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MTV

Catfish Gets In Way Over Its Head By Moonlighting In Ex-Offender Re-Entry

Shelly Chartier served time for tricking a model and an NBA player over social media, but realizes when Max and Nev show up that maybe her sentence isn't actually over.

Since this is a "special" episode that doesn't conform at all to the standard order of operations or EVEN INVOLVE AN ACTUAL MYSTERY, let's just speed through it as efficiently as we possibly can.

Reading An Email From Paris

Remember Paris Roxanne, whose photos Luis stole to pose as "Jasmin" when he was fake-dating Felipe? She's back! As Nev and Max noted in that episode, Paris had already been embroiled in some social media deception drama well before Catfish ever came calling. She lays out exactly how she was duped into thinking she was dating Chris "Birdman" Andersen, a professional basketball player who, at the time, was on the Denver Nuggets, but you don't have to let her tell you: you can read the Newsweek story Nev and Max found when they were investigating "Jasmin" or the new first result when you search Shelly Chartier, the name of the perpetrator who tricked both Paris and Andersen.

The point of Paris's recap of the whole Chris/Paris/Shelly saga is to provide this "OPEN INVESTIGATION" with its pretext for existing: Shelly was just released from prison, and Paris wants to make sure she doesn't do this (garden-variety social media impersonation with a dash of blackmail regarding noodz) to anyone else. I don't know what makes Paris think these nimrods are any more capable of rehabilitating Shelly and/or scaring her straight than Paris herself is; Paris must not watch the show.

Skyping With Paris

Recapping the recap.

Having Coffee With Paris

Seriously? Recapping the recap they just recapped? Paris's fear about Shelly's likely recidivism is her lack of remorse, so she directs Nev and Max to the RCMP officer who worked their case.

The Sklar Brothers For Some Reason?

Nev and Max really want to let Andersen tell his side of the story! But as you may recall from every other episode, they're bad at this and can't get hold of him through official channels; they don't even try to work their MTV angles. It turns out Max knows the Sklar brothers, Randy and Jason, who are standup comics and also host Sklarbro Country, a podcast about sports. This is as close to any testimony from Andersen as the episode gets...which is not close, really. (And if their conversation actually turned into a podcast episode, it's not one you can still find on Earwolf, the podcast network Sklarbro Country belongs to.)

Meeting Constable Gord

"Did you mark this part a 'watch' just because your dog's name is Gordon?" SHUT UP. MAYBE. Nev and Max journey to Winnipeg to meet Constable Gord Olson of the RCMP's Internet Child Exploitation Unit (since at the time she sent her nudes, Paris was underage). Gord is so Canadian he makes me homesick and I'm sorry he had to let Nev into his office tbh.

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With cop-ly sangfroid, Constable Gord takes us back to May 2012, when he was pulled in on Det. Shawn Cronce's investigation into Andersen, underway in Colorado; a lot of IP addresses from Manitoba were coming up in her research. He traced them to Shelly Chartier's house, in Easterville, MB. She had numerous email addresses and fake social media accounts -- one of which, for instance, was Tom, known to Paris as Andersen's brother-in-law, but which Shelly used to manipulate a lonely woman in Texas into falling in love with him and then, when he got into "trouble," sending him money. Nev: "It was diabolical." I mean, it's not nice, but let's not make Shelly out to be some kind of mastermind. This seems like pretty basic grifting to me.

For her various crimes, Shelly was sentenced to 18 months in prison in Canada -- but if she'd been extradited to Colorado, Constable Gord claims she could have served 24-48 years. That seems like a preposterous discrepancy, but on the other hand, Canada's got better things to do than mass incarceration. America does not, apparently! Nev asks whether Constable Gord is concerned that Shelly's been released, and he claims he is, since the potential for her to reoffend is high: all the tools she used are still there, in her home. But I guess he's not that concerned about her getting her talons into two new marks because when Nev asks if Constable Gord will arrange for Max and Nev to meet Shelly, Constable Gord's like, "Yeah, for sure." Off they go to The Pas, from which it's a mere 100 more miles to Easterville. (Is the point of this episode maybe to make them bitch less when they have to go to, like, Michigan?)

