The bizarre tale unfolded on tonight's episode of the hit show when the duo was contacted by a young woman named Paris; she'd met a professional basketball player online and, after some x-rated flirting, hooked up with him in person. But the romance soon turned sour: The b-ball player, Paris said, became threatening and posted her nude photos online. And when Paris' mom called cops, he found himself in big trouble: Police began investigating him for possession of child porn because Paris had told him she was 18 when she was really just 17.
But there was an insane twist: Turned out, Paris and the athlete's text exchange -- and even their rendezvous -- was being orchestrated by a Canadian woman named Shelly, who was posing as each of them. And, apparently, Shelly had not only been the person who posted Paris' nude photos online, but Paris said she also extorted the basketball player for cash. On top of that, police revealed, she'd posed as a man named Tom and conducted an online romance with a Texas woman for years, even using the female as a go-between to collect the money from her extortion scheme. When cops began investigating Paris' case, all signs pointed to Shelly; she was eventually arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
So what was the problem if Shelly was in the slammer? She wasn't anymore. The 33-year-old had just been released, causing Paris to panic.
"I would bet my life that she's going to do it again because she was so unsympathetic," Paris told Nev and Max, describing Shelly's no-remorse attitude in chilling detail. "I'm hoping you guys can make sure [she won't]."
But when Max and Nev tracked down Shelly, they didn't find the devil they'd expected. Instead, she was a soft-spoken, self-proclaimed "hermit" who'd spent her life taking care of her bedridden mother; in fact, Shelly hadn't left the house for almost 12 years before her arrest. Living in virtual solitude, she'd gone online to establish "one link to the outside world," Nev noted. But, most interestingly, she claimed Paris' account of what happened wasn't accurate.
According to the now-married Shelly, she'd seen Paris trying to get the athlete's attention online; when he ignored her, Shelly messaged Paris pretending to be him. Then, she said, she facilitated their meeting because the Texas woman suggested it. That's right: Shelly said she'd never posed as Tom when talking to the female and that the two were friends. The woman, claimed Shelly, was no victim: Shelly said that she was the one who started what turned into the extortion scheme -- and that the woman received half of the money.
For his part, Nev seemed doubtful, noting, "A lot of people will say you're still lying."
"I have no reason to lie about this -- I already did my time," Shelly responded. And then, finally, she showed remorse.
"My whole time in jail, I kept thinking of what happened to [the basketball player] and Paris, and I was thinking, 'Why the hell did I message her?' I blamed her [during my] first few months in jail. I blamed the cops, I blamed the judge, I blamed my lawyer. But I realized I can only blame me."
She then expressed her desire to move on from her past and, at last, start a family. And after that plaintive conclusion, Nev said he felt "conflicted" about the case.
"We thought we were going to meet a monster," he reflected. "[But] if there's one thing I've learned after many seasons of Catfish, it's that there are no monsters at the end of the line -- only people who want something better."
But what do you think of Shelly? Was she telling the truth, and was she not completely to blame for the ruse? Or do you think she acted alone and falsely blamed the Texas woman for her scheming? Put on your detective's hat and tell us your thoughts, then catch another Catfish Wednesday at 10/9c.