This year’s biggest moment in reality TV has long since come and gone, but that doesn’t make the latest 90 Day Fiancé Tell All event an exercise in futility. Season 5 of The Other Way had some of the most contentious couples in the franchise’s history, who were all set to reunite for the first time since the finale, along with host Shaun Robinson. There was plenty of fuel for the fire, what with multiple possible cheating scandals, a freakout unlike any other on the show, supposedly damning audio evidence, and previously unknown tensions among the cast members.
But the 90 Day team isn’t taking any chances with this string of reunions — they’ve stacked the deck for maximum drama. On just the first night of the Tell All, which airs new episodes every Monday through December 18, they arranged for a little long-distance feuding between Jenny Slatten (most recently of 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?) and Season 5’s Kimberly Rochelle, a video message for Shekinah Garner from her estranged sister Shariyah (which prompts Shekinah to reveal the estrangement), and a panel of four 90 Day veterans to sit on the stage with the newbies (and Armando and Kenny, and Daniele and Yohan) and chime in about their every move.
Promos for the three-part event did undermine some of the reveals — viewers have been able to watch Jenny and Kimberly have it out on YouTube for a week now. But when Shekinah called out Julio Moya for his treatment of would-be fiancé Kirsten Schoemaker and hinted at some beef with Daniele Gates before the cast even took the stage, it felt like anything could happen. Unfortunately, the rest of the hour didn’t quite deliver on that feeling.
The first part of any Tell All is rarely the most explosive, but even taking that into account, Part 1 still dragged early on. There were the requisite promises of bombshells, but as the hour went on, it became clear those revelations were still TBD. The editing was choppier in the back half, made all the more so by the commercial breaks (if you streamed the episode on Max or Discovery, the effect might not have been the same). And, as in previous Tell Alls, the presence of alums added little to the proceedings. Having folks like Kalani Faagata (late of The Last Resort) and Tim Malcolm (who seems to have been cursed to wander this soundstage — why else would he always be around?) react to clips the audience has already seen of moments the current cast experienced a year ago was like staging a live version of Pillow Talk in the midst of a reunion. We know reality TV loves a spin-off, but this was a bridge too far!
At least the alums seem poised to play a bigger role in the remaining two parts; Tania Maduro (who signed off on her divorce to Syngin Colchester in her last Tell All appearance) already raised some concerns about Sarper Güven’s controlling behavior with Shekinah. This led to one of the more interesting exchanges of the night, as Shekinah and Holly Weeks both admitted they like for their partners to have some control over their lives: "If someone doesn't have some sort of control over me, I feel like they don't care about me." After Shekinah played his voice texts instructing her on what to wear and eat at the reunion, Sarper copped to his controlling nature, but there could be more layers to this onion.
The most surprising thing about the Season 5 Tell All kickoff episode wasn’t Julio’s recording of Kirsten (which we’ve still yet to hear in full) or the etymology of “titty baby.” It was how little all of the “more” — cheating scandals, damaging audio, and a whole Greek chorus of 90 Day alums seated right beside the current crew — amounted to in this first hour. Even Kimberly, master escalator, quickly dialed it down. She refused to apologize for calling Jenny a “c--t,” but when Kenny and Shekinah pressed her about reflecting on her actions, she said she wishes she’d behaved differently in India (read: less disrespectful of Indian culture). And, as if riffing on the “journey of self-discovery” talk that is ubiquitous on reality TV, she called her blowup and the admonitions from the rest of the cast “part of a process.”
No reunion or series of reunions can keep the suspense going for three hours, certainly not when social media exists, and cast members give away (intentionally or not) some of the biggest developments. But treating Part 1 of the Season 5 Tell All as an almost supersized promo for what’s still to come — Daniele and Yohan’s confrontation, the current state of Brandan and Mary’s marriage — does the opposite of creating anticipation. The reunion special could bounce back; if there’s anything it has, it’s more time.
The 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way Season 5 Tell All continues December 11 at 8:00 PM ET on TLC. Part 1 is streaming on Discovery and Max. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Danette Chavez is the Editor-in-Chief of Primetimer and its biggest fan of puns.