Fans have been incredibly frustrated by Mike and Natalie’s story this season.
Both members of this toxic engagement, if you can even call it that, have been the “bad guy.”
But with Mike’s admission about not loving Natalie like he used to and withholding the ring, what’s his game?
Some fans think that this was never about love … and always about money.
Before we discuss this theory circulating among fans, we want to note two things.
First, that no one questions that Mike and Natalie’s relationship began with genuine interest.
Second, that there is absolutely precedent in 90 Day Fiance for returning stars just wanting more TV time.
Okay, so their previous season showed Natalie Mordovtseva throwing back Mike Youngquist’s ring.
It could have been worse, sure — she threw it into his suitcase, not into the storm drain.
But that seemed very final to a lot of fans … only to see them trying it again in Season 8.
In fact, even before their reunion on Season 8 (though Natalie did bring it up, absurdly, on Episode 11), they had another issue.
Natalie called Mike after he slept over at his lifelong friend’s house … and accused him of cheating with that friend.
Common sense says that Mike wouldn’t have slept on the couch or answered the phone nonchalantly if he had, but Natalie was so sure.
So, this season started off sweetly enough — with a heartwarming airport reunion.
Mike and Natalie were overjoyed to see each other, and Mike reserved a super-nice hotel room for her first night there.
They boned that night, and Natalie was positively glowing the next day as she bashfully praised their evening together.
But Mike’s remote house in the middle of nowhere in Sequim, Washington was another story.
Natalie, a city girl afraid of the woods and this tiny, cold, isolated house, likened the experience of arriving to being like a “horror movie.”
She would go on to spend weeks and weeks at this house, spending most of each week alone with the cat while Mike worked and commuted.
Natalie’s obvious neuroticism made her an easy “villain” for their storyline.
By her own admission, she was “unsure and unsecure,” as she put it.
Searching the house high and low for the ring invited a number of unflattering Gollum comparisons.
Worst of all, of course, were her direct attacks and controlling behavior towards Mike.
She insulted his weight, his diet, his IQ, his level of “culture,” and called him “low class” repeatedly.
There is no excuse for that … particularly with someone whom you claim to love.
However, throughout all of this — including demands that he eat differently and baseless cheating accusations — there was Mike.
Mike, who showed apparent disinterest in planning their actual wedding, who only agreed to a date when his mom was in town.
Mike, who brought Natalie over on the K-1 visa with no clear plan and an apparent lack of desire.
Mike, who did not return Natalie’s engagement ring.
Mike, who eventually admitted he didn’t love her like he used to.
Viewers have also noticed Mike sighing and rolling his eyes when Natalie speaks … even if it’s urgent.
So why in the world did he bring her here?
Was he really this bad at planning? Because, for the record, that is not unrealistic.
Others think that it’s less about communication issues … and more about commerce.
Mike is in debt, but not by accident.
On their first season, Mike spoke about his intention to buy an old family property from his father.
That sprawling expanse of land in Sequip put him $30,000 in debt.
Reports estimate that Mike takes in about $40,000 per year.
That might be just enough for him to sponsor Natalie for the K-1 visa process (which alone costs about $2,000).
But it’s not enough for him to just pay off $30,000 overnight, given the expense of living.
So, fans have been speculating that Mike didn’t bring over Natalie with the intention of marrying her.
Instead, they think that perhaps he figured that he’d spend a few thousand as an investment.
That way, he’d get reality TV money and, more significantly, the financial opportunities that follow.
Here’s the thing: 90 Day Fiance pays its stars such small amounts that it’s hard to imagine anyone being in it just for the paycheck.
$1,000 or maybe as much as $1,500 per episode for returning couples isn’t that much divided between two people.
Having that income for a few months can give someone enough money for a car, maybe, but it’s not life-changing reality TV cash.
Mike also hasn’t been seen making any of the major moves that other reality stars do when they’re eager for cash.
If you look at his Instagram, Mike doesn’t have a single link — not to a GoFundMe, not to Cameo, and also not to OnlyFans.
We almost feel like Mike is wasting an opportunity, here, but it’s his life. If he doesn’t want to do Cameos, that’s his choice.
So the whole “drag things along with Natalie so that he can pay off his debts with reality TV money then send her home” theory falls apart.
It also falls apart because it has been widely reported that they appear to be married.
Unless someone posted a fake wedding announcement in Sequim last spring, these two made it down the aisle. No scamming, just regular communication problems.