reality tv

The Highs, Lows, and Whoas of the Love Is Blind Reunion

Low: the Houston dating scene. Photo: GREG GAYNE/NETFLIX

For an unprecedented season of reality TV’s most daring “experiment” — complete with exes meeting in the pods, a single successful marriage, and one man who apparently never saw makeup on a woman’s face before — the reunion for Love Is Blind’s fifth season was a disappointingly muted affair. Sure, it was never going to live up to the live fiasco, but couldn’t Netflix compel Uche to appear, even virtually, to defend his crimes against Instagram Stories? It would’ve guaranteed some drama, especially since the contestants who did appear actually managed to conduct themselves like adults. Here are the highs, lows, and whoas of the night, which took place one year after the “I dos” (or lack thereof).

High: Lydia
As a Lydia truther since day one, seeing her get through the reunion fairly unscathed was a huge relief. She’s still happily married to apparently the only good guy in Houston, she aired out whatever lingering beef might have remained with Aaliyah, and she got the last word regarding Uche’s conspiracy theories. “I’m going to say it really clear, for the public, for everybody: I had no confirmation that Uche was going to be there.” Uche might post screenshots of their texts on Instagram Stories, but Lydia went on television to defend herself against the haters. If that isn’t the definition of going out on top, I don’t know what is. —Nic Juarez

High: Milton
Milton is the most obvious Boss Up of the reunion — but he also may be the most Bossed Up in Love Is Blind history. When he revealed that he purposefully acted like a bro to hide his real personality and only let his guard down for Lydia, it reminded me of Paris Hilton revealing her baby voice was just for show. Manipulating the public to underestimate you as a partner by opening a wine bottle with your teeth is a reality-TV power move. —Morgan Baila

Low: Izzy
I wouldn’t say Izzy is a full-blown villain like Uche, Bartise, and Shake, but he proved unable to hold himself accountable, flaws that led him to hurt Stacy, Johnie, Chris, and who knows what other contestants didn’t make the cut. The Izzy we see at the reunion doesn’t seem much better; he still doesn’t understand why the credit score situation was bad (hint: it’s not about the actual credit score, my guy!) or that he was wrong to make a huge scene with Johnie and Chris at the BBQ from hell. (Speaking of Johnie … He kissed her a week after he broke up with Stacy?!) Plus, the way he pounds his fist into his hand and says, “Let’s fucking go!” when Vanessa asks “What is ‘hooking up’ these days?” made me want to throw up. —NJ

Low: Chris
When we first met Chris, he described himself as a perceived “playboy” who’s actually just a “lovey-dovey guy.” As we’ve learned, such Hot Person types wreck lives with that energy. Finding out that Chris cheated on Johnie and is now living happily ever after (for now) with another woman — without ever actually breaking up with Johnie — absolutely tracks. But I was not expecting him to be so malicious about it! Chris showed up to the mid-season reunion with Johnie as his girlfriend, defended his choice to be with her and alleged to love her, only to leave that same weekend (her birthday!) “to go to a wedding out of state” and then completely ghost her. She had to find out from someone else that he’d been unfaithful. It has come to light that Chris is the son of Martin Fox, the middle man in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. Being despicable is in Chris’s DNA. —Dee Lockett

High: Aaliyah
No one in the history of reality television has handled emotional torment and humiliation with as much grace as Aaliyah Cosby. She didn’t need to show up — she has nothing to answer for! — and yet she turned out glowing in a champagne gown, demanding answers from Lydia and ultimately extending her forgiveness to the newlywed. Plus, she has a new man she met on an R&B cruise. She’ll be just fine, and that’s the most you can ask for from an “unprecedented” TV event. —Julie Kosin

Low: Uche
For all the accusations Uche levied toward Lydia for her social-media etiquette, it turns out he was the one committing the text messaging crimes, contacting Aaliyah, Lydia, and Milton all throughout the season and its aftermath. And as several pointed out during the reunion, this man was an absolute menace, not only verbally abusing Aaliyah and slandering Lydia but also prodding the other men about who they were dating and talking shit. After all the big talk, he didn’t even show up at the reunion. You can duck the smoke, but you’ll still get burned. —NJ

Meh? Stacy and Johnie
Stacy talked so much yet said so little during the reunion, it was almost like she wasn’t there. Meanwhile, poor Johnie faced down yet another failed relationship on national television. Both would have benefitted from sitting this one out. —JK

Low: JP
I can’t say I understand the impulse to play off JP’s penchant for American flag paraphernalia as quirky (do we know where he was on January 6?) but there’s a more important issue to get at here: This man has not learned his lesson! He tried to blame his behavior on the cameras and Taylor “hounding” him, and insists he only ever wanted to tell his ex-fiancée that she looked beautiful without makeup. Her responses — “You belittled me and made me feel less than I am” and “Learn from it. Don’t do that to another girl.” — put him right in his place: on the floor. —JK

High: Taylor
Sure, she stood up for herself and scolded JP into oblivion. But that gold dress? Enough said. —JK

Whoa: Nick & Vanessa
With this many bullshitters on set, these two glorified mascots needed to do some crucial refereeing — and I’m just as surprised as anyone that the Lacheys performed the role somewhat successfully. When Johnie and Chris were whispering to each other while Stacy was speaking, Vanessa called them out; when the beef between Stacy and Johnie devolved into another she said-she said, Vanessa rolled the tapes. But the Lacheys were at their best when presented with new information. After Chris failed to label his treatment of Johnie as cheating, Vanessa, visibly disappointed, made him cut the shit: “You just said you will always defend those you love. But — if I may — would you cheat on those you love?” That was — if I may — her “were you silent — or silenced?” moment. Even earlier, when Chris was trying to save face and claim he and Johnie “went their opposite ways,” Mr. Lachey wasn’t having it either: “Well, I think you went in an opposite way.” The Lacheys had a better read on the room this time: No unhinged pregnancy pestering, less awkward flirting with cast members, more decent comic relief from Nick, who usually sits on that couch like unplugged AI. Their jobs are safe … for now. —DL

Whoa: The Producers 
Behind the scenes, Love Is Blind is offering up more and more grounds for divorce, and this reunion attempted to turn up the heat on its own producers — but for situations with much lower stakes. Rather than blaming Lydia and Uche for not telling Aaliyah about their history sooner, Nick Lachey monologued about how we should all be upset with the suits. Producers, he said, were going to send Lydia and Uche home, but when the two said separately that they weren’t interested in pursuing each other, they were allowed to stay under one condition: Don’t tell the others until you’re in serious relationships with other people. This explanation feels like a slap on the wrist for the LIB puppet masters; what continues to be unsaid is the producers’ role in whatever allegedly went down with Renee and Carter, whose journey to the altar was cut from the season and never addressed, even though Renee remained in the edit throughout. Conveniently, she wasn’t at the reunion. —DL

Low: Houston’s Dating Scene
With only one couple ending up married — a historic low for the Experiment — we can only blame the source. The Lydia-Uche revelation was the first warning that Houston’s dating pool is both sus and too small for a certain demo (single, over 25, and probably a POC); now we find out these people are just regularly bumping into each other at bars? Just constantly being spotted by each others’ friends at said bars and having all their hookup business spilled?? Just trying to go on a wholesome cooking class date and then getting doubled up with the person they almost married who also happens to be there with his new person?????? H-town, I love(?) you, but you’re bringing me down. —DL

The Highs, Lows, and Whoas of the Love Is Blind Reunion