The Ultimatum Queer Love

After watching a bunch of weird straight allo reality shows, Courtney simultaneously desired and feared the prospect of a queer iteration. Well, now we’ve got The Ultimatum Queer Love and she’s got THOUGHTS.


Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple. And not too terribly long ago, we did an episode about weird allo reality shows, and I suppose you could consider this somewhat of a part two — the difference being today, we are discussing one singular season of one singular show in particular. Because I watched this the day they came out. It was a staggered release — like, three different release dates. I was there for every single one of them. I have never been so invested in just, like, binging a single series of a reality show before in my life. But we are going to talk about it. And that is The Ultimatum: Queer Love edition.

Royce: So this was, what, a ten-episode run on Netflix?

Courtney: Something like that. Yeah.

Royce: And you previously did watch one season of The Ultimatum but can hardly remember anything from it.

Courtney: Well, that’s the funny thing. Because I knew of the show The Ultimatum, and in my head I was pretty familiar with the premise, but I had convinced myself that I had never seen it. And still, during the first episode of this show, I was like, “Man, this must be absolutely insufferable with straight people.” But then it got to a portion in the show where they all sit around a big banquet table and they, like, choose new temporary partners. And the instant I saw that scene, I was like, “Oh my gosh. I did watch the straight version of this!” Because out of nowhere, I had a memory of someone just, like, proposing to their partner right then and there so that they couldn’t even proceed with the experiment. They were just like, “We’re getting married right now.” And I was like, “Oh no, I did watch a straight version of this, and apparently just blocked it out of my memory.” [laughs]

Courtney: But let me tell you, The Ultimatum: Queer Love. [sighs] It was a mess. It was a hot mess. Now, don’t get me wrong: gays know how to make good TV. [laughs] It was, in many ways, more entertaining than the average weird allo reality show that I watch. But in many other ways, it was just all the more disappointing.

Royce: Well, isn’t being a mess kind of the point of these shows? Like, aren’t the producers trying to make a mess?

Courtney: Oh, I mean, I’m sure the producers probably wouldn’t admit to trying to make a mess. They’re probably like, “We’re passive observers. We just turn on the camera and film!” But we know they have editing tricks and they can edit things. Even if they did happen as we’re seeing it, they can edit things in different orders to completely change the narrative and make it more of a, you know, linear storyline, more of a traditional hero’s journey than it actually was. Because humans don’t actually live our lives in a plot arc. [laughing] We’re messier than that.

Royce: Last time we were talking about this, you mentioned one show in particular that constantly had people drinking out of opaque glasses, so you couldn’t tell time based off of the volume of liquid.

Courtney: Oh, all these shows do that these days. Yeah. No. They have, like, dedicated show glasses that you cannot see through, because that’s one of the easiest ways to clock an editing trick — like, “Oh, their glass was just empty two seconds ago. Now it’s full, and they’re making this seem like it’s the same conversation. We didn’t see anyone go to refill the glass.” So yeah, that is a known editing trick.

Royce: They, of course, also had control over the casting.

Courtney: They did, yes. And… I mean, they’re gonna try to cast characters. [laughing] That’s what they’re going for. And reality TV is so weird in this sentence, because they are partially casting real people, but they are also casting reality TV actors. And we don’t think of them as actors in the traditional sense, because they aren’t a member of SAG, the actors’ union. They don’t have the same rights as actors in Hollywood. They don’t tend to get paid nearly as much, and they don’t have, like, lines. So there are a lot of reality shows that are incredibly exploitative because, since they don’t have a union for reality show actors, they can have just, like, horribly demanding schedules, filming at weird hours.

Courtney: But that’s all just behind-the-scenes stuff. I want to talk about the premise of the show. Because, for as messy and complicated and interesting as it is to watch, I think the premise is fundamentally manipulative. So in The Ultimatum, the concept here is: we have several established couples who have been seeing each other for at least some amount of time, some a little longer than others. And one of them is ready to get married. One is like, “Time for commitment. Time for monogamy. I want a ring on this finger, and I want a wedding date.” And the other party in the relationship is not ready for that. So the ultimatum, the titular ultimatum is, “We are going to get engaged right now or we are breaking up.” That’s the premise. That’s the concept. Someone has issued this ultimatum: engagement or bust.

Courtney: Which, inherently, I feel weird about. Because ultimatums kind of fundamentally seem manipulative. Like, if two people are in a monogamous relationship and they both want completely different things out of their relationship and their life, then to me, that needs to be either a collaborative conversation where both people can be sufficiently satisfied with whatever outcome they come up with, or the person who isn’t getting what they need out of that relationship needs to be the one to walk away. But the very nature of this ultimatum seems to me…

Courtney: Like, say — for the sake of argument, say I’m the one who wants to get engaged. Like, I want an engagement, I want a fiancé, I want the traditional wedding, and that’s something I want right now. And I know that that’s not something you, as my partner, are going to give to me. And we’ve discussed this, and that’s not something you’re ready for. To me, it could suck. I could love you to death. But if I know that long-term, this is not going to be sustainable or make me happy, that’s kind of on me to walk away. But instead, this person is saying, “No. You be the asshole. I’m going to put this on your shoulder. You can either do what I want you to do that you’re not ready for, or you be the one to tell me that we’re breaking up.” Like, [laughing] is there any other reading of it than that? Because that’s where my brain goes with an ultimatum like this.

Royce: I think that what you just explained makes sense. I think that you could potentially get into some more variation depending on the nature of the relationship and what conversations have been had. Like, if both or all members of the relationship have had discussions that are leading towards marriage, in this instance, and it just isn’t happening — like, someone’s dragging their feet, someone’s not taking it seriously, but they have said in the past, like, “Yeah, I want this, I want to do this thing,” — it seems like at least an unnecessarily firm line in the sand. But it does seem like something needs to prompt this conversation —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — to actually get things moving.

Courtney: But by just nature of being like, “Do this ting that you are not wanting to do right now, or else we’re done.”

Royce: Mhm.

Courtney: Like, I can’t imagine being in that mindset to put that on anybody. So right off the bat, to me, weird concept. But then, this is a reality TV show. We have producers. We need drama. They take it to such a weirdly unnecessary level. Because they gather all these couples together. They say, “Okay, which one of you gave the ultimatum? Which one of you isn’t ready for marriage?” And so everyone meets each other. And then they say, “Here are the three outcomes. Either you walk away engaged to the person you came with, or you walk away engaged to someone else here that you are just meeting right now for the first time.” And then kind of as a side tangent, it’s like, “If you don’t get engaged to one of those, you’re walking out of here single.”

Courtney: And it’s like, there’s no in-between. Those are the options. And the goal is walking away engaged. So the goal is marriage. So it is already so weirdly heavily weighted on the side of the, you know, ultimatum-givers Because the show wants you to get engaged to somebody, [facetiously] because that’s what we’re all aspiring to, right? We all want to get married. Everyone’s going to get married eventually. But here’s the twist. These are lesbians, not straight couples!

Royce: The twist versus the normal running of the show. What was the title of this one?

Courtney: The Ultimatum: Queer Love.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: So, I have been really hesitant in the past to say that I want more queer representation on reality shows. Because in many ways, I do. I do want to see more queer people in reality shows — you know, ones that aren’t exclusively queer, like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Like, it’s a queer show. We know that’s a queer show. I want more queer people in traditionally straight spaces so that it gets on more people’s radar and so people can start to empathize with those people. Because even though I might not necessarily be able to relate to this, a lot of people do apparently watch reality shows and they do start to relate to the characters. They, you know, they’re cheering for the characters; they’re rooting for them. And people do really get some type of benefit out of knowing, “Well, these are real people.”

Courtney: And so I’ve always kind of said, like, I do want more queer couples in shows like this. But I think in the last episode I was like, I want an all-Bisexual or an all-Pansexual version of, like, Love is Blind, where, like, gender is not an issue. Everybody’s dating everyone. It’s not men over here and women over here. But then I had to kind of walk it back because I was like, “You know, not that I want Pansexual people to get exploited for the sake of television entertainment.” [laughs] So it’s such a win-lose situation. [laughs] Like, it is bittersweet all around to finally have The Ultimatum: Queer Love, because, hey, it worked on me. I’m queer, and I was like, “Wow, an entirely queer reality show.”

Courtney: But as much as I wanted to see that, as eager as I was to tune in every time there were new episodes, it was not… It didn’t feel like a truly queer show. It felt like queer people trying to fit into the hetero mold that has already been cast.

Royce: Which, that is something, socially, that has been a criticism of how gay marriage in our country was legalized —

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: — was that a lot of the talking points were like, “Hey, look, gay people are just like straight people.”

Courtney: “Love is love!” That’s something… It’s Pride Month now as we’re recording this. That’s something I still see people say: “Love is love.” And if you think about that long enough, with a true, deep understanding of queerness and queer history and queer futures, it breaks down very quickly. Because not all loves are the same, and romantic and sexual love is not the pinnacle to be aspired to for all people. And wrapped in with all of that are concepts like monogamy. Monogamy is not inherently better than polyamory. Different things work for different people.

Courtney: And I would have hoped that a show like this with queer people talked about polyamory more than it did. And I don’t know if that was the cast members not talking about it or if it was the editors not allowing heavy conversations about that through to the final edit. Because there were a couple of offhanded comments about polyamory. But for as much as the shows are like, “We’re going to show you the monogamous marriage route. And this is the goal. The goal is marriage. If you’re not ready for it, this is supposed to teach you how to be ready for it. And if your partner still won’t marry you, then we’re going to give you a different partner [laughing] that you can marry instead.” So it’s almost set up to prove that you can genuinely be in love with more than one person, which we obviously already know in our community is a fact.

Courtney: But in a show like this, what they do: they take all these couples — where one is ready to marry, the other isn’t — and they say, “All right, today’s your last day as a couple. You are breaking up right now. And now you’re going to date everybody else here, and you’re going to pick someone that you didn’t come with to be your trial spouse for three weeks.”

Royce: Okay. That’s what I was going to ask. I was wondering if the show paired people up or not, and if they did so, did they pick the people who wanted marriage and pair them up and the people who didn’t want marriage and paired them up. But it is a choice.

Courtney: No! Yes, that’s the weirdest thing! Like, you can take someone who’s like, “I am ready for marriage right now. I love my partner. But, you know, biological clock is ticking and I want kids” — which is a thing that, even in Queer Love, they were saying, some of them. And they could go on a date with someone else from a different relationship who’s not ready for marriage, and they’ll be like, “Well, I kind of like that person, so let’s do a trial marriage with them.” It’s like, “Okay.”

Royce: Did you keep note? Was the question of marriage asked during the dating phase? And did people who both wanted marriage tend to pair up more often?

