Episode 7: The tawdry and the damned

In which our heroes and heroines, a few with rug burns, reunite to assess the damage.


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Carina Chocano
March 2, 2001 1:30AM (UTC)

They never did explain the satanic choir music, but there it is again.

Ha-he-ha-ho! He-ha-ho-hi! Ha-ho-he-ha-ho-hi-he-ho!

It sure is scary.

It sounds just like the music from "The Omen," installments I through IV, and it's the perfect accompaniment for the horrific moment when Mandy looks at Billy and says:

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"I had a intamit momint with someone."

And that, friends, is only the teaser.

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The fun begins with recaps of how our six remaining subjects spent their dream dates. From what we can see, these ranged from a close approximation of hell on earth to at least a couple of mad nights of uninhibited euphemisms for sex.

But let's let the kids tell us in their own words:

We see a series of peaceful, candle-lit shots of Kaya and Alison asleep and cuddling in their see-through yurt. Candles burn, signifying passion. Wax drips, signifying melting.

Alison says that her favorite part of the dream date was spending 12 hours in a cave with Kaya. The outcome of this experience, sadly, bears no resemblance to what happened in that cave in "The English Patient."

Kaya emerges in one piece, yelling, "Woo-hoo!" as if discovering his echo for the first time.

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"She has all the intangible qualities that I find really attractive," Kaya says later of his self-described "wild" date with Alison. It occurs to us that she has a couple of tangible qualities he probably finds attractive as well.

But for Kaya, this is primarily a journey through a vast uncharted forest of new-age euphemisms.

If modeling doesn't work out, he can always write a self-help book, "Men Are From Earth, Women Are From Earth, Models Are From That Other Planet."

Meanwhile, Valerie and Dano's own version of the dream date -- the "sweaty nightmare where you can't move your legs and you open your mouth to scream but no sound comes out" type of date -- is drawing to a merciful close.

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Valerie can think only of Kaya. She has had it with "Temptation Island"; unfortunately for Dano, he's the closest target for her baleful glare.

A thoroughly cowed Dano resorts to nature for a subject (not Kaya) that will draw Valerie into a conversation (not about Kaya).

He says something about the stunning view. She tells him about the butterflies in her stomach. We've heard enough.

But when we see close-ups of waves gently breaking on the shore as Shannon and Tom emerge from their love hutch to witness the dawn, our interest is rekindled. Shannon's boyfriend is Andy, the hamster-eyed serpent, and there's no one on the island more deserving of a comeuppance.

"I've picked and chose throughout my life who to become intimate with ..." Shannon says later, throwing caution and correct verb conjugation to the wind. She chooses her next words carefully: "... who to bare my soul to."

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Could she mean ...?

"At some point in the night, I said I was going to bed," she continues. "And I just gave him a look, and I didn't go to bed."

Could she mean ...?

"We sat and watched the sun rise. And we had great conversations. And that was the best part of this whole experience."

What does she mean? Sadly, it appears we'll never know what the second-best part of the whole experience was. We are prepared to speculate, when she tells us.

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"You could say I got to experience lust," she continues, as she lovingly embraces the side of the pool. "And I also got to play with love."

Meanwhile, in a much-reviled spa somewhere else on the island, Shannon's reptilian boyfriend Andy got to play with resentment. There, he focuses his free-form hostility toward his "supposedly dream date," Elizabeth.

Obviously, they've had a bad night. He asks her if he's dealing with Elizabeth I or Elizabeth II, a reference not to British monarchs but to his own personal theory that there are two versions of Elizabeth, on-camera and off.

"I'm not an actress," she sniffs. "I'm a real-estate person."

Though she once played wantonly with her hair in an attempt to lure Andy away from his girlfriend, Elizabeth suddenly seems to have developed some last-minute reservations. But on closer inspection what looked like scruples turn out to be just a sort of soul-rash triggered by a night spent with Andy.

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It's the second time Elizabeth has defended both her virtue and her lack of interest in the dramatic arts by alluding to her job as a property broker, and one of these days we vow to figure out the connection.

Andy, for his part, is still searching for an explanation for his lack of luck with "the ladies" and grappling with his native tongue.

"Do you think some of the girls were inhibited or unattracted to the guys in the fact that we put ourself in this situation?" he asks her, his brows screwed up in concentration, just the way he's seen many "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" contestants do.

"You have a girlfriend," the suddenly high-minded Elizabeth replies. "The fact that you would do this makes you less attractive to me."

This must be on-camera Elizabeth talking. Off-camera Elizabeth -- the one who once dreamed of running away and opening a kayaking business with him in Belize -- would probably say, "The fact that she actually likes you makes you less attractive to me. Loser."

