Ciara O'Connor: 'Greg's moment of brilliance makes our Love Island hero a perfect meme'

Ciara O'Connor: 'Greg's moment of brilliance makes our Love Island hero a perfect meme'


Though it seems like a lifetime, it was only last Sunday that Maura and Curtis went on their first date – to an orange orchard.

Maura seemed to have completed her reverse-Sandy-from-Grease transformation, going from smoky-eyed perma-horny siren with underboob being an important sartorial focal point, to beaming up at her manly-man, ponytail bobbing and wearing a pastel dress you’d get away with at a holy communion.

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She’s touchingly mad about Curtis – over in the UK they find this completely unbelievable, the smoking gun of Maura’s deception being her use of the descriptor ”manly” for him, making her a liar or a fantasist.

But we understand it. Curtis is the archetype of a traditional Irish masculinity, the zenith of schoolgirl fantasies – a young priest.

He gives consistently terrible advice, and yet people keep going to him for it. He seems to have some kind of divine mandate for moral behaviour and so he’s excused in a way that a lay-person (such as Jordan) is not.

He’s a sexual enigma. He calls you ”young lady”, and you don’t know why but it makes you feel weird and you wish he’d stop. He really takes joy in making sure his flock gets hot drinks. He likes giving long homilies and is most at home in the company of other men. He also doesn’t like having sex on TV. But mostly it’s the bloody-minded belief in his ability to understand and improve other people’s heterosexual relationships.

For it was also just last Sunday when Jordan elaborately asked Anna to be his girlfriend; by Tuesday he decided that he actually fancied India, and Curtis counselled him to take India’s temperature before saying anything to girlfriend Anna.

It was a horrifying saga, and humiliating for everyone involved: but it cemented the Irish contingent as this season’s breakout stars.

It was perfect, too perfect; a ballet or Hollywood heist too delicately timed to be produced – a rare moment of (perhaps) authentic human drama.

Jordan took India for a chat; Curtis sat down with Maura to share the juicy gossip; a faction of the girls watched Jordan in confusion and brewing discontent. Maura wouldn’t join in with Curtis’s gleeful schadenfreude, and when she realised that Anna had no idea what Jordan (who was, at that very moment being kindly rebuffed by India) was up to, Maura stood up and strode over to Anna to fill her in.

Curtis, whom she had fought so hard to win not long before, begged her to leave it and shouted after her that he was pissed off. The villa erupted. The girls sprang up to defend Anna’s honour. Greg leaned back in his seat, wide-eyed. “What the hell is going on in this gaff?”

Jordan feigned innocence in the face of several righteously raging women, with Maura positioned practically on Anna’s livid shoulder, a human bullshit-detector, making sure that not a single contradiction in his story got through. The glorious, now iconic, freeze-frame of her face – twisted with scorn and fury mid “You just said it” – is 2019’s face of female friendship. When she found out that it was her Curtis who had actively encouraged the transgression, she was knocked for six.

Now Greg, obviously, knows that in real life if you fancy someone who isn’t your girlfriend and you want to sound that person out, you don’t tell your girlfriend about it. Obviously.

But Love Island has a very specific code of honour, an unofficial rule book carved out from generations of Love Island contestants from 2015 to today: in the walled garden of the villa, modern courtly love plays out in a highly ritualised way. If you want to ”get to know” someone else, you must tell the person you are currently ”getting to know” first – it’s the respectful thing to do. If you fancy someone who is already coupled up, you must ask permission from their partner before you initiate any conversations with your crush – again, respect.

Greg knows all this. As the villa went up in metaphorical flames, Greg, carefully perplexed, asked Curtis: “What was your thought process behind that?”

It was the finest, most pleasant ”what the f*** were you playing at?” that TV has ever seen, and earned Greg new levels of public adoration.

All any contestant in Love Island hopes for is not love, not money – but simple immortality. Just one moment of brilliance that taps into the cultural zeitgeist, that makes you more than a reality star, more than a hero. That one moment that makes you a meme.

Memes have become to Love Island what Paddy Power is to televised horse-racing: you’re not really watching unless you have one eye on Instagram, monitoring shifting perceptions and excellent visual lols to send to the person you’re casually gunning for a second date with.

There is nothing like seeing the birth of a perfect meme, knowing you’ve witnessed magic happening: that you will see this very moment over and over again, ”what was your thought process behind that?” becoming ever more out-of-context. Greg, God bless him, will outlast us all.

The last couple of episodes have been Love Island’s silly season, as it closes in on its winners: they spend a couple of days sending all the couples out on bigger budget (but still bad) dates. Boats, helicopters, pyrotechnics – they are excruciatingly boring. It is the yin, every year, to Casa Amor’s brilliant chaotic yang.

Greg arrived, in his words, late to the party. We have only spent 10 (perfect) episodes with him, but like any Irishman worth his salt, he took pains to catch up – and how. Greg and Amber are pretty much the only pair who are both well-liked: Maura is beloved, but Curtis reviled; Ovie is worshipped, but India mistrusted; though there’s not much to dislike about poor Tommy, but shrewd and whingy Molly-Mae grates. Criminally, Belle and Anton appear to have been discounted as serious contenders.

The point is that our guy’s in with a shot. Greg is not just Greg. Instead, Greg became a symbol of hope, growth and fresh starts the minute Amber chose him over her toxic ex Michael. On to Greg we projected all the goodness to counterbalance Michael’s badness (and he really was a nasty piece of work).

But Greg rose to it: during the baby-minded challenge he said such knicker-dropping things as: “I’ve fed, burped and changed him, so can you hold him quick whilst I go to the bathroom?”

Earlier last week, he quietly slipped out of the villa to fly home for his grandmother’s funeral. Which is, let’s admit it, a sexy thing to do.

He seems appropriately in awe of Amber, but hasn’t lost the run of himself. While the other boys are giving mad romantic pronouncements on their final dates, he said, eyes a-sparkle: “I’m delighted I got to meet you.” And when we saw all the boys gyrating for a few seconds, all eyes were on Greg: we don’t know where in Limerick he got those hips.

Tonight we’ll find out if Maura’s brilliance is enough to put herself and Curtis through to tomorrow’s final. Greg/Amber and Tommy/Molly are the only couples definitely in the final so far, and the favourites are far from dead certs.

Yes, 2019 could be the year that Ireland breaks Love Island.

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