Courtney: I didn’t keep perfect notes, but it wasn’t necessarily more often. It might have been more of an even split than you’d suggest. And yeah, I mean, it was a common talking point, just given the nature of the show where people would be like, “Oh, so, are you the ultimatum-giver?” But they also have all of these dates happening out in the open — with their, you know, glasses that you can’t see through along the poolside, everyone’s in swimsuits, and, like, everybody’s dating each other out in the open. So you have partners that you came with, like, eyeing each other from across the swimming pool as you’re starting to, like, giggle and flirt with other people. And it’s like, that is so unnecessary.

Courtney: It’s like the producers… [laughing] I like the producers. The producers do want that jealousy and they do want that drama. Because these are all — coming into the show, at least — very monogamous-minded people. Even in the Queer Love, even when people mentioned, like, “Polyamory is a thing!” they’re still like, “I want to be monogamously married at the end of this.” So there is going to be that level of, like, competition. And it’s just so unnecessary! That was my critique of so many of the other straight shows. It’s like, “Oh, you just broke up with this person, but now let’s get everyone together at a pool party,” you know? [laughing] Very, very weird.

Courtney: So, let’s talk about… Because I did make some notes, because I wanted to dedicate an episode just to this, because this was, in a way, what I was asking for, but also something I knew I was leery of [laughs] and was skeptical about. So I wanted to pay attention to the details more so than the other shows. There was, for example, a cast member named Mal, and Mal’s partner was Yoly, coming into this. And since you see the different dates happening separately but still within eyeshot of everybody, sometimes there are these weird edits where the editor will say something that one partner said over here in a date, and then they’ll show the other partner on their other date saying something that, like, almost directly contradicts that. And I’m like, “Oooo-kay.” [laughs] “First of all.”

Courtney: And so, like, Yoly, at one point, on a date with someone else, was saying, “Yeah, there’s not enough sex in my relationship.” That was the thing she said. And then it cuts over to Mal during the same episode, and Mal said… She did not use the word “Demisexual” or anything on the spectrum, but she was very specifically saying on her date that she needs a strong emotional foundation before she can explore anything physically romantic. So whether or not she identifies anywhere on the spectrum or might in the future, that was giving very sort of Demisexual base definition vibes. And I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I’m going to make a note of that in case that comes up again.”

Courtney: But then I wasn’t prepared for the word “Asexual” to actually be dropped in the way it was with a different set of partners. Buckle up, because Xander and Vanessa. Vanessa is what we would call the villain of the season. [laughs] These are all, in many ways, real people. Sometimes it’s revealed that people might only be there for the fame or the fun of being on a TV show and aren’t really sincerely, like, dedicated to the concept. And I’m not saying that that’s Vanessa, but I am saying that everybody seemed to hate Vanessa, except for the partner she came with, who was vehemently defending her. Good partner, by the way. Like, you should do that to your partner. That’s not a bad thing. But there were just these clues that Vanessa was probably not the best partner to Xander, and lots of other cast members felt it, too. Like, there were so many cast members being like, “Vanessa is a fake person. She’s starting drama. She’s causing issues.”

Courtney: But this was the line that made me first start side-eyeing Vanessa. So she was on a date with someone And this was the quote. I wrote it down verbatim: “Xander has been saying that she might be Asexual and that I’m the only one she could have feelings for, that she would be Asexual if it wasn’t for me.” Then it cuts over to Xander having a date with someone else. And Xander says she’s very sexual: quote, “Ready pretty much all the time.” So… [laughs] I got the impression that Vanessa was just saying shit.

Courtney: And Vanessa, right off the bat, was like… first of all, the one who didn’t want to get married. Xander was the one who issued the ultimatum. And I think these two might have been the one… There was one couple who, in the first episode, just introducing themselves — I think it might have been them — where they were like, “We met each other originally because our boyfriends in high school were best friends.” And I was like, “Yes!” [laughs] Hilarious. I love that.

Courtney: But Vanessa, going in, was like, “I am so excited to date everyone. This is going to be so fun. Before I met Xander, I basically only dated guys.” And I believe Vanessa said she identified with something Pansexual or thereabouts. But she’s like, “You know, I’ve never really just dated women. And so now, I get to date all these beautiful women, and I’m so excited.” And she’s like, “And everyone tends to get attracted to me!” And so she’s like, “This is going to be so fun. Everyone’s going to be attracted to me, and I’m going to date everyone, and it’s going to be great.”

Courtney: And then she also said, though, that “Xander can’t ever find someone else, because I’m beautiful.” And it’s like, “Okay.” She didn’t seem to be joking when she said that. That seemed just 100% conceited. Like, “Everyone’s attracted to me, and I’m so attractive that I’m going to have my little fun while I’m here, but I don’t feel threatened because Xander isn’t going to be able to find someone as beautiful as me.” And it’s like, [laughs] “I am not liking you after you are now saying this, after previously saying that Xander would be Asexual if it wasn’t for you.” Which is also, like — if it wasn’t for you? Even if Xander were Asexual — which, she did not identify herself that way, and did not seem to be based on what she was saying to other people — you can’t just turn someone not Asexual. The very implication of that is inherently flawed.

Courtney: And so she starts going on a date with a couple of different people. It shows her really hitting it off with someone named Lexi for a little bit. But she would just make some comments that were just so inappropriate. And some of the people were kind of taken with her right off the bat, because they were like, “She’s kind of offensive and kind of obnoxious, but I’ve never met anyone that just, like, says these things. So I’m kind of weirdly, like, curious about her, I guess.”

Courtney: But on a date, at one point — I thought this was… I want to say racist. She’s like, “Oh, what’s a fun fact about yourself?” She’s like, “Do you want to know a fun fact about me?” And she, like, stands up and she’s like, “I can’t breakdance, but I can look like I’m about to breakdance.” And then she starts hopping around doing, like, a really bad impression of, like, a toprock, which is a breakdancing move while you’re still standing. And it’s like, “What? What are you doing? Why? [laughing] Why would you just say and do that?” She is a white girl. [laughs]

Royce: I was about to ask. This person is very white, right?

Courtney: [laughing] Yes. And I was just like, “What are you doing? [laughs] Why are you, why are you doing this?”

Royce: Why is that the one thing you had in your back pocket? And how many other times have you done this?

Courtney: Yeah. And have you only done this for crowds of white people that are like, “Oh, that’s pretty good! That’s pretty…” Like, what? [laughs] I was baffled. And then the more I heard her partner Xander talking, the more I was like, “What is this human?”

Courtney: Because Xander, on a date that she’s hitting it off with, after she admitted to being very sexual and pretty much ready all the time — which didn’t sound like what Vanessa was saying — they were talking about kids. They’re like, “Yeah, well, if we’re doing a trial marriage, if we might get married someday, like, let’s talk about the big stuff. Do you want kids?” And they were saying, “Yeah, I do want kids,” and talking about what their parenting styles would be. And Xander just said, “Yeah, but, like, if we had kids, you’d consider them our kids? Like, they would be both of our children?” And her date was like, “Uh, yes? That’s what parenting is.” And then Xander was like, “Oh, okay. Because with Vanessa, she says that my kids would be my kids and your kids would be your kids. And, like, she doesn’t want to co-parent or, like, have kids together, even if we’re still in a relationship. She doesn’t want to get married, and she wants us to have our own separate kids.”

Courtney: And I was like, “I’ve heard of a lot of alternative ways to co-parent children, but there’s something that just raises a big red flag for me there.” Because like, yeah, if you’re going to be in a relationship together, biology aside,iis not the relevant question, but like, you’re going to be an adult in that kid’s life. [laughs] And if you’re — before these children even exist —just saying, like, “Well, your kid isn’t going to be my problem,” that seems so selfish to me. Because for me, even not co-parenting and not being in a relationship with someone with kids, I am such a, like, “‘It takes a village’ mentality” person, and I love kids, that, like, if my friend who has a kid is in a bind and really needs someone to watch them, I would be like, “Yes, I would be happy to watch your kid. Anything.” Because, like, adults do need to look out for kids. [laughs] They’re such a vulnerable population that I can’t imagine just preemptively being like, “I’m not gonna care about your kid if you ever have one.” It’s super weird. I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that before.

Courtney: But yeah. Then, Vanessa keeps going on. After I heard this with the kids and after the Asexual comment, I was like, “All right, I’m… I’m watching you, Vanessa.” [laughs] But she was even like, “Oh, yeah. I mean, sure, I love Xander. We have fun. But, like, if I get bored, then, like, I get bored, and that’s that,” and making comments about how she doesn’t want to be with a stable person.

Courtney: And so after this entire, like, dating phase, everyone’s had a chance to meet everyone. Some people are developing new friendships. People are essentially looking to move in with someone brand new [laughs] the very next day for a trial marriage of three weeks. Which, I don’t know who came up with this concept, but why is the show pretending like this is going to illuminate you and give you all of the answers? “This will help put a rest to this ultimatum. Everything will be clear to you now if you just get thrown in a wildly out-of-left-field situation.” [laughs] That doesn’t really happen in the real world. As much as these are real people being cast, you’re not putting them in realistic situations. You’re treating this like this is normal and a genuine means to figuring something out. But this isn’t how people work. It’s all architected.

Courtney: They also had a really weird conversation after they kind of got back together as a group. There were a few of them talking about, like, “Ooh, who do you think would be better in bed, Beyoncé or Rihanna?” And I was like, “Is that a normal conversation for people to have?” [laughs] I’m kind of glad I’ve never been a part of a conversation like that, because I would just be like, “I’m rendered uncomfortable by the very nature of this theoretical question.” [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, I know that people have celebrity crushes, but I don’t really understand the concept.

Courtney: Speculating, like, someone’s bedroom habits, I think, period, is weird. Like, celebrity or not. If you’re ever looking at a person and being like, “Hmm, are they good in bed? Are they better than this other person in bed? I think this person would be really…” Like, that is weird to me. I am made uncomfortable by the fact that I feel like people have done that to me in my life.

Courtney: There are also these things — I don’t know if other Aces listening can relate to this, but I imagine — there used to be these things that would go around that were supposed to be, like, read in a positive light that were just horrifying for me. Because there would be these posts that’s like, “Remember, you’re someone’s reason to masturbate.” [laughs] Or they’d be like, “Just a casual reminder that you were the first person that somebody out there masturbated to.” And it’s like, “Is this supposed to make me feel good? ‘Cause I don’t feel good!” [laughs]

Courtney: So, before they even, like, picked their trial spouse or whatever, there were already some people who were, like, regretting giving the ultimatum and, like, coming here. And it’s like, “Yeah.”

Royce: They were regretting being on the show —

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: — as of, like, day one?

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Okay.

