Fboy, f bye. But fgirl, f ... hi?
The second season of HBO Max's reality dating competition FBoy Island ended with quite the surprise: Not only were the three women who were originally tasked with choosing a romantic partner from a pool of self-proclaimed fboys and self-proclaimed nice guys suddenly given a new option — to just choose herself and keep the full $100,000 prize money — but when one of them did, she also stated that she had come to the show as a fgirl.
Tamaris Sepulveda shocked her final two suitors, Casey Johnson and Niko Pilalis, with her decision and her declaration. And to a degree, she surprised the producers, too.
"We did not cast any of the women as fgirls," co-showrunner Sam Dean tells Metacritic. "What we did do was really look for women that we thought were strong, that we thought had a good sense of self, [and] had an idea of what they wanted at that time. Obviously that can change, but we thought that the women were quite self-assured, had a good sense of self, could navigate a situation where they were a very small minority against very competitive men. That was the most important thing for us."
Sepulveda and her fellow leads Mia Emani Jones and Louise Barnard were put on the spot in the Season 2 finale episode when host and executive producer Nikki Glaser announced the final twist of the season. The last men standing — also including Jones' final two, Peter Park and Danny Louisa, and Barnard's final two, Mercedes Knox and Benedict Polizzi — originally thought some of the power was in their hands. Although the women would ultimately decide which man she wanted to pursue a relationship with, the self-proclaimed fboys of the bunch (Park, Louisa, and Knox) would be able to choose whether they kept the $100,000 prize money for themselves, effectively ending the relationship, or split it. (If a self-proclaimed nice guy was selected, the new couple would automatically split the money.) The men had to lock in their decisions ahead of hearing the women's decisions, but the women made their decisions face-to-face with the men. And giving them this extra choice ended up giving them all the power in Season 2.
Jones chose Park and Barnard chose Knox. Both of those men, despite coming onto the show as fboys, chose to split the money. Sepulveda was the only one to choose herself and therefore the money.
"What I appreciated about the women's final decision was I think that they were all honest to themselves. They were acting a bit fearlessly in that moment. It's a bit quixotic; it's a bit like, 'F--- it, I'm going to operate from the place of I feel.' And some people say, 'Well just keep the money and just date them afterwards' [but] that's not really how it works if you've humiliated somebody," co-showrunner Bill Dixon tells Metacritic. "I don't think any of the women on the show chose the safe route. And I was really proud of them."
Here, Dean and Dixon talk to Metacritic about adding this new twist into the format, if anyone on Season 2 really changed, and what it all means for future seasons of FBoy Island.
At what point did you decide on adding the final twist that the women could keep all of the money, and how did you approach concerns over whether anyone would take the show up on the offer, considering you didn't cast anyone as a fgirl who was maybe a more sure thing to make such a decision?
Sam Dean: We knew the twist that we wanted to do, but the women did not know until the very end. And that was very important to us. We both very much agreed it would do the show and everybody in it a huge disservice if anybody knew before the end.
I guess there would have been a question of, "Would we even have played that as a format point or not?" It's nerve wracking when you're in the control room; you're hoping someone's going to do it, and I never thought Louise [would]. The question for me was between Mia and Tamaris. And Mia wanted Peter. I think she would have been happy either, but she wanted Peter. My only question with Mia was whether she trusted herself enough to make that decision. Tamaris was a hopeful shot, but she liked Casey so much, it wasn't a sure thing.
Tamaris handed you some gold with those pieces of her story that you were able to cut together to back up her big finale declaration about being an fgirl, even if she wasn't specifically cast as one, though.
Bill Dixon: We really lucked out on that one. We kind of went, "I think somebody will do it," but we don't really think about what will happen in the last episode. We know we will present a twist and people can take the option or they can not. We don't want anyone to do anything that's out of not how they feel or out of their character because it wouldn't make sense for the show.
Something that was particularly surprising, to me at least, was that Mercedes chose to split the money. He went on and on in the beginning of the season about playing the game better than everyone and planning to take the payout at the end. Peter also chose to split the money. What do you attribute that to? Do you think, with how savvy reality show contestants are these days, they were concerned about image post-show?
B.D.: I think when we got to the end, it was because of the person who was standing in front of him. It's so weird, the places where the morality would come in.
