‘The Ultimatum: Marry Or Move On’ Is A Whole Mess

Netflix’s latest love experiment is a new take on dating shows with more than a little drama.
Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Netflix

Netflix’s newest dating reality show is here, and it’s the total opposite of “Love Is Blind,” the show it spun off from. “The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On” is quite the dating experiment.

The premise of the show is that six couples have reached a crossroads in their respective relationships. One partner is ready to wed while the other still has reservations before walking down the aisle. So the partner who’s ready to get married issues, yup, an ultimatum.

The couples split and choose a potential partner from one of the other couples to move in with for three weeks. Once the three weeks are over, they reunite for a time and decide whether they will get married or go their separate ways.

The show, hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, is filled with about as much drama as you probably predicted, if not more.

In this conversation, HuffPost reporters discuss the messiness, horniness and all-around chaos that ensues on the show.

(Editor’s note: This piece contains spoilers for Season 1 of “The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On.” You can, however, scroll to the bottom if you want to know if you should watch.)

What did you think of “The Ultimatum”?

Taryn: So, first thoughts: This show is messy messy.

Ruth: Very — and in my opinion, everyone needs to break up.

Taryn: Absolutely. This type of carrying on doesn’t need to be on TV, but the little drama bird in me is so glad it is.

Ruth: I feel like anything in a relationship that comes as a result of force or prodding? Fundamentally not a good foundation. BUT it is interesting to see unfold, especially because we’ve been fed the exact opposite on mainstream dating shows. Here we have a good chunk of people with commitment issues trying to make fetch happen, whereas “Married at First Sight,” “The Bachelor” and company are all folks who are almost too keen on jumping into engagement.

It’s also hilarious (and alarming???) to see the different takes and discourse from people on social media. What made me laugh most is folks saying they’re so shocked at how young they are, and I’m, like, “Oh, this is just set in Austin, Texas, y’all. This is commonplace in the South.”

Taryn: The cast is much younger than I expected, which immediately made me cringe. I’m, like, y’all are all in your 20s, and most of y’all have only been in your relationship for a couple of years. What’s the rush to get married? And to someone who is on the fence about marrying you at that! I feel like if you have to give someone an ultimatum to marry you, then y’all have bigger issues to work out before marriage is on the table, but that’s just me. You like it, I love it.

Ruth: HELLO!

Taryn: The age part I get culturally, being a Midwest girl myself, but still, I’m like BIG YIKES.

Ruth: Like, why are you trying so hard to make fetch happen, PLEASE? You will not die being alone!

"The Ultimatum" couples from Season 1. Shown facing the camera, from left, are Randall Griffin, Hunter Parr and Isaiah Wilson.
"The Ultimatum" couples from Season 1. Shown facing the camera, from left, are Randall Griffin, Hunter Parr and Isaiah Wilson.

So, what’s the deal with the couples?

Taryn: Let’s talk about this chaotic cast.

Ruth: You can tell which people high-key resent their partners. At first sight, it looks like Madlyn THOROUGHLY resented Colby.

Taryn: And I resent their relationship, so I get it. Madlyn and Colby are probably my two least favorite people on this show. Colby is so very manipulative throughout the season, and Madlyn is just mean as hell. And the way she fetishizes Randall, one of the three Black men on the show, infuriates me. Those two are the worst.

Ruth: YES. I will never forget how uncomfortable it made me when her friends suggested sex with Randall would be more “rememberable.” What bothers me even more is the fact that Randall didn’t quite... see it? Like... I know everyone is going all out in the experiment, but open your eyes!

Taryn: And I wonder if Randall didn’t see it or if he’s choosing not to speak on it. I feel like he plays to the camera a bit. (Though a lot of Black men who get fetishized by white women do tend to act like shit is sweet when it’s clearly not.)

Ruth: Then Rae saying, “I can cook, clean, fuck, etc., so where’s the ring?” yet she couldn’t pinpoint what she genuinely liked about Zay... girl ...

Taryn: And Rae... poor baby. I just want to give her a hug and tell her it’s OK to find herself without what this idealized life after graduation looks like for her. As much as this show is a mess, I truly do think she needed something to shake her reality up a bit. Zay is not good for her, and she is not good for Zay. She’s emotionally stunted because she hasn’t fully explored herself, and he needs therapy and to learn how to speak to women. I knew their relationship was done for when they sat down for that first dinner. Homegirl couldn’t even say what she liked about a man she’s been in a relationship with for two years. Hang it up!

Zay and Rae, a couple on "The Ultimatum" who claim to like each other.
Zay and Rae, a couple on "The Ultimatum" who claim to like each other.

Ruth: Something I noticed with Rae and Zay as well as Jake and April is that it seemed like the only thing prohibiting them from breaking up is how disappointed everyone around them would be. A “relationship” out of sheer obligation is not a relationship. LOL.

On the note of manipulation, Nate proposing to that other girl right after Alexis got her proposal... a mess. You want children, Lauren doesn’t — and you proposed right after you saw that you didn’t have someone to pair up with. OK.

Taryn: That Nate proposal made me literally SCREAM. It was so disingenuous. He asked her literally right after two women he wanted to live with chose someone else. That man panic-proposed and went out sad.

Nate and Lauren shouldn’t have even been on this show in the first place. Their issue was that he wanted lots of kids and she didn’t. Again, people, therapy works wonders!

Ruth: Strongly agree!!!!

Taryn: And I’m most pissed about that proposal because we as an audience were robbed of a potentially messy-ass storyline with her and Colby. They actually had a connection. Madlyn would’ve been shaking in her boots, honestly.

