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Has Sailor Jeff's Online Fishing Caught A Mermaid Or A Boot?

Tara refuses to use the word 'catfish' the way this show wants her to, no matter what the dictionary says. Anyway: is Jeff's chick a liar or what?

The Client

Jeff, a Navy sailor stationed in Jacksonville.

The Beloved

Megan, a nurse in Dallas.

The Clues

They've never videochatted; after sending her a Valentine's Day flower arrangement, she took a picture of it (so he knows it arrived at the address she gave him), but was not in the photo with it; he travelled to Texas to meet her and she never showed up.

The Excuses

He's never actually asked her to videochat because he only bought a webcam "a few months ago"; the time she blew him off, she had a "family emergency"; when he sent her a dick pic that also had his face in it, she did not nude-reciprocate (though whether Jeff means she sent a nude that didn't include her face or that she didn't send a nude at all is not clear).

The Investigation

After Nev molests an unwilling Max for a while (again), they get down to business. Fortunately for me, since it's Bon Jovi Friday and I just want to finish this post and get to the nail place before they close for the long weekend: this "investigation" doesn't take long. They have her full name, her Facebook profile, her phone number, and her home address, which is a fair amount compared to how things often go.

So Nev and Max start on Facebook. "Most of her posts don't have more than one or two comments, most of which are Jeff's." What appears to be a ton of photos turns out to be a whole bunch of animal memes she's posted, and she also belongs to a "Malamutes & Huskies" group -- one of the areas of commonality she shares with Jeff, who also has a husky.

Image search: nothing.

Phone number: registered to a Brandy Something, whose address is...the exact one where Jeff sent the flowers to Megan.

Brandy on Facebook: the very first result for Brandy Something is in Fort Worth, and with a big burnt-orange T where the accountholder's face normally goes. And when they click on it, Brandy has ALL the same memes they just saw on Megan's profile, and belongs to the same dog group, AND has the same birthday as Megan. So if "Megan" is a character Brandy's created -- which seems pretty obvious -- she didn't put a ton of thought or effort into her, or in trying to be that deceptive to Jeff or whoever else.

The Presentation Of Findings

Jeff seems stunned that his suspicions have come true, but he sadly tells Nev that he does want to know what the real story is, so Nev goes outside to call her. Megan/Brandy says she does want to meet Jeff and always has, but that now is not the right time. That's when Nev tells her -- pretty nicely -- that they know she's actually Brandy, and without confirming that, this girl says she's uncomfortable and can't think about meeting Jeff right now, and then she hangs up. Nev immediately calls back and gets her voicemail (on which he says he doesn't know if she hung up on him or if they just got cut off, like...you know which it was, Nev).

Nev comes back up to Jeff's apartment to admit, "It didn't go well." And while you'd think this would be a perfect situation for them just to Zoe it and bring Jeff to her doorstep, they actually can't: not because that's FUCKING CREEPY, but because Jeff's military obligations won't allow him to leave Jacksonville. So Nev (or "Nev," but: the real producers) have an idea, and that's for Nev to stay in Jacksonville with Jeff, while Max goes to Fort Worth alone to try to convince Megan/Brandy to come back with him. Max is fine with it, and so is Jeff, so that's what's happening, except...why can't Nev also go to Texas? It's not like Jeff is a flight risk; not only is he the one who called them, but if we've already established that he can't leave the region, why does Nev have to stay there and babysit? Whatever: moving on!

The Confrontation

So after 900 kinds of business around the fact that Max is on his own and doing all the shit that Nev normally does, like...driving?, we catch back up with Nev, who's gone over to Jeff's to hang out pointlessly for the day. Lucky Jeff! They're out in the parking lot when Megan/Brandy calls, claiming she "just" got his message and notably not identifying herself by name at all. She says she's thought about the request he made on Jeff's behalf, and that she wants to meet Jeff, but not like this. Nev -- without indicating that she's on speaker and that Jeff is standing right next to him hearing all this -- informs her that Max is creeping around Texas right now in search of her, and the editing makes it seem like he's pulling up to her apartment as this conversation is happening, which seems unlikely. "I don't know about meeting him?" she says, and Nev promises her that she can call Max when she feels comfortable meeting him, though since she knows Max is on his way to her if not already there, her options are basically "agree to meet Max at her home" or "stay inside until he leaves"? Rather than point that they've basically put her under house arrest, she hangs up on Nev.

