Yes, Temptation Island is a show centered around the absolutely batshit premise that couples are supposed to swan dive into experiences in which their fidelity is tested over and over and over again. True, the participants are forced to keep up with the shenanigans of their significant others via carefully spliced pieces of footage that are presented without context while they sit anxiously beside a bonfire. Sure, not having the full story about what’s really going down, nor the ability to speak to the person you love during the process, is nothing but a finely orchestrated mindfuck. And of course a part of me believes you’d have to be, at the very least, flirting with clinical insanity to so much as even entertain the idea of applying to be on this program. But there is one positive thing: the people on this show take care of one another. Though she’s miserable after having to say goodbye to her boyfriend, Kate is there to pat Ashley H.’s head as Ashley bawls her eyes out. Esonica crawls right into bed with Ashley G. and wraps her arms around her as Ashley talks about how she knows herself so well, that she knows exactly the kind of thing she’s capable of doing that will lead to the definite destruction of her relationship. She knows – she just knows – that Rick will do something foolish or hurtful and she will then overreact to his behavior and retaliate with something that will prevent him from ever forgiving her. As a fellow human who wants good things for the others in my species, I wish Ashley would stop herself from doing what she knows will destroy her, but I’m also impressed by any reality show participant who’s packing even an ounce of self-awareness. It’s only episode two, and I am already rooting for these women. They are fully cognizant of what they’re about to deal with, they’re justifiably freaked out, and they are there for each other – and that kind of shit is just easier to root for than, say, a winking bartender or a man and his deac.
If there are two things the thirteenth installment of The Fast & the Furious franchise taught us this summer, it’s that 1) People really enjoy watching bald men beating the shit out of bad guys while stopping mid-punch to say something quippy and 2) There will always be something new and shiny to blow up onscreen – and that includes relationships. Temptation Island doesn’t exactly fall into the Action movie category. Not one literal explosion occurred last season and nobody participated in a high-speed car chase over a rickety bridge like the boys who hail from Fast & Furious Land – soon to be a theme park attraction the moment Disney buys yet another studio! – but a shitload of emotional implosions did go down. Remember? Three couples broke up, two relative strangers got engaged, and the former long-term live-in girlfriend of the now-betrothed-to-another had her heart fileted on national television as she sat beside a motherfucking bonfire. Even while the girl’s tears were still steaming down her cheeks, it was clear the series would get renewed, and now it’s back with four new couples somehow willing to put themselves into catastrophic scenarios. So settle in, dear readers! It’s time to embark on season 2 of Temptation Island, where relationships will fail spectacularly under the hot Hawaiian sun if casting agents did their jobs properly. We can go ahead and call it Temptation Island 2: Too Fast, Too Furious, and Way Too Fucking Willing to Risk a Relationship Just So You Can Nab a Verified Twitter Account. I’ll be watching with popcorn and perhaps a chastity belt.
In case anyone is keeping track, I’m now off flour, sugar, toxic male assholes, and The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Probably a lot of us eventually stop watching certain shows we were once enthralled by, and I suppose that happens for all kinds of reasons. I remember quite well, for example, when I had to make the painful decision to walk away from Days of Our Lives. I was in college, and the showrunners decided that Marlena should first get possessed by the devil and then go entertain masked gentleman callers late in the evening by walking through a portal in her bedroom closet. What I’m saying here is that we all have our limits and Marlena levitating was mine. I have friends who never watched The Office after Steve Carell left. I certainly understand their fierce devotion to Michael Gary Scott, but I also cannot help but feel their choice was flawed, as they have now gone through their lives without seeing Meredith shave her head in the office kitchen. No life should have to be lived with that sort of lack. But they made their decision and I respect their decision, much as I hope everyone will respect why I have decided that I have finally endured enough of the tottering hysteria of the Orange County Housewives who, after all this time, are still decking themselves out in fur vests made of muskrat.
For a good long time – and I mean for years – my single greatest fear was that someone would happen to peer inside one of my closets. It’s not that anything classically incriminating would be discovered in there. No literal skeletons were shoved deep into the back corners and anything porn related was always something I kept in one of my bedroom drawers because, dammit, I am a fucking lady, but my closets did hold some terrible and very unflattering secrets about me and the sheer mound of my gathered shit, from clothing to broken hangers to shoes I hadn’t worn in years to a little wicker basket filled with fucking cassette tapes would, I knew, be a tangible catalogue of my most serious flaws. My mess complicated my life and fucked with my fashion. I could rarely find the skirt I was searching for and, if I did find it, it would be wrinkled beyond recognition so I wouldn’t be able to wear it anyway and maybe that’s why I pretty much wore the same black skirt all the time instead of one of the hundred others I’d spent a small fortune on in vain. My closets became filled with a mess so daunting that I couldn’t fathom how I could even begin tackling one in the first place, so they stayed that way.
