“The Ultimatum: Queer Love” Recap: Decision Day and the Messy Reunion

At long last, The Ultimatum: Queer Love comes to an end after wreaking havoc on all our gay lives for three short but dizzying weeks. Episode nine includes everyone’s final decisions: Will they marry the person they came here with? Will they breakup? Will they leave with someone new? WILL ANY OF THEM GO TO THERAPY? Catch up on the drama with my mega recaps of episodes 1-4 and episodes 5-8. I’m writing this recap in real-time as I watch, so you’re getting my pure initial reactions. Spoilers abound, obviously.

Before I actually watch the final episodes, I’m going to jot down what I want to happen: I want everyone to break up. And just for the sake of reality television mess/drama, I want Yoly and Xander to leave together. Like I don’t actually want this, because I don’t want anyone to hurt Mal ever, but it is reality TV gold if two complete strangers do end up convinced they’re each other’s soulmates. Okay, on with the (troubling) show!


“The Ultimatum: Queer Love” Recap: Episode 9

We start where episode eight leaves off, with Mal pouring their heart out to Yoly and asking her to marry them.

Yoly & Mal

Yoly says yes! I suppose I should have seen this coming, because I think if Yoly were going to say no, it would be at the end of the episode not the beginning. Something as dramatic as a proposal rejection gets saved for the end! It’s definitely a yes…with some strings though. Yoly tells Mal she feels as if Mal had to be backed up against a wall to get to this point. Mal explains she’s all in now. Yoly brings up her feelings for Xander, and Mal says she won’t disrespect Yoly’s relationship with Xander and never has. She knows Yoly loves two people, and she’s willing to work toward figuring that out with Yoly. On a show full of delulu chaos demons with questionable emotional intelligence, MAL MIGHT BE THE ONLY PERSON HERE WHO IS SECURE, COMMUNICATIVE, AND GROWN. I think it’s good they’re talking about Xander here. I once again think Yoly maybe wants a poly relationship structure? It’s odd that no one is saying that.

Mildred & Tiff

As a reminder: This could breaks up and gets back together every other week. Let’s just…hold that information in our hearts as we move into this. They both get ready for decision day, Mildred as the ultimatum giver and Tiff as the receiver. They’ll need to propose or Mildred will walk. Okay, I definitely thought everyone was going to have to go to the same gazebo for these conversations, like a designated Ultimatum Gazebo, but apparently not! Tiff takes Mildred to a seaside cliff they apparently brought Mildred to in the beginning of their relationship.

“I feel like being on this experience has allowed me to put my soul and my feelings on the line,” Tiff monologues. As a reminder, one of those things they put their soul on the line for was their dog, at the expense of their trial wife’s comfort.

Mildred says she wants someone who loves her unconditionally and she feels like that might not be Tiff but that she wants it to be. Honestly they’re both saying a lot of word salad, and it’s difficult for me to follow! Tiff gives what sounds like a carefully memorized soliloquy that could have used a tight edit IMO. They do propose, and Mildred says yes, and I am shouting NOOOOOOOO at my television!!!!!!!!!!!

Aussie & Sam

Here’s the thing with these two: I think they could make sense for each other at some point, but I think Aussie needs a tremendous amount of therapy and both need to work intensely on communication, trust, and understanding. Aussie does seem to be on a complex gender journey, and whew, reality television is NOT a great arena for that! Sam admits her ultimatum has layers: She doesn’t just want Aussie to propose; she wants Aussie to propose and commit to growing with Sam and working on the relationship. Aussie confesses leading up to the decision that Aussie has a fear of commitment but also a lot of insecurity around not being good enough to marry Sam. Again, I do think these two could possibly be married one day, but I don’t think they’re there yet!!!!!!!!

They meet in a nature preserve type area for their decision moment, and they both look great! Aussie talks about two species of penguins in the Antarctic who choose their life partners by presenting them with a cool rock. Aussie then gives a heart-shaped labradorite gemstone to Sam, and Sam seems hesitant to accept it, perhaps thinking that’s all she’s getting, but nope! Aussie also proposes with a ring, and Sam says yes. Listen, I gotta respect the rock move, because my fiancé put my engagement ring inside of a cool rock.

