Where last we saw Evan, he was writhing beneath Morgan in a bed. And though he was insistent that they not have sex (and he took care to remind her the next morning that full-on fucking needs to be off the table – and off the bed…and off the floor…and out of the shower – for the foreseeable future), they are still very much behaving like two people in a legitimate relationship. There are consoling touches. There is full body cuddling. There is high-octane chemistry. But you know what also exists in the shadowy corners of Evan and Morgan’s world? AN ACTUAL GIRLFRIEND exists, and what nobody seems to be considering right now is the sheer avalanche of emotional baggage that will surely plague both Evan and Morgan if they actually end up together. It may be all spend-the-day-in-a-villa-and-do-not-even-think-about-your-bills-piling-up-or-your-girlfriend’s-family-watching-you-rub-your-hands-across-another-woman’s-ass fun now, but the real world will eventually rear its tear-streaked face and whatever decision Evan ends up making will surely devastate at least one woman.
Then there’s the minor issue happening with Poor Matt, the male Tempter who was seemingly born with the ability to grow scruff but without the ability to properly woo a woman. The guy is trying. He sits beside Kaci and babbles about how spectacular his life has been while she gazes desperately at the sky and searches in vain for a helicopter flying overheard that will maybe toss down a rope ladder and save her. It’s not that Matt isn’t sweet. It’s not that he isn’t earnest. But for fuck’s sake, he has no idea how to connect with any of the four women in his immediate vicinity and Kaci is seriously taking one for the team just by having this conversation. But wait! Help is on the way! It does not appear in the form of a rickety rope ladder, but in human form! Cameron comes walking towards them and presents Kaci with an enormous bouquet of flowers. She jumps up to hug him while Poor Matt mourns the imaginary connection he was positive was flourishing before it was unceremoniously usurped by a floral arrangement. It’s back to the drawing board for Poor Matt, and my guess is that particular drawing board will eventually yield him a very pretty picture of himself being the next person with a penis to be voted off the island.
Just as a drawn-to-scale image of Poor Matt packing his stuff goes dancing like an acid-dosed sugarplum in my head, Mark arrives at the guys’ house to inform them that today is an elimination day. Two women will be sent packing, but the men have to nominate three of them to get the heave-ho because that way the woman who stays will be blessed with the irrefutable knowledge that she is currently everyone’s last choice. (Again – please – someone try to convince me that the creators of this show have its participants’ best interests at heart. I’ll wait. And then I’ll laugh at you for being an idiot.) John wants Hannah to be eliminated. He doesn’t care for her short fuse or the way her shittiest qualities remind him of his girlfriend (yikes!), so Hannah is selected to join Tara and Sheldon in The Holy Trinity of Rejection. (I figure giving the group a snazzy name will maybe take the bite out of being officially deemed the women these four men least want to sleep with.) Before the guys vote, Hannah announces that she’s really sorry John is intimidated by her and she knows her pronouncements about his relationship bothered him, but she also knows she’s right about everything she said, so whatever. Should we briefly delve into what it is that Hannah believes? Okay, settle in. Hannah believes that some of the female Temptresses only exist to serve as human distractions who will then tossed aside. Can you imagine? And when I say “can you imagine,” what I really mean is “can you imagine being so stupid that you are shocked and insulted when a man in a relationship goes on a show called Temptation Island and then views the women who were selected to be dangled like carrots before him as less important than his long-term girlfriend?” I fully believe that most people go on these shows so they can eventually parlay one appearance into a career in the Reality Arts, and I’d like to suggest to Hannah that she maybe hone her cooking skills and then aspire to appear on Top Chef because being hired to be a Temptress on a fucking dating show is not going to lead to being valued in the way she’s decided she should be valued by someone who is essentially a stranger and still consumed by thoughts of another woman. When the vote is revealed, however, Hannah is the one who gets to stay. Now she’ll have even more opportunities to explain how very intimidating people find her instead of just admitting that some people simply don’t like her.
Also: When I believed it would be Hannah sent packing, I had myself an idyllic mini fantasy wherein I imagined Poor Matt also getting eliminated. In my fantasy, these two rejects formed an unbreakable forever bond and he sealed their love by picking her some dying weeds from a garden so she could weave them through the ever-present bouffant she’s got going on the back of her head like she’s a generic Disney Princess come to life.
