Screen: MTV

The One I Gave My Heart To

Aaliyah (not that one) wants help meeting her online girlfriend Alicia. Because she needs MTV to pay for her flight? Nah, just pinning her down: Alicia only lives a few dozen blocks away. Hmmmmmm.

The Client

Aaliyah, a high school student/affordable food non-profit employee from Oakland.

The Beloved

Alicia, a nursing-home employee, also living in Oakland.

The Clues

Well, since meeting on Facebook over a year ago, Aaliyah and Alicia have never met, even though they both live in the same city. Though Aaliyah is technically homeless (her mother lost their apartment some time ago, but didn't want to move them to a new one outside the neighbourhood where Aaliyah is finishing her senior year of high school, so Aaliyah lives on a friend's couch right now) and not especially wealthy, Alicia got Aaliyah to buy her an iPhone, and to give her around $600 to help with her bills.

The Excuses

Aaliyah and Alicia have never videochatted because Aaliyah doesn't actually have a computer (at the beginning when she's Skyping with Max and Nev, she's using her friend's). Whenever Aaliyah suggests that they get together in person -- they live less than a hundred blocks away from each other -- Alicia begs off, saying she has to work; she also isn't ready to have Aaliyah around her family because she isn't out to them.

The Investigation

Max and especially Nev are suspicious of Alicia right away, for the obvious reasons -- the money, the fact that she and Aaliyah live in the same city -- which makes me think this is going to be one of the (boring) episodes that turns out to be a beautiful love story after all. Let's find out! Pulling up Alicia's Facebook page, they see that her profile says she's interested in men, though if she's not out, that would make sense. It also says she's in a relationship, but not with whom. She has around a hundred friends and has posted lots of photos of herself, and the ones Nev searches don't return any results. So, they start messaging her friends: Allyi, who also lives in Oakland and has several friends in common with Alicia; Cortez, who left flirty messages on Alicia's wall; and Kennette, whose wall messages they also judge to be flirtatious. Kennette calls right away; she knows Alicia IRL because Alicia dated her brother for a couple of years. They can barely process this conversation when Cortez calls. He says that he dated Alicia and, like Kennette, says she's sweet. After hanging up, Nev suggests that because Aaliyah is Alicia's first female partner, her shadiness can be chalked up to her not knowing how to deal with it. "I think that Alicia is totally being genuine with Aaliyah," says Max confidently. "I don't think she's at all manipulating her or using her." Well, that's the kiss of death. Spoiler.

The next day, before heading back to tell Aaliyah what they've learned, Max and Nev hear from Allyi, who turns out to be Alicia's sister and roommate, not to mention a font of information. According to Allyi, Alicia doesn't have a job. Alicia has been seeing a guy for around a year; Allyi's met him several times. Nev accidentally forgets that they're supposed to be working on Aaliyah's behalf and not just making a scandalously juicy episode of television and allows this unguardedly gleeful reaction to the news of Alicia's boyfriend to make it on the air.

Catfish

When Max says that the person who's in love with Alicia is female, and asks whether Allyi has ever had any inkling that Alicia might be gay, Allyi says she hasn't, and adds:

Catfish

Max and Nev start to think maybe whatever summit they can broker won't end up being the happy meet-cute they thought it would be before the last commercial break.

The Presentation Of Findings

Max and Nev go tell Aaliyah what they heard from Allyi. First off, Aaliyah's never heard of Allyi, and considering that she's Alicia's sister and that Alicia lives with her, it's obviously suspect that Alicia's never mentioned her. "Maybe that's why she won't let me come over?" Aaliyah says hopefully. Max and Nev are like

Catfish

They also tell her that Alicia doesn't work at a nursing home, and that she's actually been unemployed for a year and a half. Aaliyah:

Catfish

When they say that Allyi told them Alicia has had a boyfriend for over a year, Aaliyah isn't fazed: "That's probably what Alicia told her, talking about me, 'cause I know her family doesn't know." Nev's like, nice try, but Allyi's met him.

Catfish

Aaliyah asks how they know Allyi is telling the truth, and Nev agrees that they don't. Aaliyah flatly says she doesn't believe that Alicia has a boyfriend: "She's talking to me all day every day." She still wants them to try to get Alicia to meet her: "I want answers."

Sometime later (in a different outfit, anyway), Nev calls Alicia and says that Aaliyah wants to meet her. Alicia stalls like they all fucking stall, but obviously she agrees, because we wouldn't be here if she hadn't. But Nev delivers a devastating judgment.

Catfish

The Confrontation

Well, the good news is that IRL Alicia is the person in the photos on her apparently legitimate Facebook profile. The bad news is that she's an unrepentant sociopath.

