Hello! We’re diving in (Ha, ha!) late on this ridiculous yacht reality show, Below Deck, but we will persevere. This is Season 3 or 4 depending on how you’re counting the Mediterranean season. Below Deck proper is in the Caribbean. Apparently.
Full disclosure: I have worked on ships, but they were cruise ships, and yachties disdain those. (Don’t feel bad for cruise ship employees. People who work on ships find people who work on mere boats just adorable.) And, while there is a passing similarity in the sense that both seagoing vessels that carry sometimes-difficult passengers to the same Caribbean islands, yachts are a very different animal. So I’ll add what insight I can, but let’s manage expectations.
We start off with quick statements from each cast member, which is not a bad way to get to know them. Kate, the chief stew, talks about how beautiful the world is… from the laundry room window. Those who have seen previous seasons will remember Kate as being a teensy bit brittle at times, but genuinely interested in a job well done.
Captain Lee is excited for a new charter season. Kelley, the bosun (officer in charge of crew and equipment) is nervous. He’s been a deckhand on a previous season and I guess left under inauspicious circumstances, but I cannot for the life of me think what.
Ben, the chef, has been on every season of the show, even the rogue Mediterranean one. He says he’s been cooking for 17 years and he’s ready for everything. Also he is really getting bold with the hair gel.
Kate says that 90% of her job is acting like everything is fine when it’s not. That’s 90% of so many jobs, Kate. So many. We see a preview shot of her waxing an extremely hairy man, so I guess the producers will be meddling even more with ginned-up plot lines this season.
Trevor is the senior deckhand and he immediately says that he’s in charge when the bosun isn’t there and that he needs to know that his deckies respect him. Oh, lord. At least we already know who that guy is this season. Life tip: Any time you catch someone talking about “respect” as a thing that only flows toward him and is something he must have, he doesn’t mean “respect,” he means “submission.” And also he is a weak-ass toolbag who can’t handle being questioned or challenged. Before they are allowed to take leadership positions of any kind, people should be asked to explain how respect works. If they don’t view it as a two-way street, they should be busted back down to foot soldier and given a forehead tattoo so that no one ever tries to promote them to management again.
Nico is also called Freako because he’s wacky. Oh, dear. We have preview shots of Nico vacuuming Kate and pretending to be Elvis. Kate says he’s cute.
Lauren is the One Lady Deckhand they have every season. She’s got a laid-back Aussie accent and yes, she can carry that heavy thing just fine.
Emily, the 2nd Stew, is a lovely Brit. She says she gives off a first impression of being really normal and conforming, but isn’t. We have a preview shot of Emily saying she’s so horny and needs sex right now, which I think does her a disservice as a first impression. Like it sounds like her just being super honest in the middle of a 24-hour stressful job and they’re trying to make it like she’s The Naughty One. Not that there’s anything wrong with being naughty, it just seems like she has more layers than that. But it’s reality TV.
Sierra, the 3rd Stew, says that her whole life, she’s been “happy, precocious, free spirited.” She also says she’s humble. I suspect Sierra is going to bug the snot out of us.
Captain Lee and the previews remind us that rich people charter yachts and sometimes they are demanding dicks, which stresses out the crew, who live and work in extremely tight quarters. Boiled down to that it is indeed a good basis for a show.
The show finally starts for real and it’s 8:00 a.m., 24 hours before the charter. The boat, the Valor, is newly refitted and decorated almost entirely in white.
Last time around Kelley was a second engineer and now he’s the bosun. Lee tells him not to screw the pooch. Ah – looks like Kelley’s problem last time was some binge drinking and an incident with a stripper pole. He says he’s grown up since then.
Kate is friends with Kelley’s sister and knows that Kelley has been working hard and apparently taking courses to get better and move up in the yachting world, which is a thing. Let’s hope this is his redemption arc. Kelley has been single for eight months, five of no sex. He’s already horndogging out.
Nico was raised by a single mom. He says he wasn’t making good decisions, but yachting saved him and turned his life around. Nico takes the top bunk. Lauren arrives and she and Kate seem to get along well. Trevor introduces himself to everyone as “senior deckhand” and immediately says how he’d usually be a bosun on a ship this size and also he thinks he’s a great boss—such a great boss that if he had a choice of boss, he’d choose himself. Trevor’s gonna be a douche.
Ben has worked on the Valor before and he’s excited to cook on it. He’s also happy to work with Kate again. They’re good friends who have, yup, hooked up once or twice because of course they have. It wouldn’t be reality TV without that sort of thing.
…But Kate is dating a new girlfriend. Wait. Girlfriend?! Goiinnggg! Kelley is surprised, as would we all be if Bravo hadn’t teased this information 87 times. Kate’s girlfriend of a month and a half is Ro (I’m assuming that’s the spelling; it’s short for “Ricio.”), a professional athlete. There is literally a picture of Kate and Ro in front of a U-Haul.