Also: I get sad when my mini fantasies don’t come true. And I think the reason not everything pans out the way I want it to is probably because the Universe finds me intimidating.
Mark then heads over to the other villa so the women can eliminate two of their Tempters. The three guys who get to have their egos deflated in public – and on television! – are Poor Matt, Scott, and Cameron. Yes, large floral arrangements are lovely, but so is wanting to fuck the guy who’s handing them to you and I suppose none of these girls crave a romp in the hay with Cameron. The three men up for elimination look pretty much the same, but it is Scott who gets to stay and though some would argue after reading my reams of sarcasm that I’m mostly dead inside, the crushed look that passes across Poor Matt’s face as he walks away is tough to see.
Though her time on the island may not have come to an end, Hannah has no interest in celebrating her extended Hawaiian vacation by gazing blissfully at the horizon. She decides instead to wile away a lovely afternoon by explaining to Brittany exactly why John sucks, but it turns out Hannah is the one who sucks when it comes to choosing a person with whom she can engage in a little shit-talking. Picking the peace-and-love-and-we’re-all-one-anyway yoga chick is just a fool’s move.
Also: I feel the need to quickly swear right here and right now that I am not saying such things about Hannah because she intimidates me. I am saying such things about Hannah because I think she’s a moron.
Brittany was enjoying her solitude and she’s not about to entertain Hannah’s bullshit right now. She is wise enough to know that John must be internally struggling. “He might’ve come here because his shitty girlfriend has lame ass superficial intentions,” Brittany says, but she also believes that the women around John should be supportive of his process. Brittany’s words actually make a difference! Not only does Hannah decide that perhaps John was not trying to be hurtful but instead is just “not very good with his words,” she also chooses to take her hair down and eliminate that extra bit of poof she’s always rocking and she looks fantastic as a result. Suck it, Princess Aurora! In another area of the house, Evan confides to Katheryn that he cannot believe the way he’s feeling, especially since he is teetering towards the notion that what he feels for Morgan is love. Oh, dear. Must I be the one to do this? Fine…here goes. Evan? What you are probably feeing is not love, but I will agree that you are definitely feeling waves of happiness. And there are reasons to feel happy! You are spending easy days and drunken nights with a girl who has yet to resent you for anything, a girl who chooses to walk around in a thong bikini for twenty-four hours straight. She has never once told you to pick up your dirty socks or asked you to take out the garbage. The two of you have yet to have detailed conversations about money or how you’d handle legitimate life conflicts, and if you have had those discussions, they have been purely hypothetical so no real stakes are involved. What you’re experiencing may be all sorts of awesome, but it is not real life. I thought someone like Evan – someone who has sadly experienced so much of the realness that life can dish out – would be more astute at figuring out what’s actually going on here. Not for a single second am I saying that Morgan is in any way not worthy, but let’s call things for what they are and admit that what actually seems to be going on here is a mix of exceptionally good chemistry blended with the fluttery excitement of something new.
Over at the girls’ villa, everyone is avoiding the impending grief that is possibly heading their way by playing I Never – and we learn some fascinating tidbits about Kady in the process:
1. Kady enjoys having sex in public.
2. Kady is seriously vibing with Johnny and she likes it when he wears his glasses.
3. Kady may have recurring vivid fantasies about straddling a chiropractor, but she doesn’t want to end up hurting anyone.
4. Kady wears lip-gloss that never seems to come off and I need to know the brand.
Johnny lets Kady know that he really wants to kiss her and her eyes fill with tears. She just feels so guilty. Everyone she knows is always telling her how great her John is and yes, he is great, but she just doesn’t know if he’s great for her. Kady? You seem to know what it is you want for yourself and you have all the time in the world to go out and find it. John is probably not the guy for you – and that’s okay. And I swear I’m not just saying such a thing because I recently committed to my bets for the end of this show and one essential portion of said bet involves John and Kady’s relationship imploding almost beyond comprehension.
