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Will Catfish Help Larissa And Anthony Break Larissa's Streak Of Bad Relationships?

Larissa's been burned before, but are her instincts about her new online boyfriend as sound as she hopes?

The Client

Twenty-year-old Larissa, of Yakima, WA.

The Beloved

Anthony, of San Diego.

The Clues

Not so much a "clue," but relevant: Larissa says her "catfish sense is on high alert" because she's fallen for an online faker before. Larissa had never met her online boyfriend, Jose, but he had made introductions between Larissa and Kimberly, Jose's cousin. Larissa apparently thought nothing of the fact that Jose wouldn't speak to her on the phone, but would, instead, let her call him; put his end on mute; listen to her speak; and respond to her by text. SO THIS IS WHAT WE'RE DEALING WITH.

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Cut to: Larissa finding out that Jose WAS Kimberly...THREE YEARS LATER. Larissa and "Jose" ended things a year ago when Larissa learned the truth (that Kimberly was in love with her), so basically, Larissa spent all of high school fake-dating one of her close female friends -- and Larissa herself says that the whole school knew about the deception and tried to tell her, but she wouldn't listen. During part of that time, Larissa was also talking online -- as a friend -- to Anthony, who also warned her that Jose was a fake; after Kimberly's identity was exposed, Larissa and Anthony became as much a "couple" as is possible in one of these stupid situations.

So: Anthony. He's never accepted a request from Larissa that they videochat. A few months ago, he moved to Yakima, but he hadn't set up an in-person meeting, and since then has moved back to San Diego. (However, he does talk on the phone, so Larissa is at least pretty confident that he is male.) He asked her to send him money, and she did: "Close to $500," which she was supposed to have spent on books (for college, I assume).

The Excuses

Per the texts we see on screen, Anthony claims bad wifi as the reason he can't videochat, and that he's too busy to meet Larissa in person. He needed the money when he was in Alaska, where he was working as a fisherman -- and where, by the way, he also cheated on Larissa, inasmuch as it's possible to cheat on someone you've never met.

The Investigation

In Yakima, Nev and Max start with a little psychoanalysis. Larissa currently lives with her mother's boyfriend, who is controlling with the wifi, turning it off at certain times so that she can't talk to her friends online. (...What? Does he think it's metered?) She says that she's never really had a relationship with her biological father, but claims she "got over" asking her mother why her father didn't love her. "Now you're saying, 'When is my boyfriend gonna come home, why doesn't my boyfriend love me?'" comments Max. "I mean, maybe there's something related there." Larissa answers this with the tiniest of nods. Maybe there is. Maybe she's just dumb! That seems to be Nev's read, as he tells her even before they look at her computer that she's "got to get over the idea that Anthony's telling [her] the truth." Larissa cries as she says she knows, but she still loves him anyway. Maybe if her mother's boyfriend let her spend more time online she would LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE WORLD.

So this is Anthony.

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The eyelashes alone are highly sus, in my opinion, and when they get into Anthony's cheating, Max daddishly tells Larissa that she can't keep letting people get away with crossing her boundaries: "You don't say anything because you keep on expecting these people to become the person you wish they were or that you idealize them to be. And then they're not." Larissa says that's why she wants Anthony to be real, so she doesn't actually hear what Max is saying, like, at all. "If Anthony's a guy that hurts you, you know that already," says Nev. "And if he's real, then he's a real jerk," adds Max, "who takes your money and lies to you. Until you figure out what it is that makes you fall in love with these guys who don't treat you right, nothing we do or say is actually going to help you. Sure, we can prove this guy isn't who he says he is, easy. We'll do that. But like, that's not going to fix your problem." This is all SUCH a nice way of saying, "Girl, you a IDIOT." Larissa has a hard time absorbing this much toughish love.

Previously.TV

Previously.TV

In his usual way, Nev tries to smooth things over by telling Larissa it's great to believe in love and romance and all that business: "Those are good qualities to have. But they can also get you hurt, and we don't want you to keep getting hurt." He and Max tell Larissa that Job 1 will for sure be dealing with what she asked them to: figuring out Anthony's real identity. But as a side project, they're also going to work on...fixing whatever is broken in the parts of her brain that should be handling things like "logic" and "judgment." That's not how they put it -- they're all "feelings" and "learn to put yourself first," and obviously that's part of it, but another part of it is just straight-up stupidity; I honestly don't know how this feeb even manages to dress herself in the morning given what we've learned about her in, like, eleven minutes of show.

