Will Catfish's Investigation End With Leuh And Justin Surfing Off Into The Sunset Together?
Leuh's only considering colleges in California because that's where surfer Justin, her Instagram boyfriend of two and a half years, lives. Will Nev and Max confirm that he won't leave her hanging loose?
Leuh, a nineteen-year-old student in Rochester, New York.
Justin, a non-professional surfer in Huntington Beach, CA, whom Leuh's been communicating with since he hit on her via Instagram two and a half years ago.
They've never videochatted. They're not Facebook friends. They have previously tried to meet in person on two occasions: the first time, when they were about to meet at a restaurant he had chosen, he stopped answering his phone; the second time, when she was near-ish in Las Vegas, he agreed to drive out but didn't make it.
Justin's never had a computer with a camera. Leuh says, of Facebook, that it's where she has "like [her] grandma and stuff," so she's never asked to connect with him there. No excuse is offered for the time she tried to get together in southern California, but some car-related issues were blamed for his inability to get to Las Vegas.
Before we even get into Nev and Max's sleuthing, we need to talk about Leuh. First of all: that spelling. I GUESS I get parents' need to make their children unique starting with non-conventional spellings on their names. I mean, I don't -- I think it's dumb, and if most people didn't agree with me, this poor idiot's blog wouldn't have gone viral.
Both I and my computer's autocorrect are infuriated by the fact that 2/3 of the people on this fucking show can't spell their names properly. But of all the alternate ways to spell "Leah," why go with one that I guarantee has had kids calling her "Lee-DUH" her whole life?
Unfortunately (for her), almost from the second we meet her, it seems like "Lee-DUH" might be a fitting nickname for her. When she greets Max and Nev at her house, she's in a sweater with these kind of straps on the biceps that reveal her tattoos, and Nev comments on them, asking if her plan is to get full sleeves on both arms because she's been "partly inspired" by Justin's tattoos.
NOT EVEN NEV can pretend he thinks that's okay, because it isn't. So: I feel I speak for us all when I say that, less than five minutes in, we're already rooting against Leuh, and things don't improve when they ask for her phone to look at his Instagram and?
LOL JUSTIN FUCKING BLOCKED HER. Leuh is shocked: "I just looked at his page yesterday! He just texted me and sent me a heart, like, why...?" Nev asks whether he knew he was about to be investigated by Catfish, and Leuh whines, "I didn't tell him!"...but then admits that she had told him at some point that she'd contacted the show about him, so yes, she kind of did. Max conjectures that Justin had started following Nev and/or Max on social media, saw posts from one or both of them indicating that they were en route to Rochester, and put the pieces together, and since I would have thought Justin -- based on the little we know about him so far -- would have cut off contact with Leuh as soon as he thought there was a possibility that he was about to get outed on Catfish, that guess is probably pretty reasonable and yet also seems like a weirdly paranoid move?
Whatever: obviously, this is an upsetting turn of events for Leuh, who seems shaken as Max and Nev head out the door to the "cool coffee shop" where sleuthing is to begin with the information she's supplied -- Justin's full name, phone number, and current city of residence. She adds that he's mentioned having a Facebook profile, but that she has "never seen it."
Nev and Max start in the most logical place: with Justin's phone number. Bam, it's registered to a Rita [Justin's Last Name], in her mid 50s, in Huntington Beach; they even get an exact street address. Nev immediately gets way too excited about this connection between Justin and Rita, who they presume is his mom, which I guess should tip us to the fact that "Justin" isn't going to turn out to be Rita.
Next, they pull up his Instagram. He's got 1600 followers, and is tagged in several other users' photos -- including a Todd, which rings a bell since Leuh had mentioned that she knew Todd was the name of one of Justin's friends but that she didn't know his last name. Added together, these details give more weight to the possibility that Justin is who he says he is.
Then it's on to Facebook, where they just straight-up search Justin's first and last name and UP HE FUCKING POPS. It's even the same profile picture he's using on Instagram So you know how Leuh had said of his Facebook, "I have never seen it"? Didn't that make it seem like his profile was under some kind of alias? Really what she should have said is "I HAVE NEVER BOTHERED TO TAKE THREE SECONDS TO LOOK FOR IT," since OBVIOUSLY THAT IS THE CASE. Anyway, once they look around his profile a little it becomes clear that not having access to this corner of Justin's social media life has been crucial for Leuh in maintaining her illusions about their relationship because one of the most recent exchanges on Justin's wall, about his apparently-just-changed profile pic, is between him and a girl named Jamie.