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"As Andy says," Elizabeth says later, "him and Shannon are on same page. But he and I are in completely different books."

Billy and Vanessa, on the other hand, have "reached a closeness that not a lot of people can reach," according to Vanessa. Sadly, they have also reached an agreement not to disclose any more details about their night together; so, for now it's back to Mandy.

In a mere two days, Mandy says, Jon "has taught me so much."

"I'm glad I had him," Mandy says. Then she catches herself and smiles. "Have him."

Finally, we spend another moment with the shiny couple Kaya and Alison -- just so everyone is clear that "Temptation Island" was not just about "answers," it was also about sex with sweaty strangers -- as they make out yet again. Alison says in voice-over, "I wish he didn't have a girlfriend."

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The three girlfriends are then reunited. Valerie, as always, stares into space. Shannon looks as though she's just eaten a puppy. Mandy remarks, "I swear this thing changed my life."

Funny, we get the feeling she always acts this way, whether she's on "Temptation Island," "Temptation Supermarket" or "Temptation Crosstown Bus."

Meanwhile, the boys sit down for a confab with an increasingly animatronic-looking Walberg, who reminds them that later that night, at bonfire, they will see their partners, speak from the heart and let them know what they've decided about the future of their relationship.

"Be prepared to hear things that you may not want to hear," he warns. "The journey ends tonight."

Walberg then briefs the girls, repeating the speech verbatim while unconsciously signing the international symbol for "very large breasts" over and over again.

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A lone sea-bird croaks twice, flaps its wings and flies away.

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After the commercial break, the camera swoops downward onto a dwarfed Walberg, whose thankless job it has been to put an educational spin on the debauchery.

"As we've said from the beginning," he says, rubbing his hands together, "the journey for our couples has been about choices. Choices that they hope would provide answers to the questions that lie deep within their hearts."

Questions like: If I were on an island populated solely by fantasy swingles in bathing suits, how many of them would sleep with me?

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"Tonight -- here -- they will make their most important choice: whether to continue their lives together as couples, or leave Temptation Island alone."

"Leave me alone," we can almost hear the island praying. But Andy comes to the bonfire nonetheless.

"We're down to the wire, man," says Walberg dramatically, "and I just wanted to ask you some questions about your experiences."

"It was more challenging than I anticipated it being," Andy says. "I thought I was going to come down here and brush off the ladies ..."

Huh?

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"And cruise through it. And that wasn't necessarily the case."

"Yeah," smiles Walberg, feigning understanding of what the boy is talking about.

Andy explains that it was hard getting "emotionally close" to Megan.

"It was kind of deep, pretty deep. And she got pretty torn up there when she left, I don't know if you saw that ..."

We saw that. But the way we remember it, she was crying over Kaya.

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"Shannon and I will go home and we'll disclose everything that happened," Andy says in response to Walberg's question about whether he's worried about what Shannon's been up to.

"Assuming you guys both go home together," Walberg whips back.

The drums, meanwhile, are going crazy. We wonder if the Blue Man Group is lurking in the shadows somewhere. Or maybe Stomp.

"You seem pretty confident," Walberg says.

Andy twitches.

"I'm trying to be."

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So Shannon sets out across the sand to meet her destiny. Alas, it's only Walberg. He asks her, hoping beyond hope that she'll spill the beans about Tom, what the best part of the whole experience has been. (Apart from benefiting from his many life lessons, of course.)

"I think, if I had to pinpoint something, it would be hanging out at Monte Chica." She's talking about the first days on the island, when the (then) four women were hanging out with the original 13 hunky party boys. "Those guys -- they were our lifeline."

Wait. Isn't that another show?

"When we came to the bonfire we knew we would be OK because we were going back to them."

Frustrated, Walberg smiles pseudo-warmly and asks how Tom felt about it.

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Again, Shannon foils him.

"We feel an extraordinary bond and extraordinarily fortunate that we had this encounter."

Walberg stares. He nods. Then he says "Hmm."

There goes his bonus!

"Will you miss Tom?" he asks, trying again.

"I'm hoping that I won't have to miss Tom. I think our story -- Tom's and my story -- is an important one for me to maintain."

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Walberg smiles, satisfied, and it's time for Andy to come out.

He asks Shannon whether she wants to hear the good news or the bad news.

"Bad news."

"Big surprise. The bad news is I kissed four girls. The good news is that none of them were more than innocent pecks -- goodnight kisses and fun stuff like that."

Then he tells her about Megan. "There was one girl who I really connected with," he says. "She was put here to really screw with me."

