oh come on Ines, we believe in you.
Nine, the publisher of this masthead, must have some actual insanity brewing because, incredibly, they don’t even hold their next reveal. A tagged-on promo for Monday’s episode reveals Ines has texted Sam in the hopes of instigating a hook-up. «It’s a sticky situation,» says Sam. That’s one way to put it.
Robert Moran is an entertainment reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age