Spoilers follow for the reunion and finale of The Ultimatum.
For most of The Ultimatum, no couple diverged more in their approach to commitment than Madlyn Ballatori and Colby Kissinger. Colby has been “gung ho” about Madlyn since they met as Texas A&M students in 2015, when she was dating someone else. But Madlyn needed a chaotic Love Is Blind spinoff and a three-week trial marriage to Randall Griffin to realize that Colby was the person she wanted to spend her life with. After saying yes to his proposal in episode ten — and then immediately eloping in front of a 50-person camera crew — Madlyn shocked her fellow cast members by striding into the reunion heavily pregnant. “I knew if I was gonna say yes to an engagement, I have to be ready for everything with him,” Madlyn told Vulture over Zoom. “Here I am pregnant a year later.”
At first, Colby and Madlyn’s onscreen relationship seemed as turbulent as the sloshed contents of those silver goblets. After the couple reunited, Madlyn discovered Colby kissed a non–cast member at a club and continued communicating with her afterward. Madlyn and Colby appeared to break things off shortly after, but her 180-degree change of heart in the finale was not as abrupt as it looked. Ahead, Madlyn explains the tipsy trials and tribulations of The Ultimatum and the behind-the-scenes moments that led her to choose Colby and his cowboy hat.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! And getting that baby silver goblet from Nick and Vanessa. Are you near your due date?
We’re due the last week of April. I am very close, and I’m ready!
Did any of the other cast members know you were pregnant before they saw you at the reunion?
No. I had posted something then took it down very quickly. It was a surprise to pretty much everybody.
Take me back to the day that you met Colby.
We met in 2015. We did not date initially. Colby was gung ho on me. I was a sophomore, just broke up with a boyfriend. I wasn’t there yet, but I appreciated Colby’s admiration, and he’s got a charm that did stick around. We didn’t really get back to talking again until quarantine happened. And we were both in Austin, so we decided to make a go of it.
How did you reconnect over quarantine?
I broke up with a boyfriend, and Colby immediately slid in the DMs.
Did you ever think that your relationship would take you onto a reality show?
This is not what I ever thought I would be doing. They reached out on Instagram. After quarantine, we were bored and it fit the description of where we were at. I was like, I think the whole production thing is really intriguing. I geeked out over how filming would be. I thought, What the hell, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don’t think we realized what an impact it would make on our relationship or us personally.
People online were surprised by the premise of the show when it first came out. Did you think it was that outrageous?
I didn’t initially. Watching the trailers and the reactions, it totally made sense to me, but initially it was like: You’re confused about marrying your partner. This is an opportunity to talk with somebody who’s in the same boat as you. You get an experience with all these different couples where you can learn more about yourself, learn more about your partner, figure out have I been taking something for granted, and is there something that I really am missing? It didn’t seem outrageous at the time.
Would you recommend your friends go on The Ultimatum after the experience that you had?
My friends in particular? Maybe not. It’s amazing how it helped me and Colby. I can’t believe we got where we are from The Ultimatum. It was hard watching it back and seeing myself struggle. I would recommend a little more preparation and not going into it thinking you’ve got everything totally handled.
You had this moment with your friends where they told you that they weren’t on board with you marrying Colby. What was it like telling them that you actually got married on the show?
There’s a lot more there than everybody got to see, but as far as supporting me, that’s what they do, 100 percent. We’re all on the same team. I think that ultimately, they trust my decisions. They know I’m smart. They know I’m not being conned into something. It was a decision I thought out and made for myself.
You mentioned in the reunion that your parents were supportive but your dad was a little iffy about it at first. How did he react when you told him the news?
Just to give you some background, he’s super-Italian and very dramatic, but he was happy. It took him by surprise. My dad’s not really a romantic, go figure. That’s kind of where I get it from. He doesn’t understand the whole lovey-dovey stuff, but Colby did get his blessing, which I didn’t know at the time. So he was a little prepared. Ultimately, I think he’s happy he doesn’t have to pay for a big wedding.
Did you watch the show back with Colby? When you were watching it, which moments stuck out to you the most?
When we went for the reunion, we were given iPads and separated. We watched the show on our own. Me and Colby had talked pretty much everything through, but I have to say, I was most surprised by myself, my reactions. I really thought I was right in some moments. And then it’s like, Oh my gosh, you were a little tipsy and very dramatic, actually. I was very surprised by Colby and Lauren’s relationship. It ticked me off because it was never anything that we really had to deal with. We never did talk about it, but I’m like, Damn, this could have been an entirely different experience had she stayed.
