Youf you’ve already watched the first eight episodes of The ultimatum: Move on or marry—and you should before you read any farther, because it’s all spoilers from here on out—your head is probably spinning. You might like Love is blindBefore it Ultimatum This Netflix reality show was hosted by Nick Lachey. Chris Coelen created it. Six attractive young couples are given the task of getting engaged. However, only four pairings end up cohabiting with another potential match for three weeks. It was a series of fights, tears, and furtive relationships that ensued. And now here we are, in advance of the season finale and reunion, dropping on April 13, exhausted and exasperated but eager to break down the first eight episodes and try to game out what’s to come.
Ultimatum This is fundamentally a spinoff of Love is Blind, one of reality TV’s biggest hits in years. Is it as good or worse than its predecessor?
Judy Berman Not quite. I think the season has had some eye-popping moments, from the dinner where everyone chose the person they wanted to live with for three weeks to the drunken psychodrama of the first girls’ night. This stuff is more captivating than what you might expect. Love is blind episode. In both series, I liked watching the new couples meet each other’s families; it’s always interesting to see people in the context of the parents, cultures, etc. That was what shaped them. But these scenes felt less real. UltimatumThis could be because the wedding was not planned.
Shows where the real show is behind LIB, as far as I’m concerned, is in the one-on-one interactions within the couples, new and old. While reality television producers enjoy a heated argument with their viewers, it was boring listening to them argue over who was texting and who was going out late. I was hooked by pods. LIB; there’s something magical about getting to witness people opening up to each other and making connections based on conversation alone. The drudgery of everyday coupledom just isn’t as fun to watch.
Eliana Dockterman:Judy, you are right. Many of the episodes that featured the couples getting to know one another in the beginning were enjoyable. It got a little depressing as the couple returned to their former partners. Most of the “old” relationships were on the verge of breaking because of the ultimatum, and, predictably, most partnerships disintegrated under the pressure. They shouted. They ran out. They fell back in the toxic relationships that predominated before their appearance on the show. It was hard to root for any “old” couple when they all seemed so miserable.
Nick and Vanessa Lachey appear in “The Ultimatum”
Nick and Vanessa, who weren’t given much to do in the first season of Love is BlindThey have increased their role as hosts. In Ultimatum, they were on hand to mediate some of the cast members’ most intense confrontations. Are they a blessing?
ED: No offense to Nick and Vanessa, whose marriage has lasted quite a long time by Hollywood standards, but I’m confused by when and how they became experts on love. Nick got involved in a messy, public divorce. They should have shared more of the learnings from this experience, and about their relationship in order to be considered pseudo-authorities regarding marriage. In my book, the best advice-giver on the show was Rae’s mom, who acted as a couple’s therapist for Rae and Zay during a lunchtime fight. For Season 2, hire her.
JB: This is something that I support. Shanique’s family really impressed me, too. Their family was close knit, welcoming and supportive. However, they did not hesitate to ask tough questions. Although I was concerned that Zay might open up about his estrangement from his parents to them, I felt that they were going to see that as a red flag. However, I found it incredibly touching that they welcomed him and embraced him.
The families’ authenticity made the Lacheys come off as a bit rehearsed by comparison. That said, I do think they’re improving. Nick’s standout moment was in the LIB reunion, when he shut down toxic veterinarian Shake’s justification of his superficiality—”We’re animals”—with the B+ comeback “No, youTreat animals. We’re human beings. There’s a big difference.” But I actually think Vanessa has made more progress toward becoming an insightful mediator.
Speaking of intense confrontations mediated by the Lacheys, the dinner in episodes 2 and 3 where cast members chose their new trial-marriage partners was so messy—and it ended in two apparently spontaneous proposals that were both accepted. Do we believe that Lauren, Nate and Hunter will live happily everafter?
JB: No. Lol no. Some There is a chance it could work. I don’t buy that the parenthood issue is settled just because Nate would prefer not to see Lauren spend a week with Colby. They did have one of their strongest relationships when they first met, so if Nate can let go of his own self-deprecating ways, it might be possible for them to get along.
Alexis and Hunter? Oof. Oof. Then she spends the rest of the season—including her extremely staged bachelorette party, where the only guests were the other female cast members—attacking him. This is not a person who’s ready to settle down.
ED: They’re both doomed. Nate’s proposal was definitely BS. Nate whispering to Madlyn “I’m going to pick you” minutes before proposing to Lauren was hilarious and awful. Nate thought that he would win over many women because he wanted to have kids soon. His ego got bruised when Shanique, April, and April chose another man for him. He ran back to Lauren. Alexis and Hunter, I just don’t really care about. Alexis was dramatic and Hunter was boring. It seems that opposites attract.
L-R: Lauren and Nate in “The Ultimatum”.
Which of the other couples, new and old—if any—seem like they have what it takes to make a marriage work? What about the ones that need to be broken up right away?
