Fox producers should have realized they had two troubled parents in the singles paradise, says Justine Elias

By Justine Elias
February 02, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
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Taheed and Ytossie get booted from ”Temptation Island”

After weeks of reports of Fox’s substandard screening process for ”Temptation Island,” the sleazy but engrossing reality game show, we finally got to see the episode in which the most troubled couple, Taheed and Ytossie, were forced out. But as always, the previews were spicier than the actual event — and news reports of the network’s huge background check blunder (only its second biggest, considering the ”Who Wants to Marry a MultiMillionaire?” debacle) proved more enlightening than the actual broadcast.

Credit the Los Angeles Times with the most thorough report: ”Temptation Island” producers, who’d sought unmarried, childless, heterosexual couples for the game show, got only 250 pairs of applicants (compare that to 6,000 who tried out for the first ”Survivor”). Fox weeded out the too young, too old, nontelegenic, and non- couples. Still, Fox blew it, and one couple, Taheed and Ytossie of Southern California, the show’s sole African American couple, managed to conceal the fact that they had an 18 month old son together. But the L.A. Times, using only the couple’s first names, did an inexpensive web and Lexis search, and quickly discovered legal documents referring to a paternity test and child support.

So just after Taheed and Ytossie exchanged snarls via video messages, Ytossie apparently confessed to Greg, 27, the single Navy flight instructor, about her son. Did the ”Top Gun”/ honor code type narc on her? We didn’t find out, but we knew something was up when some ordinary looking, untanned people suddenly came into camera range. There was Chris, one of the show’s producers, telling Taheed and Ytossie, ”It would kill me to think that this experience would potentially drive a child’s parents apart.”

The couple’s body language was fascinating: the once regal Ytossie, sulking like a child called before the principal, and Taheed, slumped down in his seat, arms crossed. Fox offered the couple a faraway hotel suite, which they accepted — and viewers are promised another visit with them, to see if they’ve done anything to work out what has to be the most anger and recrimination filled relationship since PBS’ ”An American Family.”

Here are some other notable moments from last night’s episode:

The highlight of the show wasn’t the forced sexiness of the singles’ dates — that stuff’s getting old — but the unexpected glimpses of personality as Taheed and Ytossie said their goodbyes. The women, predictably, had a more easily emotional parting, exchanging addresses, Kleenex, hugs; Ytossie, as angry as she always was, was the most mature of the four, and will be missed.

The guys, who’d come off badly last week in a late night drinking session, jokingly encouraging the absent Billy to ”ride ’em, cowboy!” with the single Vanessa after his girlfriend Mandy had acted out, listened — sadly, nervously, it seemed — as Taheed told them, ”I don’t feel two people should be together just because they have a child together…but obviously I am going to take care of my responsibility as a father.” As idiotic as Fox was for letting Taheed on the show, this awkward moment — three callow youths abruptly confronted with the bitter experience of a man whom they’d come to call a friend — made for unexpectedly gripping television.

Good Bodies
But enough of that, ”Temptation Island” seemed to be saying — back to the sleaze! The three remaining guys, Kaya the Model, Billy the Bald, and Andy the Always Wearing An Unflattering Hat, viewed videos of their girlfriends at play. First up: ”Flesh Parade,” which turns out to be the ladies lounging in beach chairs, enjoying a full frontal view of ”that frickin’ masseuse” (as Andy refers to him). ”I’m not just a pretty face and a pretty body,” bragged the masseuse. ”It’s also what I HAVE.” Though much female squealing ensues — and Kaya’s smile is suspiciously broad — Billy pronounces the video ”painless,” possibly because he just rented something called ”Flesh Parade” from his local video store. The self explanatory ”Jacuzzi Jump” is less salacious; Andy, watching it, observes, ”My girlfriend is hammered.”

Good Thinking
Don’t hold out much hope for ”Survivor” style strategizing. Mandy, in particular, seems unable to pick up on some obvious video clues. Last week, we saw Billy — humiliated by Mandy doing body shots with soulful poet Johnny — trotting off to Vanessa’s cabin. But when Mandy and the girls view a tape of the guys talking about where Billy’s gone, and why, Mandy says, ”My brain’s out.” Actually, Billy didn’t score with the all too willing Vanessa; he brought her back to the bar, where he performed a singularly unappealing public striptease — though the producers edit the video so that Mandy thinks Billy shows all, we know he didn’t.

”He looked like a whore!” Mandy wailed. ”I don’t think I did anything to look like trash on TV!” (Let those without sin debate this one; I will remain mute.) But then things get mean: Mandy starts crying and runs for the dubious shelter of the ladies’ room, and we finally get to see that much hyped clip of her sobbing, ”God! I hate this!” We’ll never know if she was talking about Billy, or merely complaining about the indignity of being cornered in a bathroom stall by a Fox TV crew.

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