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Will Catfish Help Shawny And Jack Get Past Her Suspicions Of Being A 'Side Piece'?

A divorced mom has fallen into a flirtation with a man she only knows via text. Can it possibly be true that she's not his #1 priority?

The Client

Shawny, of Rochester, NY.

The Beloved

Jack, also of Rochester.

The Clues

Jack and Shawny originally made each other's "acquaintance" when he called her cell phone, apparently by mistake. Since she didn't recognize the number, she sent it to voicemail. He didn't leave a message, and I guess she was bored because she texted back to see if she knew him. A flirty text relationship thus began, but it has yet to progress even as far as PHONE CALLS. Sometimes days go by without their having any contact at all, which has made her think he's in another relationship and that she's his "chick on the side," as she puts it. Though they live in the same city, they've never met.

The Excuses

Shawny doesn't have access to videochat technology: she doesn't have a computer, and this is her phone.

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But the main reason for Shawny's lack of curiosity and failure to press Jack for an in-person meeting seems to be her emotional fragility. She's in the process of getting divorced, and is basically just thirsty for someone who'll be nice to her, and doesn't care to ask too many questions about what that someone's deal is. When Nev and Max note that Shawny's never spoken to Jack on the phone and suggest that Jack's reticence may be because Jack is actually a woman, Shawny isn't averse to the notion of pursuing a relationship with her: "If they treated me a certain type of way and I found myself interested in them, I might." On the one hand, it's refreshing that she's so open-minded and has no sexual/gender hang-ups. On the other, if Jack is a woman, she might not be that interested in a relationship with someone so desperate and needy.

The Investigation

Nev and Max go into their sleuthing pretty sure Jack's someone Shawny already knows, both because they live in the same city, and because Shawny's never actually talked to him (...even though, in both their conversations with her to this point, they haven't actually established that Jack's refusal is the reason he and Shawny haven't spoken on the phone).

They start by searching the photos of Jack that Shawny has provided, which is a surprise, since I wouldn't have assumed that her phone could send or receive pictures.

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None of them returns any results. On to the phone number: no name is associated with it, but the address information takes them to a Google Earth photo of two houses. When they search the first house number, this is the result:

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This seems important given that Shawny had previously told them there used to be some old guy who would call her to chat, though neither thinks that said old guy learned how to text just to be Shawny's secret admirer. The second house brings them to an Angel, age 31, who they find on Facebook.

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"It seems like she could be into women," says Max of this photo of a woman in front of a rainbow flag. This is why he has a TV show where he solves mysteries and you don't. They decide, based on nothing, that it's possible Shawny knows Angel, and that Angel is declining to talk on the phone to hide her sex. They send Angel a message via Facebook...

...and while they wait for an answer -- because they have zero other leads to investigate -- Max floats a theory: that they're getting duped. He thinks Shawny knows exactly whom she's talking to, given how chill she was about the suggestion that "Jack" could be a woman, and that the episode is a setup, as with Whitney and Bre. Max has a feeling, and he wants to give Shawny the gears and figure out what's actually going on. And since they (spoiler) aren't going to hear back from Angel, and can't even identify which of two houses Jack's phone may live in, he might as well!

The Presentation Of Findings

Max: "There've been people who've come on the show who claimed to have never met the person that they ended up talking to, but then it turned out that they knew them all along." Shawny:

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Nev seems like he's about to back up Max and tell Shawny her story is horseshit, but he stops short and says merely that it's "unusual." Max tells Shawny they want to "give [her] an opportunity" to tell them if she knows whom she's been talking to. Shawny:

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While Max continues looking amused and dubious, Shawny insists that she called them because she wanted to find out who Jack really is, even knowing it would be embarrassing to do it on TV. Max:

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So, their suspicions assuaged, Nev and Max go through their two findings. Shawny doesn't remember the name of the old man who called her but thinks it was something like George; she doesn't rule out the possibility that Robert is her elderly phone friend. But Angel seems like a better lead when Shawny says that her husband worked with someone named Angel.

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Okay, it's not like Shawny's ex worked with someone named Hortensia. Angel is not an uncommon name. Settle down. Anyway, Shawny's ex knew an Angel when he worked in a hospital, and the Angel Nev and Max found is in the medical field, but that coincidence is far less compelling to them; plus, when they show Shawny a photo of Angel, she says she's never seen her. Nev asks how she'd feel if it turned out she'd been talking to Angel all this time. Shawny, coyly:

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At this point, it seems more like she'd be very into it? Max pivots to say that maybe Shawny's ex created the Jack character to talk to Shawny in secret and keep her from meeting someone else (and that his former colleague Angel abetted him, I guess?). Shawny says that her ex didn't think she was attractive (which...is sad); that's why she doesn't think he'd be behind this.

