On Location With ‘Temptation Island’ TV’s Hot Addiction

©USA Network/Damien Spellman
Mark L. Walberg and Kellie Freeze on location in Maui.

Temptation Island returns to USA Network Oct. 10, and to celebrate, USA Network invited Channel Guide Magazine to witness the series firsthand. I volunteered to be whisked to Maui to chat with host Mark L. Walberg, meet with the couples and discover the secrets of the show’s success.

The series brings four non-married couples at a relationship crossroads to Maui, where they spend time apart and experience the single life alongside two dozen eligible singletons. At the end of the experience, the couples are reunited and must decide to leave paradise as a couple, end their relationship to pursue something new with one of the singletons, or break up and leave alone.

Meeting the Couples

When I arrived in Maui, I met the four attractive and charming couples — Ashley G. and Rick, Ashley H. and Casey, Esonica and Gavin, and Kate and David — at the Maui Gold pineapple plantation. The next day, I sat down with each pair and they shared what they hoped to discover during their stays in paradise.

“This is a chance to learn more about myself, and to learn from other people,” said Gavin. “This is the time to get some work done so that we can actually come back together and be better than ever.”

Casey revealed that he and his girlfriend Ashley came to Temptation Island so she could work on her trust issues and he could prove he’s not like the men she’s dated before. “This is the ultimate test scenario,” he said. “I just want to earn her trust and get her to realize we can move forward in our relationship because I won’t be unfaithful like other men in her past.”

Why Viewers Are Tempted

When Walberg and I chatted about the series’ first season, he admitted he thought the season would be good as soon as it wrapped, but knew it would be a hit after he sent the first four episodes to his Navy pilot son. “He put it on in the ready room, which, by the way, looks like the movie Top Gun, but it’s real,” Walberg revealed. “And all of the pilots went nuts! But then it started to travel throughout the ship — because they have their own intranet where they can share content because they can’t watch live TV and they can’t use the internet — and it goes viral across the whole ship! And I have video of these fighter pilots and other highly skilled Navy officers singing the show’s theme song, [sings] ‘You’re not going to tempt me …’”

Walberg says that people initially tuned in to Temptation Island expecting to watch hotties hooking up, but they were quickly drawn into the drama that ensued when the couples tried to discover who they were outside of their couplehood. “Everyone, no matter who you are, can relate to this: When you’re in a relationship, you start to define yourself as the couple,” he said. “Being single again is not about who’s going to cheat and who’s not going to cheat. It’s more about, ‘I forgot who I am.’ And on Temptation Island, they’re forced to work on themselves and their own issues because they can’t control the other side.”

Walberg said that the series’ success comes in its simplicity. “Here’s the thing about Temptation Island as opposed to other reality shows,” he shared sagely. “You think you need a bunch of gimmicks and games and blocks and dates and vote-offs. And the truth is you don’t need any of it. This isn’t Survivor where I need to have a new challenge for immunity. And it’s not The Bachelor where they go on their dates or we fly them out somewhere or something. That is great, but it doesn’t really have any effect on this outcome.”

Walberg said that the drama will change every season because the participants will change every season, and complex and ever-changing interpersonal and relationship dynamics will keep people flocking to Temptation Island for years to come. “You got to remember,” he said as the Maui trade winds ruffled his hair, “while it looks like a reality competition game show, Temptation Island is a reality show with no prize that people have chosen and begged to be a part of for reasons that nobody in their right mind could understand — and yet everyone can relate to.”

Temptation Island > USA Network > Thursdays at 10/9c, beginning Oct. 10