If the first two episodes of season two are any indication, Catfish is no longer the curious little show that made people who hadn’t watched MTV in actual years pay attention. Not only is it growing more meta by the episode, but Catfish has the potential to become something far more dramatic than mere reality. It was obvious this week, with an episode featuring a catfight as fierce as anything presided over by Andy Cohen. It was better than the extensions and spray tans trotted out by Bravo, though — an Iraq veteran catfished by a guy with a Kid ‘n Play haircut.
Anthony is a 27-year-old retired soldier from Houston, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq. He connects with a random Facebook friend, a guy named Marq Wells, after seeing a number of his particularly emo status updates. Anthony can relate, having isolated himself following his tour of duty. After dating for several months, Anthony heads to Marq’s hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, for Thanksgiving, planning to meet Marq for the first time at a restaurant. Marq never shows, the next day telling one of the least believable lies in Catfish history: He was car-jacked en route to the restaurant and ran over by said vehicle, breaking his arm and his leg. Marq’s proof? A photo of a bandaged hand that’s a different skin tone than his own, which he sent to Anthony.
Factor in Marq’s excuses for never wanting to video chat, oh, and SOME OTHER GUY ON FACEBOOK WITH THE SAME FACE. Marq can’t explain what the deal is with this guy Joshua (a.k.a. “HeartThrob”) having the same pics as him, but some frenemy of Anthony’s apparently knows him IRL. Stupidly and sweetly, Anthony stands by his man, but by the time he brings in the big guns (fine, the only guns) of Nev and Max some months later, he’s pretty sure he’s got a catfish on his hands. Still! Anthony is hopeful because “he’s gotta give a damn!” He pleads, “This person is giving me the love I’ve never had” before breaking down with the realest of Catfish #realtalk, free of all delusion for the first time pretty much ever on the show. “I’m tired of this man lying to me about everything,” Anthony says. “I’m not this person, I’m not this person who lets someone brainwash them and lets them tell them some stupid-ass shit.” Both in love and in Catfish, we believe what we choose to believe.
Of course, Nev and Max find Marq’s true identity in about half a second, all the while patting themselves on the back for knowing how to use Google like it isn’t their sole job requirement besides holding a point-and-shoot. This guy with the same face as Marq? Yep, it’s actually his face, and he’s a club promoter with 13,000 followers who claims to have his photos used for catfishing purposes “all the time.” After googling Marq’s phone number, they find out that his real name is, tragically, Framel, and that he’s dumb enough to link his personal website to his fake-ass Facebook. Cue the easily discovered vlog of Framel talking about how he “loves everything about [himself], from the gap in [his] mouth to [his] crazy whatever hair,” the whole thing suggesting just the opposite. When Nev calls to confront Framel, the catfish — knowing he’s been caught and reacting with utter bullshit — tells Nev he’ll call him back in two minutes once he reaches his office. In a rare aggressive moment, Nev refuses to let Framel hang up, noting that he’s “avoided this long enough.” The whole thing was truly amateur hour as far as catfishings go, and for as realistic as Anthony was about the whole thing being fake, it’s confounding he didn’t just do this himself. Or maybe he did, but he couldn’t bear to face the truth and get closure without the comfort of TV cameras.
The big front door reveal should feel less dramatic than usual, seeing as Nev and Max already broke it to Anthony that he’s been saying those three ~magical~ words to a dude named Framel. Alas, it’s actually worse. Framel and Anthony don’t even make it to the house, they just have it out in the garage. At one point, Anthony asks, “Was it acting?” to which Framel answered, “I didn’t see myself as Framel, I see myself as a fictional character I made up.” Anthony’s so mad, he refuses to look at Framel. “Most of all, you made me look stupid to my damn self,” he tells his catfish, saving the real ugliness for the next day.
Nev, Max, and Anthony come back the following day, at which point Framel’s smiley-ass friends are there, acting none the wiser with regards to the severity of the situation. Frankly, they had no place being there, and one can only imagine how awkward they felt when Anthony and Framel started in on the bickering. Framel was full of excuses and declarations of love in equal measure, but it doesn’t stop him from yelling at Anthony to calm the hell down and threatening him over the possibility of physical threats. When Framel asks Anthony why he’s even there, Anthony straight-up walks out. It’s a battle of who’s over it more, and even though Anthony eventually comes back in and fake-forgives, he’s the one who is — and should be. One big thing at play with Framel and his catfish brethren is the idea of the Internet as a tool for masking poor self-esteem. What they don’t realize is that romantic relationships require self-esteem, not just some fake high knowing it’s still their personality traits bringing those fake model pics to life. Anthony may be hurt and more guarded in the future, but he’ll move on with his life and love again. Framel, who just two months after the fact has met somebody new, has a long journey ahead of himself. Corny as hell, but he’s gotta learn to love himself before he can even attempt to love someone else — even on the Internet.
Anthony’s Delusion Score (out of 10): 1.8
Outcome: Fetch the cornmeal, caught a big ol’ CATFISH