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.
In other words, Kaci is fucked.
This episode picks up right after the Bonfire, and what becomes clearer each and every week is that the couples who came to this island are not people who casually dated for a few months. These people have been together for years. They live together. They share a fucking existence, and the possibility that Kaci could lose such an important piece of her heart while embarrassing her family in the process is destroying her. And since she didn’t give it up like they wanted her to at the Bonfire, a producer joins her in her bedroom to extract even more emotion from a woman who looks like she’s about to fully crack. “I don’t think you guys are getting how truly hard this is for me,” she cries, and maybe she’s correct, but I think these people know exactly what they’re doing to her.
The men are not having the easiest night either. Watching Johnny crawl into Kady’s bed made John feel like he was sucker-punched. He sounds dazed and broken when he speaks about how weak Kady is for giving in to temptation so easily. “You think I’m weak?” asks Evan – and it’s a fair question. Because the thing is, Evan hasn’t just given in to temptation. If you want to lay it out in biblical terms, he bonded with a snake, devoured the apple, and then jizzed all over this Hawaiian Garden of Eden. John takes a moment before answering his friend and he is incredibly tactful in his response. He is not calling Evan weak. What he is saying is that Kady crossed boundaries they both swore they would not cross. They had an agreement. But Evan knows that he and Kaci also had an agreement. And not only did they have an agreement, but Kaci’s boundaries seemed far looser than those of Kady and John’s. Kaci was fine with Evan dating and maybe kissing someone and behaving like he was single, all in the name of this hellish experiment/spectacle, but on the list of things they swore they would not do was fuck and fall in love. Evan’s done both. Karl tries to make Evan feel better by saying that they certainly do not think he’s weak; perhaps it’s his relationship with Kaci that’s weak. Evan listens to Karl’s sage words and then nods solemnly in agreement because that particular answer is way easier for him to accept.
Not everyone is nipple-deep in misery. Nicole is doing really well! The time she’s spent on the island has been good for her. She feels like she’s been exposed to people who have depth and she’s learned about herself and she very much believes she will live differently from this point forth. I have an idea! Let’s all try to keep Nicole’s positivity and strength in our minds for the remainder of this episode because there’s a humongous possibility that it may be the only comforting thing to flash across our screens. I mean, both villas are currently filled with people having all kinds of breakdowns. John cries in the kitchen and Hannah consoles him. Karl cannot scrub the image of Nicole being in bed with another man from his mind. Katheryn cautions Karl that Brittany needs to be assured that anything that happens with them from this point forward will not be done as a way to retaliate against Nicole’s actions, and the little cartoon angel and devil who apparently reside within the right and the left sides of Karl’s brain and battle daily about whether or not it would be a big deal to nail an Aquarius are continuing to engage in a fucking death match and all of it is leaving him with a gigantic headache.
Full emotional breakdowns will have to be put on hold, however. It’s time for some dates! Kady selects Johnny and the two jump off cliffs and then kiss – like, for real kiss – as they gaze at the ocean. Johnny is feeling pretty good. He goes to sleep with Kady and he wakes up with Kady and he was chosen to jump off that cliff with Kady and so what that he lives in New York and she lives in Texas and her boyfriend is currently weeping in a kitchen to a woman with a bouffant? Johnny is winning! But wait! John is no longer in the kitchen. He is instead eating sushi down by the shoreline with the bouffanted woman who happens to own lipstick that matches her bathing suit! John selected Hannah for his date because she showed him kindness and he wants to resolve whatever issues caused them to bicker in the past. Hannah is open to whatever it is that John needs right now and she’s quite compassionate in her dealings with him. He plans to try to have some fun on their date, but he also plans to use the time as a much needed therapy session.
Also: At any point did any of you think that John was going to gaze up from where he was standing near the water and see Kady and Johnny smooching on a lounge chair? I totally did. And though I would argue that such a confrontation would make for excellent TV, I’m actually glad it didn’t happen because I’m pretty sure John would have reacted by shoving a wasabi ball into every orifice of his own body and watching something like that would probably make me feel very uncomfortable.
Javen chose to take Erica on a date. She’s fun and pretty, but what Javen is really attracted to is her attitude, especially those expressions of sheer derision she sometimes makes. You all remember how Shari behaved on the first two episodes of this show, right? Seems Javen’s got himself a type. And speaking of Shari, she picks Justin to take on a date and the two eat some frozen pineapple thing I would very much like to try and then they talk about how her perspective has shifted. There was a time she didn’t believe that having friends of the opposite sex was acceptable, but those views have changed. Justin suggests that maybe it was Javen’s influence that made her feel that way and Shari nods that he’s probably right while acknowledging to herself how proud she is that she’s embracing this process and growing stronger as a result. And Nicole? She’s still doing just fucking fine, thank you very much. She’s on her third date with Tyler and they’re being massaged near a gorgeous beach. Since there is clearly no hysteria about to erupt within Nicole, it’s time to check in with Kaci. She’s selected Luna for the date and he selected overalls as an outfit. Despite the fact that he reminds me of the Cabbage Patch Kid I used to snuggle with (R.I.P., Carlin Ozzy!), Luna appears to be a nice person who allows Kaci to vent about her fears and then validates her feelings really well. He also comforts her by saying there’s no way her boyfriend of five years would possibly fall in love with someone else in under two weeks because such a thing would be insane and that’s about the time the scene cuts to Evan and Morgan having THE BEST DAY EVER. They are swimming in the ocean. They are kissing in slow motion. And they are declaring yet again that this is a relationship that could very well yield them a forever.
