Will Catfish Get Alyssa And Tyler To The Relationship Milestone Of...Talking?
Alyssa's considering moving from Texas to California to be with Tyler despite the fact that they've never so much as spoken on the phone. Are his feelings as real as his abs?
Something germane actually happens in the cold open, which is that a producer is caught on camera showing Max how to do a macro shot on his toy camera, and Max sheepishly telling the (real) camera operator not to use this footage in the episode. Nev cracks that we've interrupted Max's beginner videography lesson: "For the first six seasons of the show, he was just holding it. It usually isn't even on." Max, the more adorable of our hosts, gamely plays along, and even though surely no one alive has roasted Max more for his toy camera work than I have, it's charming.
On with the show!
Alyssa, a twenty-year-old aspiring nursing student in McAllen, Texas. This is she.
Tyler, no age disclosed, of California. This is he.
Does this look like a young man who would have difficulty finding people in California who want to touch his wiener, such that he would carry on for multiple months exchanging love notes with and remaining faithful to his true love in Texas? To me, he does not.
In the six months since they met on something called MocoSpace (link does not imply endorsement, I am merely proving to you that I didn't make it up; even Nev doesn't seem to have heard of it, so it's either very new or very shady OR BOTH), they've never even spoken on the phone, never mind videochatting. They've twice made plans to meet in person, which Tyler bailed on at the last minute. He's not on any social media that Alyssa knows of.
"He wasn't comfortable enough yet with" Alyssa to videochat, or even to talk on the phone. (One of his alleged texts claims, of his phone phobia, "It's a guy thing, babe." That's a new one!) The first time he couldn't meet Alyssa in person, it was because "he was having problems at home"; the second, a close friend died of pancreatic cancer. (Nev and Max note that the surprise cancer death of a loved one is tied with "car crash" as the sort of convenient and unassailable excuse liars often use for cancelling an in-person meeting.) As for his lack of social media presence, Alyssa grins idiotically as she confesses, "I've never looked him up." So she knows Tyler's hiding something and has chosen not to find out what. I realize they wouldn't have a show if they didn't cover the stories of the very dumbest people on the internet, but must they reward the ones who are this deliberately incurious? Like, does she really want to meet Tyler, or might the fantasy of what he is (no spoilers, but: clearly) pretending to be actually meeting the needs she has at this point in her life? It's like she has a crush on Tyler the way teenagers have crushes on Harry Styles, except Tyler follows back, and despite her claims that she's putting her life on hold for the promise of their relationship, the amount of interaction she's currently getting from her him is really enough. I'm sure this has been true of countless Clients over these many seasons, but Alyssa's the first one in a while who's done zero due diligence on the person she claims to be in love with. She does not want to know the truth.
When Max and Nev meet Alyssa in person -- not at her parents' house, because they've indicated that they don't want cameras there, but at the home of an absent friend (weird detail to include in the edit, and one on which there's no follow-up; just get an Airbnb and pretend it's hers like every other time) -- she talks about her parents' strict rules, and that the only one of her friends who wasn't so annoyed by her early curfews that they just blew her off is a girl named Mary, who was also the one who'd encouraged her to go on MocoSpace in the first place. In fact, Alyssa joined MocoSpace the very night Mary suggested it, and met Tyler on it immediately. Of course, Max and Nev both seize on this detail of Alyssa's story and theorize that "Tyler" might actually be Mary trying to give Alyssa a boost. (Max also later jokes that maybe Alyssa's twentysomething friend Mary invented the name "Tyler" as an homage/wink to Mary Tyler Moore, which seems like a stretch.) Nev flicks through Alyssa's Tyler photos on her phone.
Right away, they decide, AS ANY SENSIBLE PERSON WOULD IN THE LATE 2010s, that there's no way this twink isn't at least on Instagram, and probably also on Facebook. Max tells Alyssa very sincerely that she's not talking to this guy, and as Alyssa blushes in embarrassment and smiles her dopey smile, she finally says she's "not gonna 100% agree with" them about Tyler's true identity as someone other than this AB MODEL, but that she sees where they're coming from: "Even if that is the case, this person is someone that I want to say I'm in love with." I don't think she carefully chose that phrasing, but I also think it's accidentally very revealing. It's fine to want to say you're in love with someone, like I might have wanted to say I was in love with Matthew Broderick circa Ferris Bueller's Day Off; it doesn't necessarily mean I thought he and I were going to end up together (and, for the record: we didn't), nor do I think, deep down, Alyssa thinks she's going to end up with Tyler. "So what Tyler looks like has no effect on how real both of your feelings [sic] are for each other," Nev witness-leads. "Right," says Alyssa. "This is someone that's been there for me. His appearance means nothing to me."
