Independent Lens


Joni Plays the Field | Blind Love ep. 6

The build-up to his first date with a girl from his church had him nervous about everything, but after they go out, Mario can’t believe his luck; she seems like everything and more. Meanwhile, Joni goes back and forth on her feelings for a doting James and tests his resolve by playing the field as she continues the dance of romance.

AIRED: February 19, 2020 | 0:08:43

(upbeat music) - My family!

Oh my God, it was horrible.

Like, they all totally loved him.

And then it didn't work out.

Kim is gonna say goodbye to you too.

- How you doin'?

- I'm doing well.

Goodbye, Mario.

- Oh my God.

(laughs) I feel like a schoolboy.

(funk music)

- [Loflin] What you gettin' done?

- [Mario] I have a date, and I'm tryin' to look good.

- The date part was gonna be easy, but the lookin' good.


I got a job cut out.

- You a damn liar.

- [Loflin] All right, let's get started.

(playful music)

- [Mario] There's this chick at the church I go to, right?

- [Loflin] Okay.

- [Mario] She's really interested.

- [Loflin] What you gonna do? - I'm here, aren't I?

(both laugh)

- [Loflin] So what do you think about her?

(razor whirs) - She's really skinny.

She's taller than me.

But she seems to have a sense of humor.

But you know, I've seen her in choir rehearsal a few times

and she laughs at everything I say.

- 'Cause she's smitten by you right now.

You know, whenever somebody want their prey,

they set their trap.

So everything will be funny, 'cause she gets you.

- Oh lord.

You make her sound like Annie Wilkes.

(all laugh)

- Hello?


- [Both Kids] Joni!

- [Joni] My older sister Jamie is married

and she's got two kiddos.

17 and 14.

- You wanna come have coffee?

- Yeah, let's.

We both have retinitis pigmentosa

so it's hereditary and it's also degenerative.

We both started with vision.

We both lost it over time. (gentle music)

- [Girl] What happened to James?

- We still hang out, you know and stuff. He's cool.

- Does he dance? - That is the cool thing.

Like he did learn how to dance for me.

Which I think is super impressive.

And he's not even a bad dancer.

- He really likes you.

- Hm, I'd say.

- Mm-hmm

- That's the kinda stuff dad would do.

- Oh my God.

Do you guys know how they met?

- Dad stalked her.

(all laugh)

- He liked me and I didn't really like him.

And then grandpa gave him my number

when I was tryin' to lose him.

- So it's dad's fault. - [Jamie] So it's dad's fault.

- Huh. - [Jamie] Yeah.

- Well at least you two are cool.

- Y'all you have grandpa to thank.

- Yeah.

- Me and Wayne didn't even date.

Like how you gonna date somebody when they live

across the country?

- Well then how did you know that you wanted to marry him?

- I have no idea.

(laughs) - Mom?

- He was like, "I'm gonna marry you."

And I'm like, "he's not gonna marry me

"and I'm not gonna marry him."

So I told him, "If you want me to marry you,

"you have to buy me a ring right now."

And he did!

And I was like, "Oops."

- Persistence is what it's all about, right.

- I guess so.

- I think James is kind of in that same boat.

- [Jamie] Uh-huh.

- So Jamie and I, we're very similar in a lot of ways.

- Well, mom got with dad.

Does that mean you're gonna get with James?

(all laugh)

- But in a lot of ways we're very different, so

I'm the one that's always late.

She's always on time.

James and I have been friends for a while and stuff, so

I don't know.

I guess it's probably

the most, like

Like there's a lot of obligation that comes along with it.

Like I'd have to tell him where I'm going

and, you know, take his feelings into consideration

and stuff, but

I don't know if I'm ready for all of that responsibility.

- You wanna be free.

- I do wanna be free!

See, she totally gets me.

- I kinda feel like you can never really be ready.

Like it's just something you do and it's kind of weird.

- What if I'm all like, "No, sorry.

"I don't want you right now"

and then I'm thinking I might find somebody later.

But then I don't find somebody as nice as him.

You know? 'Cause he does treat me really well.

- You can just be like, "We're just dating."

- Yeah, I guess so.

- Be like we just go on dates.

We hang out and go dancing.

You have to have things to relate to each other,

so dance.

- Yeah, y'all have dance.

(girls laugh)

- Huh.

(upbeat music)

- [Mario] This is my first date with this girl

from my church named Kim.

- [Driver] Oh nice.

- I don't know, she made the first move, so

She might be on the prowl for a husband

which, you know, I'm on the prowl for a wife!

(both laugh)

(tense music)

- I'm not sure where James and I are going at this point.

Or again, what I want out of a relationship.

(digital voice mumbling)

I guess I feel like if he's the right one, you know,

maybe the attraction to somebody else might not be there.

- [Man] Hi, Joni?

- Hey, yeah!

- Hi, I'm Nicholas, how's it going?

- Hey, I'm good, how are you?

- I'm good, how are you? - Oh!

Good, good. - Coming for a hug

I don't know. (laughs)

- Oh, yeah, no problem.

- I guess I should, like, tell you what I'm doing.

