“This is the kind of loser that gives our show a bad name,” Max Joseph indignantly proclaims before storming off-camera in the most recent episode of Catfish. So yeah, this one was a doozy.
This season, Nev Schulman and his camera-claw buddy Max have encountered lying family members, talented schemers and scorned celebs, but they were still shocked by the web of lies they unraveled this time. The saga starts with John, a city boy born and raised in South Detroit, also known as Dearborn, Michigan. John comes to our Catfish connoisseurs with the usual tale of finding love online and wanting verification that this paramour is the real deal.
Once again, the guys dive in to find the truth – but we don’t know if you’re ready for this jelly. Read on to see what they discovered; don’t worry, we did most of the detective work for you. Check out the “three red flags” that led to “the big reveal,” and “the silver lining” that followed. Let’s get fishing, shall we?
The Catfishee: John, a sensitive and smart 27-year-old who thinks he found the girl of his dreams in an online chatroom and now wants to start anew with her in San Diego.
The Catfish: Kelsey, a cute, brainy brunette living in Florida who has captured John’s heart, but refuses to meet face-to-face because of her body dysmorphic disorder.
Three Red Flags
Now, John has an advantage compared to many of the people Catfish-ed before him. He works in IT. With a natural talent for the ways of the Web, Nev and Max assume John has done a little digging on Kelsey since the pair started their relationship several months ago in an online chatroom. But John has refrained. Even though Kelsey refuses to video chat or share personal details, this Michigan man has decided to respect her privacy and not snoop for the truth. “He must really be in love with this girl, in order to basically overlook all these red flags,” Max told Nev before setting in on their dirty work. Here are some of the warning signs Max was talking about.
1. Kelsey has no other online accounts. John attributes this lack of online presence to Kelsey’s low self-esteem and her attempts to cope with her body dysmorphic disorder, but Nev and Max remain suspicious. It’s hard for them to believe that a girl active in Internet chatrooms wouldn’t have some other type of online profile. This also makes it hard for the guys to get any extra information about Kelsey, like, her last name, for example.
2. John has only heard Kelsey’s voice once. This one snippet was enough to hook John to the sweet-sounding Kelsey, but he has been unable to get her on the phone since. For Nev and Max, having a catfish who won’t video chat is the norm, but one who won’t even talk on the phone is rare – and sketchy. There are just too many ways to deceive others when you give such a minuscule amount of information.
3. Kelsey refuses to phone or video chat others in the group. Desperate for more info, Nev shoots out a message to the other members of the psychology chatroom where John and Kelsey connected. Others, including a girl in the Faroe Islands named Ellie, say that Kelsey is a good friend and a great listener, but is resolute on her rule about never talking on the phone. Ellie also reveals that she has her own Catfish situation, having formed a relationship with another chatroom member named Adam, who also refuses to reveal his full identity. That’s two for the price of one!
The Big Reveal
Gathering up what details they can, Nev and Max finally decide to message Kelsey directly. To their surprise, she agrees to meet with John at her house in Orlando the next day. The guys fly down and arrive at the arranged meeting spot, only to find an abandoned lot. After checking in with Kelsey, she says that she was testing them and invites them to a cafe nearby to truly meet. The group goes to the new address and finds an online casino/business center. There, they meet the person claiming to be Kelsey, a young man named Adam. The same Adam that is part of John’s chat group and Ellie’s Internet boyfriend.
John is obviously devastated that someone he considers a friend would go this far to manipulate him, but he keeps his cool. Nev and Max, on the other hand, do not – they immediately start hurling questions at Adam about his deception and calling him a “villain.” Adam’s only defense is that his catfishing of John and 30 to 40 others is just a way to pass the time with no “deeper meaning.” He just takes photos from high school classmates and creates fake identities to use to become “King of the Catfishes.” The group leave behind a grinning Adam, then call Ellie and fill her in on her boyfriend’s tricks. She is bewildered and asks for time to process.
The next day, Adam contacts the Catfish crew to talk again and truly lay all his intentions out on the table. Gathered once more, Adam admits he created the Kelsey account to distract John from going after Ellie. Adam also used Kelsey as a way to talk to Ellie and learn information to use later in his real conversations with her. Basically, Kelsey was a tool Adam created to get the girl. But now it’s time for Adam to face the monster he created. Nev and Max pull up Ellie on video chat and force Adam to confront her face-to-face for the first time and own up. Most awkward first date ever?
The Silver Lining
Out of all the folks to hook a catfish, John truly triumphs above the rest. He uses this opportunity to improve himself and his catfish, explaining to Adam that he is a smart guy, so why not channel this effort and brainpower into something beneficial? It seems like the message got through, because upon a check-in two months later, Adam has moved to Los Angeles and is focused on writing. The Catfish confrontation also forced him to be honest about his feelings for Ellie, allowing their relationship to grow from a newfound place of truth.
But what about our Prince Charming? As John put it, “I don’t have any distractions now.” Free of the alluring alias of Kelsey, John has forgiven Adam and continues to be active in the psychology chatroom. Plus, John now has a true blue lady friend in Illinois. When Nev and Max check in, John is the midst of a real-life blissful visit with his girl, looking happier than ever. Now that’s progress!
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