Happy sigh. Familiar faces, long walks on the beach, drinks with umbrellas, poetry, a death-defying game show. Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 3 is a romantic, funny, and satisfying do-over for our Susan Mayer and Mike Delfino.
Of course, they aren’t Susan and Mike here. But that doesn’t stop our collective hearts from conflating the two relationships and giving the tragic Wisteria Lane couple a happily ever after, after all.
Meanwhile, the tables get turned — hell, they’re totally upended — when Ruby tries to connect with Helene as a twenty-something only to have Helene call her on her seventy-five-year-old sensibilities. Also: MERMAID SIGHTING.
Nostalgia is such a quirky thing. Hatcher and Denton portrayed a couple who lived, loved, committed crimes, and married each other twice in the span of eight seasons, only to end in murder and mourning.
The Paymers, in contrast, married at eighteen after a whirlwind courtship and raised two children over thirty-four years but find themselves questioning their relationship now that the kids have grown and left the nest.
It’s the life Susan and Mike could’ve had if they hadn’t met on Wisteria Lane. Mundane and a little entitled.
Their bickering is exactly what I’d expect from a couple who take each other for granted after spending nearly two-thirds of their life together without a proper check-in.
Roarke: Welcome to Fantasy Island, and happy anniversary! Thirty-four years!
Dutch: And it only feels like seventy.
The eagerness with which they embrace the idea of separate suites is comical yet so understandable. And Dolly’s slow, sloppy relief at settling into a room of her own is every bit the look of a woman feeling the weight of expectation lifted from her life.
What’s brilliant about the first impression of the Paymers is that it looks very possible the Island will teach them they’ll be happier divorced.
And then they find each other and reconnect like they must’ve initially done when they were eighteen.
It’s incredibly well-paced and profoundly delightful watching them find perfection in each other.
So when the veil is lifted, and they find themselves back at the starting line, it becomes a matter of clearing away the thirty-four years of “malicious assumption” that has poisoned their love for each other.
And as the sun rose, dripping from the sea / The truth shone there, in front of me / That farther from the sky from land / Is the gap between two grains of sand.
Since we only have one guest party here, Andy Richter’s appearance as the Island-actualized game show host is a lovely bonus guest star.
And This is Your Marriage may be the most effective round of couple’s therapy ever.
Not to take anything away from Fantasy Island Season 1 Episode 2, but body-swapping isn’t the answer for every couple.
I like the rules of This is Your Marriage, even if they aren’t apparent to the contestants immediately.
1. Answer correctly, and you both win big.
2. Answer wrong, and you suffer the consequences.
3. If one of you sinks, you both sink.
Also, apparently, you can fail even when it’s not your turn.
Elena’s startle response to watching the Paymers sink lower and lower is a thing of beauty.
Javier’s ability to take her panicked confession of all her personal failings in stride and acknowledge her direction for when he is to call her on it or not does nothing to detract from the impossibly awesome pedestal he’s been climbing ever since they’ve become a thing.
His asking Ruby for help with Helene is even more polish on our Island dreamboat.
And the look on his face when Helene calls him Dad? Yeah, that puddle on the floor is me.
Then, for him to reach out and share his joy with Elena? Wow, yeah, pure fire.
As funny as the Paymers are — first in their oblivious clean-slate state and then later in their game show big-reveal moments, — watching Helene coach Ruby through a drunk text has to be the comedic gold of this offering.
There’s so much going on as those two spill their insecurities and vulnerabilities to possibly the only other person on the Island in as much need for that emotional outlet.
Ruby: I put back on my wedding ring just to signal to the world that I am done. I mean, what’s the point?
Helene: Yes! Yes, yes, what is the point is very twenty-something.
Ruby: Yay. Cheers to nihilism.
In a way, they’re both in states of grief and transition.
Helene is still grieving her mother’s death and trying to find a path in a world where she feels untethered and alone.
Ruby’s still figuring out life as a young, single, out lesbian. She misses Mel and the life they had together. More than that, she misses the security and predictability that life held.
After all, nothing’s predictable in a life where you’re falling in love with a mermaid.
I figure Isla’s been keeping an eye on Ruby from the water and will probably retrieve the wedding band and return it at an appropriately significant moment.
There’s no question about it anymore. Fantasy Island has become my happiest opportunity for escapism.
Elena: Good morning!
Ruby: Mmm, that is your opinion. And can you please turn the sun down a notch? What is the point in having a magical island if it doesn’t have a dimmer?
It somehow manages to delve into really common life dilemmas with authenticity and thoughtfulness.
Yeah, things work out at an improbably high rate, but it is a magical island, after all. Once we’ve bought into that, how can we pretend to expect real-life odds of success?
As you watch Fantasy Island online, consider what you look forward to each week.
Is it the guest stars? Is it the long arcs?
Is it the knowledge that the Island can solve every problem the guests bring with them?
Let us know in the comments below what your favorite reason to visit the Island is!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.