Here’s what we know about The Catch‘s Christopher Hall Michael Thorne Benjamin Jones:
- He’s charming.
- He’s handsome.
- He’s a criminal.
- He’s a ladies’ man.
- He’s a liar.
- He’s manipulative.
- He’s… a murderer?
That last one is still unclear. Agent Dao certainly believes — or, at least, wants Alice to believe — that Benjamin is a cold-blooded killer, but Benjamin insists that this isn’t true. So let’s leave that one aside for now.
Even if Agent Dao isn’t to be completely trusted, and even if Benjamin hasn’t killed anyone, he’s not exactly a good person. This much is clear. He’s a thief and a master of disguise. There is no way to know if and when he is telling the truth. He keeps insisting that he’s still in love with Alice, but he lies about so much that we really shouldn’t be taking his word on anything.
Why, then, is Alice so convinced that he’s telling the truth?
When Alice and Benjamin agree to meet up, we’re led to believe that this is a setup to entrap Benjamin. Alice is wearing a wire; Dao and other FBI agents are nearby. She’ll ask him the questions that will elicit his full confession and then he’ll be arrested. Simple, right?
But not quite. Because Benjamin professes his love to Alice, reminding her of the fact that he offered to run away with her the very morning he ended up disappearing and stealing her company’s resources. He promises her that he’s always loved her and he still does, and while he may be a master manipulator, he’s never lied to her. And this, it seems, is all Alice needs to decide to change course. She shows Benjamin her wire, signals to him to stop revealing incriminating details and lets him go before the FBI agents can catch him.
The scene is supposed to seem romantic. Isn’t it nice that, after everything, Alice and Benjamin still love each other? But that’s not what’s really going on here.
The term “gaslighting” refers to a specific kind of mental and emotional abuse in which the abuser manipulates the abused into questioning their memory and perception of reality. It is also the word that I would use to describe Benjamin’s behavior here. Up until now, Alice has had no question in her mind that she was wronged by her ex. He lied to her, stole from her, abandoned her. She has every right to be angry and to seek revenge.
So why doesn’t she follow through with her plan when she has the chance? It seems clear to me that Benjamin manipulated her out of it — subtly, of course, so she didn’t notice it. Sure, everything he said sounded loving and romantic on the surface, but what was the point?
When Benjamin reminds Alice that he asked her to run away with him, the clear subtext is: “This is all your fault. You made me do this.” When he says that he loves her, the message is: “If you’re trying to bring me down, you don’t love me as much as I love you.” In this “romantic” scene, Benjamin abuses Alice’s trust to get as far away from Dao as possible. Dao seems to see what’s happening here, but Alice doesn’t — not yet, anyway.
Alice is a smart, strong character and I trust her judgment. But no amount of brains or brawn can stop someone from being abused, and I’m terrified that the torture that Benjamin plans to inflict on Alice is only beginning. Will he snap out of it and give her the true love and support that she deserves? Or will he continue to gaslight and manipulate her in order to get his way? Only time will tell, but for Alice’s sake, I hope she stays as far away from him as possible.