Max practically bellows, "WHO'S THAT. WHO IS THAT," as if this broad went on Justin's wall offering to suck his dick for him. "Ooh, so he's flirting with this girl," he adds. Is either of them flirting, though, really? It's a profile pic; what else are you supposed to say than that it's handsome? I mean, I guess nothing, but this seems very innocuous to me. Still, it sends them over to this Jamie's profile, where they quickly learn she has tattoos, lives in Kentucky, has a kid...and shares something else in common with Leuh: she's "just ready to move to California." "WHAT." - Max. Based on this pretty scant evidence, Nev muses that maybe Justin has a bunch of girls in the same situation as Leuh. "He could be a serial internet man-slut," Max embellishes. Or he's just interacting with women and if they choose to read way more into it than he's actually offering, that's on them?
But, since this seems too open-and-shut at this juncture, Max and Nev decide to contact this dude Todd and this chick Jamie to get some more background on Justin. In the meantime, it's back to pointless musing. "Why doesn't he want to meet this beautiful, healthy young lady?" Nev wonders. ("Healthy"? Gross.) "He might have another beautiful, healthy young lady in his life," Max speculates, "and there might not be space for the two of them." "That's looking more and more likely," says Nev confidently. Guys, I don't know at this stage I'm still disposed to blame most of this on Lee-DUH.
The next day, Nev and Max hear back from both their Friends Of Justin. Whereas everyone in Leuh's life has been hearing all about Justin -- she's only considering colleges in southern California because she's so determined to move closer to him -- Todd says Justin's never mentioned any Leuh to him. "You just gotta grab him and make him meet her," says Todd amiably. Todd doesn't care.
Next, Max and Nev call Jamie, whose story is remarkably similar to Leuh's: she and Justin originally made contact over Instagram, "a long time ago" (though it sounds like she flirted with him first). Asked the nature of their relationship, she says, "I don't know how to explain it. I love Justin. We talk about him coming here and me coming there. But lord, I know he would never come to Kentucky." Even Kentuckians know. Naturally, Jamie's curious as to why Justin's part of a Catfish episode, and Nev basically sells out Leuh completely. "That makes me jelly," says Jamie, in case you were wondering if every girl Justin's interested in is annoying. "Like a punch to the face, right there," she adds.
Nev tells Jamie he doesn't know where things are going to go with this. "But I hope you find a great guy," he lamely tells her. "Because Justin seems like kind of a shitheel," he does not add. Nev then hangs up, presumably so that Jamie can get straight on Facebook Messenger and tell Justin some shit.
Nev and Max return to Leuh's house, where they meet Leuh's childhood friend Amanda, and Leuh's mom Kim -- who, in the movie adaptation of this story, will definitely be played by Kristen Wiig.
Neither of them stays for the findings so I'm not really sure what the point of our meeting them is except to show us that even the mothers and dogs of girls Justin wants to sext are annoying.
Of course, Leuh isn't happy to find out about Jamie. Nev pulls up the supposedly incriminating Facebook wall exchange, and I guess I don't understand how much stock the kids put in emojis because when she looks at it, Leuh says, "...Smiley face," with such despondency that you'd think it was a sex tape. "That bothers me," whines Leuh. Really?! It's a smiley face. I text those to my mom. Oh my god, DOES MY MOM THINK I'M TRYING TO SEDUCE HER?! "Like, he could be sending me the same text messages he's been sending her," says Leuh, "saying the same stuff and telling her the same things and saying 'goodnight' at the same time he's been saying it to me." He could, but if that's the case, doesn't that mean he has an extremely superficial relationship with both of you? I mean, even more superficial than any relationship based solely on mobile communication is by default? Again, if all Justin's been giving you is generic comments, then your determination to move across the country to be with him is even more reckless of you. Have some sense.
Leuh then has to leave the conversation to go cry (about how stupid she is), and after Max and Nev try gently to steer her toward the realization that even though Justin the living human has the same face as Justin the guy she knows from Instagram, that living human is a scumbag, they go out to their rental to call him about meeting. Justin is not surprised -- "I was told by a friend of mine that you were trying to get in contact," he says, though we don't know whether that friend is Jamie or Todd -- and he is also not interested in participating in Nev's circus. I mean, he obviously changes his mind, since we're watching this, but here's what he says at this juncture: "I appreciate the offer, but it's just not going to happen. I'm not really interested in doing it this way. I mean, I'd rather just meet her when I want to meet her, and I just-- I'm not going to do the show. Like, it's just-- It's not in my best interest, and I'm sorry I wasted your guys' [ugh] time, and Leuh's time, but there's no way. It's just not going to happen." He says he has to go to work and ends the call. Part of me admires Justin for not playing along for even a little while, but at the same time, everything else we've learned about him kind of undermines the impression he's trying to give of himself as being on some kind of integrity kick. "Tell Leuh I'm sorry and I'll talk to her later," says Justin briskly. Not via Instagram DM, tho, right?!
