‘Love Is Blind’ Never Had a Villain Quite Like This

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Netflix
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Netflix

This post contains spoilers for Love Is Blind Season 4, Episodes 1 through 5.

In the world of reality television, the word “villain” can be a little tricky. Watch enough of these programs, and you’ll notice how villainy can be manufactured. At the same time, what are we to make of a Love Is Blind contestant who just can’t seem to resist stirring the pot?

Four seasons in, we’ve never had a Love Is Blind character quite like Irina Solomonova—a 25-year-old business owner who spends much of her on-screen time either scheming or negging the guy she ostensibly loves. Has this event planner become the latest recipient of the notorious “bad edit”?

At first, Irina seems sincere; during the season premiere, which debuted Friday along with the first five episodes of Season 4, she looks back on the self-doubt she felt in her younger years due to severe acne. Now, she says, “I feel really confident that my long hair doesn’t make me me; my eyes don’t make me me; my skin doesn’t make me me… Who I am on the inside matters the most.”

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In her first conversation with her eventual chosen match, 31-year-old criminal defense attorney Zack, Irina also looks back on her childhood immigrating to the U.S. from Russia as a small child. “Even though we had no money, my parents did everything in their power to give us all the memories.”

But Irina’s biggest social challenges appear to manifest not inside the pods but outside of them—between herself and other contestants, of which she is the youngest. We’ve seen love triangles before on Love Is Blind, but this might be the first time we’ve met someone who might be “here to make friends.”

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Love Is Blind villains’ on-screen drama tends to revolve around their romantic relationships, not their platonic standing in the show’s shared living space. Jessica Batten—nicknamed “Messica” after she went viral giving her dog wine in Love is Blind Season 1—got blowback from fans both because of her fixation on the age gap between herself and her fiancé, Mark Cuevas, as well as her continued flirtation with her old flame, Matt Barnett.

In Season 2, fans similarly derided Shaina Hurley for continuing to pursue Shayne Jansen after he’d gotten engaged to Natalie Lee and she herself had said “yes” to Kyle Abrams. And last season, we got Bartise Bowden—whom fans slimed with a variety of hilarious and icky nicknames for his poor treatment of his fiancée, Nancy Rodriguez, as well as his anti-abortion views.

Irinia, meanwhile, seems to love stirring the pot. When one contestant walks in with an armful of gifts and flowers, she makes a scene of complimenting them—repeatedly, and without an ounce of sincerity in her voice as she says (for the fifth time) that the peonies are just so pretty. In another moment, she and Micah Lussier—her best friend in the house—make a cheeky show of spying on another contestant after a difficult rejection. Irina stands just on the other side of a partition, eventually laughing loudly enough to be noticed before slinking off and calling out, “Abort! Abort!”

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And then there’s the moment that I will from here on out call #CandleGate—in which Irina notices another contestant baking cupcakes for the man they’re both courting, realizes that she forgot said man’s birthday, and has the nerve, the temerity, the audacity to ask her fellow contestant to borrow one of her candles. In the real world, this would seem like a minor slight, but in this setting? That’s an explosive faux pas, even if the candle didn’t come from a joke shop. As one bystander put it to Irina’s very steamed competition, “What did she get out of asking you for a candle, other than making you feel like shit?”

Like most good villains, however, Irina does not work alone; she and Micah seem to bring a certain energy out in one another, especially at a pool party where she and Micah deliberately needle the guy Micah turned down just a day before about, as Micah puts it in a tone-deaf joke, his “failed proposal.” It’s at that same party, however, where Irina begins to lust after Micah’s fiancé.

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“I feel like Paul is just so attractive,” Irina tells producers. “I’m just sensing, like, “’Oh, there is a type I have.’ And it just makes me realize what I don’t have with Zack.”

Like many a Love Is Blind couple, Irina and Zack’s honeymoon period does come to a fast, screeching halt once they’re forced to leave the pods. But relationship struggles are common on this show, and they certainly don’t make a villain. (Although I won’t spoil Zack and Irina’s outcome here, I will say it is unprecedented in Love Is Blind history!) More fascinating in this case is Irina’s behavior toward the other women in the house, including Micah, whose fiancé she apparently covets.

“I literally could not sleep all night,” Irina says, as the first batch of episodes comes to a close. She grins as she confesses, “I really like him. I know that Micah really likes him and they have a really good relationship together. She’s my best friend. Like, that’s so fucked up, you know?”

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And then there’s the preview of the season to come, in which Irina tells Micah that she “did feel romance with Paul.” Oop!

Call it a villain edit or chalk it up to Irina’s admitted tendency to “make things so intense”; either way, the drama is excellent on this season of Love Is Blind. The “marriage or nothing” show feels more flexible in certain ways than it has in the past, allowing for new kinds of drama (and connection) as the show’s dating pool gets just a little murkier. For instance: If one relationship in a love triangle doesn’t work out, can the third corner come back into the mix? Our eyes will be glued to the screen next week to find out.

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