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When Ari And Lanum Both Point Suspicious Fingers At Each Other, Will Catfish Prove Which Of Them Is Legit?

Catfish's producers get emails about opposite sides of the same relationship. Are Max and Nev equipped to unravel this story?

Remember last week when I was like "this is complicated"? I was so much younger then.

The Beloved

Lanum, either 24 or 25 (both ages are mentioned), formerly of West Covina; currently in Austin.

The Initial Client

Jeff, Lanum's brother, who says he thinks Lanum's online girlfriend Ari has been misrepresenting herself.

The Eventual Client

Ari, 21, of Los Angeles. Lanum told her that Jeff had written in about her to the show, so she pre-emptively contacted the production herself so that she could prove her legitimacy. Max and Nev do answer Jeff first (if the editing is to be believed), trying to set up a videochat so that he could tell them his story; when they do the same with Ari, she gets back to them right away, so I guess by default she gets to be the client? (Or the producers steered Nev and Max toward her because they had more information about this story than they provided their hosts.) (Spoiler alert.)

The Clues

Three months ago, Lanum and Ari met on Plenty Of Fish (kind of a red flag in and of itself). Five days into their acquaintance, they were to have gotten together in person for the first time, but the day before their date, he moved to Texas. Lanum and Ari haven't videochatted. Also sketchy: they've talked about marriage and their future kids and exchanged "I love you"s on DAY 4 when all they'd done was text.

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Ari seems to realize how absurd this sounds when she confesses it to Max and Nev, but still. I don't think Ari says she and Lanum have EVER talked on the phone, and yet he's asked her ring size.

Also: HIS NAME IS "LANUM." Google it: that is a surname, or a drug used to treat nutritional deficiencies.

The Excuses

Lanum cancelled on Ari because, on the fourth day they'd been talking, his brother Nathan died, and Lanum moved to Texas to take care of his children. (This story changed too, though: when he initially told Ari about his brother's death, it was in a car accident; the next day, it was cancer.) Ari hasn't pressed Lanum to videochat because she "didn't want to cause more problems in his life."

The Investigation

Despite his having allegedly kicked all this off, Jeff hasn't gotten back to Nev by the time they find a non-chain coffee shop to post up in, so it seems pretty clear before they've even started that neither Jeff NOR Lanum is real. And sure enough, the second photo Max and Nev search takes them to the Instagram feed of the guy, in Italy, from whom Lanum stole his photos.

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On to Lanum's Facebook. First, it says he's in Dallas, so given that this page has been supplied for them by Ari, I guess she's just been so busy jilling off to Lanum's hot tattoo selfies that she never clocked the discrepancy? Dallas and Austin are 200 miles apart. Elsewhere in shit Ari refused to notice: this profile says he graduated high school in 2001, which would mean he's in his early thirties, not 24. He only has forty friends, which is bad in terms of pointing to his being a real person, but good in that it won't take Nev and Max long to blast all forty of them with messages trying to get information on Lanum, which they do. Searching his phone number brings back a result that says it's a landline, but since he's been using it to text Ari, that means it's very likely an internet number.

And THEN, Lanum's friend Tiffany calls Nev. She met Lanum on "a kind of dating site on Facebook," and if that sounds kind of amorphous, let's just say that the more they talk to Tiffany, the more evidence she supplies that she's...a free spirit? "We exchanged some photos. You know, we started talking more about fantasies -- you know, things that we were into." "Like, kinky things?" asks Max hesitantly. "Yeah," says Tiffany immediately. Look, girl, go ahead and get yours, but you DO know you're on TV now, right? The photos were also "kinky," duh. Tiffany was still talking to Lanum until about two weeks ago WHEN, on THE VERY DAY they were supposed to meet, he ghosted her. He did tell her he lived outside Dallas, and that he was 33, so that aligns with the data on his Facebook page. Max asks whether he ever mentioned his brothers Nathan and Jeff; Tiffany said he didn't, and given that it seems like most of their decorous epistolary affair seemed to revolve around their exchanging photos of themselves sticking things in their butts or whatever, I'm kind of relieved that the conversation never implicated his family??? Nev warns Tiffany of what they've already found out about Lanum, and that's a wrap on her.

Nev and Max are filling time recapping the call we just saw them have when Nev gets an email from Jeff.

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So you're not going to videochat NOR supply any more information, like "Lanum"'s email or phone number? Clearly, this is a guy who, now that he knows they're already at work on his story, no longer cares how credible he seems, and is just waiting for them to get around to giving up on unmasking them himself and just calling "Lanum."

