[Editor’s note: This recap should have run last week, but we were busy rending our garments and asking our European relatives if we can come live there now maybe. Apologies for the delay.]
We should have listened to Below Deck. It has been trying to tell us for weeks that life is random, cruel, and meaningless, and now we have been shown that it is. So here we are. More reality TV, as though the United States has not just had reality TV stuffed into our guts with a funnel like we’re being fattened up to make despair foie gras. Open up. Here we go.
Previously: Sierra and Kyle had a bad date and Kyle was still butthurt; Ben asked his brother to come for a transparently preplanned visit; the chickenshit pool floated away thanks to some lax deckhanding; Kyle came out as his own flavor of queer; and the howls of a thousand souls begged us to stop democracy from burning before it was too late.
It’s morning on the Valor and Emily tells Sierra that she and Ben kissed on their date. Squee! Kyle is tired of wiping out scuppers. Scuppers are holes in the side of the ship that carry water overboard. There used to be a seafood restaurant in Tyson’s Corner, VA, called The Rusty Scupper and I never knew while I lived there how disgusting that name was. I have Googled and apparently there’s now one in Baltimore. I have no idea if it’s related, but that’s still a terrible name. WTF, restaurants? Kyle, having decided that the other deckies are OK, elaborates on his sexuality. He tells them that he has an open sexuality, but he’s not into dudes, he’s into transgender women. Kelley seems surprised, but the deckies are, in fact, pretty relaxed about it. Good on you, folks.1
Kate demands details on Ben’s date with Emily. He gives her some terse basics and is way less into talking about it than she’d like. Kate is miffed that she’s not getting the scoop, but you can’t blame Ben for wanting to lock his and Em’s privacy down a bit now that they’re a couple.
Emily tells Sierra about Kyle’s preference for transwomen. Sierra asks if that makes you gay. (No.) Sierra says she’s weirded out that Kyle wanted to date her when he has a daughter and maybe also a steady girl at home. She’s also, based on her reaction, a little weirded out by the fact that Kyle likes transwomen, but Sierra has shown before that she prefers to deflect and say that she’s bothered by the more socially acceptable thing.
New Guest Meeting! We meet Liza and Laurie, best friends – and the best friends are bringing their married gay best friends and another couple. They also want to surprise one guest with a drag show. Kate says the stews will be busy cleaning cabins and Kelley will look so good in drag, mostly to playfully tease Kelley. Kate thinks it’ll be fun. Sierra asks Kyle to carry a box upstairs for her. He asks downstairs and she clarifies upstairs and Kyle mutters “fuck off.” Oy.
Kelley talks to Nico about calling him out in front of the whole crew meeting last week. (Nico claimed to have seen and radioed about the chickenshit pool floating away while Kelley missed it.) Kelley says Nico doing that makes the deck team looks divided (it also makes Kelley look bad, which he does not mention) and he’d rather that he and Nico went directly to Captain Lee in private after. Nico interviews that if he were in Kelley’s position, he’d stand up for his deck crew no matter what. I still don’t understand how Nico saying that he saw the pool floating away is standing up for Kyle, who failed to secure the line, rather than standing up for Nico, who wants to look good. I guess because Kyle could have caught it earlier if he’d been able to hear Nico over the chatter? I have no idea.
Ben asks Kyle what Ashley, his on-again-off-again girl at home, is like. (Ashley is not the same woman as the mother of Kyle’s daughter.) Kyle says Ashley is “the tits, mate” and Ben jokes “excuse pun.” Kyle handles this pretty well. He doesn’t get angry, but he makes it clear that he thinks Ben’s stupid joke isn’t cool. Ben, still talking and asking questions, misgenders Ashley. Kyle firmly corrects him and makes it clear that Ashley is a woman with a female name and identity. Ben seems to shape up for the rest of the conversation.
Kyle says that he never fit in for years and then Ashley made him feel like a real person who belongs somewhere. Aww. (So why did Kyle bother with Sierra? It wouldn’t be the first time that a long shipboard contract resulted in open relationship. I’m more curious about why Kyle was angry about Sierra maybe having a similar situation at home. I guess it’s the on again versus off again.) Ben asks some very personal questions about Ashley’s transition. Kyle is patient.
An hour and twenty until the guests come. Emily tells Ben that he thinks too much and he says she does too. Tee hee hee. Kate Skypes with Ro and complains that she thought that Ro, now that she has visited, would understand how busy Kate gets and why the Internet connection is spotty, but she doesn’t. Kate figures that maybe you have to work on a ship to really get it. Maybe. It seems like Ro pushes hard for what Ro wants in general.
