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?
Speaking of the heathen, remember how Evan was crying at the end of the last episode because he felt like a total scumbag for hurting Kaci by falling in love with Morgan? And remember how we all sort of then wondered if watching his girlfriend’s pain in close-up would maybe cause him to ditch Morgan, a woman about whom we still know nothing of substance? Yeah, Evan’s not doing that. “Nothing has changed,” he tells Morgan in a choked voice after relaying to us that his has been the kind of life where he’s hurt others along the way. I think hurting people is probably something we’ve all done, though I think it’s also fair to say that most of us haven’t hurt someone we loved as a camera was pointed at both of our faces. On some level, Evan’s inner pain shows he’s not at his core a bad person and it also seems important to acknowledge that breaking off a relationship after five years when you’re only around thirty years old isn’t particularly shocking. What is shocking is how quickly his romantic feelings for Kaci have cooled. What is shocking is how smitten he is with a person who I’m sure is lovely, but for us seems devoid of personality. And it’s here that I’ll again make a plea to production: If you want your viewers to understand why this man appears to be making this choice, maybe toss in a scene or two where Evan and Morgan are fully dressed and just sit around talking about how well their life goals line up. Give us information about Morgan besides her age, her hometown, and that she’s a realtor who has never eaten a grapefruit. Make it make sense that the agony that will befall some people on this show will not fully occur in vain. Or, you know, do none of that and we can all just continue watching this show while bellowing “Douchebag!” at the screen whenever Evan wanders into the frame.
I suppose screaming disparaging remarks at a TV is better than what I do when Kaci appears, because whenever her shell-shocked face shows up, I have begun to make it rain, only I do it with yards and yards of fluffy Kleenex instead of hundred dollar bills. This woman is in panic mode and she’s therefore unable to even allow her mind to drift to what she thinks is the unfathomable possibility that Evan the Impulsive could be having sex with someone while on a television show. Currently in second place for Most Tragic is John, the only person other than Kaci who didn’t receive a video message from a significant other. It’s probably not a coincidence that the two people who have hooked up are also the ones who made the choice to go radio silent, but if John doesn’t have Kady’s voice to calm him, thank goodness Brittany is around to let him know that Kady is nothing but a blind d*ck to let a guy this good get away. (And I know what you’re all thinking: If Brittany is curled up on John’s bed murmuring affirmations at his face, who is currently staring at Karl? Do you think maybe he begged her to allow him to shower or dress or eat a meal without having to do it with her retinas locked on his face?) John tells Brittany that he was ready to propose to the blind d*ck and now he has to decide if he is going to wallow in sadness for the rest of his time on the show or open up to Katheryn. Good fucking lord, John! Is there not a third option? Can he not at least consider forsaking women in general and snagging himself a job on a pineapple farm instead?
The woman who shoved him into this situation isn’t letting herself off the hook. While some of their Tempters jump into the pool naked so that footage can last forever (and maybe cause a producer of the show to think, “Wow! Naked swimming! Those guys just go for it! We should definitely cast them on our next series, Banging It Out in Bora Bora!), Kady is considering whether she’s as over her boyfriend as she thought she was. But just because emotions are heightened all over that island doesn’t mean everyone can’t have fun. A scavenger hunt has been set up over at the guys’ villa and the men have to choose a partner, grab a phone, and film each other completing some very difficult tasks, like taking a shot, having the guy in each group dress up in a bra, undies, and fake lashes and giving “a PG-13 rated lap dance.” John and Hannah come out victorious – and kudos to Hannah for her lash application because those fuckers stayed on John’s face even after he jumped into the pool. Hannah tells the cameras that she’s sure the reason everyone just had a great time is not because the game was fun, but because Katheryn was asleep upstairs and methinks a battle for John’s heart is underway between two of these lady Tempters. It’s just really too bad the guy they’re about to battle over sees someone else’s blonde hair every time he closes his eyes though, huh?
Scavenger hunts that include tasks like writhing on a for-now boyfriend’s lap are always a good time, but this is Temptation Island, dammit! It’s time for another elimination. Mark shows up to let the men know they have to nominate four women to be sent packing, though only three women are leaving. Taking yet another opportunity to make one of the Tempters feel like dogshit is just something those behind the scenes cannot pass up. And the three women selected to leave? They will be leaving RIGHT FUCKING NOW. After Evan pleads with his friends not to eliminate Morgan (which was never going to happen because producers would sooner leap into a flaming volcano than allow footage of even more fucking to go unfilmed), the guys announce the women they’ve nominated: Lindsey, Alli, Kayla, and Jeffri. Kayla is the one who gets to stay, albeit now with knowledge that these guys feel almost nothing for her, but her hair looks fabulous as she gets the news and I’ve decided that’s all that should matter anyway.
