Casa Amor Just Isn’t Fit For Purpose Anymore
With all this wishy washy Casa behaviour, the only person I’m left with any kind of respect for this week is Kai, says Jason Okundaye.
Okay guys, I’ll just come out and say it. Casa Amor doesn’t work anymore. It’s had a good run, it’s delivered some of the most iconic, shocking and heartwarming moments since its inception in Season 3. But this week it became clear that the mid-season shake up, where six new boys and six new girls enter the Love Island villa, is no longer fit for purpose, and as new contestants have more and more templates to follow from previous seasons it’s become too easy for them to game a feature which was sold on its unpredictability and risk-taking thrills.
Part of the reason this season’s Casa Amor failed to land in the same way as seasons past is because of just how grubby it felt this season. Of course, as is always the case, this is largely due to behaviour on account of the boys – with Will, Tom, and Casey managing to play Casa bombshells Layla, Lydia, and Cynthia with varying degrees of callousness. Even though Will’s betrayal of Jessie was the least intense of the three, his was certainly the most shocking. Having beaten the allegations of possibly being this seasons “Nice guy” type like a Dr Alex or a PE Teacher Hugo, his partnering with Jessie seemed to cement the two as a kind of puppy love couple, a transatlantic romance which had transformed the spirits of previously unlucky Will.
And to be honest, at first, when Will was turning, I wasn’t mad at him. I’d struggle to warm to Jessie – again wondering what the motivation behind competing in a second series of Love Island could be beyond seeking greater fame, but really Will’s excitement to crack on the second Jessie was gone just felt icky. Over the first half of the season, Will was praised for being “in touch” with his “femininity” and for providing a different vision of manhood on the reality TV show. Whilst I’ve always liked Farmer Will, I thought these claims were a bit of a stretch, and once again his conduct in Casa proves that even the most adorable men somehow manage to make the game of love a complete race to the bottom. Sure, he quickly regretted kissing Layla and cut things off with her unlike the other guys who left their Casa romances guessing until the final moment, but that kind of regret didn’t last as genuine affection for Jessie, but as someone who tried to pull the bad boy lothario image and found themselves way out of their depth.
Will’s conduct in Casa proves that even the most adorable men somehow manage to make the game of love a complete race to the bottom.
And then there’s “nice guys finish last” Casey. God, what an id*ot. In a previous column I said that whilst I was on his and thought Lana treated him badly, I did think Casey was overdoing the “pity me” act and perhaps behaving in a way which was a little entitled. So lo and behold, Casey then goes and behaves in a far worse way to gorgeous Casa bombshell Cynthia. I truly cannot understand why Cynthia recoupled with Casey. Granted, he claims he has a better connection with Claudia, and perhaps that could be taken at face value. But who would have truly begrudged Casey if he had recoupled and gotten to know them both? He wouldn’t have wasted Cynthia’s time, wouldn’t have to come clean to Claudia about his Casa antics, and had Claudia overreacted to the recoupling he could have had the upper hand, in audience support, in being clear that their time together was too short for such early commitment. And it was clear that Casey and Cynthia had chemistry – the mounting was a bit much for me, but they were a lot more fun and spiriting to watch than Casey and Lana or Casey and Claudia. And so it just makes me think two things: first, that Casey is a coward, and second, that he simply wanted to feel like the man. If you can call Lana’s rejection of him a kind of emasculation, the way men then decide to restore their feelings of self esteem often results in them playing other girls and trying to confirm their dominance and appeal – hence kissing Sanam, and then sharing a bed with Cynthia on the same night.
There’s not much to say on Tom, his conduct was a kind of paint-by-numbers Love Island formula. Meet girl in Casa, seriously romantically engage her and consider recoupling, decide to stick with original partner, claim it was a “test”, grovel and beg for forgiveness. It’s a formula which was established by Season 7’s Liam and seems pretty foolproof at this stage. Samie, who in the absence of Zara and Tanyel has emerged as one of the more dominant and assured female personalities in the villa, still managed to eventually fold because of a lame poem that we’re certain Tom came up with and executed himself. Perhaps her love language is “words of affirmation” or perhaps on this show everyone now just knows that it’s good to sulk for a while, but not drag it out, and then get back with the original partner in the hopes of an easy ride to the final. It’s literally a formula which has been repeated three times in one season with Will, Casey, and Tom all strategising on how to win their girls back after playing away.
And it’s just pathetic to be honest, the post-Casa grovelling. I miss the days when a man would savagely recouple at Casa, and then spend the next few episodes fighting with his former partner and half the villa too. Some people will blame Ofcom complainers, or the tightening around emotional behaviours in the villa, but where have all the villains gone? We know people go on this show for reasons other than love, but let's at least create some drama. The Casa girls at least understood that assignment – especially Layla who was happy to clash with the OG girls at the recoupling, telling Claudia off for laughing when Cynthia was crying. In fact, the moments of solidarity between the Casa girls, Layla telling Cynthia that it’s more embarrassing for Casey than it is for her, shows a kind of no nonsense, ride-or-die “girl’s girl” ethos that’s been entirely absent from this season of the show. How many times did Ron walk all over Lana and the girls basically told her to just manage it?
Of course, flimsiness and grovelling is not the full story of Casa. We do have those who did choose to recouple, with Kai and Olivia turning away from each other, and Tanya delivering the shock final moment, leaving Shaq single to recouple with Martin. It was a straight forward climax we hadn’t seen since the Georgia-Josh-Kaz, Amber-Michael-Joanna, Shaughna-Callum-Molly post-Casa triangles of Seasons 4 through 6. And this time, it’s a woman delivering the final blow, rather than the man, which is what viewers have been crying out for seasons, a kind of revenge for Georgia, Amber, and Shaughna. So why did it just not land? Well, first off, it was just uncomfortable to watch Tanya in Casa. Why did she seem to be grafting Martin harder than he was grafting her? He kind of just had to sit there and sort of mumble and she was in the beach hut talking about her head being scrambled and how she didn’t expect to find a guy like Martin. A guy like what? Who is he? We don’t really know. There was also just a total failure to deliver her recoupling with any kind of conviction. If you’re going to come back with a new man, leaving the man who you supposedly “love” single you need to be able to stand ten toes down in your decision. Her standing there with Martin and telling Shaq that it’s not over just seemed delusional. I mean sure, Shaq’s going to take her back, no doubt about that. But in the end you’re just left thinking, why did you bother recoupling if you supposedly love this man and know you’re going straight back to him? Shaq definitely exhibited some red flags in his behaviour, and she had reason to question her connection with him, of course. But did he really deserve this? And did Martin deserve to be caught in the middle, suddenly spoken to with disdain when he’s been brought back to the villa?
But in the end you’re just left thinking, why did you bother recoupling if you supposedly love this man and know you’re going straight back to him?
And so, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, with all this wishy washy Casa behaviour, the only person I’m left with any kind of respect for this week is Kai. And I absolutely couldn’t stand Kai for weeks. But you know what Kai did? Recoupled with his chest. Made absolutely no apologies and stood in his decision. Olivia (give me strength!) looked like a complete fool, desperately trying to come up with an iconic “mic drop” moment, and acting as if Kai’s recoupling is some great violation as if she didn’t recouple herself and even laugh about forgetting his name the moment she entered Casa. Kai is effectively carrying Love Island heritage on his back, breaking the curse Liam and Millie have put over this show, and evidencing that a touch of savagery and unapologetic head turning is far more honourable than running back with your tail between your legs. And for that alone, I hope he doesn’t see the bottom three again.