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That old smile -- the sad, indulgent smile of empathetic suffering -- begins to creep back onto Shannon's face.

"Everything I put down on the sheet --"

Sheet? What sheet? Why were we not informed that there was a sheet? There was a fantasy single selection sheet -- and we never saw it?

"Make her this, make her that. She was like a mail-order bride."

He laughs as Shannon cringes in pain. We think he means to say she was "made-to-order," but no matter.

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Of course, Andy, the man who discloses everything, leaves out the small detail of Megan's Kaya obsession. Instead, he says he realized he didn't want to "get this close to anybody."

"On the dream date I actually wound up going with Elizabeth," he tells Shannon, who shakes her head and chokes back the bile. Andy laughs again, throwing his head back, his badly shattered confidence beginning to heal. Emboldened by Shannon's jealousy, he throws in that he and Elizabeth had "a strong physical connection." Again he fails to mention that Elizabeth openly despised him. He calls the two-day disaster "a crazy date -- very crazy."

After complaining about the spa once more for good measure, Andy mumbles, "So I think it's reinforced our relationship ..." -- and for a second we're not sure which relationship he's talking about -- "... so I feel the same. I completely feel the same."

Shannon smiles her happy-sad smile.

She tells him that her first moment of weakness came when she saw him in the hammock with Megan.

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"It brought me back to the time when we decided we'd see other people," she says. "And you did and I didn't and I let it wreck me for a long time."

Then she tells him about Tom, a "totally incredible guy, MBA, starting his own company, totally mentally in sync with me -- believe me, we connected well, and it was wonderful."

Andy, we know, aside from being cruel and having the emotional and sexual sophistication of a Caribbean sea turtle, is kind of a lump, career-wise. Shannon's hitting him where it hurts.

And then she does it.

"You set me free to go and try something else. And I did. And all it did was make me want you."

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Everybody -- even Walberg -- chokes up.

We're crying too, but they're the tears that come when we watch someone throw their life away on a creep.

"I want to be done," says Andy. "I want to go home."

Things aren't turning out quite as we'd hoped so far, here, on "Temptation Island."

Billy, who's next, tells Walberg he regrets looking at the video of Mandy.

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This was of course the now infamous footage of Mandy performing some professional-looking tongue action on a fantasy swingle's strawberry-juice-daubed nipple.

"If there was video now ..." Walberg says.

"No thanks."

But what Mandy has to tell him will affect his decision to stay in the relationship or go, he says, "100 percent."

Mandy says she came to make some friends and make "the absence makes the heart grow fonder trick work like magic." Apparently, it's not the first time she's tried that trick.

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But after spending the night consummating her relationship with "a perfect guy" (not her boyfriend) in "a perfect place" (on TV), the entire experience "quit becoming a party and started becoming a journey."

A journey into total bullshit.

"Have you found some answers?" Walberg asks.

"You have no idea," she says. (Well, we have some idea.)

"Of course, I don't want to hurt Billy, but I am prepared to say some things to him that he's not going to want to hear."

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Actually, they both wind up saying things we don't want to hear, so we won't dwell much.

Mandy's speech: "I saw something new in you that I'd never seen before ... a side you'd hidden from me, and it hurt so badly. But the major thing that I learned ... is that I've been able to give myself the power to let go of you ... and I had a intimate moment with someone ... Though it was nice and comforting and new, it wasn't my boyfriend. I want us to be together for rest of lives and never play this game again."

Billy can't speak. Finally, he says that he, too, made "a strong emotional connection" with someone. Someone who -- as she once demonstrated in the butterfly forest -- likes to masturbate with insects.

Billy's speech: "I learned I can make emotional attachments to people other than you ... But this is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I never want to do it again. If you'll have me I promise I'll love you forever."

It just dawned on us what this show is about: hugging and learning. There also seem to be a lot of connections that are made along the journey. And we mean there are a lot of "connections" made on a lot of journeys.

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Every time one of the characters opens his or her mouth, it's to talk about a "connection" made on a "deep level" or a "bond" that his been formed on the "journey." When did "trying to get someone else into bed" become a "journey" and "getting laid" become "making a connection?" Does it have anything to do with Oprah?

The moment we've been waiting for, of course, is the moment Kaya -- glowing as though lit from within by a thousand dim bulbs -- dumps his surly love for a hot M.D. who has no qualms about posing nude for men's magazines.

When Walberg asks how he's feeling, Kaya responds,

"I'm great. I'm really, really great."

Great!

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Walberg asks him why didn't he ask Megan on the final date. Kaya says, "I shared a really special date with her. But Alison was my first date, and I was inhibited."

