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Once Again, Everything Is Riding on a 90 Day Fiancé Tell All

Season 8 of Happily Ever After? keeps coming up short.
  • Angela Deem (Screenshot: 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?)
    Angela Deem (Screenshot: 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?)

    Never has the question mark in the 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?’s title felt more appropriate than in Season 8. The fates of longtime couples Liz and Ed and Angela and Michael had mostly been spoiled by social media posts and news stories before the premiere on March 17. But there were still a lot of unknowns — how would the show handle all the rumors floating around the season? What exactly went down between Angela and Michael that led to his Chantal Witherbottom-like escape? And would there be any acknowledgment of Mahmoud’s arrest?

    All that speculation, and we haven’t even gone into Ashley and Manuel’s continued distrust of each other — despite their recent nuptials — or Sophie’s suspicions about Rob’s “ho phone” or Patrick letting a different family member come between him and Thais. Kobe and Emily seem to be on pretty solid ground, now that the dowry discussion’s been resolved, but she still needs him to clear up the tiny detail of whether he had a girlfriend when he proposed to her. (Alexei and Loren should just accept their “most stable couple” prize and stick to Pillow Talk.)

    No 90 Day franchise has ever answered every question raised during a season, which is why the Tell Alls are often helpful bookends (though they are really starting to sprawl). But after 12 episodes, Season 8 now hinges on the revelations that typically surface at the reunions.

    The fitful pace has resulted in one of the most unfocused installments of the TLC franchise. Holding Angela and Michael’s arrival until the back half did little to keep speculation at bay, and now their squabbles over the visa process seem irrelevant in the midst of reports of their split. Liz has been in a car or at the airport for the last month or so, weeping on the phone about how she’s no longer going to cry over Ed.

    It’s not just that the real world has intruded upon 90 Day’s version of reality. The momentum is shot, in part because a disproportionate amount of time has been spent on Loren’s convalescence — which, though it’s turned out to be more difficult than she or Alex anticipated, isn’t really the most pressing matter. Their happier homelife (though not without its challenges) may provide a break from the drama caused by the more quarrelsome couples, but it also means that half of the other storylines are stuck in neutral.

    Even if we accept that some couples, like Angela and Michael or Mahmoud and Nicole, will always attract more drama, thereby making it nigh-impossible to capture all of it, the scattered focus managed to undermine one of Season 8’s most fleshed-out stories.

    Gino and Jasmine are still fighting for their happily ever after — though she’s mostly won over his family, or at least made peace with them, the couple still face plenty of obstacles. They’ve taken turns dropping bombshells, though it must be said that Gino’s have been much more devastating; Jasmine may have dragged her feet in telling him she’s not ready to get pregnant again, but his botched handling of her immigration paperwork will cost more than money. Jasmine may have to wait two years before being reunited with her children.

    Still, Jasmine has tried to make the most of it and to control her temper (she’s still very much a work in progress on the latter front). Happily Ever After? has interspersed moments of levity and real connection between their many clashes. But Jasmine’s the one who’s really established the through line in her talking heads, providing context on her marriage that isn’t being captured by the cameras.

    "He enjoys so much making decisions about every single detail in my life,” she says in Episode 11. “I believe that he's trying to control me. And that is so scary because I've never been in this vulnerable position, and I don't like it. I'm not a submissive person." The latter doesn’t come across as a threat; Jasmine shows none of her regular bravado when she says it’s “very frustrating because I completely depend on him for everything."

    At his family reunion, when Jasmine opens up a little too much to his family, Gino tries to shore up their support by telling them that her anger is preventing him from being intimate with her. This worked well for him at the last Tell All, where his fellow cast members mostly took his side. But his family — including cousin Dana, who was no fan of Jasmine’s early on — just look at him as if he’s never heard of makeup sex. (Disclaimer: Relying on the “fun” of making up is a terrible strategy, just look at Ashley and Manuel.)

    The 12th episode ends with Jasmine trying to get Gino to admit to his porn addiction, which she says is the real root of their intimacy problems. And I just have to ask, how are we just finding out about this now?? It might be because Jasmine wanted to avoid embarrassing Gino, or, less charitably, she was holding the revelation as an ace up her sleeve. Or maybe it’s the fact that the cameras keep cutting away to seemingly endless footage of Mahmoud rolling his suitcase near the highway.

    It’s always hard to tell how many episodes will be in any given season, but if subsequent entries stick with this scattered approach, this season will need the multi-part Tell All more than ever. That’s cause for concern, not just for Season 8 or Happily Ever After?, but for the flagship series and spin-offs. The last Tell All (for The Single Life Season 4) was five parts, almost half the length of the regular season. These reunions should answer lingering questions after a season of television, not make up for that season’s shortcomings. The franchise’s “more is more” approach — including Pillow Talk and monthlong reunions — means the Tell Alls are starting to eclipse the actual 90 Day shows.

    New episodes of 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After? air Sundays at 8:00 P.M. ET on TLC. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Danette Chavez is the Editor-in-Chief of Primetimer and its biggest fan of puns.

    TOPICS: 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?, TLC, 90 Day Fiancé, Angela Deem, Big Ed Brown, Liz Woods, Michael Ilesanmi