Regardless, the end of this story is that Nev and Max have NO IDEA who Jack is and (spoiler) they're not going to hear from Angel, so there's nothing more to tell her and nothing left to do but set up a meeting, which they try to do in Nev's hotel room the next day. When Nev calls the number for Jack, he gets a message that the customer's voicemail hasn't been set up yet. Instead, Nev texts him. Their blah blah back and forth is boilerplate except for Jack's admission of something he's never told Shawny: he's divorced!

Max and Nev head back to Shawny's to tell her this new fact, and that he wants to meet in a nearby park.

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Shawny and her NyQuil contacts are nervous, but she's game. Well, we know how this goes!

...Wait, not so fast! On the drive to the park, Shawny says she's ready to forgive, as she would want to be forgiven. Nev's like, forgiven for what? Max:

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Wellllll, it turns out Shawny sent Jack fake photos of herself. Nev and Max mildly needle her for this deception, but mostly seem to think it's funny and that she's proven their doubts were founded.

The Confrontation

In a park, where nothing good ever happens, Nev, Max, and Shawny haven't been waiting long before a guy rolls up on his bike. He sure looks like Jack!

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Max and Nev watch Shawny's face as he approaches, asking if she knows him, and she sheepishly admits that she does. "You're in trouble," says Nev. "Someone's lying," says Max, immediately adding, "It's your ex-husband." Smirking, Shawny nods. "Fuuuuuuck," sighs Max. "No way," says Nev. Max and Nev both whine that they were right and she was lying to them -- but, still, sound more amused than angry, and can't really get into their betrayal much when Shawny's ex has dropped his bike next to a tree and is stalking toward them, because HE HAS NOT BEEN IN ON IT.

Shawny, her arms tightly crossed over her chest, doesn't say anything to her ex and stays close by Max as Nev asks for his side of the story. Bewildered, Shawny's ex -- still chyroned "Jack" at this point -- says he didn't know he'd been talking to Shawny until he got close enough to see her a minute ago. He thought this was going to be his first-time meeting his texting girlfriend, and he is PISSED.

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Nev asks whether Shawny didn't tell Jack, "My name is Shawny," and she nods that she did and repeats, "'My name is Shawny.'" Jack:

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Max and Nev still don't get it.

Previously.TV

Previously.TV

HERE WE GO. Nev yelps, "Why wouldn't you tell us that?" as if Max didn't come in hot to The Presentation Of Findings to expose her lie. Ebony says that she thought if she was honest, they wouldn't help her. And she just wants to get her family back together!

So after a commercial, we get the story, which started when, around the time her marriage was ending, Ebony got a new phone and used it to call...well.

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Previously.TV

He didn't answer, but when he responded, via text, he claimed his name was Jack. Nev asks why Brandon didn't tell the mystery caller his real name, and Brandon shrugs that he didn't know who it was. And Ebony didn't tell him who she was either, identifying herself as Shawny and sending a couple of fake pics. Nev suddenly remembers that "Shawny" never actually claimed that "Jack" was the one who refused to speak on the phone, and asks Brandon what he thought about the fact that "Shawny" would only text. That's when we get more details about the Shawny persona: she's "doing music"! She's "travelling a lot"! Nev wheels around on Ebony, as he should, because this is textbook Catfish. "Well, he catfished me, and I catfished him back," claims Ebony. Except to her that just means his giving her a fake name was on the level of the lies she told him. Nev defends Brandon's choice to lie to whomever was on the other end of a number that called his phone. Ebony thinks she's adorable.

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She is really not.

Max recaps the situation to set up Ebony's self-justification: to wit, she and Brandon were living in the same house and not talking, and she was desperate to do something to keep their marriage from collapsing. She thought he could talk to her if she were a different person, and it seems like she was right, in a way: "How is it that you can just maintain for five months being, like, the perfect person ever...and like, for sixteen years, you couldn't even get it together? Why can't we do that as Brandon and Ebony?"

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Nev's got a lot to think about! "I don't want to be somebody else to be loved," says Ebony quietly. Yeesh. She doesn't need Brandon, she needs therapy. Max asks whether she did all this to force this conversation, and she says that when she's tried to talk to Brandon directly, they end up arguing. Apparently intending to cause more argument, Nev turns to Brandon to ask whether "Shawny" was accurate in her description of her ex, who cheated on her a lot. "He's been with all of Rochester," sniffs Ebony, and when Brandon does get a chance to answer, he doesn't really defend himself well: "I look at everybody. I mean, I'm looking at y'all! I feel like everyone out here is beautiful, you know what I mean? Look at the scenery! I look at a lot of stuff, you know what I mean? Like, I love trees. I love animals. I don't have sex with them." I'm...fairly sure your marriage didn't end because you were looking at too many trees, my dude. Nev steers the discussion toward women, and Brandon shrugs that he loves women, but he thinks everyone does: "Women should love women, that's how I feel." Max asks whether Brandon wants to work something out, and Brandon dodges that "anything can be worked out," but that he doesn't think all relationships need to be the same: "I'd rather have, like, more of a, more of a free type thing, you know what I mean."