Nev and Max then leave Larissa to ponder what they've told her about her dangerously high credulousness, and start sleuthing back at their hotel. Larissa reports that Anthony's career path has taken him from San Diego to Anchorage and his fisherman job; to Yakima, though what he was doing there is unclear; and then back to the San Diego area, where he worked at a car dealership in Escondido. She's also sent a link to his Facebook profile and a couple of photos he'd sent.

They start with the photos, but none of them returns any other results online. Neither of the phone numbers Larissa has supplied for Anthony returns any information either. So their next stab is to call the car dealership, but Hector, the guy who answers, says that no Anthony Ramirez (the surname way ADRed, hilariously) has ever worked there. Nev adds that the guy they're trying to find supposedly left to work on a fishing boat in Alaska, and Hector is like, "Ohhhhhhh," except the person HE knows who matches that description wasn't named Anthony.

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Hector says that Jose was, at the time, friends with a guy named Mark who's still at the dealership, and volunteers to supply Mark's number. Confidentiality isn't much of a priority at car dealerships, I guess. Before they call Mark, Max and Nev chew over how Jose would have picked up the money Larissa sent if his name isn't Anthony Ramirez, but decide that he must have a fake ID in that name. Max also gets confused about whether this Jose could have been Larissa's fake boyfriend of three years before remembering THAT Jose has been identified. I think it's just a coincidence, guys. Jose's a common name. It's not like he's called Journey River or some shit.

So then they call Mark, who reports that he hasn't heard from Jose since he moved, about a month and a half ago, from Escondido to Kodiak, Alaska. Nev repeats the number he has for "Anthony," and Mark confirms that it's the same one he has for Jose. Max asks whether Alaska is somewhere Jose goes a lot, and Mark says he's been there at least once before; Mark's understanding is that he's currently working in a fish cannery. Will the glamour ever stop with this fucking guy?!

Hanging up on Mark, Nev looks up Kodiak and sees that it's an island off the coast of Alaska. And what do you know: Jose's Facebook page offers more confirmation that Mark's intel is accurate!

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In case you can't tell from how the show cropped it, that's the Kodiak city limits sign. So that's two episodes in a row in which the cover photo on the faker's real Facebook profile connects to one of the few confirmed facts that are known about him. I know they've got to work your angles and cram the whole story into forty-two minutes, but like, there's not so much that they need to take very obvious shortcuts that telegraph the fact that the supposed target of the investigation is also almost certainly the one who wrote in to the show -- particularly when, in this case, Jose's profile ALSO just straight lists his current city as Kodiak. Good lord.

And that's basically it. On their way to Larissa's, Max and Nev agree that Larissa's not going to accept what this means, and will probably continue to hold out hope that she and Anthose might still find love together...

The Presentation Of Findings

...and sure enough, before Max and Nev get into it at Larissa's dining room table, they ask how she did after they left the day before, and she admits that she cried some more, but then ordered herself not to "think about all the bad": "Don't worry about it." And why wouldn't she? Those are exactly the kind of rock-solid instincts that have gotten her where she is today!

Larissa wastes no time proving my point that her issue is less that she gets blinded by the possibilities of romance than that she's just dumb. After telling her how they found out about Jose, Nev says, "When we compared the number you have for Anthony to the number Mark has for Jose? They were the same."

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Oh my god, dude, SERIOUSLY?! Larissa hasn't said anything about having a child, but if that high chair you can see in the wide shot belongs to a baby who has half Larissa's DNA, I hope Larissa's not planning to homeschool.

"It means that your Anthony and Mark's Jose are the same person," says Max slowly, managing not to roll his eyes. As Larissa silently shakes her head, Nev shows her the Facebook cover photo with the Kodiak sign, and clicks on a photo to show her Jose.