Kaya -- like Frampton before him -- comes alive as he describes the "connections" he made with both Megan and Alison, both in the span of a single day, calling the two days he spent with them as two of the best two days of his life.

As the drums go into an innuendo-fueled percussive frenzy, we are certain that Valerie is screwed.

Valerie, of course, approaches Walberg warily.

"Hi, Valerie. How are you," he asks.

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"I'm awright."

Of all the people on "Temptation Island," Valerie here is the toughest to look at. She's puffy and has bags under her eyes. She looks like she's been hit by a pleasure boat.

The best part of the experience is everything she learned about herself. The worst part is the fear that he did something and decided he didn't want to be in a relationship anymore. She smiles sadly.

Mark looks at her sadly, "I can understand that."

She stops smiling.

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When Kaya comes out, Valerie reveals a little Valerie secret.

Valerie's speech: "You and I both know that in past relationships I sometimes acted on temptation. Obviously, I must have found something exhilarating from that. But now I derive exhilaration from my relationship with you and not from acting on temptation. So, obviously my confusion is you're the one I want to be with."

Kaya looks worried. He tells her the real reason why he didn't wave to her when she saw him and Alison on the beach:

"I didn't see you. I can't see long distance without my glasses."

Then he begins his speech: "I told you we were trying to experience as much as we can, and by doing that we'll be able to grow and become a better person and have more to offer another person ..."

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Now Walberg starts to worry. What if Fox wound up giving sensitive, George Hamilton-resembling Kaya the gig hosting "T.I. 2"? What if, after all he's been through as the show's first host, he gets thrown over for some shimmering bimbo with the I.Q. of a billboard? What then?

"I set out to conquer any fear I had ... And I took emotional chances. And whatever I did, I feel good. I can honestly tell you I have no regrets. Not one. "

He goes on to describe his "connections" and his "difficult and complex choices" and the "deeper levels" he plumbed. He tells Valerie about "clicking" with others and "growing." He uses phrases like "becoming myself" and "learning about my individuality."

Valerie looks glummer than she's ever looked before. In fact, she looks like she might just physically cave in like a badly wrapped mummy. We have little hope for Valerie. We have, however, high hopes for the first televised breakup we've ever seen.

Then Kaya says, "You never left. You're always there, you're always on my mind, and you make me who I am."

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And then he says, "You make me a better man." Kaya obviously saw that fabulous Jack Nicholson-Helen Hunt vehicle, "As Good as It Gets."

He continues: "And I'm just thankful you agreed to give me the opportunity to come here. And I'm only going to be better for you and better to you because of it all. I'm here more than I've been before and I love you and you're my choice."

Valerie, of course, weeps.

"Let's get out of here!"

And like that, they breeze past Walberg without so much as a backward glance.

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- - - - - - - - - - - -

So where are they now?

First, to review, an overview of the four couples we came to know and then loathe and then pity and then reluctantly tolerate.

We'll miss you, guys!

Taheed and Ytossie: Tempest-tossied lovers too old for this sort of thing. Humiliated selves on national TV, not by managing to get kicked off of show with few moral standards, but by denying existence of offspring to get on it in the first place.

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Andy and Shannon: She gets lucky; he doesn't. He endured learning about her hinting at having "made a physical connection" on national television; she endured his lying about having done the same. But as their conversation went on we could see his confidence returning and hers declining. Soon, the only reality-show part Shannon will be able to get is as a mealy grub on "Survivor 3."

Kaya and Valerie: Kaya has wild yurt sex. Valerie inspires the IOC to make sulking and self-pity Olympic sports.

Billy and Mandy: Mandy gets breathy with Walberg as she relates her night of luv with blond Adonis in wraparound glasses, but then decides to stay with Billy. So, Billy dodges a bullet -- for now. (Or does he? See "Where are they now?" below.)

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Coda: And the titles fade up:

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"Upon their return to Miami, Kaya and Valerie locked themselves in their condo for seven days and 'reconnected.' They have since moved to L.A. and are still very much in love."

"In February, Billy moved to L.A. to pursue a career in entertainment. Mandy stayed in Atlanta. They have a passionate long-distance relationship."

"Ten minutes after bonfire, Andy asked Shannon to marry him. She said yes! No date has been set."

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As Valerie once said, the experience was not a waste. We learned a lot about ourselves, experienced who we were on a deeper level -- deeper than usual, we think, because our shoulder and wrist ache something fierce -- and made some real connections with some wonderful people.

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On Wednesday nights, they were our lifeline. And even though we were hoping for a few more tears and broken crockery, we know that somewhere, some time, they will come.

We just hope Shannon and Andy invite us to the wedding so we can see it.

-- Carina Chocano

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Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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