It’s not like I’m saying that karma will definitely manifest into a stomping-fire-breathing-snaggle-toothed monster who will gnaw Evan’s testicles off in one swift gulp as a means of achieving some form of retribution for the insultingly cavalier way he moved beyond his love for Kaci, but I would advise the guy to keep his eyes open and his ears peeled for signs of danger. Like, if I were Evan, I wouldn’t necessarily go walking underneath rickety ladders anytime soon. I wouldn’t meander alongside anything even slightly resembling a cliff. And I certainly would not return to Hawaii in the coming months with Morgan because I’m not so sure whichever Goddess controls shit like volcanic eruptions is about to spare a man who got over a five year relationship like other people get over a common cold.
But I want to be clear about a few things before we move forward:
1. I don’t think Morgan deserves too much hatred for her role in this televised monstrosity. She applied to be on a dating show, she was accepted, and her very presence somehow stunned a man into falling into infatuation or love or whatever it is you want to call it. In a lot of ways, Morgan essentially did her job.
2. While I’m a (relatively) rational adult who can’t help but giggle at the notion of two people believing with all their might that they have fallen in a real and healthy love after only a few weeks while cameras were aimed at their faces the entire time and they spent each day in an environment in which real world issues were able to become absolutely negligible, I can also see how spending every single second with another person in such a rarified atmosphere could result in those two people convincing themselves that whatever happened between them must have been fated.
3. I’m imagining Evan and Morgan are fueled right now by some it’s-us-versus-them-and-what-we-have-together-is-totally-fate mentality and it is probably that precise feeling that will lead to Evan proposing to Morgan – and I’m guessing it’ll happen soon. What else would serve to better validate their feelings? What else do they think could possibly prove everyone else so wrong?
4. Oh, and I really hope Kaci gets custody of the dogs.
With my feelings now clearly established – because my mommy always told me that my feelings matter – let's now tackle an episode that caused me to question once again why anyone would possibly agree to appear on this show. We start with Kaci experiencing the scalding stings of humiliation. She just saw footage of the man she loves – a man with whom she shares a home and dogs with, for crying out loud! – asking someone he’s known for less than three weeks to be his girlfriend. No matter how absolutely correct the rest of the women are when they swear it’s not Kaci who should be feeling embarrassed here, she is exhaling fumes of mortification every time she opens her mouth. Her boyfriend of YEARS has seemingly ditched her for someone he has known for less time than I have known the carton of egg whites that lives in my refrigerator. He’s ready to vacate the world he created with Kaci to go be with this woman and he’s made the choice to do it without having the decency to break up with Kaci first. Listen: being rejected sucks. Rejection wrecks havoc on your soul. Rejection causes fragments of your mind to whirl with questions for which there are often few answers. Rejection is a motherfucker any way it happens, but though I’m not all that interested in ranking pain, I think there’s an excellent chance that being rejected on a TV show you once thought would end with the love of your life proposing to you because he’d just experienced an existence without you for three whole weeks and – by God! – he now refuses to live a single second without you from this point forward may very well be the number one most horrific form of rejection that exists. Is there any way Kaci can take comfort in the fact that at least this experience sticks her forever in the upper echelons of rejection stories? Perhaps she can nab a book deal out of all this. I’ll be her ghostwriter, and the words that shall appear most often in our manuscript will obviously be the words “callous” and “prick.”
Speaking of rejection, it’s time for a few of the Tempters to be tossed aside, much the way I tossed my last carton of egg whites in the trash several weeks ago. (The carton was starting to smell funky and I briefly wondered if something had died inside of my fridge.) I have no idea if any of these girls smell – though I’m betting Brittany smells like a pungent combination of patchouli and desperation – but several are being tossed off the island regardless because it’s time for the guys to choose their final round of dates. “Final?” Morgan asks, her face sinking. That’s correct, Morgan. This tropical experiment is close to being over and your new boyfriend, a guy who is technically also the boyfriend of another woman right now, will have to pack up his floral attire and head to a Bonfire where he will crush the heart of his former beloved so he can instead stare intently at your face forever and ever in a manner that is not creepy in the slightest.
