Good Monday to you, fellow MAFS tragics, and welcome back to the desperation zone. The previews indicate that tonight is going to absolutely out of control – watching each other’s parents roast them in the oppressive surroundings of an empty cinema? My body is ready for this vicarious mortification! LET’S GO.

The new couples are moving in together and feigning excitement about being trapped in a mid-size hotel suite with a near-stranger for the foreseeable future. Johnny’s over-enthusiasm is starting to grate. Leave the outsized theatre energy at home, dude! You’re a small-screen star now!

you’re at a ten and I need you to be at a four

Liam is doing his best to continue to tolerate Georgia’s violently pink lifestyle, but cracks are starting to show. I think it’s incredibly rude and backwards for this show to force these two to move in together, as we all know were they to meet and pair up in Real Life they’d absolutely be doing the Helena Bonham-Carter/Tim Burton thing and living in separate houses next door to each other.

still pledging my allegiance to the Queen of Consistent Aesthetics, tho

Meanwhile, among the OG couples, everyone’s having a big ol’ bitch about Bryce. Yay!

“Ugh, Bryce,” says Brett’s moustache. “He just refuses to accept that he’s the toxic one.” Nailed it! Upstairs, Patrick’s agreeing – Bryce doesn’t know how to say sorry, he can’t let things go. Bec’s telling Jake that she’s worried about Melissa, and being uncharacteristically perceptive about it: “Bryce isn’t giving her the security she needs, or I guess the platform she needs for self-acceptance. And he’s done that through the attraction photos and constantly bringing it up, and then the conversation he had with me in the gym…” Are there unanticipated depths to this glittering ice maiden? I’m here for it.

next season’s newest expert

Does Bryce actually think he’s done anything wrong? Ha ha, you must be new here. Liss asks if he actually took anything away from last night’s commitment ceremony roasting, and he says, “I feel like the finger’s being pointed at me from the experts and the other’s in the group that I’m the issue. I’m not going to sit here and cop the lies. If my behaviour has been toxic, it’s been like that because of the environment we’re in.”

pictured: the victim

He goes on a yawn-inducing tear about how he just gives back whatever he’s given, if you’re an arsehole to him he’ll be an arsehole back – what a puerile way to engage with the world. Melissa has taken on the full-body expression of defeat that I’ve become to accustomed to.

it was a mistake to leave the Andromeda system

Despite all outside appearances, she seems to be utterly convinced that Bryce is right: everyone is just jealous of the two of them. She says she wants to steer clear of everyone else in the experiment and just focus on her and Bryce’s relationship. Isolating yourself from any semblance of support system: fabulous idea, babe.

While Jake and Bec have been brought closer together by Jake’s magnificent behaviour at the most recent dinner party (remember when he told Bryce off for swearing? dreamy), Alana and Jason are having a really rough go of it. The spark is gone. They’ve lost connection. This tragic, baffling disintegration is almost more heartbreaking than watching people being out-and-out cruel to each other. It’s offensive, quite honestly, as I did not tune in to MAFS to have my feelings toyed with in the manner of an early-2010s breakthrough indie romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling!!!

Blue Valentine, 2010, dir. Derek Cianfrance

Downstairs, Chris and Jaimie are checking in to the MAFS hotel under frosty conditions, after having a fight in which Chris allegedly accused Jaimie of “faking” their marriage. I mean, it is fake, but I understand the spirit of that statement. Apparently Jaimie said that she only chose to stay at the commitment ceremony because she wanted to save face, and that she had a plan for how to exit the experiment. Ouch.

In case you don’t remember, Jaimie has been an enormous fucking snob to her huge sexy husband right from day one, picking on him for his speech, appearance and education. Chris has been genuine and vulnerable with her, but he’s got bupkis in response. He’s getting fed up.

“I know she doesn’t like me, I know I’m not the guy who’s around on yachts, I’m not her millionaire mates. Maybe I’m just not good enough for her, I don’t know. But I’m being used,” he says. God, were the editors having a bad week? It’s fucking heartbreak hour!