Max and Nev are both so offended by Justin's ungallant refusal to own up to his part in raising Leuh's hopes that, since they do have his street address, they decide to ambush him. Because we're watching this, Leuh agrees.
Nev, Max, and Leuh fly to California (and, by the way, it seems as though Justin has not tried to communicate with Leuh at all since he talked to Nev on the phone). In a break with Catfish tradition, there's no stopping at the hotel for Leuh to primp: they head straight for Justin's house with Leuh still in her flat 5 AM hair and undoubtedly humid plane clothes. As Leuh and Max wait in the car, Nev goes up to the door, and emerges with someone. Is it Justin?!
Nerp. But Nev confirms that Joe is not the person Leuh's been talking to (or...takes him at his word that he isn't, I guess) before he brings him over, at his request, to meet Leuh. Joe, like Todd, has never heard Justin say anything about Leuh, and he can't imagine why: "You're so pretty." HEALTHY TOO, RIGHT NEV?! Joe promises to mention to Justin that they came by, though apparently not even that induces Justin to break his silence with Leuh, which forces Nev, the next day, to get back in touch with Todd and find out what Justin's deal is. Todd says that he and Justin were just surfing and that Justin's probably still at the beach, so off they go!
Nev, Max, and company follow the directions Todd had given them and approach a dude sitting on the beach next to his surfboard. Is this Justin?!
It is. He reacts to Leuh's appearance in front of him for the first time in his life without much shock, which stands to reason given that his dad and Todd have probably already both alerted them to his imminent ambush, and gives her a long, head-cradling hug. But as soon as the questions start, Justin is defensive: he didn't want to be on the show because he's seen it and knows that the person in his position rarely comes off well. Good point! "I was looking out for what I thought was our best interest by not doing it, and you decided differently!" Not a good point! If Leuh has decided that, before she uproots her life, it's a good idea to figure out what percentage of the truth Justin's been telling her about himself, her non-televised attempts to meet in person having been scuttled by...Justin, then how is his refusal to participate in their collective best interest? That's a rhetorical question, since none of what Justin says in this scene shows any consideration of Leuh.
To her credit, Leuh does point out those earlier efforts to meet him, and we get a reason for the first time he blew her off: at the time, he had an IRL girlfriend: "I wasn't going to go behind that girl's back either, you know?" Except inasmuch as he'd also been stringing Leuh along behind her back, right? I mean, if he'd justified his and Leuh's online flirtation as being innocent because of the distance, then there would have been no harm meeting up with her in a public place, right? And by the way, did he acquire the girlfriend between making the date to meet Leuh and when he started ignoring her calls and texts at the appointed time? Because otherwise all of this is asshole behaviour. Leuh doesn't hold Justin to account for any of that, forcing Nev and Max to do it, which...again, makes her pretty loathsome for showing so little self-respect. (As for the second time, he's sticking to the "busted car" story.)
Moving on: Justin claims he's single now, leading Leuh to ask why he didn't want to meet now. "I'm nervous," says Justin, lamely. "I'm a very private person when it comes to that." Hmm, maybe we should conference in Jamie to find out how "private" this guy really is. "This was your last chance to meet me, though," mumbles Leuh. "Like, I get that you're nervous -- I was nervous too -- but at the end of the day, like, this was your last chance." And he just blew it? Maybe she has more self-respect than we thought!
OH, BARF, SHE'S STILL INTO HIM. It's at this point that I notice she's chosen an off-the-shoulder top that seems to be staying on via nothing but hope, the better to show off all the ink she got to be, like, his type. I hate her.
Because, I assume, Max can tell Leuh's starting to waver, he breaks in to question Justin/remind Leuh about Jamie. "Jamie and I have always been friends," Justin lawyers. "I don't know what she said. Unless she got the wrong idea, I don't think that we've ever-- I've ever put in her head that we're ever going to start a relationship, that we're ever going to meet up or anything like that." Well, anyone who can say that many words in a row that fast is certainly telling the truth! Max moves on from that word vomit way too fast for my taste, asking how come no one in Justin's life has ever heard him talk about Leuh. Justin claims he couldn't possibly explain to his dad the nature of his relationship with Leuh; his dad is simply too old to understand!!! As for his friends? "I was afraid of them judging me." Because they meet girls in bars, not online. So Justin's worried that talking to a hot girl he found on Instagram makes him look like a nerd? THIS FUCKING GUY. "It's not like I'm trying to hide her in any way, shape, or form," he says. "I mean, look at her. Like, there's nothing to hide, with that." Guys, he's right. It's not like Leuh's some fatty he loves for her mind and personality! Max presses on, opining that Justin hasn't taken any actions to back up his rap. But Leuh?