The final date is an overnight, and I suppose that’s a nice thing for Bachelor fans right now because there’s a virgin at the helm of that particular series so at least we have some certainty that one reality TV show out there will provide a little banging. Evan chooses Morgan, and just in case you’ve been sporadically unconscious while watching this show, please know that Evan will choose Morgan FOREVER because he LOVES her and she changed EVERYTHING and because it doesn’t annoy her that he starts 87% of the sentences he says to her with the word “Girl” and that right there is a clear sign of devotion. John picks Kathryn. He’s permitted to do so at this point because the moratorium on her being labeled forbidden fruit has shriveled up and died – and also, the producers of this show would like to have as much incendiary footage in their arsenal as humanly possible. Javen selects Kayla, though there’s an excellent chance he will force her to sleep on the floor so Shari doesn’t castrate him with a pointy stick at the final Bonfire, and Karl picks Brittany and that’s sweet because maybe he’ll allow her to sit on his face while they’re at the hotel.
Also: Evan is so drawn to the miracle that is Morgan that he cannot stop himself from reaching back and caressing her leg as she stands behind him during the date selection.
Also: Brittany scares the shit out of me. I think it’s the almost ominous dichotomy of her spiking levels of Zen mixed with her spiking levels of psychosis, though my terror could also be due to her aura of slinky knowingness that I think some people probably read as sexy, though I just see it as fucking bizarre.
Hannah, Erica, and Rachel are the Tempters sent home, but since they got to enjoy a three-week Hawaiian vacation and they refrained from humiliating themselves or their families in the process, they leave the premises holding hands and smiling. Bon voyage, ladies! See you on an MTV show soon! Mark then heads to the other villa so the women can make their final date selections. Kaci chooses Val, probably because he’s a self-anointed King – and should anyone currently be searching for a strong argument against the concept of royalty, Val can serve as your newest visual aid. Shari picks Justin. Nicole selects Tyler and Kady picks Johnny. The three not selected head out the door, though I’m very sad to tell you that they do not do so whilst holding hands.
Kaci’s date with King Val begins on a boat and that means we get the obligatory Titanic pantomime that must now legally occur any time anyone on TV walks onto any boat ever. Val knows he was chosen because his humor will allow Kaci to feel comfortable as she readies herself for the upcoming reunion with the boyfriend who no longer wants her, and he keeps things light, even when Kaci asks him what everyone thought of Evan when they met him the first night. The word “scumbag” is used to describe the guy and Kaci once again states that she thinks he’s just gotten himself caught up in the intensity of the situation and she’s certain Morgan will eventually suffer because of it. Though I think Morgan will probably end up suffering in other ways – and I want to be very clear here that I do not wish her even a smidgen of actual pain because A) I am actually a kind human being and B) I am not paid nearly enough to conjure up legitimate ill will towards anyone – I also think Evan is probably the kind of guy who doesn’t really appreciate having his thoughts and feelings second-guessed by the masses. I think he will spend the rest of his life with Morgan and even all the subsequent lives Brittany the Aquarius probably swore he’d experience, and he will do it just to prove everyone absolutely fucking wrong. Besides, it’s not as though Evan has a single doubt about his decision, and should you be foolish enough to wonder if perhaps he’s internally waffling right now, banish that silly thought from the recesses of your mind! The first thing we hear Evan say to Morgan during their boat date is “I’m so yours.” And if you were not already feeling a tiny bit of chunky puke rising in the back of your throat, hold tight! Because Evan then informs her, “Girl, you’re it!” and I don’t know if my reaction to those words was violently visceral because they sound like a song some second tier member of N’SYNC would have sworn would be a hit or if it’s because Evan’s cavalier bliss and his choice to embrace total mental amnesia where Kaci is concerned just makes me feel genuinely nauseated at what human beings are capable of doing to one another.
