My friends, we are back on the MAFS train to hell, and our last stop before the fiery depths of the godforsaken dinner parties is Nerdsville. My hometown! So far we have seven couples already matched up, but is that enough suffering for one season? NO! Let’s see who’s next on the chopping block of Love.

It’s Belinda, the ballerina/door-to-door saleswoman from the first episode! She’s 29 and she’s never had a boyfriend in her life. This makes her sad. She’s got a bunch of nice hair and intense horse girl vibes and an overburdened tabby cat. I would protect her with my life.

mafs contestant Belinda strokes her cat, who looks concernedBelinda… you’re… hurting… me….

She doesn’t think she’s ugly but she doesn’t think she’s attractive either, which really speaks to the raft of issues Western society insists on inserting into the psyche of most young women. This girl is cute as hell (because duh, otherwise she wouldn’t be on god damn TELEVISION), but has absorbed the messaging that because she is “pale and skinny and has curly hair” she is some kind of consolation prize.

“If only there were someone out there who could possibly find me attractive,” despairs conventionally attractive woman

Because our sweet pony club president Belinda is immediately clockable as being slightly awkward, of course she’s getting paired up with the only other genuine weirdo in the competition so far: Patrick, a personal trainer with a predilection for saying just… really regrettable shit.

“I never get approached by women, by just a stranger coming to randomly chat to me,” he says, and if he really thinks that’s how the other half lives, have I got lonely, socially atrophied news for him!!!

am I pensive or am I waiting for one of these swimsuit babes to come to life and ask me out

The experts reckon that these two will be able to “lean on each other, be awkward with one another”, and yeah totally, that’s exactly what two really dorky nervous babies need – not a confident cheerleader type who can bring them out of their shell and smooth over their inevitable social gaffs at the MAFS dinner parties but another version of their own weird selves! PERFECT. “It’s a no brainer,” says Expert John, and oh, how I hate him.

God, it’s the sad sap episode tonight – the next single on the block isn’t just single, he’s SUPER-SINGLE, according to Expert Mel. He’s been on his own for five years, but “it’s not just about the time, it’s about how set in his ways he is.” A grim assessment.

Russell is 37, a diesel mechanic, and immediately refers to himself as having “a head like a bashed crab”, so yes, I will be proposing marriage to him as soon as he extricates himself from this godforsaken experiment.

an airport massage chair?! someone’s been reading my dream diary

He’s got no kids (hence why he can afford the massage chair) but he loves his nephews and his family, and also motocross. He does want kids though, and says he feels lonely being a single bloke in a world of couples. Having no-one to come home and celebrate his little milestones with is starting to really get to him – but don’t tell his dogs that.


we’d kill you for a single corn chip just fyi

A producer asks him, “So why this experiment?”, and dreamboat of dreamboats Russell says, “Cos I haven’t got the body for any of the others!” Shut it down, that man is mine!

come to mummy you funky little car doctor

My competition/Russell’s future wife is 39-year-old psychology graduate Beth. Infuriatingly, she’s cute and charming and seems totally fun. Considering that she is desperate to have kids, pairing her up with fellow kid-wanter Russell seems like a sensible decision and I am forced to wish them both the very best.

wave goodbye to Aunty Beth’s fertility window!

“As a woman you have such a finite period of time, and now here I am, I’m 39, and I really want a family,” she says, and, wait, sorry, is that a leather thong-wrapped crystal I spy?

namáste

Seems a shame to just throw away all that kooky aunt energy for motherhood but okay! Expert Mel says something cute to her about how she met her own partner at 39 and had a kid at 42, so there’s still hope on the reproduction front. John reckons Beth’s psychology background can help bring Russell out of his guardedness, which in my expert opinion plays into a concerning and unexamined narrative about women being responsible for their partners’ mental wellbeing but let’s not dwell too long on that depressing idea – Russell and Beth are a match!

