February is the month of love. It’s a time to celebrate close relationships and bonds. Or, it’s a time to shadow some people who are celebrating love as a third wheel. If you’re that person and you’re sick of all the Bachelor drama, the twitterpated couples and the lovey-dovey romance in the air, MTV is here to save you. Because not all relationships are created equal, and not everyone is what they seem.
Enter the long-awaited season five of Catfish and its new sister-show, Suspect.
The show, which answers pleas from helpless creatures dying to meet their online loves, has become a massive hit since the 2010 documentary Catfish first introduced us to Nev Schulman, a poor guy who got hoodwinked by a middle-age woman posing as a twenty-something. These people, or ‘catfishes,’ hook people into online relationships by using fake profiles with false names, information and pictures. Like the hairy-chested defender of love he is, Nev now travels the country with his ‘filmmaker buddy,’ the silver-fox Max Joseph, helping people meet a person that will mostly not be who they say they are. And no matter how crazy each season tends to get, the show always manages to surprise and beguile, all the while showing the humanity of the people behind the profiles.
With a lot of buildup, season five’s premiere does not disappoint. To start things off, Nev and Max begin every show with an email from the poor unfortunate soul the MTV casters decide to save, only this time, we get a Catfish first: two emails from men unaware that they have been dating the same guy, Josiah. While Dejay has been pining away in St. Louis for seven years, building a relationship with his ‘first love,’ Malik has been living comfortable in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the intention of moving in with Josiah one day.
Of course, this dream comes crashing down when, as is evidenced when Malik is so furious to the point of silence at the thought of his boyfriend cheating on him, and Dejay just can’t believe he wasted seven years of his life.
“This is not an [bleeping] Nintendo game,” said Dejay, in all seriousness. But this is just the first lines of the night that will have you laughing obnoxiously. In fact, by the end of the episode you’ll feel like a terrible person for having laughed so hard at watching these guys deal with Josiah’s deception, culminating in the final showdown in Charlotte, which is what eventually happens when Nev calls the Catfish to set up a meeting. After coming face to face with their online love, all hell breaks loose, starting with the admission from Josiah that he has stronger feelings for one of hiss two paramours: Dejay. This earns him a slow clap from a ticked off Malik.
Josiah getting into it with his baes, separately because he couldn’t handle two at once, gave us some of the funniest TV moments in recent history including the exchange of Josiah telling Malick to “talk to [him] in English after the latter tells him to “simmer down,” resulting in the fierce repetition of the word ‘English’ and the statement, “Simmer down is something you do in the kitchen, get it together.” But while Malik and Josiah’s relationship is scorched earth, Dejay found it a little easier to stay in touch with Josiah, and the Skype ‘check in’ with Nev, Max, Josiah and Dejay months later reveals that Malik blocked them after sensing an attraction between the other two men.
While normally Nev and Max play more of a role as the hosts, this episode was dominated by the intense personalities of the three men involved in this love triangle. However, in case you were bummed at the serious lack of Nev, you had a chance to make up for it with the next hour of television, when he and his multi-talented sidekick, iO Tillet Wright, travel across the country in the search of truth. So basically, Nev is now one step closer to a full-time job as a private investigator.
The purpose of Suspect is to help poor unfortunate souls discover the truth behind a secret that they think a loved one is hiding. It’s a concept that could get buried under its own weight, since some people have some pretty messy skeletons in their closet. Fortunately for this show, the point is more to help resolve issues rather than create them.
Take Allen for example. He’s just a regular gay man living in D.C., but he’s struggling with not having spoken to his ex-best friend in nine months. His fellow gay friend, Jonathan, had been pulling away from everyone, becoming withdrawn, depressed and taking pills that no one could explain. As per the format of the show, we go through each detail like a clue, or a piece of a puzzle, like a detective would, and we formulate a list of possible secrets the person may be hiding. For Jonathan, it’s a laundry list, but nothing on it could compare to the actual truth: that Jonathan had begun identifying as “Mya,” having undergone hormone treatments and breast implant surgery as a part of his transition from biological male to transgender female.
But Jonathan is only the first case of the night, as each episode will focus on two individuals. Enter Thomas, a 21 year old gay man living in Indianapolis, whose stepsister, Kristen, reached out to the show to help her reconnect with him. After inadvertently outing him to his conservative mother, Kristen found her phone calls and texts being ignored, forced to follow her stepbrother on social media to know what he was doing. Concerned by the amount of drinking and depressive posts he had been sharing, Nev, iO and Kristen talk to one of Thomas’ close friends and eventually his boyfriend, who all tell him that Thomas is doing fine.
But he’s not fine, and after some hesitation and shame, Thomas reveals the secret behind his elusive and odd behavior, which included random trips to California and enough money to pay rent with no problem while buying all new furniture the week before the quasi-intervention. As it turns out, a modeling gig had been offered to him by someone in California, but while there he discovered what was really being asked of him: he was asked to star in several online adult content, which he agreed to. Fearing his family’s reproach, Thomas had isolated himself from them, but his sister’s acceptance and supportive attitude toward him allowed them to finally reconnect and repair their broken bond.
All in all, expect Wednesday nights on MTV to be hardcore from now on.
Catfish and Suspect airs back-to-back on Wednesday nights at 10/9 c and 11/10 c on MTV.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.