Upon hearing of the return of Temptation Island this January to the USA network, I was immediately excited. It is among the top five reality series ever and the preview trailer looks like fun. Will I actually watch it? Debatable, at least in real time. I don’t know that reality series work for me anymore. I’m even bad about keeping up with Drag Race.
But it did bring up a good question: Would I make an effort to watch Paradise Hotel if it came back? The answer is a resounding “Oh hell yeah” for the best reality series EVER. And taking that a step further, I was compelled to look Paradise Hotel up on YouTube and start rewatching it right away.
Aside from watching it religiously in its original June – October 2003 run and at least once completely through on the Fox Reality Channel during its heyday (roughly 2007-ish), I don’t think I have watched it since — though it has often been a topic of conversation in my circles through the last 15 years. So, I was very surprised to have learned that there was a Paradise Hotel 2 in 2008. It aired on the Fox Reality Channel, which maybe my cable provider had already dropped by then, but still I feel like I should have known. Someone should have told me!
But my two tickets to Paradise Hotel 2 would have to wait. The first season was calling. And when one is called to rewatch a reality show, one must drop everything else. But being so close to Christmas, one must also look to combine efforts. So, ta-freaking-da, it’s this week’s column.
Sunday Night: Episodes 1 – 2
I remember the original cast as if it was yesterday. The first time through I was around their age and yet even then I couldn’t relate to a single one of them. At the time, I equated them with the kind of Greek System affiliated types I avoided through college, though looking at them now, none of them strike me as particularly collegiate. They were douchey in 2003 too, but now with some time and additional pop culture put between us, I realize that any one of them could have been the source for Eleanor on The Good Place. Solid Arizona trash. This is why the early 2000’s is looked back on with a disgust. Case in point, Zack’s hair. So much gel and so many spiky peaks looking both crispy and greasy at the same time. Andon’s hair is even worse. No, Alex’s hair is the worst. So much bad hair, so little time.
I feel like the whole coupling off with a stranger wouldn’t really work now. It’s a Tinder hook-up culture, yeah, so I’ve heard (though I read that young people are actually having less sex), but I feel like now we’d get one of the girls complaining that she’s been triggered. It would be a nightmare for the producers with that much alcohol and that much social awareness. We kept our emotional/psychological baggage a secret back in the ye old past. Not that bottling it up was good, but it for salacious trash TV it kind of was.
Honestly, in my 40’s, I watch Charla getting the black necklace and going to her room alone and think: She’s the luckiest of them all. She doesn’t have to worry about who is sleeping where, and she doesn’t have worry about if she snores. She’s going to be the most well-rested and the most ready to strategize to win!.
Then I immediately think about Toni, for some reason I am sure she snores. But also, just watching her, knowing I will soon she her eye-bulging drama, I find myself unable to critique her every move. We aren’t supposed to know that’s she’s insane yet, but I can’t help to see it now in every scene.
In Episode 2, Andon creeps on Charla over dinner. Holding her hand, nuzzling her, telling her they connect on a deeper level. Spoiler alert — Charla wins and here is where I think she deserves it. Right here. She has to shack up with a guy to save her ass, so she plays along. She doesn’t think they are men. She calls them 16 year olds and unfortunately then uses the R word, forever ruining her case to me that she really is better than the rest of them. But she is playing the game hard taking Zack to her room, then having him hide in the closet while she lies in bed with Andon. Like there was no where else to sit? Was it so cold in paradise that she had to get under the covers to have a conversation?
Charla picks Andon for the private excursion. Not Zack. This is great because we get to see Toni rage for the first time. Of course, Andon ruins it by being a dick when Charla’s puking in the sand. But c’mon who asks a guy you’ve only known a couple days to rub your back while you puke?
What is most problematic for me now is Amy and Zack. The way he complains to her how he wanted Amanda or Kristin to pick him is ugly. I don’t like Amy. She’s needy and weak, but now I also see her as damaged and I want to know why she puts up with this. There can be no love story here because he is a fool and she is a hot clingy mess. It is too sad to watch. Why does she hate herself? It’s no fun to hate on a girl with issues.
That being said, Amy is the worst dresser on the show — and that insult goes a long way considering this is an era filled with horribly aggressive highlights, rectangular sunglasses and platform flip flops. Cap sleeves look good on no one!
At the end of Episode 2, as they select the newest check-in, I’m repulsed by the bravado of both choices: Tom from Jersey and Dave from Boston. Tom looks a little like Zac Efron. All the guys, those at the hotel and in the studio have such overblown egos. It’s not attractive. Did we, as a culture, get over this in the last 15 years? Current President aside, obvi.
