A Reunion episode didn’t close out last season of Temptation Island, which means we were robbed of seeing the participants of this televised madness decked out in their mainland finery. We also didn’t get to see Mark wearing a suit while looking a wee bit nervous about having to confront a bunch of people who have spent the last several months setting Google Alerts on themselves. But last season isn’t this season! We now have a Reunion to serve as an epilogue to a season I have privately taken to calling American Psycho 2: David Sucks Even Harder Than Patrick Bateman and my only hope going in is that the alcohol budget for this event was low and the security budget was sky f*cking high.
Our first clue that things will eventually turn fully bonkers is the wide shot of the original couples glowering in their Reunion chairs. Rick looks terrified, Ashley G. looks annoyed, Esonica looks defensive, David looks like he was foolish enough to listen to a stylist swear to him that hunter green is totally his color, and Ashley H. is sitting there alone because Casey did not show up for the Reunion. Is this sh*t not contractually obligated? If it’s not, I almost respect the guy for not showing up to relive his emotional torment, but a piece of me is also quite concerned that he’s taken to a life of agoraphobia and his only companions are a bunch of rats he keeps in a box.
He calls them Ashley.
When Mark introduces the original couples – minus Ashley’s initial plus-one – all you have to do is take a brief gander at these peoples’ faces and realize the turmoil being on this show has caused. Rick is questioned first and he tries to put a positive spin on how things are going. He is not currently with Ashley G., but that’s all good because they are way better as friends! And how does imaginary-subtext-reading-passive-aggressive-behaving-I-will-sleep-with-a-monster-while-a-camera-is-mounted-atop-my-headboard Ashley feel about her new friendship with Rick? Well, my friends, her eyes look dead and there is not a shot in the flaming bowels of Hell – which, incidentally, is the exact location of this Reunion – that security will not be required in the near future because dead-eyed Ashley will not remain this tame for long and we all know it. So while I find myself actively hoping that Mark is swathed in bubble wrap underneath his clothing for extra protection from the kind of shenanigans this Reunion was created for, Ashley tells Mark she’s feeling numb and we are gifted a shot of Medinah smiling.
Yeah – things are about to get messy.
Speaking of total f*cking messes, Kate and David are up first. Kate reveals that she and David still speak and they appear to basically be back together, a revelation that is both stunning and very sad. David sits next to her looking similar to how Satan would look if he chose to start a boy band, and I suppose David’s groupies (I’ve named his band Mephistopheles’ Assh*le) can be Payton and Samantha. They are called up to chat about their experiences with a guy living out the kind of post-adolescent Spring Break that would only be advertised on a website for confirmed narcissists. After starting the sequence by screening footage of David’s threesome, Mark realizes there’s a chance Kate has not yet had the pleasure of meeting Payton or Samantha! Such a thing must be remedied at once! Kate waves slightly and says hello to two women who were basically hired to cause her pain. Then Kate explains that the footage will never get easier for her to watch and Dave maintains that he still feels all kinds of guilt for hurting her but Payton – bless her crazy soul! – is rolling her eyes grandly and that means there’s a story here and the story is not constructed around the narrative that David has changed from a monster into someone even vaguely decent. As is typical when you’re dealing with attention-seeking f*cking liars, the tales that come tumbling out are rather confusing, but here’s the basic gist of The Most Pitiable Love Story Ever Told:
1. David and Samantha maybe kissed off camera while they were on the show.
2. David denies kissing Samantha off camera and claims she’s just bitter because he chose Toneata instead of her (or, you know, his actual girlfriend, but that’s neither here or there right now.)
3. Payton is wearing a dress cut down to her clitoris.
4. Kate is begging David to tell her the truth, and the fact that she thinks he’s capable of even wanting to do such a thing blows my entire mind.
5. Samantha knows Kate and David are still hanging out and she knows that because Kate posted a picture from David’s balcony and Samantha is very familiar with that particular balcony because she has also been at Dave’s place and they had sex there, a revelation that makes Samantha appear just as pathetic as David right now. Is this not the woman who ranted and raved that she wanted a man and not a boy? Is it possible she just wanted to bang on a balcony?
6. Poor Kate somehow allowed herself to believe that she and David were on the same team and is now shocked – shocked! – that this lying liar lied.
7. Dave boldly denies sleeping with Samantha.
8. The rest of the group stifles laughter when he denies what is so obviously true.
9. Kate is still in love with David.
10. I will be forming a prayer group – or a coven – designed to help Kate break free from her addiction to this piece of hairy garbage. (New members should arrive promptly at the appearance of the next full moon and should bring with them a cauldron and some very sharp pins. I, however, will provide the David-shaped voodoo dolls because I am a very good hostess.)
11. Kate walks offstage at one point and Ashley G. goes after her.
12. Samantha asks David why he’s lying and I have zero doubt she will soon f*ck this guy again.
13. David is a full-fledged sociopath and he proves it when he gaslights Kate IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE by telling her that she’s crazy to believe Samantha over him – even though he has lied repeatedly, flagrantly, and he’s done it with such terrible hair.
