[Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Love Is Blind Season 4.]
Over the past three seasons, the singles of Love Is Blind have operated under an unspoken rule: If you’re going to talk about a pod date, keep names out of it. With multiple women dating the same man and vice versa, people are bound to get hurt, but keeping things vague maintains a baseline level of civility within the living quarters. Abiding by the no-name policy indicates that someone is, to borrow from The Bachelor parlance, “there for the right reasons” — essentially, that they’ve joined the Netflix show to find true love, not to become a reality TV star by getting into petty squabbles with their cast mates.
The spirit of community and mutual respect fostered during those 10 days in the pods has led to some genuine friendships, particularly among the Season 2 (which featured singles from Chicago) and Season 3 (Dallas) casts. Years later, these franchise alums — some married, some now separated, and some still looking for love — choose to spend time together, which has given the show an air of wholesomeness, elevating it above the rest of Netflix’s reality dating fare. You may not leave Love Is Blind with a fiancé, but you may very well leave with a lifelong friend.
The Seattle-based cast of Love Is Blind throws all that geniality out the window. Season 4, the first five episodes of which dropped March 24 on Netflix, is marked by a gross mean girl energy. Not only do the women openly discuss their dates, names and all, but they spend their time in the pods bad-mouthing each other to the men and delighting in one another’s unhappiness.
Season 4’s bad vibes can partially be attributed to Irina, the 25-year-old business owner who quickly alienates herself from everyone except Micah, a 26-year-old marketing manager. Irina is initially vulnerable for the cameras, revealing her acne scars have made her insecure about dating, but an entirely different side of her emerges when she’s around the women. She and Micah lurk around the living room, eavesdropping on other conversations and making pointed comments about men other women are interested in. When Amber, a flight attendant, returns from a date with Micah’s top-ranked option, environmental scientist Paul, Irina fawns over Amber’s flowers, only to turn around and openly roast the date’s Mardi Gras theme.
“Why does Mardi Gras sound like something they would do together?” Irina asks Micah, her voice dripping with condescension. “Loser!” Let the record show that this isn’t a whispered interaction: She and Micah are standing five feet from everyone else and speaking at full volume.
This bad behavior is fully encouraged by Micah, who functions as the Regina George to Irina’s Gretchen Wieners. Micah and Paul eventually choose one another, but Micah makes his emotional breakup with Amber entirely about herself, callously asking why he’s “taking so long to end it.” Amber returns, visibly upset, and finds a spot in the living room far from Micah and Irina to discuss what happened — “I cannot be on that side with her,” she tells Chelsea, a 31-year-old pediatric speech language pathologist — but the terrible twins deny her any privacy.
In one of the nastiest moments of the season, Irina, at Micah’s direction, slinks through the kitchen to listen in on Amber and Chelsea’s conversation. Hidden behind the counter, she quietly laughs as Amber cries about her romantic history, and when Amber pauses, Irina runs away, realizing she’s been caught. “Abort! Abort!” she whisper-yells to Micah. Chelsea, to her credit, calls Irina out for being the house’s “villain,” before attempting to diagnose the root of her bitterness: “People that talk bad about one another, it’s because they’re not cool with themselves.”
But Irina and Micah aren’t the only women talking bad about one another. A few days later (or earlier? Love Is Blind’s timelines are murky, as always), Irina finds herself on the receiving end of hostility, for once, as she and Bliss, a senior program manager, vie for the attention of criminal defense attorney Zack. Both women have dates planned with Zack on his birthday, and Bliss has chosen to celebrate by baking him cupcakes. When Irina, who didn’t come up with a birthday surprise, asks Bliss if she can borrow a candle to give to him, Bliss says no, writing the request off as “icky.” Stepping away from the kitchen, Bliss tells another women that Irina is “causing drama” by calling attention to their shared love interest, adding, “She needs to not f*cking talk to me ... I’m gonna f*cking puke.”
Irina’s request is nowhere near as ridiculous as Bliss makes it seem — it’s not as if she’s attempting to pass off the cupcakes as her own, for god’s sake — but she can’t seem to shake it. During her next date with Zack, who says he can see himself marrying both women, Bliss informs him Irina has acted “meanly” and displays “bad character.” She then throws down the gauntlet, suggesting that should Zack propose to Irina, she’ll know he doesn’t have the “ability to truly judge someone.”
Bliss and Irina may be competing for the same man, but the pods are a place to keep your eyes on your own plate. If a connection is strong enough, you shouldn’t need to bring anyone else into it — and if you still chose to do so, it has the potential to backfire, as it does here. Zack chooses Irina, and while their relationship soon proves to be a disaster, Bliss’ unnecessary ultimatum goes a long way towards sealing that decision in his mind.
Even after the engaged couples head to Mexico, the season can’t shake its toxic aura, as the women continue to tear down everyone around them, exposing their own insecurities in the process. 27-year-old dental assistant Jackelina, who leaves the pods with sensitive marketing manager Marshall, declares, unprompted, that Zack is “a weirdo” who “needs to stay six feet away from me at all times.” She goes on to call Irina a “peasant,” not the “Old English peasantry type,” but someone who “does dumb sh*t for no reason.” This may very well be true — Zack is the type of person who wears “weirdo” like a badge of honor, and we’ve seen plenty of questionable behavior from Irina — but Jackie is on a quasi-honeymoon with her new fiancé; there’s no need to drag others down to avoid facing the flaws in her own relationship.
The Micah and Irina Show also continues in the real world. After confiding that Paul isn’t her usual physical type, Micah takes a potshot at Kwame, who lost the battle for her heart, by suggesting the group toast to “a failed proposal.” When Kwame confronts her, Micah insists it was a joke, as she’s “never malicious,” a claim that’s hard to believe considering she and Irina were laughing about Chelsea, Kwame’s new fiancée, being his second choice just minutes prior.
This spitefulness is disappointing enough on its own, but it’s particularly jarring because there’s hardly any rancor among the male cast members. They prove to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders, and in the fifth episode, Kwame, Marshall, and Brett, a 36-year-old design director, have an incredibly open conversation about how important it is for Black men to be vulnerable, especially with other men. Their bond further differentiates Love Is Blind Season 4 from previous seasons, which were marked by hostility among the men, largely due to the behavior of one bad actor (Shake Chatterjee in Season 2, and Cole Barnett in Season 3).
But whether male- or female-driven, the conflict of past seasons never manifested so early in the experiment, or in such an ugly way. It’s difficult to read this shift as anything but the dawn of a new era for Love Is Blind: Cast members have now seen enough of it to know that mudslinging will turn you into a villain, but it will also lead to increased air time. This time comes in the life cycle of every reality series, but for a show that prides itself on the “authenticity” of its stars, it’s a particularly bleak turn of events. Love Is Blind will always have its unique process to fall back on, but don’t be surprised if the gap between Netflix’s flagship dating show and The Bachelors of the world begins to close in the seasons ahead.
New episodes of Love Is Blind Season 4 drop on Netflix every Friday through April 14. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: Love Is Blind, Netflix, Nick Lachey, Vanessa Lachey