ED:Jake and Rae seemed to instantly get along. I think they’re the strongest potential couple. Madlyn and Colby need to break up because she obviously can’t stand him. He is egotistical and she rolls her eyes.
But, if I’m being honest, I don’t think any of these couples should marry. They’re all so immature. All of them are between 24 and 25 years old. What makes them want to marry so fast? I assume most of the couples are socially conservative given how many of the women spoke about marriage as an exchange of services—”I cook and clean, so you owe me a ring”—instead of a partnership. Jake is considered a great catch because he’ll actually fold his clothes and wash the dishes. Ladies, it’s a low bar. I would love to see more women skeptical of marriage—or (gasp!) a woman over 30—in inevitable future seasons.
JB: On the whole, I think you’re right. I’m about a decade older than these cast members, on average, and most of the issues that are coming up in their relationships feel pretty immature to me. Marriage is much more than playing house. Yes, it can be a legitimate deal breaker if your partner wants kids and you don’t. If your partner is still in their 20s and wants children, yesterday, and isn’t willing to consider any other option? That’s just immaturity, and it doesn’t bode well for them as a parent. A person who lies, cheats, snoops through their partner’s phone, or punishes their partner by staying out all night and ignoring texts simply is not ready to get married.
Rae and Jake should continue to be together. They have so much in common, and I get the sense that—perhaps because their original partners are a handful—they really appreciate each other. Her relationship with Zay appears to be over and April’s relationship is now. Should be over, because it’s so one-sided. Madlyn and Colby are such a mismatch that it’s hard to imagine what brought them together in the first place. (Alcohol?) Madlyn seems to have more interest in Randall then vice versa. Shanique and Randall could go either way, but as is, they’re talking past each other in a way that’s concerning. Zay and Shanique have more similar communication styles, although they’re both so intense that they’re liable to exhaust each other.
ED:In many of these cases, alcohol was the matchmaker. This is reality television.
Randall and Shanique, ‘The Ultimatum.
The sexual boundaries of the “new” relationships were opaque: the show implies some couples had sex, but kisses are often treated as cheating. There’s no logical consistency. Does the show need to clarify whether the old couples are “broken up” for this concept to work?
ED: Presumably each couple had to have a conversation about whether kissing or sleeping with their “trial partner” during the show would constitute cheating. It was frustrating that we didn’t get to see those conversations. Randall seems to be reluctant to have sex, possibly because of a rule Shanique and he set before the show. Shanique, however, does appear to sleep with Zay.
It is obvious that drama and misunderstanding are necessary for the show’s success. However, given the fact that Jake was constantly kissing Rae and Madlyn was scandalized by Randall’s off-camera kissing, it would have helped to establish parameters.
JB: Yes. I wouldn’t mind if the show had left it up to each original couple to set rules for their temporary marriage. It might have created more drama, in fact. Know that the new couples had different expectations for how physical things would get, or that one half of an original couple was following the rules and the other wasn’t. This was all happening off camera. This created double confusion as we were forced to guess what each cast member expected. In many cases this is what happened.
Personally, I don’t know that the “experiment” can really work the way it should if people are barred from fooling around. If you’re trying to figure out whether you have a future with someone, chemistry is important! Then again, is it ever fair to compare a new person you’re hooking up with to someone with whom you’ve had years to establish a physical connection?
April and Jake in “The Ultimatum”
Jake even hid his mom’s preference for April from Rae. Is it a good or terrible move?
JB: First, I felt the need to wince. So many of the cast members seemed to be lying to each other, and Jake had struck me as a genuinely good egg, in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get way. Maybe it wasn’t the white lies that alarm me more than the way he said it.
ED:This white lie is something I 100% support. I think Jake and Rae actually may have a future together, and Jake doesn’t want to doom Rae’s relationship with his mom from the jump. Jake told Rae in their first conversation that he and his mom were very close, and his mom’s opinion meant everything to him. Rae finding out his mother’s real opinion would be devastating. You’re stuck with your in-laws for the rest of your life. The peace should be preserved for as long possible.
I do question Jake’s mother’s taste. I was astonished that her mother would choose Rae over the possessive and chaotic April to be her partner. I do wonder whether Jake’s mom knows that Jake and April are trying to have a baby and therefore is confused about why he would be seeing this other girl. The revelation April and Jake were seeing others makes me, as well, a little confused. Speaking of which…
April claims that Jake and she have tried to get pregnant. Does that cast doubt on Jake’s relationship with Rae?
JB: The situation was not something I could really understand. There is no doubt that April is desperate to have children and that there are fertility issues. It is unclear if Jake fully considered all the possible consequences of quitting birth control. My impression is that he’s been acquiescing to pressure from April more than actively trying to start a family with her. You know that he can still have doubts about his relationship, which is a problem.