Monday Morning: Episodes 3-5
Dave comes to Paradise. We’re supposed to think he’s the “Every Man” and that some guy with personality is going to have a fair shake with all the model boys on the show. This smacks of porn logic. Paradise Island — or any show — would not bring on a woman based on her personality if her looks weren’t well-above average. And then the kicker ends up being that Dave’s personality is very much on par with his looks. He’s an ass. He degrades women, he’s pushy, and he thinks he deserves women out of his league. So much sexism and ego. Ugh! If these guys were such a catch no matter their physical appearance, they wouldn’t operate with such gross bravado. Insecurity is tragic flaw.
Possibly more problematic is that Dave takes Charla and Amy on a shopping spree with “Pretty Woman” playing in the background. Yeah, it’s very on the nose. Knowing that Charla wins and doesn’t split the money with Dave in the end – Oh, pshhhhh, no spoiler alert needed — this happened before my kids’ first birthday and they are now high school juniors – I understand why. She whored herself out for that money, why should she share it?
Also, it’s around this point in the re-watching that I started to google “Paradise Hotel where are they now?” It’s a good thing I have the day off work.
In Episode 4, Charla pours her heart out to the massage therapist and all I can think of is if the therapist is actually licensed? Is she just a producer? It doesn’t look like a good massage. I don’t so much care if Ken is an actual bartender or not. As a former bartender, I can promise you, anyone can tend bar. Especially to a group of annoying drunk 20-somethings. This is the the famous “Dave doesn’t take care of his feet” soliloquy. What if in the middle of the night our feet touched? Exactly, Charla! I get shivers just thinking about it.
Now. I know this is all scripted, but I even knowing that I can’t help but yell at Andon. The dude is a major douche, but he had Kristen & Amanda sitting solo and the last pick. He could have saved himself, been coupled up and set safely aside while the other idiots had to make Toni and her teary bulgy eyes choose. He deserved to get booted on bad strategy alone. This comes down to ego. Oh there are so many parallels I could make about current politics, if I didn’t have to watch the rest of this series before Thursday, I would write that column.
With Andon and his really bad tattoo, straw cowboy hat, and bandana gone, it was time to vote in a new resident. I don’t know what makes me more uncomfortable, watching the guys in Paradise flirt with Kavita and Desiree or watching the ladies flirt back. And by flirt, I actually mean make aggressive double entendres and ask demeaning demands. “Stand up and show us your butt.” This is the point where I can’t take it anymore and I need to just fast forward. They are all so icky – the writers, the people. Ew.
Episode 5 – I’m not a quitter. Kavita checks in to Paradise. Host Amanda Byram is back to saying Los Angeles instead of L.A. Except she says it Los Angel-ease and that grates me to no end. I will be fast-forwarding through her bits from now on. This is to save time and my sanity.
There’s a kissing contest and Amanda gives all the boys a peck on the lips and leaves. I like her shirt. It’s very 2003 with those slit sleeves, but I think I could make it work in my wardrobe now. Toni is like a vicious lioness attacking all the boys and I feel bad for them. Nay, I worry if they feel victimized. Dave, of course, is dissed and yet, I don’t worry for his psyche. It’s like their high school clique antics are actually contagious and I immediately assume that Dave needs to be put in his place. He will never belong with the beautiful people. I don’t like any of them, this is true, but because Dave has an equally as obnoxious personality, I like him less. So much psychology to unravel here. I don’t like what it says about me. I kind of want to stop watching. But then Kristin makes out with Dave and I a little less bad for some reason. Probably because everyone has the same reaction.
My problematic feelings disappear when Zack storms off like a baby after watching Amy (who as we will never forget was his third choice) starts faux-making out with Toni. Though I feel no joy in this display because I hate all of them. Zack literally says, “I’m the better looking one” while flailing his towel around like a toddler. That Amy doesn’t just laugh at him and walk away reminds me that her whole fun-loving things is an act. She’s got serious issues. I am saddened by all of this. It’s no longer fun and I think I’m going to stop watching, but then Charla runs off to Scott’s room for some action. And just as I remember it, her advances are rebuffed. Then later, Dave awakes to her crying and I know something awkward is going to happen. This is the horror movie anticipation. Dave’s gets up (why does he get the big bed?) and walks over to Charla’s twin bed, only to be sent away. And it’s just not awkward enough to keep me invested.
As the whole Zack/Amanda thing unfolds and Zack full-on lies to Amy about him starting it — while alternating between it being Amy’s fault for hurting him, I can’t help feel bad for Amy. She can’t spot a manipulative lying asshole right in front of her face. I may have been just as ridiculously desperate as her in high school. Is this is why I hate her? I need to make my daughters watch this so that they are aware that this behavior happens. Tonight’s dinner conversation: Don’t be an Amy. Know how to spot and run from a Zack.
