Love Island

Where Is The Love?

“It feels like a first for Love Island for there to be such genuine discord amongst the boys.”

by Jason Okundaye
Ron in  'Love Island' 2023

Love Island made for such frustrating viewing this week it’s hard to remember what you’re annoyed about – by the time you’ve recovered from one grievance, another one has emerged, and you start to wonder if this season will break records for the most unsympathetic characters.

Strangely it now feels like a lifetime ago, but the weeks drama kicked off on the back of the recoupling where Lana had shocked the villa by choosing to couple up with Casey, presumably kicking Ron to the dustbin and gleaming a rare moment of self respect that has slowly vanished from this show as seasons have gone on. But that lasted about all of five minutes, as it became immediately clear that Lana was not truly attracted to Casey, but simply using him as a kind of “get back” to Ron and evidence that she has just as many options as him. It made for uncomfortable viewing because whilst many have been sympathetic to Lana’s ordeal with Ron, you have to wonder why she felt the need to use Casey as collateral in their long drawn out (and honestly, not that interesting) battle for each other’s affections. If anything, leading Casey on simply as a way of getting to Ron is worse than anything Ron has done to her, or to any other bombshell he engaged on the show.

But whilst Casey was certainly within his right to feel “mugged” by Lana and annoyed by the situation, “his nice guys finish last” line churned my stomach, and he came across a little entitled. Two things can be true: Lana lead Casey on and effectively used him as a means to an end, and Lana and Casey were also not engaged long enough for Casey’s level of anger to be as heightened as it was. It was good to see him be direct with his feelings towards both Lana and Ron, and of course he had moved on by the end of the week with bombshell Claudia, but the entire love triangle just felt like a waste of everyone’s time, something sold to the audience as far higher stakes than it actually was, leaving us thinking “is it really deep enough for all this?”.

But what’s far more compelling than the specific Lana-Ron storyline is the clear divide which has emerged amongst the boys in the villa, with Ron and Kai on one side, and everyone else on another. Despite only knowing him for days, most of the boys seemed to be rooting for Casey, giving him pep talks, Tom even directly telling Lana that she should pursue things with him, and commiserating him when she ended things to go back to Ron. Evidently there’s been growing discontent around Ron and it’s clear to see why – if audiences are frustrated by his treatment of Lana, and his cocky smug attitude about the fact she’ll always “come back home” to him, then living with him must be an entirely different story. And it feels like a first for Love Island for there to be such genuine discord amongst the boys. Of course there’s always been arguments and disagreements, but a running theme throughout the show has been how up each other’s asses the boys usually are and the prominence of bromances; Luca and Jacques, Tommy and Curtis, Luke M and Luke T, Chris and Kem. But this season there’s no love lost between the men, this recruit of male contestants being a more sensitive and aware crop than others.

But this season there’s no love lost between the men, this recruit of male contestants being a more sensitive and aware crop than others

Leading this dynamic in the villa has been accountability king Shaq, who this week, after some previous warning signals, has emerged as one of the most divisive contestants this season. I confess myself completely torn on Shaq, not knowing quite what to make of him, both understanding his actions and decisions and also being completely frustrated by them. Tensions exploded this week after Ron refused to help the boys with the washing up, with Shaq deciding to take a decision on behalf of the group to go over to Ron, who was chatting with Lana and Tanya, to chastise him for lazing around. So my judgement of this was split. On the one hand, I don’t think it was a huge deal for Ron to have not contributed to the washing up - he lead the lion’s share of the cooking, and it’s a pretty standard dinner party rule that the main cook doesn’t wash up the dishes. But that didn’t actually seem to be the reason why Ron hadn’t bothered to help washing up, if he had argued on those grounds I would’ve been on his side, but it was clear enough that he couldn’t be bothered, and his claim that there was “enough of them” didn’t wash considering Will and Casey had both responded to Shaq’s first call to come to the kitchen and help out - no task is too small. But was Shaq right to go over and address Ron directly?


Tanya and Lana don’t seem to think so, both chastising Shaq for “embarrassing” Ron in front of company and, supposedly, embarrassing himself in the process. But I can’t help but think, isn’t it more embarrassing for Ron to be too lazy to wash up some dishes and wipe down surfaces than for Shaq to be frustrated by his laziness and call him over? It’s clear enough Lana has low standards, but why does she show little concern for that? They were right to assert that Shaq’s frustration wasn’t simply about dishes though, it was about long standing discontent towards Ron which Shaq put down to his treatment of Lana, who he deeply cares for. Fans of the show have long called for a man on the show who refuses to be “gender loyal” and will happily call out his boys, and their answer has come in the form of Shaq. But it seems to be a lesson in being careful what you wish for – with his estimations as accountability king collapsing, as with Shaq it often seems to be the case of having the right message, but going about it in completely the wrong way, or being unable to pick his battles. And this issue is as clear to the audience as it is to lover Tanya.

The fallout from this made for bad timing in any case as the long awaited Casa Amor twist debuted again on Sunday’s episode. Shaq had been furious at Tanya for chastising him in front of Lana, arguing that she should’ve pulled him up privately. It feels somewhat ironic for Shaq to say that – he has in the past publicly criticised for allegedly being overeager in the kissing challenge (which was ridiculous and, to be honest, a red flag) and has also made a show of calling out Ron for his behaviour towards Lana in front of the entire company of boys. Tanya and Shaq have had a strangely intense dynamic since the beginning. Initially unclear if they were made for each other, seemingly overnight they had fallen in love, making grand romantic declarations, with neither’s head turning, but with little shown to us as an audience to support why feelings are so strong so early (which is likely more on account of the producers, who seem to show more of Shaq and Tanya when there’s discord than harmony). Now all of a sudden it appears Tanya risks developing the “ick” for Shaq, even comparing him to an ex-boyfriend that she dumped, leaving Shaq furious and wondering if their positions are irreconcilable. For what it’s worth, I don’t think either is necessarily wrong in their argument – Shaq is right that Tanya should’ve reprimanded him privately, and Tanya is also right that Shaq doesn’t need to appoint himself as spokesperson for the group and meddle in other people’s business so often. I’d even add that his passion for Lana is clearly not reciprocated, as she happily bitched about him with the other islanders, whilst he’s been fighting her corner for weeks. Either way, they’ll be the ones to watch in Casa Amor – both, one, or neither could end up switching from their partners, and hopefully the viewing is as dramatic and juicy as ever.


And I haven’t forgotten about Tanyel. In fact, I spent much of this week furious at Tanya and Shaq for intervening with Jordan to inform him that Tanyel wasn’t feeling him which effectively sealed her fate and sent her home. I’m even more annoyed at Olivia of course, who seems to conspire against the woman who threatens her most and constantly has the best possible outcome. I can’t stress enough how furious I am to see another London babe gone. First Zara, now Tanyel. Tanyel has given us some of the strongest scenes this season, a compelling mystique with her dynamic with Ron, and clearly had more to give to the series. And what made her dumping especially angering is when the girls went for cocktails and spoke about how united they are on a gender front. Yeah, only if you count the fact that Olivia’s enemies are constantly eliminated and it’ll only be a few days before she finds a new woman to turn the villa against.

Anyway, I’m placing my hopes of London representation squarely on Samie, who stole the show this week telling Tanya she’d heard her story three times and just getting up and walking away from the conversation when she came over. It’s this flavour of incredibly human reaction which keeps the show entertaining and relatable, even at its most banal.