Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Season 4 Too Hot to Handle.
The prize in Too Hot to Handle is different from other dating reality shows. The cast each season is given a dollar amount that they have the potential to split, called the prize fund. But instead of simply making it to the end and getting a piece of the pie, the contestants have to abstain from a laundry list of physical behavior with each other (and alone) in order to keep the prize fund from dwindling down.
With each infraction, regardless of who is the culprit, the prize fund decreases. There are opportunities for the cast members to earn back lost money with tests of temptation, but what happens if the Too Hot to Handle prize fund reaches zero? The contestants' incentive to refrain from hooking up and even kissing lies in the money.
What happens if the 'Too Hot to Handle' prize fund reaches zero?
There have been four full seasons of Too Hot to Handle and in each one, the contestants were dangerously close to winning nothing. During Season 4, the cast struggled to keep the number above $100,000 after starting with a $200,000 pot. Nick Kici and Jawahir Khalifa were ultimately crowned the winners of Season 4 of Too Hot to Handle and each walked away with a reported $44,500 each.
The idea is that, over time, the cast members will form real connections with each other and be more willing to refrain from giving into their physical urges, thereby keeping the prize amount from falling down to nothing. However, in Season 3, the fund did reach zero. In fact, it went past that and put the contestants in the negatives.
Luckily, the show's AI robot Lana gave them one more chance to earn back some of the money they lost. And in the end, they did. So there appears to be protocols in place in the event that the Too Hot to Handle prize fund gets to zero or even past that.
Producers often give contestants the chance to win back some of their money before the end of the season. If they didn't, and the prize fund remained at zero for the rest of any given season, then the contestants would have no incentive not to hookup all over the beach and inside the villa, rules be damned.
The prize in 'Too Hot to Handle' depends on the cast members each season.
Too Hot to Handle is unlike other dating shows, in that there isn't one sole winner, or couple, at the end of each season. Except for Season 2, when there was a twist that left just one winner.
But the cast members only have themselves (and each other) to blame if they aren't awarded a portion of the full $200,000 at the end.
This makes for a sometimes tense dynamic between contestants who follow the rules and those who have no interest in remaining celibate for some of that cash. Luckily, though, thanks to our dear friend Lana, the contestants don't have to worry about walking away with nothing.
Season 5 of Too Hot to Handle is now streaming on Netflix.