Courtney: Well, because you’re seeing your partner of, usually, a few years, mostly as people were together a few years — like, technically, you’re broken up now? Which is also a weird thing to pretend, because most people are still hoping that they’re going to get engaged at the end of this. So…

Royce: They’re on a break?

Courtney: Oh my gosh! We’re going to talk about this “on a break” business, because what I saw were a bunch of queers that watched too much Friends and not enough Golden Girls. [laughs] Yeah, there… I literally wrote in my notes further down, I was like, “Why are we “We were on a break”-ing this?” Like, don’t don’t you be pulling in this Friends nonsense drama to my queer TV show! Uh-uh. [laughs] Like, seriously, all we needed was for the U-Haul to pull up so that they could move furniture and yell, “Pivot!” Man, that show really did not age well. I watched it and loved it when it was still on TV, but now it’s, like, [laughing] unwatchable for me; it aged just so poorly.

Courtney: But yeah. So, once everyone’s together and everyone’s like, “Oooh, who are you liking? Who are you meeting?” some of the original partners are having a conversation together. And Xander, at one point, is like, “Yeah, I think I kind of like Yoly.” And Vanessa, like, explodes and is like, [angrily] “Really. Explain that.” And then, like, immediately starts crying and was like, [tearfully] “I don’t even want to finish this conversation. I want to walk away now.” And it’s like, which is it? Are you really excited to date all the people, or do you really want to stay monogamous? Because it sounds to me like you’re just controlling Xander. Like, you want this opportunity to date around, but oh, no, no, no, your girlfriend, she can’t like anybody else. She can’t even think about liking anybody else. It was really kind of disturbing.

Courtney: And in, like, a confessional, she’s, like, sobbing. Just tears, sobbing, being like, “Xander came into this telling me that I’m the one. And now I think I realized that maybe I’m not the one for her!” And just, like, sobbing. And it’s like, you’re the one who said you never wanted to get married! [laughs] So what is it with this “the one” thing? Like, are you shirking monogamy or not?

Courtney: But they gather everyone around this big, glamorous table. They all have their drink cups in front of them. And we see this host who… I don’t even know who she is. I don’t remember her name. The TV host thing is so weird, because I feel like every reality show I’ve seen coming out of Netflix wants to hold onto the concept of an old-school host that hosts the TV show, but there’s, like, no reason for them in the current narratives or plot, so they’ll disappear for episodes on end, and you’ll forget that this show even had a host. And it’s like, “Why? Why do you even have one? What is this?”

Courtney: But they got a straight host! And it’s not the same hosts that did the originals. Because apparently, the hosts for the original The Ultimatum were the same hosts that did Love Is Blind. So they re-casted the host for Queer Love, but gave them a straight host. And that was very weird, too, because when they’re all talking around the table on Decision Day for the new spouses, someone said the word — or the phrase “power bottom”; I don’t remember what the context was. But there were a couple of these people around the table that were like, “What’s a power bottom mean?” And I was like, “Really?” And then the straight host at the head of this table is like, “I know what a power bottom is.” And I was like, “Do you have queer friends, or did the producers brief you on, like, [laughing] a queer vocabulary before you started this?”

Royce: “Here are words you might need to know.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Oddly enough, I feel like “power bottom” does come up frequently.

Courtney: Yes! That’s like the most common fan that I see in our, like, local queer scene. If you go to, like, a drag show, like, someone has one of those big clacker fans that just says “power bottom.” Like, standard stuff. [laughs]

Courtney: But yeah, so the host goes on her little, like, “Now it is time to make the choice.” And I didn’t like this line, but this is what she said: “Pick someone who challenges you, and don’t make the safe choice.” Is there a safe choice when all of these people are ostensibly [laughing] strangers to you? Like, you might have hit it off on a date, but that’s different than just jumping into living with someone. You don’t know what their living habits are or if they’re compatible with your own.

Courtney: But yeah, this was definitely the moment — because they also, like, stand one at a time. They, like, stand up and they’re like, [mocking/earnest] “I had a really, really good date with this person. I feel like we really connected on this, and we have a lot of similar life goals. So I choose you,” [laughing] and, like, make this big production of it.

Courtney: But here’s where I was like, “I knew I didn’t feel right about Vanessa.” Because now, Vanessa, after, like, walking out crying because Xander so much as implies that she might like someone new after going on all these dates, she was like… Literally, Xander stood up and started going on her little spiel about who she’s going to pick and why. And Vanessa cuts her off during her big, like, decision-making scene — like, just interrupts her and starts, like, yelling and talking over her. And it was really uncomfortable.

Courtney: And then the camera cut to her several times, like, very obviously glaring daggers across the table at Xander and, like, mouthing, “Fuck off,” repeatedly, to the point where the other cast members were like, “Vanessa, how dare you do that to Xander?” And everyone was like, “You came here with her, claiming to love her, and this whole table has been watching you be nothing but disrespectful to her this entire time. And she has done nothing wrong.” And, like, everybody was getting in on it. And then poor Xander was like, “Guys, don’t gang up on Vanessa. Like, you don’t know her the way I know her. She is really, you know, a sweet, genuine person.” And everyone’s like, “No, girl! She’s terrible. [laughs] She’s treating you horribly!” [laughs]

Courtney: And so, the thing is, too — because they go and they make all their decisions. And Vanessa and Lexi were really hitting it off for a while. But then, after Vanessa was saying, like, “Well, I know Xander’s not going to find anyone else because I’m beautiful,” like, she was like, “I see right through you. I don’t even want to finish this date. You are a fake person. I don’t know why you’re here. You don’t seem to really want this experience,” and was, like, telling the producers, like, “I don’t want to see her anymore. I don’t want to go on a date with her.” And so then Vanessa picked Lexi’s girlfriend. And Lexi was like, “I feel like she’s going to intentionally try to sabotage my relationship after the way she’s been acting, because she’s just a pot-stirrer. That’s who she is.”

Courtney: And, yeah. So the host — like, they pick all their partners. And [laughs] literally the only reason why I even remember that I watched the straight version was because I was so… I don’t know. My just, like, jealousy senses were tingling when someone stood up during this decision-making process and just, like, proposed to the partner they came with on the spot there.

Royce: Was that also an interruption?

Courtney: I don’t remember too much. I just remember it was like, “Yeah, I’m ready now. I don’t want to see you with another guy,” [laughing] or whatever it was. And they got engaged right there, and then, like, left the show. And the one who issued the ultimatum was like, “I got what I want!” And it’s like, the only way, the only way that I think that relationship is not doomed is if they both secretly wanted to get married, and as a couple, they were like, “Hey, let’s pretend that one of us doesn’t want to get married, go on this show, have this dramatic, like, TV series proposal, and, like, get famous and try to monetize that together.” Like. I don’t know their lives. That’s probably not what happened. But to me, that’s, like, the only way that they are not definitively doomed. [laughs]

Courtney: But yeah. The host goes, “At the end of this experience, you will either leave here engaged with the partner you’ve arrived with or the partner you’ve just chosen, or you’ll leave here alone.” [laughs] So then they’re like, “Alright, off to our… Shuffle us off to our new fake marriages for the next three weeks.” They move them into an apartment together. There’s, like, one bedroom, one bed.

Courtney: And so Vanessa had picked Rae, who is Lexi’s partner. And Lexi was like, “I don’t trust that Vanessa. And I’m honestly really disappointed that my partner picked someone who I think is going to hurt her, I think is not here for the right reasons.” And the very first day of this new trial marriage, Vanessa’s like, “I’m going to get my nipples pierced. Come with me to get my nipples pierced.” So she gets her nipple piercings, like, on camera and, like, takes her shirt off and everything, and Rae’s right there with her. And I thought this was weird for her. Because there are some people in this that are, like, only attracted to women or only have ever dated women. But, like, this was the one who was like, “I’m so excited to date all these women! Because when I was dating, I was mostly dating men.” And then she, like, takes off her shirt, and the piercer is a guy, and she’s like, “It’s not often I take my shirt off around a guy!” And I was like, “You’re the only one that I think is weird to say that in this situation.”

Courtney: But yeah, she gets her nipples pierced and then she’s like, “Rae, come in here and get a selfie.” And they take, like, a selfie together with her shirt off and her new nipple piercings in. And she just immediately says, “Lexi is going to love that picture. That one’s for her.” And I was like, “Oh my God. Lexi was right. She is totally just going to try to sabotage her relationship for telling her off.”

Courtney: I do wish — because that’s the kind of stuff that I’m sure the producers are seeing and they’re like, [desperately excited] “Oh, this is going to make great TV! Make sure that gets into the final edit!” But I would have liked to see more of the actual, like, deep identity conversations that were being had. Because there were some snippets of some of them, but they were so short, and I’m sure they were actually longer in person.

Royce: But the producers or the editors were like, “Real conversation, that’s boring. We need more drama.”

Courtney: Yes! Well, because at least one person on the cast used they/them pronouns. And I didn’t even realize that until their quote “ex-partner” used they/them pronouns when referring to them. And I was like, “Oh, interesting!” But then they did show that character — their name was Aussie — start to have a bit of a conversation about saying, “Yeah, there was a time where I was questioning if I’m trans. I was questioning if I identify as a man.” And that was such a short, brief conversation, but we don’t get to see conversations like that on reality TV very often that I wanted more of that. I wanted to show more of those, you know, heart-to-heart moments. But like you said, that’s not drama. [laughs]

Courtney: But I’m also thinking that the producers probably tell them all that they have to exclusively refer to the partners they came with as their “ex.” Because every single person did it in every conversation. “Oh, my ex.” “My ex would do this.” “In my relationship with my ex.” And it’s like, there is no way that all those people are just doing that naturally, [laughs] given the circumstances. They must be mandated by the show to say “my ex.”

Courtney: And so, lo and behold, Xander, who is the one who said that she’s very sexual, and Yoly, who said that there wasn’t enough sex in her relationship, who had the partner who said she needed the strong emotional foundation first, were the first couple to have sex. And it shows, like, corner of the room camera footage of them having sex. Like, nothing explicit. We don’t see the nudity, but we see them, like, rustling around under the covers. And why? Why is that necessary?

Royce: I feel like that kind of shot has been a staple of reality TV for a long time.

Courtney: Why?! I hate it. It’s also such a weird thing, I think, for this show. Because technically, the goal is to leave engaged with the person you came with. But you all have to do this trial marriage regardless of whether you think it’s going to, you know, actually be a good relationship or not. And so, like, your partner that you came with is going to be watching this show. And so it’s just, like, the next level of having all your dates out in the open so everybody can see everyone’s dates, but it’s like, everyone’s going to see every time your partner had sex [laughing] with someone else. Which, it’s such an extremely monogamous show that they’re going to do that for the sake of drama, hoping to stir the feelings of envy or hurt or whatever else there may be.