14. After the commercial break, Toneata and Dominique are brought into this hideous equation because it’s nice for David to get to lie to more people.
15. We watch a montage of Toneata and David and learn Toneata introduced David to her family when they left the island, but once they actually got to know one another, they realized they weren’t the right fit.
16. Toneata coming to the realization that David sucks is probably why David has been so actively lying to Kate again. God forbid the douchebag is single for even a moment and is then left alone with only his thoughts.
17. Toneata says Dave wanted to move to L.A.so he could become an actor/model.
18. Toneata thinks she was used just so this terrible person could move to L.A. and land himself an agent.
19. Toneata is correct.
20. Oh – and Kate didn’t know David met Toneata’s mom, but he swears he told her. I see no reason not to believe him; he has proven himself so very trustworthy.
21. Gaslighting only Kate has become very boring for David. He’s now including Toneata in his lying circle by promising her that there’s no way he would have used her just to become a model.
22. (Just to throw this out there, my coven and I will officially boycott any product ever modeled by this greasy haired pig boy.)
23. Kate says she doesn’t “know what truth is anymore,” and from both my own experiences and from the bottom of my heart, I am going to implore her to get away from this man right now. Not knowing what’s real is only the beginning of this terrible ride and I swear it will get far worse. Leaving this guy is now about survival.
24. Dominique and Kate spoke every day when they got back from the island – until she reunited with David and cut an actually good man loose.
25. David makes sure to toss out the news that he and Kate have been intimate recently, which causes Deac to laugh at him and Medinah to roll her eyes. My own reaction to the news was rather painful as my vagina sewed itself shut in protest.
The sequence ends with Kate crying, with Dave dry-eyed and calm, and with this sad couple essentially still together. These two? They are more than a cautionary tale. They are a f*cking Lifetime movie called A Sociopath’s Story that David would never be talented enough to get cast in.
Esonica and Gavin are up next and Mark begins by showing the clip of Gavin sucking Payton’s toes, a visual Payton finds absolutely hilarious. Everyone else seems more than a little disgusted, but you can’t blame a crazy person for not correctly reading the temperature of the room, not when this room’s temperature is very different from the temperature in the imaginary world the crazy person tends to reside. Anyway, when Esonica and Gavin returned to real life and discussed their island happenings, Esonica never told Gavin about the night she and Kareem got cozy in her bed and Gavin is furious that she didn’t tell him everything. It’s all very confusing, but I think Esonica wants to be back with Gavin and he’s not interested because she lied by omission? Hard to tell, but I do know Esonica is crying, she looks pretty in purple, Gavin tells her that her lying caused him to no longer respect her, and Esonica – growing tired of waiting for someone to yell “Cut!” to get her out of this mess – takes matters into her own hands by thanking everyone for allowing her to experience even more humiliation before she ends the scene by calling out “F*ck this sh*t” and walking out of frame never to return.
Also: Everyone seems to want Esonica to end up with Gavin.
Also: Not a bit of me wishes that for her. I think she will be happier with someone she doesn’t have to resent for the very rest of time.
Before Ashley H. is called up to speak with Mark, we got a shot of Ben turning to Deac and shaking his head slowly, which according to the official rules of Temptation Island Charades means he and Ashley are no longer together. But it seems the majority of this segment will be about the absent Casey. By choosing not to show up, the producers had to fill some time and they chose to do that by pointing out every single misstep Casey made on the island, but all that’s really illustrated in the montage they use is how Payton comes off repeatedly as unbalanced. Still, Ashley thanks Payton for being, um, sweet, and all seems to be perfectly fine and perfectly fake until Ashley G. busts in to say that Ashley H. does not think Payton is nice and the confessional Payton left her was all about Casey not wanting her, not about Payton being concerned about f*cking sisterhood. And listen, watching Ashley G. stand up for her friend to a person I’m all but certain will be appearing on several other low-budget reality shows very soon is all kinds of fun, but it’s really just an appetizer for the upcoming Ashley/Medinah/Rick/KB show. At some point during an exchange about Casey and Ashley H., Medinah tells Ashley G. “I got your man” and I’m positive things are going to get way more nuts here and I only hope the insanity happens before Payton’s t*ts fall fully out of her dress.
But back to the implosion of Ashley and Casey. It appears Rachel is still very close to Casey and she speaks to him every single day. She gently tells Ashley that maybe being in such constant contact with Casey isn’t good for him when it comes to the guy needing to move on. Ashley says she’s not the only one making those phone calls, but I think Rachel is on to something. As for what happened with Ashley and Ben – and you know something did happen or the girl wouldn’t be calling Casey – they got off the island and she says he broke up with her two days later. Ben’s story differs from Ashley’s. He claims she went home to Florida and hooked up with Casey (the guy he so sweetly calls “a loser”), and while Ashley denies sleeping with Casey and swears they only kissed, the town crier of the group – that would be Samantha – swears Casey told her that he and Ashley had sex. In any case, Ashley is now single, Casey has publicly been called a loser, and Ben is in a decent place because his kissing skills have been celebrated all over the primetime television landscape. He should be fine moving forward.
