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The drama surrounding the “Love Is Blind” Season 4 live reunion kicked off long before the livestream fiasco on Sunday night.
Cast member Jackelina Bonds, one of the most polarizing personalities of the latest season, confirmed to TheWrap that Netflix canceled her flight to attend the live reunion taping, citing concerns for her “mental health,” despite her own desire to be there.
“They had me talk to a psychologist, and the psychologist was the one that told us that we weren’t gonna go. That was how it went down,” Bonds told TheWrap. “They called on a three-way [conference call], and they were kind of, ‘Oh, due to your mental health, we think it’s best for you to… not come to the reunion.’”
But in fact the contestant suspects they didn’t want her there to avoid voicing her criticism of the producers and the way her storyline was edited.
Bonds’ revelation about being shut out comes on the heels of the reunion episode, which failed to deliver its promise of a live special celebrating the end of a buzzworthy fourth season of the Netflix dating series. Technical glitches that forced a delayed broadcast were serious enough that Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters had to explain them on the company’s quarterly earnings call, illustrating the high stakes at play for the streamer.
But it also reinforces a rising chorus of criticism about conditions on the show, including producers limiting contestants’ access to food and offering them alcohol alongside water, and another former contestant saying this week that she felt coerced to stay on the show despite a mental health crisis.
Netflix representatives declined to comment for this story.
Bonds told TheWrap her main concern was about the editing choices on the show that led to her being villainized in the fan community. She has claimed that the producers edited the show to make it appear as if she began dating fellow cast member Josh Demas before she ended her engagement to another cast member, Marshall Glaze.
Even with the glitches, the live reunion attracted about 6.5 million viewers, a huge number for a televised event.
The missteps and accompanying fan backlash come at a time when the streamer is combatting slower growth, eyeing more live entertainment opportunities and boosting its investment in unscripted content.
In an interview with TheWrap, Bonds said the decision for her to miss the reunion happened swiftly.
“It was like a two-day turnaround. They told us the day before [the reunion],” Bonds added.
TheWrap first learned of speculation about Jackie’s absence after overhearing Season 3 cast member Cole Barnett say that Netflix had “canceled Jackie’s flight” because she planned to publicly call out production on the show during the reunion. The remark was made at a “Love Is Blind” reunion party on Sunday in Hollywood, where many journalists were present.
“Love Is Blind” production company Kinetic Content did not respond to requests for comment.
Bonds’ storyline on the show was among the most contested by fans in Season 4. After she accepted Glaze’s proposal at the end of the pod experiment, the couple fizzled out and Bonds decided to call things off. The show tracked the dissolution of her engagement, her fight to keep the ring Glaze had given her (which she did) and hooking up with Demas — whom she had also met during production.
Fans of the show criticized her for keeping the ring and for criticizing Glaze for his lack of assertiveness in the bedroom.
As Screenrant put it, “‘Love Is Blind’ fans are livid at Jackie for signing up for the show to play with people’s feelings even when she wasn’t ready. Jackie’s claims can be questioned because Josh asked Jackie if Marshall was OK with her meeting him, and that could not have been edited in. What was expected out of Jackie was an apology, but all that she did was start a blame game by pointing fingers at the edit. The explanations are not helping Jackie, but they will come in handy in the ‘Love Is Blind’ Season 4 reunion.”
Bonds participated in a prerecorded “Love Is Blind” interview with co-host Vanessa Lachey conducted before the reunion. The segment was among the moments in the reunion that received the most backlash from fans on social media, with many criticizing Lachey for going easy on Bonds.
Earlier this week, Bonds shared a statement on her Instagram Stories that explained her absence in a different light. As reported by ET Canada, she and Demas were told to stay home due to “death threats being sent to us and Netflix.” She added that the streamer had decided to “keep us safe & have us do that one on one with Vanessa.”
But in her conversation with TheWrap, Bonds spoke instead about being worried that, in her absence, she would continue to be a target for fans of the show who don’t like her.
“It was one of those where I would be scared too, because all I wanted was for them to admit that the scenes were messed up,” Bonds said. “But Marshall admitted and clarified [what happened] in his little interview.
“And then with me, you know, I have all my receipts and my text messages that I released,” Bonds said, referring to text messages she shared from the period of production. “So I felt vindicated, because that’s all I wanted, for them to say, ‘Yeah, we messed up in how we portrayed and edited things.’ That’s all I wanted.”
Bonds added that, despite her absence from the taping, the special addressed the concerns she had about how she was portrayed on “Love Is Blind” this season so she was ready to “let bygones be bygones.”
Since the livestream fiasco, Netflix and “Love Is Blind” have been dealing with renewed interest in past controversies surrounding the show. Insider published an exposé Tuesday detailing problematic conditions, such as producers limiting contestants’ access to food and offering them alcohol alongside water.
Meanwhile Danielle Ruhl, who appeared in Season 2, said she felt coerced to stay on the show, despite being in mental distress.
“I kept telling them, ‘I don’t trust myself,’” she said. “‘I’ve tried committing suicide before. I’m having suicidal thoughts. I don’t think I can continue in this.’”
Ruhl said she was surprised she passed the psychological screening after she disclosed her history of mental illness and a suicide attempt in her past. On the show, she married Nick Thompson. She contended that the show misrepresented when she had a panic attack in Mexico, instead telling viewers that she declined to attend a beach party because she felt sick.
Insider said the couple was pressured to stay on the show: “The former couple, who did marry on the show but split in August 2022, said that despite Ruhl disclosing her suicidal thoughts, producers pressured them to stay on the show. Ruhl and Thompson claimed they were coerced to stay because production implied that their love story was the central one of the show.”
Meanwhile, Bonds confirmed to TheWrap that “Love Is Blind” does not have a therapist on set during production, which Insider reported as well, noting that other cast members said there should have been one.
“Before you get on the show, you talk to a therapist. And then when you get off the show you talk to a therapist,” she said. “If you are going through it, you have your producer there to talk to you. It wasn’t like you were alone. You had people in the lounge.”
The issues raised by Bonds and Ruhl may tarnish one of Netflix’s most successful reality franchises. Netflix did not respond to requests for comment by TheWrap.