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Heartbreak Island 1st episode recap: How does this show work?

Who they are partnered with, who is happy about their match, who isn't and what is this show even about?

It has been a while since Married at First Sight ended and it is fair to say we are starved for reality drama. So this first episode of Heartbreak Island was a welcome return to our binge-watching schedules.

And with hosts like Matilda Rice, of The Bachelor NZ fame and Newstalk ZB's Mark Dye, this was always going to be a good one - and we thought that even before we saw the gorgeous contestants!

Little did we know how much Heartbreak Island would live up to its name. It's only the first episode and we need a hug. And we weren't even the ones getting rejected!

Major spolier alert: read on at your own peril!

Heartbreak Island 2nd episode recap: Partner swaps, betrayal and black outs
Heartbreak Island 3rd episode recap: Secret kisses, higher stakes and elimination

Arriving on *Heartbreak Island*

The show opens as the contestants sit in a plane over sunny vistas of the Pacific. They smile and toss their hair as they clink plastic cups of Champagne.

The girls raise their glasses "to love, good times and tall, sexy men."

However, in separately filmed voice overs the contestants spill their dating histories and it doesn't sound like anyone there is new to heartbreak.

"Trust is a big thing," says one. "I've been in love, truly, once and I was cheated on," says another. "I looked at all those girls and I thought 'Oh my God.' I am the weakest link," says yet another. And then the clincher: "I've been single for like four years." Turn that plane around – these poor souls don't need more heartbreak, they need a hug and a therapist.

Nevertheless, the girls arrive on the island and wait for the boys (many of whom, even as their boat approaches the island, have already removed their shirts).

"Alright boys, there's the island, we are in some absolute strife!" yells Harry. All swing shirts over heads, some jiggle their pecs in agreement.

Making plenty of noise, the boys get to the island, Kristian leading the pack in white skinny jeans (seriously bro, is that your idea of beachwear?)

All the girls seem to be in agreement: they are all much cuter than their photos and all seem to have spotted a favourite: "I quite liked the one in the white jeans." "He's pretty hot!" "I reckon there's gonna be a lot of girls going for the same boy though." Uh oh.

The boys too reckon the girls all look better than their pictures. The verdict is clear, New Zealand. Step up your selfie game!

And again, more than one pair of eyes have gone googly over the same girl. The contestants may be beautiful but this show is definitely going to get ugly.

So, how does this show work?

The overly-pretty hosts, Matilda and Mark explain the show's premise. "Taking the game of online dating offline."

Before production, the players picked their top partners from the other contestants "from just a few photos and a short description."

They picked their top, second and reserve choices of the opposite sex from these profiles. They are then matched up into couples with based on who also chose them - the most chosen contestants getting priority to choose.

The couple they are placed in is also who they live with and their team member who they compete in survivor-style mental and physical challenges with. So it pays to not just choose the person with the prettiest eyes (though, that person happens to seem like he has his head screwed on straight anyway ;)

So basically it is like Tinder but you're stuck on an island with your first match for 6 weeks? These people are far braver than us.

Worst of all, as well as telling us who is the most popular, they also reveal who the least popular players are and that affords those players less choice in their matches.

The couples of *Heartbreak Island* are picked

The process for choosing the couples is surprisingly complex. It is, believe it or not, based on a Nobel Prize Economics winning algorithm called the stable marriage problem which we have explained in a different article.

Mark and Matilda announce that the most popular girl was Ruby - so she gets to match with her top pick if he matches with her. Her top choice is Izaak and he indeed has chosen her. It is all a bit cute and they are the first couple.

The hosts then reveal that one of the guys was the top pick for five of the 8 girls. It is Kristian (he of the white-skinny-jeans-beachwear) and other than a big smug grin on his face, he gets to choose next. His top choice is Ruby, which is awkward because she is already with Izaak. So Kristian gets his second choice - Weiting. The fact that they are so transparent about the choices is a litttttle uncomfortable - poor Weiting has to know she was his second choice - but it is all part of the game.

Then host Matilda Rice points out – "where there's popular, there's also unpopular." One of the girls hasn't been chosen by any of the guys.

All the contestants bristle. All of the thus-far-unpicked people voice concerns that they are the least popular.

Ella, who did not get picked.
Ella, who did not get picked.

