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Will The Lady Claiming To Know Kayla's Late Father Get (Ghost-) Busted On Catfish?

A young mother's tragic backstory takes a supernatural turn in the Catfish/Haunting Of crossover we didn't know we wanted.

The Client

Kayla, 18-year-old stay-at-home mom (maybe? another job isn't mentioned), of Shepherdsville, KY.

The "Beloved"

Kayla's...dad. Kind of. Really, it's a woman named Courtney who claims to know Kayla's dad, Frankie...

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...even though Frankie took his own life around 15 years ago. In jail. Where he was serving time for stabbing Kayla's pregnant mother nearly 30 times.

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Get used to that face; you'll be seeing it frequently. Courtney reached out to Kayla via Facebook two years ago -- in show time; we see a timestamp on a communication that says "11/20/13," and we can probably assume this was filmed last year -- to say that she'd been in contact with Frankie, and was torn whether to tell Kayla, but decided to go ahead.

The Clues

Sidebar, before I try to do the standard Catfish breakdown on a decidedly non-standard Catfish episode: I do believe in ghosts and that some people have second-sight ability and can communicate through "the veil." I can also tell you that feigning that ability is very easy, particularly in the company of people who very much want to believe. It's not that difficult to get skeptics most of the way there either, usually. I've done my Madame Buntsky, Traveler From A Land Of Dark Forces (...New Jersey) (...tell me it's not true; ya cain't) cold-read routine on friends of friends I've never met before: basic observation; playing probabilities ("I see an M"; "something about a body of water, there's a little boy there..."); a couple guesses that sound super-specific but really aren't (common likes, like dogs; popular brands, like Budweiser; everybody has a James somewhere in the family tree); weave in the clues they drop without meaning to. If the mark doesn't rationalize your guess fails herself, you just blame "the signal."

Back in the darkest trough of the recession, I considered making up cards and going out to the bars to do this for five bucks a throw. Something always stopped me; yeah, everyone probably knows it's bullshit, but it seems really unkind to the handful who don't. And any con that involves the restless dead...it just didn't seem like the best idea, karmically, and I got enough problems.

Anyway, that's where I'm at with all that, so let's get back to the episode, where the "clues" primarily involve specifics about Frankie that Courtney has offered as proof she's really in contact with him: how he liked his hamburgers (ketchup, nothing else), his favorite sports team and player (the Tennessee Titans, the Bulls, Michael Jordan), that he smoked Marlboro Reds, his middle name, favorite ice cream, etc. and so on.

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This is enough to convince Kayla that Courtney is at least potentially legit, though I'd note two things, the first being Kayla's presumed age when Courtney first FB-mailed her. I don't think a high-school girl who is probably always looking for ways to "know" her lost parents better whether she's conscious of it or not is exactly a tough sell with this kind of thing.

Then there's the nature of the information. That he only liked ketchup on his burgers is, while specific, not a long shot. We will see later that the sports teams aren't a "shot" at all, really. Most dudes who still smoke and don't live in Brooklyn smoke Marlies, and she could have gotten the middle name off court filings (I found it in 90 seconds).

The clues about Courtney herself include her phone number, which appears to belong to her and is an Ohio number, where she says she used to live (she now lives in Jupiter, FL). And Courtney doesn't have any apparent monetary motivation; she's sent Kayla baby-shower gifts, in fact, but has never asked for money and Kayla has never sent any.

Nev and Max also get the download on what really went down 15 years ago -- the murder; that Frankie took Kayla and her sib on the ensuing car chase, which ended in a wreck; et cetera. Kayla gets emotional and apologizes, saying she doesn't usually cry when she talks about it. Max is genuinely stricken as he tells her not to be sorry.

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Or perhaps he is as confused as I am by Kayla's hair, whose oversprayed '98-prom curls you could cut yourself open on.

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Is this look coming back? Am I the out-of-touch one? I don't think so; Shannon pulls Nev aside as they head out to do their investigation, telling him that she's concerned Courtney will tell Kayla just how bad a guy her father really was. Kayla "has illusions" about both her parents, and the family has kept things about them from her to shelter her. Not sure how much worse it could get beyond her father stabbing her pregnant mother to death, tbh, and...wouldn't Kayla have Googled all that stuff once she got old enough anyway?

