For most of this season of 90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days, it looked like Ben Rathbun was being catfished.
He’s been catfished before. He’s never video chatted with Mahogany. Her photos were clearly doctored.
She didn’t look like her photos. And, according to her, Ben didn’t look like his pics, either.
After days of radio silence from Mahogany, after flying to Peru and then driving to her hometown, Ben could only do one thing: wait.
He had told Mahogany that he would be waiting at a restaurant in her town, and he hoped that she would show up.
The 52-year-old cult survivor had rearranged his whole life, against the wishes of family and the advice of friends, to meet this 24-year-old beauty.
As a reminder, one of the biggest red flag about Mahogany — aside from her "shyness" and that he’d sent her money — was her photo editing.
Each picture of her was clearly filtered beyond anything that a person could recognize as human.
In most of them, one could easily see distortions, where her skin had been inhumanly smoothed and her figure warped in ways that she must see as flattering.
However, viewers (who had not read our previous reporting on how Mahogany was quasi-real) were in for a shock, and so was Ben.
In a scene like something out of The Bachelor, a young woman peeked her head into the restaurant.
After a bit of uncertainty, it was clear that this was Mahogany — the real one — despite how very different she looked.
Neither of them ever expected to meet each other, and were blown away by this moment.
Ben was stunned because he had begun to give up hope.
Mahogany was stunned because, well, she presumably had hoped to never have to do more than send filtered pics and some lovey-dovey texts.
Mahogany had actively discouraged Ben from coming, even going silent and not responding to his messages for days.
She told the cameras that she had opted to come meet him after a lot of consideration.
Many fans have joked on social media that she only did so at the behest of production, with some even joking that she was hired to keep that Mahogany lie going.
Mahogany’s original story was that her family did not approve of Ben or trust his intentions (since he’s more than twice her age).
It is unclear how aware they were of the "relationship," or if they had any idea what their daughter looked like in the unrecognizable photos that she sent out.
Upon meeting him, Mahogany could not help but observe that he was the one who looked different.
Mahogany’s first impression of Ben came from seeing his modeling photos.
It is the nature of musclebuilding that bodies change shape and size during the cycle of bulking and cutting.
Ben really did have that body when he took those photos (perhaps just months earlier), but he was leaner now.
It was frankly wild to hear Mahogany comment on Ben looking different, considering her own photos.
Ben showed her his real face, but his body changes shape as part of his modeling work — just like other models, just like MCU actors.
In contrast, her filters drastically warp her looks on purpose, not as part of her job. It’s just … weird for her to comment on it.
On camera, Ben asked Mahogany what she loves about him.
She answered that it was because of their shared Christian beliefs.
As viewers may recall, Ben said that he was drawn to the 24-year-old because of that, lamenting that trying to date was hard when he wanted to wait until marriage for sex.
Mahogany stressed that she wasn’t ready to rush into, well, anything.
She wanted to get to know him better.
Their goodbye hug for the evening was deeply awkward. Some of us (me) laughed out loud.
"I still definitely see her as my future wife, but we are definitely on two different levels right now," Ben confessed to the cameras.
"I still have my heart out there, I love her, I want to express that to her, but she is not reciprocating," he noted, "and she’s just not the same as she was online."
Ben lamented: "She’s not saying ‘I love you’ back and that is very concerning."