A lot of drama went down on this week's episode of 90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?
With so much happening on Episode 9, many viewers missed what was right in front of them.
Others did not, however, but they almost wish that they had.
Why is Mike Youngquist displaying one of the most notorious racist symbols in the world? And why did TLC censor it?
Before we talk about the racist white elephant in the room, let's set the context.
A week after returning from a nightmarish Thanksgiving visit to see Trish in Oklahoma, Natalie introduced viewers to their pet rat.
Natalie rescued Lucky from being sold as snake food. Some fans are being weird about it, but it's a normal pet.
A lot of people have their doubts about whether Trish actually called Natalie a disrespectful term for a sex worker.
However, the only one who seems to think that Trish wasn't actively rude and hostile towards Natalie ... is Mike.
A husband should care about his spouse and object when she is insulted, even if his mom is the one doing it.
The discussion made Mike uncomfortable, leading to him getting up, pacing in agitation, and growing increasingly irritated.
He simply wished to do what he always wants to do when there's conflict -- move past it without resolving or discussing anything.
While this alone is toxic, what was lurking in the background was much worse.
Multiple times during the conversation, the display shelves behind Natalie are visible.
One tall, cylindrical, and clearly red object is hard to make out at first glance.
That is because it is actively being censored with a blur effect, which is much clearer in this GIF:
You can get a better look at what's on display behind Natalie in this next, still image.
Natalie is from Ukraine. There is a decent chance that she doesn't know what the pattern represents.
But those of us who are from the United States can recognize the infamous "stars and bars" of the Confederate flag, blur or no blur.
We'll get into the symbol and why it was blurred in a moment.
For what it's worth, there is also a screenshot circulating among fans showing an unblurred version.
Whether this was a previous editing slipup that aired on Discovery Plus or simply a digital restoration, this is what it looks like:
Fans have collectively brainstormed all of the possible reasons that the candle might be there.
Maybe it's ... Uncle Beau's? Maybe Natalie thought it looked nice and Mike thought it was funny. Maybe it's somehow an heirloom.
It's unlikely that any of these desperate attempts at an explanation are true. Even if they were, they would not justify this.
Some fans have taken to social media to declare that they are "not surprised" that Mike would have something like this in his home.
Mike is a white man from rural Oklahoma who enjoys living out in the middle of nowhere, and that seems to be something of a family tradition.
But we have to remind everyone to avoid stereotypes. Being from the rural South does not make someone a racist douchecanoe.
The Confederate "stars and bars" was not actually the initial flag of the Confederacy, but but a second iteration.
At the time, it was a flag of treason against the United States, displayed by those rebelling against their country and fighting a bloody war to preserve slavery.
The transatlantic slave trade is one of the greatest atrocities in human history, and thousands fought, killed, and died to continue to enslave Black people.
It is an unfortunate (and deliberately engineered) failing of our educational system that so many try to make excuses for such a hateful symbol.
Yes, the flag is part of history -- a history of treason, slavery, and racism.
The only reason to display it outside of a museum or a textbook is to display a fondness for the long, sinister legacy of white supremacy.
Mike may not consider himself a white supremacist or a racist. We have no idea what he thinks.
He has yet to comment on why he is diplaying a Confederate symbol (which would be bad anywhere, but extra weird in Washington state).
But you don't have to consciously uphold white supremacist values to be racist. Fans are rightly disgusted.
Unfortunately, some are defending this, either out of ignorance at the hate symbol's meaning or out of malice.
The truth of the matter is that the Confederate flag is recognized internationally as a hate symbol.
In fact, in European nations where Nazi symbols are outlawed for obvious reasons, some white supremacists fly Confederate flags.
The reason for this is obvious: deep down, the core values behind the symbols are the same.
It would be interesting to hear what Mike might have to say, on social media or at the Tell All.
But it is difficult to imagine anything that could possibly excuse displaying something so vile.
As for why TLC decided to censor it ... well, it's pretty standard that slurs are censored alongside simple obscenities.
A hate symbol is worse than the words that fly out of Angela Deem's mouth on camera. Of course they blurred it out.
TLC might have preferred that Mike hide his ... whatever the opposite of a Yankee Candle is, but the blur was pretty standard.