“Morgan,” Evan says slowly and deliberately. “All I want is you, girl.”
Also: While all Evan wants is Morgan, all I want after watching that scene is a shot of fucking Pepto Bismal. I’d also like twenty seconds of consecutive footage that actually illustrates what it is about Morgan that is causing Evan to reconstruct his entire future. I understand that producers want to show us kissing scenes, but at this point maybe they can provide some context about what’s drawing Evan to Morgan in this way, because the way it’s being edited and fed to us, the only reason he seems this smitten is because 1) she’s new to his life and 2) she has a rather perfect ass.
Karl’s date for the day is Brittany. He’s enjoying his time with this woman who is definitely not a lunatic, a woman who constantly touches him and stares at him and threatens to climb into his bed later on without his consent. Karl is in a vulnerable place. I think Nicole may end up ditching him, so I’m going to give him a break right now and maybe just warn him that Brittany probably has her very own pair of rose quartz-encrusted night vision goggles shoved into her bedside drawer.
Over at the girls’ villa, Johnny and Kady are enjoying a nighttime shower in their bathing suits, Nicole (and the abs I very much want to buy from her) continues to connect with Tyler, Shari plops down on a bean bag to engage in a deep conversation with Justin, and Kaci smiles and giggles and does whatever she has to do to make the voices in her head stop screaming. But if she thinks those random voices are shrieking now, wait until she pours out her heart to Evan in a thirty-second video only to discover he hasn’t sent a message of his own. Oh, yeah – it’s Evan’s plan to not say anything to Kaci via video, but Morgan isn’t happy with said plan because she simply cannot fathom why he can’t just break up WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND OF FIVE FUCKING YEARS in a thirty-second video message. Morgan? May karma never ravage your rather perfect ass the way it so clearly could, my dear. And Evan? I get that you don’t want to offer up anything that so much as smells of kindness lest Kaci misread the subtext and think, you know, that you actually still love her instead of a stranger, but to send absolutely no word to a woman you’ve shared your life with for five years, a woman you intend to emotionally annihilate in the very near future? That’s fucked up.
Brittany heads over to where Karl is laying down. “I just want to lay with you,” she says softly, her eyes once again never leaving his face. (Seriously: if you’re ever forced to be in a staring contest and the rules dictate that you can bring a partner, Brittany should be that partner.) First she slips her fingertips beneath the back of his pants. Then her hands move and it looks like she’s lightly touching his crotch. And then? Then she suggests they go upstairs and just sleep, which very much reminds me of all the times in high school when boys would ask if I wanted them to stop by “so we could watch a movie.” While Karl’s brain and Karl’s penis engage in a mini Battle Royale, Katheryn joins John by the pool. She’d really love it if he’d start murmuring words of adoration about her, but she’s more than okay listening to how excited John is to finally confront Kady and let her know that she has manipulated and blamed him for things over the course of their entire relationship. He finally realizes the truth! Life on that island has been hard for John. He’s been getting very little sleep as images of his girlfriend enjoying a slumber party with a chiropractor continue to dance out of rhythm jigs in his mind. The only person feeling deliriously happy right now is Katheryn. She’s decided that John becomes more appealing to her each and every day and now that his relationship is tattered and he’s sinking into a depression, she’s got herself a clear shot at the guy. And who doesn’t want to land a man who will struggle with trust issues for all of his coming days? Katheryn could soon be a very lucky girl!
Wynn wants to be as lucky as Katheryn thinks she’s about to be so he pulls Kady aside to see if they still have a shot. All evidence points away from these two ever becoming a real couple. Kady’s spent the majority of her recent time swimming with Johnny and showering with Johnny and smooching with Johnny, but Kady tells Wynn that she would like to take him on another date. However, she also requests that Wynn respect what she and Johnny have going and then she plops herself down on Johnny’s lap and fully makes out with him before bed, so yeah – Wynn is not winning here. But Wynn doesn’t like not winning, so he knocks on Kady’s door just as she and Johnny are climbing into bed and he asks to speak to Kady. Johnny reads Wynn’s request for what it probably is – a desperation shot – and very soon their discussion ends and Kady returns to bed where Johnny is still waiting and they snuggle up for yet another evening.