Mark then heads over to the other house so an elimination can happen there, and the four chosen guys are Jack, James, Wynn, and Carlos. It’s Jack who is selected to remain in the game and it’s Wynn who appears most miffed by the proceedings. Not one of the eliminated men says goodbye to the women. No well wishes are offered the way the women at the guys’ villa did before packing up their stuff, and now I’m really concerned that this sort of cold attitude will mean that these guys will not so much as be asked to do a walk-on spot for the Bora Bora show.
With only seven Tempters remaining in each house, people are stepping up their games. Johnny throws on a hot pink shirt that perfectly matches Kady’s top because nothing screams “We’re soulmates!” more than color coordination. Meanwhile, everyone at the guys’ villa is playing my all-time favorite game: Throw a Tangerine At Someone and Then Say Nice Things. Yes, that game kicks Twister’s ass every time. Javen says sweet things to Kayla when she catches the piece of fruit and then Evan grabs the tangerine tossed to him by Morgan. She doesn’t say nice things to him. No, she asks him what his intentions are and he tells the entire group that he asked Morgan to be his girlfriend last night. “I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’m just going to show you,” Evan says intently. Okay, so we can get back to the man who already has a girlfriend yet just asked someone else to go steady, but can we first discuss the reactions everyone has to this bit of insanity? Can we talk about how Javen’s mouth falls open at Evan’s announcement because he thinks it’s possible his friend has officially gone mad or should we instead talk about how the other girls oohing and aahhing over the romance of it all makes me officially question the notion of sisterhood? Should we talk about how Evan’s intensity whenever he speaks directly to Morgan reads as almost scary? Or is all of this so unpleasant in its totality that we should ignore it for a while and just have a discussion about something far more pleasant, like fungus?
Also: Evan finally comes right out and tells us during a confessional what’s drawing him in about Morgan: she is undiscovered territory. That’s it. She’s shiny and new and it feels exciting and all I can think upon hearing this is that he should have just bought himself a brand new SUV and called it a day because that’s also something new he could ride until he grew tired of it.
Also: While true love is glorious and it makes you feel like you’re sliding down a rainbow, shouldn’t people be jumping in right now to caution this couple about all the issues they’ll have to deal with should this relationship continue? Shouldn’t someone suggest that maybe it’s unhealthy to jump from one relationship right into the next? Shouldn’t someone mention the trust issues that will very possible come up after these two people got together in this particular fashion? Can’t anyone slip them both the number of a therapist who wouldn’t even dream of conducting a session on camera?
Just to prove that it is possible to be both reflective and rational in this sort of scenario, let’s journey back over to the girls’ villa and check in with Nicole. She is calm, centered, and appears far more confident than when she first arrived on the island. She’s excited to strive for her own goals and not live a life dictated by what a boyfriend might want. And speaking of the word “boyfriend,” Nicole is reluctant to even call Karl that word because she is not feeling a strong tie to him anymore. But just in case someone is wondering what’s so different about Evan’s epiphany and Nicole’s epiphany, try to keep in the very forefront of your mind that Evan shoved another woman into whatever void he was feeling. Though Nicole is very happy to snuggle up with Tyler for an evening, she is not professing her undying devotion to a man she recently met and is instead willing to walk around carrying her void like it’s a fucking badge of honor.
Also: Nicole and Tyler immediately pull the covers over themselves in bed so it’s possible some void was filled that evening.
Back at he guys’ house, Brittany and Karl go skinny-dipping and then she stares at him for a while. The staring is pretty fucking creepy, but not nearly as bile-inducing as when Karl tells her he’s hungry and she asks him what he would like to eat and perhaps he’d enjoy it if she sat on his face.
“No, Brittany,” Karl says.
“Calm down, Brittany,” Karl adds.
“Run, Karl!” I shriek at my television.
Though nobody at the girls’ house is offering to sit atop anyone’s face, there are some interesting things going down. Val has decided to try to woo Kaci. I’m not sure a currently broken woman would make for the best partner, but Kaci does appreciate Val’s sense of humor. Perhaps he can recite knock knock jokes while she screams into a pillow. As for Kady and Johnny, they’re discussing how she’s feeling right now. See, Kady loves John and she really likes Johnny. She feels guilty and has no idea what she’s going to eventually do. Johnny does what he’s supposed to do here: he validates her concerns. Men? Take note. Oh, and men? Maybe also disagree vehemently should your girlfriend ever suggest that going on one of these shows will only make you stronger as a couple.
She may have missed the scavenger hunt, but Katheryn is wide awake now and she knows she’s only got a limited amount of time to hook John. Sure, she understands that he’s going through a hard time. What she doesn’t understand is why he doesn’t just take his mind off the idea that his life is crumbling by spending time with her. John explains that his emotions about Kady are still right there on the surface, but fuck surface emotions! Katheryn will get him into that pool, she will wrap her legs around him while they tread water, and she will whisper, “I’ll treat you like the man you are,” to a guy whose virility has been questioned for so long that saying such a thing is like hitting his fucking emotional G-spot. Katheryn’s crafty trifecta is enough for John to finally relent and reward her with several kisses before the two hop into bed together and make out some more.