What do you think might have happened if she stayed on the show?
Who knows? When Colby feels something, he feels it strongly and he goes for it. I think it would’ve been a lot more messy and dramatic for us. Definitely harder for me. I think I was very privileged to not have to worry so much about my partner falling in love with somebody.
At what point in the show did you realize you wanted to marry Colby?
Honestly, it was the night before. I knew I didn’t wanna leave without him. That was something that really scared me. And throughout there were moments I really thought I was going to have to. The night before, I called my mom and she was like, “Make a list.” I really did the pros and cons, but it came down to me saying, Can I walk away from him? Am I willing to walk away from this relationship? And I wasn’t. At that moment it was like: Maybe this can really be forever.
Walk me through the impromptu wedding ceremony.
I knew if I was gonna say yes to an engagement, I’d have to be ready for everything with him. Here I am pregnant a year later. I knew that was coming. I knew I had to be ready, so when I said yes to the engagement, I was. Colby knows I’ve never wanted a big wedding. He’s more of the big-show kinda guy. It was actually really sweet. It felt right in the moment. The only thing that I wish I could have taken back was the whole 50-person camera crew right there. But it felt really good to not just turn that page and say, “Yes, I’ll marry you,” but “I’ll marry you now. I’m fully ready.”
What aspects of your relationship do you wish the show had shown more of?
Anything where we weren’t screaming at each other! There is so much fruit between me and Colby, and it was really just the ugly bit. But there was a lot of growth between us discussing the issues we had and my hesitations toward getting married, and us having really hard conversations to overcome those and for him to put me at peace. It was hours and hours and hours of really hard, hard work that wasn’t put on camera.
In the reunion, you said you were afraid that if you gave yourself to Colby, you’d be losing. What did you mean by that?
I’ve worried so much in my relationships about being so smart and not giving myself to somebody who’s going to trick me, or to settle. I wanted to be so careful. Colby came off so strong. It was always in the back of my head: Am I being tricked? Is it real? Would I be the dumb girl to give in to him?
What’s a grand romantic gesture from Colby that stayed with you?
The first date we went on after reconnecting, he painted me these — I cannot handle these sentimental gifts, but I loved it. He painted me this compass map thing and had this whole sentimental story. Just cheesy, but that was the first and the biggest one that stood out to me. This guy is really intentional. You gotta respect it.
There was a moment when Colby kissed a woman he met at the club and told her that the two of you were in an open relationship. How did the two of you get past that?
Colby going off and doing whatever, that wasn’t so much the issue as there were a lot of things behind it. He was so upset with me for engaging in my relationship with Randall, which I feel like is what he brought me on the experience to do. And then there was the lack of transparency in telling me about it. And there was so much back and forth. For the first time, I didn’t trust him or really believe everything he was saying, which is terrifying when you’re supposed to say yes to an engagement. But once we talked through everything and he could admit everything, be transparent and own up, that’s something I can work with and move forward.
On the show, you were the only woman who was given the ultimatum. Were you surprised to be the only couple in that situation?
It bummed me out a bit. I didn’t have someone to relate to. It definitely impacted the way I talked to the other girls. I wasn’t always thinking about what boat they were in; it put a little bit of a distance there. I wish there had been more flip-flopped situations.
Which girls on the show do you feel like you got along with the best?
Believe it or not, Rae and Shanique. Me and Shanique were friends. That was just an ugly night. It’s a weird situation being with another person’s couple, but me, Rae, and Shanique connected instantly and offered each other a lot of support throughout the show.
Do you still keep in touch with Randall after The Ultimatum?
I don’t really communicate with Randall one-on-one out of respect for both Colby and Shanique. We wanna not have any messiness there, but we do have a group chat and we all get on Instagram and send each other things and offer support. It’s been a pretty surprisingly healthy, fun friendship.
If you didn’t pick Randall as your trial husband, who would your next pick have been?
Hunter. I know there wouldn’t have been anything to come of it, but just like April and Lauren, he had a way of making me feel safe and he would just be a great sounding board. It would’ve been an opportunity for growth no matter what.
Have you and Colby brainstormed any potential names for the baby?
We do have a name! If Colby were here then I’d give the look and we could give it, but I can’t do it without him.