As for Shari, she’s not crossing any lines. She sits with Justin poolside and the two talk about how they want to be with someone who helps them achieve their dreams. I’m still unclear about what any of these dreams actually involve, but I’m all for an inspiring discussion instead of watching footage of – I don’t know – Poor Matt weeping into a dandelion bush. Kaci is also keeping things nonsexual. She explains to Tyler that she is not feeling romantic about any of the guys in the house because all this experience is doing for her is making her realize how deeply in love with Evan she is and she really hopes that he will remember that what the two of them have is real and it is layered and it is far more intricate than whatever he has going with a woman he just met…who now sleeps in his bed…and has changed the wiring of his psyche…and is a walking manifestation of all the fun of a relationship without having to illustrate any of the bad shit that causes people to do things like contemplate a breakup or head onto a show called Temptation Island.
The scene shifts to the guys’ villa where Morgan tells Evan that she fears he will take “the easier route” when it comes down to making a final choice and she will be left without him. I’d be frightened also. This guy treats her like she’s his girlfriend and every worldly distraction doesn’t exist for them right now, but deep down they have to know that most of this is not real; it is a psychological experiment being broadcast on television. Evan tries to make Morgan understand how much she means to him by telling her she is everything he’s ever wanted. Oh, and then he tells her he’s falling in love with her and she says it back and would someone who has some technical savvy please set up a Go Fund Me page that will help pay for the therapy Kaci is going to require after having to watch this scene? I’ll kick in a hundred bucks to help out with her first copayment.
Evan could no longer fight his attraction to Morgan so they banged last night and now he’s making her some breakfast. Though he’s all dreamy looking due to his post-coital glow, he also swears that he understands the repercussions that await him because of his choices. “My happiness with Morgan is gonna tear her apart,” he says. The guy is a hundred percent correct. Kaci is spending her morning not wiping up a wet spot or enjoying a meal prepared for her by a man who just told her he loves her. She is telling Nicole and Shari how ready she is to tear down all her remaining walls and just accept Evan’s love. Shari agrees that she needs to do the same thing with Javen, but Nicole is confused. She listens to the words of love spouting out of these women and she just doesn’t feel that way about Karl. She loves him, but it’s not that core-changing sort of love that seems to exist all around her and she wonders if that’s the kind of love she should be striving for in life.
Things are far more calm in Javen’s world and Jeffri even breaks into a mini song and shimmy to let us know that Javen is experiencing a monumental breakthrough: he allows Kayla to physically enter his bedroom and help him sort his clothing. (Is anyone else confused about Jeffri’s role on this show? Is she there to meet a guy or is she there to cheer on the women who are actually making connections with these men? In any case, Jeffri is pretty and I’ve never wanted to punch her in the throat so I say just give the woman her own fucking show.) Kayla and Javen bond over which clothing should be ironed and the difficulties of errant eyebrow hairs, but since their time together doesn’t end with him declaring his love, all I want is to get back to The Evan-Morgan-Kaci Story, which will someday become a Lifetime TV movie that we should all refuse to watch because there is terrible and then there is Lifetime-TV-movie-terrible and it’s probably wise for us as a society to have some standards.
Mark shows up unannounced at the girls’ house, listens to them explain how anxious they are about what their boyfriends are doing, and then he makes everyone feel even worse by telling them there will be a Bonfire that evening. Kady is less worried about what she will see and more concerned about what John will see, but nobody is more freaked out than Kaci. She’s scared out of her mind and let’s face it: the producers have a big decision to make in deciding whether they should show her Evan and Morgan having sex or Evan and Morgan declaring their love for one another. Kaci doesn’t want any of the other girls to see even a second of the footage and she plans to stick the earphones in, close her eyes, and not watch the clip either. I’m not sure if such willful denial is permissible for the participants of Temptation Island, but this is Kaci’s plan and she will stick to it, even when a producer asks her question after question, even when she can sense that her five-year relationship is imploding from the inside out.
Kaci tells the other women and Johnny that she plans to forgive Evan for anything he does on that island, but that does not include him having sex. Sex is the line he cannot cross. Oy vey. My guess here is Kaci will eventually overlook even the sex that she initially declared a deal-breaker and she will do so because she feels responsible for the fact that they even entered this situation in the first place. And if I’m correct in this particular session of Armchair Psychology With Nell, I feel the need to caution Kaci that accepting blame in a misguided yet well-intentioned manner can only work for so long. Following that frayed acceptance will probably be a burst of resentment that will sting like a motherfucker for a really long time and that stinging will begin the second Kaci watches this episode and sees Evan saying that he feels badly that his new joy will hurt Kaci, but he doesn’t regret anything that’s happened with Morgan.