Kate says she’s in sexual limbo and doesn’t know if she’s gay or not. Hey, Bravo! You’re supposed to be one of the big LGBT-friendly networks. Maybe now is the time to teach people about bisexuality and fluidity? No, of course not.
(Also awkward: Back here in real-life time, Kate has already been arrested and charged with biting and trying to strangle this very same new girlfriend, which puts a way less fun, saucy, spin on this whole thing. We will carry on and work our way through it as well as we can.)
Trevor introduces himself to the other deckhands as the senior deckhand. He also, after Kelley’s gracious speech asking the others to take orders from Trevor as they would from him, tells the other deckhands to “feel free” to bounce thigs off of him, Trevor, and Kelley. Trevor refers to himself and Kelley as the “higher-ups.” Oy. Trevor also does that thing where Kelley is trying to go over some basic rules and Trevor keeps jumping in as though he’s a peer and it’s their speech. Nico notes that he has worked on a much bigger yacht than Trevor has, one with a much bigger crew, so Trevor can maybe cool his jets a little. On the upside, they haven’t even had a charter yet and Nico and Lauren are already bonding over how Trevor is such a douchenozzle. They are already mocking him behind his back.
Kate and Emily start working on efficient set-up lists. They already seem to be in a rhythm, which bodes well for them as a team. We learn that Sierra’s full name is Sierra Storm, and that she has not yet arrived.
Provisions! Softshell crab! Ben interview-wishes Kelley good luck as the bosun with a big smile and a thumbs-up that suggests he genuinely wants Kelley to do well but is putting also his money on Kelley’s spleen bursting from frustration about nine days in.
The third stew still has not arrived and there is a metric fuck-ton of work to be done to prepare for the season and the immediate first charter. Kate and Emily seem to be at it like champs.
Trevor interviews that he was born in Atlanta. He’s been a competitive surfer and a hair model.
DID HE MENTION THAT HE’S ALREADY BEEN A BOSUN? And also a first mate. Presumably when Trevor was born in Atlanta, the doctor slapped him on the butt, assessed the situation, and then slapped him in the face for good measure.
Ben and Emily, the Brits, start to bond. He seems to know the boarding school she went to. Hmm… Emily was set to go to Cambridge, but decided she wanted some adventure first. Well done, Emily.
Crew meeting! The third stew missed the plane. She’ll be here tomorrow. Kudos to the producers. This is some personality foreshadowing.
Captain Lee has some pretty basic tough-but-fair rules: Do your job, don’t embarrass yourself, don’t embarrass the boat, and no drinking. Lauren sums it up as “don’t be a dickhead.” I like the cut of Lauren’s jib. Lee also has the infamous packet of plane tickets home: When a crew member is fired, they get a controversial full cut of the tip, and then are immediately sent packing. Much like America’s Next Top Model. Great art echoes through time.
Emily is working ahead with confidence, taking the initiative and knocking down things that need to get done. Kate likes hard work, crossed Ts, and things done well, so she loves Emily. The rest of us are terrified. If the producers let Kate have a second stew who’s this on the ball, Sierra the third stew is definitely going to be a nightmare coated in fuckup sauce.
Nico and Lauren are both single. Lauren notices that both Nico and Kelley are eye candy. Bravo isn’t screwing around with the get-pretty-people-drunk-and-stressed-enough-to-hook-up formula. I bet in castings they just hang up pictures of other potential cast members and scream “WHO WOULD YOU HAVE SEX WITH?” Or maybe they have the cast sort each other into piles of “Yes,” “No,” “Maybe,” and “Only if I’m really mad at someone else.”
The first charter will be eight women who are friends on Instagram but haven’t met in person. So they’re taking a close-quarters yacht cruise. What? The primary guest (the one who we’re pretending is footing the bill, though clearly Bravo subsidizes), has her own clothing line, because of course she does. Their information sheets say they want a theme party with a social media theme, which, no, fuck you right in the ear, Bravo, they absolutely do not. That’s stupid and no one says that. That’s Bravo producers just trying to be down with the millennial hepcats and their hippity-hop. These painfully obvious manufactured fake requests “Oh, we’re from the south, so of course we want a hoedown in the middle of the Mediterranean” are the absolute worst part of the show. For chrissakes, Bravo, just bring on people who are used to being catered to and trust them to be difficult. Case in point: The women in this group all seem to have polar opposite food dislikes, so Ben’s brain already feels like someone has been jamming iodine-soaked needles into it.
Wow, it’s still day one and Trevor is so awful that Lauren and Nico are already essentially doing a comedy routine about his micromanaging. Also getting along well? Kate and Emily are so compatible that Emily asks Kate how she wants the toilet paper folds done and Kate has an answer that makes sense to her.