Anyway: all that is the prelude to the investigation, which begins in earnest when Nev looks at the fuckboi-ass gallery of Tyler pics Alyssa supplies and laughs to Max, "I think if I searched 'hot teenage boy' -- which I've never done before--" The whole room erupts in laughter (including me, SORRY, IT'S IN HIS DELIVERY) and Nev's like, but seriously. He enters "hot teenage boy abs," hits "Images," and...?
THE FIRST THREE are this motherfucker Tyler. This ALSO made me laugh because I AM ONLY HUMAN. Nev and Max are dying.
This guy's name is Mike (they both say "He's a real guy" as if we thought maybe he was a CG character from a videogame, though it is true that many of those don't have abs as well-defined as Mike's are), and if you were hoping to find out how he felt about being used to deceive poor, willfully ignorant Alyssa, I regret to tell you we don't find out.
Next: they search the number Alyssa's been using to text Tyler and find it belongs to a Cathy [Redacted] in Sacramento (on a listing that also includes her address), so at least Tyler may have been telling the truth about his location, if nothing else. This [Redacted] is not the same last name as the one Tyler has told Alyssa is his, though of course that may not mean anything, and Cathy could still be Tyler's mother and the official owner of his phone number. They search Cathy's full name on Facebook and find that her profile pic is a very half-assed Dallas Cowboys icon -- and I'm using that term very generously.
I realize this is probably some bullshit a PA had to dummy up for copyright purposes, but still: have some pride of ownership, PA. Max goes where he always does when the Beloved won't get on the phone, which is to assume said Beloved is pretending to be of the opposite sex. But then they search Tyler [Cathy's Redacted Surname] on Instagram -- why not Facebook? No idea (a poke from Production) -- and find someone with that full name who's...not an active user.
His one and only post is a Cowboys meme, which Max calls "a dead giveaway" that he and Cathy are related. Only then do they search his name on Facebook, finding it very common, instead of going back to Cathy's page to see if Tyler is among her friends. When they search his phone number, however, they find it linked to a Tyler [The Surname Alyssa Said Was His] in Sacramento with a Cowboys profile pic, so: jackpot, probably. And when they go a little further into his profile, they find a photo.
(This is just for the true MTV-heads but doesn't he kind of look like a pre-makeover Matt "Amber Portwood's Ex" Baier?) Max is disappointed to have his Mary suspicions proven wrong, and while I have ripped on them the past couple of seasons for being so fucking lazy in their investigations, this one really does seem to have been cracked wide open. Good job, gents. SAVOUR IT, YOU PROBABLY WON'T GET MANY OF THESE FROM ME.
Ugh, and I immediately want to take it back because next we have to suffer through fucking Mrs. Nev just aaaaasking if Tyler has any other fake profiles online and suggeeeeeeeeesting that Nev run his phone number on MocoSpace, and Nev is like, "I don't even know if you can do that," and the rest of us are like, "OF COURSE YOU DON'T, WE ALL JUST HEARD OF THIS PLATFORM FOR THE FIRST TIME EIGHTEEN MINUTES AGO," but what do you know: you can do that, and there are, from what we see on screen, at least a dozen profiles associated with Tyler's phone number, some with different hot guys' stolen photos like Tyler's been doing A/B testing or something. I mean, if you're going to do something -- even something terrible -- do it right. This advice also goes out to the PA who made that shitty Cowboys pic because I'm not over it yet.
Remember how Alyssa said Tyler's appearance meant nothing to her? The first thing Nev and Max tell her is that Tyler's not the guy in the photos he sent and she starts crying immediately, because she was lying, like they all are. Max twists the knife by telling her how easy it was for them to confirm that Tyler just went looking for photos of a hot teenage boy to trick her as she dabs at her eyes in grief. "The laziest thing a catfish could do would be to use this guy," Nev adds. I THINK SHE GOT IT. At the reveal of the real Tyler, Alyssa sighs that she can't believe she's been "so blinded" all this time. Almost like you were deliberately trying to remain in that state, some might say!
At the evidence of Tyler's eleven other active MocoSpace profiles, Alyssa calls it all "so upsetting," saying she doesn't know how someone even has the "audacity" to do this to someone. Maybe because he doesn't think of you as a real person, he's experienced no consequences to his actions, and yesterday you were saying you were in love with him? Idk, something to consider. And maybe she does, because then she starts crying again about how much she invested in a person who lied to her from Day One, and no one present suggests that she was clearly an active and enthusiastic participant in her own deception. Now that she's outed herself on TV, however, she wants to confront the real Tyler, so -- in a break from formula -- Max and Alyssa also go outside with Nev as he calls Tyler. It goes to voicemail and Nev has just started to leave a message when he gets a text from Tyler asking who he is. Nev texts back to identify himself, but Max says they know where he is so they should just go. Tyler writes back to say he's on his way to a class, so Nev responds that they're coming to Sacramento to meet him without in any way leaving the door open for Tyler to say they shouldn't or can't. And when they land in Sacramento the next day, good news! Nev has a text from Tyler suggesting a place they can meet. Bad news! It's a park.
