Screens: MTV

Will Catfish Help Thad Give Meaning To His Attempted Marital Infidelity By Avenging Sara?

Strap in; this one is complicated.

The Client

Thad, "a former corrections officer" in Texas.

The Beloved

Sara Jackson, occupation unknown, in Oklahoma City.

The Clues

Though they mutually admitted to one another that they were developing "feelings," and Sara wanted to meet, they never did.

The Excuses

Around the time of the appointed in-person meeting, Sara was rushed to the hospital after having seizures. Not long after, she was kidnapped by her ex -- but that only lasted a day; "she escaped."

The Investigation

Much like Falesha's fellow dupe-ee of a couple of weeks ago, Thad has done a lot of legwork himself before involving Max and Nev: he has identified the person he had been speaking to as Ashley, though the one photo of her he's found doesn't tell him much.

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Thad also found the (apparently real) profile for the woman whose photos Ashley stole -- I assume her Facebook profile, though I guess Facebook finally asked Catfish to quit infringing on its trademarks and made the production dummy up whatever this green thing is supposed to be -- whose name is also Sara.

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Thad contacted the (apparently real) Sara, who told him that this Ashley has been stealing and using her photos for nefarious online purposes for seven years.

When Max and Nev initially get Thad on Skype, he gives a little more colour to what he'd kind of glossed over in his initial email: the reason he connected to "Sara" in the first place was that he was unhappy in his marriage and thinking about leaving his wife and children. "I don't like a broken home," he adds, since he came from one. He wanted advice on his situation from a stranger, and when "Sara" came up among the "People You May Know" on his profile, he friended her, along with a number of other "random people," though whether (a) he also sought their counsel and (b) they mostly happened to be cute female people like Sara is not specified. He does say that of the randoms he friended, she was the only one who responded to his messages, which is...kind of a red flag? I mean, yes, obviously it is in retrospect, but why wasn't Thad suspicious of her motives at the time? I guess for the same reason he was probably actually friending strangers in the first place: hoping to hook something up "romantically."

It's at this point that you kind of have to stop feeling sorry for Thad because this is all super-shady. I don't buy for a second that he was just looking to bounce relationship ideas off a disinterested third party, not just because a stranger would have no good advice to give SINCE A STRANGER DOES NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAD, but because what stranger would even care to try if he or more likely she didn't stand to get something out of it -- like a romantic relationship, which is exactly what happened in this case? It's not like Nev and Max are required to uphold the sanctity of marriage and thus shouldn't have gotten involved in this story, but, considering how most confrontations with liars hinge on their getting lectured about honesty and ethics, it feels like we're really blowing past a lot of violations and eliding Thad's own complicity in what's being presented as his victimization. I mean, he says, "I believe this is punishment for me. I believe I deserve this," but the show doesn't seem to. (I do!) "Out of your own guilt, you want to expose Ashley," Max exposits. "I'm hoping by confronting her, this will actually stop," says Thad. "And if I can avenge the real Sara, maybe she'll bone me!" he does not add.

Anyway, back to Thad's own sleuthing. He reverse-searched her cell phone number and found it linked to her stepfather. Googling that name led to an obituary for Ashley's grandfather in which her full name was listed. Googling that led to that one and only photo of her, plus her Facebook profile, which is where he saw that Ashley was posting exactly the same things she was using on Sara Jackson's page -- shades of Brandy.

FINALLY, it's time for Nev and Max to quit fucking around telling Thad what a great guy he is and actually do some work themselves. They start by looking up Sara Marie -- the real person whose photos Ashley's been using -- and emailing her to contact them. They also email three other guys Thad has apparently been in touch with, all of whom were also deceived by "Sara Jackson."

They then Google Ashley [Redacted] and find recent arrest records for "larceny" that list her height as 6'1"; after Nev makes a tall-shaming remark about her crushing him (which someone should do, anyway), they find her street address in Oklahoma City. That's when one of the other victims, Joe, calls and reports a remarkably similar story to Thad's: they "met" on Facebook but had no real friends in common; they messaged for a few months and things eventually got "romantic"; when the time came to meet in person, her excuses for dodging him included seizures and a kidnapping by her crazy ex. He found out she was lying and confronted her about it, whereupon "she said she had no life outside of her own" -- true for us all, really -- "so she had to fake it."

