“Are You The One?” Finale Sees Queer Community Triumphing Over Odds, Going Skinny-Dipping, Winning Money

The finale watch party, as it had been announced on the thirst trapping Instagram feeds of Are You The One?s Los Angeles-based cast, would begin at 7:30, but by 7:30, the narrow two-story Beaches WeHo bar, awash in pink neon and staffed by muscled gay men in tank tops probably serving more women that night than they had in weeks, was already at capacity, with a line snaking down Santa Monica. Across the country at a simultaneous finale watch party at The Deep End in Brooklyn, hosted by Basit’s alter ego Dionne Slay as well as Kari, Paige, Remy, Nour and Justin, fans lined up around the block spotted Nour trying to drive the wrong way down a one-way street.

Kai and Max were the first cast members to arrive at Beaches. Kai, wearing black deconstructed pants, a gold chain, and leather suspenders, took copious selfies with beaming queers who, judging by their general enthusiasm around Kai’s existence, have yet to be demonized by a Kai of their very own. Although onscreen, Max has consistently looked one Boom-Boom away from lighting a house on fire, in person he was confident and honestly quite handsome, swishing through the bar in a flowy cape, skinny jeans and black sequined slippers. Up by the DJ booth, entirely perfect in a tank top and ripped jeans, certified hottie Amber danced with a gaggle of similarly attractive girls. Kai and Jenna (whose character arc was one of AYTO‘s most emotionally satisfying), spent the evening surrounded by friends who all looked a little bit like Jenna or a little bit like Kai. Danny showed up just in time, wearing a full suit and toting a full messenger bag. By which I mean: Danny definitely came straight from work. Danny OBVIOUSLY came straight from work.

Like most fans of Are You The One?‘s eighth season, I’d never seen or heard of the show until its eighth season — and like many fans of Are You The One?‘s eighth season, I don’t watch reality TV at all except for this one season of this one show, right now. A few weeks before it premiered, MTV e-mailed me a screener, which I almost ignored, assuming it’d be another exploitative Tila Tequila-ish situation. A few minutes in — including every minute of  Basit explaining their gender identity — I was like, wait a second. This is… good? Our team agreed. Are You The One? never felt like the next step after A Shot at Love. It felt lightyears beyond it.

“A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila,” 2007

The scene at Beaches wasn’t, I imagine, unlike the scene surrounding the cast of The Real L Word during its brief heyday (Kai = Whitney, think about it). But whereas the real-life lesbians of the ’09-’11 Showtime series let us into their messy and often tedious actual lives, replete with cocky cliques and high drama screaming matches on public streets, AYTO captured characters usually brimming with earnestness, eager to find love, discover themselves, build community and make new friends. Nobody attending this party was trying to be cool. We had all gone out on a Monday night, for the love of G-d, to be here, queer and aggressively uncool, like Danny.

Never before on television, reality or scripted, have we seen bisexual community like this. Never before on television have we seen bisexual community, period. Thus, Season Eight has garnered highbrow press its seven heterosexual seasons never quite managed, praised by The New York Times for its “frank, nonjudgmental portrayal of queer relationships,” by Variety for its “unexpected step forward for queer representation on TV” and by Rolling Stone as “a show that transcends not just the series but the entire genre, portraying queer mores and dating culture with more compassion, maturity, honesty and complexity than anywhere else on TV.”

The cast of “Are You The One”

As the finale approached, many of my friends weren’t entirely sure what we’d have left to live for afterwards, or why all shows weren’t entirely populated by, in MTV terms, “the sexually fluid community.” The fans who turned up last night — a throng of gender-diverse queers crowding out the homogenous, muscled white cis gay men usually occupying these specific streets — seemed similarly frenzied. We’d snagged seats in the slim outdoor portion of the bar, where a flat-screen TV was angled just far enough to be visible to both us and to the crowd who hadn’t gotten in, but weren’t about to give up and go home. I’ve really only been aware of this kind of thing happening — people so eager to watch a thing that they’ll stand OUTSIDE a bar ON THE STREET to watch it on the TVs playing inside the bar — for sportsball games and presidential elections. More than one attendee called it the Gay Super Bowl. (I was one of them.)

