When the fifth season of Love is Blind aired on Netflix last year, bloggers and Reddit commenters alike agreed that it was the worst of the show so far. Only two couples from the Houston-set season—in which Space City singles date “blindly” and get engaged before ever seeing each other in person—made it to the altar, and fans bemoaned the lack of chemistry between them. It was obvious that other couples had been completely cut out of the season (you could see them in the background of the footage from the Mexico trip, which is just for engaged couples). Vulture even declared that “The Love Is Blind Experiment Finally Broke.” What we didn’t realize is that the show may have been even worse behind the scenes.
Last week, Austin veterinarian and season five contestant Renee Poche filed suit against Netflix and Delirium TV, which produces the show, seeking to nullify her contract. (Neither of the defendants responded to Texas Monthly’s interview requests.) It is the second suit born of Love is Blind’s fifth season, and the third against the show in total. In June 2022, season two contestant Jeremy Hartwell filed a lawsuit against LIB producers for various labor law violations. That August, season five contestant Tran Dang sued for sexual harassment, false imprisonment, and negligence, alleging that she was assaulted by her former fiancé during the cast trip to Mexico. When the season five cast was announced, Dang was not mentioned, nor was there footage of her story when the show finally aired.
Poche, too, was mostly cut out of the season. During her time in the pods (when contestants date each other by voice only) she developed a relationship with Carter Wall, and the two became engaged. Poche was under the impression that all contestants had been thoroughly vetted, but as her lawsuit alleges, she soon learned Wall was “not only broke and jobless but also homeless, violent, estranged from his parents, and actively addicted to amphetamines and alcohol.” The lawsuit alleges that Wall was emotionally abusive toward Poche, and that producers knew because one camera operator quit after being physically threatened by Wall. The suit claims that producers even warned her to make sure Wall “had no access to firearms or other weapons because they were concerned he would hurt himself, her, or others.” (Wall has not returned a Texas Monthly request for an interview.)
Poche, who in accordance with protocol had been stripped of her phone, passport, and license when filming began, also alleges that producers regularly encouraged her to spend alone time with Wall despite his aggressive behavior, and urged her to give him a chance. The suit claims that she was told she would suffer legal ramifications if she stopped participating.
As nightmarish as this all sounds, it’s not why Poche filed a lawsuit. She’s suing to nullify her contract, which she and her lawyers say has multiple illegal provisions. When the show started airing in late September 2023, Poche began speaking publicly about her horrific experiences during filming. In November, Delirium and Netflix initiated arbitration against Poche for violating the nondisclosure provision in her contract, which states that Poche can be penalized for revealing “any information or materials concerning or relating to the business and creative affairs of Producer, the Network, the Program, any other participants, the application process to be a participant on the Program, the production methods of Producer,” and a longer list of examples that collectively seem to represent anything Poche could even think about revealing about her time on Love is Blind. Poche is subject to a $4 million penalty for speaking about a job where she made a total of $8,000, according to her lawsuit.
Poche’s lawyers are Mark Geragos and Bryan Freedman, who have also represented former Real Housewives star Bethenny Frankel in her efforts to hold NBCUniversal’s feet to the fire in a fight similar to Poche’s. In August 2023, the pair sent NBC (the parent company of Bravo, where Housewives airs) a litigation hold letter, accusing them of “grotesque and depraved mistreatment” of their reality show cast members. A follow-up letter called the NDAs “draconian” and illegal, as they keep reality TV stars—who are employees—from being able to discuss unlawful acts at their workplace. Last summer, Freedman and Geragos told Variety they had already collected testimonies from reality TV cast members alleging numerous violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. “[This is] just the start of the truth telling about what’s really going on. . . . This is going to end up being a war and I’m going to lead the war,” Freedman said at the time.
On Poche’s behalf, Geragos and Freedman filed an emergency motion last week to halt the arbitration process against her. The motion was denied by a Los Angeles judge, meaning that arbitration can move forward as Poche’s suit makes its way through the sluggish legal system. There will be another hearing on the motion on February 9, when Poche and her lawyers can further detail the ways in which the NDA is unlawful.
Geragos told me he and Freedman decided to represent Poche because “it is a particularly outrageous set of facts, so we’re anxious to have the court take a look at it.” If they are successful on February 9, Geragos says, “we believe all kinds of things will come from there.”
Asked to tell me what those things were, Geragos said no. “I don’t want to see them in the opposition to the motion,” he added with a bit of a laugh.
But it’s not hard to imagine what floodgates might open, should a judge deem Poche’s contract’s NDA unlawful. NDAs have been the very backbone of the reality TV industry for two decades: they keep plot points under wraps, and cloak a whole production in a shroud of secrecy where harmful labor practices have the potential to thrive. Imagine a world where every Bachelorette, every Housewife, and every Dance Mom gets to tell us how the sausage really got made. The drama would likely put the shows themselves to shame.
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