This show’s timeline is just breakneck speed, but everyone is acting like they’ve known each other for years and have deep emotional bonds. Which is very summer camp of them, only they’re also all dating one another. Maybe that’s also very summer camp? It’s just hard to take the cast seriously when they’re like, “This is the best and most genuine person I have ever known, and I will carry them with me in my heart throughout all my days,” only it’s about someone they’ve known for a week. But now four weeks! Because the trial marriages are almost over with the first group and then we’re back with original partners.
Before moving on from last week, though, I know we’re all in love with Lexi and her excellent boobs, and I know Vanessa does not come across well at all on this show, but Lexi’s ambush of Vanessa at the dinner was a little untoward! Vanessa clearly didn’t want to share details about having sex with Rae, particularly at a group dinner with everyone arrayed against her, and Lexi kept pushing. Then, later, Lexi says Vanessa looked her in the face and told her what Rae did with Vanessa’s hand. Vanessa clearly didn’t want to, Lexi! But despite the many comments about Lexi’s maturity (and she overall is very mature!), she is 24 years old and also on reality television. I had more dramatic conversations at 24 than I did at 18. Your brain is still finalizing itself!
Let’s see where we are with the various couples: Yoly and Xan are very into each other, and Yoly’s leaving massive lipstick stains on Xan’s neck. Vanessa tells Rae that Lexi said Rae bragged about sleeping with Vanessa, to which I give a heavy sigh and say can we end this storyline? This is like the dreaded two-on-one dates on The Bachelor when you just want both of them to go home. Tiff and Sam are toddling along. Lexi and Mal snuggle a bunch, but platonically. Aussie and Mildred had that convo where Mildred was confrontational, and Aussie freaked the fuck out because Aussie can handle zero confrontation. Mildred tries to talk to Aussie again, and Aussie panics and leaves again. And then moves out. Aussiiiiiie. In true Aussie fashion, instead of having a direct conversation with Mildred about how this is not working, Aussie leaves a note and gets the hell out of there. I say again: Aussiiiiiiiiiie.
Mildred has many emotions about being abandoned, which totally makes sense! Wow, once more, I wish they had a couples therapist on staff. Wouldn’t it be so much more compelling for the couples to call a timeout when things get heated and then go to the Emotions Chamber and talk with a couples therapist about the things that they’re feeling? And we still get the lurid reality television part because we’re spying on someone’s therapy? I would LOVE to watch queer couples be emotionally healed on streaming television and not just tossed into a river and told they must sink or swim. Also, I wish I had an Emotions Chamber.
In this final week of first-round couples, a lot of them meet important people in their partner’s life. Rae meets Vanessa’s dad, who horrifyingly goes by “Big Papa.” I hate to say this, but when I first saw this man (also known as Mark), I was like, wow, who does he remind me of? And then I realized it was the man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart. I am not saying anything else about Mark related to this!! But maybe he should shave his beard. Mark gives Rae terrible advice and says that in his profession, which apparently is IT, 99 percent right is 100 percent wrong. And he maps this onto human relationships. Wow, buddy! To that, I say, NOPE. If you have a relationship that is 99 percent right … you need it to be 100 percent? First of all, that is impossible because of the fallibility of humanity; secondly, just go to therapy and work whatever shit out that you need to. I really cannot advocate therapy enough!
I still can’t with this timeline and how they discuss it. Xan tells Yoly she loves her and says, “It didn’t make sense for a long time.” What is a long time? Also, how is no one acknowledging the honeymoon phase of a relationship here? Yoly is acting genuinely conflicted between her multi-year relationship with someone she gave a marriage ultimatum to and this new relationship of three weeks, where she’s basically like, well, we don’t have problems. Ma’am. I broke up with so many people at the three-and-a-half-month mark because that’s exactly when you stop thinking everything they do is cute and you start seeing them as a fully-rounded-out person who does annoying things. I also broke up with them because I needed to go to therapy. (A theme!)
Lexi meets Mal’s friend Alicia, and Alicia is maybe my favorite of the friends and family that we meet. Alicia is both realistic and hilarious. My notes for this section say, “Lexi looks … really good.” Which is true! But Alicia learns that Lexi is twenty-four and says, “Oh, that’s a cute red flag waving in the wind.” I love you, Alicia. Lexi earnestly tells Alicia that she wants Mal to be a part of her life forever. I cannot even remember how many coworkers I have earnestly said this to and then never spoken to again.
Sam says people are going to come up with a ship name for her and Tiff, and she suggests “Stiff.” Amazing. Of this whole cast, I’d want to be friends with Sam the most. I’d date Yoly, Lexi, or Rae, and I’d die if Tiff flirted with me because of their excellent vibe and how fantastic they look in a backward hat. Also, Mal is too tall for me, but she is gorgeous, and her sweaters look so soft. As for Vanessa, she has so much chaotic energy that if we met at a bar, I’d laugh awkwardly and then crabwalk on out of there. But I don’t know; some people love chaos!
At “the changeover,” everyone has spiffed themselves up, and JoAnna Garcia Swisher is back, wearing a sparkly pink dress — I love it. Everyone reflects aloud on the past three weeks. Tiff talks about their anger issues; Sam is working on speaking up. Rae is trying to make decisions for herself; Vanessa reads something she calls an apology, but she never apologizes. Mildred and Aussie get emotional real quick, and Aussie does not feel like Aussie is being represented fairly. This is reality TV, so that is maybe true! Then things get messy with Yoly, Xan, Vanessa, and Mal, and we learn that Xan and Vanessa agreed they wouldn’t do anything physical with another person, which is not the energy either of them approached this with. I mean, what?? Vanessa was out here in week one, talking about how excited she was to be with other people and basically insinuating she wanted to be in a polyamorous relationship, and she had sex with Rae, whom she said she isn’t physically or romantically attracted to (a bananas opinion, but okay). And Xan seemed to express ZERO reservations about getting with Yoly.
