Hot, normal girls do not have to resort to online relationships with men they’ve never met.
That’s what many people think. Breaking that big misconception was why, more than its happy ending, this week’s Catfish was a powerful experience. Internet love is not some ghetto for misshapen and/or damaged goods, but it feels like almost every week, there’s a catch with the catfishee in the form of some major baggage driving them to the delusion. This week, when Nev and Max got on the webcam with Lauren, it was clear even they were taken aback by her giant smile and outgoing personality. They commented, veiled or otherwise, on her utter sparkle no fewer than five times. There was an underlying tone there that Lauren was above the treatment she was receiving from her online beau of eight years, Derek.
And yeah, it kinda seemed like it had something to do with the fact that she appeared to have not a single thing wrong with her, unless you’re going to hold it against her that she has a young son (and some men certainly would). So shame on Nev and Max — but damn if Catfish’s first-ever happy ending didn’t steal the show. It probably didn’t help that MTV hammed it up with a live after-show, in which we learned precisely nothing except that the happy couples supposedly did not bang the first time they met IRL (props on the self-control, eight years during your teen years and early twenties is brutal).
There was no way this guy was about to be who he claimed to be, but sure enough, he stepped onto his front porch with the same dumb facial hair and the sort of dude-bro necklaces that are almost mandatory at DMB concerts, two staples from nearly all his online pics. At that exact moment, Twitter erupted with some all-caps variation on “wait what the actual fuck.” It was a nice reminder that not everyone on the Internet is a creep looking to deceive, and that sometimes, it all works out. The method of communication should never automatically invalidate the emotions.
Still, there were reasons for even online love’s most ardent apologists to be skeptical. Lauren, 21, and Derek, 23, had been in communication via social networking sites (Myspace then Facebook), chat, and phone for eight years. This time period included the birth of Lauren’s son, Mason, and her engagement to another man, which she broke off in part because of her feelings for Derek. During the engagement, Derek had unfriended Lauren, but the two started talking again once she left her fiancé. They never webcammed, though; he wouldn’t buy one, even after Lauren offered to pay for it.
Still, she was sure Derek was for real and that someday they would be married. Until Nev and Max — particularly Max’s newfound bad cop act — left the smallest little crack in her just minutes before they pulled up to Derek’s Maryland home. At which point, Nev offers up a thesis statement on the entire show, as though it had popped into his head for the first time: “This is not a show for you, this is your life.” Even Lauren’s weeping, Texan, ex-Navy father could not convince her that Derek was as fishy as they come. It could be because she wrote her parents off as merely not “getting it, whereas Nev and Max do this for a living" (let that sink in for a second). Minutes earlier, after all, her stepmom did note, “It blows my mind that you think someone can be there for you over the phone.” Welcome to Catfish, ma, take a look around; you’ll be tsking in no time.
Parental skepticism is one thing, but Max and Nev being downright hell-bent on Derek’s illegitimacy is another. Typically the more reserved and smiley one, Max was on a mission this week from out of the gate, almost as if a producer had given him notes to kick it up. “What’s he hiding?” he pleaded again and again, whereas Nev dialed it up once he found R. LeVourne. Oh, R. LeVourne! This poor guy. When Nev and Max Googled Derek’s cell number, it was listed as belonging to a middle-aged black man, who’s married with kids. They panicked. However, by the end of the after-show, R. LeVourne had become the butt of the joke, and a potentially racist one at that. No, Lauren, you cannot be sure of someone’s race based exclusively on his voice. Anyway, no one really found out LeVourne’s deal, but here’s hoping MTV at least told him that his family’s photos would be broadcast on national TV. (Side note: Can you imagine how awkward it would be to explain to this older gentleman why he was about be vilified by some kids on the Internet? Have fun with that job, production assistant whose name Nev never remembers.)
As far as we know, Derek wasn’t hiding anything from Lauren. It was clear, however, that he was scared shitless to meet her, which he later admitted. Beforehand, on the phone with Nev, his excuses were so weak (“shocked by the whole thing,” “I like to have things planned out to a T”), you could tell this guy’s a bit of a baby about commitment. Moreover, Derek was nervous about Lauren’s baby, whom he’d meet on the second day of filming to fairly normal results (he’s what, 4?). Lauren and Derek seemed to do well enough when they went on their first date, looking like a Christian Mingle ad come to life in no time. As these things generally are, connecting the physical to the emotional was a little awkward at first, but it looks as though that trike ride into the sunset — and likely marriage — is in the couple’s future. I wonder if they’ll invite LeVourne.