Romeo and Juliet. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Holden Caulfield and that metaphorical kid he keeps trying to save over there in the rye. Kim Kardashian and herself. What do all these pairings have in common? I think the main link between them is a level of adoration that borders on the obsessive. What these people feel for one another (and what Kardashian seems to feel for herself) is the kind of adoration that’s so powerful, its very presence causes the world to feel electrically charged. And now it’s time to add another couple to this illustrious list, so let’s all grasp hands and welcome Tevin and Kenya! They are the stars of what I like to call THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TO BE TOLD ON REALITY TELEVISION AS THE APOCALYPSE LOOMS. Tevin, you see, is a modern day Renaissance man. Okay, I actually have no idea what the kid does, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say he’s an artist who happens to look a great deal like one of the greatest lipsynchers of our time so I’ve decided that factor alone makes him Renaissance-adjacent. His for-right-now beloved is Kenya, a woman who enjoys sitting on the lap of her ex-boyfriend probably way more than she should. But ever since that most recent ex left the island, Kenya decided that it might be kind of fun to settle and she declared her love for a very sweet (but a very very dim) Tevin. And guess what?! The MTV-sanctioned “relationship experts” (anyone besides me want to see the degree that officially deems these people experts?) agree with her! The lights of that Truth Booth – the ones that don’t actually do anything integral to the process – pass over their bodies and we learn that this house filled with emotional misfits has finally identified another perfect match! There are cheers and shouts of elation, but if you listen carefully, I’m pretty sure you can also hear the sound of nails and a very busy hammer. That noise? Oh, that’s Shamoy and Maria. They’re barricading the door of their until-now private Honeymoon Suite. Wouldn’t you do the exact same thing?
“I’ve never met someone else who gets me – and who I just get,” Tevin the Verbal Genius marvels after the completion of the Truth Booth. Then he carries Kenya back to the house where everyone jumps up and down in celebration. One of the revelers is Jasmine, but now that Kenya feels validated about her relationship because some dime-store “experts” told her she should, all the animosity she once had for this pathetic Perpetual Side Piece (blame MTV for that moniker, people; do not blame me) has gone dripping out of her brain and she hugs Jasmine and allows this non-threat to be happy for her. Ah, growth. Being deemed one half of a perfect match has turned Kenya into a swami. She is now all about dispensing relationship advice to the idiots before her and some of her pearls of wisdom include that you must “let it all out” and “play with your heart.” I think maybe she should also recommend that you find someone who will immediately forgive you for giving head to someone else, but perhaps she mentioned that one during a commercial break.
The fuzzy feelings created by these two finding an approximation of love infect the others almost immediately. Samantha is moved to forgive Daniel for allowing Cali to rub her vagina against his junk. After all, both Kenya and Tevin cheated on one another! Maybe cheating followed by a resigned forgiveness is the key to happiness! Kwasi decides he will pack a picnic lunch for Jasmine so they can get to know one another better and, once again, Jasmine is simply thrilled someone is giving her actual attention. Her bliss is so heightened and consuming that she’s able to overlook that she’s getting attention from a man who willfully admits that sometimes his rage grows severe enough that he has christened himself “The Kwasi Beast.” Um, Jasmine? Here’s the way life works, dear: when a man cannot control his rage, that’s a recipe for disaster. And if you think you’re the one who can keep that fury contained, you will be proven incorrectly very soon. That rage will eventually be aimed at you and it will be stunning and it will be scary and it will be devastating. And it will absolutely happen. Still don’t trust me? Then maybe ask yourself if you should find it as romantic as you seem to when during what is essentially a first date, this guy actually says the words, “I don’t want you to look at anyone else.” Is being wanted enough for you to be all in here?
Also: Comparing yourself to Belle because you think you are about to tame The Kwasi Beast is not adorable like you think it is, Jasmine. It is a f*cking premonition that no magical flower petal will be able to reverse.
