“Married at First Sight” Episode 4: The Problem is the Problem

My typical M.O. with these recaps is to start at the beginning of the episode and work my way through to the end, sharing highlights more or less in chronological order. This week, though, the episode was dominated (in my opinion) by one couple’s interactions and was organized around how each couple dealt with their first arguments, so I’m going to switch things up a bit and go couple by couple this time around.

First up? Tom & Lillian

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Guess what everybody???!!!! TOM AND LILLIAN HAD THE SEX.

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Both claim that it was magical and wonderful and that fireflies literally flew into the room and blessed their intimacy with fairy dust, so hooray for them.

The oversharing continues as the newly-consummated pair heads to the beach and Tom rubs sunscreen all over Lillian’s butt …

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… while explaining that he loves every morsel of his new wife’s body. Every. Morsel. Fine, I made up the thing about the fireflies, but the morsel quote is real. Someone in Tom’s circle of friends needs to take him aside and remind him about the things we say out loud vs. the things we keep to ourselves when a film crew is around.

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Get yourself together, Tom.

Tom and Lillian (Tomian? Lilliom?) later head off to a hidden cove with waterfalls and natural pools to swim around in. Through this part of the episode, I couldn’t help …

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… but get curious about …

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… the man helping them play in the water. I’m pretending his name is Jeffrey.

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Tourism is big in Jamaica, sure, but I guess I never considered that there are people who are paid to do for honeymooning adults what I do for my nieces and nephews at the city swimming pool. More power to you, Jeffrey. Take these honeymooning adults for all they’re worth.

Later, at dinner, they talk more about their previous night of lovemaking while Tom wears such an obnoxious necklace.

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Lillian knows what I’m talking about.

When the couple sitting at the next table gets engaged in the midst of dinner, Lillian takes the opportunity to insist that she and Tom have a better chance of marital success than the other couple does. Which, I’m sorry, but that’s in poor taste, Lillian. It’s also delusional.

(Excuse me while I chat with Lillian one-on-one for a hot second.)

Lillian, sweetheart, things are going really well for the two of you. And I’m so happy they are. But let us not forget that you met only five days ago. Seriously. Five days. You’ve spent those days enjoying room service and visiting beaches and meeting people like sweet, sweet Jeffrey. How will things be when you go back to Miami, back to jobs and cooking your own food and living in Tom’s tour bus that he hasn’t told you about yet? I don’t want to rain on your parade. You’re my friend; I want only good things for you. My only advice is that you temper your optimism ever so slightly before you go boasting about how your relationship is superior the one sitting next to you in this Jamaican restaurant. You get me?

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Girlfriend never listens.

Back in their hotel room, Tom and Lillian have their first fight. But it’s a mini-fight, I assure you. Barely a tiff.

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Tom’s talking about his minimalist approach to life, and when Lillian asks for more details, he says that some people think a really nice car is important and can make them happy.

Lillian, a card-carrying really-nice-car owner, is not amused.

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“He knows the car I drive,” she says, and she worries that he’s categorizing her as materialistic based on that knowledge.

Lillian makes some smart moves in this situation: she immediately seeks clarification from Tom in a non-confrontational but direct way, and when they clear things up, she accepts his apology, believes him, and moves on. Tom explains that he doesn’t think having a nice car makes someone materialistic unless they place too much importance or self-worth on it. All is well in Jamaica.

Who’s next? Nick & Sonia

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(Pretend sleeping.)

After enjoying a laidback breakfast on the ironing board …

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Sonia may not know how to iron, but she knows how to collapse an ironing board, and that’s honestly the hardest part.

… they set off on a paddleboarding adventure.

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Nick is pretty good at falling gracefully, while Sonia is better at the actual paddleboarding.

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They then venture out on horseback to a beautiful, secluded waterfall.

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It’s against this gorgeous backdrop that Nick and Sonia share their first serious, not-the-way-you’d-kiss-a-relative kiss.

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It’s a big moment. I ship these two.

After their full day of sightseeing and a romantic seaside dinner, Nick and Sonia retire to bed for some “pillow talk” — discussion of assigned questions from the experts.

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The pillow talk was uneventful until the following exchange took place:

Sonia: I really really like you.
Nick: I think we’re moving at a good pace and don’t need to go any faster or slower than we’re going.
Sonia: … what is that supposed to mean?
Nick: Just that we’re moving at a good pace. I think we’re doing well.
Sonia: Yeah, but why did you say that? Why did you say you don’t want to go any faster? Do you feel like I’m pressuring you? Because I’m really not.
Nick: No, I don’t think that.
Sonia: Well something must have made you say that.
Nick: The thing that made me say that is just that I think we’re moving at a good pace.
Sonia: (suspicious look at Nick)

I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that’s more or less what happened. And in Sonia’s defense, Nick’s body language/tone/timing did kind of suggest that there was more to the story than what he was saying in words.