We all had our picks going into the finale — I would’ve bet money on Remy/Kylie, Justin/Amber and Kari/Max but, well, I’m glad I didn’t. “I say SEASON EIGHT and you say WE AIN’T STRAIGHT!” Amber yelled from the second floor. We did as we were told.

The episode opened post-beam-ceremony where, surrounded by unlabeled plastic bottles of probably poison, the show began with everybody stressing out post-beam-ceremony. Danny, pontificating with salad tongs, announced that six beams was the worst case scenario, which we already knew because of the math blog.

It was now up to Justin, Amber, Kylie, Max and Kari to figure out who was their alleged perfect match, through a lot of processing, some high-level canoodling, and curling up together on a couch talking about their favorite colors. “My favorite color is red, because it symbolizes love,” said Amber on the teevee. We all screamed. Jonathan drank rum out straight out of the bottle. At the “Speaking my Language” challenge, probably the stupidest game we’ve played thus far, everybody smashed pies into each other’s faces, which made exactly as much sense as everything else. I began considering that maybe Max got a sunburn at some point and wondering what Kylie was up to in Salt Lake City.

Thus Max and Kari, Kylie and Amber and Basit and Jonathan went on a date that involved driving Jeeps through actual human civilization. Basit, wearing cut-out leopard-print pants, twerked in Jonathan’s face while Jonathan slapped their ass, and we screamed. Amber thanked Kylie for making out with Nour, thus slaughtering Amber’s feelings for her, and we screamed. Later that night or week, Amber and Justin slid under the duvet in the Boom-Boom Room, and we screamed. Kylie and Amber were declared NOT A MATCH by The Truth Booth, which I’m vaguely concerned could be exposing its inhabitants to excessive radioactivity. During commercial breaks, we estimated how much 1/16th of $750,000 would be after taxes while Amber, Danny and Max took turns on the mike.

Amber on teevee suggested, “Let’s go skinny dipping, it’s our last night,” eventually adding, “I don’t want no regrets, just love, as Katy Perry said,” and we screamed. Basit and Jonathan, already elder queers in their robes and sleep masks, looked on with trepidation. “This doesn’t look sanitary at all,” Basit observed, and we screamed louder.

The episode’s final moments were as tense and thrilling as the Super Bowl, I’m pretty sure. Amber picked Remy at the beam ceremony, a match we felt very nervous about — Amber has trust issues, Remy is sexually freewheeling, wouldn’t it have made more sense to pair Amber with Justin and Kylie with Remy?

The final beam ceremony started a mere 33 minutes into the episode. Basit got the night’s most enthusiastic reaction thus far when they looked straight at the camera, hands clasped together, and intoned, “We have to get this right. Not only for love, not only for money but for the queer community.”

The show didn’t end with broken hearts and messy crying or whatever it is that happens at the end of The Bachelor. It ended with redemption, even for its most frustrating personalities: Max cried about accepting his own sexuality and meeting somebody he loved. Kai’s affection for Danny somehow neutralized the chaotic energy that’d been his calling card thus far. Nour had replaced “yelling at Jasmine” with “making out with Jasmine.”  Jonathan, the alleged bank manager who I will never forgive for how dismissive he initially was of Basit and who definitely owes everybody 1/16th of $250k, arrived hand-in-hand with Basit, wearing Dionne Slay’s space-age shoulderpads, and told Terrence J that the first time he saw Basit he knew he was gonna “learn some stuff.”

After a homophobic number of gratuitous commercial breaks, all eight beams lit up the sky, igniting the light and letting it shine, as Katy Perry said. When I wrote “we screamed” before I meant it, but when I say “we screamed” now I mean something more than that. It was wild but ironic queer screaming at a Women’s-World-Cup-level pitch. A couple on the street started making out for the Kiss Cam in our minds. Everybody had their phones out. At Beaches, Kai took the mike and yelled: “Queer people are also allowed to be messy on reality TV just like fucking straight people too!”