It’s Ceremony time! Last week ended with a Truth Booth, so only ten minutes into this episode, Terrence J greets the group at their eighth chance to secure their matches. The women get to choose tonight and the selections are as follows:
Asia picks Daniel and I am officially confused. Wasn’t Samantha just frying chicken up in a pan for Daniel? My confusion feels validated by the look of shock that passes across Terrence J’s face and Asia explains – while Samantha stares bloody daggers at her – that she’s just trying to think outside the box and maybe she and Daniel are a match. So yeah, for anyone concerned that the level of hysteria in the house would maybe plummet because the season is almost over, my presumption is you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Lauren chooses Cam. I have zero investment in their possible relationship because Lauren has uttered a grand total of sixteen sentences onscreen all season long. It’s sort of impossible to care about whether or not she finds long-lasting happiness or what she might end up doing with the $45,000 (before taxes) that she might walk away with.
Bria chooses Lewis.
Samantha picks Andrew, though the chances that she will cook him anything in the poultry family seems slim.
Kayla selects Moe. Kwasi approves of this pairing because he thinks they’re both f*cking weird.
Cali chooses Zack. After all, he was one of the guys she rubbed her vagina on during the last party and he did seem to enjoy that rubbing. Maybe they’re meant to be! When Zack saunters up to lock in his match, Terrence J asks where things stand between him and Morgan and Zack says the same thing he always does after he publicly treats a woman like garbage. He says he’s sorry and he should have shown more respect. What he doesn’t say is that he will continue to do the very same thing to every woman unlucky enough to get close to him because he is an emotional Neanderthal who fears personal growth and self-awareness with the same terror that I fear rodents invading my home.
Morgan, having now been the recipient of Zack’s half-assed apology one too many times, declares she’s over him and chooses Tomas.
Nutsa – who in her spare time has become Morgan’s self-esteem and dignity booster – picks Brett.
Jasmine and Kwasi are the only ones left, but Kwasi is thrilled that they are locking in as a match because something switched over in that Kwasi Brain and now he’s fully infatuated with a girl who in turn is infatuated with the idea that anyone can be infatuated with her.
And now it’s time to find out how many matches were made this week, though I’m not even going to pretend that I didn’t consider getting down on my knees so I could briefly pray that they’d nail all eleven matches and this show could finally be over. Perhaps it’s due to my atheist tendencies, but the prayer did not come true. They get only two paltry beams and Terrence J has to walk away from his totally unnecessary podium for a second because of the disgust sweeping through his body. This is week eight! They’ve only nailed two beams tonight? “I’m really worried,” Terrence J says gravely, and indeed they do only have two more chances to secure those other seven beams. So what will surely happen now is that they will all go back to the house and have yet another meeting about “opening up” and “playing with your heart” and everyone can blame one another for the lack of progress before things go right back to how they’ve been the entire time.
An air of dejection infests the house, probably because they are failing terribly at this televised experiment – or maybe that sad air is invading the environment because many of them suck as people. Oh, I’m sorry. Did that statement about being examples of human suckage seem cruel? I’d love for you to tell me what I should call it instead then when after all that’s gone down, Morgan still wakes up in the morning wanting to have sex with Zack and then blames this choice on simply being sexually frustrated instead of calling it like it is, which is that she’s a doormat. It’s Jasmine who cautions her not to do such a moronic thing, but Morgan is insistent. It’s just sex! Women have needs! She feels nothing for the guy, nothing! And it is precisely because she has no respect for him that she will allow the guy to writhe above her while cameras film every single second and we can either call such a decision a startling example of post-post-post-post-modern feminism or we can be honest and just call it another tragic f*cking mistake.
The sex that means nothing causes an uproar in the house. Though Zack appears mildly pleased with himself for getting a piece of ass – and from someone who publicly announced that she no longer has respect from him at that! – Kwasi is annoyed. With Morgan and Zack doing whatever it is they’re doing, they are not connecting with other people who could actually end up being their matches and that may very well screw up the next Ceremony. After hearing the news from Kwasi, Asia tells Zack that he should be involved in the discussion since the thesis of that discussion is how badly he sucks. Morgan joins the crew and neither can understand why anyone is making a big deal out of the fact that they f*cked the night before. That alone is pretty funny, but it’s not nearly as hilarious as Bria shouting that Morgan should get some dignity. Is this the same Bria who shoved her tongue into Zack’s mouth three times after he cheated on her? Because I’m thinking Bria’s criticisms here are akin to the psychotic pot calling the kettle schizophrenic.