Also: Raise your hand if you’re shocked that one of Evan’s biggest turn-ons with Morgan is that she applies zero pressure to him in the way Kaci does. Then smack yourself with that hand because only a fucking moron would be shocked by something that would undoubtedly receive its very own chapter in a book someone will one day write called The Very Sad Predictability of Men.
Also: Raise your hand if you want production to instantly appear the very first time Morgan DOES apply real world pressure to Evan so we can see the entire glorious thing go down in close-up.
John and Katheryn aren’t at the point where they’re discussing meeting the family like Evan and Morgan are, but they’re off to a great start on their date. Katheryn is thrilled. She feels a real connection with John – and she was finally permitted to leave the villa! And the cherry on top of her Freedom Sundae is twofold: not only does the hotel they arrive at have dolphins, but John has finally allowed himself to ponder what a future might look like if Kady is not in it and some other blonde whose name also starts with a K slides into that slot. I’ve been a little tough on Katheryn along the way because some of her behavior has frankly seemed ridiculous to me, but I’ve softened over time. With that new open-mindedness, please allow me to say that she has very beautiful eyes. Then allow me to say that I burst into unintentional but very real laughter when she announced that dolphins are her “favorite mammal” because there’s no amount of time that could pass and no pair of eyes pretty enough to make that sentence not sound silly, especially when anyone with working brain synapses would agree that Tallulah my Maltipoo and every single otter I’ve ever laid my eyes on are the mammals that should obviously tie for first place in the Annual Mammal Competition™.
Also: Please do not see my above comments as being disparaging of the dolphin who appeared onscreen or indeed any dolphin in the entire dolphin kingdom. Dolphins are glorious creatures and they are incredibly smart, though if this particular dolphin signed a release to appear on this show, I may have to question the intelligence of the species as a whole.
Johnny and Kady, meanwhile, check into a different hotel. This one doesn’t have a bobbing mammal in the lobby, but there are a bunch of cute little bungalows where they can spend the next twenty-four hours completely alone – you know, besides the camera crew and the producer who are surely along for the intimate ride. To prove his masculinity, Johnny wears a blue shirt and carries the bags inside, something I fear dolphin-smooching John wouldn’t even think about doing. Kady is struggling as the end of this process looms. She loves John and they share a life together, but she no longer feels the flicker of sparks. Does she feel those sparks with Johnny? Well, she’s not fully at the fireworks stage with him either, but there’s a chance he could make some part of her feel at least slightly flammable – and he’s got twenty-four hours to prove it, but no pressure.
Javen and Kayla’s date involves an awesome helicopter ride and an even better understanding. Javen only wants his girlfriend, Kayla knows and respects that, and the two are thrilled to simply be wonderful friends. And this scene is now officially the sanest three consecutive minutes ever shown on this shit-show.
As for Shari, she’s doing yoga under some palm trees with Justin and apparently working sweat ducts on a man are a huge turn-on for her. I don’t think she’ll ever choose anyone over Javen, but Justin is tempting her a bit. After the downward dogging is complete, the yoga instructor throws down some cards on the lawn and asks Shari to pick one. Before Shari makes her choice, the instructor makes clear that whichever card Shari picks will be picked for a reason. Doesn’t it seem like everyone even peripherally associated with this show believes (or pretends to believe) that every single one of their actions is due to the fact that all this shit was written in the stars for them sixteen zillion years ago? Does anyone besides me sometimes point at the screen at laugh because you just know they all feel this way because it lets them off the hook for behaving like assholes sometimes? In any case, Shari picks a card about becoming discerning and she doesn’t think any other word could possibly define her journey on this show better because she used to live life according to what she believed her boyfriend wanted and through the process of, I don’t know, becoming discerning, she’s now about forging her own path. There’s some circular logic going on here, but I don’t particularly give a fuck because Shari looks happy, we all know she’s sticking with Javen, and there’s not really a ton of dramatic intrigue going on here.