“I was actually here to find someone,” he says, “and it’s just horrible, what’s going on.”

According to Jaimie, their conversation this morning entailed them deciding to give it another week, and if it didn’t work out they’d both write “leave” at the next commitment ceremony. Chris has a different story: he says that Jaimie told him to stop being so nice to her because it was making her look like a bitch.

yes, that’s what did it

She’s like No, I never said that and Chris is fucking DONE.

“If you’re gonna put an act on for cameras, that’s fine, I don’t need to be treated like this. I shouldn’t put myself in a position where you treat me like this. It’s wrong.” He’s fucking out of there.

Finally! Someone standing up for themselves!!!

“I can’t keep saying it’s all good when she puts me down,” he tells the camera, and I am on my feet and cheering for this giant of self-care. I hope everyone is paying attention! Boundaries, people! That’s what we like to fucking SEE.

Jaimie is still in the hotel room calmly explaining to the cameras that she was just trying to be rational, and that she’s actually totally genuine.

“I’m a pretty bad liar,” she says, with the smooth, blank face of a shark engaging a school of fish in conversation.

this mouth? certainly not full of razor sharp teeth ready to bite you in half

Ugh gross, they’ve convinced Chris to go back to the room to talk to Jaimie. He doesn’t want to pretend they’re all good, and he’s leaving. Jaimie’s gone into a very unpleasant mode that’s somehow a combination of tyrannical kindergarten teacher and panicked jilted bride: “You’re not leaving,” she said. “I brought the conversation up this morning with you, and I don’t appreciate your behaviour and it’s not something that I’m willing to accept.”

Sorry babe! Despite what this devilish MAFS experiment would have you believe, that’s actually not how relationships work! Your wounded pride doesn’t trump the long-lost Hemsworth’s accurately-placed sense of self-preservation!

explain

He gets his stuff and leaves properly. Jaimie tries to spin some shit about Chris “yelling at her” and then walking out, which is… simply not what happened but who cares, our favourite superhero is FREE. He’s sad that he didn’t get to experience what the other couples have, but he’s hopeful that he’ll actually find someone who appreciates him and wants to be with him.

she’s right in front of you, baby!

And that’s it: they’re officially out of the experiment. I didn’t know you could LITERALLY just walk away? Why are all these other idiots holding on for dear life?! LET GO. BE FREE. FOLLOW THE VIKING TO VALHALLA.

Back with the remaining new couples, we have the stomach-turning appearance of some mail. They have to do something called “relationship crash-course week”, which sounds absolutely torturous in the way we’ve come to expect. They’re going to have to do those stupid intimacy/confession tasks. Leave them alone, you monsters!

they know not what horrors await

Ah yep, here comes disaster number one: the hot-to-not task. Kerry puts Brett at the top to start with, because he’s quirky and fun. Once she pulls out Johnny’s photo, though, she bumps Brett from the #1 spot. Obviously!

*delighted theatre kid noises*

Across the hall, Liam puts Kerry as his initial number one. Spicy! But more importantly, where’s he going to put Georgia? Don’t be a flog, Liam! He really takes his time mulling it over, while Georgia becomes more and more pinkly pissed off. Why is he stalling so long?

nooooooo

WHY. Why is this exercise so hard to grasp! It is PERFORMATIVE. It is a CHANCE TO DEMONSTRATE YOUR ATTRACTION TO YOUR PARTNER. It is an opportunity to SHOW YOU VALUE THEIR FEELINGS. It is not a face-value hot-or-not exercise!!!!!!

Georgia feels the same. Time to do some explaining, Liam. He stammers something about usually liking brunettes. Georgia looks like she’s about to strangle him with a pink hairtie. Our simple country boy is trying to walk things back: “It’d be a tie,” he says, swiping the photos around the table like a desperate three-card monte mark.

It’s Georgia’s turn, and I can smell the bubblegum-scented revenge approaching already.

how the turn tables

Aw, she still puts Liam first (ahead of Johnny the hunk). I’d be interested to see where Chris would place were he still in this experiment but I guess I’ll have to settle with pinning his picture at the top of my own personal inspiration board.

