If the ultimate goal of going on a show like Temptation Island is to perhaps discover new and exciting things about yourself, Kaci and Evan should be shoo-ins for the first Self-Awareness medals. I’d like to recommend to production that these prizes be given out at the end of each Bonfire of Doom, as I truly believe a shiny consolation prize might help soothe someone’s ravaged insides after she’s, say, forced to watch footage of the love of her life canoodling with a stranger. Kaci’s medal (I’m gonna go ahead and say she deserves the gold, and that’s only partly because her soul will soon be crushed into smithereens and at least gold will make those smithereens look pretty) should be awarded for having the realization that Evan proposing by a certain date is no longer important to her. Evan’s medal – let’s give him the bronze; it’ll highlight the new sun-streaked highlights in his hair – is for realizing he is able to crush on someone who is not his girlfriend. Oh, and the silver? Let’s save that one for the therapist these two should very certainly make an appointment with the second they arrive back on the mainland.
This episode begins with the women walking towards the bonfire like they are walking the fucking plank. You can’t really blame them for their trepidation. Shari is hoping she can remain a bit more emotionally detached this time around, but Kaci begins crying the second she sits down. She’s come to the understanding that she still keeps a wall up with Evan and she wants to tear that wall down – you know, should they wind up together at the end of all of this. One sweet thing I want to point out is how beautifully these women seem to support one another throughout this hideous process. That support comes in handy when Kady watches John explain that it’s time for him to forget about his girlfriend and instead make connections with a bunch of women some casting agents all but presented to him on a silver platter that was garnished with poi. His words aren’t easy for Kady to hear. In her emotional state, she reveals something rather significant: she grew up without a father. It’s maybe not so hard anymore to wonder why she longs for John to behave like the prototypical man she feels has been missing from every stage of her development. This girl has been walking around with a void in her life. Now, I’m not completely sold on the idea that John is the man to adequately fill that void for her, but at least she’s embracing some epiphanies. Shari is up next and she’s clearly taken some kind of imaginary pill that allows her to remain dead inside. She looks at the footage of Javen’s mirror covered in smudge marks made out of random girls’ lips and she just shrugs. I kind of like this hardened version of Shari! I’d also like to procure for myself a fistful of her imaginary pills. When it’s Nicole’s turn, she watches Karl open up emotionally and she feels nothing but proud of him. What she’s learning through this experiment is that she needs to show more empathy to her boyfriend because he has been through a lot. And then it’s Kaci’s turn to be internally gutted and she watches Morgan tell Evan how interested she is in him and then sees Evan pull Morgan in for a hug. This is the kind of shit that, once lodged in your mind, will never ever leave those cranial creases and Kaci walks away from the fire pit and towards the Hell now smoldering forever in her memory.
Back at the villa, Kaci tries to take her mind off Evan by playing Beer Pong, Kady bonds more with Wynn, and we finally meet Matt, a “Brand Ambassador” who has pretty eyes. Poor Matt’s issue is that he wants to get a date with one of these women and he realizes he’s going to have to play this game a little more aggressively in order to stand out. Sadly for Poor Matt – I’ve decided that’s his new name – he chooses to kick off this proactivity by directly asking Nicole why he hasn’t been asked on a date and she recoils in response. When she and Matt sit down to resolve their barely-a-feud feud, Tyler decides to wander on over and maybe get himself into the shot. He explains that it’s the role of the men to make the women feel comfortable and Matt put Nicole on the spot because he had the gall to ask her a direct and rather simple question and that act crossed some sort of bullshit line. Nicole actually appreciates the way Tyler demands that Matt cough up an immediate apology and Matt does just that before crawling into bed and praying to the Gods of the Underworld – who you know are also producers of this show – for a volcano to swallow either himself or Tyler before sunrise.
No mandated apologies are being demanded over at the guys’ villa, but Evan and Morgan get into a hot tub together and discuss the fact that they are both seriously into one another. “I feel like Morgan is changing my psyche,” Evan says – and I only hope Kaci’s gold medal comes with a wad of tissues she can weep into when she is eventually made to watch this steamy little exchange.