Loves it. And Justin can tell, because he gets defensive again, saying that he doesn't have to convince anyone at MTV that he's not completely full of it. Max says he does have to convince Leuh, though: "Leuh's a pushover." She laughs in shock. "A little bit," Max adds. Nooooo, actually a lot. Max doesn't want Leuh to get hurt, and points out that they still haven't heard Justin say how he feels about her. Justin says he'd like to talk to Leuh about it, complaining that it's "a little overwhelming" having all the cameras around. I mean...fair? That's about the first reasonable thing he's said.
...But don't worry, he immediately ruins it! As Justin and Leuh wander off, she tells him, "I didn't expect to meet you like this. You know, like, we talked about how we were going to meet, but now I'm sneaking up behind you on the beach!" "We'll get that all figured out once-- like, at the wedding," Justin replies. OH BOY, I GUESS THE SMOOTH-TALKING GIGOLO CONVENTION GOT OUT EARLY. "...We're getting married?" mewls Leuh. "Of course!" says Justin immediately, with the ease of someone who's very confident he'll never be required to defend such statements later. God, remember a time in your life when a line of bullshit this obvious would have melted you to your core? Remember BEING NINETEEN?!
Well behind them, Nev and Max discuss what's happening. Max, in particular, still seems pretty horrified that Justin's demonstrating so little excitement about meeting Leuh for the first time or remorse for pushing her, with his deceptions online, to involve the show, but he also seems resigned to the notion that everything Justin's done to this point to hook Leuh is going to continue to work. Because she's dumb.
Back to the happy couple. "Just don't hate me," says Justin, soooooo insincerely. "I should hate you," says Leuh. "I can't, because we've been through too much together." I can't begin to guess what that could mean, if she thinks it's possible that he's been carrying on identical conversations with Jamie all this time, except what I always think, which is that these relationships are...not deep. Anyway, he asks what they do now: "Start our official long-distance relationship?" "That'd be stupid," says Leuh. IT SURE WOULD. "You're coming out here anyways," says Justin. "I don't know," murmurs Leuh. Ugh, I DO. And I'm right, because then she takes his hand and pulls his arm around her...
...and that's when Nev and Max head back over and separate them. Leuh admits to Max that she's "trying to forgive" Justin, who's been "sweet-talking" her, but that she's scared he doesn't mean what he says. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GIVE HER THAT IDEA? Justin tells Nev he thinks things are going "really good." I usually try not to interrogate my own suspension of disbelief with regard to this show's assembly or I'd never stop nitpicking...
...but for someone who just finished surfing, Justin sure has a lot of product slicking back his hair, huh.
Back to Leuh. Max starts giving Justin the benefit of the doubt for not wanting to be on the show. "I want things to work out between us, like, really bad," says Leuh. "Do you think I'm being naïve about all this?" Max shrugs that he doesn't know. But he does. WE ALL DO.
Nev tells Justin that if there's a chance things aren't going to work out, he should "consider hurting her feelings now" rather than let her continue hoping for no good reason. Wow, if even Nev isn't waving the flag of True Love, this Justin must present even worse in person than he has on the show, WHICH IS PRETTY BAD. But Justin wants to "give it a shot."
Leuh thinks Justin needs to put in more effort. "That's kind of on him to show you, at this point," says Max, knowing he's already lost. And then Nev brings Justin back and hands him off to "hang out" with Leuh. To paraphrase Rachel Green: I hope Justin doesn't kill you and eat you in Huntington Beach.
After the initial hug upon their first meeting, there isn't another hug on screen, though...I mean, I assume they boned.
Two months later, "Everything's going really well," according to Leuh. Justin's "made more of an effort" to videochat and call her. When Nev asks if Justin's her boyfriend, she admits, "He hasn't asked the question," but adds that she's moving there in "less than a month." For a guy who, from the sounds of it, is putting in the bare minimum of effort in maintaining whatever they're doing and won't say he's her boyfriend? Great idea. "He'll be my boyfriend, soon, I swear," she claims, and since she says it, I'm sure it must be true.
Justin confirms Leuh's account. He's "pretty jazzed" that she's decided to move to California for him. "Promise you're not going to mysteriously disappear when she gets to California?" Nev asks. "You guys have my word," says Justin, and we all know this guy's word is bond. He goes on to invite them to this wedding he's sure is imminent.
Same. Hey, what about how Justin blocked Leuh on Instagram right before she got on a plane to meet him? Or that Jamie who had the same story as Leuh but lacked the initiative to contact the show on her own behalf? NEVER MIND, I GUESS.
Everyone has a computer with a camera -- or, failing that, a phone with a camera. Standing you up for a meeting he helped arrange out of respect for his IRL girlfriend is not a great reason. When Justin inevitably cheats on Leuh, she might say she didn't see it coming, but she'll be literally the only person alive not to.