In a COVID-19 semester where every week feels identical, I know I can count on one thing to look forward to every week: reality TV. People Looking For Love in a Villa reality TV, to be exact. Last semester, I lived for the nightly episodes of Love Island USA (inarguably inferior to British and Australian Love Island, but hey, I’ll take what I can get), but this semester has been all about The Bachelor. However, with this season of The Bachelor finally coming to an end a couple weeks ago, what is next for us drama-hungry reality TV fans?
I present: Temptation Island, an immensely underrated program in the People Looking for Love in a Villa microgenre.
The plot: four couples that are at a crossroads in their relationships decide to come on the show. Usually, they have been together for several years and might be considering marriage, but there is some issue that is preventing their relationship from moving forward, be it trust issues or the simple question of whether they are meant to be together.
The 4 men are sent to a villa with 12 single women, and the 4 women are sent to a separate villa with 12 single men for several weeks of partying and “making connections” (their words, not mine) with the singletons, who are all “looking for love” with the taken cast members.
Of course, we all know they aren’t looking for love with someone who has been in a relationship for years. They’re here to party and gain Instagram followers, duh! The object of the game is to resist the temptation to cheat on your partner. Every few days, the coupled cast members attend a “bonfire,” in which they get to see a short video of what their partner has been up to in the other villa. Paranoid chaos ensues.
Much like last year’s Too Hot to Handle, despite all of the debauchery that plays out on the show, its main focus is self-growth and learning. Unlike Too Hot to Handle, though, they manage to strike a perfect balance between debauchery and self-growth. Host Mark L. Wahlberg asks just the right questions to get the participants to dig deeper into their relationships and truly learn about what they want and need in a partner, but the self-improvement aspect doesn’t detract from the drama and excitement of the show.
Interestingly, the self-growth focus also has some unfortunate consequences, namely the justification of cheating in the name of a “learning experience.” The show practically encourages the cast to feel justified in cheating on their partner, assuring them that it’s all part of their learning experience on the show. Watching the cheaters engage in this kind of mental gymnastics is a huge part of what makes Temptation Island so fun to watch. I think this gets at the heart of why we all watch reality TV—to feel better about ourselves and the problems we face. I may be struggling with schoolwork but hey, at least I’m not that guy who just convinced himself that cheating on his girlfriend was a good move.
Overall, Temptation Island is fascinating. It’s a social experiment, an edge-of-your-seat thriller and a dumpster-fire reality show all bundled in one. It consistently provides everything one could ask for in a reality series: people that make really poor decisions, and too much alcohol for anyone’s own good.
Currently, Temptation Island is airing its third season, and it looks like it might be the most entertaining yet. Allow me to introduce you to some of our main players:
First up, we have Erin and Corey, who are 18 months strong. Erin is very quick to tell you that she was a D1 athlete in college and has been living the ~athlete life~ ever since. Corey, who is a measly concierge manager and not a professional football player, is way too boring for her, and his self-confidence has spiraled since they started dating. Poor guy. So far, they’ve been holding up just fine. Realistically though, how long is that going to last?
Second are Erica and Kendal, who have been together for 2 and a half years. Kendal is a business owner and a full blown subscriber to the rise and grind mindset. He always criticizes Erica for not being as driven as he is. She’s just not girlboss enough for him! These two went into the show with “no rules” (BAD move) and thus are a total mess.
Given that both of these couples are clearly beyond incompatible, I think we’re in for an interesting season. And by interesting, I mean full of cheating and heartbreak. The show would be no fun if everything was just sunshine and rainbows for these couples! The heartbreak provides us with people to root for and others to hate, which is really why we all love reality TV in the first place, right?
So if you’re a tasteless reality TV-watcher like I am, I highly recommend giving this show a shot. I know that I’ll be looking forward to keeping up on season 3 for the rest of the semester!
Lauren Douglass is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.