It’s morning and the time has come to head over to the Mountain Villa for what we all think will be the next date selection. But wait! The ladies are being blindsided because some new guy has arrived on the island as a potential Tempter! Just how long Bespectacled Cameron will be staying, however, is debatable; some other guy will need to be eliminated in order to make room for him. Realizing there’s a chance he could be booted for some guy he’s decided to deem a cornball on sight, Val puffs out his chest and gets prepared for a fight, one that maybe nobody besides these guys’ grandmothers would give a single fuck about what the outcome will be. The girls huddle up and make their decision: Cameron is moving in, y’all! These women are all about maximizing this experience for themselves and if that means they can eliminate a guy who’s no longer on the wooing track, they are going to do so. Out goes Roman, the guy John once thought would undoubtedly catch Kady’s eye. Roman leaves in a classy manner and Val allows his chest to deflate for the time being. As for Cameron, he’s all but being thrown to the wolves here and I’d just like to say that the next time I hear some male moron wax philosophical about how it’s always women who tend to be catty, I’m going to force that person into a chair and show him this sequence on a Clockwork Orange-style loop until that moron begs me to release him from having to listen to Johnny say that Cameron is Clark Kent while he is Superman one more fucking time.
And now it’s time for a new woman to wander into the guys’ villa – and perhaps the game. While Morgan and Evan make goo-goo eyes at one another, our host introduces Lindsey and tells the guys they can add her to the mix, but doing so will result in ditching one of the other girls. Ditching it is! Cathalene is sent packing and the only reason such a thing pleases me is that now my spellcheck can stop underlining her name. So Lindsey is in and Evan weirdly thinks he’s seen her before. Turns out he has. They matched up on some dating site several years ago and, though they never actually met, they keep the memory of one another’s profile picture lodged in their brains next to shit like My Most Important Memory of Childhood and This Is How You Tie A Shoe. As they reconnect, Morgan stares daggers at Lindsey, maintains she’s not all that impressed, and quietly wonders how quickly she can remove the girl’s dimples and larynx.
Though we’re not privy to the date selection process this time around, Nicole chose Jack – who will surely one day write about his experience picking pineapples in epic verses of iambic pentameter – while Shari picked Luna. Shari is loosening up, you guys! She’s smiling, and not in that I’m-actually-dying-deep-inside kind of way. This foursome enjoys their time at a pineapple farm by learning all sorts of cool facts, like how pineapples do not grow on trees. While they wield hatchets so they can slice tropical fruits and maybe accidentally hack off an appendage, Evan and Karl take their dates to the ocean. Karl has chosen Jeffri for this excursion and Evan picked Morgan again, which probably means 1) Lindsey is back at the house reevaluating the profile picture she used five years ago and 2) Kaci is going to lose whatever is left of her sanity when she sees that Evan is already on a second date with someone. Meanwhile, Kaci and Kady are spending the day on banana boats with their dates. Kaci picked Val, Kady chose Carlos, and somewhere back at the villa, you just know Cameron is scrubbing the grout from the tub with his own toothbrush while Poor Matt continues to hide underneath a bed.
Though Karl finds Jeffri easy to talk to, he’s not particularly interested in her. The dates the other guys are on are yielding a bit more success. John chose Tara and Javen selected Allie. They’re scuba-snorkeling for the afternoon and Javen is all kinds of excited about the turtles he sees beneath the water and the buns Allie’s got buried beneath her bikini. When John and Tara sit down to nibble on some berries and enter The Serious Portion of their date, she asks him about how long he’s been dating Kady. “Who’s Kady?” he responds – and you just know that sound bite will come back to haunt him.
As for Kady, she’s having a lovely time with Carlos. Kaci decided to spend the day with Val, and her reason for picking him is because he makes her laugh. What makes me laugh is when she asks him why he chose to get involved with this experience and he offers an answer devoid of the words “Because I wanted to be on TV.” Their date is not particularly romantic since it’s essentially Kaci wondering aloud if she’s going to lose Evan because of this process. And speaking of Evan, he’s on a scenic bluff telling Morgan that he’s finished dating the other girls because he wants to figure out his feelings for her and her alone.
Also: Javen is frightened of Brittany. His fear is due to the shape of her eyes, the sexual energy she emits in kitchens, and the tail she has that only he can see.
Also: Brittany is not concerned in the slightest that Javen seems to believe she is a hybrid creature because she is an Aquarius and women with imaginary tails are also the kind to believe that there’s truth to be found in astrology.
Once the guys return to their villa, they find that the women who sat around all day awaiting their return are now feeling kind of restless. What is the best way to combat restlessness, you ask? With a game of Truth or Dare, only this time it involves bored adults instead of restless middle schoolers. Shots are passed out and Katheryn becomes the game’s hostess because she missed that feeling of warmth she gets in her tummy when a lens is pointed directly at her face. Javen is up first. Will he give a lap dance? Knowing that Shari could kill him with just her pinky should her rage grow spiky enough, Javen refuses. Karl also refuses the dare to take a body shot off the woman of his choice. He does not want Nicole to see such a thing. Evan, however, decides he’s willing to take a bullet; he licks tequila off Morgan’s stomach and yes, that sound you just heard in the distance was the screaming of producers as they fought over which salacious Evan moment they should show Kaci at the next bonfire to guarantee that they will be able to get footage of her dying from the inside out. Then it’s John’s turn. He allows his hands to be tied behind his back before licking peanut butter off Erica’s cleavage, but these are Bachelor Party Rules, you guys! It’s not like his tongue came into contact with a nipple or anything. Later on in the evening, Karl serenades Brittany in the kitchen. He’s not scared of her tail! He thinks she’s beautiful, which she is, and they hug while she refuses to break eye contact and he stares at anything – the floor, the blender, a melon baller – besides her face because crooning her some song is one thing, but looking her dead in the eye is something else entirely and he’s smart enough to know it.
