This post discusses the ending of FBOY Island season one.
The last shots have been downed and the final choices have been made on HBO Max’s FBOY Island, a hilarious and eye-opening new dating competition series from Elan Gale and Sam Dean. Three women—Nakia Renee, Sarah Emig, and CJ Franco—spent 10 weeks sorting through a gaggle of self-described nice guys and fboys while in the Cayman Islands. The finale, which was released on HBO Max today, was much more rewarding for some than others (spoiler: Garrett Morosky, you get nothing!). But for Gale, it was important that shameless fboys not profit from their time-wasting ways. Despite its silly name, FBOY Island was never intended to be some Joe Millionaire-type bait-and-switch. The A.V. Club spoke to Gale about season one’s twists, why they settled on “nice” guys instead of “good,” and his desire to help dating shows evolve. (And yes, he’s heard/seen all the MILF Island jokes.)
The A.V. Club: One of the most refreshing things about the show is the way women advise each other. They really seemed to bond. What did you look for in your female contestants?
Elan Gale: Dating in real life is very much a team sport, and on TV shows, it’s often a singular task. We wanted to have a couple of different women who would be on board to work together. They’re all at slightly different stages of their relationship lives, and that gives us a better chance of having a lead that’s relatable to the audience. They’re all slightly different ages. They’ve been through different things. They’re looking for different things. You don’t have three cookie-cutter storylines because you don’t have three cookie-cutter people. Sarah, CJ, Nakia— they’re all funny, smart, and interesting, but they’re all incredibly different.
AVC: Did all the guys self-nominate? And were you concerned that somebody was pulling the wool over your eyes in casting?
EG: It absolutely was a concern, and I think we’re not ever going to get it 100% right 100% of the time. But weirdly, what you’ve hit on is that that’s a reality in any dating show. The thing that makes us a little bit different is we address it. That is the show, and this is not a slight. It’s just that when you’re casting any dating show, no matter who, what kind of person you’re dating, people are auditioning, right? They’re giving you the version of themselves they want to present; as for how accurate that is, there’s limited time with those people and you do your best. But yeah, I am sure there were some nice guys on the show who probably have more fboy tendencies. And I’m sure there were some that fboys that actually have more nice guy tendencies, but find there to be more fun to present that side of themselves, because maybe they don’t like their sensitive side.
AVC: What do you see as the difference between a nice guy and an fboy?
EG: It’s a great question. And I think the only thing that’s a clear defining difference is the stated intention, right? But I think fboys begin relationships with the intent of exploiting the relationship for personal gain in whatever way. And I think nice guys don’t; nice guys try to make the relationship into a meaningful interaction for both parties. But I think that’s obviously incredible oversimplification, but then going back to what you said about CJ saying that actions speak louder than words, that’s just the starting point, and at any moment, either of those intentions can be completely derailed.
We also played with terminology before starting the show. There was a time when we were calling them “good guys,” and we actually felt that good guys was maybe a little too generous because being nice isn’t necessarily the same as being good. For a while, we’re like, “Well, it sounds right. Good guys versus bad boys or whatever.” But at the end of the day, the nice guys are there because they present as nice and they act nicely, but it doesn’t mean they’re good or better. It means they’re nice. To say that nice guys and fboys are the same is probably not exactly right, but I would say that with all the shades of gray between, a nice guy who has fboy tendencies may be more dangerous than an fboy who has nice guy tendencies.
AVC: Nakia, Sarah, and CJ don’t know what all the rules are when they begin. How did you decide how much to withhold from them?
EG: This was a first season. And so often, you’re making things up as you go. We always wanted them to have enough information to make decisions, but we also wanted them to be along for the ride, if that makes any sense. Hopefully, Nikki [Glaser, the host] is the one who’s kind of the omniscient person who knows what’s going on in the world. But for the women, I think sometimes, if you think too much about the end result or the end product, if you know where you’re going, you might get too attached to… I think a lot of us in real life tend to write our own narratives around where we’re headed, and that often detracts from the journey. We get so obsessed with the destination, with the goal that we actually stay awake for the ride over. That was the key, to give them enough information to always make the best decisions they could make in the moment, but also not have them overthinking every single thing along the way. Dating is a very in-the-moment thing, especially early on. It’s better in my opinion, that in the first few episodes, they didn’t know who was an fboy or a nice guy, because again, those things don’t really have any inherent goodness or badness. Before you get to know whether someone is “good,” “nice,” or “fuck,” it’s good to get an idea if you connect with them on a human level first, because then you can figure out if that challenge you’re going to have is worth it.
We saw some guys on the show that one might write off immediately if you knew their status, but who actually were really interesting, even if they didn’t end up with a person. Not ending up with the person doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful relationship. No, not getting married and being together doesn’t mean you didn’t learn something. Not ending up together doesn’t mean you didn’t have fun and affect each other in a positive way. I think C.J. had a really meaningful relationship with a guy she didn’t end up with that was probably great. And I see that as a success, not a failure.
AVC: About halfway through, the guys have to reveal their status. Then at the end, there’s that huge reveal about how the money is split. How did you decide where to unleash those twists?
EG: We wanted to give the women enough time to get to know the men without having those statuses necessarily be the only thing they know about them, but also make sure they had enough time on the back half of the season to consider the statuses the men came in as. Adding that data point to their decision-making was important. I feel good about where that happened in this season. I think it was just enough time to get to know the guys, but not too much that they could become completely and totally devastatingly in love with someone only, because that would be upsetting to go all the way to the end and never know.
With the final twist, one thing we were very clear about from the very outset, is that there’s a tongue-in-cheekness to the whole show, but we never wanted to make it feel like we are celebrating and glorifying fboys as much as we are considering them. We had to create mechanisms by which the fboys would either have to reform or be accountable for their actions. We wanted to make sure that there was no way for someone to win the entire game by playing dirty, even though it appeared as if there was. Because at the end of the day, yes, it’s a game show, yes, it’s a competition in some ways, but C.J. and Sarah and Nakia are people and they’re wonderful people. Just like in real life, sometimes they’re going to get their heart broken. Sometimes they’re going to fall for the wrong guy. That’s life, but we don’t want to completely make that the goal. I think that probably would have been a bridge too far. We wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, the winners were the people who did the best job of looking at the people they were with and being generous.
Dating shows have a very long and storied history and this is an amazing opportunity to try to do things a little bit differently. And we tried to live up to that as often as possible. And it’s not even necessarily to say that we did everything right or did everything better, but that we tried to take chances and do things that were unexpected.
AVC: The mid-season reveal is also really key to how the rest of the season plays out because the reality is that even you get the confirmation of the red flags, you can still find yourself making a questionable choice.
EG: Absolutely. I think you hit on something, which is we make questionable choices in life, and that’s okay. We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we follow our heart and take a risk as someone on the show did. And for some reason, when it works out beautifully, we call it courageous. And when it doesn’t, we call it dumb. But following your heart and taking a risk, I think is courageous, no matter how it works out.