Catfish

Since it would be impossible to misinterpret that facial expression, Aaliyah gets what's about to happen and asks, "You don't have anything to say?" Alicia makes the decent point that if she'd wanted to meet Aaliyah, she would have made that happen; they live in the same city, after all. "What's this I hear about you have a boyfriend?" asks Aaliyah. "And?" Alicia shoots back, chuckling. "So what about us?" Aaliyah asks, which I guess means she doesn't get what's in the process of happening. "There's nothing with us," Alicia tells her. Aaliyah reminds her about having given her money and an iPhone. Alicia laughs and shrugs: "And? It was a lie. What." "You embarrassed me," says Aaliyah. "You embarrassed yourself, doing all this," says Alicia, which is also kind of true. Aaliyah says that Alicia could have told her this any time, and Alicia claims she didn't want to hurt Aaliyah's feelings. "But it's okay to hurt them now," Aaliyah snaps. Alicia: "You wanted this, so you got it." "What did you want?" Nev asks. Alicia literally tosses her hair as she gives the quite obvious answer: she got Aaliyah to give her things. Aaliyah says she wants it all back. Alicia fake-laughs at her some more. Aaliyah has one final question: "What about your job?" Alicia:

Catfish

Fucking Max the idiot tries to save this by suggesting that Alicia really did all this because she might have feelings for Aaliyah, which Alicia hotly denies. Nev reminds Alicia that she had told Aaliyah that she loved her, and Alicia's like, "Well, I don't," like, we get it, jesus Nev, why bring it up? "Too bad your looks don't match your personality," chokes Aaliyah. Alicia: "You done?" I mean, words can't really convey what a defiant monster Alicia is. You should actually watch it.

While Aaliyah cries on Max's shoulder, Nev tries to get Alicia to admit either that she does love Aaliyah, like she said, or that she feels bad. Alicia does neither. The one sincere thing she says seems to be that she agreed to meet Aaliyah because she wanted this whole scam (my word, not hers) "to be over." (She also says that Aaliyah isn't the only person she's stringing along online in exchange for material goods, and repeats, "This is my job.") "I don't care about anyone's feelings but mine," says Alicia, because, like I said, she is a sociopath.

Useless Nev comes back to the car to tell them what he learned, and then Max tags himself in and heads back to Alicia with his stupid toy camera. She says Aaliyah was dumb to think she could have fallen in love with Alicia never having met her, and Max says, "I think you have." In the time it took for Nev to walk away and Max to return, Alicia apparently gave a thought to how she was going to look on TV, and decided to call on the acting skills that let her convince Aaliyah that she was a lesbian and in love with her to put on a simulation of regret.

Catfish

But then she shakes it off. He follows and finally gets her to admit that she did like Aaliyah on some level -- "maybe not sexually." With almost-certainly-fake tears in her eyes, Alicia breathes, "True," and adds, "I enjoyed her friendship." She agrees to talk to Aaliyah the next day, if Aaliyah wants to.

Does Aaliyah want to? Kind of seems like no, to me. "You know what you should do?" says Nev. "Pray for her," Aaliyah sniffs. But when we come back from commercial, our heroes have convinced her to meet with Alicia again, because, as we must never forget, they are making a TV show and are not her friends.

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

Alicia starts by saying, "I'm sorry if I led you on to think that I was in a relationship with you." I'm sorry. "If"? Whatever, moving on. She claims her friendship was real, whatever that means. Alicia goes on to claim that she hurts everyone she loves, and when Max leads the witness by asking if anyone's ever done this to her, she says yes, but the details are vague and generic and I'm pretty sure no one watching believes it. Anyway, Aaliyah says she can let go of some of her anger because Alicia apologized. She adds that she hopes Alicia never does the same thing to anyone else. Alicia doesn't say whether she will or won't, but she does muse that she doesn't know why she does stuff like this (free iPhone) and that it's something she needs to "figure out for [her]self."

Catfish

Shut up, Nev. Aaliyah says she hopes they can be friends someday. Nev says Alicia should give back the iPhone. Noncommittally, Alicia asks Aaliyah, "You want it back?" Aaliyah says she can keep it. Alicia and Aaliyah part with a half-assed hug. And in the car, fucking Max insists that Alicia did have some kind of feelings for Aaliyah. BASED ON WHAT?!

The Aftermath

One month later, Alicia "says" she hasn't scammed anyone else on Facebook, so I'm sure it's true. She recently tried to reconnect with Aaliyah, but Aaliyah's not done being mad at her yet. Aaliyah's still technically homeless, but she's also still working at the non-profit and planning to go to college soon.

The Life Lessons Learned

Don't give money to a stranger. Don't buy a stranger an iPhone. Don't use your Facebook profile to con people, but if you do, for God's sake put some privacy protections on your profile so that two boobs with a laptop can't unravel your whole scheme on basic cable.

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