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Lady, you get to glare in disgust at the trifling asshole who wasted the best years of your life OR try to get back together with him, NOT BOTH. Max feels the need to spell it out for Ebony, saying that Brandon wants to have his cake and eat it too, but Brandon objects: "I never agree with that expression. I never agree with that. Ain't no reason to have cake if you're gonna have it sit in front of you. I'm gonna eat it! And if it's offered again, I'm gonna get another piece." I honestly can't top Max's response:

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Nev tries to wrap things up by getting them to agree on some things, like that they still "have love" for each other. Ebony pouts that she wants to get back together, she just doesn't want to "keep getting played." Madam, may I refer you to Brandon's deconstruction of the cake analogy above? You seem to want things he is not prepared to offer. Self-control with regard to cake, for one. Max tries to help her get on the moral high ground by saying it sounds like she doesn't want to be in a relationship with someone who's "constantly sleeping with other people," to which Ebony replies, "No, unless we're both sleeping with other people!" WAIT, so then it sounds like you want a polyamorous relationship where you're still each other's primary partner? So that your children could continue living in an intact home, while both their parents are happily fulfilled by a succession of other sexual partners and, on occasion, each other? Is that the arrangement this episode is about to advocate? HAHA, NO, OF COURSE NOT, Ebony is a woman and therefore has to be portrayed as the victim of this "dog" despite what she literally just said. And anyway, she doesn't mean it: under questioning from Nev, Ebony tearfully admits that she doesn't really want to sleep with anyone else, and she doesn't want Brandon to either.

Nev then splits them up, walking off with Brandon and explaining their mistaken impression of what's been going on. Brandon admits that he should have been asking "Shawny" more questions. I guess he was really into the two fake photos Ebony sent him, if he stayed interested for five months on no more stimuli than that and her sexts. Brandon says it felt different to talk about his life with "Shawny": "Now I don't know what the hell I have."

A few yards away, Ebony tells Max she doesn't know how to let Brandon go. Max is empathetic, given that Brandon's the only man she's been with her whole life. She doesn't know what it's like to be alone, but she admits that she doesn't know what she wants.

At this point, Nev and Brandon return, and they close things up for the day...

...but in the car driving off from the park, Max ONCE AGAIN brings up the lies Ebony shamelessly told them to her face.

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She doesn't seem that remorseful about it. When they've driven on a bit, Max announces, "Real talk: I don't understand why you don't dump this fucking guy." "I don't know," Ebony mumbles. Max rants on: "I know that he's the father to your kids, but he's shown you no real respect. He doesn't really want to be with you. If he wants to have sex with these other girls...where does your own self-love kick in over your love for him?" "I do love myself," Ebony claims. "Well, at some point you're going to have to choose between yourself and your love for him," Max declares. Helpful?

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

The next day, all the guys descend upon Ebony's. Brandon says he was more upset about the loss of "Shawny" than he wanted to let on: "I didn't really grow up expressing myself, talking." Nev generously says that it's a difficult conversation for anyone to have. Ebony cries that she's not mad at Brandon; she's loved him since they were "little." "I love you too," mutters Brandon. "I shouldn't have had to do this," says Ebony. She thought "Shawny" would fix things, but she didn't think it all through. Finally she gets around to saying she's sorry, but I suspect that "I shouldn't have had to do this" sums up her feelings a lot more accurately. Brandon's "definitely sorry for a lot of stuff" too. Ebony thinks it's unhealthy for them to "keep doing this" without specifying what she means, but honestly it applies to literally everything we've seen. "I probably caused all this," says Brandon. But you said you don't have sex with animals! Anyway, he's going to think about working on himself. Sounds like the issue is that he's had too many other ladies "working on himself," riiiiiight?

Hugs?

Everyone hugs everyone else.

The Aftermath

Six (!) months later, Ebony has acquired or borrowed a computer to Skype with Nev and Max. "Everything has been awesome!" Ebony enthuses. She and Brandon have worked out how he can spend more time with the kids, but Ebony and Brandon are not a couple anymore. She's very happy she did the show because it helped her and Brandon clear the air. Brandon and Ebony are on such good terms that Nev suggests adding him to the chat, but as it turns out, Brandon just "happens" to be over at Ebony's right now! Brandon agrees that things have improved since he and Ebony did the show, though weirdly the first thing he mentions is that he's been putting in more time at work? He's perfected a technique for grilling burgers that keeps them moist, but it's a secret. BUT I WATCH THIS SHOW FOR THE COOKING TIPS. Brandon then gets around to saying it's been good spending more time with his family. "And do you miss Shawny?" asks Nev. Brandon and Ebony crack up.

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"I'm sitting next to her!" he adds. Aw, they really do seem happy. And if this is how the season is beginning, I have to assume every other tale is going to be pure misery. And by that I mean they better be.

The Life Lessons Learned

Don't try to start a fake relationship with someone who lives in your town. Don't try to start a real relationship with someone who tells you in so many words that he is 100% going to fuck around on you. Don't try to start a fake relationship with someone you used to be MARRIED TO.

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