On Catfish, Ashley is ready to tell her online boyfriend of seven years that she's been sending him doctored photos of herself, which is going to be hard, because he's a competitive bodybuilder with perfect abs. What?
Ashley, who lives in Kennesaw, GA.
Mike, who lives in Piscataway, NJ.
Well, here's the thing: this time it's Ashley, the client, who's actually the total liar! Since meeting Mike in a chat room more than seven years ago (when she was just thirteen, yikes), the only photos of herself Ashley has sent Mike are ones she's photoshopped to make herself look thinner. She calls Mike the love of her life...and it must be this great love that hasn't made her suspect the fact that Mike had never sent her any photos of himself until five years into their relationship, and when he did, this is how he looked.
Sure, someone who spends that much time working on his body would be shy about showing it off to his girlfriend of many years.
Ashley is adopted, and the only thing she says she knew about her biological mother is that she was overweight. Ashley is also heavy, and has felt self-conscious around her parents' biological daughters, who are very slim, her whole life. She says that when she met Mike, she was a "hermit," who avoided going out of the house for any reason. Mike has been making her feel beautiful for a long time and she doesn't want to give that up. Only recently has she felt that she's come into her own as an adult, and she wants Mike to be part of her adult life.
The shirtless bodybuilding photos of "Mike" return no results. When they try to find him on Facebook, nothing comes up. "I don't believe that, in this day and age, this guy doesn't have a Facebook account," sniffs Max. ALL RIGHT, LOOK, I know Facebook is ubiquitous, but some people have good reasons not to join -- for instance, it can be fucking annoying, so let's not act like abstaining from Facebook is tantamount to living off the grid. Moving on: searching the phone number Ashley has for Mike, they find a Gena who lives at the same address, and recall that Ashley had said Gena is Mike's sister's name. They contact Gena through her Facebook account, and while they're waiting for her to get back to them, they search Mike's email address and find a profile photo. Max seems to find it especially unsettling.
Anyway, then Gena calls. She knows about Mike's friend Ashley. Nev tries to get her to confirm or deny that her brother Mike is totally ripped. She's all like, "He's kind of private." Nev and Max are all, "Hmmmmm." But she says she'll tell Mike that they want to talk to him...and sure enough, before Max and Nev can circle back to Ashley, Mike calls them. Nev tells Mike straight up that they don't think he's the guy in the photos he sent Ashley, and Mike casually says, "She's a smart girl, I think she kind of knows, and I think it's kind of obvious at this point that that's not me." Nev's like, "She doesn't know that, and she wasn't that psyched when we shared our doubts." Mike says he did it because he wasn't sure he'd accept him if she knew what he really looked like. Hey, just like Ashley thinks about Mike!
The Presentation Of Findings
The good news is that Mike wants to meet! The bad news is that he's not the guy in the photos. Ashley's like
She seriously has the balls to look hurt by this betrayal -- though I guess that just puts her in line with Nev, who has already stated that doctoring real photos is less immoral than just stealing a stranger's photos, which...I guess? Anyway, they show her the demon photo (since Max's initial terrified reaction, they seem to have decided that he has a beer twelve-pack box on his head). Ashley says it's weird not to know what his face looks like, which is fair. Max asks if she'd be okay with it if it turned out that this is what Mike's body looks like.
Ashley cries because she hopes he's the person she fell in love with, and she grants that she can't get mad at him for sending her fake photos because she was faking her photos, too. She still wants to meet Mike, and when Nev calls, Mike agrees.
So, Mike is not a greasy bodybuilder. He's this guy.
At first, Ashley is very warm toward him, cooing at how nervous he is and giving lots of reassuring hugs. Asked whether Ashley looks like her photos, Mike says, without hesitation, that she does, and just seems happy to meet the person he's been talking to for the better part of a decade. Everyone goes inside, where Mike easily declares that he loves Ashley and that knowing her has made him think about settling down with her for the rest of his life. Ashley deflates.