Maybe a date will pull these people out of their own asses. The Fate Button selects Jasmine, Samantha, Cam, and Tomas. The group as a whole is immediately disappointed by the seeming randomness of these pairings. For a second, it even looks dire enough for The Kwasi Beast to emerge, but Terrence J is quick to remind them that they have only gotten two beams and what that means is they don’t know anything, so perhaps they should just go with it and see what happens with these prospective couples. The date itself involves a boat, some snorkeling, and four people who barely know one another asking probing questions to see if maybe some soulmates are standing on the portside at this very moment. What Cam and Samantha seem to have in common is that they are articulate and only fly off the handle into brief lunacy when specifically provoked, but that’s enough for them and some of the house to wonder if these two could indeed be a match. Still, let’s not discount the idea that Jasmine should maybe be with Cam. Though she swore to her Kwasi Beast that she would remain true to him, the girl does have eyes and she knows his spontaneous and explosive anger could prove difficult or dangerous in the long run.
Also: Without a doubt, Cam is the only person in that entire house who would ever utter the sentence, “We could go to a gala.” And I’m so tickled he used that kind of vocabulary word that I’m almost able to ignore that the gala he’s probably referencing is for some republican candidate who thinks it’s fine to stick children in cages.
Also: I said almost.
Cam and Jasmine’s conversation ends with them kissing. I’m certain this will not cause any conflict in the slightest. Then again, I also used to be certain that mermaids existed and frolicked in the lake near the house I where I grew up.
When they return home from the date, Terrence J stops by. Since his entire role on this show seems to be riling these people up and then condemning them for being too emotional, he asks what happened between Cam and Jasmine and they reveal the kiss they shared. Kwasi is furious, Bria is furious for him because Bria likes to feel furious, Jasmine feels badly that her actions hurt Kwasi, but she also knows this is a game and she’s trying to win some money by finding out which guy she clicks with for real. In any case, it’s not Jasmine and Cam voted into the Truth Booth. The two people heading in are Cam and Samantha. They feel no romantic connection, but they are still hoping they’re a perfect match so they have a chance of winning this game. And if that means a sexless Honeymoon Suite experience while they watch Kenya and Tevin swing naked from some chandeliers, so f*cking be it.
These two are not a match and they reenter the house with a shrug. Meanwhile, Cam counsels Jasmine to go speak to Kwasi and tell him what she told Cam on the boat – that she does care about him but she has some reservations. While Kwasi isn’t all that interested in hearing anything Jasmine has to say, he sits beside her and listens as she apologizes for hurting him, though she will not apologize for kissing Cam. “You kissed a guy that I almost beat up,” says Kwasi, and he’s not wrong. The thing is, Jasmine’s not wrong either and this scene right here is a perfect example of why finding legitimate love through a dating show will almost always be a fool’s mission. There’s no way to navigate a scenario like this without hurting someone else, so shouldn’t it at least be considered that splitting a million dollars between twenty-two people is maybe not worth the emotional devastation that will undoubtedly be brought forth?
Even after Kwasi screams in Jasmine’s face that she’s weak and even after he refuses to admit that she’s correct when she reminds him of how he berated Cam for not getting closer to other people for the sake of the game and even after he goes into a room and rants at the very top of his lungs, “I don’t want to be here no more!” and even after he collapses shirtless on the ground into the lap of a producer who very much should get a raise pronto, Jasmine still chooses to see his departure from her romantic life as only a negative thing. This girl castigates herself for allowing the one guy who gave her some attention to stalk out of her life. She doesn’t concentrate on anything except the fact that she now feels a void where attention used to be because, in this pretend Disney Princess’ mind, being adored by someone else is the only way she can like herself.
Belle would be f*cking horrified.
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. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com. Her twitter is @nell_kalter.