While Love Island might be the ‘Belle Of The Ball’ in the world of reality TV, amassing millions of viewers across its 22 versions (including UK, USA and Australian seasons), critics have consistently called out its distinctly heteronormative format.
The latest episode of Love Island USA, however, has turned that on its head. Two female contestants, Johnnie Garcia and Kassy Castillo, who were set up to be love rivals, decided to hook up with each other instead.
Queue the fireworks. And the applause. And yes, the questions of “what happens now”.
So uh… what does happen now?
Why Has Love Island Always Included Straight Contestants?
The series has remained staunchly heterosexual, with ITV (which produces Love Island) citing ‘logistics’ as the key reason why.
“In terms of gay Islanders, I think the main challenge is regarding the format of Love Island,” ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri told Radio Times in 2021.
“There’s a sort of logistical difficulty because although Islanders don’t have to be 100 per cent straight, the format must sort of give [the] Islanders an equal choice when coupling up.”.
If you’re not familiar with Love Island, the format involves male and female contestants coupling up in order to remain on the show. Failure to couple up will see you booted.
If two women choose each other instead of the men in their recoupling, there would be an ‘excess’ of straight men without female counterparts to couple up with. Likewise, when the show sends in ‘bombshells’ (a.k.a. intruders) to disrupt romantic couples, producers would be faced with a problem: are you trying to disrupt the “straight” couples? Or the queer ones?
As Australia saw with Brooke Blurton’s groundbreaking season of The Bachelorette, it is possible to rework a heteronormative dating show to fit the broad spectrum of sexualities. And as Australia has also proven with Bachelor In Paradise, casting queer people (whether producers are aware of it or not) and throwing them into a dating scenario will likely result in some queer pairings.
Yet despite this – and despite queer communities asking for representation on a show as massive as Love Island – ITV has resisted.
“If you’re familiar with the program, it’s about coupling and recoupling…to complicate it with same-sex relationships is to take something away from the format,” ITV’s executive Paul Mortimer told the Metro in 2017.
What Is Happening In Love Island USA?
It’s a tale as old as time: two women set up to fight over one man instead choose to date each other.
Okay, it’s not a tale as old as time. But it is a tale we’ve seen before. (Remember Megan Marx and Tiffany James, who met on Richie Strahan’s season of The Bachelor but decided to date each other instead? Iconic.)
On Love Island USA, contestants Kassy Castillo and Johnnie Garcia found themselves in a devastating love triangle, where Kassy’s male partner Leonardo Dionicio, who she was somewhat ‘exclusive’ with, hooked up with Johnnie at Casa Amour (a secret villa filled with singles to tempt contestants). In the rules of Love Island, this roughly counts as cheating.
Kassy ‘dumped’ Leonardo and coupled up with another man, Matia Marcantuoni, which prompted Leonardo to dump Johnnie in order to get Kassy back.
Amidst the mayhem, Kassy and Johnnie formed a bond – and found them falling for each other instead.
“I obviously find you attractive, I just didn’t know if you felt the attraction too … I just wanted to know if you were seeing that,” Kassy began.
Johnnie replied that she saw what she was talking about, and when Kassy prodded and asked if she was ‘only joking’, Johnnie said, “I’m not joking.”
“I like people that bring out a fun side in me, and I feel fun when I’m with you,” Kassy said. “I feel comfortable when I’m with you. Those aren’t things you often find in people where you’re [on the Island] – you get to be somebody else when you’re with them.”
When Kassy said she wouldn’t mind exploring it, Johnnie replied, “How about now?” The two leaned in and shared their first kiss together.
Naturally, fans lost their minds (in the best way possible). “THIS IS EVERYTHING!” said one person on the site formerly known as Twitter, while another simply said, “Gorgeous.”
The big twist also prompted big questions. Will Kassy and Johnnie couple up? What happens to Leonardo and Matia? And most importantly, can Kassy and Johnnie win this thing?! (Yes, hopefully.)
Have There Ever Been LGBTQIA+ Contestants On Love Island?
Yes! Love Island has technically had queer contestants, but the format has never really changed.
Katie Salmon, who featured in the 2016 series of Love Island UK, coupled up with fellow Islander Sophie Gradon – only for Gradon to decide she missed her old coupling with Tom Powell, and ultimately leave the show within two days.
On Love Island Australia, Phoebe Thompson coupled up with Cassie Lansdell, only for the pair to call it quits a day later.
Megan Barton-Hanson, who appeared on the 2018 series, came out as bisexual a year later.
“It’s quite a conservative show in the sense that it’s only set up for straight couples,” she told The Sun. “I would love it if they did a gay season. That’s so complex with the re-coupling. It would be nice to see more diversity.”
And finally, Amber Gill, who won the 2019 series of Love Island UK, is now dating Arsenal women’s football star Jen Beattie.
So while it’s not exactly a show known for queer representation, there is a precedent. Kind of.
What Will Happen Now On Love Island USA?
When it comes to the budding romance between Johnnie Garcia and Kassy Castillo, it’s likely that the producers follow what happened when Sophie and Katie struck up their romance back in 2016.
Basically: if Johnnie and Kassy choose to re-couple, Matia and Leonardo will be single and vulnerable.
As for what happens after? Well, it’s anyone’s guess. Producers could send in a female ‘bombshell’, creating yet another triangle between Matia and Leonardo. Whoever doesn’t recouple successfully could go home.
Whether or not this happens remains to be seen, but we sure are waiting with bated breath (and majorly celebrating more LGBTQIA+ love in the villa!).