Okay wait, is every ultimatum receiver going to propose and every ultimatum giver just going to say yes?????? Where are the twists? Or is THIS the twist?! That everyone is just going to leave engaged to their original partners after all that!

Xander & Vanessa

Okay, maybe? Something different? Will happen here? Vanessa points out that she came into this thinking she was going to be the one having to make a decision but that now it feels like it’s Xander who has the decision to make, since they’re the one who fell in love with someone new. Vanessa says it feels like Xander has taken back the ultimatum.

Vanessa and Xander meet on a bench in the middle of tropical forrest, and wow, why does every dramatic Vanessa scene take place on a bench!

Okay, finally, we have a different outcome. Xander says they feel like they can’t offer Vanessa what she deserves right now. “This is absolutely not how I thought this experience would end,” Vanessa says. I think she indeed thought she’d be the one in control over this decision and would likely get exactly what she wants. “Thank you for our four years together,” Vanessa says. “They changed me.”

They break up, and even though it’s what I very much think should have happened, their conversation is actually more emotionally affecting than any of the proposals have been! I’ve been basically chanting “break up!” at them this whole time, and now that it’s finally happening, I might be getting a little weepy. What is happening!

Xander says they still have to talk to Yoly today, and I don’t think that’s going to go the way she’s hoping for! Yoly is engaged to someone else! Which brings us to our bonus pairing…

Yoly & Xander

Yoly and Xander meet up on a deck, and it’s indeed awkward at first. Yoly doesn’t appear to be wearing Mal’s ring. Yoly asks Xander where she’s at with Vanessa, and Xander tells her they broke up and that some of that has to do with their feelings for her. I do think maybe…Yoly should have gone first here and led with Mal’s proposal and her acceptance of it?!

Xander says she feels confident that they could have a life together, and Yoly loves to hear this, but Yoly girl you’re literally engaged to someone else! She finally tells Xander that Mal proposed and that she said yes. She also admits she purposefully took the ring off before meeting with Xander because she didn’t want it to impact what Xander said and felt? Xander asks her if she feels confident in her choice, and Yoly admits she doesn’t know what to do. She says she feels it for Xander in her heart and feels it for Mal in her head.

“It sucks to lose you,” Xander says. They exchange I love yous, and then Yoly asks Xander to walk off with her, presumably trying to get away from cameras, but of course the cameras follow. They hold each other, and it’s very dramatic! The lighting is also very good! Yoly says that if love were enough then she would choose Xander, but there’s a different kind of loyalty she’s being drawn to with Mal.

I do think Yoly desperately wants either Xander or Mal to “fight” for her, almost for someone to make this choice for her or try to pressure her into something, but that’s not who Xander or Mal are! They genuinely want Yoly to make her own choices and to do what she wants. Yoly has ended up in a love triangle with two people who love her but who do not want to pressure her.

A producer asks Xander, heartbroken over Yoly’s choice, if she thinks Yoly made a mistake in choosing Mal, and Xander says no. “I think you guys got enough,” Xander says to production.

Rae & Lexi

I can’t believe we have to switch gears to these two after all that with Xander/Yoly, but here we are! It seems weird to end with these two because the stakes don’t feel as high as the Mal/Yoly/Xander/Vanessa situations. It either means something unexpected is about to happen or something straightforward so that the episode is book ended by simple proposals. But that’s so boring!

Lexi and Rae meet in a greenhouse, and I’m begging for Lexi to take her purse off her shoulder for this very serious conversation! Even though I do think these two should break up, I will admit that Rae’s proposal was one of the better ones. She gets down on one knee, and Lexi says yes and then proposes back. I wish I could root for these two! Oh well!

“The Ultimatum: Queer Love” Recap: Episode 10

It’s time for the reunion!!! As a Bravo Dyke, I love a reality television reunion, but I also don’t think reunions that don’t have investigative journalist Andy Cohen asking the important questions are very interesting. JoAnna Garcia Swisher is…no Andy Cohen. I’ll try to keep an open mind though. I’m just going to recap some of the highlights!

