If you’ve watched Netflix’s new show The Ultimatum, hosted by the new unassuming titans of the reality dating television industry Mr. and Mrs. Vanessa Lachey, then you know that they believe strongly in the adage, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” They also apparently believe that their relatable celebrity love story should be the blueprint marriages everywhere, so they’ve swindled some struggling, impressionable, and likely fame-hungry partners into doing everything the Nick and Vanessa Way.
The Ultimatum is a sequel series of sorts, arriving on the heels of the equally insane Love is Blind which the Lacheys also hosted. In the first episode, we meet contestants who have given their partners an ultimatum (nearly all of which are demanding a proposal or they’re calling it quits) and are then subjected to strange, emotional torture otherwise known as forced, unethical non-monogamy (though the show refuses to call it that). So, what does that even mean? Well, each individual chooses another individual from a different couple to live with for three weeks, before returning to their original partner for a final three weeks. All in a deeply chaotic, not scientific at all effort to determine if the original partnership was “it.” Whether the new couples choose to engage in intimacy in those first three weeks is entirely up to them and, by the end of the series, the cult leaders, I mean hosts, promise that the couples will be ready to tackle one final challenge: the ultimatum. Why, might you ask, would this be the method for finalizing a lifelong devotion? Because that’s what Nick and Vanessa did, of course!
In fact, seemingly the entire genesis of the show rests upon the story that Nick was once unsure about settling down with Vanessa in the wake of his divorce from pop star Jessica Simpson. As Vanessa herself told us in both The Ultimatum and Love Is Blind, the duo took a break for a month, dated around, and, as the story goes, ultimately realized they were meant to be.
“I always said I was gonna be that girl that would never give a man an ultimatum. I was 29,” says Vanessa, now 41, in the series premiere of The Ultimatum. “Five years later, things changed. But look what it got me! We dated for five years. So I finally said, ‘What are we doing?’ I have now moved in with him. I renovated his entire bachelor pad. There was a bar in the pool. I’m like, ‘Whatever you want.’ Now I want kids in the pool. So that’s when I started the dance.”
Vanessa, who emphasizes that she and Nick each dated “one other person” while they were apart, later admits that they also went through couples therapy—something she might’ve suggested to the 20-something castmates rather than subjecting them to this nightmare of a show.
After gulping down both Netflix series helmed by the couple, it’s clear that the way Nick and Vanessa inserted their very unique, very public relationship trials as a roadmap for successful marriages is just too strange to stomach. Rather than tackling these insecurities in private, it feels like the celebrity duo has projected them onto a bunch of kids who don’t know any better. In the end, as relationships are destroyed in the making, the show feels like it’s as much of an ego boost or romantic justification for the two hosts as it is really about finding love (cough, viewership numbers and fame) for contestants.
I can’t confirm or deny if the advice, “follow exactly what we did to be as happy as we are,” is the best, but I do know that most people just preach this weird shit to their kids instead of to an entire reality show cast. If you do take away anything of substance from this show, please let it be: When in doubt, do couples therapy, not reality TV!