Love Is Blind is the Netflix reality dating show that people can’t stop talking about, but for all the wrong reasons.
The social experiment involves 30 single folks going on dates in small rooms known as “pods” in the hopes of finding the one, all without seeing each other in person. When contestants spark up a romantic and emotional connection, they get engaged sight unseen. What could possibly go wrong?
Unsurprisingly, a lot. The recent third season of the dating show was perhaps the most controversial one yet, and has incited much social media conversation since the final episodes aired this month. While the experiment proved to be successful for a (small) handful of couples, Zanab Jaffrey and Cole Barnett were anything but a perfect match, despite how much they professed to be up to their wedding day. Really, it was no surprise there were cracks in the surface of their relationship, which were revealed to viewers during the season three reunion. Zanab claimed Cole made disparaging comments about her appearance, weight and eating habits. Cole told his former fiancée she was lying.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer my mind-numbing, all-around entertaining reality TV binges to be without disordered eating language and disguised fatphobia. And I would hope that the viewer’s response wouldn’t be in support of the person allegedly making those comments, but one can only dream.
With any reality show, there’s a lot we don’t see. So let’s start by describing what viewers actually did watch. For starters, Zanab and Cole’s relationship wasn’t always rocky. The two seemed to have formed a strong emotional connection in the pods, and even seemed to be physically attracted to each other once they met in person. But things took a turn when the five engaged couples left the pods for a pre-honeymoon retreat in Malibu, California. There, Cole revealed his former pods fling – ballet dancer and quintessential “girl next door” Colleen Reed – was more his type. After a little budging from Zanab, he even went so far as to rate Colleen a 10 out of 10, while his fiancée was a nine out of 10.
It’s important to note that Cole wasn’t the only guilty party in the breakdown of this relationship. In one scene, Cole tried to make dinner for Zanab, but she took over when the meal wasn’t cooked to her standards. He often called her out for her passive aggressiveness, and Zanab freely pointed out Cole’s flaws.
When it came time to say “I do,” not only did Zanab reject Cole at the altar, but she also called him out for lowering her self-confidence. “The last two months have not been picture perfect,” she told him. “You have disrespected me. You have insulted me. You have critiqued me. And for what it is worth, you have single-handedly shattered my self-confidence. And I hate that you have had that kind of effect on me.”
It was like the dramatic moment was taken out of a reality TV handbook. The third season could’ve ended there, but Love Is Blind producers rehashed the lowest points of their relationship in a reunion special filmed more than a year after filming was wrapped. It was there that Zanab listed moments from their short-lived relationship which weren’t shown on screen.
“The pushing food away from me, asking if I’m gonna eat that, trying to get me to order a salad, the daily comments about my face and my body were not used,” she claimed. “And that’s great, because it really did protect you.”
Then came the infamous “Cuties” scene. Truly, a seedless mandarin orange brand causing this much chaos on a reality dating series wasn’t included in my 2022 bingo card.
In the unaired scene, which was then included at the end of the reunion special by the shady producers, showed Zanab grabbing two of the bite-sized oranges and peeling one of them. The conversation goes like this.
Cole: “Peeling oranges. Are you about to eat two of those?”
Zanab: “Maybe. That’s a serving. You okay with that?”
C: “You better save your appetito.”
Z: “I’ve only had a banana and a scoop of peanut butter today.”
C: “I’m talking a big old sucker tonight. You only had a banana today? Why?”
Z: “I could tell you, but probably shouldn’t.”
C: “I offered you a poke bowl.”
Z: “I know you did but we had that last night.”