This recap covers the second week of Love Island U.S., episodes 3 through 8.
Somewhere in the Caesar’s Palace Slack workspace, a brand manager named Dave is changing his avatar. Beaten down and defeated, he waffles between five memes of various animals trying to grab objects labeled “serotonin.” Dave knows few coworkers will understand, but six months of negotiating b-roll footage and narrator talking points for the Love Island U.S. sponcon package have done him in. His mom pokes her head into the family basement in Iowa where Dave’s on his ninth Zoom of the day, trying to ensure the Bacchanal Buffet makes it into next week’s episodes. “Honey, I’m so proud of you! My son is a movie star!” He has neither the time nor energy to correct her — there are seven hours of live TV he must tune into each week. Deep down, we are all Dave. But hey, this season is actually kind of great so far, so let’s save grappling with our participation in the nefarious sponcon machine that is capitalism until there’s a lull in the drama!
We start things off with the runup to a recoupling where everything is more or less set besides whether Tre will choose Justine or Kaitlynn. The producers belabor this decision for so long, there’s enough time for the dudes to workshop R&B originals and then open a barbershop in their dressing room. They all get low-taper fades, talk about vulnerability, and debate who’s here for the right reasons. The answer is Justine. Per Jeremiah: she’s a good girl with substance who deserves something special. Yep, bingo.
The other guys recouple with their existing partners — quick recap for my own sanity: Johnny & Cely, Connor & Mackenzie, Carrington & Kierstan, Jeremiah & Rachel, James & Moira. Although Kaitlynn is very hot and told him he has the prettiest eyelashes in the world, Tre listens to everyone else in the villa except Moira (we’ll never forget, my girl), and chooses Justine. Let’s not pretend this cemented Tre as a good guy with a heart of gold and the audacity to attempt bench-pressing 250 pounds using two live women as plates just yet; he’s playing the long game and basically told the boys he made his decision strictly on who was most likely to stay loyal when new hotties hit the villa. Disappointed but not surprised.
After a hearty group hug, Kaitlynn (whose name I regrettably spelled incorrectly five separate times last week) is sent to pack her bags as the other couples settle into a tranquil evening of romance. Not 45 seconds later, Moira and Kierstan get a text that they too are leaving the villa, except to go on dates with two new guys. It turns out that when the omniscient producer doing the texting says “leaving the villa,” they really mean taking a bleached elevator a few stories down to the empty casino floor for room-temperature white wine and shark coochie boards consisting of wet-looking prosciutto, buckets of craisins, and an eighth of an orange.
Kierstan gets to meet Caleb, an IT Sales Consultant from Oklahoma City with beauty, brains, and a level of bravado that somehow lands. He claims he chose her because he saw her on TV and she’s “killing it.” Nope. Not buying it. This shitshow premiered Monday and their date was probably shot Thursday at the very latest. Even if he watched the premiere live and flew to Vegas the very next morning, according to my epidemiologist oracle, @kinggutterbaby, the optimum time for a COVID test is four to five days after possible exposure. Which is all to say, Caleb, the producers showed you head shots and you picked the hottest one in your eyes. Case closed.
Meanwhile, Moira chats with Calvin, a former bug spray salesman who looks like Bruce Wayne if Bruce Wayne were the kind of bro who doesn’t leave the house without slapping on SPF 65 and a beaded leather bracelet. It turns out he’s exactly her type and like that, she sees a future free of James’ facial hair, invertebrate tattoos, and manipulative sexual pressure (more on that later). Just as she’s ready to run away into Calvin’s field of freckles, both of the new guys get a text that gives them the power to invite another girl for date #2. Caleb brings in Rachel, and they bond over trust and transparency. It’s a low key vibe. Much to the dismay of Carrington back at the villa, Calvin grabs Kierstan for her second date of the evening. They cheers 47 times over both being sassy Texans, and that’s about the end of that.
Once everyone returns, it’s time to debrief. Moira gathers the girls and says, “I’m soooooo bad” like she’s out here ordering a side of truffle fries for the table. She’s smitten, so naturally she has to tell James that she’s now open to getting to know Calvin. This goes exactly as well as you’d expect. The Moira/James Lifetime movie is still happening, it’s just tonally very different. We tuned in for The Holiday Wish and when we came back from the bathroom, it’s Deception in Broad Daylight. James goes full Disney villain, patronizing and defensive, furiously gnawing away at his cuticles like there isn’t a fully stocked pantry of Fruity Pebbles and Apple Jacks with the labels crossed out only a feet away. He storms around the villa, slandering Moira for being condescending and having “something wrong with her,” then has the audacity to ask, “why am I the bad guy here?”
Luckily, Mackenzie is not here for rhetorical questions. All week, she’s been making moves to firmly illustrate that she is not Corinne Olympios 2.0. She was on the right side of history when it came to Justine, working tag-team with Jeremiah to convince Tre to choose a partner with substance. She had already called out a few red flags in Moira’s relationship, asking her if she was frustrated her conversations with James about sexual coercion never led to resolution. And now, Mackenzie is ready to verbally destroy anyone who would dare call her girls anything less than gorgeous, kind, or funny. After a failed attempt to calmly tell James that name calling and outbursts may not be the best way to handle his jealousy, she goes on the most professional screaming tirade reality TV has ever seen: “Accept accountability for how you are acting. That is unacceptable. Do not talk to women like that.” She’s Dr. Jennifer Melfi in leopard print. It’s an incredible performance.
After the evisceration, all Calvin has to do is merely exist in his Foot Locker uniform swim trunks to seal the Moira deal, but he goes the extra mile with a line about how she can use him as a crutch since she is on crutches. Her brain explodes. It appears neither of them fully grasp the typically unhealthy connotation of using a person as a crutch. Here’s hoping Mackenzie has time to discuss this in their next session.
