Catfishing is a game, not a sport. As seen on last night’s Catfish, however, the rulebook goes out the window when you’re dealing with a sociopath.
Jen, an 18-year-old girl from Iowa met Skylar Hazen, a 22-year-old boy from San Francisco, on a gaming website. They clicked, embarking on a friendship that more than bordered on flirty. As is usually the case, he made up excuses when she wanted to video chat. On top of that, he had only shown her two photos of himself and claimed not to use Facebook. The relationship was not so serious that Jen felt she could push the issue, out of fear of alienating him. Pretty basic stuff, but as Nev and Max found out, there were some weird twists ahead.
As much as “Skylar Hazen” sounds like a stripper name, there is a person out there with this name. He’s never met Jen, though. Max and Nev found this out when the real Skylar Hazen, a Nebraska teen who also frequents gaming websites, called them directly. It’s worth noting that a person named “King Sleepy” was responsible for clearing up those theories quickly. He appeared to be a close friend of the real Skylar Hazen on Facebook, and after Nev and Max reached out to him, the whole story started unraveling. King Sleepy said something that suggested that the catfish had done his research and was emulating the real Skylar: Apparently Skylar had met his current girlfriend on a gaming website. Still, though, with only one Skylar Hazen on the web, how could a girl as seemingly smart and self-aware as Jen not find the real Skylar in a second? Oh, the power of delusion.
With nowhere left to turn, Nev and Max simply called Skylar and laid the whole thing out. It was time to meet Jen IRL. In a truly “this guy” move, Skylar proceeded to question Nev’s identity (“How do I know it’s actually Nev from Catfish?”). Then the excuses: I have finals, this is the worst time ever, she knows how I feel about her, I can decide when I want to meet her. Tip of the iceberg in terms of the selfishness of this guy, but the next day he had changed his mind and wanted to meet her. So they trekked out to SF and of course he wasn’t who he said he was, and he claimed to not even have feelings for Jen, one of the sweetest, mature-beyond-her-years catfishees the show has ever seen. She’s sort of the Everygirl of web-based romance: outsider at school, not the most confident about her looks, entrenched in Internet culture, connects better with someone there who can see her beauty inside and out. The dude who was catfishing her, however, is the biggest asshole the show has ever seen. His utter lack of remorse was throw-shit-at-your-TV levels of infuriating.
When Skylar (real name: Bryan) came out to meet Jen, he quickly established that he’s catfishing many girls. His reason for the con is some next-level shit that makes so little sense, it’s worth wondering if some pickup artist douchebag advised him: “I wanted to brush up my game.” Well, I suppose when you’re a sociopath, it does take practice to genuinely care about someone beside yourself. Nev and Max were furious. They called him an asshole, told him he’d have a “shallow, miserable existence.” Bryan seemed mostly unshaken, admitting that what he did was only “a little bit” selfish. He attempted to save the whole thing with flattery, telling Jen that despite him boldface lying to her and having no real feelings for her, she was the “perfect girl to come clean with” to all the others. All. The. Others. How many girls we talking about, bro? When that didn’t work, he said that he “wanted to come clean to [her] because [she’s] special” and has a “cool personality.” Oh wait. It gets better. “I was giving her a gift of being in the relationship.” “I knew I was leading her on.” Max says, “What you’ve done is cruel, don’t you realize that?” Bryan replies, “No.” Oh, and there was clearly more said: “There's a bunch of stuff they had to cut out of the episode for legal reasons ... I may have overstepped my bounds,” Max tweeted last night. I love it when the guys get feisty.
A day or two later, Nev and Max returned to Bryan’s house to investigate further and “teach him a lesson.” It’s understandable as this was a truly weird case, the kind of situation that people who don’t get online romance may think is par for the course with catfishing. It’s really not, though. Besides the Mhissy episode last season (the one where one girl uses catfishing to get revenge on another girl who messed around with her boyfriend), nearly every catfish has shown remorse for their actions. Their feelings are true, even if their identities are as fake as a “Mark Jacobs” bag from a midtown street vendor. The fear and insecurity that drives most catfish quickly humanizes them, preventing viewers from completely vilifying them and even making the show worth watching. Bryan, however, revealed that he was just settling a score; apparently some girl did to him what he’s doing to others. He’s “certainly not cold-hearted” and “has trouble trusting” after being lead on. Frankly, it sounded like a load of shit. Bryan ultimately took very little ownership for his actions. For that, he deserves the full wrath of Catfish obsessives, should they track him down online. And they will.
Jen’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 6.2
Bryan’s Delusion Score (out of 10): Fuck this guy, he doesn’t even deserve a rating.
Outcome: They say shooting fish in a barrel is easy. Hmmm.