It's not clear to me whether Kayla really doesn't know what Shannon thinks they've protected her from, or whether we even hear everything (we do get more on Kayla's mother later, but it's nothing that horrible, at least in my opinion). And Kayla tends to rock, entranced, when she's looking at the messages from Courtney, so it's possible she's not entirely "traditional" psychologically and/or intellectually?

The Excuses

Kayla's asked to video-chat before, but it hasn't happened (no reason is offered). She's also asked to meet up with Courtney, who "always" has an out.

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In Courtney's defense here, "always" sounds like it amounted to, like, two failed attempts to meet up...and even if she does have something real to say re: Frankie and his "visits," I can see her not wanting to get into it in person until Kayla's 18. The same document that told me Frank's middle name also indicated that Frank's death was not the end, legally, of this story. Courtney may not have seen that, but I can see how Kayla might have let it slip that her Aunt Shannon -- the custodial grown-up of the episode, at least; Kayla was raised by her grandmother, but neither she nor anyone else from the family except Shannon is in the episode -- was not having Courtney's claims, in part on Christian "mediums do the devil's bidness" grounds.

The Investigation

This has two prongs: whether Courtney is believable; and whether Courtney...is. They take the second part first, and find in Kayla's Facebook photos snaps of Frank wearing a Bulls shirt and what could be a Titans hat, so Courtney could have gotten her information from that. For a Bulls fan to love Michael Jordan is also not a huge stretch.

They also find a website that says Frankie hanged himself in prison, so Courtney's proffer of "something happened around the neck, with suffocation" smells a lot more like bullshit.

But that doesn't explain what she knew about Frankie's taste in ice cream, so they switch to researching Courtney herself. The FB photo the show uses is ungenerously Manson-lamps-y,

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but she has a "regular" amount of FB friends, and the comments sections make her seem like an actual person, so they decide to reach out to one of her more active FB friends, Eric, to see what he can tell them.

The Presentation Of Findings

After a cuteness interlude with Kayla's son,

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who is adorbles even if his name is ridic, it's time to talk to Eric's wife, Erica (...yeah), who hits them back right away to see what they need. The sketchballiness of Eric and Erica sharing an FB account isn't brought up again, as Nev and Max find out from Erica that Courtney and her powers are for real, or Erica thinks they are. Erica is Courtney's neighbor and close friend, and Frankie is considered "a unique member of the family, basically." He's been in Erica's house. Erica is, to my mind, lathering this up with a liiiiiittle too much detail to be credible. What do you think, Shannon?

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Kayla, however, finds this extremely compelling, and breaks down. As I'm admiring her mani,

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she wails, "If God's real ... why did He take my parents?" Good point, although I don't think that's how it works, that the Lord and all restless spirits know each other. Shannon's still skeptical: "Why would he attach to someone he doesn't even know?" Another good point, but maybe that's not how THAT works.

Now it's time for Nev to call Courtney, who sounds hurt that he's questioning her motives, and speaking of "not how it works"...lady, you're claiming to be speaking to this girl's dead father. The time to still be getting mad at "like hell you are" is long past. She also sounds confused that Kayla wants to see her, which is weird, because duh, but finally she caves and everybody trundles off to Jupiter via Kayla's first plane ride.

The Confrontation

Look: no.

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Kayla's perfectly cute; she should go with a Lena Dunham long pixie, although maybe I'm just saying that because she looks like Dunham to me. (And has a pink bra peeking through her dress, which is totally on the Horvath brand.) Anyway, Courtney has agreed to meet them at a park, which isn't promising. Neither is the local fauna's reluctance to clear the set, and thank God this didn't turn into "do you think that's the spirit of your dad?" or I would have had to quit TV and America.

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Courtney doesn't come for a while, and just when I think she isn't going to show, she does, and shit gets weird with a quickness, though it's not her fault that she's like a foot taller than Kayla and looks like Kathleen "Clare Chancellorsdottir" Robertson in person.

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"You have your dad's eyyyyyes," Courtney half-croons, half-keens, which is a classic cold-read softball. She could have seen Frankie's eyes on Facebook; it's also just something people say that kind of doesn't mean anything when you think about it (I have my father's eye-color, but the way they sit in my face, they're my mother's, which are another color). And the delivery is...off. There's a scary-mommy thing going on here that creeps me from the second Courtney appears, and while I think we're supposed to read Nev and Max's staring as "captivated," that's not what I'm getting.