Monday Evening Episodes 6-12
Dave is unbearable. I don’t care about anyone. Did I seriously love this show?
Kavita leaves. Matt comes. Zack is jelly. Blah.
I fell asleep somewhere between the end of Episode 7 and mid-episode 9. Matt is gone, Amanda’s ex-boyfriend is gone and Tara from Lake Elsinore, CA has checked in. The popular boys were essentially bullying Dave by making a bet with him that he’d kiss Tara before midnight — full well knowing he’d creep her out. And Toni is crying that she’s 29 years old and has nothing, so Beau is yelling at her that she’s beautiful. He also says, “Shut up” and I do remember in another episode that Toni went into a Roid Rage when someone told her to shut up. Not even her parents speak to her like that. Was it Beau?
Meanwhile Carla’s going to bed frustrated because Scott won’t put out. She, Tara and Dave are setting up an alliance and Kristin wants Amanda out. Do I really care? I would if I can remember when Toni gets booted. I want to see Toni gone or turn into the Incredible Hulk, choice is hers.
There’s mud wrestling. Toni says Dave pulled at her bikini top. If this was now, he would be kicked off the show. I think he should be gone for just being a creeper. Just because there seems to be an “in crowd” I want them gone. It makes me like Amanda more.
Episode 11 is where they all start getting sick of each others’ shit. And Toni gets jealous when Kristin kisses Scott.
Keith. Why does he look so familiar? IMDb says Paradise Hotel is his only credit.
Episode 12 is where Keith shakes up some shit. Team Barbie is formed. Charla and Tara are going to keep acting like dumb models. I am now interested once again. Also I loved seeing Zack get kicked off and I loved Amy crying. I forgot how rewarding that felt the first couple times around.
Googling what happened to Keith Cuda begins. Also, I’m kind of obsessed over his pointy ears.
Late night Monday: Episodes 13 – 16
Wow, Amy is so full of herself. And stupid. In what universe was Zack was the most respected person there? What a selfish bitch. And to think that I almost stopped watching because I developed a crisis of conscious over her.
Holly Pastor arrives along side her really bad holly tattoo. I remember enough of her to know that it’s not a jolly holiday with Holly. She slides right into a marriage of convince with Scott and then loses her mind in fit of jealousy. I already know I will be fast forwarding through all of her nagging and bitching, even though it is exactly what Scott deserves for being so holier than thou and turning down drunk horny Charla. Though I will slow my FF roll when it comes to the end of Toni. This is why I enjoy rewatching. I am possibly a bad person, but it is scripted and these aren’t real real people.
Episode 14 is where paranoia totally takes control of Toni. Yahtzee! Game on, bitch! What a joy to watch her unravel. Even better, Beau isn’t having any of it. When Toni sacrifices herself for Amy by choosing Keith, I feel not an ounce of pity. That Kristin just stands there with her frozen heart on her sleeve kind of makes me like her for the first time.
Tuesday Morning: Episode 17
I’ve taken to keeping Paradise Hotel running in the background as I get ready for work and do other stuff, though I watched every second of Tom and Smokey (his stuffed monkey). That shit is hilarious. I vaguely remember as Desiree is introduced that I will later come to loathe Tom and I’m pretty sure it’s her fault.
I’m starting to notice job titles. Desiree is a massage therapist. Tom is a bartender. Tara and Keith are models. Toni is personal trainer. As I originally thought, these are not professionals, not even students. Not saying that’s important, but it says a lot about the level of intelligence. And I guess the lack of time in an actual frat house or dorm keggers is why they cant control themselves with an open bar. Kids, this is a big reason why college is important.
Tuesday Night: Episode 18 – 25
I have taken to Fast Forwarding through all the “recaps” and past black and white scenes to illustrate hypocrisy and it’s cutting down the episodes to about 23 minutes each. When I also skip ahead every time Amy, Alex, or Kristin plot/talk amongst themselves it allows me to really jam on through.
This episode they are going to elect a King and Queen of Paradise and there will be a twist no one saw coming (shocker!). Thing is, while I remember the broad strokes of the show, the details are fuzzy and I don’t remember what the twists are. So, I’m totally in.
Amy is proving meltdown by temper tantrum that she never was the cool laid back fun girl after all when Queen Tara and King Dave don’t send her home. Charla ends up double fisting drinks to cope with rooming with Alex, but it’s later in Episode 19 that I realize she’s hella witty. Charla is my spirit animal.
Also, all these Swedish subtitles are making more sense to me now. I think I’m learning a new language! Tack means “Thanks”.
