The core appeal of shows like Fantasy Island (in all its iterations) and The Love Boat is the simplicity of it all.
Fantasy Island Season 1 Episode 4 is no exception.
If only a little time travel could heal a generational family rift. If only a day of chores could push someone out of their safety zone. On Fantasy Island, “if only…”s turn into “it only takes…”, and that’s exactly what we tune in for.
One procedural element I applaud them for is the strict adherence to only two plots in a script. If they decide, as they do here, to deal with Ruby’s fear of stepping out, they only bring one guest to the island. (Elena’s story doesn’t count as it’s a long arc.)
Elena’s “Honey Do” list for Ruby is an ingenious bit of puppeteering, and I always get a kick out of story elements that wrap back on themselves.
The fact that her daiquiri tasting includes meeting Sagundo, whom she then has to meet with (and who spoils the ending of Anna Karenina), where she sprains her ankle, which requires Dr. Gina’s attention, who turns out to love the daiquiri (and bonds with her over Anna K.) is a feat of circular action that a pretty darn delightful.
Ruby’s inclination to revert to her pre-Island lifestyle is understandable, but I had started to wonder why she hadn’t reconnected with the tattoo artist she was attracted to on Fantasy Island Season 1 Episode 1.
I worried that they only used that reawakening of Ruby’s honest self as a device to keep her on the island.
It says a lot that they’ve recognized and addressed both Ruby’s need for connection to her life pre-Island and the challenge that being given an entirely new life to live could pose.
Now, that dress should pay you for the privilege.
Meanwhile, Alma’s time-traveling, family bonding journey is beautiful in look and sound.
The theme, of course, is the importance of family, and, like Ruby’s foray out of her suite, it pushes Alma to see the people she’s grown up knowing a certain way in a new light.
I question the decision to use actress Gigi Zumbado to play Alma as a fifteen-year-old as she so obviously does not look like a girl about to celebrate her quinceanera.
In the context of a show about an island that can grant fantasies, you’d think I could suspend my disbelief for a few minutes, but I really felt jarred by that stretch of the imagination.
But back to simplicity.
Her immediate introduction to her great-uncle and grandfather is useful.
Their willingness to bring her into the smuggling operation because Tino immediately likes her is a little surprising.
Lily’s embracing of her as a student of Cuban cuisine (both then and in the present) is just adorable.
Family recipes are very important to pass down. Food, music, stories, it’s how we stay connected to who we are.
As she unravels the truths behind the stories she’s heard about her grandfather and Cuba, it raises the obvious question of how she could ever discuss this with her mother, grandmother, and great-uncle.
That this is explicitly discussed with Elena is some mindful scriptwriting at work.
Fantasy Island fantasies teach lessons. And that’s not to everyone’s taste, I get it.
However, sometimes it’s nice to have a message that’s unambiguous and means well.
Family is everything. They’re the only people who will always be there for you. Protect you. It all comes from love. Suffocating love, but love all the same.
I’m highly skeptical that decades of prejudice against musicians and the musician lifestyle is just going to turn around overnight thanks to some hot conga rhythms, but the older Lily seemed genuinely pleased to hear Alma playing her music.
And Alma’s scenes with Tino were probably my favorite as you could see her clutching at the idea of a family member who loves and understands music as much as she does.
Also, there was that moment reminiscent of Marty McFly playing “Johnny B Goode” on Back to the Future when she was drumming 2021-style for Tino and Lily. Just brilliant.
Her gift to him in the prison visiting room (not actually sure how historically accurate that is of Castro’s prisons) foreshadows how she’ll probably have to deal with her family moving forward about their history.
Perhaps she spends some time with great-uncle Raul. Maybe she gets grandma Lily to sing with her band. Won’t that shock her mother?
Tino’s sacrifice for Raul and Lily is probably the most simplistic piece of the puzzle. It seems such an extreme step to make, but it’s what needs to happen to set into motion all the family drama and big feelings that carry down to Alma in the present day.
Sometimes, wandering through the past is the best way to free yourself in the future.
Elena’s ability to flit in and out of Alma’s setting makes me wonder if Alma’s Havana and the Havana Elena and Oscar hung out together in were actually two separate Havanas.
If you think about it, Oscar and Alma never interact.
If that’s the case, then Elena’s day off is really a bit of a fantasy for herself. A recurring one, too, since Oscar commented on how she’s come back to visit every year or so.
I was a fan of this series when Ricardo Montalban hosted and enjoyed the Malcolm McDowell reboot in the 90s. McDowell’s take on the role was more sinister on the surface, but there was a hint of more of an inner life in his version of Roarke.
With Roselyn Sanchez stepping into the hostess shoes, we’re finally getting a look at how someone shoulders the responsibilities of administering the island.
Along with her seeming omniscience, she’s demonstrated she can be conflicted and even weary.
And while I like seeing that she needs some time to relax and unwind too, I hope that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously. The charm of it lies in the confidence that everything will work out.
Be sure to watch Fantasy Island online, and drop by with your thoughts!
How do you picture Alma’s reunion with her mother and grandmother going?
Was Tino and Raul’s youthful plotting too convoluted to believe?
What are the chances that the island decides Elena needs Oscar to come and see her at work on her island?
Wouldn’t that be interesting to see?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.