There’s no licking of peanuty spreads going on over at the girls’ villa. Instead, Carlos watches his date from earlier in the day get a piggyback ride to the hot tub by Wynn. Kady is into Wynn’s humor and his alpha maleness and she tells him that he just may be the only guy there who can rock her world. While such a thing seems sad for the future of Kady and John’s relationship, the bracket I set up to predict the rate of destruction that would likely befall the couples who chose to participate in this televised psychological experience gone berserk does include the wager that John and Kady will not be leaving the island together and, well, I’m a girl who likes to win – and that means I fully support that this Wynn go ahead and rock the fuck out of Kady’s world. I’m not exactly proud of myself for valuing potential profit over the stableness of someone else’s relationship, but c’mon. It’s going to be spring soon. I need a new pair of sunglasses.
Like her boyfriend, Nicole is also struggling with temptation. She thinks Tyler is great, but she realizes her actions could lead to some very complicated results. But back at the guys’ house, Evan has chosen to embrace whatever could eventually befall him by giving in to the temptation he’s felt pulling at his psyche and his crotch since the moment he met Morgan and he leans in and kisses her. And yes, that last sound you just heard in the distance was the same group of producers now high-fiving the shit out of each other because now they know exactly what footage they will have loaded up on that tablet for Kaci to watch.
The Bonfire of Doom arrives and the guys are first to be exposed to what their girlfriends have been doing on the island. The truth, of course, is that these girls have done a whole lot of nothing incriminating, but editors can always find some clip of some action that will feel like an icepick stabbing a scrotum, so let’s see what they’re pulling out tonight! Since Shari has yet to cross any kind of line, Javen instead watches a bunch of the men in the villa discuss how Shari may eventually realize Javen’s not all that special. “They want what I have,” Javen says coldly, and since Mark is not able to coax any tears or anger out of Javen with a baiting statement about how it sounds like these guys are developing feelings for Javen’s girlfriend/property, Mark decides to just move on to Evan. His tongue was clear down Morgan’s throat last night, so it’s not like Evan should have a whole lot to say about anything he sees Kaci do, but the only thing he ends up seeing anyway is Kaci confiding to Val that she took a big chance by bringing her boyfriend to that island. She’s right, Evan acknowledges. Participating on Temptation Island was Kaci’s idea. She’s not digging the process now? Well, that kind of sucks for her because Evan is simply diving into the whole thing like they both decided they would. When it’s John’s turn, he watches Kady tell Wynn that he gives her butterflies, but it’s okay! John licked peanut butter off some girl’s boobs last night! Still, John very much hopes he and Kady will leave that island as a couple, and while they both seem like relatively nice people, that kind of resolution will seriously fuck up my bracket so I sort of hope he’s wrong. Moving on! When Karl is exposed to footage of Tyler basically saying that Karl might simply be a brief stage Nicole waded through on her way to Actual Love, he tears up. Going through this experience is making him miss Nicole and want to be with her even more. “If I see something bad, I’ll be a mess,” Karl says, and listen – there’s a very real chance this guy will be a mess soon and probably not even singing a show tune to a yoga retreat owner with a pretend tail will make him feel better. But what Karl is going through is nothing compared to what Kaci has to endure when she and the rest of the women arrive at the bonfire. She sees – as we all knew she would – the footage of Evan kissing Morgan after rhapsodizing about how special she is and how he’s now all in.
“This is torture,” Kaci whispers through tears. “I’m being tortured.”
Yes, Kaci. You are, without question, being tortured and you seem like a lovely woman who simply made a mistake by deciding to view this experience as something that would be fun and relationship-affirming instead of what it actually would turn out to be: an heavily-produced reality television show where the goal would be to record and then broadcast your pain to millions, regardless of what such a thing would do to your humanity in the process. I hate to actually invest in these shows, but a big part of me really hopes that Kaci will somehow regain her former Zen state. But the biggest part of me? That part hopes the absolute fucking misery Kaci is enduring in high-definition will maybe teach other people out there to never gamble on something they’re not fully prepared to lose.
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