The snow is melting, things are heating up, and Mark L. Walberg is ready to welcome you back to Temptation Island. The longtime reality show host (and often unofficial therapist) returns for Season 4 on USA Network. He’ll greet another group of couples at a relationship impasse who head to a Hawaiian oasis complete with two villas teeming with singles looking for love and a good time.
Will absence make the heart grow fonder for the pairs or are they not meant to be? It’s a question Walberg helps them navigate throughout their journey. Before the bonfires get underway, he tells us what stands out this season.
How did you compare production this time around?
Mark L. Walberg: It was back to doing it the way we did it — separate villas, cars, and things like that. We tested [for COVID] every day, so my nose got a workout. It felt the pre-pandemic vibe, but it was always on our minds. Production worked hard to keep us safe.
Among the couples this season is the youngest duo, 23-year-old Edgar and 21-year-old Gillian, who are college sweethearts. How much does age play a factor?
Age plays a role in the issues they have. What Gillian is grappling with is if first love forever love. It’s a legit question to ask that is somewhat age-specific. On the other side, when you have couples who have been together for and long time and are a little older like Ashley and Lascelles, you have other issues. [Their connection is] comfortable but not necessarily firing on all pistons. The fact is a healthy love relationship is really difficult to find and maintain. While age has a lot to do with things, it just changes the moving parts.
As for Ash and Hania, Hania says he wants to explore the possibility of an open relationship. When you go into this show with that type of mindset does that set you up to fail?
I’m open to people in that lifestyle having happy love and healthy relationships. I don’t know if that is a recipe for failure or success in this. But I think what we will see is a reevaluation of what comes into this thing. Thinking you know what you want… You come to Temptation Island with questions about your relationship. I promise you that you will get answers, but there will be entirely different questions you never thought to ask. What I believe to be true is the people we’re in love with are a reflection of us and what we have created. I hope the journey reveals to people a new definition of what a healthy love relationship is.
Patrick Ecclesine/USA Network
How was it getting to know these particular couples this season?
Personally, I meet all four couples as you see it on the beach. I will tell you in all candor that I absolutely like all of them. Something we haven’t seen on this show, and what will make Season 4 a bit different than the others, is they came in much more willing to get into it and embrace the experience from an emotional standpoint. I’m speaking specifically for the guys. In at least three instances right off the bat, the boys’ bonfire is very emotional. I think that’s different … [you will] see really strong men grappling with deep emotions.
We saw hints of it in the past with the singles on the island, but how close do you think we are to seeing same-sex couples on Temptation Island?
It’s very difficult for me to comment on as I’m not a producer on the show, but I feel love is love. I would welcome any version of relationship talk that breathes healthy love relationships between two people. I don’t even know if it needs to be specifically cast that way because love is love. I don’t think we necessarily need to have same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples. We may have couples who have all of that… who knows? I don’t have an answer for that except that I welcome any version of love that wants to be improved upon that I can help them with.
With so many options out there, what do you attribute to Temptation Island’s staying power?
It checks all the boxes for guilty pleasure and messy drama that reality TV audiences love. What makes it successful beyond Episodes 1, 2, or 3 is that there is a relatability to it. We’re dealing with a generation who have really transcended things my generation didn’t — gender bias, racial bias, age bias. I feel like this generation cares about, are you real or are you fake? I find that really powerful. What I love about Temptation Island is it appears to be this messy trainwreck and who is going to cheat on one another, but it is also at times, a very evolved and emotionally intelligent conversation about creating or finding, or defining what a healthy love relationship is. I think Temptation Island separates itself from other shows is its guilty pleasure without forgetting these are really people grappling with things we can relate to and with.
How would you sum up this season? Are there twists we haven’t seen on the show?
There are some surprises in the format. There are surprises as it relates to the singles. There are surprises as it relates to some choices that are made. What separates this season is it becomes a very heavy and emotional journey very quickly. What makes it different is every single relationship is so uniquely different, yet relatable. You bring in four couples and what they’re grappling with is not the same as last season. There are shades of it but different. For me, what I marvel at is who these people become by the end of this as opposed to who they are when they arrive. That is fascinating to watch.
I also do appreciate the recaps of what happens to the couples after the show.
I do love catching up with people from this show and where they are beyond this. How many people found love? To that end, Kristen and Julian from Season 3 got engaged on this show are planning their wedding for July. They’ve invited me and asked me to officiate. I think I’m going, so I’m pretty excited.
Season 4 Temptation Island premiere, March 16, 10/9c, USA Network