It’s wedding day for this sorry foursome, and Patrick is doing weird shit on an ironing board. “Marrying a complete stranger is facing my biggest fear,” he says, which raises some questions about what specific phobias he’s bringing in to this show that’s literally predicated on marrying a complete stranger. “That fear of rejection that I’ve had in the past,” he clarifies, and proceeds to get his wedding ring stuck on his finger.

portentous? i don’t know the meaning of the word

Meanwhile, Belinda is indulging in some light catastrophising. “I feel like I’m going to be into him and he’s not going to be into me,” she says, before appearing in a froth of tulle looking like the ghost of a drowned Arthurian princess (a great look for her).

soon the curse will be broken, and I will walk among mortals once more

She’s understandably nervous about going from Relationship Level Zero to Relationship Level 100: Hard Mode but there’s no time to feel sorry for her, Patrick’s in his own limo creating an atmosphere of unbearable vicarious embarrassment. “Peanut butter and jelly, this is like really getting real now,” he exclaims, while his groomsman looks like he’d rather open the door of the moving car and take his chances with the blacktop than hear another word escape Patrick’s lips.

can’t we just sit in pained silence like regular blokes

“I’m excited,” says Patrick to camera, “but I’m also shitting carrots.” He says he’s a genuine guy who’d do anything for anyone (hmm), and that he’s not picky with people. I wish one of the producers would lean in and let him know that opinions are some of the most attractive qualities a person can have, but it’s too late for that! He’s at the altar babbling unceasingly, his parents are there being strainedly encouraging, and Belinda’s in the limo shrieking, for some reason. The celebrant turns Patrick around in preparation for the big bride reveal. “Holy carrot sticks and peanut butter,” says Patrick. Indeed.

Belinda sets off down the aisle absolutely oozing BGE (Big Galadriel Energy).

You offer it to me freely? I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this…

“Holy moley, guacamole,” says Patrick upon turning around, and they share a little cheek peck and he’s like, That was the longest wait of my life! And immediately forgets Belinda’s name. She doesn’t care. They have a deeply tedious conversation about nicknames (“Lots of people call me Pat” “You can call me Bel!” “Bel or Belinda, got it”) and what time they got up this morning. The celebrant’s smile becomes visibly fixed.


shut up shut uP SHUT UP

Patrick reckons Belinda is one of the most beautiful girls he’s ever seen. Aww! Belinda’s vows are about how she’s wished to fall in love on every birthday since she was fifteen, and now she gets to have her dream come true! She’s coming into the experiment with no trust issues and no walls up. Patrick says he’ll always put her first, support her goals, have her back, and be there for her ups and downs. They have a PG-rated kiss on the lips and against my better judgement I am starting to see the sense in this match. Please, MAFS! Do not break the hearts of these tender weirdos (me included)!!!

We leave Bel and Pat to head to Russell and Beth’s wedding, and the voiceover lady’s ominous intonation about COVID-19 and “a wedding with zero guests” is somewhat undermined by all the surfers crowding the waves in the background behind the altar.

Apparently the pandemic means that no-one from Russell or Beth’s families will be able to come to the wedding. They couldn’t have roped some of the gnarly bros in out of those sick sets to be the bridal party?

congrats brah

Russell arrives at the beachside gazebo and exchanges awkwardnesses with the long-suffering celebrant, who looks like he’s mentally renegotiating his contract to include a much-inflated small talk fee.

I didn’t spend half an hour filling out that online celebrant registration form to put up with this shit

Beth is in the car looking frankly magnificent in some kind of Old-Hollywood-meets-Nimbin ensemble, while Russell explains via voiceover that as long as she’s a “normal human” he’ll be happy. We stan a low expectations king.

all hail the Queen of Mardi Grass!

 After a cruelly long walk on the soft sand in a pair of chunky gold high-heeled sandals, Beth finally appears amongst the foliage and Russell cops his first look at his bride-to-be.

NOICE

He’s immediately like PHWOAR SHE’S DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, we get treated to the prerequisite awkward at-the-altar small talk, the MAFS editorial team have deployed the dumb clown music, so far so painfully predictable. Stop trying to make the most charismatic man on this program look like a moron!

Beth’s vows lay it all on the line: she wants BABIES. Also her mum died ten years ago and she’s been sort of romantically adrift ever since. But most of all: babies please. Russell is stoked on this. His vows are stupid but genuine and feature a lot of dirt bike references. Beth reckons he’s lovely but not the kind of guy she’d usually go for. I have a sinking feeling. Let’s go look at Patrick and Belinda being dorks again.