Misinterpreting her emotional shutdown, Max is like, "Hey, tell Mike what your deal is!" and Ashley tells him how much she's hated and isolated herself. Mike is totally sweet and open, announcing again that he loves her and her personality and will always think she's beautiful, and that he wants to go to Georgia and spend time with her, and for her to meet his family. Ashley's like
Max gets Ashley outside (and by the way, Mike totally knows what's going on with her), so that she can admit that she's not feeling connected to Mike because of the way he looks. Meanwhile, inside, Mike is still expressing his unconditional love for Ashley. Max and Nev help Ashley make a graceful exit, with promises that Mike and Ashley will get together again the next day. In the car, Ashley says she doesn't want to be shallow, but she's not physically attracted to Mike. Nev is like
The next day, Ashley pretty much feels the same, only shittier. "When he walked out, I didn't know who he was," she pouts. "I don't know him for him." The...guy who you had no idea what he looked like for the first five years you talked -- now that you know he's overweight, you think that erases all the stuff you shared? Cool. Nev's like
Ashley tries some bullshit about how his real physical appearance is "the world's opposite" of the photos he sent, "and it's disappointing and it's a little scary." Nev rather generously suggests that Ashley's problems with Mike's appearance are actually stemming from her own self-hatred. Max agrees that she can't respect Mike for loving her, or even believe that he does love her, because she doesn't love herself. Ashley then changes tacks to say that she's starting to think, over the past few days, that maybe she could have a different kind of life, one where she's not afraid to be photographed, because of this experience. So basically, if one fat guy loves her, then maybe she has the confidence to pull a thin one, is how I understand this epiphany. Nev claims they're not saying that they think Ashley and Mike should be together, though obviously they do. But since this isn't going to end in a love connection, they tell her that she owes Mike closure. You can almost see the hate waves radiating off Nev and Max.
The Post-Confrontation Confrontation
"Right now, I don't think I can handle a relationship," says Ashley. "With your fat ass," she does not add. She needs to figure out what she's going to do with her life before she brings someone else into it. Mike says he doesn't think he can sit around and wait for her to decide if she wants to be with him, and she says -- a little defensively for my taste -- that she's not asking him to. He hesitantly adds that he doesn't want to miss out on other things if their relationship is going to turn into anything, and he's barely finished the sentence before Ashley flatly tells him, "I don't think it is." Mike takes this in, and says he still wants to be there for her, but he wonders if this is going to be the last time he ever sees her.
Mike is disappointed, but he knows she has to do what's best for her. Out at the car with Nev and Max, Ashley cries that that was hard (OH, IT WAS HARD? FOR YOU IT WAS HARD. OKAY!), but that it's how she feels: "I gotta do me now." Nev crutches in to see what's up with Mike; he's sad, but he thinks it's best to let her go and figure out her shit. In the car, Max asks how Ashley feels, and she says, "I actually care about myself." HEY, COOL THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO SELF-ACTUALIZE BY TREATING YOUR SEVEN-YEAR LOVE OF YOUR LIFE LIKE SHIT.
Finally, there are hugs.
One month later, Ashley goes out in public more without feeling self-conscious. COOL I'M SO HAPPY FOR HER. She also says she's about to go back to New Jersey to give Mike a second chance. HOLY SHIT SHE'S SO NICE!!! Nev and Max call Mike a baller for flying Ashley up on "an all-expenses-paid trip," and Mike says he is very excited for Ashley to meet his family and friends. This won't end well for Mike, but I'm glad he's happy...for now.
The Life Lessons Learned
Here's what Max thinks we learned:
— Max Joseph (@maxjoseph) September 4, 2013
YEAH, NO. What we actually learned is that you don't need to be thin to be shallow, and that if you want a lady to like you, fly her out to New York and she'll do her best to fake it at least as long as you're in the same state paying for her to have fun.