In 2015, Meri Brown revealed that she'd entered into an online relationship with someone she thought was a man — but who was actually a woman
The Brown family is back — and old wounds are being reopened.
In PEOPLE’s exclusive sneak peek at Sunday’s season 8 premiere of Sister Wives, Meri Brown revisits her catfish experience by inviting new friend Kristie, who was a victim of the same catfish, to meet the family and better understand what they’ve all been through.
As Kristie’s story goes, in November 2014, she and her ex-husband separated and she found herself feeling lonely when he had the kids. About a month later, she went online and “found Sam.”
“He was gorgeous,” she tells Kody and his wives Meri, Robyn, Christine and Jenelle during a sit-down dinner. “This vegan, tall — I was like, how is this guy talking to me? You get kind of drawn into this, especially when you’re lonely.”
Five days in, Sam started telling Kristie he loved her and wanted to be with her.
“I mean, I felt like I was in love with him,” Kristie says. “For sure. The thing is that he knows how to become what you want. The first time we talked, he asked me what were the 10 qualities that I look for in a man and he became those 10 things. Not because that’s who he is, but because he was molding himself into what I wanted.”
For months, Kristie says she attempted to meet Sam, but it never happened.
“There was always an excuse and we would never meet,” she says. “So I would continuously start questioning him and he would say, ‘Fine. Do you want a picture in a yellow shirt or a pink shirt?’ And I’d be like, ‘A yellow shirt.’ And then he’d send me a picture of him in a yellow shirt. It wasn’t me asking for a specific thing, it was a collage that he had and he would say, ‘Okay, I have a yellow shirt and a pink shirt.’ “
“And then it would in my mind trick me into thinking, ‘He put on this yellow shirt for me and took this picture,’ ” she continues. “That’s part of the manipulation.”
As her relationship with Sam continued without ever meeting him, he revealed his best friend, “Jackson Walker,” had just had open heart surgery and had no one to take cake of her.
“I definitely had strong feelings for him and I thought he had strong feelings for me,” Kristie admits. “He wanted her to come and stay with me, he wanted me to physically take care of her because she just had surgery. She basically lived with me for two weeks.”
Later, Meri reveals that her experience was eerily similar.
“She catfished us all with this male character named Sam,” Meri says. “Sam always had a very strong female character, but that person, her name was different. It was Jackson with Kristie, but it was Lindsay with me.”
“It’s like, what is the motivation?” Meri wonders. “Why does she do this? I mean, is she just evil? Is she lonely? I don’t know.”
In 2015, Meri revealed that she’d been catfished after entering into an online relationship with someone she thought was a man — but who actually turned out to be a woman.
In an effort to repair their relationship, Kody and Meri entered therapy to deal with the emotional fallout from the scandal.
Sister Wives season 8 premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on TLC, followed by the season 2 premiere of Seeking Sister Wife, which explores the unfamiliar world of polygamous courtship, at 10 p.m.
The new 13-episode season of Seeking Sister Wife features two familiar families from last season and two new ones.