My Irrational Love for Below Deck

I can’t stop watching Bravo’s maritime masterpiece.

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Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash

How I love thee let me count the ways.

I fully admit that I have terrible taste in television.

So, a few years ago when I saw people trapped on a boat upon which they would live and work. I was hooked. Even better, most of the time it features people either brand new to, or have very little experience, working on high end luxury yachts.

It has all the elements of a well done Bravo show. There’s drama, hook-ups, and huge fights. The show originally had a much more serious vibe to it, and it focused more on a green crew trying to get all the work done.. The deck crew learns to take care of the boat, and the interior crew learns how to clean the, well, interior, as well as serve the rich people that charter the boat. Tensions build as the crew work long hours and deal with incredibly demanding people.

Captain Lee has been the captain since the first season. He’s also the show’s secret weapon. He’s demanding, and he never lets up on the people that serve in his personal fiefdom. The crew works extremely hard to finally get his praise, but when they do, you can tell they earned it.

Season two gave us Kate Chastain, the long time Chief Stewardess. She’s made for television. She’s quick witted, and she verbally destroys anyone that gets in her way. Each year there seems to be one person that falls on her bad side, and she spends the rest of the charter season making their lives miserable. It’s absolutely great to watch, but I would never want to be on her bad side.

There have been a number of characters on the show. There was Eddie, the shy, nice bosun who ended up cheating on his longtime girlfriend with a stewardess, and spends the rest of the season trying to hide it. Kelly, the former marine, who once got so intoxicated he fell off a swing and had to go to the hospital. There was Kat, the hard core party girl that once got so drunk that she disrobed and walked through the entire town naked. And of course, there is Ben, the original chef and one of the more charismatic cast members. He’s a contentious chef that for some reason the women find irresistible. He dated Kate, and he’s currently dating another cast member. But he’s moved on, and the show struggled to replace him. Matt the new chef was rather bland, and except for one horrible drunken date, he was fairly innocuous. I don’t think he’s returning.

This past season gave us Nico, moved up from deckhand. He spent the charter season breaking up with his girlfriend to date one of the stewardesses, Bri. Now, that the season is over, he is trying to break up with Bri so he can go back to his old girlfriend.

The high stress causes no end of mishaps and there have been plenty of crazy situations including:

A stewardess losing it, and jumping over board.

A chef quitting in the middle of a charter.

Guests getting kicked off the boat after a stewardess finds cocaine in their rooms.

Two crew members climbing on top of the radar tower.

A deckhand dating a stewardess, breaking up with her, and a few days later proposing to his transgender girlfriend.


That’s not all. There’s another Below Deck. Below Deck Mediterranean!

It has the original’s charm but somehow always manages the up the drama.

The first season, while it got points for having Ben the chef, was boring. Captain Mark didn’t add much and Brian the first mate, was a drunken tool for most of the charter.

Season 2 improved many things. Captain Sandy Yawn made her reality debut and the fans loved the nap loving, stern, but fair skipper. She’s a nice contrast to Captain Lee. She’s tough but far more laid back, and revels in teaching the deckhands seamanship skills. And she’s back for this season.

There’s Chief Stew Hannah who’s been there since the beginning, but lacks Kate’s domineering presence. Kate Chastain eats people for lunch. Everyone knows not to mess with her. Hannah, on the other hand, is always in some squabble. She’s also frequently accused by her underlings of not working very hard. Much of her drama this season comes from her relationship with Conrad, this season’s bosun. They got involved early, and both of their jobs have suffered for it. It would be incredibly annoying to work with but watching it is hilarious.

There’s resident psychopath Joao? J-wow? JoJo? I have no idea how to spell his name, but he’s crazy. I bet he hurt small animals as a kid. He’s also from Zimbabwe, we know because he brings it up in every confessional.

Adam returns as chef this season, and it’s one of the more stunning turnarounds I’ve seen for a reality show personality. Last year, he was arguably the villain. He sabotaged dinners, and made several enemies on the boat, as unbeknownst to production, he had started a relationship with one of the deckhands before joining the boat. He spent the last of the season perpetually about to get fired, and about to lose his mind.

But he turned it all around. He’s a voice of reason. His food as looked good, and I don’t think he’s harassed anyone yet. Well done.

Rounding out the interior crew is Brooke, who falls madly in love with any guy that looks at her, and Kasey, who once passed a mirror and fell madly in love with herself. Both of them are trying to date Joao, I have no idea why. He looks like he’s seen Dexter way too many times. Neither are very interesting.

On the deckhand side, there’s Jaime and Colin. They are not on TV much, which is a shame. They’re gold. Both are funny and entertaining and neither one of them look like they have favorite spots to hide bodies (ahem, Joao).

I love this show so much. Stick people who don’t really like each other in a confined space for six weeks, and you have reality TV gold.

Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

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