It’s that time of year when we get another chance to answer one of life’s great questions: Can the Below Deck cast sustain an hour of television by simply talking and sitting, without being forced to perform an endless sequence of chores?
As usual, the most interesting things about the reunion were the outfits and the aggressive bronzer. After watching these people for 16 weeks in polo shirts and skorts, seeing them in full glitter jumpsuits with bell sleeves (get it, Rhylee) is a real treat, a level of fashion Instagram influencers know not of. Let’s review their outfits and the few things they said one by one:
Rhylee wins for fashion, hands down, in a slick of black glitter with bell-bottoms and flared sleeves. The sleeves got lost in the show, but true fans will note that in Instagram shots, the sleeves might as well have been their own little wrist trains, a metaphor for Rhylee’s personality, which wears a train of suspicion and a cloak of aggression.
The montage of Rhylee is set to angry horn music, and her word of the night is “reactionary,” which is her way of saying that every time she felt marginalized or unhappy, which was all the time, she fought with people. We also learn that she was never attracted to Chandler, who was the only member of the deck team who didn’t try to make out with her, and that Ross actually made a pass at her twice, though only once on TV. “Every one of them had problems with me, and every one of them came to me for lovin’,” she says. Lee says the way Rhylee treated her bosses “sucked. It totally sucked.” I know Rhylee has a job and isn’t the sort of woman who languishes all day in a debt-financed manse, eager to keep herself busy by fighting with other women on camera, but has Bravo considered her for Housewives? I’d like to see this network exploit her reactionariness in other formats.
Ross wears a perfectly fine forest green shirt, which is in keeping with his perfectly fine presence on the show. He explains that his recent arrest was “a big misunderstanding.” (Andy: “It always is.”) He clearly has something going on with Krystal, the charter guest Kate was going to have Josiah spray with a hose, but tries to deny it. Apparently he’s also kissed Kate.
I didn’t even write down what Tyler wore because he was so forgettable this hour. I think the he said one word after Andy asked how he and Rhylee would end up that night: “Clubbin’.”
Josiah really lucked out this season. He came off pretty damn well and looked fantastic the whole time. For the reunion, he serves up great hair with a deep moss velvet tux, worn casually without a tie. Maybe it’s his accent, but he manages to shit-talk people to their faces on the reunion (or behind their backs, if you’re Caroline or Chandler) in a way that doesn’t seem that mean. He says that Chandler would have been fine working for a single owner and not charter guests. He says he and Kate liked Caroline but she didn’t do her job. He expresses regret at the way they treated her when she quit, and how they made fun of her for leaving by accusing her of having herpes, which was really mean.
Kate displays a remarkably sophisticated fashion sense for a Bravo reunion show. Enveloped by a swishy, long-sleeved shirtdress devoid of the Bravolebrity fashion vices of glitter, sequins, and lace, she projects the authority of someone who has done this before and wasn’t taken advantage of by a stylist’s rack of clothing options. She says she regrets how she treated Caroline and that she was “bewildered” by Laura’s outburst. (Lee: “That’s a good term. Bewildered.”) Laura says Kate could have been nicer, but Kate says there’s not enough time to be nice. And so, she will presumably sail into another season, a fan favorite with perfectly puffy hair and enough remorse to seem human but not so much as to become boring television.
Caroline did not attend the reunion but spoke to Andy before they sat down to film. He asks Captain Lee what’s up with lots of stews not getting along with Kate? And Captain Lee, who is friends with Kate, says that all those stews just can’t do their jobs. Rhylee reveals that she found Caroline to be “very distraught all day, every day.” Ashton says he had conversations with her “on the bow” and she “just wasn’t coping.” Though Kate and Josiah say they regret that they weren’t always nice to her, Kate says Caroline was the bully and “I don’t think I started it.” Bravo plays the footage of Kate and Josiah accusing Caroline of having herpes, which was apparently what Caroline was alluding to on Twitter when she said the scene of them trying to drive her off the boat with dance music wasn’t nearly as bad as what actually happened. Though Captain Lee admits he should have handled the situation with Caroline better, he acknowledges that the herpes scene makes him uncomfortable. But he ultimately says that Caroline couldn’t do the job. Caroline puts Captain Lee, Kate, and Josiah in the awkward position of trying to not seem like complete monsters while defending their odious actions toward her, when she probably is a person who was just very poorly suited to reality television all along.
Also not there to speak for himself is Chandler, footage of whom is thrown into a montage set to dodo flute music. The cast talks about whether or not he’s a capable bosun, and they all agree he’s a nice person and seems like he knows what he’s doing, but is not cut out to lead the deck crew. Rhylee says she’s “never cried ‘woman’” and “I don’t have a strong opinion as I guess a feminist would,” but, whether he was threatened by her gender or not, he “couldn’t be bothered with anything with me.” Josiah flat-out says Chandler was “not used to having a strong woman around.” Lee calls him “a condescending prick.” Thus concludes the producers’ efforts to make Chandler look like one of the worst people in Below Deck history.
Looking put-together in a gray blazer and white shirt, Ashton is now training rich people and managing their estate in Atlanta. Brent, the camera man who saved Ashton’s life after he fell overboard and almost lost a leg and died, makes a surprise appearance, and Ashton says he wants to do something with his life that makes Brent proud he saved it one day. He also says he didn’t really have sex with that French girl in the van, they just did other stuff (“you don’t use your dick for those things”). But he did have sex with Laura at the end.
Laura, like Rhylee, has gone full Bravo with her fashion choices. She wears a sheer black lace top, trousers, and enough cheek highlighter to harness solar energy. She’s a full-time yoga instructor in Toronto now, and she and Ashton are just “dear friends.” She says she was angry and hysterical when she yelled at Kate and that Kate should be nicer to her staff, but that she’d work with her again.
I’m not sure if Adrian bothered to visit the stylist. Maybe it doesn’t go with his carefree, yoga-oriented approach to life. He wears a sad black Henley under a sad pinstripe blazer and says he regrets waving his penis at Laura when she was rummaging through the fridge. He’s no longer in an open relationship, which makes one wonder how “open” his relationship was to begin with.
Captain Lee wears a vintage leather motorcycle jacket that he advertises on Instagram, such is the level of his celebrity. He says that accident with Ashton was the worst thing he’s witnessed in his 35-year career but doesn’t offer insight about how to prevent horrible things like that from happening in future seasons. And so we conclude the season realizing we actually might not have had as many questions about these people as we thought, and that if they’re not performing manual labor, really, what’s the point?