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"This is the guy you're talking to," says Nev. "I hope it's not," says Larissa, idiotically. "Well, it definitely is," says Nev. SERIOUSLY HOW DUMB CAN A PERSON BE. "That's the guy that you've been talking to for the last year," Max says, both to back Nev up and to make sure LARISSA CAN HEAR HIM. "A hundred percent. He's the one you say 'I love you' to. He's the one you've been sending pictures to. There is no Anthony." Larissa starts crying again at the thought that Jose could have so adamantly insisted to her that fake Jose was lying to her about his identity when REAL Jose was doing exactly the same thing.

Nev calls Jose and gets his voicemail, leaving a brief message about meeting up. But as soon as he's hung up, he notes that they know where Jose is and can probably find him pretty easily; he thinks they should just go to Kodiak. "I mean, he didn't give you a choice," says Nev. "I don't think we necessarily need to give him a choice either." He and Max urge Larissa to take this opportunity to start standing up for herself, and Larissa takes a long sniffle before mumbling, "I'm ready."

The Confrontation

Max, Nev, and Larissa have all checked in to their motel in Kodiak and still haven't heard back from Jose, but since the town's not that big, their plan is basically to show Jose's photo to locals all over the place in the hopes that someone recognizes him. Why they don't just start with fish canneries -- since that's where Mark said Jose was working, and of which Google says there are only six in Kodiak -- I'm sure I don't know, and of course that's where they end up finding the person Larissa's been talking to all this time. Who comes out?

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Good old Jose. It seems clear from her face that there was still, somehow, against all reason, a part of Larissa that believed Anthony was going to walk out in a rubber apron.

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TRAGIC.

Jose walks everyone a few yards away from the door to the cannery before starting out -- poorly -- by mumbling this answer to Max's question of why he did all this: "Uhhhhh, I can't really start somewhere, 'cause like, I wasn't thinking about-- I wasn't-- I just did it 'cause, I don't know." Cool. Well, back to the airport, everyone! Maybe Larissa was drawn to Jose because he's her intellectual equal. Max decides to ask a less open-ended question, which is: who is Anthony? The fact that he even phrases it like this also tips us to the fact that Max has come into this interaction with more information than he's probably supposed to let on, because: there is an Anthony. Jose says the guy in the pictures is a real ex-friend of Jose's, whose name is really Anthony [Lastname Larissa knows]; Jose created the fake profile to get revenge on Anthony for some kind of romantic betrayal by making Anthony look bad to his girlfriend. Larissa asks why her, and he babbles that he doesn't know: "At first it was just a game, but after a while, it just became something else." Max asks whether Jose had real feelings for Larissa, and Jose pauses before saying, "I like her as a friend." "You were the first one to tell me you loved me!" yelps Larissa. She complains that her heart was broken after her ordeal with fake Jose (Kimberly was really inconsiderate using the same name as someone who was going to dupe Larissa later, because this is confusing), and now her heart is broken more. She accompanies this plaint with heart fingers, including pulling her hands apart to show the break, which smurfiness loses her a little bit of the advantage in the conversation, frankly.

Max changes the subject to the money, and Jose admits, "At that point, I was basically using her, basically."

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"To be able to get home," Jose adds. He'd been "basically homeless" for six months before getting into an accident; the hospital paid for him to fly back to San Diego, he says, and he didn't end up taking her money. As to the question of how Jose would have picked up money sent to Anthony, he and Larissa both confirm that there's also an option for someone to claim it by answering security questions. I seriously had no idea, but I guess it's good to know that Western Union (or whatever) is available even to people living completely off the grid.

Why did Jose come to Kodiak? This part gets kind of vague, but the upshot is that he wanted to be somewhere no one knew him. "You fled the lower 48 to come to Alaska and start anew?" marvels Max. "That only generally happens when, like, you've murdered somebody." "I got into some issues," Jose admits. "I had issues with the law. And now I'm basically on the no-fly list. Basically, I can't-- I can't go back to California." Oh boy. "You're kind of a fugitive," says Nev. "Yeah," says Jose. "That's the honest truth." If you're hoping to find out what he did...don't, because you won't.

