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  • Kimberly Hinds

No Casa Amor This Year? A Giant Red Flag

The fourth season of Australia's Love Island brought the usual line up of hot young contestants spending hours lying poolside, developing deep tans and shallow connections amidst a stream of inane chatter. Unfortunately, this year's format shake up - no Casa Amor with its influx of new and hungry suitors - rendered the show flat and empty, like a long-anticipated summer holiday where the sun never comes out.

It was certainly reassuring to see that the cast from Down Under are less surgically and dentally enhanced than those who feature on the UK's Love Island. The British version seems to bring contestants with increasing amounts of grotesque and amateur plastic surgery. The girls will frequently be sporting swollen lips with lumpy filler sitting outside the lip line while the guys often have cheap, fluorescent white, veneers installed, presumably from Thailand, where apparently there is only one oversized set on offer (one size fits none) that settle like dentures designed for a dressage horse.

I wonder if the Australian show reflects the state of beauty enhancements in these parts, or if it was a deliberate casting decision? For the first time, the Aussie show was set overseas in Spain in the UK version's well-known sunbaked villa, possibly too far for affordable medical assistance should an artificially filled cheek or lip become infected?

This European setting was most certainly the reason producers decided not to include Casa Amor, a spicy week where the original girls and boys are split up with one camp sent around the corner to another villa, and new hotties are dispatched to lure them away from their existing partners. The newcomers will throw themselves vigorously at the feet of the OG cast, seducing them with desperate tactics, hoping for the chance to continue on the show. The new girls exhibit unabashed promiscuity (they give the allusion they are up for anything - and any guy will do) while the new boys promise cloying respect, love at first sight attraction and disingenuous long-term devotion. It's always sensational, excellent viewing.

The aim of Love Island is to partner up with someone, ensure you remain relevant and desirable enough to still be coupled up and thus avoid being dumped, whether that means you stay loyal or swap partners, as many times as you see fit. The final episode sees fans vote for their favourite couple, and a $50k cash prize is randomly given to one half of the pair who gets to decide whether to keep or split the money with their new beau.

The first indication viewers had that Casa Amor was't happening this time was when one of the contestants, Stella, cautions to some of the gang that there are only a few days left. It's clear to the remaining cast that there is now nothing left to do but hang in there with their current partners. If they make the relationship official, they will stand a chance to win the final prize.

So the boys take turns staging yawn-inducing scenes with hand written speeches (albeit with very limited vocabularies) to officiate their relationships, which is about as accomplished and interesting as kids standing up at primary school to recite their ABCs. Personally, I've been to known to hang there in bad relationships for the chance of free dinner at the end of the week, so it's not much of a gesture, and also makes for very, very dull TV.

In the same spirit of childish and forced acting, the finale where the winners are announced had to be pre-recorded and staged, so the final three couples each had to fake winning the grand prize, with only the eventual winners segment being aired.

Yes, this year's show delivered the usual breezy dates by the sea, some hilarious accounts of gaping ignorance ("What is Merlot?", "Is patient spelt with an H?), strip tease dancing and spandex hot pants but where was the usual temptation, exhibition, jealousy, hypocrisy and betrayal?

The week of Casa Amor is clearly what makes Love Island interesting, without the ploy it's a just group of twenty-somethings on holiday without wifi or anything to read, and they can't even have sex (at least in privacy). It's a Gen Z vacation, during a power cut, without bedroom doors, like Big Brother without the booze.


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