In a park, where nothing good ever happens, we find out almost immediately whether Nev and Max did, in fact, correctly identify Tyler.
There's The Cowboys Liker now. This is obviously a huge bummer for Alyssa, but also...here's where things get super-dicey for me, because I -- admittedly a lay person not trained to make such assessments, so don't @ me -- think that Tyler may be on the autism spectrum or possibly have an intellectual impairment. So while I don't think it's respectful of him as an adult to excuse his online deceptions on the grounds that he didn't know what he was doing -- particularly since, given how elaborate they seem to have been, he clearly did -- I also think it may be that he didn't have the framework to think through the effects his actions would have on his victims. On the other hand, as I've already harped on KIND OF A LOT, Alyssa was fully convinced by his whole routine and kept up her side of it for six months, so Tyler evidently had a strong enough sense of the sort of things he should be saying to have maintained the relationship, and maybe he's just socially awkward in a way that has nothing to do with his neurological status. Anyway, let's pretend that someone at MTV had qualified professionals in the fields of both medicine and law review this episode to sign off on the ethics of airing it and proceed.
So: Tyler. He really is nineteen. He really is a Cowboys fan. He really did have a friend who died of cancer. Everything he's told Alyssa has been truthful other than his use of Mike's photos, and when Max asks how he feels about Alyssa, he calls her "the best thing that's ever happened" to him: "I love her. I really do love her and care about her." Alyssa:
Max and Nev are both like, Alyssa's right there, tell her, and Tyler stiffly says that he "does regret" sending her the fake photos, but that he was afraid she wouldn't want to talk to him if she knew what he really looked like. "Like, do I really seem like that type of person, who would judge when you know my entire life I've been judged?" she sniffs, as if we didn't already just see her burst into tears at the evidence that her Tyler wasn't a chiseled mini-Adonis. Nev asks why Tyler wouldn't talk to Alyssa on the phone, to which he replies that he's uncomfortable doing so -- which, based on what we're watching, seems plausible.
So then Max opens the door to establishing the extent of Tyler's online mendacity by asking why Tyler made the fake profile that fooled Alyssa. Tyler's non-answer: "I was on the internet on my phone, and I saw something about MocoSpace, and so I was like, trying to figure out what that was, and then I clicked on it, and I ended up making the profile." That makes it sound like the platform populated his profile with fake pics or some shit, but of course no one has any follow-ups. He adds, before being asked, that the only person he met on MocoSpace was Alyssa. "But why do you have a lot of fake accounts on MocoSpace?" Max asks. "I only thought I had the one," Tyler replies. Max and Nev inform him that they know his phone number is linked to twelve accounts. "I have no clue what any of those other ones are," Tyler claims, not credibly. "They're so similar to yours, that's what's weird," says Nev, generously. Max tells Tyler, "Now is the time to come out with everything and not lie. We found those other profiles. It was very devastating to Alyssa. I think she just wants to know, are you only talking to her?" "Yes," says Tyler firmly. Max: "You're not talking to anyone else." "No," Tyler declares, before Max has even finished his question. "I honestly have no clue about those other profiles." Max:
But they drop it...for now.
Alyssa speaks up at this point to say she's not sure she can believe anything Tyler's telling her because he seems so emotionless (aaaaaaawkward because see abooooooooove), and he tells her he's sorry he made her "feel any type of way about [him] not being real." He repeats that she's the best thing that ever happened to him and that he loves her, but it seems pretty clear that she's out even before she says, "I don't know if I can believe you. I don't know if it's the same anymore." Tyler rubs his face and looks down and into the uncomfortable silence Alyssa says she needs to go, and walks just a little ways off so that she's still visible to Tyler to cry and hug Max.
Nev, still at the meeting spot, implores Tyler to see how things look to them: "It feels like you're lying. We can't really figure a way that there would be twelve nearly identical profiles that are all linked to the same phone number if they're not yours." "I don't know anything about those other profiles, I really don't," Tyler insists.
Alyssa gets back into the car with Max to continue crying that she doesn't feel like she can believe Tyler. Max says, "I want to," but, like, does he, though? They agree that his denials about the other profiles aren't convincing.
