‘Love Is Blind’ Villain Jessica Batten Would Like a Word
Yes, she regrets giving her dog wine. And yes, her feelings for Barnett got in the way of her connection with Mark. But there are two sides to every story.
As Jessica Batten and I prepared to discuss the utter insanity that was Love Is Blind’s finale episode—in which she and four other women walked down the aisle to face grooms they’d only met weeks before—she had a supportive friend by her side: Payton, her golden retriever, whose appearance on the show made major waves. Viewers were concerned for the pup after they saw Jessica sharing a glass of red wine with her, murmuring, “She loves wine.” When I bring up the moment during our phone interview, Jessica’s response is immediate: “Oh my gosh.”
“I feel terrible about this because I know people were really concerned about her, and I love this dog more than anything in the entire world,” Jessica said. “I would never, ever want to give her something that would be dangerous for her, so I’m actually—I'm mortified that I did that. Not a good move.” She does not, for the record, normally share her drinks with the pooch. “She's not my drinking buddy.”
But Payton’s potential alcohol problem was just one of many things about Jessica that Love Is Blind viewers have gossiped about since the show first premiered. She became the show’s de facto villain early on, largely thanks to a love triangle involving her fiancé Mark Cuevas and another contestant, Matthew Barnett, with whom she’d also formed a connection.
To be fair, Love Is Blind feels designed to create conflicts like these; 30 singles enter soundproof “pods” and chat with one another on the phone to determine if any seem marriageable. But once Jessica got engaged to Mark, and Barnett proposed to contestant Amber Pike, Jessica clearly had a hard time getting over her old flame. It also didn’t help that once she and Mark met in person, she visibly struggled to connect with him physically—but stuck with him all the way to the end, dumping him only once they’d reached the altar.
That’s just a brief summary, and Jessica herself will be the first to admit there were some seriously “cringeworthy” moments along the way. But it’s also crucial to remember that this is a highly produced reality show; we didn’t get to see everything that went down between these couples, and inevitably there are things we will miss. And Jessica is not wild about her edit.
“I feel like it's a bit of a one-dimensional villain-type character,” she said. “There’s definitely two sides to every story, and there are other dimensions to me that I felt like didn't come through at all... But you know, somebody’s got to play the part. And I obviously was in a unique position that I had two connections.”
“I’m perfectly honest I wasn’t super happy with it,” she added of how her edit came out, “but I’m trying to have fun with it... People poking fun at me and things like that, I'm trying to be a good sport about that. It’s not the end of the world.”
Looking back on her experience, Jessica does seem to be taking everything in stride. She’s been laughing at the Office memes that poke fun of her “Regional Manager” title; she is, she confirmed, a big Office fan. And she’s received a lot of supportive messages in recent days, especially after viewers saw her share her painful story about her father leaving her mother when she was pregnant with her.
But there are some things Jessica would like to clarify. First, there’s her relationship with Mark, which she said was actually very sweet—sweeter than it comes across on the show, anyway. She supported his career, and says the two would often stay up late talking about his career aspirations, and how she might help him reach them. And no, she insists that it’s not that she found Mark unattractive. “There’s no bad-looking guys on the show, and Mark certainly is not a bad-looking guy at all,” she said. “That really wasn’t it.”
“I know this is about physical attraction and it’s very black and white, but for me there’s a major attraction in just everyday life and being able to, you know, have really good conversations,” Jessica said. “And that was lacking big-time for me.”
The disconnect became obvious almost immediately when they landed in Mexico. In the pods, Jessica said, contestants only spoke for around 15 minutes at a time—“and you’re both on.” Once she and Mark started having real conversations, the reality of their age gap sank in even further. Watching the show, it can sure seem as though Jessica is using the age gap as an excuse not to be with Mark—so much so that her obsession with the difference has become a meme in its own right.
But when asked why this was such a huge deal to her, Jessica stood by the assertion. It’s not just about the 10-year age gap, she said, but about the specific gap between being 24 and 34: “I want somebody that I can grow old with and resonate with. You know? I'm gonna be planning my retirement sometime in the next 10 years, [and] he's just getting started. ... It’s two different places in life, and it hit me really hard.”
“Everything in me was just saying, ‘You got in way over your head,’” she added.
OK, sure. But then, why wait so long to break things off? Jessica said she believed in the experiment and wanted to remain open to it. She has no regrets about sticking with things until the bitter end because she was honest with Mark every step of the way. “I'm not gonna lie, there were times that I wanted to give up,” she said, adding later, “But I wanted to—for him, for me, for the show—I wanted to stay open to it because I was already learning so much about myself.”
But then there’s the Barnett of it all. Jessica’s connection with the house’s bro-iest bro started out mostly platonic, she said; they were friends who shot the breeze about sports and whatnot until one pivotal late-night pod date. (Late-night dates, she said, are a completely different ballgame from daytime dates: You’re laid back. You’re in sweats. You’re drinking wine.) During one of those dates, late in the process, she said, something clicked with Barnett and they discussed potentially getting married. Barnett later changed his mind—and going forward, as we saw, Jessica really struggled to shake it. “Once I had feelings for him, it was kind of consuming my mind,” she admits.
Now just imagine taking those feelings, packing them in a suitcase, and flying to Mexico to hang out with your fiancé, your ex, and his new fiancée—just days after you and your ex talked about getting married. Do that, and you might start to understand why Jessica did some things she’s a little embarrassed about now.
“I was super uncomfortable, obviously, and did some things that were cringeworthy, and you know, I have some regrets there,” Jessica said. As for that awkward conversation with Barnett at his birthday, where it sure seemed like she was flirting with him and trying to break him and make him question his relationship with Amber? “The conversation I had with him is more concern from a friend almost,” she insisted. “Just because we had such a deep connection. You don't just lose that overnight. So I think that's what it was.”
“I mean, I definitely knew that he and I would not have worked together,” Jessica added. “Seeing how his personality was with me versus with Amber... obviously he's more comfortable, you know—” She trailed off, pausing for just a moment before concluding, “... like that.”
So, what’s the takeaway from Jessica’s journey through this batty experiment? It seems ironic that the show’s title, Love Is Blind, frames the show’s hypothesis as a foregone conclusion; it sure leaves little room for people like Jessica, who found that for her, that’s simply not the case. “My experience wasn't the popular experience,” she said. “I think the viewers just want to fall in love with love in this capacity. And unfortunately it didn't work for me like it worked for others. But the biggest struggle was I was really truthful and honest. I don't think I get much credit for that.”