This post contains spoilers for The Ultimatum: Queer Love Episodes 9-10.
As the stars of The Ultimatum: Queer Love took their seats on various couches and chairs for Wednesday’s reunion episodes, you could practically feel the frustration radiating from a few of them. Before they even said it, you could just tell that certain couples (*cough* Mal Wright and Yoly Rojas) had split. Meanwhile, some participants, like Vanessa Papa, managed to redeem themselves for past bad behavior, while others found themselves fighting in front of the camera. (Again.)
From the moment The Ultimatum debuted last year, its brand has been pure emotional chaos. But there’s also a darker layer to the series than most other Netflix dating shows; last season, for instance, included one couple whose argument turned physical on screen. The series—originally part of Nick and Vanessa Lachey’s TV dating universe and now hosted by Reba alum JoAnna Garcia Swisher—brings together five couples. In each pair, one person has given an ultimatum to the other: get engaged or move on. To test out their options, the couples enter three-week “trial marriages” with fellow participants and then reunite with their original partners for another three weeks.
There’s always something a little unnerving about these shows and the voyeurism they demand, but this season’s reunion became genuinely difficult to watch by the end. During the latter half of the episode, one couple got into a fight so severe that one of them left crying, saying they felt gaslit by their former partner. Garcia spent many of these moments looking stunned, apparently unsure when or if (or perhaps how) she should intervene as host.
Ironically, the awfulness began right after an adorable reel of all the participants with their various dogs. When Tiff Der (32, they/them) began answering a question about their dog Shylo and mentioned an emergency surgery, their partner Mildred Woody (33, she/her) interjected. She claimed that Tiff called her family after they’d broken up to tell them that Shylo wasn’t going to make it, although Tiff denied using those words.
“That was very intrusive,” Mildred said. “We’re not on speaking terms; you’re not allowed in my life anymore.” Before that moment, it had not yet been revealed that the two had split—and from then on, Mildred shared her story while an increasingly upset Tiff denied or at least disputed the details of almost every point she made.
“The cloud came back,” Mildred said of her time with Tiff after the show. “There was no clarity.” She claimed that she’d had to push Tiff to get a job (Tiff claimed they had one) and that Tiff brought other women to the home, which Tiff argued only happened after they’d broken up and Mildred had left the home. Mildred claimed to have been the one who left Tiff, which also elicited protest (“How were you the one that left?”) and she claimed that Tiff “told” her that they should split the rent three ways because she has a son—a request Tiff said they made in ignorance and never insisted upon.
In the final moments before Tiff fled the set, the two discussed an argument that had ended in Mildred’s arrest. “I threw a picture frame and broke it,” Mildred said. “And I threw a pet gate at you, and it was really heavy. At the same time, I was grabbing all your clothes from the closet and throwing them down the stairs because I really wanted you to leave my home.”
“I’m not proud of what I did,” Mildred continued. “But there was a lot of fighting. There was always screaming, yelling, hitting the walls, punching the walls. Tiff called me a trash mom. Degraded me. … I did not feel accepted as a mother.”
The final straw seemed to be Mildred’s assertion that Tiff had ordered sex-themed board games and had them delivered to the home they once shared—which Tiff vehemently denied, even as Mildred continued to speak over them. “You’re literally here just fucking straight-up fucking gaslighting me,” Tiff said. “Are you fucking kidding?”
“I just really hope that you just let me talk,” Mildred said, “because every time you talk… like, it just hurts my ear.”
It was then that Tiff got up and walked offstage, audibly crying, as their fellow participants looked on. Aussie Chau (42, “Aussie”), Mildred’s trial marriage partner, spoke quietly: “I’m not taking sides here, but just Tiff saying the word ‘gaslighting,’ it just brought back a lot of my experience with Mildred.” Aussie’s partner Sam Mark (31, she/her) told the group, “I just feel like Tiff was just put on blast right now because there was all the blame put on one person, and it didn’t feel right to me.”
Sam left the stage and found Tiff outside without a jacket. “I’m literally questioning my fucking reality,” Tiff said. “I have no problem admitting where I went wrong but I will speak up on some things that did not happen.” Before long, they decided to leave the reunion, climbing into a van as Sam went back inside.
The argument was difficult to watch, and at least some of Mildred and Tiff’s castmates seemed uncomfortable as they listened. Few interjected during the conversation, even as Tiff grew visibly upset. It’s the kind of scene that plays out all the time in these reunions—and even though most of this season’s contestants agreed they learned a lot from the experiment and did not regret participating, it’s moments like these that make it impossible to comprehend how that can be the case.
The emotional carnage this season was real. We saw one couple—Lexi Goldberg (25, she/her) and Raelyn “Rae” Cheung-Sutton (28, she/her) practically implode after Rae chose to be intimate with her trial-marriage partner, Vanessa. That didn’t bother Vanessa’s partner, Xander Boger, too much because they were busy falling in love with Yoly Rojas (35, she/her)—much to the chagrin of her partner, Mal Wright (37, she/they). After a rocky start, Tiff and Sam hit it off and became fast friends, while Sam’s partner Aussie had a tough time with their trial wife, Mildred.
After all that, the finale was honestly pretty ho-hum. Everyone left engaged except for Xander and Vanessa; Xander chose her trial spouse Yoly over Vanessa, but Yoly chose to say “yes” to Mal.
Beyond the Tiff-Mildred argument, the other couple to stir up the most drama during the reunion was Mal and Yoly—who seem to have broken up weeks after the show wrapped. Mal called Yoly out for not committing to their trial marriage after her relationship with Xander. After watching the season, she said, she felt betrayed by how intimate they remained. “You feel like a dangerous stranger to me, and that is hurtful,” Mal said. “That really sucks because I had your back so hard, and all you did is make a complete fool of me. I look like an ass on television.”
And that was before they found out Yoly had also been thinking about flying to meet Xander in Hawaii. (?!?!) By the end, the only pair standing was Sam and Aussie; Lexi and Rae appeared together in the reunion, but a title card in the end revealed they split up soon after. Just another fun-filled season in paradise.
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