(laughs) - Oh no, no I like hugs.

It's all good, yeah.

Nick is a dancer at my studio. - Sorry, I'm not really sure

what I should be doing or not doing.

- [Joni] Oh, no problem. I will let you know.

- Yeah, please.

- If anything I'll grab your arm or something.

An instructor there thought we might, you know,

have a few things in common.

So here we go!

(upbeat music) Hello.

Can I get like a vanilla latte?

- For here?

- Yes! - Okay!

- [Nick] An Earl Gray

- Earl Gray?

- With almond milk. - [Barista] Yes!

- Some ways I feel a little bit of guilt (laughs).

- [Nick] Door's comin' up, and there's a step down.

- Thank you!

Because I know James wants this to happen between us.

I don't want him to feel

To feel bad.

- (upbeat music)

- [Phone] (inaudible) slightly smiley face

- I have insecurities

about how people perceive my disability.

(phone speaking quickly)

- Mario!

- Who?

- I'm right here.

Hi darlin' how are you?

- I'm glad you did it carefully

(Kim laughs)

'cause I have been known to accidentally punch people!

- Thank God you didn't punch me.

- Yeah 'cause you woulda punched back! (both laugh)

But then Kim has known since the beginning of time

that I'm blind because she's seen me run into stuff

in the church.

So the blind person is always

Well this blind person.

Don't go find another blind person.

- I will not. - Stick with this one,

you understand? - Okay.

- So the blind person (both laugh)

is always a step behind you like this, right?

- Okay.

- And you just kinda, you know, look out for both of us.

If there's a change in elevation, you say like, "step up"

- Okay.

or "step down." - Okay.

- She's interested in me

and she knows I have a bunch of kids.

And it was never an issue.

- I think I got this!

- Pretty simple. - I may be good at this.

- Yeah - Yeah

- Whoa!

- Stop doing that, okay?

You can not do that to me?

(both laugh)

- I've got this really special experience planned for her

and I hope she's not afraid of heights.

- [Kim] Oh my goodness!

Oh my goodness! (both laugh)


We're turnin'

We're goin' this way.

Duck your head and step up.

- There we go, Kim.

Protectin' my head, good job, sweetheart.

(light music)

Gotta let me get used to the motion first.

- Oh my goodness!

Oh my goodness!

It's so pretty!

- Okay, good.

- This is gorgeous, Mario!

- And you're not even up at the top, baby.

- Oh my goodness the sunset is gorgeous.

I'm losing it.

Oh god.

This is high.

We are high.

Mario you did good!

- See?

(both laugh)

- You did good!

- And you in the V.I.P. (both laugh)

- So with your blindness,

do you think make more assumptions about people?

Like based on somebody's name or somebody's voice

on the radio, you're like, oh it's probably

- Like a tall white guy. - Tall white guy.

- Yeah that makes sense.

- Or you know a big black guy.

- You develop pictures and ideas of what they look like

based on your interactions with them.

Like I had an idea of what you looked like, you know,

in my head, like based on your voice.

So I got you're kind of tall. - Right.

- You have like thick dark hair, maybe.

- I mean yeah, I'm bald now. - Oh!

(both laugh)

I was close but not close. (laughs)

I'm like, "oh this guy's totally clean-shaven"

and then I find out oh no, he's got a big old beard!

(laughs) And then I'll be like, "Can I feel your beard?"

I mean, not like creepy feel.

'Cause honestly the whole blind people

touching people's faces. I mean, that's not true.

- That's not true? - [Joni] No that's not true

- Oh it's just something TV made up?

- Yes, exactly (laughs)

Or sometimes I Facebook stalk people, I'm not gonna lie.


Sometimes I do that.

- Okay.

- So I think the date went really well with Nick.

I think it was fun.

So can I add you on Facebook? (laughs)

- Well

(both laugh)

Joni was fun.

Had a good time chatting with her.

- We'll be seeing each other at the studio.

I'm sure we'll dance a little bit more.

Especially now that we know each other a little bit better.

- I think I would be open to dating somebody

who is blind long term.

At least I don't want to say no.

It feels wrong to say no.

- I love your spirit.

Especially when I first saw you in church and stuff.

I was like, "That is what I can surround myself with."

- That's humbling to me.

I can totally see me talking to you for six hours

(both laugh)

on the phone and be totally enjoying myself.

- Well I am in great company.

- Yes (both laugh)

- It was the perfect first date.

The best first date that I've probably ever had.

So yes, he did really really good.




- [Mario] There is chemistry galore.

It is like hanging out with a person

that I've known for years.

- Their crab cakes are enormous!

- I felt so relieved.

She jumped right in.

In how to communicate with a blind person.

It was fantastic.

- And they have really good tartar sauce.

- I'm used to gettin' two of those huge crab cakes

that are 90% crab meat.


- What's that saying?

A way to a man's heart?

Oh no, that's for a man.

- It works perfectly fine for a woman.

If you learn how to cook, you'll win a woman's heart.

- I listen to mostly heavy metal.

- Oh metal!

- Like Metallica, Disturbed,

all that - Very good.



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