Will Catfish Answer Dylan And Ally's Prayers By Bringing Them Together?
Max and Nev meet Dylan midway through the sleeve of Christian tattoos he's been getting. Will they help prove Ally really is his gift from God?
Crappy birthday, Max!
I'm sure he's thrilled to be spending it with Nev, who's clowning around for the cameras, on the eve of having to meet some credulous idiot, than with, for instance, his wife. But hey, live it up, I guess.
Dylan, of Browns Mills, New Jersey.
Ally, of Stillwater, Oklahoma.
In the eight months since she and Dylan randomly connected on Facebook, Ally has refused to videochat. "Oh, like all of them do? YAWN." I know. But also, some unidentified person sent Dylan this text?
So that's kind of a big clue.
"No internet rn" is supposedly one of Ally's reasons not to videochat. Dylan did ask Ally about the mysterious text, but her only answer was to keep asking him, "Do you trust me?" (Since we're watching their story: guess you're about to get your answer, Ally!)
Nev and Max don't really make much of these as factors that have led Dylan to this place, but: his mother suddenly passed away around two months into his acquaintance with Ally (he'd also lost his father a few years prior), so he may be more vulnerable and needy than the norm.
Then there's the Christian tattoo sleeve Dylan's gradually filling in. If he's committed enough to the Lord to want to cover an entire forearm with tattoos in His honour, he may be predisposed to believe the best of everyone and/or a bit more naïve than the average New Jersey twentysomething.
I guess the only coffee shops in Browns Mills with free wifi are Starbucks because Nev and Max end up launching the investigation in their room at their sad commuter hotel, starting with Ally's Facebook page.
I guess I shouldn't be prejudiced against people who were homeschooled, but (a) I am, and (b) in a situation like this, shouldn't it jump out as a red flag of fakery that spares the faker from claiming to have graduated from a real high school and getting called out by all the actual students who don't know her? Ally's profile also says she currently works as an intern at St Francis Memorial Hospital -- something that was meaningful to Dylan, who also works full-time at a hospital and wants to be a pediatric cardiologist -- but that her last job was at Subway. Seems like a totally normal career trajectory! Nev and Max check out her photos, including one with friends, in which Ally's the only one tagged...
...and one at which they both seem very alarmed since, although she claims to live in Oklahoma...
...it depicts her wearing a Texas pendant. Guys, I don't know: I hear some scientists now think you can start out living in one place and then later move somewhere else. (For example, Dylan doesn't talk like any person from Jersey I have ever met, in my life.) Also, even Max points out that Texas and Oklahoma are neighbouring states. It's not like Ally's wearing a pendant of the North Korean flag or something.
After searching the photos -- none of which brings up any other results -- they poke around some more in her profile. "She's only got three hundred friends," Nev sneers, as if they didn't just say last week that their usual standard for legitimacy is 100. Anyway, they're mostly guys, and they get to messaging to see if anyone wants to talk to them about Ally. While they wait, they search her number. The location seems to be in the right area of the country, and registered to a Mark in his forties, which they decide could be her dad and is nothing out of the ordinary.
But this is! Or would be if we ever come back to it, which we don't. Live in the mystery! As for the number that sent the text alerting Dylan about Ally's alleged deception? All they get is that it's in Tulsa, and they don't have to waste too much time acting like the coincidence has blown their minds because someone named Jay calls Nev back.
Somehow THIS ratio doesn't raise any suspicions for Max or Nev, but I guess Jay's not the one on trial here.
Jay and Ally have been connected on social media for about four years, he says. (And maybe he's just a very aggressive deleter of posts, if he only has thirty extant posts on Instagram?) They've never met in person, he says, cutting straight to it and announcing before they ask that "she actually did catfish me." At first, she was pretending to be a girl named Ireland, but then, after a couple of months, she admitted that she's really Ally, this...other very cute blonde girl who was just misrepresenting herself for no reason? I don't know, and neither did Jay, but it sounds like he pretty much decided to be a bit wary of anything she told him about herself after that.
And that's IT. My god, these two have gotten so fucking lazy.
Dylan is dismayed but subdued, so this part is pretty boring. Even once he knows the odds that he's actually been talking to the woman in Ally's pictures are very low, he still wants to meet her. And since the two pieces of evidence they've kind of turned up are based in Oklahoma (which is maybe more like one and a half given the spoofed number alert), they decide not to wait for Ally to get back to them and just to go to Tulsa and figure shit out when they get there. Given that they don't have an address, this seems like proof that the person who initiated all this ways maaaaaybe whoever will turn out to have sent Dylan that text. But I guess we'll see!
