When Love Is Blind’s marriage experiment ended after 10 days, six couples walked away engaged — or at least, that’s what viewers saw in the first batch of episodes Netflix released earlier this month.
In addition to Amber and Barnett, Cameron and Lauren, Carlton and Diamond, Damian and Giannina, Jessica and Mark, and Kelly and Kenny, Rory Newbrough, who appeared mostly giving advice to his castmates, and self-proclaimed short guy Westley Baer popped the question to Danielle Drouin and Lexie Skipper, respectively. But when it came time for the couples to head to Mexico after getting to know each other in the pods, producers told Newbrough and Baer that they didn’t have the resources to continue filming their stories, they say now.
“As we were preparing to go to the Mexico trip, the leads of the show came in and said, ‘Hey, we were expecting maybe one or two [engagements]. The shows we’ve done before, we’ve never had this much success. We prepared for five. Then we got eight engagements, so we had to pick who we were going to follow,’” Twitch streamer Newbrough, 30, tells PEOPLE. “We got our phones back. They thanked us graciously and said, ‘Sorry, we just don’t have enough to cover everybody.’”
Baer, 29, found himself in the same situation with his fiancée.
“I didn’t know why,” the sales account manager says of the decision. “I believe one person said, ‘We don’t want to mess up your relationship.’ It was a bummer. We were both like, “We cannot wait for this trip. It’s going to be amazing.’ And then, the next day [we were told], ‘Unfortunately we can’t follow your journey.’ I don’t know the reasoning, but I’m glad I was able to connect with somebody, at least.”
A representative for the show tells PEOPLE the decision “truly boiled down to bandwidth” because they “did not anticipate such success,” choosing the couples who made the cut almost at random. “They practically picked names out of a hat because it was hard to predict what the outcomes would be for anyone,” the rep says.
As a result of Newbrough and Baer’s engagements not being documented on the series, their journeys in the pods got very little airtime. But now, the two reality show contestants want the world to learn that Netflix’s experiment worked even better than they let on.
Westley Baer and Lexie Skipper
While Love Is Blind fans really only saw Baer proclaim, “I’m short, and there are women out there that won’t date guys that are shorter,” he did end up finding a woman who didn’t care about his height. (For the record, Baer is 5 feet, 9 inches tall.)
“I had my top three after the first or second day,” he says. “I really connected with one girl in specific, her name’s Lexie. I would say probably on the second day, I really did know she was the one. One of the things she valued so much was family. She mentioned that her parents had been together for 30 years. Myself, growing up with a single mother most of my life, family is really important to me.”
Being raised in a small family, Baer felt he missed out on the joy of the holidays, telling Skipper, “I always wanted was the feeling at Christmas.”
“I always wanted the feeling of walking down the stairs and there’s a big family and everyone eating and there’s presents,” Baer continues. “That’s the only thing I wanted as a kid. And in one of the dates in the pod, Lexie had it decorated like Christmas. There were Christmas lights and a Santa hat and music playing. I walked in and immediately started crying.”
The Christmas date made Baer realize he wanted to spend the rest of his life with the personal stylist.
“I walked in and I was a little nervous,” Baer remembers of the proposal. “We both talked about it a little bit, but I was still nervous. And I told her, ‘I want to be your rock. I want to be the guy that you can always lean on. I want to be the guy that can take care of you but also can be the best support system for you.’”
Skipper said “yes,” and they proceeded to meet face to face, which Baer calls a “life-changing” experience. “She looked kind of what I pictured,” he adds.
Not long after meeting IRL did Bear and Skipper get the news that they wouldn’t continue filming for the show, which meant missing out on the trip to Mexico. Skipper went off to attend a wedding, and the pair met back up in Atlanta, where they both lived at the time, and continued getting to know each other. They stayed over at each other’s houses, and Baer met Skipper’s parents over FaceTime.
But after about three months, Baer made a career change that took him away from Skipper, so they broke up. “I made a crazy decision to sell everything I owned, and I moved to Asia,” he says.
When he got back, Skipper relocated to New York City and eventually, Baer did the same. Now, “we literally live in apartment buildings next to each other,” Baer says, though, “We’re not seeing each other romantically.”
Baer says he and Skipper still talk daily and have hung out “a few times,” as recently as the Super Bowl. Once the hype from the show dies down, they might consider revisiting their relationship.
“We haven’t fully had that talk, but I know that’s what she wants. I really do,” Baer says. “She said, ‘Why don’t we try to make this work again?’ And I didn’t say no, but I said, ‘Hey, let’s get through this process.’ And I think that’s what we’re going to do.”
Rory Newbrough and Danielle Drouin
Newbrough only seemed to appear on screen when he was serving as a therapist for his fellow participants, but he actually developed a love connection of his own with Drouin. By day six of the experiment, he started falling for her.
“What I realized about the process is not only was I better able to listen and be involved with the conversation with nothing distracting me, I was also able to really tune into how I was feeling,” Newbrough recalls. “So when we would talk and I would listen to myself like, ‘Oh my God, she’s having effects on me.’”
He says they spent about 18-20 hours a day talking in the pods and connected over their love of animals, Christmas and hosting parties. “We had started to realize very early on that we tend to have the very same viewpoint on life,” Newbrough says.
They cooked each other meals that the producers would then deliver to the pods and sent gifts, like a box of Lincoln Logs that Drouin gave Newbrough after describing to him a log cabin she lived in as a kid in Massachusetts.
Newbrough incorporated that personal detail into his pod proposal. “She said it was the most comfortable place for her. If she could go back there and live there forever, she would,” Newbrough says. “It’s a cabin in the woods — you have this fireplace going, and you’re there with your family and it’s very comfortable.”
So when it came time to get down on one knee in the pods, “I wore flannel and blue jeans,” Newbrough says. “Then I knelt down with a Lincoln Log in my hand, and she held hers on the other side, and that’s when I proposed.”
When they met in person, Newbrough broke down with emotion. “When they finally opened those doors on that big red carpet area at the facility, I collapsed,” he says. “She had to walk over to me because it was too much for me to deal with.”
But the newly engaged couple’s excitement quickly turned into disappointment when they got word they’d been cut from the show. In place of a Mexico vacation, “We bought same-day tickets to Miami,” Newbrough says. “We spent a week there out on the beach, just spending time together.”
Real life hit once they returned to Atlanta. “When we got back there was still some unresolved feelings on her side for another castmate, Matt,” Newbrough reveals. “She ended up wanting to pursue that.”
Newbrough calls the split from the model “very amicable” and says the two remain “great friends.” According to Newbrough, Drouin then started seeing their costar Matt Thomas (they’ve since split), and the video gamer continues his search for forever love as well — this time with a newfound understanding of how to relate to prospective partners.
“You start to realize that it deepens the bond you can connect with someone,” he says. “Now that I’ve experienced that, my connection on dates I’ve been going on has been infinitely better. I can just cut straight through the smokescreen of small talk and get really deep into the conversation, because I know what it feels like.”
Love Is Blind is streaming now on Netflix.
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