Reading Court Documents

Nev: "Reading through the court documents of the Shelly case paints a picture of Shelly as a hermit -- the so-called 'Ghost of Easterville.'" No offense to Eastervillians, but this place makes Cicely, Alaska look like Miami Beach.

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Where was Shelly supposed to be wilding out, IGA? (That's a grocery store. What up, my Canadians???) I mean, based on evidence we're about to see, this town doesn't even have, um, a dentist. Plus the reason Shelly was at home so much is that she had to care for her mother, bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis. The internet was Shelly's only link to the world beyond Easterville.

While they're leafing through the tiny pile of "court documents" Constable Gord trusted them to have, Nev gets a text from the very same Constable: Shelly will meet them and is expecting their call.

Calling Shelly

Nev wastes no time reaching out to Shelly. A deep voice answers and claims it's Shelly speaking so we can cut to commercial on a terrified violin screech...but it's just her husband dicking around, and he says he'll go get her. When Shelly gets on the line, she sounds alarmingly groggy.

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Seriously: Max looks concerned. She claims just to be tired, and when she agrees to meet the next day, Nev doesn't bother lingering on the conversation and quickly gets rid of her before she can change her mind. When she signs off with a shrill giggle, Max comments that it was "really weird." Maybe she was just nervous about talking to TV hosts? Even these ones?

Arriving In Easterville

Nev seems freaked out that they could drive for so long without seeing any signs of human life, and I'd love to mock him but I have actually been to The Pas, and he's not kidding: that shit is REMOTE. If that's what would be considered going to the big city for Eastervillians: yikes.

Before they go over, Max and Nev confer with a producer named David Meltzer about what strategy they should employ, since they've "never dealt with a catfish as diabolical as Shelly before": "If we're going to get her, it's going to take a different approach." Wait. What does "get her" mean? She's a convict who's served her time. The only reason they have to think she's fucking with people online again is Paris's gut. What's to "get"? Whatever: they're going in with a smaller crew than usual. So glad we got that peek into the process.

Meeting Shelly

Max and Nev bravely enter the lair and come face to face with THE MONSTER HERSELF!!!

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AHHHHHHHHHH GET OUT OF THERE!!! Look, I realize Shelly committed serious crimes, but Nev and Max are acting like she's some kind of social media hypnotist who's going to seduce them if they talk to her and it's a little ridiculous.

Max has just asked if it's okay for them to film there when the phone rings and, when Shelly goes to get it, he does this irritated "Really?" move with his hand, like, her life doesn't stop just because your asses showed up. While she's on the phone, Max makes conversation with Rob, Shelly's husband, about whether he likes living in Easterville. (From secondary sources, I know that Rob is from New York and still has to go back there periodically because he's not a Canadian citizen -- nice storytelling, Catfish.) Rob's happy Shelly's finally back. They chat a little more about their anniversary (they got married at Christmas) and then there's some business with the wind at the door that certainly didn't need to make the final edit, and then Rob's like, "So what's up?" GOOD QUESTION, ROB. WHAT IS UP? WHY ARE WE WATCHING THIS? WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?

Nev says they came up there to meet Shelly and hear her story, however she wants to tell it. Shelly picks her ear and stalls answering that pointlessly open-ended question, so Nev changes the subject, asking to go meet her mom, and Shelly hops up to lead them to her. (There's some other kid in the room with her who's never introduced. Hi...you!)

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Hilariously, Delia could not be less impressed by Nev or MTV and doesn't even pretend to put down her iPad when he descends on her bedroom to ask how long she's been bedridden. Since Shelly's birth, it turns out. Shelly continues the tour into her and Rob's room and answers Nev's question of how they met: on Xbox, when she "kicked [his] ass at Call Of Duty."