When they get off the plane in Tulsa, Nev's got a text from Mason, one of the other Ally Instagram contacts they messaged, and he's a WAY better sleuth than Max and Nev: he tells them "Ally"'s real full name is Mary [last name of guy they assumed was probably her dad]. Mason hasn't talked to her since he busted her two months ago; he says that, at that time, they were "going towards a relationship," so that would be within the time she was also supposedly in love with Dylan. As luck would have it, Mason happens to live in Tulsa, so the three go straight from the airport to his house so that he can present his findings -- alongside his friend Clay, whom Ally told she had a sister, Samantha, who might like to get something going with him. You're never going to believe this but Samantha and Ally turned out to be the same person! This one all seems to come down to sloppiness on "Ally"'s part, when she got greedy and joined Tinder; she and Mason matched, but I guess Tulsa is a smaller town than I thought, because after they exchanged numbers and set several in-person meetings (all of which, duh, she blew off), Clay got into a conversation about the situation with a friend of his, who looked at the number and told him it actually belonged to her cousin Mary. Not only that, but Mason also bested Max and Nev by finding the real girl (also named Allison) whose photos Mary stole. (Sure, it was because a friend of hers contacted him on Instagram, but still!) Anyway: after Mason and Clay let it be known to "Ally" and "Samantha" that they knew the truth, they got blocked from all platforms -- and, I guess, Mary learned the lesson not to try this shit on people who are local.
The next step is to get in touch with Chelsee, Mary's spot-blowing cousin. Clay calls her, and she confirms that she was the one who texted Dylan. She tells Nev that Mary's been running fake accounts for six years, since she was fourteen. She also says that Mary knows that Chelsee texted Dylan. Nev asks if Chelsee can broker a meeting -- see, again, they were taking a big leap even getting on the plane not knowing if the texter was even in the area if they...didn't totally already know all this stuff in advance, which it seems obvious they did -- and after she makes sure no one's going to be "mean" to Mary, she agrees to have Mary come over and meet them at Chelsee's.
We know this is not Chelsee's cousin Mary.
So who is?
Dylan doesn't say anything, but for someone with an ostentatious Christian tattoo sleeve, his nonverbal reaction is not What Jesus Would Do.
Grinning in a very off-putting way, Mary launches into her prepared remarks: "I just want you to know I wasn't trying to hurt you. You are my person and you know that. You've been my person." Ugh, god. Shonda Rhimes, smell what you have done to culture. To Dylan's entourage, Mary says, "He's always been there. I didn't want it to be like this." She tells Dylan, in a very clipped and rehearsed way, "I love you and I care about you. And I'm so, so sorry about all this." "Why pretend to be somebody else?" asks Dylan, which I don't think qualifies as "mean" by Chelsee's standards, but which is disingenuous. Mary says she's been doing "this" for a long time: "I've always been that outcast girl, so then, when you go to another world, like internet [sic], you get to be whoever you want." Very gently -- perhaps because he's not sure exactly what degree of mental stability he should infer from Mary's manner -- Max asks about the girl whose photos she's used; Mary confirms Mason's report that her name really is Ally, and that she's caught Mary before: "She has said some rude things to me, but not-- Who wouldn't." Nev asks how much of Mary's story, as told to Dylan, is true, and with a defensive neck roll, Mary admits that some things might not have been -- she does go to college; she does want to be a surgeon; but she doesn't currently work in a hospital, a revelation scored by an ominous thrum as if this is the one thing that has tipped Dylan's scales off the possibility of making a life with her.
As Dylan continues standing there silently, apparently without any more questions than the lone one he's asked, Max asks if Mary's ever tried to stop her internet lying, given the fact that she's been caught by Chelsee and Mason and Ally herself. Still grinning, Mary says it's weird to say, but that it's like an addiction for her: "It's like, the attention, and just drive to get that attention, and you'd pretty much do anything you could to get that attention." It seems safe to say Mary's compelling gift for gab wasn't what was driving all her online friends to try to pursue real-life relationships with her. Max notes her use of the word "addiction," and as cheerfully as she has everything else, she says, "It's not going to stop by myself [sic] and I know it's not going to. Ever."
Yeah...that's the act-out? And when we come back from commercial, it's the next day? Did someone drop a camera, or did a producer finally figure out they could actually just cut the confrontation when it stops being interesting rather than stay through the moment it peters out?
