Hello, greetings from the bad place! We are thirsty. Thirsty for any kind of shared levity. Thirsty for sexy stuff both real and vicarious. Thirsty for “trash” content while we patiently wait for Tayshia’s Bachelorette reign. Thank the stars CBS is here in an attempt to quench that thirst with the second season of Love Island USA, a show that last year managed to bastardize its beloved British ancestry by casting a bunch of normies and ending up somewhere tonally between Terrace House and whichever soap opera your mom watched in 1998. But this year is a different time. The bar has been lowered to subterranean levels. There hasn’t been new Bachelor Nation content in months, Dorinda’s no longer a Real Housewife, and the OG Love Island isn’t filming again until 2021.
Even after hearing the U.K. say “absolutely not, that is ill-advised even by our piss-poor standards,” the U.S. was like, “Hmm, let’s seize this opportunity and lean into our global pandemic! Ya know, rent out a Chuck E. Cheese, make a bunch of jokes about hand sanitizer, and take it from there?” So they called up that one pretty blonde lady whose photo you brought to your hair stylist every six to eight months for the last decade and told her to pack a smile and a bunch of neon rompers to come host this shit show on a Las Vegas rooftop. Lucky for viewers (I guess?), Love Island: Quarantine Edition doesn’t feel much different from any other season. It’s still a bunch of hotties trying to win $100K for being America’s favorite couple. We’ll have to download an app to vote each week, but at least now we’ve got the storage, having offloaded Uber and Lyft back in March. The actual rules of the game are basically the same in that arbitrary new ones will be thrown in at any point without warning or consistent enforcement. Oh, and they’re introducing something called Casa Amore? Unclear when that’s happening, but we’re all ripe and ready for new frontiers in ambiguity, and I’ll be here every Wednesday to recap the preceding week’s mess. Bring it on!
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In typical villa fashion, the ladies arrive first. Two foncy cars drive up and Cely and Moira get out. Cely is absurdly pretty and just looking for someone who loves Cely as much as Cely loves Cely. Noted. Moira is carefree and artistic, which in this context means she might occasionally buy her own weed and has maybe heard of Normal People. Next is Justine, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, survived the Rwandan genocide, has a finance degree, go-go dances on the weekends, and is looking for a kind and respectful man. She is perfect and will surely be done dirty by both the man-testants in the villa and the folks in the editing bay.
Now, imagine you’re in hell. It’s a music festival. Day three. You’re sunburnt, constipated, and stuck watching the Chainsmokers, eyes peeled back, Clockwork Orange-style. Behind you, a girl on a bro’s shoulders is repeatedly kicking you in the crown with her box-fresh Vans Authentics. That girl is Kaitlyn. Not to be upstaged, Mackenzie’s also here. She’ll surely get flack for her nOt LiKe OtHeR gIrLs vibe because she loves throwing back beers, sarcasm, and “the big game,” but y’all are burying the lede! All of her exes are millionaires. In this economy! It turns out the secret to having dark-circle-free doll eyes is sleeping through a lifetime of class solidarity discourse.
There’s no time for her to dish on Tom Brady, though, because it’s time for the guys to parade in one by one. The women wait attentively in ankle-deep water, stepping forward if they’re interested. But host Arielle is quick to remind us that the guys ultimately have the power (shocking) and can choose any woman they want, regardless of interest or existing pairing.
Jeremiah’s a model-handsome country boy with a facial hair decision he would have been better off not making. Justine steps forward for him but he opts for Cely instead. James is next. His personality is “tattoos” but also “glasses” (probably to distract you from the alien on his shoulder that bears more than a passing resemblance to my cat’s butthole). No one steps forward for him, so he picks Moira. No one steps forward for former college football player Tre, either. His body is absurd, but these women are smart and can smell his club aura from a mile away. He steals Cely from Jeremiah.
It’s Connor’s turn. He looks like Robby Hayes, sounds like Stephen from Laguna Beach, and has the jokes of my AP calc teacher. I fall for this immediately, and so does Mackenzie, whom he chooses. Finally, it’s Carrington, a self-proclaimed alpha who is basically what we’d get if “you know what I mean?” were a person instead of a nervous-tick phrase. He picks Kaitlyn because “she’s hot and she stepped forward,” and I look forward to her making him (or really anyone) cry.
Jeremiah steps off the bench and is coupled with Justine to finish up five happy couples. But wait! There’s already a twist. Johnny struts into the villa as the odd man out who’s going to steal your girl and treat her like a queen. Like everything else in my life right now, I remain unconvinced until presented with peer-reviewed data.
With that, they’re off to a very horny start, quickly making up for five quarantine months of lost mackage in just 14 seconds. During a game of suck and blow, Tre kisses Kaitlyn, James kisses Moira, Jeremiah kisses Moira, and Connor kisses Mackenzie. The game is complicated and involves dares instead of just accidentally dropping the card, and I’m still not sure why they don’t just play spin the bottle. It’s probably because “heteronormative dating constructs,” but it seems like a missed opportunity to show sustainable upcycling in action.