Guesties! They’re bringing orange luggage and dogs. One primary guests is named Liza and the gay men with her should know that there is only one Liza, so already I’m puzzled and disoriented. OH, GOOD, IS THERE ANOTHER BOAT TOUR? I WAS SO HOPING WE WOULD FINALLY GET TO SEE WHAT THE INTERIOR OF THE BOAT LOOKS LIKE. Kelley wants the deck crew to “do 100%” this charter because Captain Lee hasn’t been happy with them lately.
The boys buttonhole Kate and they are extremely well prepared with wigs and costumes for this surprise drag show.
I don’t know how they got away with what should be a genuinely suspicious amount of luggage. The lady guests cheer on deck, as it’s one woman’s birthday soon. Kate tells Kyle about all the drag equipment and a possible opening for him in the show. Kyle seems genuinely psyched.
Hey, there’s a beach picnic! The crew’s favorite thing! Kate’s going to go in and do the beach setup. Kate radios that once she heads out, Emily can go on break for two hours, which means Sierra will be in charge of getting the guests and food to shore. The on-the-beach crew contingent sets up the beach party, which looks like a ton of work. The guests do something that involves a lot of pelvic thrusting.
Lee correctly infers that they’re bored and Kelley gets called to the bridge. Kate radios to Sierra to come to shore with food, guests, and ice.
Lee wants to know why the guests are just waiting around. Kelley says all of the deck stuff is over there and he’s waiting on Sierra. We cut to Emily and Sierra looking at a sea turtle. Heh. Kelley says he’ll have a talk with Sierra. The guests wonder what they’re doing. At 12:45, when this radioing seems to be happening, Sierra asks Ben if the food has gone over. No Ben says it’s not going over until he finishes his vinaigrette. Kyle dramatically looks at his watch. The guests mention that things seem a tad disorganized. Kyle pops into the galley to ask when the guests are going over and Sierra says she’s discussing that with Ben right now. Ben says it’s not really up to him and Emily clarifies that the guests are allowed to go to the beach before the food is ready. Kyle interviews that Sierra’s actions annoy him and she annoys him as a person. Oh, settle down, Kyle. Sierra asks the guests when they’d like to head over to the beach and they say right now. Nico and Kate sit on the beach at 12:55 wondering why things are moving so slowly. Sierra sends the guests off, explaining that the food will follow them at about 1:45. Sierra bitches to Emily about Kyle barging in on her discussion with Kelley. She interviews that she doesn’t have a problem with Kyle as a person, but she won’t talk to him unless she has to. Kyle bitches separately to Kelley. Kelley tells him to let it go.
Kate, bored out of her skull on the beach, radios to find out what the sand hill is going on. Apparently it was Sierra’s job to herd the guests onto the dinghy, but she doesn’t know that and hasn’t done it. Kelley sends Kyle to get them. Kyle editorializes to Emily and Ben on Sierra’s scatterbrainedness on getting everything moving and how brain surgeons are sweating less over their jobs. It’s an overreaction and Ben gives a perfect “Come on, man…”
Everyone does make it out, as does a bunch of food. The guests enjoy it. One of the guests slyly feeds a dog under the table.
Ben makes Emily vegetables and sautéed fish. Aww.
Kelley says that Kyle and Sierra both talk a lot and involve the crew in their squabbling instead of just putting their heads down and dealing with it like adults. Which is correct, but also a bit much coming from the guy who called a Congressional investigation into Sierra’s first date behavior and claimed psychic knowledge as to whether she was texting a boy or not.
One of the guests makes what he calls a “sandy vagina,” causing a large percentage of the viewership to shout out “sand vulva!” I’m not sure how I feel about vulva correctors. I guess I’m neutral. I’m a little more worried about the new regime trying to control my uterus.
Speaking of seaside genitalia, Sierra says the guys on the boat are on their periods and have crazy mood swings. Thanks for spreading some internalized misogyny, Sierra! VERY helpful!
Sierra and Kyle are of course left together to talk out their scuffle on the beach while they break down the picnic, which is extremely dumb if you actually want anything to get done, but presumably is the result of either bribes or threats by Bravo producers. is mad that Kyle jumped in when she and Kelley were discussing how and when to move the guests and Kyle says Kelley told him to do it, so it’s not his fault. Kyle says he feels like Sierra was being nasty to him when he did nothing wrong.
Sierra calls Kyle a queen. And no, not in the clueless “You go, boy!” way you might expect her to. It’s used purely as an epithet, and meant to belittle and dismiss Kyle. Hey, Sierra: Fuck you, you fucking fuck. This is the same woman who, in her first episode on board, wanted us all to know how very daring and naughty and adventurous and hip she is for making out with a girl once in college. Assholes like Sierra are the same people who voted for Trump but want you to know they’re totes not bigots. Dipping into an out-group’s culture when it gets you street cred and then othering them when it suits you is damaging, hypocritical bullshit. And it’s not that many steps from an Evangelical minister preaching hate laws from the pulpit and getting blow jobs on the sly.
