Love Is Blind began as a show with a peculiar stunt and hypothesis: matching people with their soulmates without letting them see each other and seeing if love would turn into a marriage after 38 days. Over 10 episodes, it blossomed into a beast that was part cringe, part earnest joy, and a firsthand look at Jessica, a baby-voiced 34-year-old, and her unseemly downward spiral.
When the dust settled we were left with five couples — Lauren and Cameron; Giannina and Damian; Kelly and Kenny; Barnett and Amber; Jessica and Mark — and the question of whether or not they would get married. Lauren and Cameron and Barnett and Amber did, while the rest of the couples ended their intense showmances at the wedding altar.
Perhaps the most mind-blowing thing about the show, aside from its premise, is that it ended filming over a year ago. The married couples have been enjoying married life since then, while those in broken engagements have been reliving those dead-end relationships now that the show is airing.
And on Thursday, after all that time apart, Netflix brought their romance guinea pigs together to talk about the experience, update us on their lives, and confront each other over past grievances. Vox senior correspondent and Giannina stan Alex Abad-Santos and The Goods deputy editor and Jessica apologist Meredith Haggerty are here to recap how the reunion episode shook out, who ended it on top, and who revealed that they were a little more single now than they were when they started.
Winner: Amber (and Amber’s hair)
Amber pulled the reunion’s biggest power move by showing up with blond hair, dyed much lighter than the root-beer tint we saw her sporting throughout the season. Amber’s blond hair seemed to be a dig at the also-blond Jessica who had her eye on Amber’s now-husband Barnett the whole time. It was as though Amber found the only possible advantage Jessica had on her and then showed Jessica that not only does she have the same color hair but also the husband Jessica wanted.
Amber also got in what was the most explosive jab of the reunion. After watching the scenes of Jessica trying to go after Barnett during the show — things that Amber had previously not seen — she said Jessica’s behavior toward Barnett, Jessica’s fiancé Mark, and Amber herself was all-around sloppy and inappropriate.
“Bitch, you’re sheisty,” Amber told Jessica, providing the episode’s only real zinger and a moment of accountability toward the contestant whose behavior over the past season warranted it the most.
Winner: Lauren and Cameron
Since episode one, Lauren and Cameron have been the clear winner of the Love Is Blind experiment — “winner” and not “winners,” because as they explained during the reunion, they’re becoming one person. These two beautiful and practical people seemed to show up to the pods prepared to fall in love, ready to find their soulmate with organization and precision. They checked each other’s boxes at a dizzying but somehow methodical speed, and they remain clearly in love today. They’re on the road to having kids! They’re still both extremely attractive! They got a dog, which is sweet, even though they insist on calling it a fur baby!
If Love Is Blind had been all fun-but-down-to-earth Laurens and calm-but-soulful Camerons, well, it would have been boring and treacly. But as something one-of-a-kind, they lent this fake experiment an air of legitimacy, and they’re still the great hope of the show.
Winner: Sweet baby Kenny
The couples of Love Is Blind that are still together weren’t the only ones to find love thanks to the show. Kenny reports that as a result of learning how to open up in the pods, he’s found the “perfect girlfriend.” Ever the sweetheart, he adds, “for me!” as former fiancée Kelly looks on sadly. Somewhere, Kelly’s mom and sister shed a tear for the thoughtful, handsome son-in-law that could have been.
Sure, Kenny might have had to politely explain the show’s conceit to family and friends after Kelly said “I don’t” at the altar in the finale, but he’s never been a loser for a minute. It’s objectively good to not marry someone who was waffling over you forever because of your hair color, and more importantly, he carried himself with class, dignity, and kindness throughout. That continued into the finale, when he refrained from saying, “Really, Kelly, because I’m freakin’ blond?”
Winner: Giannina Milady Gibelli
There was no contestant this season as enigmatic and captivating as Giannina Milady Gibelli, a beautiful blond succubus who famously ran into the suburban Atlanta woods after being jilted by Damian at the altar, and then returned, bride hair perfectly intact, to read him to filth. The two fought about everything and anything, inspiring Giannina to snipe that Damian has complimented her about giving him the best sex of his life, but she had never felt the same way.
Well, it turns out that after flaming out on their wedding day, Giannina and Damian are back together. And if it’s any indication who holds the power in the relationship now (Giannina’s mother, Milady, told her daughter she should’ve been the one to dump Damian at the altar), Giannina made Damian cry in front of the rest of the cast and the whole country. And it was just by making him remember what a great woman she is.
Which is why the most disrespectful part of the reunion came from Nick Lachey’s constantly referring to Giannina Milady Gibelli as “G” instead of addressing her by her full, proper, given name.
Winner: Us, the viewers
Alex, I’m sorry to disagree with your well-argued, anti-season two polemic, but I am so excited that we are almost definitely getting a second season of this gorgeous trash. I’m basing that entirely on the way Vanessa Lachey said “Love Is Blind, season one, down in the books” as the finale closes, but also the assumption that Netflix would never decline to re-up a hit like this one.
I think and hope we might have another couple of seasons before Love Is Blind goes full Bachelor. The specificity of the set-up and the strangely high probability that you could give up a bunch of your life and not make it on screen at all tell me that Love Is Blind could continue to attract romantics, oddballs, and people deeply intent on having a heterosexual marriage, not just fame seekers. Plus, we’re already seeing influencers spring up among them anyways (ahem, Giannina; ahem, all of them, basically). And hey, can’t influencers want true love? True love gets clicks!
What I’m saying is: Netflix, I’m available for season two. Just please don’t give me the Jessica edit.
