At the first “Matching Ceremony” of Couple to Throuple’s life, host Scott Evans says to four couples, “At the end of this experiment, you may be deciding whether you go home as a brand-new throuple, maybe you go home as the couple you’re in now, or maybe you decide to go your separate ways.”
Minus the throuple part, that’s Temptation Island‘s format. (Temptation Island is still around, and Netflix will be producing future seasons.)
The actual practice of polyamory has received scant reality TV attention before, such as in Showtime’s Polyamory: Married & Dating. But reality TV has been slow to show us anything beyond monogamous, heterosexual, traditional relationships.
Peacock’s Couple to Throuple (new episodes Thursdays) may still seem familiar, though, because there are so many reality TV shows that encourage couples to date around, from The Ultimatum all the way back to the original, Temptation Island.
The formats work because they create instant drama and tension in existing relationships. The key difference in Couple to Throuple is that the couples are doing all of this together, sharing the same bed with a person they choose together.
Those beds get a workout immediately. The first episode ends with a montage of sex filmed in night vision. It starts with a gentle kiss or two, quickly turns into passionate making out, and then three men are entwined in each other, a woman is moaning “yes, yes” while there’s intense movement under a sheet. Episode two opens with one of the three men getting an obvious hand job, and a foot twisting in orgasm.
I am all for television to be more open about real human sexuality, yet I was still taken aback at how much Couple to Throuple shows us.
When Rehman and Ashmal meet one of the singles, Chris, Rehman says, “he looked like Thor and the hammer was right here,” and we get multiple close-ups on the clear outline of Chris’ beefy penis inside his thin shorts.
The producers have provided a pool of bisexual and pansexual people for the couples to choose from, and in a nice twist, the singles get to choose which couples they’re interested in. The couples then choose one person from that group to live in their room together in their fabulous house in Panama.
While the singles are open to different pairings—male-male-female—In the first selections, all three male/female couples choose a female, and the male-male couple choose a guy after discussing the possibility of a woman, since one of them is bisexual.
But what is polyamory, beyond a spicy threesome? The early problem with Couple to Throuple is that the show and its participants have trouble articulating why they want to be in a throuple, or why polyamory appeals to them.
“Has monogamy been holding us back?” Scott Evans asks. (Evans is from Access Hollywood, and has experience with polyamory, he tells the couples; I wish the show would use him and his experience more.)
For those couples who have already had threesomes, monogamy is not holding them back from sexual experiences together. Evans also mentions “ethical non-monogamy,” i.e. everyone consents, but beyond that the show offers no definition, no parameters.
The best definition of throuple life comes from Rehman, who tells us that he and Ashmal have “had threesomes, we’ve had foursomes, but then the next morning, we kick ’em out the door. This is definitely going to be a new, interesting experience to see—do we want to keep that person in the house the next day? Do we want to cook them breakfast? And continue a relationship with them just after a one-night stand?”
Why is this desirable? Sean says he wants to be in a throuple so his partner, Brittne, can have “that intimacy with a female,” and when a person asks him what he’d get out of it—because, of course, he’s part of the throuple, too—he turns to Brittne and says, “maybe you can stop talking my ears off about everything.”
So Sean wants his partner of four years to have, you know, a friend? And their relationship is in a good place even though he wants her to shut up and stop talking to him? Sean also tells us that they met in a club—where everyone meets their boyfriends and girlfriends, duh—and the first thing he noticed about Brittne was “shit, she got a fat ass.”
Dylan and Lauren are married, had a threesome, and now want to try throuple life. “We’re obviously very happily married,” Dylan says, “but we want to connect with other people so they feel that love.”
Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of even sex with a third person. “How is this shit going to work?” Sean asks the next morning, after sleeping uncomfortably between two women.
“We have had experiences in the past where he’s crossed a boundary and that’s really hurt my feelings,” Corey says of her partner of nine years, Wilder, who has reality TV’s most conversation-worthy mustache since Big Brother’s Cory. So why have they decided to cross those boundaries now on reality TV?
Part of what makes Couple to Throuple watchable is the differing reactions among the couples who all signed up to be in a throuple.
The morning after the throuples spend their first night together, producers have a challenge about getting intimate, with one person watching as the other two explore various types of intimacy. Two of the couples have already been in OnlyFans territory, but during the challenge Wilder starts crying and says the safe word before the kissing round even begins.
Couple to Throuple’s setup leads to instant tension, and the producers inject more, like inviting the couples’ second options to dinner with them. So there’s plenty of fodder for juicy episodes of television. There’s also moments of levity, like a bonfire discussion interrupted by nature.
It remains to be seen if a reality TV show “experiment,” just a month long, can do more than have sexy times with singles, and form actual relationships with a new person.
One of the singles, Sanu, who happens to be a polyamory coach, shares her hurt feelings with her couple: “We’re going to use this person to figure out if polyamory is for us—and that just feels really dehumanizing, just an object for you guys to experiment with.”
That is very much what they’re there for, though: objects for experimentation.
The show presents the four couples in a way that makes them not seem like they might be better off on Couples Therapy than Couple to Throuple. “I don’t know what they’re trying to fix,” Jonathan says of his throuple partners. There is an expert, Shamyra Howard, who guides the challenges, but this is not counseling.
At a group dinner, Sean toasts to “new friends, new adventures, and whatever the fuck this is.” That’s perhaps the best tagline for Couple to Throuple.
Couple to Throuple
An exploration of polyamory takes a back seat to threesomes and drama. C+
What works for me:
- A show that’s more open to sexuality—and showing sex
- Little moments of humor
What could be better:
- Exploring what polyamory actually is or means to these couples