Back in her room, Delia says she's also glad Shelly's home: while she was incarcerated, Delia was too worried to eat. Max tells Delia, as if she doesn't know, that there's still a warrant out for Shelly's arrest in the U.S., so if she crosses the border she could be subject to another trial and, if convicted, a much tougher sentence. Delia says if that happens she'll die, basically. Does this seem like a productive area of discussion, Max?

Back in Shelly and Rob's room, Max asks for a tour, and is shown the spot in the kitchen where they got married; the dreamcatcher Shelly made in prison; many pictures of Shelly's dog Winnie.

"So tomorrow the real interview's going to happen?" asks Shelly, sitting next to Delia's bed. Nev says they thought it would be. I'm not sure why they don't just get it over with.

In the car as they leave, Max comments, "I don't know whether we just connected with her, but like, it's hard to remember that she did some really terrible things." MAX. SHE GOT TO YOU. He narrates that they did what they intended to do on their first visit, and the next day will "get to the bottom of things." I STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.

Ultimate Couch Time

If you get this far into the episode, you might as well see the part that comes closest to some kind of payoff. Like Delia, Shelly's unimpressed: she wants to know how long this is going to take because she's going to the store later.

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Max notes that Shelly never used to go out, and she agrees: she was safe inside, so she stayed there, taking care of Delia. While she was inside, she'd go online, messaging random people, because she didn't have real friends. So if the bedridden mom didn't already bum you out, you can be pretty sure there's still grim stuff ahead.

Shelly's entanglement with Andersen and Paris went all the way back to the MySpace era, when she happened to be on Andersen's page and saw Paris message him to call her, and include her phone number. So Paris's parents did a spectacular job with her, clearly, and also, maybe Paris has more accountability in her own misfortune here than she might want to let on.

Shelly texted Paris and then went to bed and didn't think about it. In the morning, she saw Paris had texted back; they started talking, and Paris's nudes apparently followed shortly thereafter. Shelly told her (online) friend Jamie -- at least, I think that's what she says, since they bleep it; for clarity's sake, let's just go with that -- she was going to tell Paris she wasn't Andersen. Nev's like, wait, who's Jamie, and Shelly mumbles, "The Texas woman." Oh, TOM'S friend. Except Shelly says she never talked to Jamie as Tom. Max asks how Jamie would know about Tom at all, and Shelly says, "She knew about everything." According to Shelly, Jamie was the one who gave her the idea of "hook[ing] up" Paris and Andersen -- and apparently it was very easy; a few hours' worth of sexting nudes got Paris an invitation from Andersen to fly down, "and of course Paris said yes." Again: where are Paris's parents in all this?! That's the untold story this episode should actually be digging into: Paris's parents' dereliction of duty.

But that's not what we're talking about, apparently. Andersen flew Paris home, and sometime later Shelly-as-Andersen got some angry texts from Paris: she'd seen on Andersen's Facebook that he was with another girl. Nev suggests that this would have been a good time for Shelly to end her deception; she agrees that it would have been, but then Paris wouldn't leave her alone, and Shelly finally just wanted her to go away.

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NOT A PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE, SHELL. "And to kind of show her you meant business," Max adds, Shelly published Paris's nude photos online. "Yeah, I showed her," says Shelly, sounding like a five-year-old. Except then Paris actually showed SHELLY, because that's when she went to the cops, and Shelly saw something on the news about Andersen's house getting raided and got scared, for Andersen and for herself. She didn't know what to do, and Jamie told her, "Delete the app. They won't be able to trace you." Very inaccurate, Jamie!