It is Ella. And indeed our hearts are breaking for her. This is brutal already. "I a hundred percent wanna cry. None of the boys wanna get to know me." Yikes. Especially when Julius points out that "she looks a lot more attractive than she was in the photos" so it was just the dreaded bad profile that put her at the bottom. Sad face emoji, crying emoji, sad face emoji.

One of the guys also went completely unpicked as well. Poor Tavita takes the confidence hit of not being matched with. "Personal trainers aren't my type" says Georgia. "Personal trainers have, like, a stereotype… which I don't match at all." Aww. No one said the broken hearts would be the audience's!

After these particularly heavy bombshells, Gennady matched with Joshua – and a few of the boys say she didn't look like her photos. The word "catfish" is mentioned. Ouch.

The third most popular guy, Julius, matched with Georgia, his first choice. He is her third choice. Ouch again.

Georgia and Julius are a match!
Georgia and Julius are a match!

Kelsey has chosen Harry (she also can't seem to stop dancing in her bio video?) Since meeting him she may have changed her mind. He did make the fatal error of "dabbing" as he was walking off the dock and we would like to give him the benefit of the doubt except he also described himself as "an absolute liability" and rated himself a 9 out of ten ("this is going to sound so arrogant!") So all bets are off. He is "stoked" with Kelsey though. Good for him.

Josh's first choices are taken. No one asks Tiffany but she is now in a couple with Josh and that is that we guess? She looks pretty stoked anyway.

As the most popular of the final four, Shayna got to choose between the two remaining guys – she chooses Stacy. "I was quite happy to be at the bottom, ay. You don't wanna be a popular one. You don't wanna have to have all eyes on you." Love the positivity, Stacy. You do you.

That leaves Ella and Tavita. They are coupled up and we cut to a clip of Ella saying "I'm hoping I will get a chance to switch partners." In case the title of the show didn't tip you off to the level of emotional turmoil in this show, there it is.

Everyone is coupled up and so far only a few of the hearts are broken (mostly ours?). As Ruby says "It was ruthless."

Getting to know each other

Before the first challenge, the couples get some time alone to get to know eachother.

Izaak and Ruby are getting on like a house on fire.

Kristian and Weiting are excited that they are both scorpios but Weiting reckons they may be a little TOO similar.

Josh throws down a power move right away. He tells Tiffany that if he won the money he would probably buy "another" house. Tiffany notes that "Josh is way better looking in person than his profile and it just shows that you can't judge a book by its cover." Just its other, non-online cover, right, Tiff?

Stacy and Shayna are gushing about how much they like each other and it is too cute.

Harry and Kelsey are already on the rocks – Kelsey has almost immediately admitted she regrets choosing him and would swap him for Julius. "I'm absolutely heartbroken" he says through laughter. Yeah we aren't sure either.

"Julius is really, really lovely so I'm happy to have him as my first partner" says Georgia and before we all go "awww", we notice that she said "first"…

Joshua and Gennady think the game is brutal but his nipple was full on FREE out the side of his muscle shirt so that might foreshadow him wanting to be free too? "There's several girls who I would like to sort of get to know" he says.

The first challenge

Not long after being coupled up, the contestants find out why their partner is also their teammate - Mark explains that if you and your partner win a challenge, you win immunity but if you lose "you could be walking the jetty out of here." That doesn't sound very threatening in a Kiwi accent. Of maybe it's the word "jetty"?

The first challenge of the show and it is already pretty intense. The couples compete to collect diamond tokens which they have to put into little tubes in the middle of the course. They have to get a certain amount of these little plastic diamonds to move on to the next stage. After three stages of this, they search through jewellery boxes for real diamonds – the prize. Because, as Gennady points out, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

The twist is that they are all going to be handcuffed so they have to do the whole challenge using their mouths. Several of the contestants not-so-coyly admit they have been in handcuffs before. Saucy.

Harry getting right in there
Harry getting right in there

"I'd be keen to get a few diamonds to go with the Ruby" quips Izaak. Before cringing at his own, terrible joke. But unfortunately, like his joke, Izaak fell short of the mark and Georgia and Julius take out the prize. To the winners' delight, the hosts double the prize so they don't have to share.

The losing teams aren't too happy. Never has the word "gutted" been said so many times in such a small area by such a small group of people.

And as the ever-astute Ruby points out, if the prize for the first challenge is diamonds, what is there going to be later? The stakes are set, and they are high.

No one is going home this episode, but it looks like a few people would rather go home than sleep in the couple's sleeping arrangements the island has in store for them - so we can't wait to see how that pans out!