On the show, Jasmine sat next to Nour and said: “As the queer community, the odds are always stacked against us. And we have overcome the odds, we represent for the queer people in the world, we’re here baby!”

“Don’t be afraid ’cause you’re not alone!” Nour yelled. “You’re fucking loved!”

Kari, sitting with Max, who she reportedly talked to no more than three times after the show ended: “We have showed the world that despite the odds, the queer community rises up ONCE AGAIN!”

In the end, it went like this: Aasha and Brandon, Danny and Kai, Amber and Remy, Basit and Jonathan, Kari and Max, Jenna and Paige, Jasmine and Nour, Justin and Kylie. It seems most of these couples didn’t last post-show, but at least one emerged from it: after the airing, fan favorites Paige and Remy both posted on instagram that they’d been dating ever since and had already moved in together. I FOUND THE LOVE OF MY LIFE ON REALITY TV!!! Paige wrote in her caption. I went for a girlfriend but I left w a boyfriend mind yall’s business. 

No regrets, just love.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2743 articles for us.

28 Comments

  1. Love this! (their name is Basit, not Biset) and Basit and Jonathan are also still dating according to insta, which seems like a not-great choice based purely on what the show aired but is very aesthetically pleasing!

    • wowowow first of all, basit has been the best person on the show from day one and second of all hmmm on the one hand, everything jonathan said in the beginning was insufferable and fucked up and i feel like basit deserves better!!! but on the other hand, basit seems really happy??! idk maybe people really can change… maybe jonathan had a lot of internalized phobias going on. it just made me so sad to see basit having to like really sell jonathan on the possibility of their relationship. but by the end they were so happy and they seem happy now

      AHHH I’M A REALITY TV PERSON NOW

      • I agree!! I do think Basit deserves better, but Johnathan seems to have grown so much and Basit looks so happy so I’m happy for them!

        Sidenote: they better not go back to the straight version of the show because it definitely cannot top this!!

      • at the first viewing party i went to, everybody LOVED booing for nour and kai and jonathan and basit got on the mic and told us if we kept booing, we wouldn’t get to hear jonathan redeem himself.

        i’m not sure jonathan redeemed himself but basit deserves the moon and the stars.

  2. All ATYO seasons from here on out need to be queer please and thank you. I’m feeling VERY validated by the Jonathan skepticism and agree with above commenters that Basit deserves better.

    Also just wanted to point out Basit’s pronoun should be changed in this sentence: “Basit got the night’s most enthusiastic reaction thus far when [they]…”

    • YES ALL ATYO SEASONS FROM HERE ON OUT NEED TO BE QUEER!!! I don’t understand why this show would ever do anything involving straight people. apparently there has been a call for sexually fluid contestants so HERE’S HOPING.

      and ahhhhhh thank you for the correction, it’s been fixed. i’m sorry to all!

    • I feel like we need to trust Basit knows what’s best for themselves and if they are making a choice to be with Jonathan post show then Jonathan makes them happy and I’m cool with that. I’m also sure we got the worst edit of jonathan’s First few weeks and probably missed a lot of his redemption/their connection over the last few weeks.

      • THIS IS TRUE.

        Also … the editors knew how it was gonna turn out when they edited the show, which should be taken into account. They decided how to tell that story. I think a lot more happened that we did not see!

  3. Some thoughts.

    Bisexual culture is doing the math to figure out 750k divided by 16 is 46.8k (before taxes) but is this a game show, and is that their total compensation for all the time they gave up for filming?

    Kari, you’re pretty with makeup, but you’re gorgeous without it!

    Remy is still trash. You can do better, Paige!

    • I don’t see the Remy as trash at all?? What do you see as his trash qualities?

      Sure Remy ho’d around a little but was always honest and direct about it (unlike Kai, who was consistently manipulative in eschewing any responsibility for his actions).

      Sure Remy also could be a little harsh in his tone when calling out other cast members, but a) Jonathan and Kai deserved it imho and b) maybe we a New Yorker I’m desensitized to very direct/loud confrontation?