Courtney: But yeah, and you know, back to Vanessa and Rae, they also had sex pretty early on. And Vanessa was like, “Woo! This was like a slice of freedom after we’ve both been in jail for so long!” But then her, quote, “new partner,” Rae, is, like, crying the next morning and has to, like, get up and go for a walk, and, like, calls her partner, like, crying and apologizing and, like, regretting it. And it was just so sad. Because she’s like, “What have I done? That wasn’t worth it for me. I wish I didn’t do that. I feel like I need to call my partner and tell her this.”

Courtney: And then she approaches Vanessa and is like, “We need to talk about what happened last night.” And she’s like, “I called my ex and I told her what happened. And she feels bad, and I feel bad.” And then Vanessa, just, like, grinning, is like, “Did you remind her how hot and irresistible I am?” And I was like, “Girl! This is not the time.” Disgusting. How is that your reaction? You slept with someone the night before, and they’re regretting it, and you’re like, “Oh, well, I’m a catch”? [sputters] I don’t know what the right thing to do in that situation is, but it’s not that. [laughs]

Courtney: But yeah, not all of these new trial couples ended up having any sexual relations, but a couple of them clearly did. And they’re just… I can’t believe that there are shows like this that exist and still seem to, like, ignore that polyamory is a thing that exists, that is valid for some people. Because in, like, episode one, before they started partnering back up in a new reconfiguration, there was, like, a one-off line here or there that was like, “Oooh, I’m kind of attracted to her. My partner is kind of attracted to her. Can just, like, the three of us have sex? Is that an option?” Like, very kind of like playful and flippant comments, but nothing that was, like, a serious conversation about, like, “What if we do end up falling in love with more people while we’re here?” Like, there wasn’t — at least not on screen that we got to see as the viewers — any conversations like that.

Courtney: But yeah, things kind of then… Because, you know, pairing people up with new partners after everyone’s met each other and everyone’s date at each other and emotions are running high — how can we infuse more drama? Well, let’s take all the partners, split them into two groups, and send them out to the bar to have a big, like, conversation together about how their new marriage is going. And like, yeah, those were just kind of uncomfortable. Because there are people talking about, like, “Yes, in my new trial marriage, things are going great!” as you’re saying it to like the partner of the person you’re with. [laughs] Uh, super uncomfortable. Because it’s like, I fail to see this as them truly breaking up. This is really more an experiment in polyamory than anything. But the show doesn’t want you to think that it is! It’s like, “No, this is one monogamy directly to the next.”

Courtney: But Vanessa, when asked about how her relationship is — she’s in a group with Lexi, and Rae had just called her crying recently because they slept together and she was regretting it. So, to Lexi’s face and other people, Vanessa just says, “Oh, yeah, Rae. She’s, like, my little best friend. So we’re just keeping things natural and taking things slow,” in a group of like five other girls — who know that they have slept together at this point!

Courtney: So Lexi’s like, “Except that that’s not true at all. Like, Rae called me. I know what you did.” And then she was asked point-blank, “Are you sexually attracted to Rae or are you romantically attracted to her?” And Vanessa firmly said no. And everyone was like, “Then what are you doing? Is there a reason you fucked Rae?” And she’s like, “Ha ha ha, I didn’t fuck Rae.” And it’s like, “Yes, you did! Rae called me. That is exactly what happened. There was penetration.” And Vanessa was like, “Well, I have friend feelings for her.” [laughs] And then I think someone even, at one point — I don’t know if it was Lexi or someone else, but someone was like, “You don’t fuck friends!” [laughs] And I thought that was such a silly thing to say.

[both laugh]

Courtney: Which, like, given the circumstances, I think that was kind of a funny thing to say. So I’m going to give it a pass, but I definitely know people that do, in fact, fuck friends. I don’t understand it. [laughs] But I know that’s some people’s jam.

Courtney: But yeah, overall, I mean, you got to get that drama in. That’s what gets people to continue watching episode to episode, because they’re shocked and appalled about someone or something. But it’s just a constant “will they, won’t they” that goes in, like, two different directions for every single person, so it’s kind of exhausting. Because that’s also, like, one of my least favorite just general tropes.

Courtney: And again, like, for the sake of people who are really resonating with the cast, I wanted more of those deep conversations about identity. Because there was, you know, “Am I trans? Am I nonbinary? What are my pronouns?” That’s something we don’t see a lot because we don’t get a lot of queer reality shows like this, where those are common conversations that queer people have when they are first dating and getting to know each other.

Courtney: But there were also other identity conversations pertaining to things like race. Mal, for example, a Black woman, now dating Lexi, who is a Jewish woman. They had a really cool but way too short conversation. Again, I wanted more of it, because these are things that I’m aware of, but not every viewer of the show is going to be, where they were talking about, you know, Black women’s hair being such a point of discrimination. And that is a thing. And in many states in this country, at least, it’s still perfectly legal, also, to discriminate against someone based on a hairstyle, even if it’s a Black hairstyle or a protective style. Like, that is a loophole in anti-discrimination legislation. And I’m sure the conversation was a little longer than we actually got to see about that.

Courtney: And so Mal was saying, you know, “Have you ever dated someone that looks like me? And if we’re thinking about the future, if we have children — if we have, you know, mixed-race children — how are you going to handle that? And, like, learning how to take care of their hair? And are you going to get to know, like, what my needs are for my hair and things like that?” And, you know, then we got to see a little bit of how Lexi responded, and Mal was happy with it, where she was saying, “No, I haven’t dated someone who looks like you, but I really respect that, and I’m ready to learn,” and whatnot. And then also, you know, turning around and also saying, like, “Have you ever dated a Jewish woman? Like, we both got some things here that… Let’s learn about each other and grow together.” And they seem to be hitting it off really well. But the, like, real heavy heart to heart conversations like that revolving around identity were such a slim sliver compared to, like, Vanessa going off the rails. [laughs] She wasn’t the only drama of the season, but she was the biggest one throughout.

Courtney: So, after these trial marriages, now, you have just spent three weeks living in a trial marriage with this totally brand new person. Now it’s time to flip back to your original partner, and now you’re having a second trial marriage with the partner you came with.

Royce: Is that another three weeks?

Courtney: Yes. And then we started getting some details. And again, I don’t know, maybe this is editing and it actually was said on the very first day, but we just didn’t get it until later. But you get these nuggets about these relationships before coming here — to me, way too late, because now they’re in their second trial marriage with the person they came with. And two of these people are like, “Oh, we’ve broken up, like, 50 times in our relationship, because we’re literally breaking up every other week.”

Royce: That would have been good to know earlier.

Courtney: Yes! I was like, “Are you kidding me?” [laughs] It seems like, at least in your case now, this is less of an issue of “Someone’s just really ready to get married and the other person has, you know, commitment issues or whatever or doesn’t want marriage for their own life.” It seems like your relationship just has a fundamental flaw! Because before this time they’re like, “Oh, yes, we’ve been together for a couple of years now, and she’s ready to get married and I’m not.” And it’s like, “Okay, but if you are saying you have literally broken up every other week that you’ve been together — at least 50 times, you say — why?” [laughing] That’s what I want to know. I’ve never understood on again, off again relationships. I know some people do just, like, find themselves in a spiral where they’re constantly breaking up and making up. But my brain could never. Never.

Courtney: There is also this still very weird, like, pseudoscientific, pseudo-therapeutic undercurrent to this show. And I mentioned this in our last episode where we covered several different shows of the weird allo nature where they won’t call it like it is and be like, “This is a reality show. We’re putting people in unusual situations.” They’re like, “This is a social experiment to determine if love is blind.” And this one kind of also has — it’s subtler, but it’s got notes of that. Because the show and the contestants are constantly saying, like, “We’re coming into this experience together, in order to learn more about ourselves and our relationship.” And it’s like, is this the best way to do that? Iiiiiis this the best way to do that, though? Because I don’t think it’s the best way to do that! [laughs]

Courtney: And one thing I don’t think I got to in our last episode, but I wanted to, so I’m going to say it now before I forget: there is something to me that is uniquely dystopian about the therapist YouTube channels that come out every time a show like this ends a season. Because I see it as a little bit different when, you know, we two goofballs get on microphone and be like, “Allos be silly.” But there are therapists on YouTube who will watch these dating shows and put out this pseudo-educational video about, like, “Who was right in this feud?” and “Is this person manipulative? Is this person gaslighting this other person? Is this a healthy relationship?” Or, like, “Using this reality show relationship to pick out the toxic signs.” And I haven’t seen any studies on this phenomenon. I don’t know if there have been. But my gut reaction is that those are bad. [laughs] I don’t like them.

Courtney: Even being real people, whether it’s something like this where there are couples coming in who have been established for some period of time, or if it’s something like Married at First Sight or Love is Blind, where people are coupling up very quickly and it’s a completely new relationship. They are real people, but these are not real circumstances. They are not. And they are edited, and they are rearranged, and they are trying to show the drama, and they’re trying to get ratings and make good TV. And I’m sure there are therapists that are doing this that don’t have any mal intent. I’m sure they’re not nefariously being like, “I know that this is wrong, but I’m going to do it to make money off of it!” I’m sure they’re more like, “Oh, this is a show that a lot of people watch, so I’m going to try to use this popular show to get in with the algorithm and then use it to talk about the things I want to talk about.”

Courtney: But I don’t think it’s a necessarily ethical way to go about educational content related to, like, relationship therapy or psychology. Because you’re also not seeing the whole story. You can, you know, for the sake of argument, say, “Based solely off of what we were shown, this was toxic.” But… yeah, I don’t know. Because we don’t know if people are edited intentionally to look worse than they actually are, which can turn into, like, some level of just piling on someone who’s already been done wrong by producers. And we’ll never know the difference.

Royce: Yeah. The show is produced. That’s the thing. You’re also kind of armchair diagnosing people without their consent.

Courtney: Mmm. Mhm.

Royce: And these are not, like —

Courtney: Yes, that.

Royce: I know that there are some situations where large enough public figures legally have their privacy rights basically thrown out.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: But as you mentioned, these are not exactly super public figures, even if this show gets popular. They’re not used to that.

Courtney: Mhm. And I doubt the show prepares them for what it’s truly going to be like afterwards, either. And yeah, I don’t know, because… Like, fans of the show are going to talk. Fans are going to be like, “Can you believe what the villain of the season did?” People are going to have their favorites that they’re rooting for. They’re going to be like, “Oh, I really hope this couple stays together. I think they look cute.” And then when people do see something toxic — like, there were some things here that what we were presented, Vanessa was being very, very toxic at times. We can see that, and we can talk about that.

Courtney: But there is almost like an augmentation of reality TV because, to add… It’s already a little bit casual, because they’re, you know, supposedly real people, and “This is just a social experiment! This is just an experience we’re having.” But then you have a secondary level of also very casual, like, therapists — literal therapists — talking on YouTube about these relationships. And it almost, like, normalizes it so much more than you should. [laughing] Like, we need to keep it in perspective that this is a show at the end of the day.

