What Mike from MAFS is really like
"I've got a bone to pick with you."
That was the first thing Mike from Married At First Sight said to me when I introduced myself at a Nova function in Sydney last night. And it only got worse from there.
Mike has arguably been this season's biggest villain. Sure, Ines and Sam and Jess and Dan outraged fans with sordid affairs, but Mike's season-long treatment of Heidi sparked outrage for months.
Mike has absolutely copped it in the media with commentators accusing him of gaslighting his TV wife, being a narcissist and, as Clementine Ford wrote, a "sleazy black hole".
I was keen to see if all of this was an act, a persona put on by a reality TV contestant hoping to carve out a career in the media after the show. So I accepted an invitation to attend Fitzy and Wippa's Married At First Sight Dinner Party to meet Mike and several other contestants.
Here's what happened.
After introducing myself as a news.com.au writer, Mike immediately began to vent about his unfavourable coverage in the media.
For every positive article that's been written about him (there must be at least one, surely?), there are at least 20 tearing him to shreds.
Not long into his vent, a MAFS publicist appeared out of nowhere and moved me away from Mike.
When the Nova event was underway, hosts Fitzy and Wippa asked the MAFS contestants some tough questions on stage.
The duo asked Mike, who is adamant he and Heidi are still together despite many reports to the contrary, why wasn't she with him at this event or any of his other media appearances this week?
Wheeling out the same line he's used many times before, Mike explained Heidi was a breakfast radio host who couldn't get out of her work commitments.
Mike was a less diplomatic when Billy, who was matched with Susie on MAFS, was asked who he wished he'd been paired with on the show.
"Heidi for sure," Billy said before taking a cheeky stab at Mike, "Show her what a man was."
Mike yelled out in response, "You can have her."
Yep, they're definitely still together.
As the evening wore on, I asked the MAFS publicists several times if I could get a sit-down chat with Mike. But they were hesitant.
He's "too busy mingling with fans", "too tired for an interview" and "isn't interested", they said.
At the end of the night, Mike swaggered up to me with a toothpick in his mouth and said, "Did we get off on the wrong foot earlier?"
"No," I replied. "I've been trying to chat to you all night, but I haven't been allowed."
"You haven't been allowed? By who?" he said.
I looked around at the three MAFS publicists who had rushed to our side as soon as they saw us chatting, all of whom had a look of dread on their faces.
One of the publicists spoke up, "OK, you can do the chat, but I'm going to be sitting right next to you two the whole time."
The three of us sat down on the couch. The mood was tense. Mike's answers were short. He was combative. He was everything I'd expected him to be.
Here's how it went.
What's it been like watching the show back?
It's been a mixture of elation and an emotional journey.
You feel like you've been portrayed accurately?
Sunday night's episode - what can you tell me about this confrontation? Did Martha go too far?
Strap in because you're in for a wild ride.
What's next for you after Married At First Sight?
I'm going to start a podcast.
Long-form discussions of issues that concern me and hopefully can benefit society in some way.
I'll be interviewing people.
You made headlines talking about toxic feminism. There was a lot of backlash. Do you still stand by those comments?
So you think that men get emasculated when they stand up …
Are you talking about something on the show that happened?
No. Society in general.
Yeah. I feel like there's this perception that men have to be congenial to distraction. There seems to be a shift in the consciousness in society where men are just expected to turn the other cheek ad nauseam.
There are reports that two days after filming your commitment ceremony that you and Heidi break up.
Those are inaccurate.
The time length.
Of the relationship ending.
We're still together.
OK. I heard your interview with Kyle and Jackie O where they called Heidi and it sounded a bit …
OK, well what evidence do you have to suggest that we're not together? She said we're together, and I said that we're together. What more do you need?
Some of your quotes, like when you said earlier at this dinner party, "Are we at Sunday night's episode yet?"
That's subjective. I think you're interpreting that wrongly. I'm just enjoying the moment.
What's been the reaction you've been getting out in the streets from punters?
Nothing but positive responses. The online presence though I'd say is probably 50/50. People either love me or they don't. I'm polarising. But I'll take that as a compliment.
Do you read much of the online feedback?
A little bit. I'm pretty thick-skinned. Every now and then something will find its way into my sensitivity. That's a shame but nobody's infallible.
I was chatting to Jess and she said after Monday night's episode where Dan finds out what happened with Nic, they split up for a couple of days. Do you feel like Dan and Jess's relationship …
I'm not interested in their relationship.
But you're friends with Jess, you were saying?
We've buried a hatchet, not only because we're both subject to criticism in the media and I think that it's worthwhile supporting your fellow castmates who are also going through the same journey. I don't think there's any benefit throwing shade on anyone else because there are no winners in that.
What's been the hardest thing for you about doing this reality show?
It's really tested my patience. But there's more benefits than negative takeaways in this. I've learned so much, and I'm so thankful for the experience.
What's tested your patience? The media coverage, the people involved?
I guess my relationship in itself. The circumstances we were put in. Long hours and a bit of stress thrown in there. An unusual situation, the pressure of the experiment. Yeah sure, I think that some media reporting of my story is unfair and inaccurate and paints me in an unfair light. When they don't know the full story they manufacture something out of fresh air. That's frustrating. I have no right of reply to that. In general, this was a great experience, and I've got nothing but good things to say.
And that's when I called an end to my tense encounter with Mike, the self-confessed thick-skinned reality contestant who is coming to a podcasting app near you.