In 2010, a then-26-year-old Nev Schulman accidentally kickstarted a cultural phenomenon when he, his brother and a friend investigated Nev’s suspicious online relationship with a girl named Megan, only to discover Meagan was a total fraud.
The very same year, an aspiring model named Stephanie similarly embarked on a virtual-only relationship with a guy named Danny, and on the latest episode of Catfish, Nev and Kamie hoped Stephanie — still in the throes of her shadowy love affair a decade later — wouldn’t face the same disappointment. The young Florida mom explained to MTV’s detective duo that she first met Danny, a photographer, on Facebook in 2010. Then 17, Stephanie wrote a public message on Danny’s wall asking if he’d like to collaborate on a photoshoot. They never wound up working together, but a year later, a real connection manifested.
“They’ve been doing this as long as I’ve been doing this,” Nev observed, incredulous.
What followed, Stephanie said, was a decade-long roller-coaster ride in which she’d get her hopes up (Danny even once posed the idea of moving in together), only to be crushed by Danny’s cyclical ghosting.
And though Stephanie constantly put Danny on a pedestal — taken by his humor and supportive nature — she said she was tired of the wild ride and finally ready to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Danny, who’d never agreed to call or video chat with Stephanie, surprised Nev and Kamie when the duo discovered that his Instagram profile seemed to be legit, an unusually hopeful sign in the Catfish universe.
Still, the phone number Danny provided to Stephanie was registered to a 51-year-old woman named Laura, Nev and Kamie discovered. They were stumped.
“On one hand, the situation seems absurd,” Nev said. “But what makes it crazy is this guy, his life and Instagram are pretty believable.”
To get some perspective, the detectives reached out to a friend of Danny’s, who seemed spooked by the cold call and hung up.
Seemingly tipped off, Danny called Nev from an unknown number shortly thereafter, and he had bad news: He said he had no idea who Stephanie was.
Stephanie, who’d hung her hopes on a possible happy ending, was crushed.
“I feel so played,” she said. “Whenever I try to be vulnerable, this sh*t happens.”
And in case Stephanie’s heart wasn’t broken enough, Danny — whose number Nev finally called for confirmation — repeated his claim that Stephanie was a stranger.
But then something changed.
Danny, having experienced an apparent change of heart, rescinded his earlier story. He confirmed he’d been speaking to Stephanie for years and said he’d lied to the group before to mask his shame about living in unenviable housing.
“It’s not a great place to live,” he said during a Zoom call from his San Francisco quarters.
Danny added he hated talking on the phone and over video chat and said the reason he was always reluctant to commit seriously to Stephanie was because they had a history of arguing over nothing.
Stephanie, though, was tired of excuses. She was prepared to write Danny off, but after a private talk with Nev, Danny realized there was a reason he continued to come back to Stephanie.
“You’ve always been there for me at times when I needed somebody,” he said.
Stephanie, relieved, said she’d give Danny a chance. But is there really hope for this couple? Or should Stephanie cut her losses and kick Danny to the curb? Share your thoughts, then catch another Catfish Wednesday at 8/7c.