Courtney: And really, it is kind of sad, because the emotions of these people are still real. These are real people having real emotions. And many of these shows can just absolutely wreck the contestants’ mental health because they aren’t prepared for the fame and the backlash and the harassment or the commentary that they get. They aren’t prepared for unexpected things to happen. You don’t think your partner’s going to fall in love with someone, then they do — you weren’t ready for that. No one prepared you for that. And now you’re on such a strict, rigid timeline. Maybe you’re exhausted from a filming schedule, so you aren’t even well-rested. Like, there are so many factors at play here that I don’t like when mental health professionals talk about these relationships as if they’re real people. Because… as if they’re real relationship circumstances that we can, like, learn from, you know? I want it to stay entertainment first and foremost.

Courtney: And, like what you said about the armchair diagnosing, too… Like, I have seen therapists on YouTube where — I think it was an episode of Love is Blind, someone just very flippantly, like, asked their new fiancee, like, “Are you bipolar or something?” which is not a good thing to just ask someone in that way. Like, that was inappropriate. But I’ve seen therapists make videos, like, “Could this contestant have been bipolar?” And they’ll make the case for why “They could be, based on this diagnostic criteria. But at the same time, he should have approached this conversation differently.” And it’s like, I don’t like that. Because you’ve never had these people in your chair at your office. And the way I see you talking about them, I don’t think I would necessarily trust you to have them in your office. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being unfair to the YouTube therapists, but I’ve got a gut feeling about them that isn’t good.

Courtney: There are also, as evidenced in this show — I saw quite a bit of it — there were clearly contestants on this show who had unresolved traumas from their past that were showing up in very unhealthy ways, and they were damaging both parties in the relationship. And this isn’t even just speculation. I’m not armchair, like, “Well, this person is combative, so it’s probably because they didn’t have a good relationship with their mother.” Like, we aren’t playing that game. There were people who were, like, breaking down crying.

Courtney: Aussie, for example, had a lot of Neurodivergent traits, I noticed, was very conflict-averse, needed a lot of time to themselves, got really overwhelmed and overstimulated very easily. But in some situations where Aussie was at their lowest, they would share bits of their past. And it’s like, if what I’m seeing are in fact Neurodivergent traits — they seem to be — there can already just inherently be trauma from that, growing up as a neurodivergent person, diagnosis or not. But they were also Chinese and first-generation Australian immigrants. And they would just start sobbing and say that they can’t handle conflict and they aren’t ready for marriage because they need to be perfect at everything. They need to be the perfect child. They need to be the perfect spouse. They need to be the perfect employee. And so, like, that seemed to be generational trauma that hasn’t been dealt with in a way that is conducive to having, you know, these tough conversations with a significant other. And so, I’m seeing these things and I’m like, “You don’t need a reality show! You need a genuine mental health professional.” [laughs]

Courtney: But let’s talk a bit about… To me, this is a strange brand of mono-normativity, because even though it’s very apparent in our community, especially, that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are not always one in the same, there’s this weird duality that I saw in some of these cast members, where they would make offhanded mentions of threesomes or they’d be, like, very lightly joking about polyamory — early, early on, when it was primarily a physical attraction and there wasn’t a big emotional connection created yet. But once the deep emotions were attached, it was, like, straight jealousy and like, “What am I going to do? Who am I going to choose to monogamously marry, this person or that one?” And I think the weirdest part of that is that we didn’t see any conversations about how to navigate that. [laughs]

Royce: Did the show kind of wrap up with the… showing everyone’s internal struggle and then a big reveal of their choices?

Courtney: Oh, there was a big reveal of the choices for sure. But, like, we were getting sort of a slow drip of what life is like with the original couples, sort of, after you were going back with them. But like, even if polyamory or some form of open relationship were on the table for any of these couples involved, it did become apparent that it’s like, well, polyamory or open relationships should never be used as a band-aid for a failing relationship. And at least some of those seemed like they were very flawed relationships — like the couple who’s like, “We break up every other week.” It’s like, why do you think this will help?

Courtney: But yeah, it is interesting, because they would go and they would have — in both marriages, the trial marriage and the new one — they would, like, go and see family members, or if family members weren’t as involved in their life, it would be, like, their best friends or their siblings. And with… Vanessa’s dad was really interesting. When they did the meet-and-greet with Dad. Because with her trial marriage, her dad was like openly talking about all the bad relationship choices he’s made, and how he’s had failed marriage in the past, and that he thinks marriage should be on a seven-year lease. [laughs]

Courtney: And, need I remind you, time-bound marriages are just as bad as Asexual relationships, which are just as bad as children marrying, because all of those things were lumped into that letter we covered, when 82, 83 religious organizations condemned the Respect for Marriage Act. They were like, “What’s next? Asexual marriages? Time-bound marriages?” [laughs]

Courtney: But yeah, when he said that, Vanessa was also like, “Ha ha ha! See, this is where I get my marriage ideals from! LOL!” But then when they went back to see Vanessa’s dad when Vanessa was back with Xander, and basically everyone at this point is like, “Nope, don’t like that Vanessa,” even her dad kind of calls her out a little bit. Because once she’s back with Xander, she’s like, “Yeah, I do think I’m ready for marriage now. This experience has changed me, and I am ready to commit to you.” And even Vanessa’s dad is like, “Do you really love her? Or is it just your ego trying to win her back when you feel her slipping away?” And I was like, “Damn, Dad!” Because that was definitely the vibe I was getting for some people.

Courtney: And that’s another huge red flag about this show! Because they’re banking on people feeling that way. They’re banking on ego. They’re banking on envy. And they want the messy emotions that come with, “Oh no! This person I love, I might lose them, so quick, let me do anything to keep them.” Which is not healthy!

Royce: Which goes back to… The point that you opened the episode on was, “Is an ultimatum inherently unethical?”

Courtney: Yes. But yeah, there were also… Near the end, because they get done with this new three-week trial marriage with their original partners, and the editing leading up to the big reveal was, like, so wild at times. Because in one minute it’ll be like, “Oh, it’s crazy to think that this might literally be, like, the last night I ever spend with you.” And then they’ll turn around and be like, “By the way, I had a conversation with your parents=, and I asked if I’d have their blessing if I proposed to you.” And it’s like, have you already resolved and had the conversation that you’re going to get engaged or not? [laughs] Like, which is it here? But I’m sure the show, regardless, is like, “Oooh, you have to keep it a question, even if you know what you’re going to do. Like, look into that camera and tell it that you don’t know what you’re going to do.” [laughs] I’m sure there’s some element of that, because they want to leave people guessing.

Courtney: But that’s also something that’s so interesting. And that’s why I was like, “I’m basically watching a straight show that’s just been swapped out for queer people at times.” Because asking your parents for her hand in marriage? What is that old school convention? Which is very, very interesting. Because I am very much of two minds when it comes to just, I guess, [laughing] marriage in general. Because I do think it is a flawed legal institution that does need to be revolutionized. But at the same time, there are a lot of legal benefits to being married. And so I can see why people would want to still get married even if they disagree with the general institution of marriage. There are still logistical reasons why it might benefit you and it might make sense.

Courtney: One of these days we’re just going to have a whole podcast, or a couple, just about marriage and the benefits that you get and why people do it and all the people that are left out of these additional legal benefits as well. Which can include people in the Aromantic and Asexual community. It can also be disabled people who might lose their benefits upon getting married. So there are a lot of people that are disqualified from gaining the legal privileges of a marriage. And so it’s kind of one of those things where I’m like, it’s a bad system. It’s a flawed system. It should be better, and we should be fighting to make it better. But it seems a vast majority of the queer community is not interested in making it better. Because there are large swaths of the queer community that said, “Well, we got gay marriage. We got same-sex marriage. It’s done. It’s the law of the land, all 50 states, all that jazz. So we did it. This is equality.” This isn’t equality. It’s not equality. It is not. And we need to stop talking about gay marriage as the end all be all to equality.

Courtney: But I know that that is an ideal that a lot of queer people do have. And for a lot of same-sex couples in particular — like, they grew up in a time where they probably couldn’t have gotten married in their state. And they were there for Obergefell versus Hodges, so that was a big triumphant moment in the queer community. And as someone who might want to enter into that institution, as someone who may want to get married and get those additional legal benefits and protections that a marriage affords you, to them, that is still an immense privilege to be able to do that freely and openly. And I don’t think that should be ignored. Because it is a privilege. And I can’t begrudge people — from marginalized communities especially — for wanting to, you know, soak up as many of the privileges that they’re able to get their hands on. But I wish more people paid attention to those that are left out of this conversation, for which the institution is not fair and equal for.

Courtney: And there is even a question of what marriage means and why a contestant rushed into, you know… Someone had a doomed marriage previously in her life. And she was even saying, you know, “What does marriage mean to you?” And someone was asking her whether or not she wanted a real marriage or just an ideal of marriage, but they didn’t actually hardline define it. And that was, again, weird. I don’t know if it was a weird editing trick or if they just got stumped and couldn’t actually answer what marriage meant to them. But the conversation partner here was pretty much like, “Well, you didn’t marry for love. You married a business partner!” As if that is always inherently a negative thing, or as if they couldn’t have possibly been maybe misreading their own emotions at a younger stage in their life. Which can happen. You can think that you love someone in the moment, but then, with a couple of years’ hindsight and whatever healed wounds need to happen for that relationship, you can look back on it and be like, “Yeah, that wasn’t it.”

Courtney: But there was this big overarching, just, like, moralizing of rushing into marriage for the perceived wrong reasons. Which I thought was very, very interesting. And I have a lot of thoughts about it. Because I do think each individual relationship, on an emotional level, is going to be defined differently for each couple. You have to set your own grounds and make your own rules for your relationship if it’s going to flourish. But marriage is a legal contract, and it comes with tax implications. It comes with housing implications. And I think it’s very weird to look at someone and say, “If you didn’t, like, genuinely fall in love with this person and you still married them anyway, then that is somehow wrong and immoral.” Because I don’t think that necessarily has to be the case.

Courtney: I think an Aromantic person who does have some sort of queerplatonic partnership, even if they have, like, a best friend, and the projection of your life is going in the same direction and you think the two of you could benefit from what marriage has to offer — I don’t think it’s a bad thing to use that system for what it is currently. I still think we should work to improve upon it, because it is flawed. But if it’s there and it’ll help you, why are we moralizing the love and the romance that’s there? I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that conversation.

