As Ashley confides her deepest feelings to men who enjoy staring at her ass and then claiming to just want to be her friend, Casey is in a kitchen wearing only an apron. The girls around him cheer because standing next to a stove with only a piece of cloth covering your scrotum is a huge accomplishment. Nothing says sexy like a pubic hair garnish, right? But Casey’s balls grazing all the utensils in that kitchen is probably less of an issue than what’s going on in the hot tub outside. See, it’s there Dave is enjoying a little neck massage given by Toneata, and the emotional fallout that will surely occur when Kate sees Dave’s look of turned-on joy will not be pretty. And when Kate watches Dave massage Toneata? Sh*t is going to go down, even though Dave politely asks Toneata not to back her ass up into his crotch. From the kitchen (where Casey is still rocking only an apron) the rest of the group watches these two basically straddling one another and eventually Toneata – who remember, is purely looking for true and forever love! – dangles her boobs over Dave’s face while Casey predicts that the two will f*ck later that evening. This news of possible f*cking really upsets Kari. If Dave is choosing to officially ditch his actual girlfriend for a relative stranger, shouldn’t that be the stranger he already went on an awkward date with? Yes, emotions are running high in The Land of the F*cking Ridiculous.
Also: Gavin has decided he wants to go on a date with Medinah.
Also: Medinah is not feeling Gavin because she’s into Rick.
Also: Rick is by himself on a lounge chair mourning the loss of a relationship he had going on for almost half a decade.
Also: Why would any Tempter, male or female, enter into a “relationship” with a person who feels nothing but guilt about having an interest in you?
What’s that? Rick feels absolutely no guilt now? Rick is open to dating all the women shimmying through the living room? And his lack of guilt has led him to become bold and thus inform Medinah that he likes her and all, but he also would like to fully embrace this experience, and that translates to him wanting to chat up anything with a vagina?
“I’m trying to be transparent with you,” Ricks tells Medina, and she responds by saying that she doesn’t want to look stupid, which is maybe the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard someone who willingly goes on Temptation Island say with a straight face. But even more idiotic is when Rick stands up, grabs Medinah’s face, TELLS HER TO SHUT UP, and kisses her – and she reads this sh*t as romance.
Also: Medinah turns to Rick after the grabbing and the “Shut up” and trills, “You like me a lot.”
Also: Is there any way a professor can raft her way onto that island and teach a quick unit of Women’s Studies? Please? And can that professor arrive before Rachel crosses her fingers and pleads to the heavens for Casey, a guy with a girlfriend, to ask her out on a date?
And now it’s time for yet another Bonfire and the women are worried. Ashley H. is worried she showed her finest asset (No silly! It’s not her kindness or her intelligence! Ashley thinks her finest asset is her ass!) to too many people and Casey could get mad. Ashley G. is still in love with Rick, but she knows here’s a chance she ruined things by f*cking a stranger with a camera in the room. Kate is hoping her vulnerabilities will stay in check because she doesn’t want to act or feel like a victim anymore, and all I know is that Kate is about to see footage of a former Miss USA contestant dangling her nipples over Kate’s boyfriend in a hot tub, so acting like a victim might be okay for another second or two. Then I hope Kate acts like a badass and leaves this way-too-easily-tempted guy behind.
The women will get to the Bonfire eventually, but the men go first. Before they are forced to watch the most scandalous footage editors were able to compile on their girlfriends, Mark wants to know how the guys are doing. He appears pleased when Rick says he’s been acting in a more vulnerable way than he usually does. Perhaps if Mark knew Rick’s interpretation of vulnerability is grabbing a woman’s face and smiling while telling her to shut up, he wouldn’t be looking so proud right about now. With that problematic illustration of personal growth out of the way, it’s time for the men to see what their girlfriends have been up to recently. Gavin watches Esonica talk about how much her culture means to her and that Gavin has never inquired deeply about it. Gavin’s reaction is exactly the correct one: he feels guilty for having discounted her feelings and he would like to make things better in the future. Then it’s Dave’s turn. He watches his girlfriend confide to a handsome shirtless Aden that she doesn’t always feel valued by Dave, but that’s just how Dave is, okay? He doesn’t see why he should make it a priority to tell the woman who loves him that she too is adored. Besides, isn’t it really her fault for not instinctively knowing such a thing? Casey sees footage next, and though he looks like he’s dying inside when he watches Ashley shake her ass in the kitchen, he says she looks like she’s having all sorts of fun and isn’t that nice? That’s when Mark can’t take it anymore. That’s when he jumps in and asks the guys if they even realize the level of risk they’re dealing with here.