S.D.: When we're filming Episodes 1, 2, 3, you hope there's going to be some change. The guys come in so hot when we're doing casting, and we obviously want a whole spectrum on the fboys. We don't want anyone who's genuinely evil or violent or awful, but we want a fun spectrum of different types on the fboy spectrum. When it comes to the early interviews and even Episode 1, people tend to give a very strong game. But what we learned from Season 1 is that we're still human, we still have been raised to have empathy, and there is a kindness to people — even though there's the whole bravado and you may be very self-centered, unless you're completely narcissistic or completely evil, you still are very touched by people. And if you have got a connection with someone, it's then very hard to carry on [with the original gameplay]. It's not even about the audience [or] how they're going to be perceived. It's often because they soften to a person.
Mercedes is Mercedes, and I'm sure he will be an fboy for many years to come. I think he loves that and I think he enjoys being that way, but he genuinely liked Louise. He fancied her sexually, but he also really enjoyed her as a person, and she did challenge him, and that's what I think he underestimated coming into it. And I think, in some ways, he probably would have liked to have come in and had someone who wasn't that, and he could have just played how he thought he would, and it would have been more of a Garrett [Morosky] and Sarah [Emig] situation [from Season 1].
After spending so much time with them filming the season, who do you feel genuinely changed the most, out of anyone on the show — nice guys, fboys, the leads?
S.D.: I think Mia learned more trust. Guy wise, I think maybe Danny. He came in as an fboy, but he was hurt, and I think he was annoyed with the world a little bit. And at the beginning of the series when we were filming him he was very [much] like, "I've got my guys, and I'm going to support the guys, and there's a bro code." And I think he really underestimated that he was going to fall for someone and have a great connection, and I think he had a great arc.
B.D.: For me, personally, I think Mercedes really went through the most — and in an interesting way. It's so hard to know: He either changed or wanted to be one thing that he really wasn't. F---boys are complicated.
Both of you brought up really good points just there in how complicated it can be to label someone at all, but also to let someone label themselves. It might be easy for someone to come on and claim something they think they are or maybe even want to be, but may not truly be. Since we're constantly saying they are quote-unquote self-proclaimed fboys or nice guys, what are you actually doing to vet that label?
S.D.: We interview them. At some point we might talk to friends or family, might talk to exes. We do our part in vetting in that sense and research. We will still go through social media and we'll do that exhaustive search. But also, we largely rely on self-report, and self-report is always questionable. So that's where we absolutely can be played, but it damages their position within the format.
B.D.: Also, we present a binary, and people are not one of two things. Every human being, our morality operates on a very large spectrum. We present it on a binary because it's hysterical, and we let them define that however they want.
The last time you spoke to Metacritic, you mentioned how complaints from the audience about pulling the $100,000 away from the fboy in the end of Season 1 led you to change things up in Season 2. What conversations have you already had about how this new money twist might affect a potential third season?
S.D.: In order for this to be successful and to have longevity, we have to keep trumping ourselves and to keep people on their toes — in the way that I feel if you are just you know casually dating or you are navigating the dating field that you often feel very much kept on your toes. And so, we have different ideas of how we could do things in the future. But no, we still joke about, "Oh my God, what do we do to top ourselves now?" But this is where social media does help because as we did in Season 1, we really study it [to see], "What are people missing? What are people responding to? What are they not responding to? What's going to shock them?" We will continue to do [that] going forward. We want to be a response to the audience. We want to feel the audience is in on the joke, so we also have a tremendous responsibility to them.
In speaking to the audience response a bit more generally, what have you observed is a big difference there this season?
B.D.: I think what has changed the most is how the audience views the show, in my opinion. I think in Season 1 they weren't sure what they were about to watch. And so, they walked into it like, "I don't know how to feel or who to root for. I really don't like Garrett. I don't know if I'm rooting for Garrett. I don't know if I'm rooting for Sarah. I don't know what I'm rooting for." I go through Twitter all day long and my favorite tweet was by somebody who was like, "I hate Mercedes. I hope he wins," which is an interesting view. People are approaching it as a gameplay thing, and I think people are understanding the meta commentary a little bit more. Right now the world seems a little dark, and I feel like, for a lot of people, stuff like this has been a bit of a reprieve.