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That is a "WHY ARE YOU SHITTING YOURSELF?!" face on Maxie, is what that is.

Kayla's body language is a hundred percent "about to hurl"

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as Courtney burbles on about the first manifestation of her "gift" (and possibly the only manifestation, if it exists), and humors Nev's rather rude follow-up question about whether she sought a medical opinion on whether she might be losing her mind. When Courtney explains her unwillingness to meet by saying she wasn't sure she "could stand up to [her] own scrutiny, let alone" Kayla's, nobody remarks on the telling phrasing.

Nev and Max step out here, with Max saying that Courtney's sold him while Kayla asks Courtney to tell Kayla what she might have held back before: "I wanna find out if she knows some secrets." You couldn't have done this months ago -- asked her to produce an un-Googleable fact? Courtney starts out quite vague about "animosities" and "life choices" before offering that Kayla's mother was a stripper, and Frankie used to get locked in a closet or basement as a kid. Kayla's completely overwhelmed with those alleged confirmations, going to talk to Nev and Max and saying that Courtney "just said" that Frankie and Shannon "used to get trapped in the basement." Well...that's not exactly what she said, and it could be a good guess if you know Frankie was in foster care, but Kayla doesn't see how Courtney could know that "unless my aunt's talkin' to her."

That...has occurred to me, actually, that Shannon set this up so the family could communicate some ugly information to Kayla, but not associate themselves with the unpleasantness of the telling, or something. I don't think it's the case; just mentioning it since Kayla brought it up.

The stripper thing I suspect Courtney could have gotten from contemporary accounts of the crime, but in any case, Kayla needs to process, so they're done for the day.

The Post-Confrontation Confrontation

Enter Courtney with a high-pitched "hiiiiii hon-eeeeeee" and some more information about Frank's relationship with Shannon. See, it seems Frank is with her, though he doesn't want to come forward into the room with the others (?), and he calls Shannon a bossy bitch and says they never liked each other. This convinces Shannon, although this too seems like little more than an informed guess based on things Kayla may have said to Courtney.

Then Frank joins them for real -- again, apparently -- and Courtney shares that Frank has also been haunting a former foster mother of theirs with whom he had a sexual relationship.

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With respect for Courtney's swing for the fences there -- that's a solid bet as far as people assuming that kind of information wouldn't be made public -- I don't buy that nobody else would know about that. Frankie went with an insanity defense; that kind of thing would have come out at trial.

I don't believe Courtney. I don't know why she's doing what she's doing if she doesn't really have the gift; the only thing to suggest that she's not full of it (besides Googling for hours to prove a bunch of negatives/what she didn't find online, which I ain't got time to do) is that there's no apparent reason for her to contact this family...but there's no reason for this family's dead patriarch to contact her, either, and between that, the gaps in the family's side of the story, and my suspecting Courtney could have found all this information through mortal means? I don't buy it. Doesn't matter; everyone else in the room does, and Kayla has a strangely flat-affect conversation with her father's invisible spirit, and Courtney relays that Kayla's mother is with her, and he comes to visit them at night. Then I guess he...leaves? And Shannon asks if Courtney is willing to become closer with the family and let them "come around," a turnaround I find somewhat suspicious. "Absolutely, that's what I wanted!" Courtney beams.

Nev's like, well...great? Unless someone wants to reveal that this is horseshit, guess we'll hit the road. "Well, I would not do that," Kayla says. That, I believe. Whether Shannon and Courtney colluded to get a free trip to the space coast...is another question.

Hugs?

Myriad.

The Aftermath

Shannon, Kayla, Nev, and Max all agree in the car that it's nuts, but they believe Courtney. And that's...the end. No follow-up via Skype or chyron or anything. Whatever that means, I doubt it's that they all decided to be friends off the grid together, noam sayin'?

The Life Lessons Learned

The internet keeps court records forever. You too can perform cold readings with just a few facts at your disposal. Not everyone watched Shear Genius. Frankie says relax. Don't do meth. (Probably. Right? Yeah.)

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