Meanwhile, Tyler is saying a third time that Alyssa is the best thing that's ever happened to him, and it's almost like, the more times he repeats it, the more it seems like something he heard at some point and that's worked on women he's talked to online? JUST A THEORY. Nev says Tyler must understand that Alyssa now needs to rethink their relationship, and Tyler says he gets it.
In the car, Max urges Alyssa to think of the questions she most wants answered, so that she can go back and ask them (which, to me, suggests that at this point he's not even sure there's going to be any Couch Time this week). Alyssa's ready...
...and her biggest question? "Why me?" Tyler says that talking to her helped him through a lot of things. She made him laugh; she has the greatest personality he's ever seen. (Based on this episode, that is a sad indictment of everyone else Tyler's ever met, but okay.) She's special to him. He'd do anything for her. "And I swear on my mom's life, I really have no clue about those other profiles. I really don't." Alyssa must be slightly less dumb than the first half of the episode led me to believe, because she still isn't convinced. "I would not lie to you...except about the picture," Tyler tells her. Max tries once more to impress upon Tyler that if he wants to have any kind of chance with Alyssa, he needs to come clean now. "I'm telling the God honest truth [sic]," says Tyler, choking up. "Those are not my profiles, I have no idea who created them. And I'm being dead serious on that."
Tyler slides his glasses down to pinch the bridge of his nose as he cries, and when he takes a few steps away to snuffle in relative privacy, Alyssa walks over to him to comfort him and apologize for making him feel uncomfortable, but that he hurt her, and she's been hurt her whole life. Tyler insists that they can still make it work between them, but the existence of all those other profiles are still, obviously, a sticking point for her, and she doesn't have anything more to say. Though I guess she's going to because, as they're pulling away, Max asks, if Tyler does admit ownership of the other damning profiles "tomorrow," would Alyssa date him? She pauses for a while and then says she would. OH, SHE WOULD NOT.
When they all meet back up at Tyler's house the next day, it's clear Max and Nev think that after Tyler'd had a chance to sleep on it, he'd finally admit the other profiles are his, but Tyler -- having sworn on his mother's life, let's not forget -- stands firm and confesses nothing. Max says straight up that he still thinks Tyler's behind the other profiles, and says that if Nev and Max are what's keeping him from admitting it to Alyssa, they can leave the two of them alone, and when they're gone, Alyssa tells Tyler she thinks it's best if she doesn't sugarcoat things: "I have a gut feeling...that......you're not being..........a hundred per cent honest with me." OH SHIT, MY EYEBROWS JUST SINGED OFF FROM THE HEAT OF ALYSSA'S OPENING VOLLEY. Girl, you need not-sugarcoating lessons. Tyler understands why she's skeptical. He launches into the standard liar sob story about having been self-conscious and getting bullied in high school. The stolen photo was "a defense mechanism." She just stares at him, and when he asks if she has anything to say, she tells him that these stories are excuses. Everyone goes through shit, but she, for instance, didn't do to someone else what he did to her. (That we know of, I suppose.) Tyler hides his face and sighs, and then says he knows things aren't great between them, but that he still loves her: "With time, we can get things back to the way they were." Alyssa: "I don't know if I have that time of day [sic]."
Tyler requests one; Alyssa will only permit him to walk her out.
Two months later, Alyssa still hasn't figured out which angles work best for her.
She's been focusing on work and school. Tyler has reached out to her, which made her feel like he didn't respect her request that he give her space; they haven't talked since.
Tyler says things have been "rough" since they saw him; he misses Alyssa. Then he announces that there's something he wanted to tell them.
OH BOY, I HOPE THE SHOCK OF WHATEVER IT IS DOESN'T KILL US ALL. Tyler starts to say he's been thinking about those other profiles, at which point Max cuts him off and says he thinks they should conference in Alyssa. And what does Tyler say when they do? "I said those profiles weren't mine. They were." The graphics department SLIGHTLY overreacts to this completely unsurprising revelation.
Tyler's not ready to be totally honest, though, it seems, as he says that he never "used" the other profiles, except to play games (?). He knows he shouldn't have lied, but he was nervous and afraid and wanted Alyssa to like him. Alyssa's basically like, yeah, duh, but I still need my space. Nev tries to end on an up note by saying that Tyler knows what he did was wrong and now there's "an opening for closure" (???). Alyssa doesn't seem very inclined to give Tyler hope of any kind, and why should she.
Don't spend six months creating fantasies about someone who won't videochat. Don't spend six days creating fantasies about someone who won't get on the phone. Don't say someone's looks don't matter to you if they do, and particularly if there's a high likelihood that you might soon be forced to admit that on camera. Extremely good-looking people aren't online looking for love with people who live multiple time zones away.