Then they hear back from the real Sara and get her on Skype. She's confronted Ashley in the past -- "She knows that I know, she said she was gonna stop" -- and at this point would just like to meet her in person so that Ashley can see Sara and realize she's a real person and, I guess, stop using her photos out of guilt? I don't know why Sara thinks Ashley would have any less shame about this after a face-to-face encounter if they've already directly communicated, but who knows. Nev: "I think it would be good for her that we get as many people that she's messed with in front of her to, like, help her understand that what she's doing is really messed up." "Like an intervention," Max agrees. I guess "as many people that she's messed with" really means "as many people that she's messed with and that Thad might like to stick his dick in" because there's zero talk of also bringing any of Ashley's male targets to this powwow. Whatever, Sara agrees to fly out (from whatever unspecified place she lives) and meet them in Texas to drive to Ashley's in Oklahoma, and based on how much she was preening just on the Skype call, I am not surprised that she's interested in getting on camera some more.

The next day (I guess?), Sara shows up in Texas, and Max and Nev drive her over to Thad's so that she can share the timeline of her interactions with Ashley. In 2010, she got a message from a Sam, telling her he'd been talking to someone using her photos; would she mind getting back to him with a photo of herself, Reddit AMA authentication-style? She did.

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Sara and Sam exchanged numbers, and then I guess that was it because the next event in her timeline is three years later, when she got a friend request from Joe, whose profile indicated that "he was in a relationship with" her/Sara Jackson. She messaged him and they compared notes on the faker; when she asked Joe for Sara Jackson's phone number, it was already in her phone...saved as Sam! Ashley had faked that interaction in order to get a photo of Sara that she could manipulate to give credence to her lies -- and manipulate she did!

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Okay, that's pretty clever. For that, I'm going to overlook the sloppiness of putting the same memes and shit on your real profile and your fake, Ashley. Thad tells Sara that Ashley's taken "hundreds" of photos of her to perpetuate her lie, and opines that Ashley seems like she thinks she is Sara when she talks to people in that guise. Sara says she thinks that too, but then repeats what she'd told Nev and Max about Ashley not understanding that Sara is a real person.

The Presentation Of Findings

Max and Nev don't have much more to contribute other than the arrest records and street address they found. "I say we go confront her," says Thad immediately. "Ask the questions: why?" "We've got her number," Nev reminds them, and when he calls in everyone's presence, he gets her voicemail, leaves a message, and tells the assembled, "Now we wait." "What happens if she doesn't contact?" says Thad, weirdly -- and also kind of gun-jumpingly, like, the message was left two seconds ago. But I guess when it comes to overreacting, Thad's got nothing on Max, who declares, "We have her address....We should just go!" Even though I'm sure it only actually happens in cases where the person who contacted the show is the liar so the production can be pretty sure nothing bad is going to result, since that's not how things are framed for the viewer, it's always so creepy when they do this. I mean, I realize that Thad formerly had a law enforcement-adjacent job, but everyone involved in making this decision realizes that they don't actually have any kind of mandate to show up at people's homes uninvited and compel them to stop their bad actions, right? Never mind: ROAD TRIP!

The Confrontation

After their first appearance at Ashley's address goes bust -- it seems she or someone is in there, but no one comes out -- Ashley finally gets in touch with Thad that night.

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"It looks like we've struck a nerve," says Thad. We watch him call her and have an inconclusive conversation about what's going to happen next, and then hours later, she texts...

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...with the address of a friend's house, and since she knows they know where she really lives, I assume she's involving this third person because her real house is a shithole and she doesn't want them to know how she lives. I assume we're "treated" to this view of Thad all rumpled in bed...

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...because this whole episode is his thinly veiled attempt to line up his next would-be cheating partner and he thinks this is his sexiest angle?

Finally, everyone shows up at this friend's house and Ashley appears.

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I would also like to add that as she's coming out of the house, we see her height relative to Nev's.

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I sincerely doubt she's 6'1"?

After some predictably stiff introductions and the confirmation that Ashley is, in fact, the person who's been using Sara's photos online, Thad decides to get into it with zero preamble: "Do you have any remorse whatsoever?" JESUS, DUDE. Maybe you and Sara could have arranged for HER to ask that since SHE isn't the one who GOT INTO a relationship with Ashley because he was planning to DITCH HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN. Do YOU have any remorse whatsoever, Thad, you self-righteous, unemployed fuck? The only reason you don't look worse is that you can't even do infidelity right! Ashley, a little defensively, says she does have remorse: "I told you a lot of lies." On that tip, Nev asks her to tell them some true facts about her, and she volunteers that she has a four-year-old daughter, is a stay-at-home mom, and did get arrested last year but doesn't want to talk about it.

"You started using Sara's pictures eight years ago," Max witness-leads. "What happened eight years ago?" Surprise, Ashley has a sob story! Two days before her wedding, her fiancé told her he wasn't going to marry her because he'd been cheating on her, got this other woman pregnant, and was going to marry her instead. "It makes me sad to hear you say that?" says Sara. "I sympathize with you? But at the same time, I have my own issues, you know, and I don't run out and steal someone's identity--" "You're right," says Ashley. "To me it just sounds like an excuse," needles Sara. Of course it's an excuse: Max basically asked her to supply one, so she did!

