‘Love Island USA’ season 2 recap: ‘Jaleb’ delivers among archetypal couples

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If you’ve seen “Love Island” in any of its iterations (U.K., Australia or USA), you know that not all seasons are built the same. This is evident in terms of challenges and the timing of new islander arrivals, but also emotionally, as the chemistry between couples can often turn fiery or remain tranquil  — usually the former. 

But one of the most important  — and typically overlooked  — factors that determine a season’s outcome is how the islanders act as friends, not just romantically. The second season of “Love Island USA,” which aired from Aug. 24 to Sept. 30, delivered on this facet of viewer satisfaction. One could tell a legitimate relationship developed between the final eight islanders who were in the “Love Island bubble,” so to speak, for more than a month. 

And there was a lot that could have torn them apart. “Casa Amor,” a staple from the original U.K. series in which the guys and girls are split up into their own houses and met with five new islanders to test their loyalty to their current relationships, is often calamitous for the original islanders’ friendships and couplings. But as one of the islanders, Moira, so tritely said in the final episode, “It’s not just Love Island, it’s friend island too,” and this season’s contestants held this sentiment close to heart. 

A season with such a tight group made for unique entertainment. The final four couples, however, emerged fitting the most common stereotypes among “Love Island” pairings. They were each either boring and happy, boring and argumentative, exciting and happy or exciting and argumentative — think like Dungeons & Dragons alignments. 

While there are zero couples currently still together from season one of “Love Island USA,” all finalists from this season are still together a whole week later this time around. Let’s break down the final contestants and see how they fit into this summer’s narrative.

Cely & Johnny

This couple, though bursting with chemistry, was doomed as soon as they broke off for the Casa Amor segment. While Cely pledged her fidelity to Johnny and refrained from romantically speaking with any new guys who came to join her, Johnny had different plans in mind. Not only did he flirt heavily with fresh arrival Mercades, he even shared a bed with her and viciously made out with her on multiple (nonchallenge related) occasions.

This caused a notable rift between him and Cely when he returned to the villa, particularly after one challenge involved reading a tweet that suggested Cely only knew half of what happened at Casa Amor. To be fair, she knew about 70% — but she still deserved the full story. The couple finished in second place, as the stereotypical “exciting and argumentative” pairing often does. The two commented that they are looking forward to their privacy after the show, which will surely come in handy when Cely gets around to watching the Casa Amor segments herself. 

Moira & Calvin

Calvin, though objectively one of the nicest islanders to grace the villa, often acts like a legitimate robot. “My goodness!” is his most common phrase, and he sounds straight out of a children’s cartoon when he says it. Mechanism aside, Calvin and Moira got along swimmingly, despite not declaring their infatuation for each other until after remaining friends for a while. For this reason, this pairing fits into the “boring and happy” mold, in which couples decide to stick together out of friendship and develop a half-hearted but calm relationship. 

Laurel & Carrington

If Carrington flip-flopping between girls throughout the season wasn’t enough to convince you that he and Laurel were the least compatible final couple, then surely Laurel’s whole family blatantly expressing their distaste for him was. As is typical in “Love Island,” the islanders’ families each sat down for a video call on national television to say hello, but mostly to let their child know how they felt about their current partner. For these two, the result was not favorable. Laurel’s mom lamented over how hard it was to watch Carrington play with her daughter’s emotions before offering almost no positive commentary. Introduced yourself to the family well, eh Carrington?

Justine & Caleb

These two are hands down one of the best couples to ever grace the villa. “Jaleb,” as they are known, remained faithful and admirable through all challenges and captured the $100,000 prize — which Caleb split with “his queen,” of course. 

They are the single spark of hope salvageable in all of 2020, and they became the first ever Black couple to emerge from the villa with a win, as voted on by viewers. This unabashed display of Black love is exactly what USA reality television needed, and Jaleb delivered with flying colors. 

Justine and Caleb’s unwavering fondness for each other overshadowed the largest displays of affection this season — even Johnny’s “scavenger hunt” he set up for Cely, in which he wrote poems and involved all of his fellow islanders, was no match for Jaleb’s raw chemistry and commitment. 

The second season of “Love Island USA” was refreshing, not only for its newfound inclusivity and close friendship, but also for its staple twists and challenges. And while only time will tell how many of the final couples remain together, Jaleb seems set for quite some time.

Contact Ethan Waters at [email protected]. Tweet him at @ewate1.