I crawled off a reformer and hobbled towards the corner of the room where the disinfectant is kept in two spray bottles beside a pile of clean white paper towels. It’s Pilates’ etiquette, you see, to wipe one’s sweat off the machine you were just draped across so the person who works out after you will have the pleasure of only reclining in sweat of her own. It’s been about a year that I’ve been attending this studio faithfully, and I’ve come to be friendly with the other regulars. We know certain things about each other now, the type of casual information you trot out as you lay panting beside one another in the early hours of a weekend morning or in the finally-blessedly-light-outside time of 6:00 PM. I know, for instance, who just had a birthday and whose kid is in his junior year of Art school. I know who recently cut all alcohol from her lifestyle and promptly dropped twenty pounds because apparently her favorite prior food group was vodka. I know which person’s hip hurts when the lunging happens. I know who just signed up for a nutritionist because she ate nine mini cupcakes last night and then exploded into a paroxysm of guilt that manifested into a hysteria of dietary planning. I know who never stops fucking moaning during every single exercise and I’m just guessing here, but I have come to think the reason such a thing occurs has to be because this woman’s imaginary (and perhaps her only) friend told her the class’ secret name is Porn With Pilates. I know that when we’re told right before class to grab the ring, the ball, and the dowel that we will all collectively heave a deep sigh because shit is about to burn.
There’s a easy familiarity we have going, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when one of the women met me near the door on our way out of class and asked if I’m involved with anyone at the moment.
“I’m actually dating like it’s my job,” I told her. “And my work is exhausting.”
It was a great first date – but then there are two ways to read that sentence.
Reading #1: Take it exactly as it is written! Add to it no inflection and excavate from it no extra meaning.
Reading #2: After a great first date, the dates that followed were, shall we say, slightly less stellar.
I’ll just make this easy on everyone: go with Reading #2 here, okay? Because it was a great first date – the kind generic pop songs are written about, the kind of songs we end up lip synching to in front of mirrors – but what followed was a weird cornucopia of a possibly-racist neighbor, a questionable lack of chivalry, mystery about things that never needed to be mysterious in the first place, an undercooked chicken, a too-large porch swing, and someone I love dearly recommending that I procure myself a shovel. So I guess what I’m saying here is that you should probably settle in.
Long before I heard the song American Pie – and way before a block of lyrics like helter skelter in a summer swelter would end up making any sort of real sense to me – my father told me the story of Buddy Holly’s death. Six foot four inches tall, towering over everyone with not just his height but with his fill-the-room essence, I had a hard time imagining my father ever crying, but I vividly recall sitting beside him when I was not yet six years old, the two of us on the black and white patterned sofa in our sunken den where the fires he built raged throughout the winter, and he described breaking down into racking sobs on the grey day when he was young and he heard that his hero was gone.
Don’t be jealous, but I’m sort of a scholar when it comes to slasher movies. I have read every single academic text written about the hemoglobin-spattered dirty subgenre of horror – there are far more than you’d think! – so I am quite well versed in the narrative and stylistic iconography particular to a collection of movies that all seem to end with a body count. I know slashers are set in isolated locations and that those locations are populated by a gaggle of nubile young adults who are ready and willing to sit on some faces. I know the viewer is meant to feel exactly nothing when most of the characters suddenly disappear because we haven’t invested in any of them in the slightest. I know there is usually one survivor – our resilient Final Girl – and we are meant to root for her because she seems decent and kind and because she’s the person about whom we’ve learned the most. And I know with the certainty of a person who has watched hundreds of these movies through a shield of shaking fingers covering my eyes that anything that transpires beside a fucking bonfire in the middle of the woods will only lead to terror.
We’re going back to basics, people. Temptation Island has just experienced its own mini version of The Purge and now only a few people remain: the original couples; the well-meaning host who guides the group through their bouts of scorching pain and then giggles as he collects his paycheck; and enough of a skeleton crew left behind to mic and film the participants so that every tear sliding down a cheek and every uneven heartbeat will be recorded for posterity. The Tempters were sent packing. My guess is Morgan is home trying on wedding dresses and swearing to her family that the guy she’s fully committed to is for real and not just dealing with either Rebound Syndrome or a psychotic break and he is so excited to come meet them – you know, after he officially ends his commitment to that other girl he was with for five years and once planned to marry. I figure Brittany is sitting in a lotus pose inside a yurt somewhere staring at Karl’s Instagram page without blinking and Katheryn is at a toy store buying a dolphin stuffed animal that she will name John and Val is pretending to be King of the World in front of his bathroom mirror while he shaves and Johnny is waiting for the official call from Kady telling him that she gave John the boot so Johnny can chivalrously rush to her side like a Real Man would. And I assume the producers are currently dancing a fucking jig beside a production van because all this has worked out even better than they even expected.
It’s not like I’m saying that karma will definitely manifest into a stomping-fire-breathing-snaggle-toothed monster who will gnaw Evan’s testicles off in one swift gulp as a means of achieving some form of retribution for the insultingly cavalier way he moved beyond his love for Kaci, but I would advise the guy to keep his eyes open and his ears peeled for signs of danger. Like, if I were Evan, I wouldn’t necessarily go walking underneath rickety ladders anytime soon. I wouldn’t meander alongside anything even slightly resembling a cliff. And I certainly would not return to Hawaii in the coming months with Morgan because I’m not so sure whichever Goddess controls shit like volcanic eruptions is about to spare a man who got over a five year relationship like other people get over a common cold.