“Do you think any of those guys are going to fall in love with her?” he asks Casey – and this particular performance alone should earn Mark a sweet bonus. And that bonus should, of course, be doubled if he can get Casey to weep, right here and now.
“Just even thinking of it makes your heart beat really fast,” replies Casey.
Also: Has Casey really never considered the possibility that Ashley could fall in love with someone else while appearing on Temptation Island? Did he not watch last season? Is he seriously just dealing with this very obvious possibility for the first time right here next to a f*cking bonfire?
Mark then announces that Rick must be thinking about how deeply in peril his relationship is and then he destroys the guy further by screening for him some footage of Ashley cooing to KB that he’s making it so easy for her to move on to “bigger and better things.” It’s not enough for Rick to be insecure about his heart. No, the producers would also like for him to worry over his d*ck size. (Sorry, “deac” size.) Rick’s reaction is a stunned sadness and a resignation that his girlfriend has moved on from him. That may not actually be fully true, but he’s still hurt enough to almost be speechless and Mark lets him know that he hurts for him as well. Rick walks away wondering if there’s anything left for him to salvage with Ashley and it’s this aspect of the show that I think is most damaging. Yes, there are half-dressed people dancing around constantly and there is the freedom from sh*t like work and obligations that allows the contestants to focus only on their own pleasure, but what’s really messed up here is that couples experiencing confusion and fear are not allowed to be near one another to work out their issues. Instead, they must see snippets of moments designed to play on their biggest insecurities and then sit with those feelings alongside well-hung strangers willing to offer comfort. That any relationship survives on this show is actually a f*cking miracle.
When the women arrive, Ashley G. announces that she still loves Rick, but she knows they’ve now “provoked” one another, so who knows what will happen? My, if only there existed a way to stop oneself from provoking the person you love! In any case, Esonica is up first and she watches a woman decked out in crochet grind her ass against Gavin in the kitchen. Again in the kitchen! Is that room even f*cking sterile anymore? Esonica is not too perturbed; she knows she’s a way better dancer than the crochet chick anyway. Then it’s Ashley G.’s turn and she is devastated – devastated! – watching the boyfriend she already cheated on kiss a girl quickly and then tell her to shut up. Those are the kinds of things Rick should be saying to her! She breaks into hyperventilating tears and she says she hopes Rick can forgive her, but she’s not at all sure she can forgive him. It’s an admission that is as f*cked up as it is honest. She slept with another guy, her boyfriend had to see clips of it, yet she is the one who may not be able to forgive? Holy moral equivalency, Batman.
You’d think Ashley’s hysterics would be as bad as it gets for this particular Bonfire, but Kate and Ashley H. still have to watch naked boyfriends donning only an apron and straddling that occurs in a hot tub, so let’s get to it, shall we? Turns out there’s only time left this episode to crush Kate’s psyche and self-worth. She sees Toneata rubbing up on Dave and she notices that Dave does not pull away. Then she cries that Dave is not being respectful of her feelings, which are, incidentally, the very feelings he finds it so irritating to have to respond to anyway. Maybe this moment will be a turning point for Kate. Maybe she can gather her strength with the support of her new girlfriends and head back to that villa ready to find someone new, someone worthy of her.
And maybe Aden is still shirtless in the driveway.
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.