And now that most of the participants have provided enough scandalous material for there to be another Bonfire, the women show up and now I can see if my latest wager – that the producers would make sure not to let Kaci off the hook by hitting her with a sound bite of Evan professing his love to Morgan – comes true. Listen: it’s not like I want such a thing to happen to Kaci, but think about my side here! I really want to be right again. Mark begins by asking Kady how she’s doing and she tells him that she feels like she’s been on a rollercoaster and she’s hyperaware that there’s an end to all of this and a ton of questions she’ll probably have to ask and answer. This is the last time they’ll all have to watch footage of their maybe boyfriends cavorting with other women because the end of this horrid experiment is growing near and Kaci is the first to be presented with footage tonight. She chooses to watch the footage alone – and she also actually watches it this time, meaning I’m fucking wrong again! – and she mutters, “I hate this” as she slips earbuds in. Kady reaches behind her to grip Kaci’s leg as a way to give some support and Kaci needs it because she is gifted the moment of Evan announcing that Morgan is his new girlfriend and she has changed everything in his life. She also gets to watch the man who has loved her for half a decade stare without blinking at the face of another woman. Old Evan is back, Kaci realizes. “He’s impulsive, he gets caught up in the moment, and it looks like he’s leaving me for another girl.” That she manages to say those words without throwing herself atop the bonfire impresses me greatly. What can I say? I’m a girl who is impressed by restraint. Nicole goes next. I had my money on the fact that production would happily screen for her the “Sit on my face” scene, but as my betting prowess has clearly croaked, Nicole instead sees Brittany and Karl hop in the pool naked. She sort of laughs, calls the whole thing “gross,” and announces Karl’s maybe not ready to be fully in love right now. “I haven’t seen any growth,” she says, and since I think we can all agree that Nicole doesn’t have too many plans to spend holidays with Karl in the future, someone else is gonna have to volunteer to sit on his face during Christmas. The only thing Shari is faced with is footage of Javen having his lashes applied and she and Kady giggle, but Kaci and Nicole do not join in. Nicole is busy mentally packing boxes of her shit so she can expedite the process of moving forward in life and finding a deeper love and Kaci is too busy being catatonic.
Fun Fact: Shari does not have a single man’s number in her phone and Javen does not have the number of any female. These two apparently took jealousy to a whole other level before this show. Who could have possibly predicted that something called Temptation Island would end up making these two people evolve beyond jealousy?
When it’s Kady’s turn to be tortured, she watches John and Katheryn kiss in the pool and then smooch some more in bed. It hurts to see that, Kady admits, just as she’s certain John has been hurt along the way. Seeing someone she loves being in any way intimate with another woman is causing Kady to 1) Reevaluate her feelings about both John and Johnny and 2) Allow someone who escaped from a nearby asylum to apply lipstick to her mouth. The lipstick is so red that it caused me to wonder if perhaps Kady just went ahead and killed either John or Johnny, ate the evidence, and used whatever leftover blood was around to create the perfect matte pout.
When the Bonfire ends, Kaci can’t help but feel a sense of empathy for Morgan. In Kaci’s eyes, Morgan has no idea what she’s just gotten herself into and she may very well feel that sting of pain when this bubble pops. And you know what? I believe that Kaci actually does feel badly for Morgan. I also believe that Evan will propose to Morgan in less than a year.
The men show up next and there’s a little spring in John’s step. He’s not feeling nearly as anxious as he was just recently – getting a little ass can do wonders for one’s mood – but things are not looking good for Karl. He watches Nicole cuddle with Tyler and listens as she asks him to sleep in her bed and he all but freezes in pain. “A conversation’s gotta be had at the end of the day,” Karl says, and I think these two are done, but I clearly suck at guessing where any of this is going, so you probably should not listen to my predictions right now. (I also believe Trump is going to win reelection in 2020, but I tell myself daily that belief is not really a prediction – it is a fever dream come to fucking life.) Anyhoo, John is up next and he watches Kady and Johnny kissing for a while, but he’s less freaked out by that than he was watching the guy get into his girlfriend’s bed last week. Sleeping and snuggling with someone is truly intimate in the way random kisses sometimes aren’t. Still, John hasn’t fully tossed Kady out of his future. He thinks they’ll have a lot to discuss. As for Javen, there’s really not much for him to react to because Shari doesn’t so much as touch whatever guy she’s speaking to and we all want to get to Evan anyway so here goes. Before his clip begins, Evan mumbles the words “Please don’t cry,” and you can see that hurting Kaci is not something he finds any sort of pleasure in. But the clip he sees does show her crying. It also shows her explaining that if he has sex with someone else, the two of them are done. And right there – the fact that he ignored Kaci’s clearly stated ultimatum – is how Evan can maybe slink out of his long-term relationship. But even if Kaci forgives him for his sins, Evan can never go back to the woman he was with before, not when Morgan walks the same planet as he does. Not when he’s certain Morgan is everything he didn’t even know he was looking for.
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