Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Catfish Recap: Witch Hunts and Open Relationships

Nev and Max must get it wrong sometimes. There must be Catfish episodes they’ve shot and shelved because it turned out that the circumstances just weren’t that dramatic, with no crazies involved and an ending that was neither fairy tale nor train wreck. That was my takeaway from last night's lackluster episode, anyway, but at least Nev and Max tried to up the drama with their own theories.

The setup seemed ripe for the picking: Nick and Melissa met when they were 12 in the time-honored romantic tradition of Tila Tequila chat rooms. (That’ll make the Viacom suits happy!) For the last six years, Nicholas and Melissa have helped each other brave the tougher moments of life — from self-harm rehab to death in the family — growing up along the way. Now Nick wants more from his “first love” before he ships off from Florida to Texas for college. The two have video-chatted no more than a couple of times, mostly owing to Nicholas’s lack of a webcam, but it certainly doesn’t help that for the last seven months, Iowa-based Melissa has lived with her boyfriend Olin. Nicholas seems only slightly deterred by this, noting that Melissa continually mentions what an ass he is and that she only lives there because she has nowhere else to go.

As if this story doesn’t have enough caveats, Max and Nev created a number of whack theories about Melissa. I know it’s their job to question people’s existences based on online clues, but this week’s probing went too far. After quickly discovering that Melissa is in fact an IRL human with the same face, they raise a stink over her being “a lot bigger” than expected. Catfish continually dances around fat-shaming, and most of the time the overweight people on the show take care of the loathing so that Nev and Max are able to be mostly PC. This week, however, Sherlock and Watson got in the shit. They find a full-length photo of Melissa on a friend’s Facebook and seem sort of horrified by her body. Admittedly, it’s a terrible photo — she appears to be mid-walk at some sort of amusement park clad in an oversize T-shirt, mean-mugging nonetheless. Grade-A sleuthing, Nev and Max, for figuring out that people build their online identities using photos that create an impression of increased hotness — that's some 2013, big discovery being made about the Internet right there: Apparently girls take angled face pics when they wanna hide their bodies!

The guys bring their chubby girl witch hunt to Nicholas, who tries to be sensitive about not saying something shitty about the woman he thinks is his soul mate. “She’s bigger than I thought she was,” he says over a dramatic instrumental. “I mean, I don’t want to be an asshole … I don’t know if I can get over that.” Seeming less like an ass, Max says something about how an emotional connection with someone makes them more beautiful. True … but what about her bisexuality? Wait, what?

Nev and Max’s ridiculous Melissa theory No. 2: Olin doesn’t exist or is merely her roommate; she’s actually dating her female friend Cale and she’s too afraid to tell Nick she’s bisexual. Exhibit A: a goofy pic of Melissa clearly “stage kissing” (i.e., thumbs in front of their lips) Cale, posted to Cale’s Facebook. Nev and Max test this theory on Melissa’s friend of eight years, Emily, when they get her on the phone. Emily is just like, “uhhhh” and explains that Melissa loves Olin/loved Nicholas. The best part about this theory is that when Tweedledum and Tweedledee show the picture to Nicholas, the camera shot highlights the cross tattoo on his hand. “I don’t wanna look at it,” he says. Teen movies lied to us; boys don’t like girls who kiss girls. This gay-shaming doesn’t die down, either. When Nev and Max meet Melissa, they barely give her and Nick a chance to say hello before they bring up the photo of her and Cale. She knew it was going to come up, she says, which is nuts. Sexuality is fluid, live your life, take Photobooth pics while fake-kissing your female friends.

Anyway, it turns out Melissa is a pretty sane human whose list of crimes includes downplaying her size and her relationship with Olin. She initially describes it as a friends with benefits situation, but she does love him. As it turns out, he doesn’t appear to be quite the turd that was suggested. In what sounds like it should be an awkward twist, Nev, Max, and crew head out to Olin’s mom’s house to interview him and Melissa together. Olin says some crunchy shit about not liking relationship labels, but he makes it clear that he loves Melissa, he chooses to be with her every day, she’s beautiful, and he supports them both. He panicked when she moved in and tried to downplay the label on their relationship. As for Melissa’s situation with Nick, Olin says “that’s her thing.” Hmmm. Yes, yes it is. Nev and Max are dumbfounded by how loving and open these two are with each other. Melissa does say one sort of alarming thing, though: “I care about Olin because he’s done so much for me, he gave me a place to stay.” Dependency is not love, but I suppose that’s a luxury for independent people.

Pre-Olin scene, the choice seems easy: I was rooting for Melissa to leave him and choose Nicholas, who still wants to be with her. After seeing Olin and Melissa together and understanding how difficult it would be for her to change her entire situation in life to be in this long-distance relationship with Nick … Okay, yeah, I get it, probably not super-feasible at this juncture. The episode seems to end with Nicholas inherently understanding this. Melissa had a choice and she defaulted back into her everyday world without having to explicitly reject Nicholas. They decide to stay “the best of friends” and see what happens. Down the road, once circumstances are different, maybe they’ll make it work. Nicholas is smiley and everyone’s good, except maybe Olin when he sees the episode.

Nicholas’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 3.1 — Slightly deluded about Melissa’s relationship with Olin, but he’s grounded otherwise.

Melissa’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 2.2 — She mostly sees the writing on the wall with regards to life’s hardships and realities.

Outcome: No catfish but certainly a fish swimming solo, away from the school.

Photo: MTV