I Have Seen Literally 533 Episodes of ‘Love Island’ and I Am Going to Watch More

by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Opening credits of 'Love Island' feature a transparent heart filled with gold glitter perched in sand the color of pale toast
Screenshot: YouTube

It is June and so that means my summer is already ruined. June is the month when a new season of Love Island (U.K.) drops, and I commence devoting one hour of my day, for around 66 straight days, to the ins and outs of couplings and re-couplings and cheeky gals getting mugged off and Casa Amor and disgusting and potentially disease-vectoring games that involve spitting vodka drinks into another person’s mouth, and then another, and another, until the final contestant can spit whatever’s left into a beaker (the first team to fill the beaker wins). It’s like a communion chalice for the end of civilization. 

The man I have lived with for 15 years questions me, summer after summer: Why do you like this show so much? I’m a smart woman in my 40s, I don’t have time for bullshit, I have never been so religious or obsessed with any other reality program other than the odd 90 Day Fiance or the Kardashians (or Married at First Sight or Love Is Blind or Back in the Groove) for masochistic sociological and/or anthropological purposes. I do not look down on reality shows, or people who watch them—clearly, I watch them a lot, and however I may try to intellectualize it, it always comes down to mindless passive pleasure. But none is as fascinating as Love Island, in which a revolving handful of sexy, bodaciously Restylaned singles from greater England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales meet up in a palatial villa in Mallorca for two months (if they’re lucky) in hopes of finding their one true love (or at least a person they can demonstratively and publicly ask to be their girlfriend before the end of the season). 

In the first episode of each season, five boys and five girls (always boys and girls, never men and women) are matched in couples, usually based on attraction (“Callum, which of these girls would you like to couple up with?”) Throughout the first several weeks, “bombshells” are dropped into the villa—fresh meat, meant to challenge existing couples, or match with those who hadn’t yet coupled—and those left uncoupled are dumped from the villa. Halfway through the season, the relatively stable couples are subjected to Casa Amor—where the boys and girls are separated for a few days and made to live with five entirely NEW boys and girls—in order to test the strength of their connection. This diabolical twist is what got me hooked: if a girl decides to couple up with a new boy and take him back to the villa, and her original boy stays loyal, she rounds a blind corner hand in hand with her new flame to find the old boy sitting alone, stunned and now single. Also, all of this happens around a weirdly ritual electric firepit—“Islanders, gather ’round the firepit immediately!”—like a sunscreen-scented Roman summit. 

It’s a paywall, but a small one

Read this post and get our weekdaily newsletter for $3 a month