The process of falling in love is always more exciting than that of staying in love, and that holds true for Sarah and John B. Whatever we think of the repetitive patterns of the three seasons of “Outer Banks,” Episode 4 of Season 1 has a special place in our hearts. That was when Sarah and John B fell in love. Their banter throughout was the sweetest thing, with its awkwardness and bad jokes, yet somehow connecting the two people from entirely different worlds.
In “Outer Banks” Season 1, when the series started, it felt like there might be something going on between John B. and Kiara. The latter had been dropping hints that she might want to pursue something with him. We understand what she must have been thinking. Kiara preferred to hang out with the Pogues despite her kook background. That narrowed down the dating pool considerably. Of her limited options, John B probably made the most sense. He was a good-looking guy, not to mention that he was more exciting than studious Pope and more stable than reckless JJ. As for John B., we know that Kiara was not the first girl he had kissed. We came to know this during his and Sarah’s brief breakup in “Outer Banks” Season 2 when another girl was flirting with him and referred to them fooling around the previous summer. Either way, like any teenage boy, he saw Kiara as a beautiful girl who was interested in him, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to explore what that could lead to.
Meanwhile, Sarah was already dating Topper, who the Pogues and kooks unanimously felt was not a good guy. Sarah was called the “kook princess” of the Outer Banks, but she seemed to have some issues; as she tells John B later on, she “bails” every time someone gets close to her. We never found out what those issues were. But there is something interesting we did discover. The writers of “Outer Banks” were all men. Maybe that is why not a single woman on the show was written with any depth. Sarah and Kiara just kept going with whatever the guys wanted to do, with complete disregard for their own lives and priorities. They never once explained why Kiara hung out with the kooks so much, and Sarah did absolutely nothing except be John B’s girlfriend, Topper’s ex, and Ward Cameron‘s daughter. All of her interactions on the show were defined by her relationships with these men. John B. is the alpha male who fights the bad guys and finds the treasure, and Sarah is his “love interest,” who is continuously turned into a damsel in distress to push the story forward. We realize this about her soon enough, and that is when our opinion of John B. and Sarah’s love story takes a hit. Don’t get us wrong, it was quite swoon-worthy until she snuck out to give him the map in Episode 5. It was a vision: her in her white dress, crying with worry, hoping that John B was unhurt. The scene was quite a male fantasy.
However, we must be honest and admit that we had not really caught on to the male gaze of their love story till this point. It was when John B and Sarah slept together later on that we understood this. Sarah had never been comfortable enough to get to that point with Topper, but when she was hesitant with John B., and he told her that it was alright, all her inhibitions disappeared. The reason this infuriates us is that this is the bare minimum, yet it was enough for John B to be Sarah’s hero.
Let us take a look at Sarah again. She was a kook; in fact, she was their uncrowned princess. John B. was an alpha Pogue. Sarah being a kook princess was her being something unattainable, something one can only dream of, which is what makes her change everything about herself to be with John B, that much sweeter for the male gaze. The writers, who we would like to remind you are all men, tried to give her depth by hinting that she had “issues,” but they apparently did not understand women well enough to tell us what they were. In the end, Sarah is just the beautiful, unattainable mystery who ceases to be anything but John B’s girlfriend.
They gave her character some agency in “Outer Banks” Season 2 when she broke up with him. That had to happen because she had lost her dad, but John B had witnessed the satisfying death of his father’s killer and his own persecutor. Sarah understood him, but it was only natural that she wanted some space as well. But what we couldn’t digest was that John B was given absolutely no emotional responsibility for the situation. Sarah was doing the emotional labor of understanding John B’s feelings, but he did not care that, at the very least, he needed to tell her that he would be there for her. She might not have sought him out for comfort anyway, but he should have known to tell her that. And the way they got back together, just like that, without any emotional work on their parts, felt too convenient and pathetic, to be honest.
“Outer Banks” Season 3 was probably the worst when it came to Sarah and John B. It was the first time in her entire life that Sarah did not have anyone to take care of her. She did not have money, a place to go, or even someone to lean on. But instead of using this as a learning moment, the writers wrote a cheating arc for her. We can think of a thousand more interesting things the writers could have done. They could have given us a better look at Kiara’s radical ideas in contrast with the reality of her privileged life. They could have shown us Cleo’s backstory a bit more, but we understand that “Outer Banks” was written by men who do not understand women. Seriously, Kiara is with Pope for no other reason than that he pursued her. He did not take her rejection well, and finally, they were together, just like that. It felt like the entire purpose of her breaking up with Pope was so that the writers could bring her together with JJ.
As for Cleo, she made no difference to the story except to make sure that Pope would not be the only single guy amongst his friends. But in the interest of finding a silver lining, we can say that though Cleo and Pope had no chemistry, we still saw their relationship develop. But we never saw when Kiara and JJ started having feelings for each other. And when they did start, the writers had to make it another male fantasy. Here was JJ with nothing and nowhere to go in the world, and a woman entered his life and wanted to love him without conditions. JJ was right in his doubts about a possible relationship, but it baffles us that Kiara never had any second thoughts, and all she was doing was waiting for him to sort out his feelings. Even with Cleo, what did she want to do with her life? She encourages Pope to go back to school, but what is she doing for her future? You see what we mean when we say that these women just exist to be the love interests of these men.
We started out genuinely liking Sarah and John B as well as Kiara and Pope, but by the end of “Outer Banks” Season 3, we had never wanted any couple to break up as much as the ones in “Outer Banks.” If we had to choose, Sarah and John B were certainly the worst of the lot. The best was Mike and Anna, who had chemistry, if not screen time. If you know, you know.