MAFS season finale reaches madcap zenith
At some point you just have to raise your hands and offer a silent salute.
With shot-after-shot of gaping mouths and shaking heads, Married At First Sight’s latest season finale – the franchise’s eighth – again reached the sort of madcap zenith that’s made the local edition of the show (which airs on Nine, which also owns this masthead) a beloved global export.
Jake and Rebecca argue during MAFS’ season finale.Credit:Nine
Rebecca Zemek, who had spent Wednesday’s entire final reunion dinner berating experiment husband Jake Edwards for supposedly sharing a New Years’ Eve smooch with fellow contestant Booka Nile, had the tables turned when psychologist John Aiken asked for “clarification” on a surprise video about her late-season mercy dash to Perth to look after her sick dog.
The grainy, goofy, Blair Witch-esque clip showed her kissing a random guy in her bedroom just days ahead of her final vows in which she agreed to stay married to Jake.
“That was my brother!” she offered in an insane last-ditch lie to save face, before finally revealing she’d indeed hooked up with an ex-flame, someone she still had feelings for.
Jake reacts to Sunday’s video reveal.Credit:Nine
The revelation saw a shaken Jake flee from the set, dry-heaving in the picturesque gardens of The Grounds of Alexandria. “I can’t get the sound of the kissing out of my head. It’s in my head,” he muttered through pained gasps.
I mean, come on – Aaron Sorkin couldn’t write better TV.
It was vintage MAFS in execution, an explosive (and suspiciously convenient) serve of comeuppance against a character who’d had it coming. Sure, she’s a real human who’ll have to contend with viewer backlash and its relative infamy after all this, but for the rest of us it’s TV. Beautiful, chaotic, sublime TV.
Booka reacts to the antics of Sunday’s MAFS finale.Credit:Nine
Nine’s producers tangle themselves in knots every February to convince viewers that MAFS has “changed”, that the pairings are “genuine”, that it’s about love not drama this season. It’s a pointless charade. Do we really need this annual display of public self-flagellation, the desperate attempt to make us feel better about tuning into another season? Has anyone ever turned to this show for a feelgood love story?
Sure, Patrick Dwyer and Belinda Vickers, this year’s happy ending, are a cute couple in matching jumpsuits, but such debauchery has been MAFS′ calling ever since Davina kissed Dean in Season 5 and hurled the series towards its ratings-topping run. (Remarkably, so deep into its tawdry reinvention, this season again consistently rated as Australia’s top non-news program, with an average of about 1.4 million viewers tuning in nationally each broadcast, according to Nine).
Feelgood story: Patrick and Belinda.Credit:Nine
At this point the show is delightfully out-of-control, a circus of its own success. Beyond the onscreen antics, it has increasingly had to contend with tabloid leaks, Reddit reveals and external spoilers across blogs, podcasts and social media, the real world encroaching on its reality narrative.
There were so many existing plotlines not even addressed on the show this season – Jason Engler’s tipsy “homophobic” rant and its after-effects, Chris Jensen’s alleged drug-trafficking arrest (he was absent from the final reunion) – that had already spilled over into news headlines that chaos is its new natural state. For viewers long-attuned to reality TV’s manufactured machinations, the mayhem is thrilling.
Despite the wowsers who continue to meet the show and its viewers with pearl-clutching disdain, this season also proved it still has the ability to launch national discussion on serious topics.
Bryce Ruthven’s perennial gaslighting and emotional manipulation of partner Melissa Rawson – which included labelling her “not ugly”, ranking her fourth in terms of attractiveness among her female castmates, and ongoing suggestions that he had a secret girlfriend waiting for him outside the show – even sparked a petition calling the relationship “domestic violence” and urging Nine to apologise for showing it (the petition attracted around 15,000 signatures; in response Nine denied the relationship was “characterised by domestic violence” and said if it had been they “would have intervened immediately”).
Despite the lingering stereotype of the braindead reality junkie, it’s proof viewers don’t watch such behaviour with switched-off noggins; they engage with it and critique it in a way that little other mainstream fare provokes.
But let’s not get too heavy. The real appeal of MAFS is that it’s as bonkers as ever, and its antics this year moved at such a gallop that a cheating scandal between Coco Stedman and Cameron Dunne was a mere mid-season talking point. Some might say that’s an indictment of our hunger for bad behaviour as entertainment; I call it progress. Long may the MAFS beast run wild.
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