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MTV’s Are You The One? (AYTO) is the perfect combination of psychological experiment and drunken messy fuckfest. In the briefest possible summary I can manage, a bunch of greasy heterosexuals are thrown into a mansion in Hawaii and not allowed to leave, unless they find true love and then they are trapped in a house next door. Using a combination of extensive pre-show interviews and match-making ‘science’, twenty men and women are paired off into ten perfect matches based on their compatibility as couples, but these matches are unknown to them and the only way for everyone to win the million dollar prize is if they are ten for ten by the end of the show. However the only clues they get towards these matches are a once per episode opportunity to enter one potential couple into a shack full of lasers, called the “Truth Booth,” where they can find out definitively if said couple is a perfect match or not, followed by a “Match-Up Ceremony” at the end of each episode where beams of light denote the number of matches they have come up with but not who those specific matches are. Sounds confusing? It is. I’ve been watching this show for four seasons and I still have no idea how to adequately explain it. Sometimes I just say, “it’s cooked.”
Where AYTO’s brilliance lies is that as a viewer you can deduce who the matches are from home, based on the statistics from each Truth Booth and Match-Up Ceremony. If you draw up a chart with squares for each possible couple and cross-check it as the show progresses, you can often figure out exactly who goes with who before the final episode airs—something the contestants would be capable of too if a) all writing tools weren’t banned from the house and b) they weren’t so fucking drunk the whole time. Unlike most reality shows where contestants are eliminated weekly, no-one is allowed to leave the AYTO house unless they have their perfect match confirmed in the Truth Booth, upon which they are moved to “The Honeymoon Suite” because their lives are now over / have meaning or whatever. This means that every drunken fight and one-night stand has inescapable consequences that continue to escalate until everyone is screaming and some dude always ends up punching a wall. Because the matches are a little harder to figure out than “I know I want to have sex with that person,” everyone is encouraged to pursue multiple people (this is referred to as “following your heart”), usually resulting in the women crying hysterically by the pool while the men run at each other, beating their chests like gorillas to display ownership. Everything is orchestrated to hinder the teamwork that could make this show easier for everyone involved; even when complex strategies are conceived of to procure more information from the match-up ceremonies, these almost always go out the window as soon as someone fucks someone else before the ceremony even begins. It is truly magical to watch.
Despite all the frustration, alcohol, crying, yelling, and night-vision footage from the “Boom Boom Room,” each season’s group of idiots has somehow won the money. Last season I genuinely could not believe it and found myself screaming at the television at these assholes. But hey, those are my assholes. At the end of each series we’ve all seen some things, most of them unforgivable. But this is romance in the year 2016. Who are we to scoff at this unique blend of binge-drinking, cabin fever, and statistical analysis? Isn’t that kind of what Tinder is?