What’s that? There’s a far more interesting couple about to get massages on a veranda? And one of the people about to be rubbed is Brittany, Aquarius and Stare-Contest-Winner Extraordinaire? Maybe it’s because there are no televisions or books permitted while filming this show and Karl thinks, well, Brittany has to stare at something so it may as well be him, but Karl is not freaked out in the least by a woman who only throws out longing and knowing looks that are so pronounced that I end up snickering – and I mean fucking hard – every single time the girl appears onscreen. Before the massages, the two share a few kisses. As a viewer who doesn’t know these people and also doesn’t particularly care about them, I see no problem with them smooching it up. Not only is Nicole probably ending things with Karl at the conclusion of all this, but Brittany and Karl have twenty-four hours to kill and there’s no way the guy can handle her just gazing at his face the entire time or he’ll lose whatever is left of his sanity. I’m both pleased and relieved to inform all of you that Brittany does close her eyes when she’s kissing, which means that, as a society, we should probably all band together to make both a plan and a vow that one of us should always have a tongue in that woman’s mouth. Do it for humanity!
Karl’s about-to-be-former girlfriend is spending her twenty-four hours with Tyler. She feels comfortable and relaxed with him, probably because she feels like she can speak her mind around Tyler in a way she often didn’t with Karl. He would like to keep their relationship moving forward after filming ends and I think there’s a good chance that’s happened. I don’t think Tyler’s going to propose to Nicole in the next millisecond or anything the way I’m sure Evan will propose to Morgan, but all that means is that Tyler and Nicole are in a more, shall we say, rational state of mind right about now and I’m all for being fucking rational.
The only thing this process has done for Javen is make him appreciate Shari more. The guy is all in right now. Yes, Baby Girl is his certain future – and he’s so sweet about it that Kayla toasts to the happy couple – but there could be some misery up ahead. Seems Shari is quite enjoying the banter she shares with Justin and she never thought she’d grow as much as she has on that island. Has she outgrown the man she’s been with since before she got her first period? Hard to say, but I hope Kaci hasn’t hoarded all the tissues available in Hawaii because Javen may need a few dozen in the end.
As Evan and Morgan kiss on a boat and discuss how thrilled they are about the future they’ll share once Evan informs Kaci that their future is dead, Kaci and Val sit down for dinner. Kaci tells Val that she’s been wondering something: Did Evan ever really loved her? Who hasn’t asked that question after someone you devoted pieces of your life to ultimately betrayed you in every conceivable capacity? Who wouldn’t contemplate the notion that what you and someone else shared couldn’t possibly have been real if the guy moves on in a nanosecond? I’m thinking that what makes the Evan/Kaci thing feel more hideous and raw than the Karl/Nicole deal or the Kady/John thing is that those couples really came into this process understanding that there were true cracks in their relationships, while Kaci and Evan seemed only to battle about Kaci’s struggle with getting a proposal by a deadline. Other than what seems to amount to a scheduling issue, they didn’t seem to be a fractured pair the way the others clearly did and perhaps that’s why watching Kaci’s struggle hits me harder than what Karl is maybe about to deal with. But there is an upside here, friends! I used to only feel irritated by Val, but the guy is direct over dinner, he comes right out and tells Kaci that Evan is not worth her pain, and he has a very sweet smile. I wonder what his favorite mammal is…
Nicole is having a far better time than Kaci. She’s all about Tyler, which means maybe Karl should just go ahead and allow Brittany to eat him the fuck up. Anyone want to bet that she eats with her eyes open? And since we’re fully into the night portion of all these dates, it’s time to see how Katheryn and John are doing. They approach a private table for dinner and I sincerely hope dolphin is not on the menu. Katheryn is into John. She finds it so attractive that he’s in touch with his feelings, but she wants to make sure he’s not with her at the moment because his real girlfriend is with someone else. I give Katheryn a lot of credit for coming right out and asking this question. I think so often we just want to be Cool Girls who are totally fine with absolutely whatever, and I commend her for worrying about the safety of her own heart here. John swears to her that she is not merely a rebound. In fact, he’s pretty much over Kady completely. He deserves better, he thinks, and he would like very much to walk through life with a new blonde who is willing to gush about his manhood in public.