Anyway things are still tense between these two and I frankly hate to see it. Curse this exercise and the ghoul who came up with it.

The rest of the couples, god preserve them, are about to face something called “feedback week”. Jesus Christ. This is what the previews have had me salivating over: chucking the couples in a cinema to watch their loved ones criticise them on a huge screen. They don’t know that’s what it’s going to be of course, because why prepare them for trauma when we can simply spring it on them and enjoy the resulting devastation!

Apparently because of COVID preventing them from doing the usual home visits, the MAFS producers have concocted an even more diabolical plan: to show the couples’ families footage from the last three commitment ceremonies, and get their feedback. YIKES.

oh my sweet summer children

And it’s not just a video, either: it’s a live cinema-to-ancestral home Zoom call. Hell. On. Earth.

Belinda’s sister and brother-in-law and Pat’s mum and dad are looming over them like the collective trauma of 2020 made manifest.

dad you’re on mute. you’re muted. we can’t hear you. DAD

Fortunately they all have only nice things to say about them. Belinda’s sister asks Pat if he’s okay with things progressing so slowly in a physical sense, but he says he’s happy to take things at Belinda’s pace. Good on him! Bel’s willing to up the ante on the affection side of things too. Wishing the Mathletes a very fruitful fornicatory future!

Up next is Bryce and Melissa and my stomach ACTUALLY drops at the prospect of seeing what their families have to say about the deeply toxic dynamic between these two. Bryce’s mum and dad and Liss’s mum and sister appear above them to (hopefully) rain down some judgement upon our friend the brick.

The horror with which the couple respond to the news that their families have been watching their commitment ceremonies goes a fair way towards disproving their adamant declarations that everyone’s just jealous of them and they haven’t done anything wrong.

fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck

“What – what have you seen?” yelps Bryce.

“Overreactions from you, Bryce,” says his mum, “probably a little bit concerning.” MELT HIM, MUM. “I’ve probably been a little bit worried about how you’ve overreacted to some things.”

Not even a gentle dressing-down from the woman who raised him can change Bryce’s mind about how great he is, though. He tells the camera that he knows what he’s like as a person, and that he doesn’t regret his actions. Mate: you should.

Here to really drive that home is Liss’s mum, who asks Bryce what happened with the incident in the gym. This is wonderful. I’m happily mentally pasting every dickhead ex-boyfriend’s face onto Bryce’s and enjoying waves of satisfaction at finally seeing them get told off by not one but TWO deeply disappointed mums.

disapproval, thy name is Mum

He mumbles about the attractiveness exercise, and Liss’s mum is like Yeah, that was pretty sad to watch. Bryce’s mum jumps in:

“Bryce, I don’t know what possessed you to rank Melissa a 4. To be so stupid to say, Oh I thought I’d be honest, that’s just dumb. If you need to rank her, then lie!” HAVEN’T I BEEN SAYING EXACTLY THIS. Bryce’s mum, give me a call, we’ll go out for a half-strength cappuccino and commiserate about your idiot ham son.

She goes on to slaughter him in the way only a mum can: with love and unparalleled expertise. “I truly believe three experts have actually picked your personality,” she says mildly. “You do become defensive, you become outspoken, and they’re giving you advice. And I’m thinking, you’re not even listening. You need to listen.” She calls him a rooster! Puffing his chest out and going on the defensive. I’m rolling around cackling ‘cos it’s simply toooooo accurate.

“You’re at an age now Bryce, where you know, enough’s enough, you need to just stop,” she says, and points out that he needs to take into account how Melissa feels – he’s embarrassing her. “In all honesty, I don’t know why she’s sitting next to you at this point.”

that’s it Bryce, let mummy’s well-meaning words steal the very breath from your body

Ooooof. I need to take a moment to process this wave of righteous bliss I’m feeling. Imagine getting this thoroughly flattened by your own mother, in front of your wife, on national television. The schadenfreude is simply delightful. Bryce obviously doesn’t give a jot of credence to the things his nice sensible mother is saying but I would expect nothing less from an ungrateful little grot like him.