And as for Alexis and Hunter, the couple whose engagement I actually believe, all the best to them.

Ruth: Right. I hate to say it, but I did laugh at the way Alexis was SO hurt when Colby — the one who issued the ultimatum to his partner and wants to return to his partner — told her that she was not the one for him. I was like, ‘Girl... get it together. STAND UP!’ Have you never been rejected before? PLEASE.

And honestly would’ve loved to see something blossom between Lauren and Colby. Not gonna lie, I did appreciate the initial sort of friendship between Colby and April — but then they kissed and I was confused!

Taryn: That kiss between Colby and April threw me for a loop! This show turned into horny-fest quick.

Side note, I know Nick and Vanessa Lachey were PISSED with those two surprise engagements. Like, way to ruin production. LOL.

Ruth: I was irritated because I know with “Love Is Blind,” you allegedly cannot opt out after a certain point in the show.

And horny-fest is the word!

Taryn: I ain’t mad at Shanique for doing what she had to with Zay, though. She said everybody else is getting theirs, I might as well get mine, too.

Ruth: As much as people can feign that this show is an attempt (albeit, terrible) at open relationships and polygamy, etc., to me, it seems like a free window for infidelity.

Taryn: Yup. Definitely a hall pass, if you will.

Ruth: Madlyn talking about Randall in front of Shanique. Shanique is better than me because I would’ve lost it. The sexualization, the slurred speech, the talking out of turn about everyone but herself...

Taryn: Listen. When Zay asked Shanique, “What the fuck you making them faces for,” I sat up on my couch. Because who are you talking to like that? It’s clear that Shanique checked Zay in a way he wasn’t used to with Rae. Shanique knows how to advocate for herself in a way that may look different from Rae, and I think Zay hasn’t been challenged like that in a relationship.

Ruth: I cannot stand Zay at all.

Taryn: Zay frustrates me so much, but I really do think he wants to be better but doesn’t know how. That’s no excuse for his emotionally abusive bullshit at all, but I need him to go to therapy before he gets in another relationship. ASAP.

Ruth: He’s childish while pretending that he’s the arbiter of good behavior and emotional depth.

This is not build-a-man workshop. Next.

Taryn: You know the saying “Hurt people hurt people”?

That’s Zay.

Ruth: Right, right.

Taryn: That’s honestly most of these people on this show, now that I think about it. Us watching them navigate this traumatic-ass show doesn’t help at all.

Ruth: It’s a LOT to sit and sift through emotionally.

It’ll get renewed, though, because people love mess, as I do.

Taryn: I know we said this already, but, God, these people are so young and still figuring out a lot about love and life and themselves, especially.

I loved what you said the other day about how this really is the complete opposite of its predecessor, “Love Is Blind.” On “Love Is Blind,” everyone is (supposedly) very sure and very excited to marry. Whereas in “The Ultimatum,” literally everyone is questioning whether or not they actually are, which leads to a lot more reflection as an individual than as a couple.

Ruth: As a 22-year-old, like... I can’t imagine doing this on a show, on national television.

Taryn: It’s the No. 1 watched show on Netflix. Lmao.

I just know it couldn’t be me.

Ruth: No EXACTLY. Even if you issue me an ultimatum about something as simple as the dishes? I’m out.

I won’t do it out of sheer spite. Like no.

Taryn: Period.

Randall and Shanique of "The Ultimatum."
Randall and Shanique of "The Ultimatum."

Taryn: Oh, I almost forgot. We didn’t even talk about Jake, yet!

Jake hates April and wants us to know.

Ruth: HELLO!!! LIKE ????? I was, like, “Baby, why are you here?!”

You said she dragged you on — we got the message MULTIPLE times! Break up with her!

Taryn: As soon as Rae spoke to him, he was ready to leave April.

Ruth: Yes, omg.

Taryn: Those two are a mess, but it also was kind of nice to see Rae want more for herself. I think a part of her settled into what she thought she wanted without looking at the world around her.

And I don’t know how April and Jake got together, but they should’ve called it quits a long time ago.

Ruth: Couldn’t have said it better myself. You hit the nail on the head about both of their situations.

Taryn: I found myself not caring that much about Randall and Shanique’s relationship. Something about it felt inauthentic to me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I found myself rooting more for Shanique as an individual (even though she’s petty at times) than them as a couple. I feel like they’re going through the motions a bit.

Ruth: The way that he was SO quick to start telling Madlyn about how “outspoken” and “argumentative” she is (for a lack of a better term) was so jarring to me.

Taryn: BRUH.

Ruth: It was giving a tinge of misogynoir.

Taryn: Yup.

Ruth: (And he’s a Que. I will not be getting into that. I personally stray far away from any and all Greek men.)

Taryn: And honestly, that’s for the best.

Ruth: YUP.

Taryn: But you’re absolutely right. The juxtaposition there was familiar yet jarring and left a really bad taste in my mouth. For whatever reason, a Black woman’s opinion sounds aggressive in comparison to a white woman’s.

So, Should You Watch It?

Ruth: Chile...

Taryn: LOL

Ruth: If they like mess, this is for them. LOL. If they’re interested in seeing a new spin on dating reality TV (or just love dating shows in general), I’d say they should give it a watch (shrugs).

Taryn: Agreed. If you’re a messy bitch who lives for drama. like myself and Joanne, I’d say watch it. And, hate to beat a dead horse, but it’s also nice watching this on the other side of therapy knowing this whole experiment is a train wreck, so that helps, too!

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