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The tension was pretty thick after a few rounds of “why did you say that?”/”why are you upset?”, so Nick left the room for a few minutes to give them both a chance to clear their minds.

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While fights are never fun and this one in particular had its fair share of poor communication, I think Nick and Sonia did some things right here. Sonia raised her concern immediately rather than letting it fester, and when it was clear that they were talking in circles, Nick left the room (politely, not in a huff) rather than digging the hole deeper. When he came back, they cleared the air a bit and were willing to chalk it up to a simple misunderstanding. All in all, I give props to these two — and also to Tom and Lillian — for how they handled themselves when faced with their first argument.

I wish I could say the same for our final couple, Derek & Heather. But sadly, I cannot. =(

First things first, though: check out Derek’s pizza/beer tattoo.

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Cute, no?

At the end of last week’s episode, Heather confided in the production staff that she was concerned about Derek’s “occasional” smoking and gambling. She didn’t talk with him about her concerns, trying to keep herself from being too nitpicky, but this stuff was clearly on her mind. And it stayed that way throughout this week’s episode as well.

After eating breakfast together, they headed out for what was meant to be a relaxed bike ride. Unfortunately, Heather was a bit of a speed demon and kept leaving Derek in the dust.

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I can’t help but wonder if Heather was doing this — either consciously or subconsciously — as an attempt to literally get away from Derek, someone she feels poorly-matched with at this point. I can’t say I entirely blame her for using this as an outlet for her stress.

But it seems that the literal distance between them wasn’t enough for Heather. After the bike ride, they lounged on the beach for a bit, and Heather took this opportunity to add some emotional distance as well by voicing her concerns in kind of an awful way. The pictures say a lot.

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The video says even more.

Derek departs to a hammock and talks to his diary cam about the argument on the beach.

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Considering Heather’s sudden, aggressive approach to this conversation, I have to hand it to Derek: he handled himself pretty well (at least as far as what the edit showed). I respect that, during their beach conversation, he didn’t react by criticizing Heather the way she was criticizing him, and when it became clear that she wasn’t going to listen to him or give him a chance to defend himself without interrupting him or dismissing his words, he was plenty justified in walking away from the discussion altogether. I wish that Heather had taken a more measured approach to this talk, saying something like, “I’ve noticed this thing, and I’m concerned about it. Can we talk it out?” Instead, it seemed that the issue had been swirling around in her head so much that she ended up bursting with thoughts, criticisms, and overblown conclusions about Derek and his smoking.

What happened on the beach was bad enough. A few hours later, things got a whole lot worse back in their hotel room.

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Emotional hangover. Been there, girlfriend.

When the two of them met up again, it wasn’t long before the argument started right where they’d left it a few hours before. This time, Derek wasn’t so restrained, and Heather was still plenty upset, so the whole thing fell apart in a hurry.

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Heather absolutely would not listen or give any credit to Derek’s explanations or thoughts. Derek, for his part, lost patience with Heather very quickly and began accusing her of being an alcoholic (something that he specifically said would be an unfair statement earlier in the day); he also took it upon himself to list her many flaws and tell her why she was destined to be alone in this world. It became a spiral of you have a problem — no, YOU have a problem with neither of them backing down. The dysfunction went on for quite a while, and Derek eventually stormed off, leaving Heather in tears.

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I really wish I had a video of this second fight to share, because no summary I can give is good enough. It essentially played out like a scripted “How Not To Argue With Your Spouse” video for a marriage preparation class. Every mistake was made.

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Mwah! Dr. Pepper, what a woman.

Dr. Pepper popped in to remind us of one seriously useful marriage mantra: the other person isn’t the problem. The problem is the problem.

The mistake that both Heather and Derek fell victim to in this episode was seeing the other person as the problem. In their minds, the problem wasn’t Derek’s smoking, Heather’s fear, or (gee, I don’t know) the fact that they’re under an immense amount of pressure trying to fall in love with a total stranger while four camera operators are standing around. Instead, the problem became the other person. At that point, Heather wasn’t thinking, “Derek’s smoking bothers me”; she was thinking, “Derek is a selfish person.” And Derek wasn’t thinking, “Heather’s reaction to my smoking is unjustified”; he was thinking, “Heather is an arrogant nag.”

I wish I could say that these two crazy kids will turn things around, but my hopes are slim. Derek seems to already be anticipating their eventual divorce, and Heather said that if she had just gone on a first date with Derek, she definitely wouldn’t go on a second date. Not the most inspiring words.

But let’s all tune in next week and see if the producers will be able to edit a more promising storyline for these two! You may or may not know this already, but if you don’t have the FYI Network or can’t watch on Tuesday nights, all new episodes are available on their website (click here). That’s actually where I’m watching these days, because my husband and I just canceled our cable subscription last week. Yep, during the Olympics. #wearetherealheroes