Warning: This post contains spoilers for "The Ultimatum.
As surprised as you might have been by Nathan Ruggles’ proposal on episode three of Netflix's new dating show “The Ultimatum,” Lauren Pounds was even more surprised.
“It was super unexpected,” Lauren told TODAY in an interview. “I had told him not to. I was like, ‘Don’t do that. You’re going to get in trouble. People are going to be mad at you.’”
Looking back, though, Lauren said she should have seen the proposal coming. “Nathan does what Nathan wants to do anyway,” she said.
Lauren and Nathan were one of six Austin-based couples who agreed to go on "The Ultimatum," a dating show from the same creators of "Love Is Blind," to work through a relationship crossroads.
With one person ready for marriage and the other not, the "experiment" is intended to help the couples speed up their decision.
Each of the couples has their own quandaries. Lauren and Nathan specifically come on the show because they are struggling to agree on “the kid thing,” as Nathan puts it in the first episode. Simply put, Nathan wants to have children and Lauren does not. Nathan poses the ultimatum to Lauren.
As part of the experiment, the couple is to break up and spend three weeks living with another person, then return to their original partner for another three weeks.
While selecting someone for a trial marriage, Nathan breaks from the script — as does Hunter Parr, who proposes to his girlfriend, Alexis Maloney.
The show presents one version of events. In the lead-up to Nathan's surprise proposal, Colby picks Lauren for a trial marriage, and Nathan reacts protectively. "I'm listening to Colby choose Lauren, and it's stressing me out ... I don't trust Colby," he says to the camera.
Meanwhile, Nathan's own prospects seem to be winnowing. Shanique Imari, with whom he had a connection, chooses Zay Wilson. After, Nathan mouths to Madlyn Ballatori — who already picked Randall Griffin — he is going to choose her.
Then, to everyone's surprise (just look at their faces!), Nathan proposes to Lauren. "I learned through this that I don't have a family without you. As long as I spend the rest of my life with you, that's what I want," Nathan says. Lauren tearfully responds in the affirmative. "Yes, please," she says.
The proposal seems to come out of nowhere — but Lauren provided TODAY with context not seen in the show. Nathan had mentioned his plan to propose before, after Lauren texted him with her struggles on the show.
"I told him how depressed I was. I was crying and not able to sleep, and was regretting coming on. He was like, 'I'm just gonna propose to you, and let's just ride off into the sunset. And let's figure everything out.'"
Fearing Nathan would "ruin the show" and anger producers if he proposed, Lauren discouraged him from going down on one knee. She was shocked when he did.
"I was expecting him to choose Madelyn or April. When he like stood up and started walking towards me. I was like, 'Oh my God. Is he really doing this right now?'" Lauren said, calling the proposal an "out of body experience."
The couple’s brief moment of happiness ignites backlash from cast members, who consider Nathan's proposal disingenuous. A week of the experiment, they say, is not enough time to work through their problems.
But when Lauren saw Nathan crying, she knew his words were genuine.
"Nathan does not cry. I have only seen him cry two times in his entire life. So I started crying. And so I was like, 'Oh, he really means this,''" Lauren said. "In that moment, it felt really nice."
"What came after it did not feel very nice because we got a lot of backlash for it. But I tried to hold on to those few moments where he was on his knee and I just felt really happy. That's all that matters, I guess," Lauren said.
"But I tried to hold on to those few moments where he was on his knee and I just felt really happy."
Ahead of the show, Lauren knew that the same backlash to the proposal might occur when "The Ultimatum" dropped on April 6 — but on a much larger scale. Based on tweets, which pick apart the proposal's genuineness and predict doom for the couple, all while throwing in a few red flag emojis, Lauren's suspicions were correct.
While Lauren says she doesn't watch much much reality TV, she's aware of the villain edit, and that Nathan could be labeled the show's villain.
She defends his actions. "He's not a villain. And I hope people don't try to turn him into one because he certainly is not," Lauren said.
And she urges viewers to watch with empathy.
"The way that it looked is obviously not good. It's easy to say, 'He's just a mess and he can't make up his mind ... But Nathan's a good person, and he has good intentions. In that moment, he was just like, What do I do?"
After all, Lauren felt the same ambiguity while sitting at that table. "He was feeling what I was feeling. I resonated with that sheer panic. Who am I going to choose?"
The only difference? Lauren got to say yes. To find out what happens to Lauren, Nathan, and the other couples, tune in to "The Ultimatum's" finale on April 13.