Kyle is also on to Sierra’s bullshit and tells her to fuck off. He accurately points out that if she hadn’t heard about his having slept with men and transwomen, she would have just called him a dick, a prick, or an asshole. So, yeah, it’s a slur. I think I’m finally getting an inkling of why the crew calls Sierra scary-crazy. I defended you on that, Sierra! I wanted you to get the benefit of the doubt! It’s that thing where she says she’s bothered by Kyle having a girlfriend, not that she’s bothered by him having a trans girlfriend. She puts on a happy and socially acceptable face and then the suppressed rage slips out the sides. OK, yeah, that would be unsettling to work with.
Sierra rides back and bitches about Kyle’s “overreaction.” Speaking of overreactions, how about not escalating to homophobia over a beach party, assbag? Sierra, in the signature cry of all self-involved shit-stirrers, says she prefers a drama-free zone. Jesus. Sierra interviews that she hasn’t done anything to offend Kyle – which was at least arguably true right up until she used a homophobic epithet. Stop trying to claim the high ground, Sierra. You dove right off it.
Sierra, who just can’t stand drama, talks about Kyle to Lauren, his close co-worker. Kyle tells Kelley that Sierra called him a queen. Lauren brings up the good point that maybe Kelley didn’t need to shove them at each other to do the beach cleanup.
The guest who’s doing the drag show brings Kyle back to look at his dress and wig options. Kyle is game. Dressing! Prepping!
The guests have a gorgeous dinner of petit filets. Kate, back in the kitchen, enjoys Cheetos with a similar level of faux-gusto. Ben kisses Emily goodnight. They dream of the world burning and don’t know why.
Morning! Ben is excited for his brother to arrive. Emily is eager to meet him and thus learn about Ben. Ben says his brother is more eccentric than he is.
The guesties play on the slide and with the water toys. They seem to have disdained the chickenshit pool so they can just swim in the sea, which speaks well of them. This surprise drag show can’t be that big of a surprise drag show, because one guest dives into the water in a full dress and wig in front of everyone.
Lunchtime. Ben pronounces the conch chewy and is worried that he shouldn’t serve it. Kate says it’s conch-flavored gum and advises against sending it out. Em, however, says the taste is delicious even if it’s a little chewy, so Ben reverses his earlier instincts and sends it out. Kate is annoyed to have her judgment overridden. Why don’t you just leave pizza on the floor or tell her to dictate meal times to guests? One guest does say – fairly apologetically – that the conch is a little chewy. Kate has the frustrated-yet-satisfied reaction of the previously correct.
Kyle strategizes the drag show with the guest who will be performing and happily watches a dry run.
This guest seems sweet, but is terrible at lip-syncing. Have we learned nothing about standards from RuPaul? Maybe this is one of those things where they couldn’t get music rights and just run a different random song over the footage, but it really doesn’t look like the guest is making words at all. Did Bravo set this up as a thing to bring out Kyles nonstraightness and then fail to find an experienced drag queen? Below Deck raises so many more questions than it answers.
Kyle says that he enjoys drag. It was fun when he discovered it because he had a shit childhood and then drag was something he was good at.
Ben, whipping up what looks like a very rich dinner, feeds Kyle some sea urchin, which Kyle has never eaten. Kyle feels woozy almost immediately. The crew wonder if he’s having an allergic reaction, and it sure does look like one. The crew get on the case quickly and pump him full of Benadryl. Kyle says he has to be really careful with seafood. Kyle. KYLE. WHY DID YOU EAT SEA URCHIN?
Kate finds Sleepy Kyle having Benadreams in the kitchen and can’t believe the stupidity of the chain of events. She says “he’s supposed to be dragged, not drugged,” reminding us that, yes, producers are here feeding people occasional lines. Anyway, a chain of events that is threatening to make one of Kate’s parties nonperfect. Kate does not lose her cool, so presumably she’s set up a rec room where she can duck out to throw crockery at the walls and come back refreshed.
Kyle is passed out, so Kate does his makeup while he sleeps.
I find the dubious-consent makeup job to be unsettling for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Captain Lee wanders in and, yet again, cannot believe this shit. I hope Captain Lee is making a pretty penny for this show. Kyle, eyes closed, supine, and with glitter in his beard, drinks a Red Bull through a straw. The show must go on! Up above, dinner proceeds apace. The guests love it. Kyle, finally fully awake, sits up and Kate slaps a red wig on him.
He says he’s OK. The deckies get Kyle into his dress.
Kate brings the guests to the bridge deck so they can “watch fireworks.” The guys in the drag show ninja up over top of the yacht to get to an even higher deck unseen. Kyle does a hell of a drag show, unshaven pits as all. Nico and Kelley are non-dragged backup dancers. Nico says drag is great; it’s all about the money at this point. The guests cheer and everyone has pink boas on.