One thing I was wondering about heading into this reunion was if the couples who got engaged had to wait to have their weddings, since the series filmed in 2021 and they haven’t been allowed to post anything that counts as “spoilers” on their social media. This reunion was apparently filmed this January, so some time has passed. Sorry to keep bringing Bravo into this, but one of the things that doesn’t work about these Netflix reunions that are filmed so long before the show airs is that outsider viewer discourse doesn’t come into play. The whole point of the reunion is a breaking of the fourth wall and a chance for cast members to react to the ways they’ve been perceived — at least in my opinion! But apparently the point of this reunion is just to see who’s still together — and also rehash what Miss JoAnna Garcia Swisher calls FINGERGATE, a tedious process I will not replicate in this recap lol.

Lexi and Rae are still engaged but have not married yet. They seem chill.

Xander and Vanessa are still broken up, and it’s pretty much a no contact break up! They really did make the best decisions in a lot of ways. Vanessa also says she’ll never look back and regret that she dated Xander. It does sound like both of them have done a lot of personal growth.

MAL AND YOLY ARE BROKEN UP. Mal, specifically, says they’re “happily broken up.” Things are tense! FINALLY SOME REAL DRAMA.

Yoly says two weeks after being back from filming The Ultimatum that things were over between them, and Mal heavily suggests Yoly is lying about this timeline. Mal also says that what she ended up seeing on the show is different than what she and Yoly talked about. They also say Yoly’s dishonesty was on display on the show and that they feel degraded by a lot of Yoly’s behavior, especially at that party where she and Xander kept sneaking around together. “I look like an ass on television,” Mal says. Yoly says she looks like an “ad for polyamory” on the show, which did make me laugh, especially since it’s somehow the first time anyone has even used the word on the show.

Mal says seeing Yoly and Xander be lovey-dovey isn’t actually the hard thing, because people being in love is beautiful. Vanessa interjects to say that they did try to be together after filming, and some of this is news to Mal, who knew they were in contact with each other after filming but did not know they were planning a trip to Hawai’i together or that they saw each other at Coachella. Xander and Yoly claim nothing happened at Coachella other than just listening to music together. I’m not sure if I believe them!

MILDRED AND TIFF ARE ALSO BROKEN UP. And they are also full no-contact. Mildred says they moved in together after the engagement but then things ended. Mildred also says that Tiff basically used their dog to manipulate her into speaking to them again, texting her and her sister on Christmas Eve that Shylo was not going to make it through an emergency surgery. Tiff says the problems they had in the relationship after the show were all the same problems on display during the show. Mildred says Tiff wasn’t financially responsible and that she was expected to pay two thirds of the rent since she had a son in the home, but Tiff claims that they never told Mildred she had to do that. Mildred also says she was arrested after Tiff called the cops when Mildred threw a dog gate at them. THIS ALL DESCENDS INTO CHAOS, with Mildred saying something about Tiff bringing girls home to play “sex board games” (??) when they were still living together (and Tiff pointing out they were broken up and that they do not know what sex board games are). Wheewwwwwww I am glad these two are broken up. This all sounds very bad on a lot of levels!

Tiff walks off crying. Aussie says that while Aussie isn’t taking any sides here but that Tiff using the word gaslighting brought back memories of Aussie’s trial marriage with Mildred. Sam says she feels like Tiff was just put on blast and only one person got to share their side. Sam follows Tiff out and gives them a hug. Sam tells them they don’t have to prove anything to Mildred. Sam continues to be the emotional support femme 😭

Tiff straight up leaves, and I do think that might be for the best. There wasn’t anything productive coming out of this for anyone.

Aussie and Sam are still engaged and, similar to Lexi and Rae, haven’t actually gotten married yet due to the constraints of the show. But it sounds like they’re both in a better place! I do want them to have their happy ending! Let’s end on that nice note! But feel free to meet me in the comments to talk about all the mess. WAIT JK, RIGHT BEFORE THE CREDITS START ROLLING, A SCREEN OF TEXT ANNOUNCES THAT RAE AND LEXI BROKE UP SHORTLY AFTER THE REUNION FILMED AND CALLED OFF THE WEDDING.