...which is probably going to happen soon, because that's the official end of the investigation -- though when they're on their way over to check back in with Ari, they get a call from Kylee, another one of Lanum's Facebook friends. She says straight up that Lanum catfished her: when they went to meet in person a few months ago, he offered some excuses, and when she got sick of his shit and called off the meeting...

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Did Lanum and Kylee also exchange noodz? They did. Hey, what about his brothers? Well, two days before they were supposed to meet, Lanum told Kylee about his brother who was dying of cancer in California -- and this was about a month and a half ago, so when he was also talking to Ari at the same time. Everyone in the conversation agrees that Lanum is "disgusting," and while I do too: Ari could plainly see "Dallas" and "Class of 2001" and decided to ignore them, so as always, some of this is on her. (I'm going to say 15%.)

The Presentation Of Findings

Although Max, in the car, says their goal in this conversation must be to impress upon Ari how much Lanum sucks, they start out slow, pointing to things she may have already noticed, like the fact that he only has forty Facebook friends, and that most of them are women. From there, they repeat the reports from Tiffany and Kylee about Lanum's sexting and that it was going on while he was supposedly in love with her, the excuses he reused after trying them on Ari, and that he admitted his catfishery to Kylee. They leave for last the reveal of the hot Italian tattoo artist who's the unwitting victim of Lanum's photo theft. "So who the fuck is the guy that I'm talking to?"

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Previously.TV

The accidental tagline for the show can't be nonverbal, guys.

Ari has just wearily told Nev and Max that she wants to know who Lanum actually is when Nev gets an email from Jeff telling him to contact Lanum directly, and supplying Lanum's phone number -- the same one Ari uses. "He is Lanum," brays Max. "They're the same person." Yeah, we actually reached the same conclusion.

Nev goes out to the yard to call "Lanum," not very convincingly getting Lanum to corroborate the elements of his/"Jeff"'s side of the story that they already know aren't true. He says they've met Ari and that, despite Jeff's concerns, she's exactly who she says she is, and that she "is very much in love with you, and was certain that [he] was telling her the truth."

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Lanum's still garbage, but I almost admire how much he doesn't give a FUCK at this point. Anyway, he's in love with Ari too: "I hope she's my forever." He briefly goes through the "I got a lot on my plate" song and dance, but Nev decides he's let "Lanum" be cute long enough and tells him, "We know you've been lying, and Ari's pretty upset." "Uh huh?" says Lanum, totally unconcerned. One second after declaring that he doesn't think Lanum cares about Ari at all, Nev says he wants to give Lanum a chance to tell his side of the story, "even though you really don't deserve it." And of course Lanum agrees, because he manipulated this whole situation with the intention of effectuating this outcome. Clearly Ari was never going to do it! (Class of 2001. Honestly.)

The Confrontation

The crew heads straight from the airport to the address Lanum sent, through the gate, and into this compound set way back from the road.

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Nev doesn't like it.

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For once I don't blame him. Max and Ari hang back, Ari saying she's nervous because she doesn't know who's going to come out. You'd think Max and Nev would have done more than just rule OUT one guy in Italy, but that's not how Catfish works anymore.

Who does come out?

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This is Marcus. And while you might want to keep an open mind about him, it takes virtually no time for him to creep everyone the FUCK out, as he comes out from the carport or whatever and rejoices at the sight of Ari.

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"Okay, who are you," says Max disgustedly, not really asking. He's Marcus. He's from Dallas. He's forty-three. OKAY, LOOK. I realize that I am, at the age of forty-two, really too old to be watching this show. BUT AT LEAST I AM NOT ACTUALLY ON IT. He's been faking his identity online for about three years, and for a "reason" we've heard before: he joined an online dating service, didn't get any interest, and created a fake account with a cuter person's pictures as a "social experiment." I'm not sure the field really needs a lot more data on whether online daters are attracted to...attractive people, but sure, Marcus: you're a scientist. "And then it turned into an addiction," he adds. He just couldn't figure out why women online wouldn't date him!

Max heads off Marcus's pity play by asking if he had any brothers who died. "Yeah, I just made that shit up," says Marcus. He then claims he made up those stories to get him out of dates because he works nights and it kills your social life? And not because he couldn't put himself in the body of a twentysomething Italian tattoo model before he went? Max can't with this: "You know what kills your social life? When you think you're dating someone that you're in love with, that you're going to have kids with, and you're not meeting anyone else because someone's feeding you bullshit over the phone." Marcus has no response to that, because there is none.

