Will Catfish Help Telizza And Shai Strip Away Their Inhibitions And Find Love?
Chicago's Telizza wasn't interested in women before Kansas City stripper Shai randomly found her on Facebook. But is Telizza ready to learn the naked truth?
Telizza, a recent high school grad, of Chicago.
Shai, a stripper, of Kansas City.
In the year Telizza and Shai have been talking since Shai sent her an "inbox" (add that to the list of irritating locutions young people use around social media: it's a FACEBOOK MESSAGE A.K.A. LAZY EMAIL), Shai's never consented to videochat. Telizza and her friend Antonese decided to do some rudimentary investigating with photos from Shai's Facebook, but nothing came up. Telizza doesn't seem particularly concerned about other red flags that are obvious to the rest of us, such as: Shai never wants to talk about herself; Shai claims to be a stripper employed by an establishment called Temptations, despite only being seventeen.
None that make it into the episode. Okay, this bitch isn't even trying.
Well before they start actually digging in, Max and Nev have
guesses theories. In fact, based solely on Telizza's initial letter, Nev suggests -- based on the fact that Telizza's romantic feelings for Shai have intensified since Telizza dumped her boyfriend of four years (for cheating on her) -- that "Shai" is someone Telizza knows, and who plans to "blackmail her" with everything he or she has learned about Telizza. Max:
Max won't join Nev out on this limb, terming this "a big theory." More plausible seems to be the assumption they each separately arrive at after meeting the aforementioned Antonese, who's with Telizza when Max and Nev go over to meet Telizza in person for the first time.
Antonese's suspicions about Shai were sparked by Antonese's assessment of Shai as an 8, and while I feel few would dispute this except to rule it too low...
...hearing that one woman thinks another is attractive immediately gives Nev a semi.
When Antonese says that if there really is something between Telizza and Shai, Telizza should pursue it, Nev approves: "Your generation's attitude towards sexuality now is so free. It's great. It's like, 'I don't know, I like whoever I like.'" NICE TRY WITH THE WOKESPEAK, NEV, BUT IT TURNS OUT CAMERAS CAN RECORD YOUR FACE. Anyway: Antonese readily tells Max and Nev that the reason she first started wanting to look into Shai was that she was jealous that Telizza was telling Shai things that she didn't tell Antonese. After Telizza lets Nev look at her text history with Shai, from the erotic...
...to the emotional...
...Telizza breaks down crying as she says she hopes Shai is what she seems to be (a sexy woman about whom, by your own admission, you know nothing else?), and Antonese comforts her.
...Yeah. "Friendship." Look, I do think Max and Nev are both unqualified to do the "research" they undertake for this show, and kind of lazy -- the latter somewhat forgivable based on this season to date, in which two out of three cases have involved liars that their marks totally knew in real life. But if they quarter-ass it this time because they're so certain Shai is actually Antonese, I can't really blame them. Telizza and Antonese are VERY CLOSE!
All this by way of saying: there's not much to the "investigation," perhaps because Max and Nev have already made up their minds about whom it points to. None of the photos they grab from Shai's Facebook page returns any other Google results. The phone number from which Shai gets texts has no owner name attached to it on the search engine they use, though it does say it's a landline, which means it's probably a free internet number that Shai uses with a text app. This number is also supposedly based in Caney, Kansas, "nowhere near Kansas City, Missouri." Might a low-information internet user assume that Kansas City and Kansas, the state, and trust that Telizza didn't know better either? Perhaps! Nev calls Temptations to see if Shai is working that night and learns that no one by that name is employed there. And when they look into Shai's Facebook friends...
...there's Antonese. Max and Nev are both so sure this confirms their theory that Max actually says, "Could it not be Antonese?" I don't think the Facebook friendship of Antonese and Shai is dispositive in either direction -- Antonese-as-Shai could have friended Antonese to give herself cover with Telizza, OR Actual Antonese could have friended "Actual" "Shai" to monitor her on Telizza's behalf...
...but there's so little else to go on that sticking with the theory that Antonese is Shai doesn't seem so lazy this time.