Also: I expect Casey and Ashley will get back together.
Also: I admire Rachel’s loyalty to Casey and I think she should be rewarded with her very own burial plot that’s in close proximity to her dear friend and the woman with whom he is obsessed.
Ashley G. and Rick are the last couple to dissect their experience and this segment goes about as well as you’d expect. We see footage of them spending time with other people – and KB, seeing as he’s a ginormous tool, proudly mouths his “I’m the Captain now” line as it plays. (I expect that sentence will be tattooed upon his smaller-than-Rick’s d*ck by sunrise.) We see Ashley smiling self-importantly as she watches herself fight with KB. KB applauds the segment when it’s over, though he’s the only one who does, and you just know the guy high-fives himself after sex and then makes the girl sleep in the wet spot. As for how it felt for Rick to see Ashley have sex with KB on NIGHT ONE, he admits that it hurt, especially since it didn’t appear that they even had a real connection and it looked like his girl betrayed him for someone who was just playing her. When Medinah accurately says that KB did play Ashley, Ashley reacts like a fully-grown woman – so long as that woman was raised in the forest by bipolar wolves. She tells Medinah to “Shut up,” an act that endears her to absolutely nobody, while KB continues to prove that whatever insecurity drove him during his adolescence has now morphed into a superiority complex so confounding that even the host of this show stares at him open-mouthed because assh*les this transparent are hard to come by.
You know what’s sadly not all that original on a reality show? A person behaving like a demented moron, which is exactly how Ashley is conducting herself. She appears deranged, like she’s come down with a spontaneous case of Tourette’s, and is therefore patently unable to stop herself from saying “Shut the f*ck up” every time Medinah utters a single syllable. If Ashley is truly curious as to why Rick isn’t with her, perhaps she should watch this sequence back one day with a therapist by her side. She comes off looking unstable and petty, like when Medinah and Rick admit there may very well be a relationship in their future and yet another “Shut the f*ck up” pops out of Ashley’s smirking mouth. Listen, I’m not saying having self-awareness is easy or that acknowledging your deepest flaws doesn’t hurt like a motherf*cker, but choosing instead to walk through the world while acting this blatantly psychotic and showering the hurt you feel on everyone else instead of marinating in that hurt so you can actually learn something is a toddler’s mentality and the idea of Ashley as a toddler now has me contemplating making an appointment to have my tubes tied.
I tell you, watching this show has been murder on my nether regions.
With Ashley seemingly restrained and security still on alert, the Reunion ends with the success stories that have come out of a show that, this season, apparently instead drove every participant stark raving mad. But season one produced two engagements, and the betrothed are here 1) To show off their growth and their bliss and 2) Because a free trip to L.A. is very nice this time of year. Shari and Javen look calm and swear they have more trust for one another now and Morgan and Evan are still engaged and still happy, a pronouncement that causes the Tempters and Temptresses at the Reunion to applaud because one couple working out like this means the rest of them can continue to claim that they came on this show purely to find forever love instead of revealing the oh-so-very-obvious truth that what they were really after was exposure they could then parlay into this century’s highest commodities: an endorsement deal for weight loss gummies and an invitation to join a caravan at some festival like Stage Coach so they can chill beside all the people from Bachelor Land while swearing to themselves and to one another that they are all officially famous.
And as this season skids to a close, some questions and concerns remain. I continue to wonder about Casey’s real motivation for coming on the show. I do not understand how Ashley H., even briefly, reunited with a man who included death imagery as part of a marriage proposal. I worry Kate will allow David to continue to lie to her and I expect Samantha will have sex with the guy several more times, even though he screamed at her – WHILE HE SAT ON THE SET OF A REALITY TV REUNION WEARING A MICROPHONE – that she is just trying to remain relevant. I’m concerned Esonica is being made to feel like sh*t for doing naked things with Kareem when we all know Gavin would have tried to do the same things to Mia had she not turned down the overnight date and I’m seriously worried that Medinah will need to reorganize her finances in the coming year because “security detail” just moved from her Want category to her Need category. I am concerned Ashley G. will always blame others for her terrible choices, that KB and Payton will form a singing duo called The Lunatics, and that somewhere out there right now is a twenty-something person sitting on a futon who is lost and tired of having to work and views Tana Mongeau as the ultimate inspiration and sees the exact show we just cringed through as An Opportunity. If you are that person, my coven and I will be praying for you. (Covens pray, right?) But if you are just a viewer and a reader of these recaps, I thank you madly for joining me on this bumpy ride to nowhere. May you have the happiest of holidays, the finest new year, and may your dreams of love never get compromised by some dipsh*t who maintains to be the Captain of a ship that never f*cking existed.
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.