Also: The look of barely-disguised repulsion that goes flashing across Javen’s face when Evan speaks of having no regrets might be enough to make Javen my favorite person on this show right now.
The men arrive at the Bonfire first and Evan admits his feelings have shifted in a way he didn’t expect and John says he’s hopeful that the separation he and Kady are experiencing will lead to her appreciating him more. When the footage is shown of Kaci dancing at her villa, Evan smiles widely. He’s so glad Kaci is smiling and having fun! She will not be smiling soon, but at least this mini clip will allow Evan to convince himself that being on that island is good for both of them. Javen also sees footage of his girlfriend dancing and the reason there’s so much dancing being shown to these men is BECAUSE THEIR GIRLFRIENDS HAVE REFRAINED FROM FUCKING OTHER PEOPLE. Javen’s more than cool with what he sees so it’s time to move on to the boyfriends of the two women who allowed other men to tuck them into bed. Karl is very upset watching Nicole and Tyler. He’s certainly not pleased when he sees Tyler touch Nicole, but mostly it’s the bed aspect of the situation that he finds disappointing because he could have done that also and he chose not to cross the line. John goes last and he is feeling great, or at least he was feeling great until he has to stare at his girlfriend floating in between Johnny’s legs in a pool and then scooching over so he can climb into her bed on what I imagine is usually John’s side. This footage has given him clarity, John swears. Kady cheating means their relationship is off and he can stop running potential proposal scenarios through his mind. “She just showed there that she’s weak,” John says. “I need a strong woman who can fight temptation.”
You’d think John’s crushed future would mean that the Bonfire has officially come to a close, but Mark has another plan: the men can record a thirty second message to their girlfriends if they choose to do so. They won’t be recording their messages right now, though. Producers know quite well that allowing them a bit more time to obsess and stew over what they should say in their videos will probably succeed in driving at least two of them bonkers and that always makes for good TV. Besides, now Evan has some time to consider whether or not Morgan should make a guest appearance in his video to Kaci because real love involves always being inclusive.
The women arrive next and Kaci is sticking with her plan of avoidance. She knows the one thing she really has to do right now is survive this island experience and she also knows that getting the clarity that her world is being decimated will only make her time there overwhelming. What she’s doing is not denial, she swears. It is self-preservation. As soon as they all sit down, Mark asks Kaci what will happen if Evan does fully cross the line. “Then I can’t be with him,” she answers. We’ll return to Kaci’s den of fucking horror in a moment, but first Kady is asked how it feels to be connecting with someone in the villa. “It makes me feel guilty,” Kady says with tears in her eyes. “It makes me feel vulnerable and weak and selfish.” And now that two women have cried even before footage has been shown, Mark decides that Shari should see what Javen has been up to without her. She watches him laughing on a date and her only reaction is to say that she no longer wants to have any major reactions. She will wait to see what happens and then she will accept the outcome. Nicole gets to watch Brittany back her ass into Karl’s nether regions in a hot tub – and seeing him throw his head back just makes it so much worse – but she’s kind of okay about it. What Nicole is discovering through this process is that the relationship she and Karl are in is pretty surface level and not nearly as deep as the relationships of the other girls. Kady is up next and she is struggling. She chooses to watch the footage with the women she now considers family and what they all see is John briefly kissing Katheryn.
“Do you recognize who that is?” Mark asks her.
Kady shakes her head.
“That was the girl you blocked,” Mark so helpfully informs her.
“It’s painful,” Kady admits. “But growth is painful.”
And speaking of searing fucking pain, Kaci just can’t take anymore so she accepts the tablet, shoves in those ear buds, and the rest of the girls respectfully avert their eyes while she closes hers entirely. She listens to Morgan and Evan breathe heavily, she hears Morgan say “That feels so good,” but she does not stare at so much as a frame of footage. You may all think that what Kaci’s doing here is engaging in some seriously hefty denial, but I think her strategy right now is brilliant. Why allow intentionally edited footage to fuck with her sanity? She’ll have to deal with all this shit eventually – she knows that – and an off-camera producer attempts to get her to deal with it right now, but Kaci thinks she knows what the right move is here. For tonight, she will bury her head in the sand – and she will try her very best to not even conjure up a single image or entertain a single thought about where Evan is burying his own head for the evening.
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