ED: It certainly makes me question Jake’s judgment. Judy, I think he seems to just be following April’s lead. Even Jake’s mother calls him “impressionable.” It will be a victory if he’s able to end things with April at all.
In ‘The Ultimatum,’ Zay and Rae
Let’s unpack the moment when Rae and Zay have some sort of physical altercation off-camera.
ED:It was fascinating to see how Rae and Jake behaved in different situations. Although the episode is edited heavily, it is impossible to know how Rae would be in real life. We do see Rae with Jake looking the most happy and healthy of all the couples. Rae and Zay quickly fell in love again, which was quite surprising.
During their fight, Zay gets jealous and frustrated; Rae shuts down emotionally; he stays out all night to punish her; her emotions come flooding out, and she tries to leave; he tries to pull her back into the apartment and she hits him off-camera, either in anger or self defense—we don’t know which.
Toxicity breeds toxicity. That’s not to excuse Rae’s behavior. Rae’s actions seem to have been self-defense or a misinterpretation of the circumstances. But we just don’t know. It is clear that she chose the best way to end her relationship with Zay.
It was at this moment that we required the hosts to speak with both sides about the events. I’m not sure Nick and Vanessa are equipped to do that.
JB: That’s a great point. I also found these scenes difficult to watch, to the extent that I think Netflix should’ve provided some framing for it. Were either the party intoxicated or sleep deprivation? Producers or crew members persuaded them to intensify the conflict. Without that context—and without some clarity on the extent of the physical altercation—what may or may not rise to the level of intimate partner violence becomes just more reality-show “drama.”
The footage didn’t answer my questions about who was the aggressor, who was acting in self-defense, and whether what we saw was representative of normal interactions between Rae and Zay. But what I do know is that these two people have wounded each other, emotionally if not physically, and shouldn’t be around each other anymore.
Colby and Madlyn appear in “The Ultimatum”
Multiple women seem to go for Colby during the early days, but later in the show Madlyn’s friends and the female contestants label him as controlling, needy, and maybe a cheater. Where do we land on Colby and Madlyn’s relationship?
ED: I thought Alexis’ reaction to Colby’s rejection was dramatic and unwarranted. That interaction put me in Colby’s camp early on. But as the season progressed, I’ve soured on Colby. He strikes me as a particular type of bad boyfriend who styles himself as the “nice guy” who wants commitment and marriage, but in reality wants to leverage that commitment against his partner to control her while suffering no consequences for his own actions.
He is jealous. He makes some misogynistic comments about Randall not being able to “handle” the strong-willed Madlyn. He arguably cheats on Madlyn with both April and an unseen woman, though the parameters of “cheating” on this show still elude me. He disappears instead of making an apology to Madlyn. Madlyn seems like a bit of a mess—she gets very drunk during girls’ night, though who knows if the producers plied her with drinks. But I appreciate her honest reactions to things: I can always count on her to roll her eyes at Colby’s narcissistic overtures or April’s declarations about her future baby. She deserves better. It is my wish that they would split.
JB: Colby struck me as corny from the beginning—and you’re totally right that he has some classic “nice guy” tells, from the coded misogyny to the self-loathing that comes out toward the end of his weeks with Madlyn. The early clips where he talks about how much he worships her also brought to mind another irritating “type of guy”: the wife guy. It was clear to me that his bizarre and dreamy cowboy-hat-wearing ideaslism wasn’t the end of the iceberg.
I wasn’t necessarily a Madlyn fan at first, either. She was so cocky, and at the girls’ night she was really forcing her opinions on the other women, even when it was obvious that she was making people uncomfortable. In later episodes she showed some signs of improvement, such as letting go her perfectionist mask and being honest about the reasons she behaves in certain relationships. It also probably bears mentioning that the show is edited with such a heavy hand, I’m sure my read on Madlyn evolved in exactly the way the producers intended.
Let’s make some predictions about the finale. Let’s see who we believe will be together and who may go home on their own.
JB: Two seasons later, LIB, I would be shocked if Rae and Jake didn’t leave the show together. They’ve been the golden couple since their first speed date, and no one gets such an extreme hero edit unless they’re actually going to be the hero. Randall and Shanique could go either way, but I’d err toward guessing he’ll get over his fear of commitment and propose. And I think everyone else goes home alone—Madlyn and Zay having learned something worthwhile, April and Colby still dangerously deluded.
ED: I think at least one “old” couple needs to get engaged to prove that the experiment “worked.” There’s a small chance that couple will be Madlyn and Colby. Madlyn said she was going to marry Colby on the day that the experiment had ended. After that, they had a big fight. Who knows?
So I agree, Judy, it’s most likely that Randall and Shanique get engaged. Madlyn commented once that Randall, Shanique were the strongest couples in the group. I was surprised by Madlyn’s comment given how well she and Randall seemed to get along. But I think that type of aside sheds more light on the reality of the situation than the producers’ edit of the show.
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