‘The Ultimatum: Queer Love’ episodes 1-4 recap: “I fingered you”
By: Dani Leever
As a reality TV-obsessed lezzo and the Online Editor of Archer, it’s my duty to review the show that every queer and their dog (Tiff’s giant husky? More on that later…) is talking about: The Ultimatum: Queer Love.
The Ultimatum: Queer Love is the latest all-queer Netflix dating show, the previous season of which was strictly heterosexual (read: confronting and confusing).
The premise is simple (I’m joking, it’s extremely convoluted): five queer couples grappling with an ‘ultimatum’ in their relationship (one wants to get married, the other is unsure) come together in a hotel/resort (??) with the intention of swapping partners, for a fake trial marriage for exactly 21 days, followed by another trial marriage with their original partner, and then choosing at the end if they’d like to marry their original partner, marry their new partner or leave single. And dogs are allowed to join them.
Call it frivolous, call it trashy garbage, but it’s fucking magic.
Name one other show that has boldly declared the line: “All I’m saying is that you ended up with your fingers inside of the person I came here with.” Iconic.
Image: Simone Thompson/Netflix. All screenshots: Netflix
Queer representation on reality TV has always been a thorny, complicated topic – one I’ve personally been obsessing over for many years, and I’m so thrilled to see anything that reflects our three-dimensional identities, even if they ham up the dramatic palaver. Reality TV is chaotic bullshit, and we have just as much of a right to have that reflect our stories as the heteros do.
“The Ultimatum perfectly captures the paradoxical nature of the two main stereotypes about how lesbians date and form relationships: jumping head-first into something brand-new (also known as U-Hauling), and staying in a toxic relationship with someone you’re fundamentally incompatible with for YEARS. By juxtaposing these oppositional lesbian modes, The Ultimatum creates nuclear-level dyke drama.”
Four episodes drop at a time, so there’s a LOT to cover. I watched them all three glasses of boxed white wine deep, fresh from a devastating gay breakup and only days after Taylor Swift surprise-dropped her saddest breakup song yet. Is this a good idea?
I’m breaking this down by couples; both original and chosen. But before I do, who is this host and what’s her deal? They ‘answer’ this in the most brilliant interaction:
JoAnna: “I am JoAnna Garcia Swisher.”
Contestant (off-screen, probably Vanessa): “Is it correct that you’re not queer?”
Joanna: “I am not!”
Contestant 1: “We’re so happy you’re here.”
Contestant 2: “You are so beautiful!”
Contestant 3 (definitely Vanessa): “You are literally glowing under this tree right now.”
This woman claims to know what a power bottom is, but would it kill them to give us a celesbian host? Surely Netflix have Chrishell Stause and G Flip’s numbers on speed dial.
An important note: the show frustratingly doesn’t state anyone’s pronouns, and viewers have since been learning them through contestants’ social media, which is what I’ll use.
Sam and Aussie
My first impression is that Aussie was totally thirsty for Sam, who seems wildly disinterested.
But then we learn who is the ultimatum top and ultimatum bottom – which is a joke I made to myself early on, only for the contestants to make it 20 minutes later. Lesbians are a hive mind.
Aussie is an anxious-avoidant angel, scared of commitment and confrontation – we’ve all dated an Aussie. Sam gives the ultimatum merely a year and a half into the relationship, and to be honest, I’m not seeing their deep connection.
Later, Sam defends Aussie, stating that if feeling triggered, Aussie just needs space to listen to a meditation podcast before continuing the conversation. That’s how to be patient and respectful of an avoidant partner’s triggers! Sam is training the masses (me)! Sam was a bit of a slow burn, but now I stan these two big time.
Tiff and Mildred
Oh my god, what a mess.
Coiner of the iconically toxic phrase “this isn’t like our other breakups”, these two are heavy on conflict, heavy on sexual chemistry and stuck in a cycle that can’t seem to be broken (sounds like trauma bonding, to me). This dynamic is hard to watch, because a relationship where hot smooches magically seem to resolve (read: sweep under the rug) all conflict is an easy one to get stuck in.
They trigger each other on the regular, and the way they navigate conflict with their new relationships proves how deeply incompatible they are.
Xander and Vanessa
This dynamic is the hardest to watch because of Vanessa’s gaslighting and belittling. The gods of reality TV always need an unhinged villain, which is all well and good, but Xander copping her bullshit is devastating. From admitting that Xander is unlikely to find anyone else (because of being maybe ace?!) to punishing them for connecting with Yoly, Vanessa is a nightmare.