Man, the editors are really putting the boot in to these two and they simply do not deserve it – we get an extended and deeply uncomfortable sequence of Patrick being inelegantly directed by the wedding photographer to act groomlike, which I’m like 90% certain happened with every other couple, only no-one else’s awkwardness had to be made public. I don’t buy your nerd-hating narrative, MAFS!

look at these dweebs, “holding hands” and “getting to know each other”! ha! ha!

Back at the beach, Beth and Russell are getting the same awkward photoshoot treatment. The music is buffoonish, the couple are looking frazzled, the photographer is barking orders like a French auteur, and I am… just so tired.


yes, kiss her! you are little lovebirds! show me your wings, lovebirds!

Beth puts lipstick all over Russell, and this somehow causes a total meltdown (not helped by the ominous music more suited to the climax of a Scandinavian cop drama). Beth is feeling a bit overwhelmed, probably because the only people around who she can ask for a wet wipe are some bored producers and their assistants and not like, anyone she knows, is related to or has a genuine connection with. Russell feels helpless but he goes to comfort her anyway.

don’t blame ya for crying, i’ve got sand all in me undercarriage too

He offers her his hanky and finds her the toilet. She’s disappointed because she didn’t immediately fall in love with him but she’s impressed by his gentlemanly attitude. That’s the way Beth! We’ll make a Mardi Grass Prince of your dirtbike-riding frog yet!

Meanwhile, at the socially-distanced reception of Belinda and Patrick, the bride is apparently preparing for a “special performance”, and considering the slightly unhinged look in her eyes, I’m not feeling optimistic about it.

[Black Swanning intensifies]

Her secrecy is triggering Patrick’s fear of rejection, which like – fair! She’s spending heaps of time whispering with her sister while her new husband sits right next to her, and I’d be freaked out too, to be perfectly honest. Little does he know that she’s actually just psyching herself up to go full Centre Stage on his ass.

who’s the prima ballerina NOW, Miss Juliette?!

It is flawless television. They give her the full slow-mo romantic climax treatment. He looks absolutely dazzled. She’s giving heavy Kate Bush energy. I am cackling with glee. Belinda, you magnificent psycho queen. I would die for her – and so would Patrick. Smitten doesn’t even begin to cover it. (Though his assessment that her dance is proof of how “down to earth” she must be is… demonstrably inaccurate.)

hachi machi

Poor Russell and Beth aren’t even granted the buffer of socially distanced guests, and are forced to spend their wedding reception seated on the same side of a round table, otherwise completely alone. Russ immediately decides to try to get the heater under the table working, because his bride is cold. Beth looks as though she’d like nothing more than to drive a butterknife slowly into the heart of whichever producer suggested that.

your days are fucking numbered, Tony

Out comes their fancy meal, and Russell is floored by all the colours. Yellow carrots? Pink fish?!

“So what is it?” he says.

“Really?” says Beth. “Salmon.”

A pause.

“You’ve never cooked salmon before? You’ve never been to a restaurant where someone else orders salmon?”

“No,” says Russell, with absolute confidence. “You order a schnitzel.”

And then Beth deploys the best “Wow” I think I’ve ever heard in my life. It goes for about fifteen seconds and contains more layers of meaning than most doctoral dissertations.

woooooooooooooooooooooow

I still think Russell is charming but it’s clear the superficiality of their conversation is really starting to grind Beth down. She asks him what kind of dogs he has and he says, “A black one and a white one,” and then comments on how much cutlery is on the table. Russ. Pick your game up. Your bohemian princess is starting to regret ever leaving the Northern Rivers.

Back in the Hunter Valley with Belinda and Patrick, Bel has slipped out of Black Swan mode and back into her wedding dress, and the pair are having a nice little bonding session on the steps of whatever lush venue they’re hanging out in. Belinda says she’s been feeling good and that she likes him, and Pat, bless, is so visibly relieved – he says he found her really hard to read and his anxieties were making him think the worst.

“I’m not rejecting you in any way!” she exclaims, and look, everyone says that open communication is key, so I’m on board with this refreshingly transparent statement of intent! And look what happens when you communicate with your significant other: pashes.

awwww

Great job you crazy kids!

At the beach, Beth is reassessing her choices and powering through what I can only assume is her fifth Negroni of the event.

keep ’em comin

Fortunately she makes the decision to push Russ on why he actually signed up for the whole MAFS thing, and finally the big dork of my dreams opens up: he wants someone to spend his life with, someone like, if you’ll excuse his eagerness, Beth. Cute!!

