Catfish Recap: Am I The Only One Wondering If Justin Is Real?

If you watch Catfish: The TV Show, then you already know that the most recent entry, “Artis & Jess,” was the weirdest yet.

Nev and Max guided Artis through an immediately sketchy situation, maneuvering him into a hiatus with his current girlfriend (and mother of his children) so he could go meet “Jess,” a woman he had been flirting with online.

Though Artis and Jess only lived 30 minutes apart (Woodstock and Marengo, IL, respectively), they had never spoken on the phone, never Skyped, and Artis had only seen one picture of her (the picture was of a porn star, incidentally).

Jess could also never meet Artis because of a controlling, suspicious and potentially abusive boyfriend.

So Nev and Max did their thing, dropping Jess’ picture into Google Image Search and discovering that it actually belongs to a porn star. They weren’t really surprised. No one was. The Jess profile was amateur hour; not near the sophistication of other Catfish subjects.

Still, they arranged a meet with Jess, whose messages back made it sound like she was trapped in the Ariel Castro house. Still, she came up with a plan. Meet at the park around 2 pm.

Nev (on crutches), Max and Artis went there and waited until a car finally pulled up. Then this happened:

And I was all…

It was really, really weird. It felt kind of staged, to be honest.

Jess was this bearded sweaty guy, who at first I thought was gay. He’s not. Well, he might be. Then I thought “maybe this is the real Jess’ controlling, psycho boyfriend.” That would have made for good TV. But it was even weirder than that.

He was an online vigilante. Like, the Batman of Internet dating. Through his fake profile, he would reach out to men in relationships, try to tempt them away from their girlfriends, and then reveal himself with absolute moral turpitude justification. He’s the dark reflection of Nev and Max, their true “other.”

His name is Justin, and though he is very well-spoken and a little theatrical, he appears to be pretty damaged himself.

But is he real? I can’t explain why, but this really bothers me. Catfishhas been criticized in the past for being manipulatively edited or staged, but whatever, I liked the show.

But Justin’s shtick seemed forced. Not his online vigilantism, that much I could wrap my head around. But emerging from his car with a slow clap, not blinking once through his impassioned monologue despite the presence of cameras, all that seemed very… scripted.

I will admit, even though this bothered me, I didn’t really do a lot of diligence. Before the episode had finished, I was on social media searching for any “Justin —” from Marengo, IL, but failed to really turn anything up. Sure, he probably deleted or made private his accounts before the episode aired, if he ever had them.

Since I’m int he Chicago area, I even flirted with driving down to Marengo and hanging out near the town stoplight to keep an eye out for him.

But how can I know if he’s real? Right now I can’t, but Nev and Max are going along with it pretty well if it was staged.

If you have any way of verifying Justin’s existence for me, shoot me an email or a tweet. I’d love to interview him.

Did you catch Catfish? Do you think Jess / Justin is for real?

UPDATE: Check out the results of our investigation into Justin here.

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