Liss’s sister says watching the MAFS commitment ceremonies has broken her heart. Same, babe. “Mum and I just want to make sure that you’re okay,” she says.

Melissa has drunk far too deeply of the brick-flavoured Kool-Aid, and insists that it’s only at the commitment ceremonies that she seems all sad and downtrodden. Otherwise she’s really happy! Can someone please call a special ops team to rappel in and deprogram her?

In Belinda and Patrick’s hotel room, they’ve decided to up the intimacy ante with… an erotic massage. Belinda is clearly still approaching her new human form with a sense of fun and creativity.

see how the sea witch uses her new appendages to trample upon those who would challenge her? 

It is not erotic. Of course it’s not! These two are gentle nerds who will discover their own methods of creating intimacy in their own nerdy time, and they should not be required to attempt sexiness set to clown music! Whoever suggested this move deserves to be drowned in Belinda’s sentient seaweed hair. Let’s move on.

Ugh god, we’re back in the pink palace of despair with Liam and Georgia. She’s still feeling jilted by being ranked second on the hot-to-not exercise.

Elle Woods would never put up with this

Fortunately they manage to have a good little chat, in which Liam makes it clear that he was not indicating that he would rather have been paired with anyone else. He can see himself being with her for the long run. Good communicating babes!

Down the corridor, Melissa and Bryce are debriefing over some product placement after that traumatic trip to the movies.

thank god we have this refreshing [checks label] Gemma & John’s to take our minds off things

Liss reckons that she doesn’t need her family’s approval about Bryce. “I make my own decisions,” she says, in the tones of someone trying very hard to convince herself.

“I’m happy with how things are going,” he says in exactly the same tones. “I’m happy with you.” Very upsetting.

Oh dear: in further upsetting news, all of Bec and Jake’s progress has apparently gone down the toilet after a spat saw Bec (allegedly) tell Jake to “shut the fuck up”. She denies everything. They both reckon they’re donezo. Finally!

all gentle himbos report immediately to the P.TV office to receive your consolation prize

In a wonderful piece of timing, it’s Bec and Jake’s turn to enter the family judgement cinema. Bec’s mum and brother and Jake’s mum and sister loom above them, clearly itching to hand down their ruling.

Bec’s mum is already arcing up about Jake, saying he’s been exhibiting “destructive behaviour” because he went out with the boys that time. Is it Be Mean to Hotties Week?

every week is be mean to hotties week

She has a go at him for a while, and then it’s Jake’s mum’s turn to have a go at Bec for saying she felt like Jake “sucked the life out of her”. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Bec’s mum, and we are all treated to a nice bit of digitised Karen-on-Karen drama during which both mums and Jake’s sister talk over each other and I try to hide under the couch cushions.

me too, Bec’s brother. me too

Jake’s soul has completely left his body, until Bec says, “At least I came here to find someone,” like the fourteen-year-old she has clearly regressed into being. He’s like, hang the fuck on: “The reality is I can’t be around Bec in her rudeness. We just don’t work. It is what it is. It’s not going to work.”

Jeez she’s petulant. She’s like, “I said I was done but it was in an argument, one argument!” Honey, you’re a grown up. Even ice princesses have to cop to the actual meaning of the words they’ve said.

Despite all of that, she reckons she doesn’t want to give it all up. What rubbish. Let each other go!

“Because I said someone was boring, I’m not wife material,” she tells the camera sarcastically. Well… yeah. Jake says he’s broken. His sister says it’s probably time to give it up – they don’t like seeing him like this. He says he misses his family. I love this gentle man. For all the shit I hang on him for being a himbo, he’s really not – he’s self-aware and thoughtful and clearly very upset at being treated like a lump by his icy wife. I can only hope beyond hope that they don’t try to mend things in the next few days, and finally both get to run screaming from the depths of this nightmare and back into the light of the real world.

ANNNNNND that’s it for tonight! More MAFS cinema of horrors tomorrow – eat, sleep, get your strength up, because it’s going to be another gruelling slog to the bottom for sure. See ya then!