Catfish showed again last night that though some may discount it as a show about romantic desperation and the Internet, it gets at capital-I Issues without feeling like a PSA. The series has featured veterans before, but last night’s episode dug into the realities of living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from war.
Oh yeah, and the catfish turned out to be real again. There was fanfare the first time that happened earlier this season with Lauren and Derek, but I suppose Nev and Max can’t be popping bottles every time someone turns out to be who they claimed to be. This time the focus was on WMDs. Seriously.
Jesse and Brian met on Facebook via Jesse’s childhood friend, who did a tour in Afghanistan with the Marines alongside Brian. The two spent three years communicating online sans video chat, much to Jesse’s frustration. Finally, they were set to meet back in 2011. They made plans to meet halfway in North Carolina, with Jesse driving from Pennsylvania and Brian driving from Alabama. Brian never showed; worse, never offered an explanation. There was talk that he got in trouble. Oooooh boy did he.
As Brian had little choice but to explain when an MTV crew showed up at his trailer, he experienced a flashback to Afghanistan at a North Carolina gas station while en route to meet Jesse that day two-plus years ago. “I couldn’t decipher what was real and what was fake,” Brian explained. His comfort came in the form of his flak jacket, but the sight of someone merely sitting in a car wearing this alarmed one man, who called the cops on Brian. That’s when they found a sawed-off shotgun broken down in his backpack — an offense that falls under “possession of weapons of mass destruction” in the state of North Carolina, owing to the gun’s altered state. And so, the war vet was arrested with bond set at $20,000, an amount the military pssh’ed when they busted him out. Soon thereafter, Brian was diagnosed with PTSD.
Not to be overly sympathetic, but to hear Brian explain all this to a couple of wimpy filmmaker dudes — who, though they may be empathetic as hell, are still wimpy filmmaker dudes — was a reality check. Talking to a girl on the Internet wasn’t some game for this guy. He was working through a lot of shit at the same time, which one has to imagine bonded him and Jesse in an intense way. It’s a shame he felt he couldn’t tell her the truth then, instead doing so only when he basically had no other choice. Jesse forgave him for hiding it with barely a blink of the eye.
There was, however, another problem. Turns out Brian had been married and never told Jesse, though he claims he filed for divorce a week after returning from Afghanistan and was legally separated by the time he met her online. This was information that Jesse and Brian’s mutual friend knew, but somehow it never occurred to him to tell Jesse. She would have all the right in the world to be furious about him hiding his marriage, but this girl is hard to faze behind an “oh my goodness” or an “I can’t breath.” Can’t help but feel like she’s a little naïve, as though she had done no snooping whatsoever before Nev and Max showed. They went looking on Brian’s Facebook and immediately found mugshots from his time spent in juvie back in the day, under his real name of Robert Brian Clark. (Why would you put your mugshot on Facebook? You’re a platoon sergeant in the United States Marines; you have actual accomplishments to be proud of!) In a rare feat of, you know, “investigation,” Nev and Max were led to his 2011 arrest report from the WMD incident via his real name.
This all plays out in a way that’s cute but not cloyingly fairy tale, à la Lauren and Derek. Jesse forgives Brian for hiding his former marriage and they spend the day together, during which time she apparently test-drives the model, if you know what I’m saying. Nev and Max seemed overly scandalized by this; Nev, don’t act like you wouldn’t have swiftly jumped Megan’s bones had she ended up being real. Anyway, Jesse and Brian are already talking about settling down together, and she ends up meeting his extended family during her trip down there. “Can you just leave me here?” she asks Nev and Max. Considering all they’d been through, Jesse and Brian seem blissful. However, things are on the rocks during Max and Nev’s two-month follow-up, and in an odd twist, Jesse drives down to Alabama immediately following her conversation with Max and Nev. The next day, after deciding they aren’t right for each other, Jesse and Brian break up. I suppose it’s a realistic ending in the sense that love really doesn’t make any sense.
Jesse’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 5.4. Hard to call her delusional when he turned out to be real, but she was delusional about him hiding things and also flat-out convinced that they’d be together no matter what. She was looking for a new life and was sure that Brian could provide that for her.
Brian’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 3.6. Dude gets points off for: (a) being married and thinking Jesse wouldn’t find out, (b) putting his mugshot on Facebook, because that’s just a dumbass thing to do.
Outcome: Brian may be from Alabama, but there ain’t no catfish in his world.