The things we do for tips, says Kyle.
Morning! The guests wonder where Kyle is. The crew eats in the mess and they joke about the remaining glitter on, well, everything. The guests cheer their last meal on board.
Kate arranges a flashing boa/towel heart on the bed and the boat docks. The deck crew does a good job docking (Are we done with that plotline?) and hustle to unload the luggage. Time to say goodbye! This was a blessedly uneventful cruise. They tip, they go. Time to clean!
Kyle interviews that he and Sierra will never get resolved, because he can see her for who she is and she’s a “prick.” See? Kyle truly does not give a rat about rigid gender roles. Also, yeah: Sierra may be kind of a prick. Lee says that the crew did everything right and he can’t see what they would have done to improve, but the tip isn’t what they were used to. Everyone on the crew makes that face that your pet makes when she realizes that you really are going to eat all of that string cheese by yourself.
The tip works out to $1,100 each – a nice amount, but close to $250 below what they usually get. This is such a weird situation. Presumably, the charter guests are getting free or deeply discounted cruises. How do they discuss the tips? And how much do they rig it? Lee tells the crew to enjoy their night out, but finish up the boat today. Nico, Lauren, and Kyle get cracking and compliment each other on their teamwork.
Ben’s brother James arrives. Ben says he’s older, more conservative, more reserved, and better looking. Kate knows James and is happy to see him again. The crew is happy and curious to meet James, and Sierra’s expression of laser interest indicates that her vulva is particularly happy and curious. James brings hand-rolled cigars as a treat for the crew. Emily says there are similarities between the brothers, but Ben is more manly and James is more well-groomed. Yeah, Emily is a little smitten with Ben. Ben and James go out on the town with no other crew along at all. Nico says he’s had some tough cruises and wants to get loose. It looks like Kelley goes to bed. Good decision, Kelley.
James has the exact same voice as Ben. It’s amusing and strange to hear them both talking. Kyle and Kate and Emily smoke cigars. Kyle asks for the master suite tonight so he can watch some TV and whack off, which he hasn’t done in ages. He’s an open book, our Kyle.
James and Ben talk about Emily. James approves, which makes Ben happy. There’s a heavily promoted moment that was cut to look like Ben is really wondering if he should marry Emily after knowing her for like fifteen days, but once we see the moment for real, Ben is clearly joking. Dammit, Bravo.
Lauren, in what look like becameled pajama pants, rolls onto the master bed in Kyle’s master bedroom.
Kyle is soooo not in the mood for visitors. Lauren and Nico fail to read Kyle’s subtle social cues and knock shit over instead. Nico is super drunk and Lauren is close behind, maybe sidekick drunk. I can’t figure out if Lauren is getting drunk lately because she’s still sort of hoping that she and Nico will make out or if she’s just bored senseless. Kyle wants them to have less alcohol on their agenda and in their systems right now. Kyle mentions this firmly and repeatedly. Nico and Lauren, rather than taking this to heart, pour Fireball directly from the bottle into each other’s mouths.
One day I will write a book called From Jagermeister to Fireball: A Timeline of Douchebag Fuel.
Speaking of alcohol, Ben and James are coming back hella drunk. Ben, for reasons that will be unclear to the even partially sober, leaves his trousers on the dock. If you’ve been wanting to see a lot of Benbutt, this is your episode.
The stews talk about Ben and for some reason Sierra has a tote bag. Ben and James laugh as Ben gets completely naked. Kyle is still trying to get Nico and Lauren to stop drinking Fireball by the bottle. Kate bids them goodnight and warns them against a mess. Kyle is genuinely trying not to mess up the sheets and seems to understand that doing so will be a pain in the butt for the interior crew that he doesn’t want to foist on them. Also he would really, really like Nico and Lauren to leave so he can administer some discipline to his simian.
Ben arrives in the master suite with his shirt tied around his loins.
This is really not going in the direction that Kyle would like it to. All Kyle wants in the world is for people to leave him the fuck alone and they will not. I think the chickens on the Valor will spend the night breathing unimpeded. Ben and Nico and Lauren shut themselves in the bathroom. Kyle gives up on life treating him well and drinks a fuck-ton of Fireball.
Ben and Nico and Lauren giggle in the master bathroom and also manage to knock a panel off the wall.
Next week, Captain Lee confines Ben, Nico, Lauren and Kyle to crew area and they get a visit from the most difficult guest they’ve ever had. Kelley imposes a 10:00 curfew and Nico flips out. I’ll see you there.
Nico refers to Ashley as “a man becoming a woman,” which isn’t correct according to the transfolk I’ve talked to. Ashley is a woman getting her body in line with her inherent womanhood. But Nico doesn’t seem to be misgendering out of malice. It’s just that we as a (cis) culture aren’t very well educated about transfolk. Nico says he’s not into judging. ↩