Oh, Netflix. You had a good thing going with Love Is Blind for awhile there; for four years, we wouldn’t tear our eyes away from the premise of one of reality dating’s most ridiculous premises, falling in love (or hate) with the many different hopeless romantics looking to find “the one” through this blind experiment. We say this season after season, but this latest installment of Love is Blind has been the most dramatic in the show’s epic three-year run. There was too much going on from the start, but viewers were (mostly) thrilled to see the chaos unfold nonetheless. However, the Houston stop has given us pause, and for good reason. We’re seeing, in real time, just how tricky the show is — and how things can only get worse if Netflix and Kinetic Content refuse to take time to finetune the entire production.
In the days prior to the surprisingly boring season 5 reunion, which dropped on October 15, new details about what we didn’t get to see on this season began to emerge across the internet. Fans turned into supersleuths, turning to Houston public records to see who was still married before taking the results of their investigation to TikTok and Twitter. Podcasters and YouTubers connected with some of the castmates who didn’t get as much airtime, revealing a slew of convoluted relationships that should’ve made the cut. We only got glimpses of them respectively, but Renee Poche and Carter Wall were another Love is Blind couple with a complicated love story — we just didn’t get to see it because production completely cut their relationship from the show. Miriam Amah almost got engaged to someone in the pods, but was unceremoniously dumped on proposal day. And, as if he knew that the world was waiting for him to speak up, Uche Okoroha made sure to explain himself to everyone but the main person he brought emotional harm to. (In one podcast appearance, Uche claimed to have hard “evidence” that Lydia Gonzalez knew that he was going on the show, and has since taken to Instagram to refute claims that things ultimately didn’t work out with Aaliyah Cosby because he doesn’t date Black women.) Through this untelevised tea, we learned that season 5 of Love is Blind was more of a nightmare than a dream come true for many of the show’s hopefuls.
Despite knowing that all of this behind-the-scenes information had come to light, Love is Blind still failed to address most of it in the highly anticipated reunion. Hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey did everything but properly moderate the discussion between the castmates on the main stage, instead playing devil’s advocate at every opportunity. They didn’t point out how malicious Izzy Zapata and Stacey Snyder were to Johnie Maraist at the pod barbecue. They stayed quiet when JP Pierce defended his bafflingly misogynistic behavior towards former fianceé Taylor Rue. They joined in on Lydia and her husband Milton Johnson’s casual gaslighting of Aaliyah, not even bothering to call out Uche (who was noticeably absent) or discuss exactly how he fueled much of the tension in the room. “I’m sorry you didn’t get what you feel you came for,” Nick told Aaliyah dismissively.
After a season of chaos, the likes of which we’ve never seen on this show, the hosts’ only delusional takeaway was that, despite the fact that only one couple is still together — and the audience has a few questions about that too, by the way — love is blind. The experiment does work.
Perhaps even more egregious than the repeated failure of this social experiment is the emotional and mental distress that it’s seemingly caused behind the scenes. Watching the reunion, I couldn’t help but to feel a deep sense of empathy for Aaliyah, the only Black woman on stage, as the Lacheys and her fellow podmates made excuses for the treatment she was subjected to throughout the process. I was heartbroken for the other Black women in the pods this season and in season’s past who were used to bait us into watching, whose faces we’d only seen in passing, whose stories we’ll never know.
Another example of the trouble brewing behind the scenes of this show are the legal issues that have stemmed from it, including the news that a Houston castmate by the name of Tran Dang is suing Kinetic Content and Delirium TV for sexual assault, false imprisonment, and negligence. Dang, who was completely scrubbed from the released episodes, claims that her fiancé and Love is Blind castmate Thomas Smith sexually assaulted her while they were in Mexico with the other newly engaged couples in May 2022. The lawsuit also goes on to claim that the production company had known about the situation but did nothing to protect her, and worse, that they allegedly held Dang against her will so that she could continue filming for the show. Additionally, Dang’s suit asserts that filming conditions were especially horrible for the cast; podmates were allegedly given an abundance of alcohol but limited food, forced to film for hours on end without stopping, and required to ask for permission before doing anything, like going to the restroom.
Kinetic Content’s Chris Coelen has since denied the allegations, calling Dang’s claims “preposterous” and “meritless” in an official statement. But it’s not the first time we’ve heard accusations about mistreatment from Love is Blind participants. Last year, season 2 hopeful Jeremy Hartwell sued Netflix and Kinetic Content for creating similar “inhumane working conditions,” and his fellow podmates, including Nick Thompson and Danielle Ruhl, also came forward about the alleged lack of emotional and mental health support on set. (In response to the 2022 lawsuit, Kinetic Content stressed that its production had been intentional about taking care of the cast on and off set. “The wellbeing of our participants is of paramount importance to Kinetic,” read the company’s official statement. “We have rigorous protocols in place to care for each person before, during, and after filming.”)
With all of this controversy swirling around production season after season, Love is Blind is still pushing forward, with casting calls for lover boys and girls in Washington, D.C. circulating the internet as recently as April 2023. It’s even headed across the pond, where celebrity spouses Emma and Matt Willis are set to host. More seasons of this show are coming, but are we ready for more drama? More stress? Do we even want more Love is Blind, especially in its current state?
Sure, we like mess, and Love is Blind is undeniably messy, but claims of sexual assault and alleged repeated labor violations should give us pause. There are ways to make this already taxing experience safer and more considerate of its cast — thorough screening and casting efforts, hiring licensed relationship therapists to be in the pods, enforcing safety protocols on set, or even hiring new hosts (season 1’s Lauren and Cameron must be free, right?). But choosing not to make more meaningful changes could very well result in something far worse than people not believing in this “process.” We might just stop watching for good.