Well, it happened: I joked about lesbians suing Netflix in order to get our own version of Love Is Blind, and a few days later, Netflix announced The Ultimatum: Queer Love. While The Ultimatum isn’t exactly the same as Love Is Blind, I am determined not to look this gift horse in the mouth.
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief rundown of the concept of The Ultimatum– Marry or Move On. A handful of couples enter the show. In each couple, one member has given the other an ultimatum. By the end of their time on the show, they must either be engaged or break up.
If this were not a reality show, you might expect that the couples would perhaps go through some intensive couples therapy and then make their decision. However, this is Netflix, so instead the couples “break up” immediately, mingle with each other as “new singles” for a week, and then declare who they would like to spend three weeks living in a “trial marriage” with. After living with a new person for three weeks, they then live with their original partner for the same amount of time, and after that, they decide how they’ll proceed out of three options: get engaged to their original partner, get engaged to the other person they dated on the show, or leave single.
I have to admit that I gave up on the straight season of The Ultimatum. Well, I didn’t give up on it as much as give in to my fiancée, whose sensitivity to cringe content left her in physical pain by episode 6. But this new iteration has lesbians in it, so my fiancée is now invested enough to muscle through the cringe and indulge me in this steaming hot pile of trash television. I mean, come on! I literally asked for this!
Today’s article will cover episode 1 on its own. After that, we’ll be recapping the episodes in batches, with the next batch being episodes 2 – 4.
Episode 1: The Break Up
My first thought is – did they try to only cast butch-femme couples on purpose? Four out of the five couples are pretty clearly butch-femme, with one exception (Lexi and Rae). My fiancée and I were immediately wondering how these people would couple up when they rearranged, if any of them had hard preferences when it came to the gender presentation of their partners. But we’ll get to that later.
Puzzlingly, they chose a heterosexual woman to host the show. I’m not sure what she’s famous for. All the contestants tell her she looks hot. We as the audience collectively shrug.
Next, we meet our contestants. For the purposes of this article, I’ve made a chart to keep track of basic facts about them, including which of them issued the ultimatum.
Vanessa and Xander:
Dating 4 years, they first met when they were seniors in high school and their boyfriends were best friends. Five years later, they ran into each other again and started dating. Vanessa states that she never envisioned a long-term relationship, and wants freedom. Xander explains that her desire to have children is a big motivator for her giving the ultimatum to Vanessa. In Xander’s words, she is willing to walk away from the relationship for the sake of her future children.
Mal and Yoly:
Met at Pride 3 years ago and started dating. Yoly explains how she knew she loved Mal when she got sick and Mal took care of her. They’ve discussed marriage, but Mal’s hesitation is that she wants to have the financial stability and security to provide for their future life before committing to marriage. Yoly would like to have kids, and they know in vitro can be expensive. Mal also worries that she’s not different from Yoly’s exes, and wants to know for certain that Yoly sees her as the one.
Lexi and Rae:
Dating for 3 years. Our only ostensibly non butch-femme couple, and also our youngest couple. Lexi explains that they met when Rae attempted to booty call her, and outs Rae as a “boobs girl.” Their difference of opinion on marriage isn’t explained as clearly. My impression is that Rae isn’t totally feeling Lexi, but don’t quote me on that.
Mildred and Tiff:
Dating just under 2 years, Tiff and Mildred met when Tiff was scrolling the #lesbianlatina hashtag on Instagram. They started DM’ing each other and have been together ever since (with the exception of their many break-ups). Tiff isn’t ready to commit to marriage but also doesn’t want to lose Mildred. Mildred is a mother who has been married and divorced from a woman before, and she REALLY wants to get married again. Just so we don’t forget that these two love having sex with each other, the show gives us a montage of them going at it in their underwear.
At this shot, my fiancée went “Hey! IKEA pride bag!” and I went “Have you ever seen that video where a spider crawls out of someone’s false eyelashes?” (re: Mildred’s lashes).
Sam and Aussie:
Dating 1.5 years – the shortest of all the couples. Aussie and Sam talk about how magical it was when they first touched each other’s hands. Sam is ready for marriage right now, while Aussie would like to live together for about 5 years first. Their main divide seems to be timing. I’m not much of a U-Hauler myself, so I get where Aussie is coming from. They seem like a couple that could be successful just going through regular couples therapy instead of Netflix.