So in the end, my prediction/hope that most everyone would break up actually did come true. Only Aussie and Sam are together it seems!

I genuinely cannot tell if I loved or hated this show, and I’m curious how others feel. It’s…an interesting study, that’s for sure!! I do have lingering issues with Netflix’s refusal to acknowledge or incorporate people’s pronouns into this show! You can find everyone’s pronouns here. If the show comes back, I hope it’s with a queer host next time.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 871 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. This follow up exit interviews from Netflix’s tudum I think gives a lot of insights and clarity about the state of everyone’s relationships (or at least details they feel comfortable sharing): https://www.netflix.com/tudum/articles/ultimatum-queer-love-cast-where-are-they-now

    Honestly Aussie and Sam being the darkhorse of the series was surprising based off the footage shown but I’m really glad they seem interested in supporting each other and working on genuine compromises that can bring them forward as a couple.

    Without pretending to be a fly on the wall for Tiff and Mildred’s life…..Mildred’s behavior raised a fleet of red flags (the focused desire to humiliate Tiff, talking over them repeatedly and turning around it as Tiff doing it somehow despite barely getting more than a few words in AT BEST, raising a bunch of supposed information at a mile per minute without wanting to actually explain any of it, saying her violence towards Tiff was justified because she was kicking them out without explanation on what prompted that situation in the first place(???), weird details like the board games Mildred seemed to not be able to elaborate on but loudly insist they were real, etc.). It’s no secret that Tiff had their own flaws and patterns but that out of nowhere blow-up was all very next level presentation of out of context events that we could not actually dig into or be corroborated by anyone on the show. What sticks out is that Tiff (when they got a chance to speak at all) seemed interested in corroborating what was real and actually explaining things she could have done better in more detail (ex. not connecting with Mildred’s son but not even having a chance to learn in what way and how it was expressed). However, they also at a mile per second had to respond to Mildred’s narratives that could have truth it but not the full situation or context for it (possibly some insults Mildred shared without knowing or exactly what was going on with the rent) and things that just seem like random lies Tiff doesn’t even have time to respond or correct with the flood of yelling and anger coming there way. The show staff (host, producers, etc.) seemed to have no idea how to de-escalate what seemed like a really abusive public attack and I don’t blame Tiff for leaving because they only help they got was from Sam meeting up with them before they left. It really comes off that Mildred was trying to save face in the Tudum video, and in the article I think Tiff’s thoughts are really revealing about what their relationship has always been like and how they want to date someone more gentle and interested in bringing out the best in them in the future. Without falling into stanning behavior, I hope Tiff took what they learned from the show and experiences a healthy relationship with a healthy partner and as a healthy partner.

  2. I just finished watching, and I’m still reflecting but quick thoughts:

    omg wow I’m so happy for Aussie and Sam! Aussie gives me hope for my little avoidant attachment heart <3

    The way Mildred treated Tiff (and the way Yoly sort of supported her? or maybe that was just the editing?) was so painful to watch. I'm so glad Tiff was able to walk away (and so glad Sam went to check on them!) Such big screaming red flags for IPV. (And truly trying to tell the story about throwing things at Tiff and then acting like Tiff was the villain in that story? That was wild!)

    I feel vindicated as a Vanessa apologist.

    I'm so glad Rae and Lexi broke up wow.

  3. Armchair diagnosing people isn’t cool, but Mildred reads (to me) as someone with borderline personality disorder. The hot/cold treatment, that she has been abandoned so much in the past, the distrust, etc. I’ve experienced a lot of that as someone who is married to someone with BPD and the hard times were hard and confusing and made me feel insane. We’ve done a massive amount of therapy (both together and separately) and things have been in a good place for many years, but watching their entire arc was giving me some major flashbacks.