Max then asks what Larissa has maybe forgotten, which is that Jose started lying to Larissa online at the same time she was already being lied to by fake Jose. Larissa says he had plenty of opportunities to stop lying to her, but he didn't, and Jose agrees that she's right without apologizing or explaining why he didn't, which is when Nev closes the discussion for the day. As Jose shambles off, Larissa says she's glad to let it out, but that she's frustrated not to have any answers. Nev tries to distract her by pointing out a bald eagle hanging out on a nearby pole. Because Larissa doesn't have much of an inner life, it works!

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

The next day, the visitors go see Jose at a surprisingly well-appointed apartment for a fugitive fish canner. (Read: Kodiak, Alaska's only Airbnb.) Jose knows it's time to try justifying his actions with a sob story, and his is, unfortunately, a good (bad) one. When Jose was two, his alcoholic biological father physically abused him so badly that Jose's "organs were coming out" and he was hospitalized for months. When he was well enough to leave, he was placed in foster care, and he was adopted when he was three. The members of his adoptive family are "centered" and successful; he wishes he'd enrolled in the military like his siblings did, but he "started messing around with weed" and "the party scene" instead. He doesn't feel that there's anyone in his life who loves him unconditionally, and says he tends to rely on himself, which is why, after Larissa's ambush, he took a job on a fishing boat and is shipping out the next day: "That way I don't hurt anybody or they hurt me." "So you're just running again," says Max. "Yeah," says Jose.

Duly softened, Larissa gently says she understands he's had a hard life, but she still wants him to know that what he did to her is "not right." Jose understands that, but says he was trying to avoid hurting her or getting hurt himself -- which is why he thought telling her he'd cheated on her would let her move on and forget him. "But that's selfish," says Max. "Yeah," says Jose -- who, again, is kind of an idiot, like his fake girlfriend.

Larissa says that her feelings for Anthony were real, but Jose's feelings for her were not. Jose's like, YEAH, ABOUT THAT, because it turns out that when he'd told them the day before that he only liked Larissa as a friend, it's because he was trying to save face; he actually does have romantic feelings for her, and he regrets that he didn't tell the truth. He'd never had anyone in his life care about him the way Larissa did: "And once I had it, I didn't want to lose it. I started feeling good about myself. That's the hardest part about it." He hopes he'll find it again. This is all very sweet but WHAT'S HE ON THE RUN FROM THE LAW FOR Y'ALL.

At this point, Max and Nev excuse themselves to let Jose and Larissa speak in private. Jose correctly guesses that Larissa no longer "feel[s] it" because of the way he lied to her: "But I love you." Larissa, not meeting his eye, mutters, "Your voice -- it just gets to me." I know he's a criminal, but these two boobs really deserve each other. "You could've been yourself," Larissa tells Jose, which is kind of cruel of her. "Things would have been so different. But now it's kind of-- kind of over." Jose gets it. Larissa doesn't wish him ill; she hopes he'll find someone who'll care about him the way she did, but...you know, it's clear that's not going to be her.

Hugs?

Larissa and Jose cordially shake hands, but no one hugs. However, in the car she tells Nev and Max she feels "great." And she feels even better when they go to the Western Union (or whatever) and retrieve her money.

Previously.TV

Previously.TV

The Aftermath

Two months later, Larissa says she's "working and making money," which I guess means she didn't end up spending that recovered $500 on schoolbooks. Since they recorded the episode, she says, she's talked to Jose...when he called her from prison. "Surely now we'll find out what he did?" Nope! During that conversation, he apparently asked Larissa if there was still a chance for them, and given how dumb she is, I can hardly blame him for asking, but it seems like her answer was no. When Max asks what's changed for her since filming, she offers, "My confidence?" You can tell it's true by the way she phrases it as a question. (I would have asked whether her mother's boyfriend still has that weird stranglehold on the wifi, but that doesn't come up.)

As for Jose?

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Yeah, we...we heard. The Black Screen Of Judgment adds that he's since been released on probation, but I guess Max and Nev moved on.

The Life Lessons Learned

No one's wifi is so bad that he can't videochat ever. No one is so busy that he can't come meet you somewhere in the town where you both supposedly live. After you get burned by a multi-year online relationship with a complete liar, maybe don't immediately get into another relationship with someone you've never met. Alaska is America's Australia.

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