Before anyone who partook in the sweet little threesome that closed the last episode can shift the narrative to something that seems more convenient, let’s first be clear: not a bit of that “just happened.” There was ample time for any one of those pseudo adults to decide not to hop into a bed located inside of a room they know full well is rigged out with cameras. They could have come to their scattered senses in, say, the bathroom – you know, where the guy (the one who told his girlfriend she’s his one and only) was showering with another woman – or they could have halted things in the hallway leading to the bed or they could have ceased the debauchery as they stood around musing that they weren’t accustomed to threesomes. And yes, I know alcohol clouds things and I also know that’s why there’s so much alcohol on that fucking island, but I will have far more respect if any of these desperate individuals just stands up and says, “Yup. I participated. I wanted to experiment sexually and have fun and I plan on slipping my grandparents a powerful sedative prior to this episode airing so I will not in any way be responsible for a coronary incident that could take place when they view me gyrating atop two relative strangers” than if they now choose the sheepish route on the guilt-paved highway.
Also: Tell me one more time that these Tempters came on this show to find true love. I fucking dare you.
It’s official: I’m throwing every ounce of my vicarious support at the people who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Temptation Island. I wish they’d had it in them to fight back, to not allow this soul-corroding excursion to become even a possibility (they could have tried ranting, raving, or attacking their significant other with those awful tiny pinches that don’t actually hurt but still feel like momentary death), but I can’t entirely fault them for not being able to talk someone out of a free trip to Hawaii, especially one that comes with amenities like free alcohol and faux fame.
Where last we left him, Rick was sitting beside a smoldering fire watching footage of his girlfriend of four years getting slammed by a man she’s known for four days. So what I’m saying here is that no matter how bad your week has been, Rick’s has probably been worse. But as he watches KB and Ashley writhe around under the covers, he holds it together like a champ. He does not cry. He does not scream. He does not fall to his knees to begin gathering blades of grass and small rocks and twigs that he can fashion into an Ashley voodoo doll. Instead, he informs Mark he’s not sure his relationship can recover from this, and my presumption is that any clinically normal viewer would agree with him.
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.
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.
I feel the need to inform you, dear reader, that the initial wager I so cavalierly threw down about which couples would destruct into heaping piles of shit before our very eyes and which couples would survive their time on Temptation Island and go limping off into the sunset has completely fallen to pieces. It’s hard to recall exactly what I said back then (and scrolling through my earlier recaps for clarity just seems like an awful lot of work), but I’m pretty sure I boldly bet that Kaci and Evan would remain solid and faithful and Shari and Javen were doomed. Yeah. I used the word “doomed” to describe those two, though to be fair, that was before I heard them refer to one another as “Baby Girl” and “My Love.” But c’mon! Who could have foreseen such a thing? Didn’t they appear miserable together? Who could have known then they would be even more miserable apart?! And who could have predicted that Evan would not only sleep with, but also fall hopelessly in love with one of his Tempters? Evan and Kaci seemed so solid! I’m wondering now if what we saw early on was simply intentionally misdirecting editing designed to make their commitment appear unbreakable. After all, doesn’t it make for far more explosive television when people we’re certain will behave end up turning into emotional heathens?
While I absolutely commend Kaci for the brilliant strategy she whipped out during the last Bonfire – refusing to open her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see footage that would likely cause her insides to feel as though they were sizzling – I think it’s important that we acknowledge right here and now that her plan will not work moving forward. I’m positive Kaci will want to continue to avert both her eyes and her mind from the truth, but these producers know exactly what they’re doing and they will not so much as pretend to entertain the notion that one of their contestants will manage to avoid all the hours of incendiary footage they’ve nabbed of her boyfriend. See, effectively skating around misery is not how reality television works. If Kaci refuses to watch what they stick in front of her face, fine. There’s another move here: play on a sense other than sight. I’m predicting the next thing Kaci will have thrown at her be a sound bite and it will be of Evan telling Morgan he loves her and such a thing will prove devastating. Hearing the synchronized moans of your boyfriend and some chick during probable sex is horrible. But hearing your boyfriend of five years declaring his love to a woman he’s only known for a few weeks? That’s takes “horrible” to another level entirely and that level is subterranean and it’s guarded by demons who have terrible breath and you’d probably have to slay them with a really pointy scythe just to escape and slaying demons is hard.