    • As a daughter of a borderline, I also think Mildred displays signs of Borderline Personality Disorder. She seems to have many of the 9 criteria needed for a diagnoses. She constantly needs reassurance and has fear of abandonment. Her moods change very quickly and she tends to show inappropriate levels of anger. I do hope she along with the others seek therapy. This whole experiment was so stress-provoking for everyone involved. I feel bad for all the participants. Like this whole show affected their lives and not for the better. But I guess it was a learning experience.

    • I thought the exact same thing, Mildred shows a lot of signs of bpd: idealization and devaluation of people (we saw this with both Tiff and Aussie), a crippling fear of abandonment, the need to be “unconditionally loved” the way that a parent unconditionally loves a toddler even when they throw tantrums, and cognitive distortions. When she was talking ant the reunion she even seemed to feel justified in assaulting Tiff and felt betrayed that the cops were called and she was arrested for domestic violence, as if Tiff was the bad guy in that situation.

    • You start with diagnosing people not being cool, so Don’t Do It. It really isn’t cool. Not everybody with BPD acts like this. People who don’t have BPD act like this. You’re reproducing stigma by pathologizing people you only know from a highly edited reality TV show. It’s not cool.

      Say she’s mean. Say she’s unfair. Say she’s violent. Don’t pathologize.

  4. I actually don’t usually watch reality tv, but i thought to give this show a try because of the queerness of it. I enjoyed the raw emotion and the exhibition of different types of connection between people. Personally the concept of an ultimatum and of expecting marriage after 3-4 years doesn’t appeal to me, but the people involved made it quite interesting. Also nice to connect with other queers around the internet over this show!

  5. Was anyone else surprised that zero people mentioned throwing that’s at your partner is abusive behavior?

    I wouldn’t have been able to keep my fucking mouth shut if I had been there.

    Maybe they edited stuff out?

  6. Thank god they mostly all broke up!

    First of all was it not wild how after Mildred admitted she was arrested for domestic violence against Tiff and then started throwing wild accusations at Tiff in a classically abusive way to the extent that Tiff broke down and couldn’t come back to the reunion, Joanna Garcia Swisher just turned to Mildred and was like “so glad things are going great for you now girl!” I mean I’m summarizing but WOW. WOW! And the way Yoly was totally on Mildred’s side – honestly I’m just so psyched Mal and Xander are both single and dating and living their best lives away from Yoly.

    Anyway seems like Vanessa has been doing some growing so good for her (although girl, growing can involve hooking up with a ton of people and having a lot of uncommitted fun! You do you!) and I was very glad to see Rae and Lexi broke up haha.

    Sam… I mean if being with Aussie works for you? I just want you to be happy, the nicest and most emotionally evolved person on the show tbh.

    Idk I loved this show, super fun, love a queer reality show, but it sure seems like Netflix has no idea how to provide people on this show with the emotional support they need… and is totally cool giving people who commit intimate partner violence a glowing edit.

    • Seriously!! The way Netflix handled that honestly made me sick. Imagine how that would have gone down if it was a het relationship and the person openly admitting they committed DV was a man. Based on how often police let DV calls slide, I assume it would’ve had to be really bad to result in an actual arrest! Now Mildred is making TikToks “addressing the issue of domestic violence” framing the situation as if she’s the main character in a lifetime movie about the struggle of overcoming being arrested for DV. “This is SUCH a difficult and important issue, and SO many people have told me I’m courageous for sharing my experience on tv… I will say it wasn’t right for me to throw a gate at tiff no matter how much it was maybe definitely just a reaction to ME being the real victim in this situation….. In conclusion, domestic violence is wrong and here’s a hotline number” Like wtf dude.

  7. I don’t generally watch reality TV – I hope my Netflix algo wasn’t as affected as my psyche – but I’d been seeing a lot of tweets on the show so decide to binge it. Holy moly. I really only thought Mal and Yoly would make it so total surprise. I think both Mildred and Tiff had their own very toxic traits. The way they went off about their dog on Sam for no reason that one time does not convince me they’re as squeeky clean as that white suit. But that’s MO. Glad Rae and Lexi broke up. That poor soul was to anxious to stay in that relationship. Glad Xander went off to find themselves. Hopefully Aussie will too. The fact they haven’t come out to their parents and are “engaged” has me a bit worried for Sam.