SO THEN, ABRUPTLY, it's the next day. Dylan says he was so shocked at their meeting that he didn't get to say all the things he wanted to -- one of which will probably be why he saw on Facebook last night that "Ally" was still actively using her fake profile.
Back at Chelsee's, Max starts with her, saying it's clear she's not okay with Mary's internet deception. Chelsee agrees that she's concerned for Mary's mental well-being as well as her physical safety, should one of her dupes track her down and try to harm her. Mary says there's precedent: someone found out where she works and went there to harass her, and apparently was sufficiently intimidating for them to call the cops. "But it didn't stop you." Mary grins AGAIN as she says, "I don't think I'm going to stop, honestly, and that's terrible to say--" "She says it's like a drug," says Chelsee. Max makes Mary say again that she doesn't get as much attention as herself as she does from her fake profile (or possibly profiles, plural, for all we know). Dylan asks how many people she thinks she's duped in her many years of fraudulent social media use, and she kind of brags that she's on every platform: "Probably hundreds."
As Nev just checks out again, Max tells Mary she has to stop, and asks what it'll take for her to...check into internet rehab with him today? I don't really know what he's asking. "I honestly don't know," she shrugs. "Is it that good, is the high that good, that you're willing to risk life and limb to pretend to be this other person?" asks Max, then answering his own question that maybe it is. I mean, it must be, or she wouldn't do it? Right? Mary says she doesn't like talking about it because she knows it's "looked down upon" (again with that silver tongue), but when Max tells her to set that aside and tell them what it feels like for her to go online as Ally, Mary admits that it makes her feel bad to know her real self is "not good enough." She got bullied in school, both in person and online: "I've been told that I should kill myself by multiple people in my school. And so I just got to the point that I just listened to what everyone said because I felt like that's what was true about me." That pain replays in her head all the time, Max surmises, and is the reason she tries to silence it by assuming another identity. YES, MAX, WE ALL GOT THERE. MARY ALREADY WAS THERE. She LIVES THERE. Max gets her to say that she gets excited and nervous -- again, we all grokked the addiction metaphor already -- but she also allows that she feels bad that she's deceiving someone, shooting a brief glance toward Dylan (who, again, has been silent other than his one question about her stats).
Having gotten Mary to agree that her guilt taints all her fake interactions (not much if she's still doing it after six years, but okay), Max asks what she does that isn't compromised, and she says she likes the positive feedback she gets from baking. Nev wakes up long enough to say that baking is a win-win since it makes Mary feel good and doesn't hurt anyone. Somehow this is all it takes to get Mary to decide her destiny lies in baking, which I'm pretty sure is also how Monica Geller got started as a chef. Careful, Mary: Max is already married so he probably won't go on to sleep with you in London.
Dylan then also remembers that he's currently taping a TV show, and tells Mary he wants to be her friend, but that her internet lying has to stop. "Make. The most. Of this. Opportunity," says Max. Again: this is not actually Intervention, dude. Don't believe your own dumb hype just because Nev is too sleep-deprived as the father of an infant to stop you running this entire episode. But Mary wants to do it! "We're going to leave," says Max. "It'll be on you." So someone explained to them that making the liar delete his or her fake accounts is a meaningless gesture? Or is it that the liar isn't made to do it on camera if she's REALLY sad?
Everyone hugs Mary, who cries on Chelsee's shoulder as soon as everyone's gone.
Two months later, Dylan's dumb hair is even dumber now that it's blond.
Speaking of dumb: his sleeve is done. He's starting college soon. He says he and Mary are still friends and then immediately adds that he has a girlfriend, so Max and Nev don't have to pretend they think that Dylan and Mary's starting a romantic relationship is either likely or something they'd advise. Of Mary, he adds, "I've been helping her out as much as I can." From New Jersey? I'd love to know what that entails, but I apparently never will.
A camera crew is at Mary's for her check-in, where she (loathsomely) repeats that Dylan is her "person," though she also says "friend," so I guess she has no illusions about where things might go. She's also about to go to culinary school, so I guess the world just lost a general surgeon. Mary's also walking 10,000 steps per day, confirmed by local camera crew b-roll. Max and Nev are proud that things are going her way, though they don't ask whether she's still using her fake account which must mean she's not!
Don't waste time on someone who won't videochat. Don't make momentous romantic decisions when you're mourning your last remaining parent. Don't get Christian tattoo sleeves. You're more likely to run into problems if you're thirsty enough to catfish people on Tinder.