I guess they only got "Telizza"'s Airbnb for one day, because Max and Nev make her come to the coffee shop for the debrief, which starts with Nev asking, pretty much without preamble, whether she thinks there's any chance Antonese likes her likes her.
She does not, though she says that's what her family thinks. Max: "There's a way to read her care for you as, like, maybe she feels guilty that she's put you through this, and when she sees you crying, she, like, really wants to soothe you, because she's Shai, and she's put you through this." Max doesn't seem to realize Nev didn't actually ask whether Telizza thinks Antonese could be Shai...
...and though there are many ways of interpreting this expression, to me it's "too shocked to react." In any case, she doesn't say anything. When Nev asks whether it surprises her to learn that Shai and Antonese are friends on Facebook, she says it doesn't. Nev: "We don't have any evidence that it is Antonese." "We don't have a clear conclusion," Max adds. "It could be anybody." In other words: they don't know anything and are talking out their asses -- SOP for Season 6. After running through the three things they did find out, Nev admits, "We're kind of out of options," so Telizza authorizes them to contact Shai and try to set up a meeting. Nev steps out to call her, leaving Telizza to make her feelings about all this pretty clear.
"Well, if everyone in your life is telling you that she might be into you, they're not blind!" says Max. "They probably can see more than you can. Again: whether Antonese wants to date Telizza and whether Antonese is Shai are TWO SEPARATE QUESTIONS. But Telizza just goes along with Max's hypothesis, saying it would make things awkward if Antonese is Shai. "I think it being Antonese is one of the better outcomes," says Max, because it would give cover to the fact that he and Nev didn't come up with any usable facts AT ALL and also because, sure, he knows better than Telizza how things might go in her four-year friendship with Antonese since he did just meet them both a couple of hours ago.
Over to Nev, who leaves Shai a voicemail, giving a real sarcastic twist on his pronunciation of her name. As soon as he's come back inside and sat down again, Telizza gets a call from Shai! Nev and Max try not to look too dismayed that the voice on the phone is obviously not Antonese's, as Shai complains about Telizza having called Catfish on her. Nev lets it be known that she's on speaker, and takes over explaining Telizza's rationale. Without much dithering, Shai says she is in Kansas City, and that if they came there to meet her tomorrow, it would be fine. Telizza takes the phone back to say she can't wait to meet Shai, who replies that she's nervous, but she's excited too. "That's a good sign -- that she's not here," Max opines. "I guess we were completely wrong about Antonese -- sorry about that," he does not add. Later, Nev has some thoughts.
YOU MUST REALLY HATE THIS SEASON, THEN, SINCE THAT DESCRIBES EVERY EPISODE SO FAR.
The three of them are literally in a car on their way to get the first flight out -- and Telizza's first flight ever, it turns out -- when Nev gets a text from Shai asking if they're really coming to meet her today. When Max (since Nev is driving) texts that they are...drama.
Max calls Shai on speaker to find out what's going on. She stammers that she got nervous yesterday and didn't know what to say, and since Max still thinks she's sketchy -- with good reason -- he asks her to tell them where in Brooklyn she actually is. Shai:
One might surmise that the geography whiz who thought her Caney, Kansas internet number correlated to Kansas City, Missouri wouldn't have the names of Brooklyn neighbourhoods at her fingertips. She finally offers, "...Canarsie???" and says that when they get to Brooklyn, she'll text them her location. "She could just know Canarsie from Jay Z, you know what I mean?" says Max. Is that the most famous Brooklyn neighbourhood for people outside the area? Not Red Hook or Bushwick or Williamsburg? I'm so out of touch. Nev suggests that Shai really DOES live in Kansas City and that she's sending them elsewhere because she's freaked out. If that's the case, I would think she'd have a better lie at the ready...but then again if she actually IS in Brooklyn, I would also think she'd be able to tell them WHERE SHE ACTUALLY IS, which gives credence to Nev's next theory, which is that she's in a third location entirely. In the absence of any other possible destination, though, they go along with Shai's new story and get on a plane to JFK.
