Its stories might be rooted in reality, but “Catfish” is also a television show, and it thus seemed inevitable that the MTV series would provide viewers with a happy ending. It seemed clear that MTV’s hit reality series would eventually discover an online relationship absent any secrets or deception.
But for as inevitable as it seemed, reconciling such a scenario with the nature of the show seemed nearly impossible. If both parties were truly who they said they were and truly as in love as they claimed to be, why would one reject all opportunities to meet or videochat? If at least one of the parties had nothing to hide, why was he or she hiding behind a keyboard?
The pessimism resulting from such questioning provided “Catfish” with a perfect opportunity to treat Tuesday’s episode, its first unequivocal “happy ending,” as a major moment.
It is not as if the signs were absent. Even if one downplayed the inevitability that such an ending would eventually come, could he really ignore the “random” scheduling of a live after-show to follow this week’s episode? Could he really ignore the fact that the “Catfish” team flew not only Lauren, the potential “victim” in the story, but also her friend and young son to meet “Derek” on the other end?
Still, “Catfish” has conditioned its viewers to presume the worst, and that conditioning helped that pivotal moment–in which the man Lauren loved was indeed the man who opened the door to his home–feel like a special, major reveal.
Though it lacked the craziness of last week’s “Ramon & Paola,” this Tuesday’s episode benefited from a unique tone throughout the show. From the get-go, Nev and (especially) Max seemed smitten with Lauren and thus bewildered by her inclusion on a potential “Catfish” scheme.
Charming, cute and well-put-together, Lauren stood out as an obvious catch, and it perplexed both the hosts and viewers that her online flame could go eight years without wanting to meet her and that she could be so hung up on someone she had never seen in person.
But no matter how much Max complimented her and attempted to prepare her for an unhappy ending, she refused to relent in her assertion that Derek, whom she first contacted on MySpace eight years earlier, was the real deal. The fact that the “Catfish” team could not locate the usual string of red flags did nothing to break her optimism.
The only point of concern was that Derek’s phone number was registered to “R LeVourne,” a middle-aged man with what appeared to be a wife and kids. How his number came to be registered to LeVourne remains a mystery, but insofar as Lauren first opened communication with Derek at the age of fourteen, it seemed pretty clear LeVourne was a red-herring for viewers.
While “Catfish” is no stranger to bizarre and creepy situations, it is not “To Catch a Predator” and is thus not likely to showcase a relationship that began when an adult male started flirting with a teenage girl on MySpace. And it is certainly not the type of show that would have brought said girl, her son and her friend to the man’s Maryland home if it had any reason to suspect such perversion.
Still, even if the man they met did turn out to physically resemble the Derek to whom Lauren believed she was speaking, there had to be a catch. If he was the normal guy he seemed to be and to whom Lauren felt so deeply connected and attractive, why did he wait eight years to reveal himself in person?
To that end, “Catfish” absolutely did surprise viewers; everything about the Derek they met in Maryland aligns with with whom Lauren first connected on MySpace. There was no “but” or “so here’s the thing” moment – he was exactly what he professed to be.
As to why he took so long to connect in person, his only answer was that he was scared. In most cases, that claim of fear would function as a major red flag, but insofar as the excuse came from the very real mouth of the very real Derek, America has no choice but to believe him.
Fear kept Lauren and Derek apart. And an MTV reality series brought them together.