Courtney: But then… This was an even weirder facet of it for me. Because they’re throwing all these people into these trial marriages before their second trial marriage with their partner. And a lot of people were having these really big life conversations early on, like, “Do we want kids? How do we want to have kids?” Especially with, you know, Queer Love, it’s like, “What is the method of obtaining a kid that we want to take?” That was a conversation that they were having. Which, again, I wish there was more of that, because there were some brief mentions of, “Oh, well, I was thinking of IVF,” or “I’ve always been the one who wants to, you know, carry a child inside of me,” or “I’ve thought about this.” And I thought those were so interesting. Because we also don’t always hear a lot of diverse conversations about how queer people do aspire to have kids when that is something that’s in the cards for them. But IVF is the one that gets thrown around a lot, and that’s not even the only option. Like, there’s IUI, which is a slightly different method, and all these other things. Why someone might want to be the one to carry the child if both parties in the relationship are able to do so. Or “Are we going to have two kids and take turns?” Like, I think those conversations are interesting. I wanted more of those.

Courtney: But instead, those conversations were really overshadowed by, like financial matters that hit really oddly. And if you’re earnestly going into this saying, “Yeah, I will either get engaged with my partner, or maybe I’ll get engaged to someone else,” and you’re actually open to that, you kind of do… Oh, here’s a throwback to an old episode. You kind of do need to hardball a little bit. Remember hardballing, the new Generation Z “Dating like a CEO”? [laughs] That was a goofy article.

Royce: Is that how you end up married to your business partner?

Courtney: That’s how — yes, that is how you end up married to your business partner, indeed. But you do have to talk about, like, “Do you want kids? Do we want to buy a house?” You know, you have to have these big conversations. And when it is revealed that Yoly and Xander, in their trial marriage, had discussed finances, that was seen by Mal, Yoly’s partner, as a much bigger betrayal than when they slept together. And I was like, “Pardon me?”

Royce: Well, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated, the idea of open relationships might have been more reasonable than with a lot of heteronormative couples.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: It seems like if the show is being upfront, they should have had some scenes in the first episode of the existing couples discussing rules and boundaries for the experiment.

Courtney: Yes! Yes!

Royce: But it sounds like that didn’t happen.

Courtney: There were a couple of offhanded conversations here and there — or just, not even conversations, just mentions where someone was like, “Oh, we said we weren’t going to sleep with anybody here.” And it’s like, that came after someone slept with someone, and then someone’s also hurt, and maybe they’re saying two different things, so you don’t really know what was true. Or there will be someone who was like, “Oh, I told her to go into this and, you know, do whatever she needed to do. Nothing was off the table.” And so occasionally, we’d have one comment like that in the middle of all this drama. But I would have loved if episode 1 was like, yes, the couples sitting together and like, “Here are our boundaries. Here are our rules.” So, like, that is above board, and we all, as the viewers, [laughing] know what was agreed upon before this.

Courtney: Because, yeah, if this was a situation where it’s like, “Yeah, I’m cool if you sleep with someone, but this is for us and our relationship, and at the end of the day we want to get engaged,” then, like, maybe I can see how it’s like, “You were talking about merging finances? You were talking about your financial future with them?” But the way it was presented was so odd to me. Because then, I mean, Mal was clearly feeling very, very hurt by this. But she was saying that, “Oh, I don’t feel like love is enough for her.” It’s like, “Am I not making enough money for her? Is Xander making more money for me?” But if you are legitimately planning whether or not to marry someone in three weeks’ time, I do kind of think that that’s a relevant conversation. Like, prospective theoretical boundaries aside.

Royce: It is, but you’re also discussing marriage, and a wedding is expensive.

Courtney: That’s true.

Royce: And if that is what you’re agreeing to on the horizon…

Courtney: That is also true. And also, like, yeah, are you also wanting to buy a house, and is there money to get married and buy a house, or do we need to go on Marriage or Mortgage now? [laughs]

Royce: Just sign up to all the reality TV shows and do them in order.

Courtney: Yes! [laughs]

Royce: You start out on Love is Blind, then you end up on The Ultimatum.

Courtney: Oh no! [laughs] But yeah, I do think… I mean, finances are important with a legal contract like marriage, because there are financial implications to a marriage. And if you want to get married and not have those financial implications, there needs to be additional paperwork involved. Like, prenuptial agreements are things. That is an option if that’s something you want for your own relationship. But I think if you’re… You are discussing, essentially, a contract that does have financial implications. I think that’s totally normal. I think that’s totally normal.

Courtney: Yeah. Mal was hurt because Mal was like, “Oh, you saw Xander’s bank account?” And Yoly was like, “Yeah, I saw the account, and I know how much money is it.” And that was sort of under the pretense of, like, “Do we have enough money to start having kids, like, on the timeline we want?” Because things like IVF are expensive. So that is another cost to consider in a relationship like this. But yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I was… I never thought about, like, “Hey, Royce, show me your bank account.” [laughs] Like, that never occurred to me. But I was definitely raised to not marry someone with a bad credit score. [laughs] It sounds bad to say. And had I fallen in love with someone with a bad credit score, I don’t — I might have still married them anyway. But, I mean, I grew up with a divorced single mother who had her credit completely ruined because of… my deadbeat father. So it was definitely like, “I don’t want your life to be ruined like mine was. So this is important. If you are ever considering marriage, like, make sure you know that person’s credit number, credit score.” So I do think I legitimately asked you your credit score before we got married, but I think that was about the extent of that.

Royce: I don’t really remember that. We may have had some…

Courtney: Oh, it was early.

Royce: I can’t remember if there were circumstances. I guess that would have been before we bought a house.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: So we wouldn’t have just happened upon it. But, like, my credit score was weird because I didn’t have a credit card for a very long time.

Courtney: Yeah, that was true. I mean, we had — I think we had gotten our first credit cards around roughly the same period of time. And I think my credit limit was just slightly higher than yours when we first met. But, like, I mean, credit’s a bad system, too. That’s also a system that I want abolished. [laughs] So it’s like, I’m playing the rules for a game that I hate. But I did remember — because when I asked you your credit score, it wasn’t bad. It was very much acceptable range. But you did say at one point that there was, like, an erroneous mark on it that was not supposed to be there from, like, a bad apartment building or something?

Royce: Yes, I remember that, because that was one of the first iterations of our relationship workload distribution —

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: — where I do the physical things and you deal with the customer service shit.

Courtney: I was like, “You’ve got a mark on your credit score that isn’t fair. Like, cracks knuckles. Let me at it. I will get that removed for you.” [laughs]

Royce: There was a shitty apartment that I lived in for a year, and they charged me with some bullshit cleaning fees that I wasn’t happy about paying, but I couldn’t get out of them. And so I gave them the check, like, on the last day it was due, as I was, like, moving out and whatnot. And they collected the check. And they sent the claim — assuming I wouldn’t pay early — off to collections.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: And then when I did pay, they didn’t —

Courtney: — remove that.

Royce: — void that.

Courtney: Yeah. And when you told me that story, I was like, “Well, I’m going to get that removed.” [laughs]

Royce: That was a pain in the ass. I, like, had to look up old bank records.

Courtney: Oh, yeah. And I was like, “Give me your social security number. Give me your addresses. Give…” And I was like, “Call your bank and get that check number that you wrote.” I was like, “We’re going to need that. I am fighting this.” And I did. It is hell to get a derogatory mark, like, removed from your credit score. But I did that. You’re welcome! I did that for you and for us. I still think we could have bought a house, even with it, because it didn’t, like, tank your credit. It wasn’t awful. But I was like, “Oh, no, no, no. [laughs] This will not stand.”

Courtney: But yeah, overall, credit is a horribly unjust system. It needs to be completely overhauled. Rip it up by the roots. Because, man, a bad credit score can really ruin a person, and for their entire life, it can keep coming back. It’s very unforgiving.

Courtney: And it’s exceptionally unfair that no credit is akin to having bad credit. So new, like, young adults — an 18-year-old, fresh out of high school, like, can hardly do anything without a cosigner. And it’s like, what if they don’t have a good relationship with a parent or legal guardian who is willing to do that for them? What if their parent or legal guardian doesn’t have good enough credit to cosign? Like, you’re just leaving people out high and dry. You can’t rent a place. You can’t get student loans if you’re going to college.

Royce: That’s part of the thing that frustrated me. Because I was employed at a really good job for my age, but I didn’t have a credit history, aside from having to take out and repay student loans. Because I had never been told, “Hey, you should actually get a credit card as early as you can and have that line of credit open. Just absolutely make sure you pay it off every month.” Because my parents preferred to not use credit cards.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: They usually use checks or cash. And for me, without it being explained to me, it was like, “Why would I borrow money when I already have money? Why don’t I just use a debit card?”

Courtney: Yeah. I mean, that’s the silly thing. Like, why do we have to play these silly little games and be like, “Well, I don’t need credit right now, but let me get a very small starter credit card that has, like, a $500 limit and just buy a pack of gum every month and pay it off just to prove that I use credit and pay it off?” Like, that is such a silly game to play, but that’s what you have to do to get ahead.

Courtney: But, yeah. So, it’s basically, like, decision time. They call it “Ultimatum Day.” And so many of these cast members are talking about how much they’ve grown and how much they’ve learned about themselves in this experience. And I mean, sure, you can technically learn more about yourself every time you’re put into a brand new situation. But it’s this [laughing] pseudo-therapization of reality TV that is just such a problem. And it’s so off-putting to me. Because long-term, this is probably more likely to damage you psychologically than it is to actually benefit your mental health in the long run. It’s truly — it’s putting people in high-stress situations and filming it in order to make it a public spectacle, in lieu of couple’s therapy, and then presumably without giving those people tools to be able to healthily cope with this tremendous emotional burden.

Courtney: And yeah, so, Ultimatum Day happens and you hear this, like, [dramatically] “Who has found the one? Who will propose? Who will walk away alone? Now, time is up on the ultimatum.” And it’s just so overly dramatic and still centered around “The One” — “Have you found the one?” —when we have a couple of different people now being like, [whining] “I’m in love with two people now! What do I do?” It’s like, well, you just kind of proved that there isn’t a “The One.” [laughs] And this, also, coming from the straight host that I forgot even existed — because we haven’t seen her since, like, the picking [laughs] the trial marriage stage. She’s just been gone.

Courtney: But yeah. Let me tell you something, too. I mentioned this came out in, like, three staggered releases and that I was watching them each day on the day it came out. These staggered releases have got to go. They really do. Either give me one episode at a time that I can make a weekly event out of for the duration of the show, or you gotta give me the whole season to binge. This, like, “Here’s the first four episodes. Now here’s three more. Now, here’s the last two” — No. We’ve gotta stop playing this game, Netflix. Whoever decided that… This is the worst way to consume media.

