Just as the ash from the Bonfire of Doom goes scattering into the night sky, so too does Shari’s sanity. You really can’t blame the girl, not when the editors and the producers made quite sure the footage she’d see (involving the boyfriend she already doesn’t particularly trust) would be the most incendiary of the shit they could locate. True: Shari has no idea what Javen’s out of context blubbering even pertains to, but he does sound really fucking guilty. They’ve only been in Pretend Paradise for a couple of weeks! He’s already crossed a line? The guy is dead to her.
It would, of course, be prudent for the participants of this show to keep something rather important in the very forefront of their minds: it is in the best interest of production to create conflict. I have no doubt that all these people were interviewed exhaustively prior to heading to the island and they probably revealed their biggest fears and their largest triggers to people who are actually paid to use such vulnerabilities against them. It cannot be an accident that what John saw at the bonfire was his girlfriend questioning both his manhood and his ability to properly turn a boy child into one of those adorably toxic men this society is so sadly lacking and it also should not come as any sort of shock that Javen’s vague but guilty-sounding admission is exactly what they chose for Shari to watch. These producers know what will cause the biggest emotional reaction and while my assumption is that the cast is aware they’re being toyed with in the most extreme manner possible, my other assumption is they’re all drunk and sunburned and seriously susceptible to suggestion right now and that sort of emotional cocktail can wreck havoc on the ability to embrace reason. I mean, can you think of any other reason, other than the total absence of working logic, to explain how Shari can think it makes sense to utter that Javen alone is making “an ass out of our relationship” after the two of them chose to go on a show called Temptation Island? Because I’m pretty sure they both made an ass out of their relationship the instant they signed those contracts.
With Shari’s emotional breakdown contained, it’s time to see what John has done that could perhaps destroy Kady’s soul! Kady gets off easy. All she has to stare at is John venting about her tendency to have a hot fuse and how she might get evicted from his home should they not work out. Kady just shrugs. She knows that if this is what she’s being shown at the bonfire, John has yet to feel up any other girl. Nicole’s heart is on the line next and she watches Karl give a stranger and her ass cheeks a tour of his bedroom before mulling to the camera that he’s beginning to feel tempted. Nicole holds her composure really well, even when Mark – truly earning his salary as the host of this evil little social experiment – asks if watching the footage brings forth any jealousy. It doesn’t, Nicole swears. What it does do is make Nicole annoyed that they’re not on the same page, that she is being held to different standards than Karl is holding himself, but Mark jumps in to let her know that she can do whatever she wants on that island and obviously he’s saying such a thing because he really cares about her wellbeing – and maybe because there’s a chance he’ll get a handsome bonus if he helps convince one of these people to just fucking cheat already. And now it’s Kaci’s turn and she watches Evan contemplate aloud if it’s even possible for him to find a connection with another woman like the one he has with her and Kaci nods sagely, stays completely calm, and asserts that both of them deserve only the best and they will just have to wait to see what’s meant to be. Once again, Kaci’s total aura of serenity in the middle of what would equal absolute emotional carnage for many both impresses me and absolutely confounds me. While she does eventually tear up during a confessional and admits to Mark that she no longer needs an engagement ring presented to her on a deadline, she’s still doing pretty well in an environment that would make me believe Satan actually walks amongst us – you know, when he’s not very busy serving lukewarm cheeseburgers to college athletes at the White House.
When the guys return to their villa, most of their Tempters are passed out beside the pool. As they mix up some protein shakes, John lets the guys know just how hurtful Kady’s comments were when it came to how he may be lacking as a father. Personally, I’d way prefer the father of my children to sprawl out on the floor of a family room somewhere with the Play-Doh Barber Shop instead of taking the kids out back for some target practice, but to each her own. As for the girls, they arrive back at their house and the mood is grim. Shari really wants to talk to Javen and she’s feeling like she’s lost herself in their long relationship. And Kaci? Kaci’s having herself some serious epiphanies. She’s realizing the issues she and Evan share are minor and yet here they are in an environment literally coined Temptation Island and now she runs the risk of losing him forever.
And since we’re briefly on the topic of forever, I’m just tossing out right here and now what I think will happen to all these couples in the long run:
I think Shari and Javen will stay together. I also think they will remain miserable.
I think John and Kady will leave the island broken up and that Kady will be swooning over a new man with enormous biceps and an even bigger desire to kill things.
I think Evan and Kaci will end up together and I think they’ll actually claim to be grateful for the emotional agony they will have suffered. The sickest part? I think I might believe them.
