But before I can throw any other Superman references out there or mention that I think it would be fun to run Dave over with Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, it’s time for Ashley and Rick’s Bonfire. Ashley is worried that Rick has grown beyond her and Rick is worried he will never be able to trust Ashley. He does, however, greet her with a warm smile and he gives her a good hug. They don’t really speak right away because the rules of the Bonfire do not allow for any kind of small talk. They instead have to listen to one another without interrupting and Rick is asked by Mark to go first and explain to Ashley what his experience on the island has been like and what he’s learned since he arrived. Rick begins by telling Ashley about the ways he was tempted by Medinah and I’m happy he calls Medinah “a great woman.” He says they didn’t have sex, but they did kiss and they did cuddle and she did teach him a lot, like how maybe he wasn’t so effective at handling some of the conflicts he had with Ashley in the past. But while he’s speaking, it’s beyond obvious that Ashley is still exclusively reading the imaginary subtext of his words. She is focusing only on what Rick could be saying that could maybe cause her to feel pain rather than sifting through his words for the love that’s so evidently there. If he chooses her – which we all know he will – the misreading of conversations will always be a factor in Rick’s life. What Rick is attempting to actually get Ashley to understand is that she has been in the back of his mind the entire time, even when he was subjected to watching things that were all kinds of difficult to see. He concludes by saying that he has learned he needs to make Ashley his number one priority. How this man reached this particular decision is beyond me, but I’m quite sure it means he’s a kinder person than I am – either that, or he’s lost his entire f*cking mind. Ashley, looking vulnerable, cries as she begins to speak, but she also flatly blames Rick for kicking her insecurity into high-gear by tossing out his “I’m not trying to cuff her” comment, which – again – was said in public while cameras were aimed at his face during a tropical excursion Rick didn’t much feel like heading on in the first f*cking place. That Ashley is able to claim his comment MUST have meant he had no feelings or commitment to his girlfriend of almost five years and that’s why she banged a heathen, well, I just have no words anymore. Then, after blaming Rick, she says she takes responsibility for what went down with KB and she also says she has no idea what her future holds at this point. That’s when Mark jumps in. He tells her there are three potential options here. She can leave the island with Rick, she can leave alone as the independent women he swears she has become (at least that’s what written in his script), or she can leave with some other guy and humiliate Rick one last time. She holds her hands up to her face and appears confused about this choice, so she looks at Rick and says, “You go first.” “You go first,” Rick responds. “He asked you.” But then Rick breaks, much as he will have to in order to survive the coming years of his life, and he tells Ashley he never stopped caring about her, but he was out on the island looking to make an emotional connection that would better him as a man while Ashley just went the sexual connection route. He moved forward and she moved backward, Rick complains.
“She forgave you for your transgressions in the past,” Mark tells Rick. “Can you forgive her for her transgressions here?”
Rick takes a second. The Bonfires he had to sit through were hellish – and that comparison doesn’t even involve the flames. What he was forced to see was humiliating. But then he looks at Ashley and asks if she loves him. When she nods, he agrees that he loves her too and they decide to leave that island together.
Also: Isn’t it amazing how Ashley’s tears suddenly cease flowing the second she gets exactly what she wants?
I suppose if you’re Rick, Ashley, or if you’re highly medicated, you would look at this particular Bonfire as a happy ending, which means it’s time to bring forth the tragedy! Bring on Dave and Kate!
Let’s start with Dave. He’s in a car worrying that he will be so nervous upon seeing his girlfriend that he will not be able to say all the things he wants to say, which means he’ll have a tough time croaking out sentences like “I’m really sorry I hurt you and I will keep saying I’m sorry even though I have no intention of not hurting you. Also, I have to make this conversation where I’m pretending to be morose kind of snappy because my flight to L.A. leaves soon, unless a scientist captures me before then because I may be the finest test subject for a clinical study in narcissism.” Kate, however, feels calm. She knows that could change once she sees Dave, but she feels like she’s about to confront someone she barely knows.
“Right now I feel strong and comfortable in my own skin,” Kate tells Mark while looking hotter than she ever has in a dress I want to immediately own in two colors.
Also: Mark is fantastic at these final Bonfires. Yes, he’s a host of a reality show. Sure, he is paid to help elicit misery from the show’s participants. But he is fatherly and he is warm and his presence in the end is comforting to me as a viewer, so I can only imagine how comforting the participants of this show must find him in these miserable moments.
When Dave arrives, Kate greets him with far too upbeat a “Hiiiiiiiii” for my liking, but at this juncture, only impalement of the guy’s scrotum would really bring me joy. Kate is asked to speak first and the woman is masterful at attempting to excoriate a man who doesn’t have the capacity to actually be excoriated because that would require the ability to feel humility and empathy and Dave forgot to pack those things because he had to make room for his extra tubes of hair gel. Still, Kate thanks him for bringing her to a place where she was able to recognize her worth. She tells him she feels confident and beautiful. She informs him the men in her villa could not believe a girl as phenomenal as she is had to sit through devastating video footage of romantic betrayal. She asserts that she finally understands her own worth and that he has helped her realize exactly what it is she does not deserve. “I think you selfishly and cowardly brought me here for your own gains,” she informs the selfish coward sitting beside her, the one that’s finding it hard to look at her right now, especially when she tells him that she is not the type of girl who ever should have been on a show like this in the first place. Then she tells him what a shame it is that she had to be away from him in order to realize that she’s strong and pretty and confident.
Dave begins speaking next and he would like Kate to know a few things:
1. He didn’t bring her on Temptation Island to embarrass her. (He’s just an assh*le, and assh*les embarrass those unlucky enough to love them.)
2. He brought them to that island because he was hoping they would grow. (But instead of pouring water on their relationship to help in that growing process, he decided to focus instead on other wet liquids that were way more fun for him to cultivate.)
3. He swears he has grown! (His evidence for said growth is that she just witnessed him cry. Sure, there were no actual tears present, but he did rub his eyes and look sheepish! How’s that for evolution?!)
4. The massive amount of self-reflation he has done means he fully comprehends that Kate watching him shower with a woman and engage in a threesome probably hurt her, but since those activities involved zero emotions on his part, Kate should be able to get over those silly incidents. But yes, he does realize how much having to watch those moments probably hurt her. (And he decided to do it all anyway.)
5. He would also like to catalogue everything he did at the villa for Kate. (Dave is honest, you guys! Remember? He tells us that a lot after he’s done lying to a blonde woman.)
6. He informs Kate he got lap dances, showered with Samantha, hooked up with Samantha and Payton, but he only sees those girls as friends.
It’s around this time when the camera cuts to Mark stifling his smile because it’s hard not to giggle at someone pretending to be earnest when that person is such an emotionally warped pile of pig vomit. It’s also around this point when Kate asks Dave to clarify that Toneata saw him behaving this way and then decided she wanted to be with him for real? “That’s really sad,” Kate tells him, and then she cuts off the rest of his honesty by telling him he really doesn’t need to tell all of America how brazenly he whored himself out all in the name of faux personal growth.
The episode ends there, on Kate morphing before our eyes into a mini superhero. I have no idea what will happen when this Bonfire resumes next week or if they leave the island apart and somehow get back together – which is not something I’m willing to fully discount as a possibly yet. I mean, I have experience dating some truly evil people and those people did not reach levels of peak evil without understanding the power of manipulation and then wielding it like a sword. But right here – right now – Kate is staring straight at her walking piece of kryptonite and she doesn’t even need to tie on a cape to feel strong.
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.