Courtney: If it’s like a trash reality show, I am not opposed to binging it, especially since I tend to have them on in the background while I’m doing other things, because I don’t like them enough to dedicate my full attention to it. So if I’ve got, like, a big project I’m working on, and I’m like, “Great, got some new reality TV trash,” put it up in the background while I’m working: perfect. So for that sense, it’s good to binge.

Courtney: But something that’s this messy and drama-filled, I probably would have tuned in every week on the day it came out. But then it can be an event. It’s like, “This is my Ultimatum day!” Like, “Time for my new show.” And then you can have that excitement of the new show coming out every week. And I, in some ways, kind of missed that. I mean, as someone who was a huge fan of Lost in the early seasons, having a weekly Lost tonight and always being left on this mysterious cliffhanger, so you’re, like, excited all week to find out what happens next — that’s a feeling I haven’t experienced in a really long time. And I wouldn’t feel that level of excitement with a show like this. But I don’t know what’s up with the “Here’s a few episodes at a time.” I don’t like it. It’s wrong.

Royce: It’s interesting, too, because it was ten episodes released over three weeks. So it was four; then the next week, four more; and then two. And unless Netflix subscriptions are specifically end of the month —

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: — it isn’t even trial-busting, because it was — you know, there’s two weeks’ difference from the first episode to the last one.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: But it just happened to cross over from May to June.

Courtney: Yeah, I’ve wondered that myself too, is like, are they trying to get an extra month out of someone who only has the subscription for one show? Like, that thought crossed my mind. But it’s silly. It’s really silly. It’s got to go. And then, they’re like, “Ooh, who will find the one?” And they ended on a proposal with no answer. After I’d just binged three episodes in a row while — I was actually, on this day, like, recovering from a medical procedure. So I’m, like, not feeling too hot. I’m watching these few episodes in a row, just binging something easy to comprehend, and then they end on a proposal and then it’s like, “Well, you’ll get the end of this series in a couple of weeks!” It’s like, that adds extra insult to injury. [laughs]

Royce: So I just looked at the Wikipedia page. Because the first season was a two-stage release. It was the first eight episodes all at once and then the last two a week later.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Which is very similar. They just added another week break in this one. But the last two episodes are the actual finale and then some kind of special.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: So it is —

Courtney: The reunion. Mhm.

Royce: It is cutting the finale off from the rest of the season and making you wait a week for it.

Courtney: Yeah! It’s rude. Like, I would only be okay with this if I was doing this for literally every episode and this was a longer affair that I was getting, you know, a weekly event out of. But yeah. And there’s just this whole question, too. Because now, at the end of this, there are all these proposals going on now, and it’s really hard to suss out on an individual level in this context which of these people have, like, real genuine aversions to marriage as a concept or for their own life, versus ones who are just in a really bad relationship and just know that marriage isn’t good for this relationship but they aren’t quite ready to walk away from it if they can keep going the way they are and coasting for a while, versus anyone who might have, like commitment issues — which, there were some, like, flippant comments early on about, like, “Oh, I’m afraid to commit. I’m afraid to pick my life partner.”

Courtney: And I just gotta say, I don’t understand that at all. And I wanted all of those people who might have said that or implied that to talk more about that. Like, where’s that coming from? What’s the fear? What’s the underlying reservation? What actually is it? Let’s get to the heart of it here. Because someone just being like, “Oh, well, I’m afraid to commit” — like, I don’t see commitment as one singular specific thing, because it’s kind of several things rolled into one.

Royce: Yeah. So, could you elaborate on that?

Courtney: Yes. Tell me more! Tell me more! [laughs] So, yeah, I still don’t understand commitment issues, despite [laughing] watching shows where there are several people involved who allegedly have them [laughs]. So you’re not helping me out at all. But, yeah, I don’t know. Also, like, in our own relationship, we don’t have anything to compare that to. Because we moved fast. [laughs] We U-Hauled harder than any of the lesbians on this show.

Courtney: So proposal time. The first proposal was Mal proposing to Yoly, and she said yes, and they were the original partners that came together. But Yoly was the one who got really close with Xander. So we’re going to put a pin in that.

Courtney: And then Aussie went to go propose to the partner they came with, Sam. And this was my favorite proposal. Because Aussie was the one who definitely read Neurodivergent to me. And they show up and start going on a monologue about how there is a type of penguin in Antarctica that when they choose their life mates, they go to the beach and look for the perfect rock to give to their life mate. And they were like, “That story really resonated with me because I found the perfect rock for you.” And they pull out a rock and put it in Sam’s hand. And I don’t know if it was labradorite; I don’t remember exactly what kind. But they were like, “This is a special protection gemstone. And this is my perfect rock that I’m giving to you.” And I was like, “Beautiful proposal rock! I love it. I love it so much.”

Courtney: And then — but I don’t know if it was the editing that was intentionally trying to make it look worse than it was, but it sure looked like Sam was not into it. She seemed disappointed by the rock. And I was like, “What are you doing? That is the sweetest proposal [laughing] I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, are you kidding? They found the perfect rock for their life mate, like a penguin!” [laughs] I loved it. But yeah, the editing probably didn’t do any favors, but it definitely made it look like Sam was about to be, like, “Uh… If this is your proposal, I don’t accept.” But then Aussie pulled out an actual ring and got on the knee and did the actual proposal thing. And Sam did admit that she wouldn’t have been happy with just the rock alone. But I thought it was sweet. I like the engagement rock.

Courtney: And that… I mean, that just gave me a lot of thoughts about the pageantry and expectation of getting engaged in a certain way, with, like, a specific ring and done in the very traditional sense. Because I personally don’t feel like that’s necessary if it’s truly your right person. And I don’t know enough about Sam and Aussie to make any sort of judgment call about whether or not they are truly a good couple for one another; that’s not my decision to make.

Courtney: But I mean, I had an anecdote. Because I went to prom as a senior. And I went with a boyfriend at the time who was very much not the right person, but circumstances put him there. And I remember being so frustrated when he asked me to prom in, like, the dullest, most boring, most nothing way ever. And, like, I do think the notion of a promposal is weird. I do think it’s weird. But I’ve mentioned before, things like weddings are pageantry. They are a performance of some kind. But I am also a performer, so sometimes I do like those bits of pageantry, but I can still identify them for what they are. And when my, like, boyfriend at the time was like, [quietly] “Oh, I mean, want to go to prom with me?” I was like, “No. Ask me again better later.” [laughs] And then, like, a couple days later, he asked in exactly the same way. Nothing different, nothing new. And I was like, “[sighs] I mean, yeah. We’re going to go to prom together, obviously. But you could have put in a little bit of effort here. [laughs] Is that too much to ask?”

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: [laughs] Well, that’s kind of my point! Because something as, like, silly and inconsequential to the grand scheme of my life as prom night was, like… I wanted something better and more interesting. But, like, when it came to a real life decision — like getting married, like moving in together — having just a casual conversation that was open and honest was, to me, like, the only way to do that. And more than happy with that. Like, it didn’t have to be a show or a pageant, but… Definitely different stages of life, but also very, very much, like, different person.

Courtney: So most of the original couples ended up getting engaged on Ultimatum Day. Nearly all of them. The one exception was Xander and Vanessa. And it was interesting, because Yoly, who had been in the trial marriage with Xander — even though she accepted Mal’s proposal, she still said, like, “I’m still in love with Xander.” And I thought Mal had a pretty cool response. Mal said, “I’ve never disrespected your relationship with Xander, and I’m not going to start now. I know how you feel, and I am with you, and we will, you know, we’ll work through this together.” And I don’t think a conversation like that would have happened in the street. Version. But I also can’t remember the straight version, [laughing] so I —

Royce: Right.

Courtney: — I really can’t say. But that did feel a lot more empathetic to a difficult situation than I would normally expect to see from straight people. But Xander goes to see Yoly, and Yoly is like, “I already accepted Mal’s proposal.” But they cry a lot. They embrace each other a lot. One starts walking away. The other calls her back. They hug even more. So it was a really big, like, emotional parting.

Courtney: But then, like, when Xander and Vanessa did not end up getting together, Vanessa, who was the very anti-marriage one, who is now not getting picked, was like, “I never would have expected this!” And went on this huge monologue to Xander about how “You’re the reason that I know what love is, and I have to believe that we’ll find each other again someday. Someday we’ll bump into each other at a taco truck, or we’ll find each other in the next life when we’re both birds,” and just kind of playing the victim in a weird way where she was crying to the camera and crying to Xander, but then also being like, “After this experience, I’m ready to open my heart to a lot more in life.”

Courtney: And it’s like, that’s such a weird one. Because I think that was a very toxic relationship that probably was best to end, considering what we were presented with and what other cast members thought of Vanessa. But she came in very anti-marriage; left just horribly upset that Xander didn’t want to marry her anymore. And it’s like, what is that? You can’t play that game. It’s so controlling. It’s like, you’re just trying to control Xander in one way or another. Xander wants to get married. You don’t. Xander doesn’t want to get married. Now you do. Like, you can’t do that. You have to know yourself well enough to know what you want and you need, and then you need to be upfront about that.

Courtney: And I don’t know how I feel about this particular person saying, “I’m ready to open my heart to a lot more in life.” Because in the context of the show, what she means is marriage. What she means is commitment. And I don’t think that that needs to be put on a pedestal as, like, “This was this person’s character growth, like, throughout this experiment. She started not wanting marriage, and now she wants marriage, and she’s a better person for it!” Like, I don’t like that narrative or the way that that’s framed. But at the same time, she also did seem like she did need a lot of personal growth in some way or another. And it wasn’t apparent that she got that in this situation.

Courtney: So then it’s reunion time. And they sort of… And again, like, hello, hello, this show has a host. [laughing] She’s facilitating the reunion now. What’s your name again? And why are you straight? [laughs] But they split up the ultimatum-givers on one side of the room and the receivers of the ultimatum on the other side of the room, so the couples aren’t together. So it’s kind of a big question of like, “Ooh, who’s still together?” Because normally in these reunions, they have the couples sitting next to each other, so you can kind of visually see right off the bat who’s still together and who’s not.

Courtney: And going down the line, they start with Rae and Lexi, who are saying they are still engaged, they’re still happy, they have a wedding date. They aren’t in a rush for kids, but they know that they want them, and they know how they want to have them, so they’ve started saving money for it. And Lexi says, “This has been the best year of my life.” Lexi got pretty close with Mal during the trial marriage, and Lexi even says that they’re still close, they still text, and that Mal is like family. So I think that was pretty cool. But then they get to, you know. Vanessa and Rae and, by extension, Xander. And heaven forbid they call the scandal of Vanessa and Rae sleeping together “fingergate.”

Royce: Okay, that’s not surprising.