Now that we’ve met all the couples, we get to see what they’re up to on the morning of their “break-up.” Vanessa tells Xander that they should be open to pursuing other relationships if they come up naturally in this process. Xander immediately regrets going on this show.
I get the impression that Vanessa is hoping Xander will find someone else so she can let her down easy. Vanessa appears ready and eager to meet someone new, but Xander wants to call it quits on the show and just continue being together. It kind of seems like by the time they got to the show, Vanessa should probably have broken up with Xander already.
Then we hit the pool for some mingling. We cut to Lexi and better understand the comment she made about Rae being a “boobs girl.” My fiancée and I both had a Lesbian Moment™ before our empathy kicked in and we agreed that her back must hurt.
Rae and Mal bond over being sporty, and Mal reveals that she dated other girls on her basketball team in college. Mildred comments that this is like Dinah Shore all over again, at which point I had to ask my fiancée what that was, she had to explain that it was a giant lesbian pool party, and I had to ask why we hadn’t gone yet. So, see y’all at Dinah Shore (maybe).
We learn a few more things about our contestants – Tiff and Mal talk to each other about how they usually don’t date masculine women, and they briefly discuss topping and bottoming. Rae wants kids, Tiff does not. Vanessa is excited to date everyone. She seems to be having a great time dating mostly women for the first time. I get the impression that she’s not really sure how to flirt with women yet, but she’s excited to try and pretty confident that she’ll be as hot of a commodity among women as she was among men.
Vanessa and Rae talk about how they both want to carry their own children. My fiancée and I have to pause the TV to process Rae’s very specific idea of her and her partner having the same sperm donor, and Rae subsequently carrying her partner’s embryo in herself and vice versa. We both gag at the thought of this.
Xander attempts to politely say that the first thing she noticed about Lexi was her enormous tracts of land. In a confessional, Vanessa explains that she’s been lacking a real emotional imperative to get married in her relationship with Xander. She also bonds with Lexi over not wanting to have to do things like call the doctor for their grown adult partner, which makes sense to me.
Then Lexi and Mal talk about how they both want to make sure they’re different from their future spouse’s past partners. Mal immediately strikes me as the most emotionally intelligent person on the show. Or maybe I just think she’s super hot. Time will tell.
Yoly and Xander talk about how they want their partner to be “hell yes” about them – totally confident that they’re the one for them. I start to get a sense that the fandom will hate Vanessa because my god is she getting a huge share of the screen time.
Vanessa starts some drama by asking if the other contestants would be willing to reveal who their favorite date has been so far. I once again feel the creeping suspicion that everyone is going to hate this woman and I will be oddly defensive of her. She reminds me of myself, and I’m not sure I like that. But if I were there, I’d want to check in on how everyone was feeling. And who everyone was feeling.
Yoly makes it clear that she does not like Vanessa.
Oof. I felt bad but this did make me laugh.
Vanessa changes the subject to her desire to have a threesome with Mal and Xander. We get a sidebar where Mal says she’d be up for that. Then Vanessa goes on to say she hopes they all just have a giant orgy together. Damn, girl. At this point it looks like everyone else here is looking for a long-term relationship and Vanessa is more or less on the wrong show. I can’t wait to see her inevitable run on Perfect Match.
Aussie brings up the well-known lesbian issue of the tightness of the community – i.e., running into your ex everywhere you go because there’s just not that many of us. The gang agrees and I say a little silent thank-you to the universe that I’m not in the dating world right now.
Vanessa and Lexi have a sidebar where Vanessa insinuates that she’s not into feminine women… usually. But that Lexi is different. And she wants Lexi to be her sugar mommy. I start picturing how exactly I’m going to talk about this dynamic without making everyone mad. Does Vanessa know how to date women? Does she even want to? Does she just like sex with women? Am I reading way too much into this? (Yes.)
Then we get another sidebar between Vanessa and Rae – and don’t forget, Rae and Lexi are exes – where Vanessa expresses again, this time to Rae, that she didn’t think Rae would be her type. Lexi notices Vanessa and Rae talking and comments on it, and we end the first episode.
So, where does that leave us and the opaque drinking glasses?
Well, I’ve updated my personal chart with information about who wants kids and who doesn’t. So far, we know that Xander, Yoly, Vanessa and Rae all want kids. Tiff does not. Beyond that, I don’t do much speculation because I immediately watch the second episode.
The remaining episodes will be recapped in sections. Tune in next time for episodes 2 – 4!