In interviews leading up to the season three premiere of MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show, host/producer Nev Schulman said the show would shift focus a bit to take a closer look at the “darker” side of “catfishing,” or the practice of deceiving someone, often drawing them into a romantic relationship, with a carefully cultivated online presence. The premiere isn’t exactly in full To Catch a Predator mode, but the season three trailer hints at how much chaos can be wrought with an Internet connection.
It’s a pretty standard episode: after spending about 15 months in the “Heartbreak Hotel,” 24-year-old Craig of Pittsburgh just wants “to know who I gave my heart to.” He fell in love with Zoe (rhymes with Joe) via Facebook, after being “introduced” to her by his sister, Miriah. We see several photos of a pretty girl, and get the backstory of this online romance: Craig and Zoe exchanged “I love yous” after a couple of months, then Zoe demanded Craig’s Facebook password (which he promptly changed), then Zoe posted racy pictures on Facebook that other pretty girls shared with Craig. Zoe stood accused of playing games with Craig’s heart, being a “catfish terrorist,” and also “catfishing an entire town” from (reportedly) Florida. Everyone agrees Zoe is the worst, but Craig still wants to meet her, because she filled a void left by his deceased father—and a busy mother and friends and a sister he hadn’t seen in three months.
After the usual detective work Nev, Max, Craig, and Miriah fly to Shelby, North Carolina, to confront Zoe, who is actually a girl named Cassandra. Zoe/Cassandra laughs off Craig’s complaints, and even shuts down Nev and Max’s attempts at calling her on her deception. The crew returns the next day for a Craig-Zoe/Cassandra showdown, but it’s a nonstarter: Craig, resigned to the end of the relationship, halfheartedly asks Cassandra why she lied, and she just replies “You want answers, but it just doesn’t matter.” Nev and Max manage to get more out of her during their chat; Cassandra admits to being a victim of cyberbullying turned cyberbully. On the ride back to the hotel, Max suggests that Craig will be the impetus for any positive change Cassandra might make, but this is of no comfort to Craig.
The three-minute coda of episodes past has been expanded into an aftershow named, delightfully enough, Chatfish. In the half-hour epilogue we learn, well, not much more: Cassandra doesn’t do much more explaining, and Craig hasn’t been fishing or fished (I’m still not sure if the catfish is the deceived or the deceiver because “catfish” is alternately used to describe both) since. And with that, and a tweet count (over 150,000 using hashtags #poorcraig and #catfishterrorist, among others), we get sneak peeks at future episodes, which will feature a TV actress (Tracie Thoms) and a supermodel (Selita Ebanks), as both victim and sleuth.
Stay tuned if you’d like to have your faith in humanity shattered and/or restored.