The rest of this is mostly just Sara and Thad expressing their anger and Ashley agreeing that they're right to be upset. Really the only interesting tidbit is that when they ask about the "kidnapping" -- during which Thad was on the phone with her, hearing what seemed to be police radios and banging and the like -- she just found a video on YouTube and played it in the background. Be fair, guys: that's resourceful.

Sara lectures that Ashley shouldn't have started up her scam with a second guy after failing with the first, since she knew how it would inevitably end. Ashley agrees with that too: "The whole point of this is for it to stop." "It has to stop," Sara snits. YEAH, LIKE SHE SAID, SARA, GOD.

At this point, the parties separate, Thad and Sara both opining in the car that they don't believe Ashley's claims that she intends to stop lying online. Nev gets out of the car and relays this to Ashley. She insists to him that she is remorseful -- she just doesn't show it because she doesn't want to make herself "more vulnerable" -- but she's willing to sit down with Sara and Thad and tell them how sorry she is.

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

Everyone sits in Ashley's friend's living room so that Thad and Sara can resume acting superior. Ashley elaborates on her sob story, saying she uses the Sara Jackson profile to escape what she doesn't like about her real life -- for instance, the "weight problem" she's had all her life: "I wish I could be someone almost completely different, all the time." She starts to cry as she says she feels lonely most of the time, and the camera cuts to Sara so we can see she's tearing up at this too but trying to keep a lid on it. Of course Max therefore notes how "emotional" Sara looks, but when she tries to answer, she's too choked up and says she doesn't want to talk right now, excusing herself to go outside. When Max follows, she explains that she doesn't want to make this about her -- something I thought, while live-tweeting the episode last night, showed some laudable self-awareness on her part, but which my esteemed colleague Sarah read exactly the opposite way. Admittedly, Sara then undoes most of my goodwill: at Max's urging that she go back in and tell Ashley how empathetic she is because she also struggles with her own weight, Sara replies, "She's probably looking at me like, 'Are you fucking kidding me, what do YOU have to worry about?'" Well, that was nice while it lasted.

Inside, Nev is rewriting history, telling Ashley that she started talking to Thad when he was at a vulnerable point in his life, and that her relationship with him almost led to his ending his marriage. Um, bullshit: Thad friended HER, surely with untoward motives regardless of how he's described it here; this is on him, not her. Thad cosigns Nev's characterization of events, because why wouldn't he; Ashley apologizes some more.

Then Max and Sara come back in; Max tries to get Sara to repeat what she'd said outside, but -- still crying a little -- she refuses: "This is not about me." She does tell Ashley, "Don't feel like you're not enough. You deserve it just as much as anybody else does." Well, that's nice. Max then paraphrases what Sara told him in private, so, nice work.

Things start winding up with Thad saying, "You know the kind of person I am." THE KIND WHO TROLLS FACEBOOK FOR E-STRANGE? YEAH, WE ALL FUCKING KNOW. He means that he's the kind of person who tries to see the good in every situation, and he thinks he knows what Ashley should do: "Just be yourself." Ashley wishes this had happened sooner, and promises that "this is done."

Hugs?

Sara and Thad don't hug Ashley, but Nev does.

The Aftermath

Two months later, everything's going great for Thad, as if anyone cares: he's going back to work in corrections and his family is stronger than ever before. OH, GOOD, I'M SO RELIEVED, HIS WIFE IS SO LUCKY TO HAVE HIM. But as for Ashley: "Things have not changed." From what he's heard, I assume; he doesn't say that he's been in contact with her directly, but that "people are still coming forward" and "she is a sadistic, manipulative, evil person." "That's a bummer that Ashley hasn't really changed much," shrugs Nev. "What can you do?" I DON'T KNOW, I GUESS NOTHING, BUT WHY INCLUDE A LINE THAT HIGHLIGHTS HOW POINTLESS NEV'S INTERVENTIONS CAN ACTUALLY BE?!

Sara confirms Thad's report on Ashley, adding that someone contacted Sara on Facebook to tell her they're engaged, and that Ashley is now pulling a Jacqueline and claiming she's real but that this Ashley's been impersonating her. She feels stupid for having given Ashley the benefit of the doubt. "Well, we gotta go," says Nev. GREAT CLOSURE, EVERYONE.

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The Life Lessons Learned

No one you meet online is or ever has been kidnapped. Don't friend random strangers on Facebook. Don't assume Nev or Max can actually solve any of your real problems.

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