Regardless of who slept where last night, I hope everyone got at least two or three solid REM cycles in because today is the day they will either get to watch a thirty-second video message that leads to some comfort or be greeted with horror when it’s revealed that a significant other elected to send over absolutely nothing at all. What I’m saying is that this particular day on this particular island is going to seriously suck stringy balls for some particular people. Nicole heads into the makeshift screening area first and pulls a tablet out of a wooden box. She listens as Karl tells her he loves her and misses her. He also mentions that he’s seen a few things that have caused him to feel disappointed, but he’s clearly still interested in a relationship with her when this experiment ends. That Karl spoke kindly and compassionately instead of with a voice tinged with judgment leaves Nicole a little teary. It would be so much easier if Karl behaved like a total dick so she could just ditch him like she seems to want to, but Karl is not a dick – he’s not even really wrinkly foreskin. Still, Nicole has grown a lot since she arrived on Temptation Island and it’s very likely that she’s outgrown her boyfriend. Good thing he’s got a willing Aquarius in the wings, huh? But wait! Though Nicole is growing, it seems like she’s open to the possibility that she and Karl can dig through the surface of their relationship and maybe uncover something deeper. It’s like they’re explorers on an excavating mission! The issue still at hand, however, is whether or not they’ll discover multilayered levels of love or rip through their relationship until they get to the gooey core at the center and discover – much like that time Geraldo opened that tomb on live fucking TV – that there’s actually nothing of worth hiding inside.
Kaci is next to approach the wooden box, but before she opens it, she takes several deep meditative breaths in an effort to center herself and to probably lower her skyrocketing blood pressure. But when she opens the box, nothing is inside.
Quick message to production: While I realize the reveal of absolutely nothing inside that box gets you a moment of dramatic television, could Kaci not have been told ahead of time that her boyfriend of five years didn’t value her enough to send any sort of message? Because to have her sit there in the center of the frame and open that box to reveal a literal void – when all she’s felt thus far has been a gaping emotional void – is maybe taking the license to manipulate these people just a wee bit too far.
Kaci is upset, but she’s not stunned that Evan didn’t record her a message. Still, she sent him the gift of acknowledging his fucking presence and she thinks he could possibly become emotional upon seeing it. Does he? Well, he pulls out the tablet and watches his longtime girlfriend’s chin quiver along with her voice. She tells him she loves him so much and she leaves him with no doubt that she wants to be with him at the end of this mess. She also mentions that she’s seeing signs of Old Evan in the footage production screens for her as a way to destroy whatever is left of her soul and she wants him to be the person he knows would make her proud. Evan slips the tablet back into the low rent Pandora’s Box and feels the guilt hit him like a tsunami loaded down with fragments of glass. He can see how much pain Kaci is in and he is demolished. They’ve been through a ton together. Their lives have been intertwined for five years. He misses her now in the way he hasn’t this entire time because he’s chosen to distract himself instead with someone shiny and new, but now he feels like a total scumbag. I know it’s easy to rip Evan apart for his actions and his choices. I’ve done it a bit myself because, well, that’s kind of what happens when you hire someone to recap a show wherein a guy in a relationship makes the decision to both fuck and declare his undying love to a woman he’s known for a matter of weeks, but I do feel for the guy. He will probably end up puncturing at least one woman’s heart and every part of this scenario feels so hellish to watch that I actually scoured the end credits just to be sure Lucifer is not an Executive Producer of this televised madness.
Shari is next to receive a message. Javen calls her “Baby Girl” and lets her know that, while he is loosening up, he thinks of her every night. “Keep me in mind,” he says as the video fades out, and Shari – filled with a sense of optimism and calm – all but bounces back to her room. Javen’s message from Shari begins with the words “My Love,” and these two people who I had pegged for destruction during the first episode will probably not only stay together, but they seem like there’s a chance they could end up happy.
And then there’s Kady. Kady is shitting spiky bricks. She cries before she even turns on the message and she keeps her eyes closed throughout so she doesn’t have to see the agony streaked across John’s face as he speaks about his love for her and his disappointment in her. He makes sure to let her know that he hasn’t crossed any untenable lines and Kady walks away feeling guilty and selfish and like she’s made several huge mistakes. She’s confused! Should she continue to devote her life to a man whose virility she questions hourly and publicly or should she allow a guy she’s recently met continue to make her feel fluttery? And will she even have the option to make that final choice, because the look of quiet dread that settles on John’s face when he opens the wooden box to find nothing at all inside may have some far reaching consequences.
“Is she even thinking about the big picture?” Genius John asks the other guys, and yes, I am committed to calling this man Genius John right now because finally – fucking finally – someone has asked (whilst on camera) the right questions:
1. Is Kady thinking about how her choices now will impact her future?
2. This guy lives in New York and Kady lives in Texas. How exactly will that work once they no longer share a villa and have things like, oh, expenses to deal with?
3. Can she really fall in love in this teensy amount of time?
It’s the third question John poses that is my very favorite. Not only is it a fair and rational question clearly formulated by an incredibly virile genius, but it also causes Evan’s insides to knot and twist as guilt pokes at him from all sides because soon he will have to decide which woman’s heart and trust he will shatter.
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