    On the Netflix site was where I found their pronouns cause Yeah wasn’t sure.

  8. i still do not understand who or why the host is, like was there a sale at the amy adams store or

    i enjoyed the show. i do not do reality tv as a general rule but decided to say yes to messy queers and had a fun (stressful) time. the number of times i yelled WHY ARE YOU HERE INSTEAD OF THERAPY was off the charts, like truly if your choice is an ultimatum television, uh, ‘experience’ rather than couples counseling you are not a serious person. (and if you tried that first but got fired by the therapist that is probably a REALLY good sign that your relationship is dysfunctional to abusive and you should do the opposite of getting married.)

    mal! was! so patient. i would not have been able to maintain that level of calm supportiveness during filming if my partner was full-on ‘in love’ with another person. (and honestly i thought the xander and yoly pairing was sweet to watch, it felt good to see, but also babes please that is called NRE and we do not make major life decisions based on everything we’ve projected on a person we have not been with long enough to actually know. as evidenced by the fact that, well, they are not together! i also think something more happened at coachella and something more happened post-show in general and i am sad from a nosy perspective that we will never know.)

    sam was so sweet! so loving. i hope she gets what she needs to be happy, whether that’s an improved relationship with aussie or with someone else. aussie’s trauma activations throughout the show were really heartbreaking. the scene outside the restaurant with aussie’s friend there made me cry. i hope serious trauma therapy is happening and that having some gender stuff figured out clears a path for that.

    finally, can we get a spinoff featuring everyone’s friends and family members, who were the true stars of this show? the queer friends were amazing. throw in chill brother with great hair, hot glaring commitment issues dad, and supportive down-to-earth parents and surely we have.. something? please netflix you need this as much as we do

  9. what an exhausting queer trauma bonding experience! i enjoyed it(?) i don’t have much to add, except that calling the cops to arrest someone is also an act of violence! and possibly an escalation from the preceding physical altercation between tiff and mildred. while i agree that mildred’s behavior was appalling and abusive, she quite literally could have died, and i don’t really see anyone acknowledging that.

    • This is genuinely upsetting to read. What are abuse victims supposed to do, just take the beating? Anything a victim does to try and protect themselves/get away from abuse is NOT abusive in return. For fucks sake. I can’t blame Tiff for reaching out for any kind of protection avalable in the moment, especially as the more masc partner who would probably be the first one blamed in an altercation.

      • I mean, I guess Tiff COULD have been the one escalating the argument that led to calling the cops, but if that was the case, why wouldn’t Mildred say anything publically about what Tiff’s actions were? She’s talked about it on several platforms now and all she’s said was that Tiff yelled at her and that she threw a heavy object at Tiff. I mean, only one of those things is physical violence. I would definitely hesitate to involve cops in most situations, but if you’re really scared for your safety and don’t see another option, I understand the choice to call. We don’t know enough to know how much immediate danger Tiff was in. Getting something heavy thrown at you can really injure you. I’m just skeptical of the idea that Tiff escalated the situation that led to the arrest, since neither of them has made any statement about Tiff escalating to physical violence whereas Mildred stated her own act of violence very directly.

    • Oh wait okay I see now, you’re questioning whether calling the cops was in itself an act of escalation, right? I think that’s a valid question, seeing as calling the cops involves an inherent risk of someone getting shot. I still don’t feel I can judge someone for calling in a situation where they’re getting shit thrown at them, though. It really sucks that DV victims have so few options :(

  10. Just finished binging the series. Is it just me, or did Vanessa not read her proposal to Xander? She did have a paper in her hand when she exited the limo, but no sign of it during the edited proposal scene. It looked like she kept glancing down though editing minimized her eyes. Tell me I’m wrong. And like many others some of the behaviours that did not get called out were egregiously ignored; the fact these were not addressed means in my mind the network wanted dram. That means the behaviours get a pass as condoned and drama was picked over care. And the co-host role sucked. I can buy a presumably straight host if they brought some skills to the table. That final circus needed strong hands. I can’t help but feel a queer host might have swam in the waters without letting other people drown.

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