After eight weeks of excessive PDA, explosive arguments and tense fire-pit chats, Love Island 2021 came to an end last night, with the ITV2 show crowning its series seven winners – and to the surprise of many, it was (spoiler alert) Liam Reardon and Millie Court who flew home with the £50,000 jackpot.
While the Welsh bricklayer and the Romford-based 24-year-old did eventually become the reverse Gavin & Stacey of the villa, their bumpy journey to the final and Liam's Casa Amor indiscretions put a slight dampener on last night's results.
With Lillie-gate, the Casa three-way kiss and Liam's smiling reaction to Millie learning about his bed-sharing antics all featuring in the couple's highlight reel yesterday, their victory really wasn't as satisfying for viewers as it should have been, even if the same could have been said had Faye Winter and Teddy Soares, Chloe Burrows and Toby Aromolaran, or Kaz Kamwi and Tyler Cruickshank won.
That's why the real winner of this year's Love Island was Liberty Poole – the only islander to walk away from the villa after refusing to settle for less than she was worth.
The fan-favourite, who'd been a contestant since day one of the series, shocked both viewers and her fellow islanders when she decided last week to break up with her then-boyfriend Jake Cornish just days before the Love Island final.
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Despite being frontrunners to win since the first week of the competition, Liberty ended the relationship after several revelations about Jake came out during the Mad Movies challenge, namely the fact that he told the boys he didn't want to "rip her clothes off", leading Liberty to reach the heartbreaking conclusion that Jake didn't really love her as much as she loved him.
While the waitress and marketing student could have chosen the easy option by sticking with Jake, pushing her doubts about their relationship to one side and potentially going on to win the whole show, she chose to go with her gut and announce she was leaving the competition, forcing the deer-in-headlights that was Jake to leave alongside her.
Liberty's realisation that she deserved someone who "loves her for her" was a major personal breakthrough for the Birmingham-based 21-year-old, whose relationship concerns had previously been dismissed by Jake "But You're My Girlfriend" Cornish. Not only does it show just how much she's grown emotionally throughout her Love Island experience, but also sets an amazing example to the Love Island viewership, which mainly consists of young women.
Chloe, Kaz and Millie all chose to eventually take back Toby, Tyler and Liam respectively despite their Casa Amor slips, while Teddy repeatedly forgave Faye for her Ofcom complaint-worthy outbursts – however, Liberty committed to finding love with someone who was right for and worthy of her, which is essentially what Love Island is all about at the end of the day.
Even if Liberty had somehow made it to the final as the ITV2 show's first single contestant, there's a chance that she could have won the series. Her Instagram account gained over a million subscribers shortly after her exit from the villa, while many commentators are convinced that she's set to be the most successful islander of the 2021 cast, with her social media posts predicted to be worth up to £10,000 each thanks to her huge following.
While Liberty may not have found love in Jake, she certainly found "self love" as well as a friend for life in Kaz, a blossoming career as an influencer and hopefully lots of success to come – making her the true Love Island 2021 winner.