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‘Temptation Island’ is cheesy gold

On "Temptation Island," Nicole wonders whether she really loves Karl, her boyfriend of two years (JOHN TSIAVIS/USA Network).

“Accidentally started watching #TemptationIsland about 10 minutes ago. I guess I watch temptation island now.” -Ashley Bollinger on Twitter

The same thing happened to me one rainy Tuesday as I sat in my room scrolling through Instagram between classes: basically a normal day in room 200. The unusual thing was that once I started watching “Temptation Island” after clicking on a YouTube link, I couldn’t stop. The concept, the drama and the meme-ability of the 42 minutes of episode one made me immediately invested and emotionally involved in the relationships doomed to crash and burn in front of millions of viewers. And, if you are a fan of “The Bachelor” or “Love Island,” I think you will get ensnared right along with me.

In this reboot of the early 2000s classic reality television show, four unmarried couples who are “at a crossroads in their relationships” are sent to a gorgeous, remote island where they will be separated and tempted by the numerous hot, single men and women living with them in their separate beach villas. The couples get to drink and chat with the singles at the house, go on lavish dates around the island, and, in a surprise twist, get to watch videos of what their partners have been up to on their own drama-filled adventures.

The four main couples are Evan and Kaci, Javen and Shari, Karl and Nicole and John and Kady. Evan and Kaci have been dating for almost 10 years. Kaci feels pressured by her religious family to get married as soon as possible, while Evan doesn’t see the need for a ring and piece of paper to justify what they have together. Javen and Shari were high school sweethearts and have been together ever since, but Shari still has reservations because of Javen’s cheating past. Karl and Nicole have been dating for more than two years after meeting at the gym. Karl is Nicole’s first serious boyfriend, but she wonders if this is real love or just a honeymoon phase. John and Kady have been together for almost three years after meeting on Bumble, but Kady feels that John isn’t her ideal man, i.e. “outdoorsy” or “an alpha male.”

Part of what drew me in so quickly was the contrast between rooting for the couples to resist temptation and cheering them on when they make new connections–because, let’s be real, some of the couples are actually terrible together. There are also plenty of moments of awkwardness. Shari doesn’t know how to carry on a conversation with any man that isn’t Javen. John tells one of the singles that she was his second choice to take on a date. Karl talks to his date about how he has unfulfilled “needs” with Nicole gone. Who wouldn’t fall for this level of charm?

However, there are also some moments of seriousness. In a surprising revelation, John reflects on why Kady’s comments about his parenting skills, or lack thereof, hit so hard: his own father left his family years ago and committed suicide. Evan worries about committing to Kaci until he knows he can be a perfect husband. His father was murdered by the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair, and Evan has had his own problems with infidelity. The more serious aspects of the show create even more drama and shock value, as well as connect the audience more deeply to the couples. Having their backstory makes me root for the couples to find love, even if it’s not with the person with whom they came to Temptation Island.

All of the drama, awkwardness and hilarious moments make for great bonding potential among viewers. After watching the first episode, I immediately forced my friends into watching it with me, and from there it has spread to every person with whom I talk about movies and TV, whether on a study date, at a club meeting or anywhere someone is willing to listen to the enthusiastic description of my newest obsession. “Temptation Island” is the perfect way to psychoanalyze people in distress – as Kaci says when she sees a video of Evan kissing another girl, “this is torture” – or to forget your own distress from midterm season. Give “Temptation Island” a watch, and let it tempt you into obsessing over it for the rest of the year.

Contact Caroline Keyes at ckeyes22 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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