He says he lost his mum recently too, and that part of the reason he’s so into dirt bikes at the moment is because his nephews love it and he loves his nephews and it was always a family bonding experience. He also reveals that he was married! Five years ago! And he’s been single ever since. He put work in front of life, and now he knows he needs to put himself in front of work in order to have a life. Solid approach.

Oh! What’s this! He’s written her a note!

spiral-bound Officeworks notebook: the champagne of stationery

He refuses to read it aloud himself, so Beth does it – it’s a much more heartfelt piece of prose than his vows, saying stuff about how excited he is to meet her and embark on their lives together. And he got her a necklace! It makes her feel special! “Aw, you’re sweet,” she says. I love it! I love them! Please have a bunch of bespectacled hemp-clad babies together!!!

Now they’re at the post-wedding hotel, and because MAFS is never going to miss an opportunity to bully someone for not conforming to normie hardbody beauty standards, they’re taking the piss out of Russ’s Kombi van pyjama pants. I really feel like this is a reach. You’re going to make out like Kombi van PJs are a dealbreaker? Does no-one remember Troy, the psychotic toothbrusher? Russell is a Givenchy-clad lord compared to that moron!

First thing the next morning, Russell takes the shine off that comparison by being obnoxiously perky and loud. Beth is not loving it. Fair enough.

I had this wonderful dream where you died

Everyone gets sent off on their honeymoons, and it’s time to be mean to Russell some more. This time it’s because he’s never tried a kiwifruit. Haven’t we as a society progressed past the need to shame people for their inexperience? You don’t know anything about the man or his eating habits, Beth! Cool your fruit-based judgement jets!!

“What do they eat down there in Adelaide?” she laughs. He’s never eaten granola either. She’s all like, Ha ha it’s like showing an alien around on planet earth, but might I point out that HE is very humble and open to learning new things and SHE is the one who says “lol” out loud.

never tried lark’s tongues??? how embarrassing for you!!!

In camp Bel and Pat, conversation mostly revolves around what a bungalow is. In this case, it’s a miniature house without doors on the toilet or shower.

i think i remember this ep of Black Mirror

We’re deep into familiar MAFS territory here, i.e. the producers just truly letting their sadism shine at every opportunity. The two most awkward people on the show? Chuck ’em in a house without a scrap of privacy! Hahahahaha hell is empty and all the demons are here and producing reality TV!

How does Patrick decide to handle things? A bath. As I have said before: this show loves a bath. I have seen more baths on MAFS than I myself have taken in the last ten years. What agenda are they pushing here? Is there nothing Big Bath hasn’t tainted?!

Anyway poor ol’ Pat is approaching bath prep like a struggling YouTuber trying to talk his 12 followers through an unviable productivity hack. You don’t need to tell us how to run a bath, my friend! “Just sprinkle these over the surface,” he yodels, grabbing handfuls of bath products from a conveniently placed paper bag.

don’t forget to like and subscribe for more bath-based biohacks

“When I’m uncomfortable, I start talking rubbish,” he tells the camera, or I think that’s what he’s said, as I’ve muted the TV to prevent myself from having a cringe-induced stroke.

He keeps talking about “making a move” and “not knowing how to make a move” and how important it is that he does a good job at “making a move” and I really would like to take this up with whoever is in charge of educating heterosexual men about romantically pursuing women because by and large women are not video game bosses which you need a special combination of “moves” to “defeat” but rather HUMAN PEOPLE WITH BRAINS, PREFERENCES, COMMUNICATION CAPABILITIES AND LIFE GOALS.

For example, rather than attempting to erotically massage the feet of the woman you’ve just met while gabbling about the temperature of the bath in which you both sit, why not ask her what she feels like doing tonight?

nah chicks love this i’ve seen it on the internet

Unsurprisingly Belinda does not froth on this. “It’s just too much romance, too soon,” she says, shooting out of the foam like a very clean and beautiful seal.

And that, thank GOD, is the end of the episode. I wish all MAFS producers a very pleasant think about what you’ve done. The four gentle nerds on tonight’s ep did not deserve this kind of disrespect. Let’s hope the dinner party tomorrow night (!) allows them to sink gracefully into the background while the rest of the cool kids tear strips off each other. See you then!