Nev says he's interested in the differences between the way the cops described Jamie's part in the story, and what Shelly's saying she did. Shelly seems unsurprised that Jamie has presented herself as a victim who was in love with Tom, but says she was an active participant: she tried to get $10,000 out of Andersen herself. I kind of lose the thread at this point but it sounds like Andersen was willing to send Shelly $2000 or $3000 if she'd just give him a fax number to send some papers for her to sign, but she got freaked out because it sounded sketchy, and then Jamie got mad at her for settling for such a small amount. However, Jamie ended up printing the papers at her office and faxing them back, and admitted that to the police. They split all their proceeds, as agreed, but when the authorities got involved, Jamie said Tom made her do it. This is when a very obvious Nev ADR seems to be telling Shelly that nothing she's claiming about Jamie is supported by court documents they reviewed. We get it, MTV: your lawyers watched the episode. Nev tells Shelly that people are just going to think she's sill lying, but she says -- reasonably -- she has no reason to lie about it, having already done her time. "You get what you get," she says. "If you don't like what you hear, then believe her." Nev tries to get Shelly to understand that if her story is accurate, then she pled guilty to a lot of things she didn't actually do, which is when Shelly announces that she pled guilty because she was pregnant at the time. She wanted to fight it at trial, but she was told if she pled guilty she'd be sentenced to house arrest; that didn't happen, and then she miscarried. Horrible if true...but also the kind of medical catastrophe these people often claim because the people they're scamming feel too guilty to challenge.

Max has one last question: "Why did you do it?" He doesn't think she was just bored, as she's claimed. Was it fun?

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Let's not rule out the possibility that there is some mental delay happening here that kept Shelly from appreciating the consequences of her actions.

"I did it to see if she would believe me, at first," says Shelly, "and then I did it [sic] if he would believe me. And then, I don't know. I just-- I kept doing it, and I don't know why I did that. I'm stupid. I'm really stupid." "No, you're not," says Rob, who may not be the best arbiter.

Despite Paris's assessment of her character, Shelly says she spent a lot of time in prison regretting what she did. She admits that she blamed Paris at first (and, as you'll have seen above, I kind of do too -- be careful online, idiot!), and also the cops, and the judge, and her lawyer. But now she knows she can only blame herself. And when she got out, people were forever asking her if she'd thought about her crimes. "Just like I'm asking you about it," Max grins, like, YES, idiot, what was the purpose of any of this other than your own nosiness? "People won't let it go, and I can't move on," says Shelly. Nev asks what she'd say to people who don't think she's served her time in the U.S., and she shrugs that she thinks a year was enough.

Nev asks what she wants to do with the rest of her life, and she says she wants to have Rob's "kid." I hope she teaches him or her much better online safety tips than Paris Roxanne's parents did her. "So it's safe to say you're never, ever going to catfish again?" asks Nev's ADR. "Definitely not," says Shelly. Okay, but...Max and Nev don't think they were the reason, do they? Because I think her PRISON TERM probably had more to do with that than this imposition on her time has.

Whatever: that's all Max and Nev need to hear before getting back on the road.

Max And Nev's Final Pronouncements

Get a load of this bullshit from Schulman. "We thought we were going to meet a monster. We set out to make sure Shelly never catfished again. But that change couldn't come from us. It had to come from within Shelly herself." Then WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED AT ALL GAAAAAAAAH

Epilogue

Chris Andersen went from the Denver Nuggets to the Miami Heat, helping them win a championship in 2013; he's now on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and evidently getting excellent professional advice to have stayed entirely away from all of this baloney.

Paris is now engaged to DON McLEAN, the "American Pie" guy! She's twenty-six and he's SEVENTY-ONE. So I guess I need to apologize to Paris's parents: she evidently wanted to get with a rich celebrity, and she has.

Shelly's still in Easterville with Rob and her mother, but when she's done with her parole, they want to move. Good idea.

Verdict

HARD skip. The Newsweek article is a good overview of the scandalous aspects of the story, and watching Shelly speak for herself is too sad to be entertaining.

Discussion

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