Sam Frost got engaged to Blake Harvey last night but it seems their 'journey' was short lived. Photo: Network Ten
Until today I thought the most disappointing part of The Bachelor Australia was that, despite the Bachelor being a former topless hospitality professional for the second year in a row, the producers stubbornly refuse to rename the show Stripper Wants A Wife.
But my heart was torn anew by revelations that Blake Garvey and Sam Frost have officially split up, shattering the dreams of Channel 10 executives the nation over and forcing them to confront a grim future devoid of Mr and Mrs Garvey doing cross-promotional appearances on next year's Masterchef. Love may be fragile, but it's still a bit stronger than network television's modern profit forecast.
Runner-up in the competition with no winners: Lisa Hyde. Photo: Network Ten
The circumstances of Garvey and Frost's split remain mysterious, with rumours swirling that Blake may have violated the sanctity of partially scripted entertainment by impregnating one of the other contestants. Or maybe it was Sam's disgust at watching Blake whisper the exact same sweet nothings into her rivals' ears as he murmured into hers. I won't be surprised if, after the inevitable Royal Commission, we're told they were both killed by laser-like glare from each other's shiny white teeth.
But I really feel for Sam, and all the other contestants. Appearing on reality TV must be a bit like prison: a bizarre, structured, artificial environment where your behaviour is dictated by external agendas that may or may not have your best interests at heart. Of course prison has a much lower budget for gauzy drapes, cushions and sequins than The Bachelor, but the similarities are there.
Sure, you must possess some pre-existing level of naive derangement to consider appearing on a show that generates its narrative by inciting women to call each other insane dog-faced sluts by candlelight. Even with that in mind, I can't help but have compassion for anyone who's spent weeks on end in a terrarium of hysteria only to have their breakup made fun of by thousands of snarky Twitter users.
According to Blake all three finalists, Lisa, Louise and Sam all had "big hearts."
It's tempting to look at this situation with nothing but scorn, but this is an opportunity for some good old-fashioned feminist solidarity. Sam seems to be setting an example for the rest of us by flooding Instagram with shots of herself hanging out with other contestants. It's like she's saying, "Hi guys. I know I'm about to be a figure of comtempt for a while, but the important thing is to make friends with other women." After deriving hours of pleasure from watching her humiliated on telly, I'm willing to take the cue.
Who am I to judge? I've done some stupid things to get attention and money in the past. The impulse to view female reality contestants as uniquely stupid, vapid or worthy of condemnation benefits nobody except the people who make money out of exploiting them. The Bachelor isn't just a television show; that's the tip of the iceberg. It's a well-oiled machine that turns caricatured femininity, as well as the labour of real women, into profit for other people.
Keeping your eye on the ball like this stops you from getting sucked in to The Bachelor's nightmare world. Sam is only a Bachelor contestant if you assess her using the show's own warped internal rules; let that part go, and she's a person with her own values and goals who probably wouldn't choose to wear glittery ballgowns seven days a week for fun. (I would if I could get away with it, but if we're not judging Sam for appearing on The Bachelor we're not judging me for being inappropriate when it comes to tulle.)
The whole enterprise is absurd, and I anticipate future historians looking back on The Bachelor with the same kind of moral speechlessness we feel about the Romans laughing it up as they watched criminals get eaten by lions. "And everyone just went along with it?" they'll ask incredulously. "The young female sacrifice was ritually mocked by the entire population after suffering such indignity? Disgusting!"
It's possible that the entire breakup is a stunt within a stunt, and in a week's time the happy couple will burst out of a wedding cake on live TV. Sucked in, everyone! They're moving onto a hobby farm, where they'll raise a brood of children so good-looking the local schools won't accept them into Kindy for safety reasons.
Either way, this is an opportunity to show some humanity. We can see Sam as a young woman trying to get ahead in a tight job market, or we can throw her to the lions. Well, not literal lions. But appearing on breakfast television can be vicious.
Follow Eleanor on Twitter @marrowing