“Fantastic! You’re ahead of the kids at least, ” host Ryan Devlin said when I told him we figured out the Are You The One? season four matches prior to the finale using a little math.
One might think that of all people, the host of the massively popular MTV reality dating show wouldn’t want the big mystery revealed early, but he said fans trying to figure out the matches send him their grids and charts every week, and he loves it. Besides, Devlin believes in the show as a matchmaking tool above all, so much so that he said he “totally would’ go on the show if he was in that position.
“I’ve had times in my life right around the age these cast members are where I had some pretty bad breakups. I got totally destroyed by a girl once,” he said. “I’d totally do it because I’ve seen it work, and I think it’s special in that respect. It’s a rocking good time, it’s funny, it’s crazy, it’s certainly dramatic, but our show actually works even more so than The Bachelor, for example. I think we raised the level of the dating reality show.”
Devlin and I chatted about this and more earlier this morning when we jumped on the phone for our annual pre-finale call and gossip session. In addition to some behind-the-scenes fun facts like how often the cast members are actually drunk and where they get their food, we also chatted about everything from the intense relationships and drama that made up this season to the shade the cast members are now throwing at each other (and the show) on Twitter. And of course, he gave us a little insight on the upcoming finale.
I’m so curious to see if they’ll turn it around. We talked last year right before the finale, and I thought there was no way they could do it. I remember you saying it was bonkers and my jaw would drop. You were right. So what can we expect going into this finale? Is it crazier?
Let me put it this way—it’s totally different. Last season, to be perfectly honest, they kind of pulled out the win. They did it on a coin toss. They didn’t really deserve to win, and I think the fans and a lot of the cast felt that too. But I think this year, it’s going to feel totally different, how this plays out. And obviously I can’t say what happens, but it’s a pretty crazy season. I think the big difference is last season they gave up, pulled their hearts out of it and tried to use strategy. I think that this season, from the start all the way through, there’s a lot of heart. Strategy is what got them the blackout last night. What I’m hopeful and expecting to see in the finale is that they’ll bring that compass of their heart back into things.
I totally agree, and I think this week was actually the first mention of strategy over heart. We’ve seen some relationships that got very serious very quickly, like Kaylen and Gio. Some were just very turbulent, like Francesca and Asaf. Do you have any thoughts about that drama or is there anything the audience doesn’t know?
The drama is about to be seen. A blackout is pretty much the most intense thing that can happen, except we’ll see what happens at the end here. To lose on the strategy side, for those there for that (and there aren’t many in this house), that’s $250,000, and that will hit anyone in the gut. But then for those who have strong confidence in their relationships, the wedge that drives into the house—whether it’s people who get to say ‘I told you so’ or people whose hearts are broken—the recovery or lack of recovery from a blackout is one of the most crucial turning points a house can go through, and we’re about to see how that affects this group. Up to this point, there’s been a lot of raw emotion, more so then we’ve ever seen. Like with Kaylen and Gio. That arc for them early on, talking about marriage just a couple of weeks in, was incredible.
Read Also: Here are the season four matches and how we solved them early using math.
What was going through your mind at the matching ceremony when they were talking about marriage?
I was excited for them. I think what’s really hard for the viewers to wrap their heads around is how truly unique and intense this experience is. You think to yourself, ‘oh, they’ve only known each other for a couple of weeks,’ but it’s different when you’re there. Every waking minute of your life is with these people, and that’s not like anything in the real world. Typically you’d go on a date and text then meet up for a drink, and it might take a couple of months to have the intense connection you get in a couple of weeks in the house. I see it and it’s real. When they stood there and said they were in love, that’s as real for me as it is for them. On the flip side, what could start as an infatuation can feel like love and quickly blow up when things get too intense. I think Kaylen’s feelings for Gio were real. Gio, I think, was being untruthful to himself. Or the passion of he and Kaylen was real, but he didn’t have an opportunity to take a step back, and that really affected Kaylen. I think that’s one of the things about this season that’s so raw. And early on John with Julia. In hindsight, it looks silly, but when you’re in the moment, those feelings are real, and the emotions for John were really intense. Some of what the audience doesn’t see is what happens when these relationships—or the perception of one—doesn’t play out, and how these cast members have to lick their wounds, pick themselves up and put themselves out there again. When we go through a breakup in the real world, we can just curl into bed and eat ice cream. Here the wounds don’t have a chance to heal because you see that person immediately and all the time, then eventually hooking up with someone else.
I agree this season seems especially raw, which surprised me in some ways because it’s fairly obvious a lot of the cast members are using the show to springboard their careers. Francesca was on X-Factor and is a singer, Kaylen is a model, Asaf is a professional dancer and Tori is an aspiring rapper, for example. What do you think about that?
I think we know going in that some of them have aspirations, but we try to pick as really fair sampling of different personalities and careers. We’ve had John, a lawyer, and teachers and nurses. Victoria has two master’s degrees and is whip smart, which is funny because she plays the ditz in the house. Some people like Devin from last season hadn’t aspired for entertainment but the show just springs them into it. He played the villain very well, so The Challenge reached out to him. Asaf is a professional dancer—that’s what he does. So if anyone aspires to a career the show can help them with, more power to them. I work in the entertainment industry and know how tough it is to get that break. I hope these guys get really famous and one day hire me for something.