At Shai's direction, they head for "River and 1st," a part of Brooklyn Nev says he's never been to and that does look pretty industrial. The location turns out to be a literal dead end; congratulations, Shai, you found a meeting spot even less appealing than a park!
Except...is it Shai?
Nope. Makeda seems excited, and immediately starts babbling that she can't believe Telizza is actually there.
Telizza was apparently still pretty sure that Shai was going to be the girl in the photos, because she is pissed. What's Makeda's deal? She just turned twenty; she lives with her mother, brother, and sister; she's not a stripper; she created the Shai page to try to catch a boyfriend cheating, and just friended Telizza at random to make it look real. Does she have feelings for Telizza? Regretfully, she says no. Telizza seems like she might like to depart the conversation immediately, but Max and Nev tries to cross-examine Makeda, claiming she couldn't have faked her interactions with Telizza without there being any feelings behind them. This seems like a big assumption, particularly given that by Telizza's own account Shai mostly just listened to her and let her vent, which is...not hard to do over text. Makeda says she felt bad for Telizza because of the way things ended between her and her boyfriend, and wanted to help her forget about him. There were times she wanted to admit the truth: "But I didn't know how to get out of it." Nev then tries to guilt Makeda into confessing her love by saying that Telizza wasn't gay before she started interacting with Shai, so her coming out on TV, because of Makeda's fake account, is a big deal. It doesn't work, so Max asks whether Makeda's "interested in girls." After a long beat, Makeda mutters, "Not really," and says there's a difference between liking someone and having romantic feelings for her. This opens the door for Nev to bring up the sexts: "Right, but there's a difference between liking someone because they're fun and they're your friend, and liking someone because you want to go down on them." Telizza:
She's sheepish, but doesn't say anything. Nev says it's fine if she DID want to go down on Telizza but that she isn't ready to admit it -- I'm sure she's relieved that Nev's signed off on her emotional response -- but if that's not the situation, she could have stopped talking to Telizza and didn't. Makeda agrees with Nev that she liked Shai's relationship with Telizza, but won't go further in agreeing that she had romantic feelings for Telizza, saying she doesn't know and this is all confusing.
tl;dr: pretty standard stuff, except that Telizza appears to be more curious than angry about where Makeda's coming from. They'll pick this back up at Couch Time.
Telizza opens the conversation by getting right to the point: "Are you...into...me?" Makeda: "I'm into you." Telizza:
I hate when Nev and Max are right about ANYTHING, but I can't get mad at that smile. It's hard for Makeda to talk about this, since it sounds like she doesn't necessarily identify herself as gay, but that she's into Telizza, specifically -- something she doesn't think she could share with her family, since her mother's very religious. It's also hard because she's embarrassed about her other personal circumstances, which she hides from everyone in her life: her mother got evicted out of a house she bought in some kind of scam, and now the family lives in a homeless shelter.
And now? Telizza thinks they should talk more, and build upon their "friendship." So Telizza's not sure she's into Makeda? This is unclear, and for once Nev and Max don't actually try to push them together physically and make them kiss in front of them.
There are no hugs that make it into the broadcast.
Six months later, Makeda and Telizza are together...on Skype. Makeda "happens" to be visiting Telizza in Chicago the very weekend they were due to check back in with Catfish. As for the other kind of "together": they're just friends, says Makeda, as Telizza smiles broadly, so it does seem like their platonic relationship was negotiated mutually, or at least that the wounded party has had enough time to get over it. Telizza's started "school"; Makeda's leaving for "school" in the fall, and her family's about to move out of the shelter. This is Makeda's first-ever visit to Chicago, she says, whereupon Nev says that no one makes pizza like New York -- one of his few true and indisputable statements. Makeda endears herself to me as the Catfish crew follows both women out for Makeda's first taste of deep dish pizza and rejects it immediately.
Listen to the friends who try to tell you someone's lying to you online. Ask your online girlfriend two or three questions about herself, and take note if she can't or won't answer them. There are a lot fewer strippers in the world than on Facebook, but there are more than three lesbians of colour in America, NEV AND MAX.