Also: The line of flower petals leading to John and Katheryn’s bed looks somewhat phallic. Think that was intentional and meant as a way to validate John’s virility just one more time?
Though John is moving beyond the idea of Kady and even plotting both her eventual eviction from his home and the way he will confront her at the final Bonfire, Kady is still uncertain about her future. She likes Johnny, she does. But she loves John even though the sparks are not sparkly enough for her anymore. Johnny asks what she’s planning to do and she is pretty evasive and the two then acknowledge that this is the most they’ve ever spoken about the John situation, a revelation that is frankly stunning to me and one I’m not sure bodes well for their future.
Also: For a really long time I thought I was searching for a man with a sharp wit, a reservoir of internal strength, and the capacity for forever loyalty, but after watching this scene I now know that all I really want in life is a man who approaches me daily with an enormous tray of s’mores fixings like the one Johnny is clutching.
The next morning, Kady and Johnny wake up and they cuddle and they kiss, but Kady reveals to us that she spent some time thinking about John during her date. Now, Kady has no idea that John is rehashing in his mind all the terrible things she’s said and done to belittle him over the years, but at least this show is all about teaching us the meaning of dramatic irony! And at least Katheryn is asking John the tough questions, like what will he do if Kady tells him that cheating on him on national television was simply a mistake? Will he take her back? John’s not sure and Katheryn is right to feel vulnerable, but at the same time, isn’t it a wee bit strange that some woman John met three weeks ago feels betrayed because he may choose to stay with THE WOMAN HE ALREADY FUCKING LIVES WITH? I tell you, this show could drive me to drink…
As for Kaci, she wakes up feeling stronger. She’s no longer afraid to see Evan – not at this exact moment anyway – but she does want him to be haunted by the fact that he lost her until his dying day, a request that strikes me as more than reasonable, especially since I hope one particular man I’ve known will be struck down with impotence until the very last second of time.
The morning is tougher for Karl. He slept with Brittany and he wakes up early due to stabbing pangs of guilt. Brittany has no such regrets. She hopes Karl and Nicole break up and that she and Karl then naturally explore a relationship, which is perhaps the most normal thing Brittany has said since she landed on that island and refused to stop staring at peoples’ faces. Unfortunately for Brittany, Karl is still absolutely in love with Nicole. Unfortunately for Karl, there’s a chance Nicole has already forgotten his name.
Once the dolphin swimming and the massages and the hotel suite fucking are done, the guys and their dates return to the villa and Mark shows up. Ladies, he basically says, this show doesn’t require your presence anymore. It’s time for the Tempters to say adieu because the final episodes will only involve the reunions of the original couples. Mark allows them all a moment to say goodbye and it goes a little something like this:
Kathryn begins crying because she is worried she’ll never see John again.
Brittany finally breaks eye contact when Karl admits that he doesn’t know if they’ll see each other again.
There’s no footage of Kayla saying goodbye because there was no will-they-or-won’t-they shit going down and she’s probably up in her room calmly packing her stuff.
But Morgan. Morgan is devastated upon hearing the news that she and Evan need to say goodbye so hastily. I don’t blame her for that reaction and I don’t blame her for feeling anxious that Evan will cave upon seeing Kaci. What I do blame her for – what I blame all of them for – is that they all seem to feel shock enveloping their hearts and their minds because suddenly a dawning of a realization has set in, one that really should have set in at least a decade ago when they tuned in to these programs while reclining safely in their living rooms at home: that appearing on a reality TV dating show in this day and age could actually end up being a seriously terrible idea.
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