And Nicole and Karl? I think Nicole will shock herself when she outgrows her older boyfriend.
So those right there are my bets. Anyone wanna start a Temptation Island bracket? I could really use the extra cash just in case someone gives me an ultimatum that involves me having to purchase pricey jewelry on a deadline. This show has caused me to become so pragmatic…
The bullshit of the bonfire over, the next day is all about date selection. I have no idea why these girls have yet to ask out Jack, the cute writer with the scruff and the glasses, but maybe they’ve been momentarily blinded by the terrible tribal tattoos in their midst to make an informed selection. Mark shows up to let them know they will not have to choose dates while their boyfriends stare daggers at them, and the much calmer selection process results in Kaci choosing Justin, Kady picking Wynn, Shari selecting Tyler, and Nicole picking James. Now, I don’t have the foggiest idea who any of these men are. What I do know is that Jack the Writer was passed over yet again and I can only imagine the tale he’ll eventually be able to weave about all this shit later on. Perhaps he can team up with Val, a man who fancies himself hilarious but has yet to say a single funny thing on camera. I’m willing, however, to take Val’s word for it that he’s a born comedian because it’s not like guys ever lie and they always see themselves absolutely accurately.
The men also choose their dates and some of the women in the house are getting a wee bit restless. Cathalene did not come on Temptation Island to stare at the wonders of nature, you guys. She is there to profess her love to a guy who already has a girlfriend and then earn money every time she posts a selfie of herself sucking on a lollipop that is guaranteed to give you explosive diarrhea. Turns out Cathalene will have herself some time to practice posing in the mirror because she’s not asked out on a date. John picks Rachel, Evan picks Morgan, Javen picks Erica, and Karl picks Allie. Other than Morgan – who made her presence known during a screaming fight about absolutely nothing whilst reclining atop a bunk bed during episode two – I have no idea who any of these women are either, so don’t fret if you watched the proceedings and thought Who??? I’m thinking the only thing that matters here anyway is that nobody chose the same date twice.
The date the girls go on involves horseback riding and Wynn gets the horse with the ginormous erection, a clear sign of virility that must make Kady feel all gooey inside. What makes her feel less joyful is the idea that, should she pop out Wynn’s baby and should that baby be a girl, Wynn would ignore Kady AND GIVE THE FUCKING BABY HIS ATTENTION. I don’t even like kids, but holy fucking shit. Even I know the baby should get first dibs on attention. In less horrifying news, Kaci feels herself connecting with Justin, a man who actually looks handsome with a cowboy hat around his neck. She tells him all about the bonfire and what she heard Evan say and how it sort of freaked her out. She also tells Justin that Evan has cheated on her before and she’s preparing herself mentally to move on should he blindside her at the end of this process and, once again, I am just so profoundly grateful that I am nowhere near that evil island and that it is not my primary water source, lest the evil seep in when I attempt to rehydrate myself. As for Shari, she’s almost able to look her date in his eyes, something that should be relatively easy to do because this Tyler guy is all kinds of smiley and cute. He even keeps smiling when Shari mentions that the point of this experience is for her to see how Javen will behave rather than realizing that what should matter here is how she chooses to behave, but the girl actually showed a few teeth when she grinned, so let’s just be grateful for the little things, shall we?
While the women play cowboy, their boyfriends are ziplining. John and Rachel are hitting it off, probably because Rachel has never once asked him for a blood test so she could measure his testosterone levels. They’re getting along so well, we even get a slow-motion shot that I’m just going to take as a little bit of visual foreshadowing. Erica and Javen bond over the way they both smile idiotically when they’re nervous and Evan and Morgan make up from a fight so inconsequential that I can barely remember it even occurring in the first place.
Also: Feeling the need to occupy their attention after they weren’t chosen for dates, the Temptresses choose to leave a message written in lipstick on Javen’s mirror and claim it’s from a secret admirer.
Also: Should this be the clip shown to her at the bonfire with absolutely no added context whatsoever, there’s an excellent chance Shari’s entire head could explode into smithereens.
The girls at the villa cannot wait to hear how everything went on the ziplining date, especially between Morgan and Evan because apparently the epic fight that went down between them was earthshattering. I’d just like to take a moment here to thank my psyche for blocking out their life-shifting brawl in what must have been an effort to protect me. Yes, I’m certain it was a protective psyche keeping this information from seeping into my brain and not that their fight was moronic and far too uninteresting for me to invest any storage space in my memory.