Mal and Yoly
Mal and Yoly are icons.
Their dynamic is complicated, which Yoly blames on Mal being a Virgo – relatable. I don’t know if they’ll make it, especially because they both go on to thrive in their new relationships. I thank the creators of The Ultimatum: Queer Love for bringing these angels onto our screen.
Lexi and Rae
Lexi is a queen. Rae has “get me the fuck out of here” resting face.
Their chemistry is icy, and while Rae talks about Lexi’s gigantic sexy boobs, Lexi muses on what her needs and boundaries are. This dynamic is the reason this show exists. They’re doomed, which is fine.
In terms of the original couples, I want them all to split up. Sorry. I think Tiff and Mildred will gravitate back towards each other, and Aussie will be pushed back into the arms of Sam, someone who is safe and patient with them. Everyone else is done for. I hope.
As for the NEW couples?
Lexi and Mal
Call me a sucker, but if these two don’t stay together, love is a lie.
I know they’re in the U-Haul fantasy more than most, but the way they navigate complicated conversations (around race, body image, break-up grief and more) is admirable; they’ve established a lot of trust in a short amount of time. Mal is blowing everyone’s expectations as an ultimatum bottom out of the water, being kind and considerate, supportive, patient and gentle.
Lexi is dealing with a lot of big feelings, particularly around her nemesis Vanessa dating her ex, and despite being 24 (!?) she’s handling it okay, with Mal there to support. I will say though, her having a go at Vanessa on their date and at the final drinks seemed wildly intense, so let’s see how it pans out.
Tiff and Sam
Tiff and Sam’s conflict resolution is perfectly illustrative of how breaking out of the cycle with one person can teach you so much.
Tiff picks a fight about how Sam needs to give more of a shit about their husky (we’ve all been there, bestie), and while debriefing the conflict, Sam is understanding of Tiff’s triggers, giving them an opportunity to resolve and repair once they’ve come back down to Earth.
Sam is a masterclass in dealing with avoidants, and Tiff is showing that they’re not so tough when communicating with someone who can trust they have good intentions. I don’t think they’ll last, but I love them.
Xander and Yoly
Xander and Yoly are super hot together, and seem to really bring joy and safety into each other’s lives. Xander deserves the world, particularly as they arrived with the most cursed contestant. Yoly seems to be helping them heal and see the love they’re worthy of.
They navigate tough conversations around intimacy, have undeniable chemistry, and they have a beautiful post-sex debrief which made my heart flutter. I hope they last.
Aussie and Mildred
Oh god. Their dynamic is the worst-case scenario: Mildred looking to fight (literally saying “you messed with the wrong person”) and Aussie looking to not get into a single conflict.
It’s an avoidant-chaotic attachment style dynamic, which is a hotbed for heinous arguments. You can tell Aussie is really struggling, and Mildred complaining that Aussie needs to “grow up” is Very Extremely Bad.
Vanessa and Rae
Another disaster pairing. Vanessa is being painted as the villain of the show, meddling in Rae and Lexi’s dynamic big time. She’s a bit pushy and full-on with Rae, who expresses via body language and tone of voice that she wants to be anywhere on the planet but there.
Something sexual happens between them. Rae tries to debrief after owning up to Lexi, and Vanessa makes gross jokes, before insinuating to Lexi that it was an accident, or more Rae’s drunken idea. This is where we’re left on a cliffhanger – as the tensions begin to swell about what happened in this nightmare couple.
PHEW. Okay, there we go, queers. There’s a lot at play here. The next four episodes of The Ultimatum: Queer Love have dropped this week, so stay tuned for our hot and cold takes on those, too.
I’ll end each review with quotes from local queers about why this show rules.
“This is the most unhinged garbage, and I am completely obsessed. The toxically monogamous lesbian community and their varied allies have been begging for this kind of representation for years. It’s important for equality and visibility that everyone know that the institution of marriage is just as absurd for gays as it is for straights.” – Xanthe Dobbie (they/them), multidisciplinary artist.
“It represents how quickly lezzos move.” – Flo (they/them), once got married after five months.
Dani Leever is a non-binary nonfiction writer, editor and DJ from Naarm. They’re Archer’s Online Editor – a role they truly think is the best role on planet Earth. They love The Veronicas, pinot grigio and playing Nintendo Switch in the bath.
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