MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show, the series that investigates online relationships in which someone has a secret, returns for a second season of fishy love on June 25 at 10 pm. (There’s also a lead-up special that premiered June 17.) Here, in a sneak peek at the Season 2 premiere episode, Cassie—who is engaged to a man she’s never met—tells host Nev Schulman about what her relationship has done for her life. Schulman also spoke to TIME about what goes on behind the scenes.
TIME: Have you ever started investigating a story and not have it work out?
NEV SCHULMAN: No, amazingly, all of the stories that we’ve started we’ve seen through to the end. Mostly what it is, from what I’ve heard from the ‘catfish’ [those who lie in online relationships] themselves, is that they recognize it’s probably the best chance they’ll ever get to tell their side of the story. To explain themselves and, more importantly, do so in an environment that they feel will be understanding, supportive and not escalate into something volatile. If you’ve seen the show, you will have heard in many cases that these people who have been living lies or avoiding meeting or afraid to meet, it’s not for any lack of them wanting to, it’s that they have some insecurity or fear of doing it. This is sometimes the little nudge or push that they need to finally take that big step.
Do most of people who get in that situation actually want to meet?
There are probably lots of relationships that start online where one person is just messing around and not that serious. But I don’t think they last very long. The ones that we investigate on the show—you can’t fake talking to someone for hours and hours a day, you can’t pretend to be interested in somebody for years at a time.
How will Season 2 be different?
Everybody who reached out to us in the last eight months or so, they’ve seen the show. They know what we’re doing, which is partially why they’ve reached out to us, so when we meet them now we’re operating under a different context. No longer do we have to explain the reality of online dating and our role in trying to understand these relationships. We confront them right away and say, “Look, you know what we do, you reached out to us because you obviously know that you yourself are in an unusual relationship where you can’t say for sure if the person is who they say they are.” To be fair, I do get a tremendous amount of people who reach out saying that since watching the show they’ve now discovered that the person they were in a relationship with isn’t real and they thanked us for helping them.
As someone who has been through this yourself, as shown in the Catfish documentary that came out a few years ago, why do you think they want to be on camera when the truth comes out?
We did just film an episode in which one of the parties was not particularly interested in the TV-show side of things, but he genuinely felt that this was the only way he was going to get this girl to show up. As strange as it is, I’m proud to say that I think we really have created a venue where people feel comfortable and where they really believe that it might just be their best chance at meeting this person and having it go the best it could.
At this point, you seem to have a good idea about why people fall for catfish. But why do you think the ‘catfish’ do it?
Everybody has such different experiences, they come from different places, they have different stories to tell, and just when you think something seems typical or that you’ve seen something like it before, you meet this person and they have an entire life of ups and downs and tragedy and triumphs. And what you might have thought or predicted was the cause or reason for something, turns out to be the exact opposite.
After the movie came out, the ‘catfish’ character there said publicly that she has schizophrenia. Is mental illness something you think about with the TV show?
I don’t think I’m qualified to comment as far as the medical aspect of potential mental illness. But you hear about in the news, with the idea of mental health, the idea of ‘Are people getting the support and attention that they need to feel good about themselves?’ And that’s something that I think we see on the show in certain cases, where people aren’t finding the resources they need in their homes or communities to deal with issues or feelings that they’re having. So they turn to the Internet and they find a community online that they feel supports or addresses the issues that they’re having.
Do you think catfishing is going to be around forever?
You can date somebody and feel like you know them and then you can move in with them and they could be a totally different person. You could marry someone and have kids and all of a sudden you don’t agree on anything. Or you can be cousins with someone and start a business together and you become very successful, and all of the sudden they’re not the same person as they used to be. I don’t really think that what people do online is new or different than what we’ve been doing forever. It’s just a new and different way to do it.
What’s different about it?
Now have an opportunity no matter who you are, where you are, what you look like, what sort of socioeconomic background you come from, to relate to and communicate with anybody anywhere else in the world. The hopper of people-connections is now so much bigger because it used to be that, if you lived in a small town, you knew the people in your small town, unless you leave your town. Now, no matter where you live you can be friends with people all over the world.