Kate talks about her new relationship – she’s with her first girlfriend and the first woman she’s even been attracted to. That’s a tricky pivot in your 30s. Well done, Kate. Or, I guess, well done, Gay Agenda, for making this whole thing possible. MYOOHOOHAHAHAHAHA!
Crew dinner looks great. It has to be fun to cook and eat the brand-new bountiful supplies on that first night.
Holy crap. Earlier we saw Nico getting to his cabin first and putting his things on the top bunk to claim it. We now watch Trevor pull Nico’s stuff off his bed and take the top bunk. “A higher-up should be higher up,” says Trevor. Trevor is so much more than a douchebag. He is a douchecrate. He’s a douchecargoship. Trevor is such a giant douche that Summer’s Eve just sent him a cease and desist order. I can only imagine what his leadership skills will be like when actual stress is applied to the situation.
Footage of Trevor should be used as a negative example in any leadership skills or management workshop. If you need to do this much petty dick-swinging, it’s a dead-on indicator that you have no confidence in your own power. And also people will want to frag you.
It sucks that Sierra isn’t there yet to help with work that would be a scramble for three people, but Kate loves it that Emily is just moving forward and not complaining. She does seem to be handling it well. Pour one out for Emily – this practically guarantees that Sierra is going to be the looniest person Bravo could find. Maybe she’ll just be a bag of squirrels in a stew uniform.
Ben is flipping right the hell out because one of the guests wants spinach every day and his spinach hasn’t arrived, but then it does. Phew! Ben’s panties remain in a wad, however. It’s one hour to guesties and there’s still a ton to do and boxes everywhere in the kitchen. And then it’s time to rush around and change clothes to meet the guests!
The Instagram ladies are here!
Kate says the anxiety when the guests walk on is huge because they go from complete strangers to the center of your world in three seconds. Whoa, that was fast — Kelley is already into Kelsey, one of the guests. The stews take the guests on a quick tour and good heavens, is there a lot of space on that boat. (But it’s still only a boat, not a cruise ship.)
Kelley is bringing up the guests’ bags, which are all seemingly full of dwarf star. Holy glands – Trevor is sweating his face right off and looks like Crispin Glover’s creepy cousin.
He makes sure to tell Lauren how drenched he got when he played college soccer. Somehow she manages to refrain from falling at his feet. There’s a lot of bustling. Kate and Emily get the ladies drinks while the guests direct the deckhands with their luggage. Then it’s time to get going, so the deckhands change from their welcome uniforms to white shorts. Lauren has Nico check to see if her undies show through the fabric.
They leave the dock in Tortola. (I love Tortola! It’s beautiful and quiet and there is a tiny bookstore that is curated with sparkling genius. Don’t tell everyone and ruin it. Just sneak off real quiet one by one.) Kelley says Trevor did a good job, which sort of makes up for him being an ambulatory trash fire of a human being.
Trevor says he goes by the Five Ps: Proper planning prevents poor procedure. Can anything make up for that? He also says he has one speed on deck: full speed. Which is not the same thing as thinking and planning, so he’s just parroting things that sound leaderish.
Ben is making family-style platters for the guests, who immediately ask if everything is gluten-free and soy-free. Kate says yes instead of hurling everyone into the sea and starting over.
They drop anchor on Norman Island and Sierra the stew finally calls to say that she’s in Tortola. She also says missed her flight because she just didn’t hear it when they called it. Oh. Lord. She’s not even making the basic effort to lie about a traffic jam. Before the end of this season, Kate’s head is going to burst open like Scanners.
Trevor is now literally micromanaging how many boards apart the deck chairs are from each other. Lauren is laughing, but if you look in her eyes, you can see her imagining slicing him from sternum to groin with a gaff hook.
Kate says it great that Sierra is finally coming, but she’ll be working double time to make up for the work she missed. Which would be a jerk thing to say if Sierra had had a family emergency or something, but since Sierra just flaked on the plane that was taking her to her job, that seems legit. (Also: How fake do we think this is? Wouldn’t the TV folks make some basic efforts to make sure she was in the right place early on if they were, you know, making a show with her in it? Or was Sierra’s inability to catch a plane just some batshit gold that dropped into their laps?)
After lunch, the guests are going someplace called Willie T’s. The deckhands know it. Nico says he left his dignity there; Lauren chimes right in and says she left her morals there. I love them. I cannot even imagine how good their comic rapport will be by the end of the season.
Willy T’s, it turns out is a “floating shipwreck” that evidence indicates caters to the idiot market.
Ben explains to Emily that if you take your top off you get free drinks or something.