And then we're with Max in Fort Worth as Megan calls him. He tells her he's "hanging out on the perimeter of the housing complex you live in," because that's not a terrifying way to put it. Who says "perimeter"? Megan/Brandy keeps saying "I don't know" and that she's uncomfortable and not "LEAVE THE STATE," which once again just points up the fact that if we are watching them, they haven't given anyone a hard no at any point and aren't going to. Anyway, Max talks up Jeff, and an alarmed Megan/Brandy yelps, "He's not, like, with you, is he?" Max says he isn't, so a worn-down Megan/Brandy finally says, "Okay." Max hands the camera to an actual professional, and sits on the curb waiting for her to appear.

And? Well, this is Megan.

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And this is Brandy.

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Max is like, "You're not...Megan." Max is pretty smart, guys. Brandy admits that she is not.

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And then this turns out to be one of those situations where the liar is a really, really sad, broken person. Brandy was in an abusive relationship, "and some things happened, and I just completely lost all my self-esteem." She escaped into the Megan profile because she didn't want to be herself anymore. "Megan" was friends with a friend of Jeff's, and added Jeff by accident; things took off from there. It's clear that she really treasures Jeff and how dependable and kind he has been to her, which is why, as Max puts it, she doesn't want "the nicest person [she] know[s] hating" her. Max -- who is a lot less smarmy without Nev -- encourages Brandy to come with him to Jacksonville and explain to Jeff how much of what he knows is true, and where she diverged from the truth. Will she come with Max to rehab Jacksonville today? She will.

While Brandy is packing, Max FaceTimes Max and Jeff and reports that he met "her" and that "she" is coming back to Jacksonville. "She doesn't seem like a bad person," he says. "I don't want to tell you too much, because she kind of wants to come clean with Jeff herself," so even though Max hasn't totally confirmed that the Megan dream is dead, he...kind of has.

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

The next day, Brandy's makeup is on point and she's in a much more flattering dress as she and Max pull up to Jeff's. Max sucks at umbrella holding and her back is soaked by the time they get under shelter, waiting in a stairwell under Jeff's apartment. Soon enough, Jeff comes down with Nev, and Max introduces them. They stand there awkwardly for a while, and then Jeff says he had suspicions when he went to Texas and she didn't meet him then, so back off, everyone, Jeff's NOT as dumb as he seems! Brandy admits that it would have been easier if she had just told him the truth then, but that she didn't want to hurt him. He asks how much of what he knew about Megan is also true of Brandy, and she starts with, "I'm not a nurse. I work at a dispatch centre." Jeff:

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What is THAT reaction? Was he really that excited about the idea of dating a nurse? Does he know those Hallowe'en costumes aren't actually what nurses wear to work? Maybe Jeff IS as dumb as he seems. Moving on: her age is real; she lives with her mother; she really has a husky. She's sorry, she was trying to escape, she was in an abusive relationship (and it sounds like she's told him some of what happened with this other guy). I think the producers aren't sure we're going to side with Brandy in all this because she unburdens herself for A WHILE, and it's not that I'm not empathetic -- quite the contrary -- but...like, we get it, and so does Jeff. It seems clear from his manner that despite his initial disappointment, Brandy's real identity is not a dealbreaker. To wit: "I'm still here," he tells her. He's interested in moving forward, and talking with her more tomorrow; they even hug on it.

The Post-Post-Confrontation Confrontation

The next day is Brandy's twenty-fifth birthday, and if you had needed more proof of how sad she is, the fact that she chose to spend it with this bunch of fucks ought to do it. After Nev and Max watch her as she deletes the Megan profile, they head over to Jeff's. Jeff wishes her a happy birthday and then, once they're inside, tells her she looks pretty.

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Max and Nev clear out so that Brandy and Jeff can have a real conversation, mostly reiterating what we've already heard, though when he repeats that he thinks she's pretty, she looks pathetically grateful. Girl, you are a lot better-looking than this goon, or didn't you notice his dumpy dad jeans? They both want to keep talking, and he's going to miss her now that he's finally met her.

Hugs?

There are many hugs.

The Aftermath

One month later, Jeff reports that he's still been talking to Brandy every day, but he doesn't want to get super-serious about Brandy right now because re-enlisted in the Navy and in a few days he'll be overseas for several months. Brandy's been going to counselling. She also wants a relationship with Jeff, but with his deployment, she's not sure what's going to happen. She's glad she went on the show because it helped her to seek (real) help.

The Life Lessons Learned

Not showing up at a proposed meeting with someone from another state is a good clue that someone is hiding something. Digging the tiniest bit might show you that your fakey online girlfriend is being so sloppy with her fake identity because she's hoping you'll figure it out. Get a webcam. Use your webcam.

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