The joy I felt for Alex getting the boot was short lived due to Zack’s return. He lies to Amy that everyone at home is behind her. Then Amanda comes on. (Yay!) Followed by Kristin and Beau who along with Zack show us that Junior High bullies never grow up. What hateful, bitter people. I am trying to remember the level of my rage against them when I didn’t know that Tara, Keith & Charla would eventually prevail. I also suspect these are the kind of people who would be cheering on Brett Kavanagh’s nomination and standing behind Trump. Uneducated, angry and cocky, there is nothing uglier.
I may or may not have yelled at my phone, “Why is no one cataloguing Zack’s cheating on you?” and I definitely did laugh at Amy’s bad skin. I am not proud of this, but it happened. I also made sure I washed my face — around 2am/mid-episode 24.
Goodbye Desiree and Melanie! I can now sleep the sleep of the just.
Wednesday Night: Episode 26
With less than 5 hours of sleep last night, I can only with stand half an episode. Though a couple things:
- I like Keith best of all remaining, but I’m getting sick of looking at him. His eyes are too close together and while at an angle or profile, he is quite attractive, looking at him head-on he somehow reminds me of a cartoon fish. I can’t explain it any differently
- I made the mistake of googling of my least favorite person, Amy Tolliver. According to her Twitter, she was a cheerleader, has been in some Vegas show I have never heard of (from the pictures I’m thinking it’s not at a casino I would ever go to. I want to say it looks like a community theatre version of a Vegas show, but that sounds like I’m the one being a bitter angry twat), and has recently completed nursing school. Though time has not been kind and she must have an affliction where she can never have a good hair, I now see her as a full real human and I have a hard time hating on her. Yeah, I’d never want to be her friend, like ever and would probably be nice to her face if I knew her, but roll my eyes a lot and say sassy shit about her in the car on the way home, but I can’t HATE her anymore on the show without feeling bad that I’m judging a not yet fully formed adult. This probably makes me a better person, but kind of ruins the fun of the show. If I can’t bring the rage against her, how can I love to hate to any of the others? They are obviously all not grownups and my motherly instincts tell me that it’s not fair to judge what they do. What a way to ruin reality TV.
Thursday Night (past my deadline): Episode 26 – Episode 29
Dave is unbearable. Holly has stepped up her game and I refuse to google her because I want to hate her. Scott is so milk toast that I have never really cared one way or the other. Having already watched this, I know it won’t happen, but I can’t help but hope in one of the Paradise Hotel twists Dave and Holly will be voted off and the new couples will be Tara/Scott and Charla/Keith. Charla’s eyes are wide set and I think she would bear Keith attractive children. I think Tara has enough personality to spare some for Scott.
Friday Morning (WAY past my deadline): Episode 30
Ack! I fell asleep last night! Watching the finale as I get ready. The old cast members come back. Ugh, Toni. And dammit, I am back to hating Amy. She’s such a bitch that I don’t care if she’s a nurse now dancing in crappy Vegas shows on the weekends or whatever.
The losers are finally being nice(r) to Charla, but they are not coming to terms with their hypocrisy. Keith cries during his speech and I secretly hope it’s because he’s a really good actor. Charla wore a black headband for day and a white one for night. I wonder if she’s hiding a massive zit.
The partners switch up. No one looks happy, but I can see relief in Charla’s eyes. KEITH AND CHARLA WIN! I knew it, but I was still happy to watch it. They get half a mil to split. I hadn’t remembered the amount. That’s not bad, even with taxes taken out.
They have the choice to split the money and you can see on Keith’s face that he’s going to split it right away with Tara. I thought Carla was a bitch the first time around for not giving Dave the money, but now, I think she was right in not splitting it. If she was with Dave she never would have won. Toni actually speaks the truth. I know, shocking.
Keith gives Tara half the cash to pay for her mom’s back surgery. I feel like I should cry, but I don’t. The Dave and Charla moment is just uncomfortable. He so wants that money, but he’s creepy AF. Dave is lying with every word. I see it all on this face. I like him less than Amy, more than Zack though.
Two things at the end bug me still.
- Keith says he and Tara want to take everyone to Vegas. Why? What have those fools done for them. People pleaser much, Keith?
- Host Amanda says something about next season. But there was no proper next season. I am still a little hurt and angry knowing how I spent YEARS waiting for the next season. I want someone to answer for that.
All in all, I guess it does hold up, but I probably wouldn’t be too terribly keen to watch a new season of Paradise Hotel had they brought it back. It’s not that the premise of the show doesn’t hold up — it’s that I really don’t want to invest that much time watching a bunch of dumb shit early twenty-somethings.
For that reason alone, I don’t think I’ll be watching the new Temptation Island, but I welcome your thoughts.