Ben also says he’s happy for Kate and her new relationship but is a bit skeptical of her switching sexualities at 32. OK, maybe we could be skeptical, Ben, or maybe we could as a society stop being thunderstruck at the idea that sexual orientation isn’t a rigid binary. No? We’ll run with the skepticism thing? Fine. Ben does admit that maybe his skepticism about Kate has something to do with the fact that he’s single and his one-time go-to hook-up has a girlfriend.
The guests are taking their tops off at Willy T’s and jumping off the side. OK, then.
Sierra arrives! Kate says it’s perfect timing. Sierra says she doesn’t know how it happened that she missed her plane. She says she has her parents’ “gypsy soul,” which is a thing you don’t get to say if you’re not actually of Romany stock, and that she tried college but it never stuck.
Trevor says Sierra is gorgeous and he and she are going to become besties. He doesn’t make air quotes around “besties,” but they’re there.
Kate says Sierra is a total knockout and has no idea how hot she is. Kate theorizes that Sierra should be way more bitchy because she’s hot enough to pull it off. Just in case you forgot and thought Kate was going to be our rock here.
Sierra meets the guests and seems OK so far. I will pull back on my judgment. For now.
Kelley gives out night shift (and thus bedtime) assignments. Trevor asks the deckhands to dry everything that needs to be dried. Trevor, hanging out in the kitchen, tells Sierra her tits are about to fall out of her top and asks Sierra to smile for him. Who knew we would fill up our Douchecanoe Bingo cards so quickly?
Ben is unable to contain his disgust and tells Trevor to figure out how to make beef apply to the stupid social media party theme that the producers have already thought out, so why are we pretending to do this? Trevor thinks and thinks and then says “Filletsbook.” It’s not a winner. And “Instaham” won’t work because it’s not ham. They finally go with “Social Meat-ia” Trevor offers to announce each course’s wacky pun name.
The meal is gorgeous except that all the ladies are on their goddamned phones and Kate is about to ram champagne glass shards straight into their eyeballs. Sierra cleans and says she’s single and not into a particular kind of guy in terms of looks.
Then Trevor changes everyone’s bedtimes that Kelley just gave them so that he can announce the pun names for the social media dinner. He just contradicts Kelley’s direct orders. Way to lead! As the deckhands walk away in disgust, Trevor stammers “But after this, everything that Kelley says goes.”
The guesties cheer Captain Lee’s arrival and everyone is saying “hashtag” before everything. STOP THAT. They joke about “double-tagging” the Captain and he has Trevor rally the servers before lightning strikes the boat to cleanse the world.
The ladies laugh at “hashtagbrowns” and Kelsey says she’s giving all her likes to Kelley. The primary guest tries to get Kelley to hook up with Kelsey, but Kelley backs off like a professional even though he would very much like to hook up. Kate is impressed.
Trevor says he made the whole dinner happen and raised the charter tip. Somebody jiggle Trevor. Maybe he’s broken. Captain Lee excuses himself to go to bed and plaintively says to the camera “#GetMeOutOfHere.”
The three blonde stews converge. At 11:15, Sierra is in the laundry room fussing with the ironing board like it’s Ikea furniture. She says the laundry room is relaxing and she spends a lot of time there. But she does seem perfectly happy to work.
Ben and Kate soak their feet in the kitchen sink together. Once you get past the grossness, it’s a sweet and fun moment. Ben interviews that Kate seems happier than he could have made her and takes a moment to feel that pang. That is some self-awareness, there, Ben. Trevor, would you like to come over and see how self-awareness works? Trevor?
Kelley and Lauren talk. Kelley is already well aware that Trevor is a dicksmack. He needs to figure out how to handle it. In the morning, Nico and Trevor talk about what Trevor has already gotten up and done. Trevor doesn’t seem to know the proper names of all the decks or parts of the ship. Hmmm. He calls the wing station “um, bridge control, outside or whatever,” and calls the Main Deck Aft the Aft Deck. Nico keeps a deferential face on, but does quietly correct Trevor by clarifying what he means.
Kelley checks in with Nico, who says they’re a really good team, but he does mention that Trevor is treating the deckhands like they’re green and know nothing about boats. In the middle of that, they look up and see that Trevor is shirtless with the guests.
Kelley actually has to tell him not to take his shirt off for the guests, even if they ask him to.
Kelley goes to Captain Lee to talk about how Trevor is terrible. Lee gives him some basic advice, including explaining to Trevor that he’s not indispensable. And then Lee essentially tells Kelley to do his damned job and get Trevor in line. He points out that this is Kelley’s job and that if he, Captain Lee, has to step in and do Kelley’s job, he doesn’t really need Kelley. Captain Lee is all about the tough love. And the tough stay-out-of-my-face.
We end with yet more season previews. They include snogging, a poodle in a tux, a psychic that Captain Lee quietly loathes, pantslessness, and crying.
This is going to be quite the season.
See you back here next week.