You mentioned how Devin played the villain really well, and it seems like the cast members this season are character archetypes too. Julia is the girl next door and Gio is a bit of a villain, for example. With all the editing, do you think they’re falling into that or are you constructing any sort of a story line? This occurred to me when I saw Tyler complaining (jokingly?) on social media that he only got 20 seconds of airtime, which made me realize just how often some people are put in front of the camera versus others.
What I can say to that is that early on, the cast typically tries to put their best face forward. They know there are cameras everywhere and they want to impress everyone around them. That all peels away in a matter of hours, certainly by like the third day. People just become who they are because it’s impossible to be something else 24 hours a day, week after week. These are the people, and we’re not putting words in their mouths or anything like that. The villains are the villains and the victims are the victims, and the people that kind of pull themselves out of it because they get overwhelmed or whatever, all of that happens naturally when you throw 20 people in a house. For Tyler for example, he fucked up big time like the first week. He was really hitting it off with Nicole and then tried to get Francesca into the boom boom room on like night one. I wouldn’t say the house turned on him, but it was a dumb move and instead of owning it as dumb and being forgiven (and forgiveness runs as plentiful as the beer in this house because everyone makes mistakes), he kept doubling down and putting his foot in his mouth and poking people. Ultimately, he just didn’t have much story. The show is about finding your perfect match, and if you’re not actively seeking that out, it’s just not going to make it on the air. What we overwhelmingly hear from the audience is that yeah the drama is fun, but they want to see these couples get together. So if they want to try and Monday morning quarterback it on social media, I think for most of them they’re just trying to save face about something they did that week.
I saw a lot of other Twitter shade being thrown by cast members against each other and also the show. Gio was saying that everyone else’s apologies made the show and his didn’t, implying he was made out to be the bad guy. Camille said that half the exes on the challenge part of last night’s episode were fake.
That’s bullshit. They’re real, they’re all real. We go through a crazy casting process where we interview friends, families and exes. Some of them didn’t have very long relationships. For Prosper, we couldn’t even find anyone, which I think is proof enough. If it was fake, we would’ve just brought someone in for Prosper. The relationships there were very real, and some were good and others were bad. John and his ex—there is still something there between them, and we saw he was excited to see her. Stephen—It was super awkward with his ex. And Gio and his ex—he won the challenge because they knew each other so well. I don’t know what she was talking about. And as far as what Gio was saying or anyone throwing shade about the editing, you’re there for up to ten weeks and that’s thousands of hours of footage. What’s going to make the show is what tells the story for the house. Did Gio have an apology that didn’t make the air? Honestly, I don’t think so. The house asked him to apologize after the truth booth with Julia and he refused. And I’m standing there and I am pretty impartial, but I have to call people on their crap, so I called him on it at the ceremony because it’s just really fake. He was just playing people. He probably doesn’t like seeing how he’s being portrayed, but that’s probably because he doesn’t like seeing how he’s acted.
After watching this for a few seasons, I’ve started to wonder a little more about the day to day lives of those on the show. Like where do the cast members get their food? Are the meals catered? Do they put in orders for groceries?
We stock the kitchen and they’re mostly on the hook for making their own food. We provide food for after the matching ceremonies because we’re shooting so late. That’s why you always see them stuffing their faces immediately after while discussing what went wrong. And then on the dates, which are catered because they are nice and fun and supposed to be very special. So we take care of them with some local fare or send them to a restaurant. Otherwise, they’re in there. And you see Morgan, who’s a bit of a trained chef, trying to woo the ladies with nice meals. And sometimes they’ll do little picnics, like Stephen took Julia out to one on the balcony. And sometimes you just sit on the floor and eat a jar of Nutella with your bare hands like Emma does. You get your calories however you can, mostly through beer I guess.
Also, how often are these people wasted? When it comes to what we see on TV, they’re drunk often—when they talk to the camera, in the confession booth and pretty much any time they’re not doing a challenge or matchup ceremony. So are they drinking constantly or does it seem like that because that’s just when the drama happens?
It’s probably a little bit of both. They’re not drunk when I’m there for challenges, truth booths and matching ceremonies. Well, I guess sometimes they are. John was drowning his feelings in a bottle of whiskey for a while there. And Tyler too, every once in a while. But when I’m not there, you’re in your 20s in a house full of beautiful people, you’re trying to find love, you’re in paradise, so there’s going to be some margaritas. All I can say is these guys have a superhuman ability to not be hungover for 10 weeks in a row. I have no idea how it happened.
And what do the couples who go into the honeymoon suite actually do until the show is over? Do they actually just hang out with their match? That much alone time together seems like it’d be a strain on any relationship.
For sure. It’s even more intense than being in the house and essentially like being in solitary confinement with this person you just met. However, when the matches are really great like this year, they use the honeymoon suite to get closer together. And they have a lot of fun too. We send them out on adventures together, and where there are multiple couples, they’ll get together and go snorkeling or do a helicopter tour. When you find your match, we reward you because essentially the people in the honeymoon won.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.