Everyone else is basically just bopping around, doing their thing. Justine and Tre are opening up emotionally with an occasional forehead kiss sprinkled in for good measure, and it appears the spell Carrington put on Kierstan to convince her that he’s smarter, sexier, and more driven than Caleb is miraculously still holding up. Even amidst the chaos, Mackenzie and Connor are hanging on. Trouble’s brewing, though. Remember how Dr. Melfi was regularly dealing with her own demons even while providing typically excellent treatment for Tony Soprano? It’s sort of like that, but with a lot more lip filler. Mackenzie quickly becomes irate at Connor for engaging in the world’s most chaste three-way kiss during a game of roulette truth or dare, then feels bombarded and embarrassed when he tries to check in to apologize the next day, storming off in tears. She threatens that she’ll have trouble trusting him if this behavior continues and overall this feels like a Mackenzie problem, not a relationship problem. In the words of Tre, “How could you be mad at that guy? Look at his beard!” He has a point, and so far, Connor has only shown himself to be considerate and patient as his girl often fails to practice what she preaches.
At some point during all this mess, the islanders get to vote on which couple is most deserving to go to the sex room, I mean “The Hideaway.” There is zero fanfare over the selection process and Cely and Johnny both pack an empty tote like they’re braving a Sunday morning trip to Whole Foods. We’re told “literally nothing happened” besides a light canoodle and going deep on their individual flavors of childhood trauma with 73 cameras watching. Cely says that she keeps peeling back more and more layers of him and she’s loving what she’s finding. Someone call my high school English teacher, because this is a prime example of dramatic irony, when the audience is aware of something a character is not. For instance, Oedipus killing Laius, Juliet just taking a drug-induced snooze, or I don’t know, some very specific and damning TikTok receipts from an ex-fiancé. My breath, it’s bated.
Free of any form of romantic delusion, Jeremiah continues his effortless campaign for number one guy in the group by telling Rachel he doesn’t know if he’s 100 percent in. She’s understandably a bit blindsided considering he did, things like make her breakfast and deliver it to the glam room so she could be well fed during girl time, but everyone agrees that only someone with true character would sabotage their own game right before a recoupling instead of just riding it out to stay another week in the game. In his own words, “I could have waited until we recoupled, but that would have been messed up.” I’ll admit we may be grading on a curve lately, but either Jeremiah just really was ready to go home or he’s operating with a genuine respect for others and himself that we could all learn from. A very masked “cough, cough, James.”
In the second recoupling of the week, basically everything is business as usual until we get to Rachel and Moira with Jeremiah, James, Caleb, and Calvin on the chopping block. Fresh off Jeremiah’s transparency, Rachel picks Caleb. Moira brings up the damn crutch metaphor again and goes with Calvin. James is booted, ready to go get a new technicolor creature tattooed on his chest and attempt to seduce some married ladies with high fives and gaslighting. Even though he doesn’t like that mushy stuff, Jeremiah gives the speech of a lifetime about brotherhood and meeting up again on the outside and hoping everyone finds love. There is not a dry eye in the house. I am included in this metaphorical house. Nature is healing.
But not so fast! The time has finally come for America to vote, in this case on the lucky lad who will get to go on a date with new girl Lauren. She’s from England (don’t worry about the travel thing — she lives in LA) and embodies everything we may be missing from Love Island UK. I know nothing about astrology, but I’m a Scorpio and people clutch their pearls if I disclose this. Thanks to Lauren, I’m finally understanding why. Let the record show I do not associate as a member of this kindred chaos (surely such a Scorpio thing to say?).
Anyway, while the producers tally up the votes, the guys strut around with their jaws dragging on the ground and most of the women are predictably not into the entire situation. Lauren gets the soft green light from nearly everyone that they’re down to clown with her, even Connor, who according to Mackenzie is now her boyfriend. When was this made official? How does CBS have this place on Black Mirror-level surveillance and miss moments like this? The answer may be that it didn’t happen, but I’m not ready to admit that.
Fraudulent election or not, Lauren gets a text that us fans decided she’s going on a date with Connor, and she also gets to choose two more guys. She picks Carrington and Johnny while Mackenzie has a full meltdown about why America hates her so much that they’d sabotage her relationship. I wish Jeremiah were still here to say something uplifting so someone could have a few minutes offscreen to fill Mackenzie in on America’s abysmal voting track record in hopes that she wouldn’t take this so personally. But he’s not and our girl sobs on the couch, Connor trying to comfort her while Lauren sashays over. She taps her watch, rolls her eyes, then puts on a hard hat to grab the fourth wall, blow it up, excavate it from the foundation, and then replace it with an underground Amazon fulfillment center. Dystopia indeed.
Signs of the End Times
• The producers must have been counting on vote shaming to get folks to download this app because the user experience leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not sure my retinas or four-year-old iPhone will ever fully recover.
• Moira puts butter on avocado toast. Do with this what you will.
• When Kaitlynn left, she ostensibly bequeathed her face wipes to Moira. There is absolutely no excuse here, especially for morning cleansing when there are zero plans on the agenda. Has Caroline Hirons taught y’all nothing? Wipes leave surfactants on the skin! They’re bad for the environment! Even Kierstan knows to use a flannel, and she’s into a guy who compares their collective exoticism to a Ferrari.
• There’s a Vegas-themed party when they’re already in Vegas, by all accounts living a Vegas-themed existence. Who needs to risk their life to see Tenet in theaters when Christopher Nolan-level mindfucks are happening nightly on CBS?
• Running count of COVID references: 22