After watching the first four episodes of Love Is Blind Season Five, viewers witnessed a whole new, unprecedented kind of drama when it was revealed that two of the cast members dated each other outside of the pods prior to filming. Not only did Uche and Lydia date each other before filming the hit Netflix reality series, but they also hid this information from the other cast members who they were forming romantic connections and friendships with. In a cliffhanger at the end of Episode Four, Uche is prepared to propose to Aaliyah only to enter the pod and find out that Aaliyah left the show and went home without saying goodbye.
The drama continues to unfold in the next four episodes that dropped Sept. 29 on Netflix. Aaliyah says in an emotional phone call with Uche that she couldn’t get past the fact that he dated Lydia, someone Aaliyah had grown close to in the living quarters and confided in about her budding romance with Uche. On camera, Uche tells Aaliyah he withheld explaining his past with Lydia because he didn’t want to ruin either of their chances to find love or disrupt the experiment for anyone else.
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According to Love Is Blind creator and executive producer Chris Coelen, in the full conversations that didn’t fully air on-screen, Uche and Lydia were fully candid with Aaliyah and Milton and specifically said producers instructed them not to share this information with others.
“When Uche and Lydia each respectively told Aaliyah and Milton in the pods, they did say, ‘Production talked to us and we decided to not tell people because it would ruin the experiment,’” Coelen tells Rolling Stone. “These are very long conversations. These are dates that are two, three hours long and certainly you have to make a choice about what you put in [the show].”
Coelen claims he learned about Uche and Lydia’s prior relationship while observing their pod date from one of the 89 cameras set up behind the scenes during filming. He says he was disappointed for the pair as well as production because they “try really hard to suss out whether people know each other or don’t know each other.”
“So all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, at least two people know each other, that goes against the spirit of what this is meant to be, we’re gonna have to send them home,’” he recalls.
Having never dealt with a situation like this on the show, Coelen says they were making first- time decisions in the moment about how to move forward. His instinct was to not let Uche or Lydia continue going on dates with each other or anyone else in the pods because they already had prior intimate knowledge about the other person; for them, love wouldn’t be “blind.” Producers approached Uche and Lydia separately and told them they had to leave the show because knowing each other from the outside world gave them an unfair advantage and “defeats the purpose” of why people participate in Love Is Blind.
“I felt just horrible for them. I was like, ‘I have no idea how this happened and I’m so sorry,” Coelen says. “But by the way, if you want to date each other you should go do that. Just not here.”
Coelen says Uche and Lydia separately insisted they wanted to continue filming and reassured him they had no interest in dating one another.
“My immediate thought was, if we’re going to allow you to stay and either one of you is starting to tell all this information about the other to the other people, it kind of defeats the purpose of the experiment, right? Now, anyone who might be interested in either one of them is going to have all this information, which seems sort of destructive,” Coelen says. “It wasn’t until day six or day seven [in the pods] that they developed these real feelings. At that point of the experiment, if they want to tell them, that was information that we were fine with them having because we felt like things had developed in an organic way.”
According to Coelen, what viewers also didn’t see on camera before Aaliyah leaves the experiment are the private conversations she was having with Lydia off-camera to and from the hotel where cast members stay in between filming days. It was in those interactions that Aaliyah and Lydia had a confrontational exchange about Lydia’s past with Uche.
The fourth wall gets broken in these next four episodes when cast members discuss and question each others’ motivations for joining the show. At a gathering in Houston where most of the cast reunites outside of the pods, Uche confronts Lydia about their past, questions whether or not she knew if he had applied to be on Love Is Blind, and also asks if she wanted to be a part of the reality series in an attempt to get back together with him.
While most of the cast is present for this drama-filled night of filming, which also includes confrontations between Izzy, Stacy, and Johnnie, Aaliyah doesn’t show up. The last time viewers see Aaliyah is when she meets up with Uche at a restaurant and they have a solo conversation about what went down between them and where they stand moving forward. Aaliyah says she wants to be with Uche but he says he wants to move on without her.
When asked if Aaliyah was invited to participate in that scene, Coelen says all cast members are generally invited to those hometown gatherings once everyone leaves the pods. He says he doesn’t know and “has no idea” why Aaliyah wasn’t there.
“Sometimes people aren’t invited for some reason, sometimes people don’t come for some reason, but I certainly can’t think off the top of my head why Aaliyah wouldn’t have been invited or wouldn’t have come,” he says.
Viewers learn in these next four episodes that only two couples in this season of Love Is Blind are heading to the altar: Izzy and Stacy, and Lydia and Milton. Although there are other couples that get engaged in the pods that production elects not to continue following. When asked if there were any couples this season who got engaged that didn’t appear on screen, Coelen says, “There always are.”
“There’s people who get engaged or some people we follow for a certain amount of time and we don’t end up choosing to show their stories,” Coelen says. “It always comes down to the same thing: it’s a judgment call that we make trying to lean into the stories that we feel are most authentic. I feel like you can sense when it’s inauthentic and I don’t want to watch that; I don’t want to follow that. I don’t think the audience wants to follow that.”
Coelen adds, “I will say, as far as our judgment goes, that there has not been one single couple we’ve chosen not to follow who has ever sustained a relationship to any significant degree at all. Some people literally break up at the airport.”
Coelen and his production company Kinetic Content are responsible for a slate of Netflix reality shows: Love Is Blind, The Ultimatum, and Perfect Match. Back in May, The Ultimatum: Queer Love premiered on the streaming service featuring a cast of all queer women. Coelen says he’s also considered doing a queer-focused iteration of Love Is Blind; it’s something he says he thinks about all the time and is very open to creating, it’s just a matter of brainstorming certain filming logistics.
“I love telling a diversity of stories of a diversity of people,” he says. “With The Ultimatum, when Netflix agreed to do it from literally the very first conversation we had about it, we were always going to do what we called a straight and then a queer version. I think with Love Is Blind, there are certain logistical difficulties in terms of the way the pods are built. If you imagine, let’s say, a fluid cast, everyone would have to be isolated. It would have to look a lot different. The experience would have to be built in a much different way. Definitely, there are thoughts in my head about it.”
For Coelen, “Love Is Blind Season Five has “professionally been the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
“Whenever we are right at the beginning of inviting in a new group of participants, not only do you have no idea what’s going to happen, you have no control over what’s going to happen,” Coelen says. “And whatever unfolds is always so different because people have really fascinating, unique wrinkles to them, and as you go through the Love is Blind process those wrinkles kind of come to the fore, and you never know what they’re going to be.”
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