Are Vanessa and Xan just here to fuck shit up?? Their dynamic is so WEIRD. Xan is like, Wow, I’m so in love with Yoly. This is us; I want to marry you. And then she’s with Vanessa and they’re just holding hands and going off to bang, and Xan is like, Let’s do this. At least Yoly is clearly extremely conflicted. What is up with Vanessa and Xan? Oh, I did love when Yoly asks Vanessa not to make it about her when the person she loves is going through something. Lol.
Okay, second trial marriages! Everyone is back with their original partner! Lexi immediately tells Rae she doesn’t trust her. Damn, Lexi. Lexi is saying a lot of things that are very dramatic but, again, understandable given the context. She also tells Rae, “It was supposed to end with me and you,” which my wife would never say to me because she knows I would involuntarily roll my eyes so hard. After their initial tensions, though, and some steps backward, Lexi and Rae are mostly on the same page again. They’re cute and I really like them together, and there’s no way either of them is getting with Mal (Mal is 1000 percent in on Yoly) or Vanessa … but I don’t know.
All the other relationships are exhausting this week. The idea of recapping their emotionally-charged conversational quicksand is daunting, but I will try.
Vanessa and Xan … it’s weird. It’s so weird. Vanessa has done a 180 and is now fully interested in marrying Xan and having babies. When Vanessa’s dad says this might be an ego thing and that Vanessa is afraid of losing Xan, but Vanessa says absolutely not. REALLY, Vanessa? Mark, the IT Professional, actually gave good advice this time, and you’re chucking it out the window? There is no way that in three weeks of hanging out with someone you weren’t attracted to and inexplicably getting your nipples pierced, you suddenly decided this person you just said felt like a roommate was your number one for the rest of your life. This is why I’m saying I don’t trust them!! Then later, Vanessa is like, So you know how we’ve always had free rein to look at each other’s phones? Well, I saw you messaged Yoly on Instagram, and I read your messages. Which! Okay! What?? My wife lets me use her phone, but I use it to, like, take a photo or look something up. I don’t go into her messages. Vanessa then tries to force Xan to say “I love you” back to her. Good lord.
Mildred and Tiff are … I don’t know about them. It feels like they don’t get much screen time, which I also felt with Sam and Aussie until the last couple of episodes. Mildred and Tiff’s communication remains bad. We learn that they break up approximately every two weeks and therefore have had about fifty break-ups. They went to couples therapy, and the therapist gave up on us. OMG. It’s so hard watching stuff like this because you know they love each other, but they cannot support each other the way the other wants and needs. Mildred ends up saying she traces her breaking up with Tiff to Mildred being abandoned so many times in her life, which, good insight, but this dynamic is still bad. There’s, like, The Big Insight sometimes in therapy, and then there are the years of follow-up work around it.
Aussie and Sam! What a mystery. Sam is now exercising her ability to speak up for herself, which is excellent. When she brings up Aussie’s living situation with Mildred and what happened there, Aussie nopes the fuck out of there and cries in the bathroom. I am very concerned for Aussie! This whole experience feels like a bad fit that is constantly triggering Aussie. They have a conversation about gender roles, and Aussie sees a personal pivot in how to view those, which is great, but like … every single time Sam brings up a problem or wants to talk about an issue she and Aussie have, Aussie completely shuts down and leaves. You can’t make any progress with that. We have another “breakthrough” with Aussie telling Sam’s very good friend Sharmaine (I love Sharmaine) that Aussie thinks this goes back to childhood when Aussie would be blamed for everything. Again, that is a very good insight, and maybe you should now exit this format that is clearly shredding your mental health and go see a therapist. Why is Sharmaine sitting on the curb with Aussie instead of one of several trained mental health professionals who have established a relationship with the cast?? Do you like this drum I keep banging on?
Mal and Yoly seem close to the most genuine. Maybe? Yoly is really open about being in love with Xan and tells Mal they had sex. Mal wants to marry Yoly and brings up that this was her fear going in. It was! We all heard it! Mal admits her ego is “fucking shattered” but says Yoly is having a human experience and they can figure this out. OMG MAL. Malllllllllll. This is amazing. Truly amazing. What a reaction. May we all experience such compassion, honesty, and empathy. That being said: you never know the inside of a relationship. We can pretend to understand these people with this highly edited show where cameras are a foot from people’s faces, but all these people are coming in with relationship baggage, with lives together, and we don’t know the history of any of that. Yoly needs Mal to clean up more, save for IVF, and show up. Mal puts a ton of effort in during the three weeks, and Yoly appreciates it but doesn’t know how it measures up to her camp girlfriend. We get to see Alicia again, and I am delighted. After Yoly tells Alicia the situation and leaves, Alicia says, “This situation is just fucked up.” “Trash,” Mal replies. This was maybe the only time I genuinely laughed at this show this week.
There’s a party, and Xan and Yoly get all “forbidden love” about it, which, sure. We have to repeatedly watch these reality show participants have sex via a creepy camera in the corner of their bedroom ceiling. This is what people in soap operas do to their kidnap victims. I hate it. Cut all these scenes.
We end with Mal proposing to Yoly in a gazebo. Okay! Mal is wearing drawstring pants. A choice! We end with Yoly not answering yet, and in a preview for next week, we see Xan and Yoly hugging and Yoly crying on a curb. Lexi’s boobs, of course, look great.