Max then points to Ari -- who's been silent this whole time -- to ask if she's the youngest person Marcus has tricked online. "Yes," he says, and I guess if someone this trustworthy says it, it must be true! (Don't think about Mecca starting her fake relationship when she was thirteen, don't think about Mecca starting her fake relationship when she was thirteen. Just don't.) "Man, I'm really sorry," says Marcus.

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Oh, is that what we're calling this emotion?

Finally, Ari asks why Marcus never told her the truth in all the time (three months) they'd been talking: "You could have just told me, and it-- and-- It would have gone way differently." I think we all see where she was about to say "It would have ended" and stopped herself. Marcus wants to stop "doing it," he says: "And I thought that you would be the perfect one to have the opportunity to come clean with and see if there might be a chance."

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Max is in disbelief: "See if there might be a chance that it'll work out between you guys?" "Maybe?" says Marcus. He busts out the old classic -- his feelings were real -- which is when Nev breaks in to remind us all that Marcus was talking to someone else (several someones, it seemed like) while he was supposedly in love with Ari. "Kylee?" squeaks Marcus. "That was a mistake. With Kylee, I got so intrigued with how she act [sic]. I mean, she was very-- She enjoyed sexting. I got caught up in it. But what I feel for you is genuine. It's real." "How can you say that when nothing that I know of you is real?" says Ari, starting to cry. Marcus has nothing to say to that.

And THEN, Max really unleashes hell: "Since we've been making this show, every girl or guy that's ever been in Ari's place fears that they've been talking to some mid-fortysomething-year-old man who's sad, sitting at home in his crusty boxers, like, typing into the computer." THE MAN PAINTS A WORD PICTURE, HUH. Also ew. Also probably extremely accurate. Also EW. "And you're that guy! We finally met you!" Honestly, the episode should just end right here, because it's so true and soooooooo creeeeeeeeepy. Also because Marcus is dumbstruck by this devastating summary of his existence. But Max goes on: "And that sucks for you." Wait, what sucks for Marcus? That he's volunteered for this epic self-own? "But it also sucks even more for Ari and all the other girls whose time you wasted," Max concludes. Marcus nods. "You're not the victim here," Max tells him. Hey, remember when Nev Schulman was on this show too?

Ari's face emerges from the next of her scarf to ask if she can go sit in the car and cry; permission granted. On the lawn, Nev asks why Marcus essentially dimed himself out. Marcus said he wanted to come clean: "You know, I was Jeff, that wrote to you guys." LOL that he has so little faith in Max and (let's face it, mostly) Nev's inadequate PI skills to feel he has to make this clear. (Nev and Max both say they figured that out.) Max says that if Marcus's real goal had been to unmask himself, he should have done that on his Facebook page. Marcus is like, "I could've done that," and Max is like, "...Right!" As Nev goes to check on Ari in the car, Max asks whether Marcus is "getting help" for his...strange girl noodz solicitation problem, I guess, and Marcus says "no!" like it's a ridiculous suggestion, adding, "I just need to stop." He claims this is the mechanism by which he will quit cold turkey (doubtful), and then motions toward Ari in the car: "And hopefully start something, or not." "You're not going to start something," snaps Max. "Even if she wanted to, I wouldn't let her. Not after what you did." Normally this is where I would object to Max taking such a paternalistic stance toward an adult woman who is perfectly capable of plotting her own romantic path, but: "CLASS OF 2001" WAS RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF HER FACE, so she probably does actually need the help.

In the car, Ari sniffles, "I do not want to go back out." The first thing Nev says is "You don't have to do anything." The second thing Nev says is "But this guy needs to hear from you. I think he needs to hear that you're hurt, 'cause he still thinks he's a sweet guy." WHICH IS IT. I mean, I get what he's saying -- Marcus is clearly very deluded, so it's possible he won't accept Max's testimony on Ari's behalf, and could still try to get something going with Ari after Catfish packs up and leaves town, but like: block his number? Block him on Facebook? Anyway, Ari agrees that Marcus is not getting it.