    • i agree with this comment so much! i love no makeup kari. and remy is so annoying, he’s literally like a little hall monitor, always tattling on everyone (“THEY’RE IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM!”) and telling everyone what to do. sigh.

      • It’s true, Remy was always open about who he was, but I was extremely turned off by his behavior trying to control situations around him (people coupleing up, people having private conversations) that had nothing to do with himself.

        He was sort of sweet courting Paige (from what we saw on the show) but there’s something very off-putting about a person who won’t take no for an answer. It just seemed like he was pursuing Paige as a prize BECAUSE she was disinterested.

        But I concede that there’s a lot that goes on that doesn’t make the TV show, and a lot has happened since filming ended. Paige is a grown-ass woman who can make her own life choices.
        *whispers* I’d still stick with Jenna myself tho, personally. There’s obviously more to the story there that we don’t know. Perhaps they just didn’t have a real spark.

        The whole premise that they’ve devised some way to determine the “perfect match” for everyone in a group of people is absurd anyway, on multiple levels. No matter what the method was.

        • I should add that I find the Paige / Remy storyline to be an EXCELLENT illustration of my life experience as a tall bisexual woman. Men will bend over backwards and practically rent billboards on the side of the highway to let you know they’re interested in you. Women never do.

          I don’t know if that’s something a lot of bisexual women experience, or is it a tall thing?
          When you’re the taller woman, you must do all of the pursuing, wooing, and billboard renting yourself?

      • I was initially anti-Remy only because on the very first night he went up to someone (I forget who) and just straight-up was like “hi I’m Remy, are you into piss play?” and that other person looked SO UNCOMFORTABLE, and maybe I’m just a prude but I… don’t really think that’s the kind of thing you ask someone the FIRST TIME you meet them? But then they started to dig deeper and we saw how he felt about Paige and it was so sweet. And he was honest about who he was, not like how Kai kept leading everyone on.

        I think Basit deserves better than Jonathan, and Kylie deserves better than Justin, so I say the two of them switch and we get Basit/Kylie and Jonathan/Justin (that’s who Jonathan was so obsessed over in the beginning, anyway).

        I also think since Jenna and Amber’s “perfect matches” are now dating each other, the two of them could be really cute together. I know they weren’t a “perfect match,” but I thought they were really sweet with each other. I never watch reality TV, so I’m very surprised by how invested I ended up being in all these people. It was just really fun to watch.

  4. What am I going to do with my life now???

    This was like the bisexual dream I didn’t know I had (and needed!)

    I would’ve also bet on Max/Kari, Justin/Amber, Remy/Kyle but I was so glad to be wrong. Legit screamed at the TV when they won. Also legit screamed when I read Remy’s post about him and Paige being together. Love maybe is not a lie?

  5. So sad it’s over and wondering how long I can stretch out AYTO related convos w my friends before they force me to move on.

    Fun convos thus far have been: fuck/marry/toss w various combos of cast members, ideal threesome (to watch and/or participate in), and sending each other all the funniest twitter drama.

  6. i never thought about how kai=whitney from the real l word but they totally are. i think kai is a lot smarter than he comes across on the show, and whitney was on the young turks sharing complex and nuanced political opinions post real L word. so!
    i cried so hard at the ending. i’m not a crier either. i really wish this show had been on when i was young.

  7. This is the first dating reality show that I’ve seen since Tila Tequila, and it made me realize that I feel starved for stories about bi men and representations of male sexual fluidity. Seeing the king of grindr fall for a woman was a bigger deal than it should have been. I hope they do another queer season and cast some trans women too.

  8. Thank you for this coverage!!!!!! I relate to this whole article so much.

    I watched the finale last night (10:30 central time is way past my bedtime on a work night) and managed not to spoiler myself. And I’m so proud of Amber for solving the puzzle.

  9. Hi, no, this is not just a tall bisexual woman thing, unfortunately (unless you consider 5’8 tall).

    I want to watch this show but I haven’t had the time yet! Slash I’m not sure if I actually have MTV. I’m sure I’ll watch it eventually and probably cry. Scratch that, I’ll DEFINITELY cry.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.