When Did Love Island Become Big Brother?
A game of sabotage is afoot, writes Jason Okundaye, and frankly it makes for uncomfortable viewing.
The penultimate week of Love Island can begin to go in either one of two directions. If there are still single, but popular, islanders, then extremely last-minute bombshells offer the hope of an unlucky viewer favourite finally getting their “happy ending” (so long as you don’t read the breakup headlines two weeks after the show finishes). Or, the couples are so settled by this point, with zero chance of turning their heads of bothering to entertain new people so late, that the show morphs into something entirely different, more Big Brother than Love Island, and the couples quietly work to sabotage each other and casts doubts as the countdown for the final begins. With the exit of Claudia and Keanan, the only two romantically single islanders remaining, we’ve descended into full scale Big Brother (and, to be honest, thank God for that).
First, let’s take a moment to say good riddance to the Casey-Claudia storyline. The final act of this non-drama was perhaps the most cringeworthy of the entire saga. Early on in the week, in a game of Snog, Marry, Pie, many of the girls got revenge on behalf of Claudia by pieing Casey, and many of the boys married her because she “deserved better.” I had to wonder, did she not feel even a little bit embarrassed to be treated like the villa charity case? She’s previously spoken about delivering “bad b*tch energy” to Casey and said she would throw the ring at him if he proposed to her in the challenge, and yet she just meekly thanked him, watching on as he snogged the face off Rosie. It’s hardly the most dignified position to find yourself in, talking yourself and your own savagery up and then folding at the first hurdle, but it wouldn’t be the only L of the week.
With Casey having established that he feels more of a spark with Rosie and the romantic potential between Casey and Claudia concluding, you’d think she’d do the self-respecting thing and pretend that he doesn’t exist, literally not acknowledge his presence in the villa, and move on with grace. But she does the exact opposite, and it only ends up placing you on Casey’s side. When Claudia finds out that Casey has – shock horror – kissed the girl he’s partnered up with in broad daylight, she chooses a full-scale blow up confrontation at the beach club party accusing Casey of embarrassing her and not being sensitive to her. It’s no secret I’m not Nice Guy Casey’s biggest fan but I’m confused as to what she expected him to do, and why she feels so entitled to control his behaviours in the villa when they’re no longer in a couple and have parted ways romantically. In any case, with Claudia sensationally dumped, Casey looked the picture of a free man, able to kiss Rosie happily without looking over his shoulder or worrying about who has what to say - and who can blame him for that?
And then we arrive at Big Brother. In the Casey-Claudia situation, every islander in there had been sticking their nose in and passing judgement, but suddenly things became strange once Jessie pulled Casey for a chat to tell him off about his behaviour. Now, I certainly believe Jessie was being too inner, and had no real business getting involved to the point of having a private chat with Casey about his treatment of Claudia. It was a needless intervention and strange. But how on earth did it suddenly turn into the villa vs Jessie? Casey had reason to be frustrated at Jessie but how it was suddenly spun into an entire assessment of her character and purpose for being in the villa was beyond me. Her intervention suddenly became a springboard for the islanders to reveal their true feelings about Jessie, which ranged from her faking her emotions since she cries without physical tears forming, and latching on to Will as a safe ticket to the final; having already been on Love Island, she knows how to play the game. Look, since day 1 of the Australian bombshells entry, I’ve thought of it as too transparent a grab for ratings from the producers, and for greater fame from the contestants. But this sudden turning against Jessie just felt weird and grubby, like the opportunity was there to finally knock her down a peg.
But how on earth did it suddenly turn into the villa vs Jessie?
Olivia was particularly infuriating leading on this, going round the villa chatting all sorts about Jessie’s intentions, and then refusing to entertain a conversation once confronted by Jessie and asked to explain herself. And when did Maxwell suddenly start speaking in full sentences? Clearly influenced by being under Olivia’s wing this entire time, he suddenly became bold in his analysis of Jessie and more than happy to break the same message to Will questioning her intentions off the back of a situation which had nothing to do with her romantic spark with him. Even if it were true (and I think it is possible) that Jessie has stuck with Will strategically, is this really the most tactful way to have broken it to their friend? Will of course was furious, and it was equally frustrating for Lana to describe the situation as “minor.” There is nothing “minor” about being told your partner is faking their interest in a show which is premised on the idea of finding genuine romantic attraction. So all round, the fallout felt strange, b*tchy, and shifted the dynamic in the villa in a way which has clearly set couple against couple.
And this new dynamic was fully realised at the end of this week when the villa eventually turned against Ron. After the challenge of public perceptions, where islanders learned where the public ranked them in certain categories rating from attractiveness to argumentativeness to gameplaying, there was a rude awakening for Ron and Lana, the first villa boyfriend and girlfriend of the season, who were rated amongst the most game-playing and as the couple with the least sexual chemistry. And I don’t disagree. Ron can say they’re just not about PDA all they like but I’ve never been convinced by the two of them, who haven’t seemed to share any kind of real intensity, cute moments, or much memorable at all. And even if Ron does genuinely like Lana, I’m sure he does, people forget that faking attraction for that long would be far more difficult than it looks when you’re stuck with someone 24/7, it doesn’t mean he didn’t weigh up Lana as a safer option. It’s something we all do in life, isn’t it? Go for the romantic option that’s more stable and more likely to bear the results you want rather than gamble on something that could be spicier but has a greater chance of failing. That’s no crime. But it’s clear that the islanders then took this as their cue to get out their true feelings about Ron and Lana, as there appears to be a kind of bitterness formed against couples who haven’t had the more embarrassing type of late-stage fallout that other couples have.
Tom and Samie came off particularly badly in this. Seemingly growing wings from being rated the best looking couple, Samie took it upon herself to become the villa messenger, going round with comments about Ron’s “game plan” (which was completely misrepresented) and then daring to approach Lana about how everyone’s been talking about him. As the game is on for establishing the winners, and since there’s no prospect of any couple being broken up, it does feel as if it’s now become a game of sabotage, as the islanders begin to lock down in their couples and lead their interactions with suspicion as they become growingly aware of elimination and the outside world. Ron also seems like an easy target. Rosie had expressed feeling her relationship with Casey was one-sided and turned to Ron and Lana for advice, with Ron basically saying that she should take a step back to allow Casey to lead rather than her approaching him all the time. Rosie then went and took this straight back to Casey, spinning his words to make out Ron to be some kind of gossip and sh*t stirrer. It was truly unbelievable viewing, but then I had to remember that Ron is perhaps the most internally disliked islander I’ve seen on this show – and so it was likely a strategy of Rosie’s own to double cross him and establish some good will amongst the other islanders. Either way, Rosie should pack her bags, because we’ll be getting her out fast for these antics. I don’t mind someone happy to bring drama, especially in the final weeks where it’s not guaranteed, but I don’t like liars.