Temptation Island ends its fourth season tonight (USA Network, 10 p.m.), with the second half of the finale, which will show us what happens to the remaining couples.
It also includes a check in with all eight central cast members—Javen Butler and Shari Ligons; Evan Smith and Kaci Campbell; Karl Collins and Nicole Tutewohl; and John Thurmond and Kady Cannon Krambeer—about six months after their month on Maui, which answered my burning questions that I had after the final bonfires.
But before that, a few thoughts on USA Network’s version, which has been a surprise in so many ways: addictive and voyeuristic, sure, but also surprisingly low-key and—as I previously wrote before it was turned into an amazingly porn-ish ad, “raw and intense.”
Temptation Island‘s production values have been Bachelor-level (and The Bachelor is excellent at cinematography, if not at, well, most other things).
Temptation Island’s sweeping views of Maui give way to straightforward scenes that focus on eight individuals, each of whom were struggling with their relationships, and with themselves.
It’s just people dating other people, to see how that helps them with their significant other.
The bonfires, at which the producers show them quick clips to freak them out about what their partners may or may not be doing, are the only real reality TV artifice.
I didn’t expect this from Temptation Island. I think I expected just raw sewage, or something along the lines of MTV dating shows, which mostly feel like jokes and opportunities for people to get on TV.
Perhaps I just forgot about the original, since it was so long ago. Perhaps it was because it was on Fox, a network with a reputation for having no threshold below which it’d go. Perhaps it’s because the first season collapsed when one producers discovered one couples had a kid together, and that couple then sued, claiming the producers knew.
Perhaps it’s because the format just seems icky: Couples agreeing to date other people? Why would anyone do that? There was a lot of discussion of that question on the premiere, and tonight’s finale did give me enough of an answer.
What happens on the finale of Temptation Island?
In my interview with Mark, he told me, “I have to cop to a quick judgment that was not accurate.” I won’t say which couple(s) he was talking about, but the same thing happened to me: I would have not accurately predicted what was going to happen.
We’ve seen all kinds of different relationships form, from genuine friendships to hook-ups, and also what appears to be a genuine romance between Evan and Morgan. Will that last tonight? Can it last outside the artifice of Temptation Island?
In my review of the premiere, I wrote that the show started to “reveal the kind of bizarre relationship holes that people dig themselves, into using the shovels of societal expectation and gender norms.”
It does more of that in the finale, but also just focuses on individuals, and what they’re experiencing. They continue to blame each other, which is an interesting side effect of the bonfires and flashes of information they get.
Or perhaps it’s just a good illustration of what happens when we let limited information and/or paranoia guide our decisions instead of waiting to learn the full story.
In its TV preview, the L.A. Times wrote, “What happens on ‘Temptation Island’ stays on Temptation Island in the rebooted reality series’ season finale.”
That was very clearly written by someone who’s never watched the show, because if anything is obvious after this season, it’s that whatever these couples decide about their relationships, Temptation Island has affected and changed them—and for the better. That’s incredible, especially for a show dismissed as garbage reality TV.
Recommended for you: Host Mark L. Walberg on Temptation Island’s return, and how real it is