Back on the lawn, Max gets to the real truth we all probably already guessed: "So this was really all about getting her to meet you, because you wanted to see if there was a chance with her." "Yeah, I love her, man!" says Marcus. "Yeah, well, it's not gonna happen," says Max. "Yeah, you said," pouts Marcus. I kind of know where he's coming from: Ari's already in the car. Wrap it up. "This is actually a very selfish thing that you're doing, to reach out to the person that you've been lying to and see if you have a future with her." "I want to be with her," Marcus insists. "I get it, she gets it," says Max, whereupon Marcus decides that if Max isn't going to cut this off, he will, turning around and going back into the house. Heh. Max goes back to the car, and off they roll, Ari noting, "He's older than my mom." OH GOD. This episode is making ME question what I'm doing with my own forty-two-year-old life! Ari talks some more about how creeped out she is by the thought that Marcus still believes she's going to move to Texas and live with him, and in the back, Max rants, "He's not this harmless little puppy dog -- I mean, he's FUCKING FORTY-THREE. He's pretending to be twenty-five! That is NOT COOL!" So then everyone agrees that it's probably bad that they gave him as much screen time as they already have and certainly shouldn't give him any more. Right?

Wrong. Overnight, Marcus texts Ari trying to guilt her about not wanting to be with him: "I know it's over, and it never really began, but in my heart, it was so real." Reviewing the text history, Nev reads, "He said, 'You got nothing to say?' You said, 'I don't know you,' and then he said, 'Fuck you.'"

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Ari says she does want to talk to Marcus to make sure that (a) he gets that she's really done with him, and (b) he's not going to do anything with the nudie pics she sent him.

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Oh my god, what is THAT pose? "Who, me? Just sitting here, thinking about tits."

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

Back they all go to Marcus's.

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Maybe you should have been wearing that hat yesterday, bro. Marcus starts by saying he bought something for Ari that she can have.

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It seems like Ari already knows what it is before Marcus returns with it: the reason he asked her ring size.

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Can we take just a second to praise Nev's flawless hand modeling technique? Whenever this show ends, he's got a future on The Price Is Right. As for the ring, Ari shakes her head and tells Marcus, "I don't want it. Fuck you." Hard...to misinterpret that. Not even Marcus can, apparently.

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"This is, like, the worst thing you could possibly give her," says Nev, exhibiting a stunning lack of imagination. "It hurts her -- it makes her feel guilty for not wanting to be with you!" Max agrees. Marcus replies, "The course of our conversation was something--" "Right, but that was all a lie," Nev interrupts. "To me it wasn't!" Marcus protests.

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Jesus God, you boobs, what do you think is going to be accomplished in this summit? Quit hectoring this sociopath and just get your poor idiot of a client out of here! Ari finally puts her face in her hands, lets out a couple of sobs, and says, "All my feelings were so real. You-- You really used me, and I-- I don't understand why, because I haven't-- I haven't done anything to you, and you made me feel guilty for not wanting to be with you! Why would I want to after this?" I admire her for not adding that she has no interest in dating someone OLDER THAN HER OWN MOTHER, which is kind of the only thing she really needs to say.

"Do you still have the pictures?" Ari asks. "What pictures?" asks Marcus, rather disingenuously. Ari/all of us:

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"Pictures that I've sent you," says Ari, not caring to specify. Marcus either figures out she means her nudie shots or decides there's no point continuing to be cute about it, and says he can delete them. Marcus agrees. Max says he wants him to show Ari that he did, and Marcus does, and if he's acting like the only place they exist is on his phone, we have to believe him despite all the reasons we shouldn't, right? But Ari appears to be satisfied, and after telling Marcus she doesn't want to have any contact with him, she says she has nothing more to say and wants this to be over, and leaves.

After Ari's gone, though, Max picks back up where he left off lecturing Marcus on his many shortcomings the day before. Marcus just repeats that he "got addicted to it" and wants to stop.

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Another excellent accidental tagline for this show, in that it's good advice for everyone, on both sides of the lies.

Hugs?

Uhhhhhhhhh, no.

The Aftermath

No check-ins with anyone! Ari passed on a follow-up, wanting to move on from her whole Lanum misadventure. (Translation: looking back on it, she feels like a dumbass, and should.) She's blocked Marcus everywhere, and is currently in a committed IRL relationship.

As for Marcus: he's deleted the Lanum profile (as far as Catfish knows), and "continues to try to date online as himself." I'm sure after this airs, it's going to go great.

The Life Lessons Learned

Don't tell someone you've never met that you love him after you've only been talking for four days. In fact, maybe don't tell someone you've never met that you love him, full stop? And don't send him nudes. Your online boyfriend didn't really lose a family member hours before you were supposed to meet in person. No one is named Lanum.

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