Loser: Diamond and Carlton (but it’s not entirely their fault)
The only couple at the reunion that didn’t make it to the altar was Carlton and Diamond. They hit it off during the pod portion of the show, but their relationship soured on the honeymoon trip to Mexico, when Carlton came out to Diamond as bisexual. The two bickered and called each other some pretty gross things, and all in all, their breakup was one of the moments of the show that everyone, including Carlton and Diamond, probably wishes they could forget.
Nick and Vanessa check in with the two to find out that they patched things up and that they’re working on a friendship together. Nick and Vanessa also bring up, in their words, the “keyboard warriors” that inundated Carlton and Diamond’s social media accounts with hate after the show aired. In response, Husband-and-Wife Lachey painted Carlton and Diamond as victims and the keyboard warriors as overboard psychopaths.
But amid all this finger-pointing and blaming, Nick, Vanessa, and Love Is Blind’s producers failed to recognize the show’s own accountability in creating this ugly patch of television.
We aren’t privy to the details of what Love Is Blind’s producers and casting directors told the contestants, but the show didn’t feature any other bisexual or LGBTQ contestants aside from Carlton. The show was also pretty stereotypically heteronormative in the way it showcased its relationships, the traditions of marriage (wedding dresses, bachelor and bachelorette parties, etc.), and the contestants (e.g. all the women talking about what they’re looking for in a man).
When Carlton came out to Diamond, she was in shock. Her reaction seemed to indicate that she believed the men and women on the show were all heterosexual.
Granted, Diamond’s behavior toward Carlton (asking him about whether or not he could be monogamous, and whether she could be the love of his life if he also was attracted to men) fits a common pattern of stigma that bisexual people face from both gay and heterosexual men and women. Carlton’s aggressive behavior toward Diamond was equally sad and hard to watch.
But it’s hard not to see their behavior as reactions to a situation created by the circumstances on the show. Rather than combating the stereotypes against bisexual people, Love Is Blind leaned into and teased Carlton’s sexuality and Diamond’s blindside as one of its major plot points.
And it felt a little slimy that the show was then chastising its audience for its reaction to this couple’s heated moment, a reaction its producers and casting directors were seemingly looking for. There’s no doubt a great reality show can be made about the stigma hardships that bisexual people and their partners deal with. But judging by the words Nick and Vanessa used to describe Carlton (“courageous” and “brave”) it seems like the people behind Love Is Blind thought they did something admirable. But this wasn’t it.
Loser: Barnett and his bad jacket
What’s black and white and shines for all the world to see? The reality that Matt Barnett and Amber Barnett are going to get divorced someday. Also, Barnett’s shimmery floral (???) print jacket, which is just awful.
For Vanderpump Rules fans, Barnett has some serious Jax Taylor vibes — fun and oddly appealing in a bro-y way, but also immature, selfish, and short-sighted — and this jacket reinforces that. A man who thinks this blazer is a good idea simply is not ready for marriage.
Barnett and his similarly stubborn bride might be learning how to party together, but it feels as though Barnett still isn’t totally sure what’s befallen him, namely that he’s legally bound to the woman beside him and wearing a nightclub’s bathroom floor as a coat. Amber drops casually that she nearly divorced him over some unspecified spat, but Barnett says they’re just having so much fun. Best of luck to all three of them!
Loser: The format of the reunion
Aside from the confrontation between Amber and Jessica, the reunion was pretty much a snoozer. Everyone else said they got along with their exes, and the married couples — Amber and Barnett, Lauren and Cameron — said they enjoyed married life.
It seemed as if the contestants all signed a non-aggression pact prior to the reunion. Or, because of the year between filming and airing, perhaps all the emotions and hard feelings mellowed out.
Regardless, the reunion seemed to stall because they kept addressing the contestants as couples. It made for ho-hum, generic answers like the aforementioned getting along quips and Lauren and Cameron telling us how nice it is to be married to one another.
Curiously, the most compelling and authentic moments of the reunion were when contestants were addressed as individuals. Amber gave her candid thoughts about Jessica and didn’t totally accept Jessica’s apology; it was the highlight of the show by far.
It would’ve been more interesting to see the same kind of insight into, say, how Kenny was feeling when he told production to turn the cameras off, or what Kelly or Lauren thought about what Jessica had done to Mark. Instead, we got Kenny’s feelings in the context of Kelly, and Mark’s feelings about Jessica from Mark himself, all producing boring answers. Remember, these are men who were jilted at the altar, and Mark, bless his heart, did not see Jessica doing an entire color guard routine with a giant red flag this season. Are they really the best people to give unblemished, honest opinions about their ex-fiancées? Probably not.
Loser: Our Messica
Oh, dear Jessica. Someone had to be the villain of Love Is Blind, and it was always going to be the woman on the wrong side of 30 who feeds wine to her dog. In the spirit of solidarity, I will say that after a few glasses myself, I also speak in an annoying, higher-pitched voice.
At the reunion, Jessica appears, both in terms of her body language and actual words, to have been thoroughly worn down by the fallout from her time in the experiment. She says how tough it all is to watch, refusing to look directly at footage of herself, and how much she didn’t like what she saw on screen. She can’t seem to take responsibility for her feelings for Barnett (“I didn’t even feel that way at the time,” she insists), but she is appropriately chagrined about her past behavior, especially how much of it was fueled by the alcohol her dog didn’t get to.
This was, perhaps, a learning experience for Jessica! She attempts to apologize to blond Amber — whose expectations for how Jessica should have behaved seem, frankly, unrealistic — but not to Mark. Mark and Jessica agree that they wish they had had more time but, both single now, neither makes a move to reconcile. She’s moved on, to Los Angeles, and once she gets rid of that green turtleneck, she’ll surely be on a better path.