rules of engagement

A Simple Guide to The Ultimatum’s Couples Confusion

Photo: Jody Domingue/Netflix

The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On, Netflix’s latest dating “experiment” from the creators of Love Is Blind, is a very confusing show. Not just the premise, which is borderline nonsensical: The Ultimatum posits that the best way to figure out if you really want to marry someone is to … date someone else for a few weeks and see if you like that better? But it is also just legitimately confusing to watch. It’s hard to remember which generically attractive person is dating which other generically attractive person, especially when we only get to know the eight couples for one episode before the show separates them. It got to the point that I was distracted from The Ultimatum’s most dramatic moments by having to constantly ask, “Wait, who did she come here with?” and “Sorry, who is his girlfriend dating now?”

Helpful? Photo: Emily Palmer Heller

It’s a problem that could be easily remedied with a quick onscreen pop-up every now and then (instead of a chyron telling us their ages every single time), but as it stands, the show loses some of its steam when viewers are trying to remember several layers of relationship tension. So now, armed with the insane flow chart I wrote out to try to keep things straight (see left), may I present your guide to the various rotating couples on The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On.

Spoilers through episode three of The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On (i.e. when new partners are picked) follow.

April and Jake

Photo: Netflix

Jake just got out of the military. He wants to “travel, have fun, and be financially stable” before getting married, but April wants to get married and fill her SUV with kids immediately. An exchange that I think sums up their relationship dynamic: “The whole reason I wanted an SUV is because I pictured car seats in the second and third row, did I not?” “Mm-hmm.” “What did you tell the dealership? That she wants her mom car.” “Mm-hmm.”

Who does April choose to date?: Colby
Who does Jake choose to date?: Rae

Madlyn and Colby

Photo: Netflix

Colby says he knew Madlyn was “the one” almost five years ago, as soon as she walked in the door of the college bar where he worked. Madlyn “doesn’t really believe in there only being one person for everybody.”

Who does Madlyn choose to date?: Randall
Who does Colby choose to date?: April

Rae and Zay

Photo: Netflix

Rae and Zay dated in college, and now that it has been two and a half years and she has graduated, Rae sees marriage as the next step. “Isn’t that kinda how it goes?” she asks. “College, then proposal, then babies, then honeymoon in Cancun?” Zay is still in school, so he doesn’t want to rush a wedding, but maybe more importantly, he worries that Rae can’t express how she feels about him.

Who does Rae choose to date?: Jake
Who does Zay choose to date?: Shanique

Shanique and Randall

Photo: Netflix

Shanique has made it clear she is more than ready for a ring on her finger. Randall knows he loves Shanique but wants to wait on a proposal until they get their finances in order.

Who does Shanique choose to date?: Zay
Who does Randall choose to date? Madlyn

Alexis and Hunter

Photo: Netflix

Alexis and Hunter are at an impasse: Hunter wants to live together first, but Alexis won’t move in with him unless they’re engaged. Or, as she puts it, “I’m getting less out of moving in: I’m gonna cook for you, I’m gonna clean for you, I’m gonna do your laundry. And you get all of me.” A chore chart might help them out more than a ring, but whatever.

Who does Alexis choose to date?: After being soundly rejected by Colby, Alexis gets what she wants — a proposal from Hunter — before picking a new partner.
Who does Hunter choose to date? No one really catches Hunter’s eye (despite April thinking she did), and the second episode ends with Hunter telling the cast, who have gathered to choose their new partners, that he actually does want to marry Alexis.

Lauren and Nate

Photo: Netflix

The couple with the most legitimate and thorny deal-breaker, Lauren and Nate disagree on the subject of children. Nate definitely wants kids while Lauren doesn’t. They both realize that they have to figure that out before getting married, but Nate is ready to get married and wants to get clarity now.

Who does Lauren date?: Colby chooses Lauren, saying that he thinks he can help her “overcome” not wanting children (yuck!!!), but before she can accept, Nate proposes.
Who does Nate date? Despite whispering to Madelyn that he’s going to choose her, Nate pisses everyone else off for “wasting their time” and stealing Hunter’s thunder when he proposes to Lauren, telling her, “I don’t have a family without you.”

A Simple Guide to The Ultimatum’s Couples Confusion