Anyway, Connor and Mackenzie are kind of bummed that their first kiss happened in a game and pledge to do it right later. In the meantime, they do a lot of hand-holding where Connor asks permission first, and this kind of consent is the most hopeful thing I’ve seen this year. In other “wait, what show are we watching?” news, James kisses Moira again because they both love snuggling and sharing “wow moments,” and they’ll probably be married with two kids before we have a vaccine.
But it’s not all smooth sailing. In a palapa, Carrington swaps spit with his partner, Kaitlyn, after furiously sweating all over her, mostly from his eyebrows. No less than 20 minutes later, Kaitlyn asks Tre if her upper lip is sweating, and he licks it off. Is this the same sweat from Carrington’s nose hairs? We’ll never know! It’s currently 109 degrees in Vegas and these men are wearing jeggings. Everyone is fresh-off-Splash-Mountain damp at all times. For the sake of their collective backs and racks, I pray someone packed a Costco-sized jug of glycolic acid and a bunch of washcloths, or else the acne situation is going to be dire by day four.
It turns out Tre’s original partner Cely is not down to continue the lip sweat carrier chain, and she opts to couple up with 11th wheel Johnny instead. Tre is now “single” and at risk of getting dumped off the “island” during the recoupling ceremony later this week. He’s fine for now, but we all know how this goes: on Love Island, safe is just another word for imminent doom.
Jeremiah and Carrington get texts inviting them to the secret jacuzzi for dates with new girls Rachel and Kierstan. Rachel picked Jeremiah because he looked the tallest and they are immediately vibing in a way I can only describe as endearing. Kierstan is very excited about the “brand-new babies” on her chest, except she is not talking about actual babies. (Note to producers: This would have been a more interesting turn of events.) Carrington, fresh off a friend-zone hall pass from Kaitlynn, is equally excited about the babies, especially as their owner (baby mama?) feeds him chocolate-covered strawberries in a lukewarm kiddie pool. Oh yeah — the secret jacuzzi is actually just a medium-sized wading pool on what appears to be a separate Las Vegas rooftop, which is probably boring for the islanders but truly thrilling for viewers in terms of world-building and adaptive reuse.
Once the newbies return, Mackenzie lets them know that Moira and James and she and Connor are off-limits. It becomes a whole thing, and she storms off crying because she’s totally not a jealous girl. Then it becomes a whole separate thing because Connor should have immediately come running after her. He tells her to just breathe, and oooh, my dude, this is not the move. They seem determined to make it work, though, even though Connor does not understand why Mackenzie has certain expectations of partners and Mackenzie does not understand why Connor has only had sex three times. I cannot wait to discuss this with my therapist tomorrow.
The next day, there’s a miniscule hiccup in the Moira/James Lifetime movie when Kierstan pulls James aside to talk about his tattoos and the infrastructure of Austin, Texas. James is high on attention and wants to get to know Kierstan better, because he and Moira may have kissed a bunch of times and talked about koalas or whatever, but she’s also kind of shy. James isn’t shy. He had a threesome with two married ladies and then got a jellyfish tattoo about it. Kierstan will probably couple up with Carrington anyway, but it’s a C+ attempt to mix things up.
The islanders then slip on some before-times flight attendant cosplay for a game called Excess Baggage where there is no prize, limited rules, and singular opportunities to kiss your crush. Secrets are shared and no saliva goes unswapped. I’m not even going to bother rehashing all the kissing; they are one communal mouth at this point. On a more relevant note, Rachel and Jeremiah passionately choose each other for the smoochies and Justine is visibly bummed.
But not to worry, because Tre sees the writing on the wall for himself, swooping in on Justine immediately. He tells her that he’s attracted to other girls, but he connects with her personalitywise, going as far as to say that if there were a recoupling tonight, he’d pick her. Tre brings it in for a hug, mouth-breathing into her neck, “I got you.” Justine, don’t fall for it! That’s heat and desperation talking — you were right in telling Cely that everything new you learn about Block O over here is only validating your preconceived notions. Tre is not the tender and humble man you were looking for just 32 hours ago! In the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are, believe them — stay hydrated, stay skeptical, and play that player right back ’til something better comes along.”
Signs of the End Times
• Justine wears sunglasses in not one but multiple scenes. For the ophthalmological health and safety of IG influencers everywhere, someone please call the producers of Bachelor in Paradise posthaste and let them know that strides have been made in the world of sunglass/camera reflection technology.
• The guys mention wanting relationships like Gatsby & Daisy, Will & Jada, and Beyoncé & Jay, which leads us to believe that absolutely zero of them have ever done the reading before coming to class.
• In the words of Justine, “These cups are cute. I hope when we leave we get to take them.” If this is not the case, CBS, I will be demanding answers. I would also like to know where I can purchase a souvenir water bottle for myself.
• Cely informs us that there is a version of the Birds Aren’t Real conspiracy theory except with the entire state of Virginia: “I’ve never met anyone from Virginia, so like are you even real? You guys are like a simulation.” Fascinating.
• Running count of COVID references: 16