Courtney: I hate it. [laughs] I hate it! They’re like, “Now to talk about fingergate.” No! And so, yeah, I mean, they talk about that. Lexi is definitely like, “Yeah, I mean, it is what it is. I’m happy with Rae now. And Vanessa is not in our life.” And Vanessa is doing this whole, like, “I grew so much, and I’m sorry I hurt you, and I hope you can just forget about me.” And Lexi’s like, “Yeah, we have.” And it’s like, whew.

Courtney: But Xander and Vanessa both ended up crying at the reunion. They said that, as of now, they do not talk at all. And then we get to Mal and Yoly. And Mal, when asked the state of their relationship, says, “Happily broken up.” And the host is like, “Oh, well, when did you know that this, you know, proposal wasn’t going to stick and this engagement needed to be called off?” And Yoly said she knew they’d be over after two weeks. But Mal had a different memory and was like, “You are lying. And also, while we’re talking about lying, you were lying throughout the show, and watching it was triggering to see, since what I was seeing you do and you say it was different from what you were telling me in real time.” And it was like, oooh, oh no.

Courtney: And then Yoly was trying to do this whole, like, “Oh, well, I can’t help it. Like, I told you, I was developing a relationship with Xander. You knew that.” And then Mal was like, “It was less about watching you with another person and more that we’ve been together five years, and I thought that I knew you. But watching you on this show made you seem like a dangerous stranger to me.” And I was like, “Oh, yikes!”

Courtney: And Yoly was like, “Well, I can’t help it if I developed feelings for another person too.” And she’s like, “I feel like I’m an ad for polyamory, but I’m not trying to be.” And that was, like, the only mention of polyamory at the reunion. And it’s like, there wasn’t actually an attempt at polyamory ever. This was just someone who was in love with two people and resolved to get engaged to only one of them. And Yoly was trying to make it seem like, “Oh, well, Mal just couldn’t handle that I was in love with someone else.” But Mal straight up said, “Watching you be in love with someone was not the difficult thing. Watching you be in love is a beautiful thing. And for what I saw, you deserved to try.” And I was like, “That’s interesting.” That is actually a situation where it’s like, I wanted more of the actual conversation about, “Is polyamory on the table for us? Is this something we want to explore?” Because if you see someone you love in love with another person, it’s pretty much expected by society that you will be envious, and a lot of people can be and a lot of people will. But there’s also people in the polyamorous community that love seeing the person they’re in love with be in love with someone else. In fact, I believe the word for that is compersion.

Courtney: And so it’s revealed that Xander and Yoly did keep talking after the show wrapped, and they saw each other again several months after the show, but said that nothing happened at that time. Vanessa did chime in at this point and said that she and Xander tried to make it work very briefly, or were at least in communication with one another for some period of time, and that she was really surprised and caught off guard to then find out that Xander and Yoly were still talking.

Courtney: There did also seem to be, on the show, more dogs than are average on reality marriage shows, I think. And I want to know: do queer people have dogs more often, at higher rates [laughs] than, you know, allocishets? Because it wasn’t just like, “Oh, I have a dog. So if we move in together, we have a dog.” It was like, “This dog is my baby. And you need to love this dog as much as I do, because that’s my baby, and I am not bringing someone around my dog who doesn’t adore her.” And during a trial marriage, someone was like, “You’re too apathetic toward my dog! You need to love her more if this is going to work.” And I was like, “I know some people do get really serious about their dogs, and their dogs are their baby and that’s fine, but I have not seen it to this extent on another reality show before.” And it was only dogs too. I don’t think anyone mentioned having a cat or a bird or anything else. It was just several of them had dogs.

Royce: I didn’t find any very simple, to-the-point stats to back that up, but I did see that more generally, queer adults were more likely to own pets than cishet adults. And I see some things going further that gay people — well, this says gay or bi people, so I think you could you could infer the broader queer community is more likely to look towards pets or pet ownership as a means of emotional support.

Courtney: Mmm. Interesting. Confirmed: gays love their dogs. So I mentioned Aussie and Sam. I don’t think I’ve said the names Tiff and Mildred, the other couple. They kind of couple-swapped. Mildred was with Aussie and Tiff was with Sam. And Tiff and Mildred also left engaged, but now at the reunion… Whew, this was the reunion drama that I did not see coming. Now, to put it in perspective, this was the couple that was like, “We’ve broken up every other week, like, at least 50 times,” so that should tell you something.

Courtney: Mildred has a son who they didn’t talk about too much. They said he had… I think they use the phrase ’special needs” and was nearly an adult and would probably need to live with her for the rest of his life. I don’t know. I don’t think they clarified any more. But it wasn’t that much of a conversation during the experience of the show, but it came up in the reunion.

Courtney: And when Mildred was in a trial marriage with Aussie, there was a little bit of trauma, but there wasn’t so much shown that I had a very clear picture of, like, who the problem was or where it was coming from. It was very much like “She said, they said” kind of a thing, because Aussie ended up leaving the first trial marriage and, like, didn’t finish it and walked out. But Mildred would just say little things like, “Well, you need to communicate with me better. I need to know if you’re going to do this.” And then Aussie would be like, “I feel like you say things on camera that you don’t say when the cameras are gone, just to make me look bad.” And then Mildred would blow up and be like, “I’m just talking about communication. You don’t communicate very well.” And it’s like, we’d only see a teeny tiny snippet of that. So it’s like, I don’t know how bad things are offscreen or how different they are offscreen, so it was hard to pick a side, so to speak. But in the grand scheme of, like, other things going on with Vanessa, like, it wasn’t the big drama of the season, and it got cut short since Aussie left.

Courtney: But… oh boy. They were asking, like, “Okay, so what happened there?” And Mildred said that she left Tiff. And Tiff was like, “Uh, you left me? [laughs] No. If you want to lie to everyone and say that you broke up with me, that’s not my memory of it.” And Tiff was like, “I also felt financially taken advantage of, because you moved in with me and my son, and I felt disrespected as a mom, and I’ll always be a mom first.” And Mildred was like, “Oh, you didn’t make an effort to build a relationship with my son.” And then Tiff admitted, like, openly mentioned that she was struggling to connect to her son, but again, didn’t give a lot of details on that. And I don’t know — I don’t think they gave us a time frame, like, I don’t know how long they gave it. But oh my gosh. Mildred was just slamming Tiff for all these horrible things she’s done. And she’s like, “You disrespected me as a mom, and you could care less about my son, and I was financially taken advantage of when you moved in with us.”

Courtney: And then Tiff just has this look of shock on her face. Like, you can tell all of this is news to her. And then she’s like, “And then you’re bringing other women into my home and sleeping around.” And then Tiff was like, “What are you talking about? I joined a dating app after we broke up, but I never brought women home. What is this?” And it was… it was just baffled.

Courtney: Because then, the real bomb to drop was that they broke up when Mildred got angry and threw things at Tiff, broke picture frames, threw heavy things at Tiff. Tiff called the police, and Mildred was arrested. And Mildred was like, “Yeah, you called the police on me. And the police took my engagement ring, and I never put it back on.” And we were like, “You coulda led with that!” But then she kept going on and on and on. She’s like, “You still lived with us after this happened,” and saying weird things that didn’t even seem like they would be bad if they were true, but seemed to be completely out of nowhere based on Tiff’s reactions. Because she was like, “Oh, you had a sex board game sent to my house when you still lived there, and that was disrespectful.” And Tiff was like, “What is a sex board game? Like, what even is this board game? What are you talking about?” And she’s like, “You disrespected me in my own home!” And I was like, okay.

Courtney: Tiff ended up getting up and leaving the reunion, crying, just sobbing, and was like… She said the word “gaslighting.” She’s like, “You are gaslighting me. All of this is coming out of the blue. I’ve never heard any of this. You’re making up stories to try to make me look bad and attack me,” and got up crying. And then Aussie was the one to speak up first, which surprised me, because Aussie is the most conflict-averse one in this entire cast. But Aussie was like, “I’m not taking sides, but Mildred just said the word ‘gaslighting.’ And from my experience, that’s how I felt when I was with Mildred in the trial marriage.” [laughing] And we were like, “Oh, no!”

Courtney: And so Sam, Aussie’s partner, ended up also, like, getting up and walking out and was like, “No, screw this reunion. I’m going to go see if Tiff is okay.” And, like, they also had a camera, like, following them out, so a camera still ended up sort of catching them outside where Sam, like, went and gave her a big hug and was, like, comforting her. And I was like, “That was very cool to do.” Because normally if someone ever gets up and walks out of a reunion, it’s like, the host or a producer or a crew member that’s like following after them. But… oh man. That was like… I’m sorry, you can’t break picture frames and throw heavy things at someone [laughing] and then try to make them look like the bad guy. Because that’s domestic assault. So that was interesting.

Courtney: Aussie and Sam. They went to them last, then; they were the only couple left. They were still together. Said their family doesn’t know yet, but that they planned to tell them. I think at least for Aussie’s family… Aussie’s family doesn’t even necessarily know that they’re queer, so that’s kind of like a really big conversation to have. But yeah.

Courtney: Then the reunion wrapped, and there was a little postscript on the screen that was like, “Shortly after filming the reunion, Lexi and Rae chose to end their relationship, and the wedding has been called off.” So it’s like, okay. So that makes exactly one couple that, as far as we know, is still together.

Royce: What an incredibly successful show.

Courtney: [laughs] So yeah, I… I guess that’s all I have to say about that show. I unfortunately will maybe watch another one if they make it. I will not go back and try to watch the straight version again, or a different season of it, because time has proved it to be very memorable. But yeah, lots, lots of weird, complicated feelings. It was, at times, very painful to watch. It really was. But I would say overall, as a consumer, I still kind of would rather watch this than the straight versions of these shows. So I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out what to do with that information. Like, I actually had a little bit of fun watching this one, at times — even though I was simultaneously disappointed and grumbling. But there are other shows where I’m just, like, straight grumbling all the time and there’s no entertainment value. [laughs]

Courtney: So on that note, let us know if you, too, have watched The Queer Love Ultimatum. I’d be very curious to hear more assessments of the show. And I’m also very curious to know from you all: do you want more queer reality shows? I think for me, where I’m sitting, I want queer reality shows that are, like, truly queer and not just “copy-paste queer relationships into what was clearly designed to be [laughing] a cishet scenario.” Like, in order to make it work in a way that I think would be more beneficial than detrimental, we’re gonna need queer producers, queer directors, someone queer to make the very concept of the show. Because this was just not quite it.

Courtney: Please, if you would be so kind, give us a little rating, review, or like on whatever platform it is you are listening to us. And tell me what weird allo reality show I should cover next. We’ve already considered doing a part two to our first one, where we just cover a montage of shows again, because a lot of you seem to like it. So if there is a show that you especially love or especially hate [laughing] that you would like our opinion on, send us a suggestion and maybe I will put it on next time I need some trash to binge. Goodbye!