Also: Hannah decides that Morgan and Evan hitting it off is “the plot twist of the century.” Might anyone know Hannah’s address? I’d like to ship her several hundred pieces of literature so she can learn what an actual plot twist is before I force her to watch The Usual Suspects for the same reason. I’d also like to point at her and laugh, but that just seems mean.
When Javen heads upstairs and discovers the message written on his bathroom mirror and adorned with lip prints of all shapes and sizes, he tosses on his Hercule Poirot hat (that’s a literary reference, Hannah!) and asks for lip prints from all the girls in the house so he can solve this very fascinating mystery. Guess what? Brittany loves pretend detectives! She watches Javen walk around the house holding a clipboard covered with lips and she cannot stop herself from feeling all kinds of smitten. I suppose it’s good Brittany is turning her attentions to Javen because it seems Evan is really into Morgan, a woman he used to hate for reasons I still refuse to recall. Evan’s fully interested now and I already feel badly about what Kaci’s going to be exposed to at the next bonfire.
As Evan admits he has a crush on someone over at his villa, things are way more sedate at the girls’ house. They’re having a talent show because what else are you going to do when you have no internet access and the mindless fucking you could engage in will end up being broadcast to both your boyfriend and millions of viewers? Through this talent show we learn several things:
A few of the guys are impressive dancers, including one who is a film editor. Besides knowing how to spin on his head, the guy also has to know that every single thing he says is nothing but a potentially provocative sound bite that could haunt every nanosecond of his future.
Val – the self-appointed funniest, shortest, and youngest –might also be the biggest tool of the bunch, but check back with me in a few weeks and I’ll let you know for sure.
It’s a very good thing Johnny has a job realigning spines because, judging from his rap, his future career as a musician remains very much in question.
Roman has no discernable talent, but he can chug a beer and may be willing to swear to Kady that, should they procreate, he will let their baby girl bawl her eyes out until Kady herself feels tended to.
Jack the Writer spits out a rather generic poem, but this guy knows his audience. The girls immediately coo over how sweet he is. Even Shari is cooing! Poetry truly is magical, especially when everyone is too drunk to be anything but emotional.
While I have no idea who ended up winning the talent show, I do know something shifted inside Nicole and she is starting to realize she hasn’t spent very much time opening up to her boyfriend. She wants to open up and maybe the only sad thing here is that it took listening to a basic rhyme scheme poolside on a show called Temptation Island for her to realize it.
And now that everyone is in positive spirits, it’s time to crush them once again with another Bonfire of Doom. Karl is the first to be shown footage of his girlfriend and he watches her tear up over Jack’s poem. Not a bit of the footage impacts him in the slightest. In fact, the only thing that concerns him is that it was that particular poem that caused his girlfriend to get weepy. What he decides right then and there is that if Nicole is opening up, maybe it’s time that he allow himself to open up also. My guess is these two have differing ideas about what constitutes “opening up,” but we’ll have to wait to see the mess that is sure to come. As for Javen, he watches footage of Shari crying and he basically shrugs.
“It takes strength to cry,” Mark tells him.
“I see it as a sign of weakness,” Javen responds, and if you didn’t hear the rush of foreboding in the air the second he said those words, then you’ve willingly gone deaf and a part of me doesn’t blame you.
John gets to see Kady discussing parenting strategies with a stranger, but he’s less hurt this week. He does reveal that his father committed suicide only five years ago, a tragic event the host of this show claims he didn’t know about, though I seriously doubt that. Knowing the history in his family as well as she must, John appears hurt that Kady would so much as question how he would be as a father and it seems like his feelings for his girlfriend are already souring significantly.
Evan is last and he watches Kaci tell Justin that Evan cheated on her in the past. He also gets to watch Justin proclaim that cheaters never change, but Evan doesn’t believe such a thing and watching this sequence upsets him. After what happened with his father, he knows full fucking well what cheating can do to a relationship – and it’s here where I find myself once again very confused. Okay, so Kaci and Evan were fully on the same page about their intentions in terms of how they would spend their days on that island. But did they not consider that while they wouldn’t officially be cheating on one another due to their predetermined arrangement, what they may surely have to deal with afterwards will still involve the harsh sting of betrayal that’s really the shittiest part of the cheating experience? I’m concerned for these people. I think pain is heading their way in spades and I can only hope Jack will write a poem about all of this that will comfort every man, woman, and child on that island, though if it’s Kady’s child, someone should make sure to comfort Kady first.
That baby can wait.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Her Twitter is @nell_kalter