Last night’s Catfish proved that, yet again, we haven’t seen it all. In this episode, which aired right before the VMAs, Nev and Max meet Artis, a young father of three who’s been in an online relationship with “Jess” for the past five months. Artis, however, is in a “real life” relationship as well—with the mother of his children and they live together.
From the get go, Nev and Max make it clear to Artis that they don’t want to be part of the “sneaking around”—essentially, he has to break it off with his current girlfriend before they will help him meet Jess. Artis complies and the detective duo begins their work.
Usually when Nev and Max begin their digging through the potential catfish’s Facebook page, they are alerted to certain red flags—for example, a small number of Facebook friends or photos that haven’t been updated in months—which I’m always surprised the pursuer didn’t find himself. But out of all the young hopefuls that have called in Nev and Max for help, Artis really takes the cake for not being able to read the signs.
Jess has one Facebook picture (have you ever met anyone with only one Facebook picture?) which she blames on an overprotective boyfriend (yet the one picture she has is highly suggestive). Beyond the usual catfish’s excuse of not being able to Skype, Artis has never even heard Jess’s voice on the phone. And somehow Artis overlooked a comment on one of Jess’s statuses by someone from her alleged hometown, which says: I don’t believe that you are real.
Sure enough, Nev and Max find that Jess’s photo was pulled from a porn website, but Artis still wants to meet the person he’s been talking to for months, even though everyone’s sure that Jess isn’t the person in the photographs. The team contacts Jess and all parties agree to meet at the park.
Enter Justin who swerves into the parking lot and storms over to Artis, awkwardly and angrily clapping in his face. We soon learn that Justin is Jess, but what takes the next twenty minutes to figure out, is why.
After diffusing an apparent attempted physical altercation, Nev is able to sit Justin down and begin to piece together an explanation. Justin claims to be on a crusade to punish men who cheat on their significant others, the same way previous men have mistreated the girl he is currently with. Although Artis is the target he’s been most involved with, he admits to having lured multiple men to movie theater or dinner dates to meet “Jess” who then stands them up, avenging the women they are cheating on.
The whole confrontation is very confusing, but more than anything, it’s awkward. Justin admits to being “a little nuts right now.” He swings back and forth between wide eyed anger spurts and calmer moments, eventually interrupting the conversation with “why don’t we take five, I need a drink,” which is followed by him passionately sucking down a Corona.
It’s clear that Justin has had a very difficult past. He recalls being homeless at one point, and finding his father’s dead body. But it’s hard not to wonder if there’s some other force at play in Justin’s psyche—the episode is appropriately titled “A Cry for Help”—that Nev and Max seem to have barely scratched the surface of.
Justin soon becomes dismissive, answering many of Nev’s questions with “who cares,” and the duo decides it’s time to call it a wrap. As much as I love a good Catfish plot twist, this episode was clouded with confusion, and leaves the viewer feeling utterly unsatisfied. Here’s to hoping Justin organizes his thoughts before the reunion.
Written by: Talia Rebecca Ergas