Below Deck Recap: Gray Area

Below Deck

Public Displays of Affection
Season 7 Episode 15
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

Below Deck

Public Displays of Affection
Season 7 Episode 15
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
According to Captain Lee, this isn’t Alaska, it’s a yacht. Photo: Bravo

Before we can get into the new assortment of tacky guests and the riveting status of Brian and Courtney’s gray-area relationship, Rhylee’s fate as third deckhand must be confirmed. Captain Lee, the Holy Spirit of the High Seas, calls her into his office to decree her fate. “We do have a situation,” he says. “This isn’t Alaska, it’s a yacht.” Oh? He doesn’t say. “We’re gonna make it work,” he says, but she and Ashton will both have to change. Ashton has to manage, and Rhylee has to change the way she reacts to people.

In his confessional, Lee says that he wouldn’t let Rhylee go with six days left in the season. Rhylee leaves the sky lounge brimming with emotion. Kate intercepts her on deck for a hug, as Ashton returns to Captain Lee’s sky lounge bedside. Lee says that he could deal with this the way Ashton wants him to and fire Rhylee, but that’s not managing, which is a nice way of telling Ashton to look “management” up in the dictionary.

Ashton does not compute. He is “shocked” that Lee didn’t do his malicious bidding. “Now that a decision needs to be made, he’s going with the third deckhand!” he says, brow furrowing like he’s just been asked to etch a calculus proof into the hull of the boat. He calls Rhylee to a meeting, and tells her that they need to respect each other. Rhylee stares at him, anger penetrating her attempted apathy. “Is there anything else you want to say or add?” Ashton asks. She says no, turns around, and walks down some stairs, grumbling, “Fucking joke.”

In the crew mess, Brian settles in with two peanut butter and jelly Wonder Bread sandwiches as Ashton tells him Rhylee isn’t getting fired. Ashton is quickly distracted from gossiping more about Rhylee by a text from Molly, the charter guest he thinks is a model who just left the boat with her chef friend Justine, who Ashton also thinks is a model. Molly asks where he’s going at night because she and Justine want to go there, too. Brian tells him not to get involved with them, but Ashton texts right back to ask them to meet him at The Library at 8.

The crew gets ready to go out at this horrifyingly early hour in the usual Brady Bunch-style montage. In Kevin’s square, he spits on his palms and rubs them together before applying saliva to his hair. Ashton: “Did you just spit in your hands, bru?”

The vans are split between men and women. Ashton tells the brus that he invited Justine and Molly. Kevin is upset because, “I just hate Justine, guys.” But Ashton doesn’t care, he’s been working hard to get his dick sucked all season, and finally here is a woman who wants to meet him at an atrocious place with the aim of either doing just that or just getting in Ashton’s shot.

Tanner is especially excited about visiting The Library because the last time everyone went there, everyone kissed! Brian kissed Courtney, which was fine, and Ashton kissed Kate, which was disturbing. So now he’s thinking, “Who’s Tanner gonna kiss?”

At the club, the usual unfolds. Techno music. Strobe lights. Liquor being poured directly into faces aimed skyward. And horniness. Indiscriminate horniness.

Justine hits on Tanner, who wears the striped shirt you’d wear if you were dressing up last-minute as the Hamburgler for a Halloween party at a frat house. Tanner, who wants to sleep with Kate, who’s standing feet away, flirts right back because he has the self-control of a sea urchin. His strategy for getting sex tonight is to get drunk and see what happens.

Kate’s annoyed that Tanner is being encroached upon right when she decided to sleep with him. “I’ve been working all season,” she says, “I should get to fuck the deckhand.” To be fair, she surely could the minute Justine left his bed.

At 2:23 a.m., more than six hours after they arrived, they finally head back to the boat. Ashton has kissed Molly and promised to see her after the season, which will never happen because there won’t be a camera following him. In the girls’ van, Rhylee wants to discuss Ashton kissing Molly. Kate: “I would rather fuck a Vienna sausage.”

When they get out of the vans, Kate and Tanner walk toward the boat together. “Your room or my room?” he asks her. On the boat, Tanner doesn’t so much walk as sway himself from staircase to crew mess to his bunk. At 3:45 a.m., Kate approaches his bedside, but he’s too drunk to know she’s even there, so she leaves.

The next morning, Simone and Courtney iron and gossip about Tanner hitting on Justine. Courtney says she just doesn’t have the heart to tell Simone that Tanner and Kate plan to have sex. “Brian might not be very mature, but at least he’s more mature than Tanner,” she says. A stem cell is more mature than Tanner.

Then Ashton asks Brian if he “got any nookie last night,” which is just the transition the editors needed for Brian’s soliloquy about how he hasn’t introduced any love interests to his young daughter. He doesn’t want to confuse her, you see, because it’s not like being on a reality show where he’s depicted in bed with this Courtney girl every other night would do something like that.

At the preference sheet meeting, we learn the incoming caftan aficionados are celebrating the primary’s divorce, want a St. Patrick’s-themed dinner the first night, and a divorce (“independence day”) party the second night. After the crew lugs provisions on board, Kevin says his back hurts. But there’s no time to waste on that because the divorcee approaches in her crop top, which billows like a sail, hollering, “Vacation starts now! Woo!!” Captain Lee, gazing at the incoming terror, goes, “Always one douchebag.”

The primary’s boyfriend wears large square sunglasses, which are seldom visible because his tongue is usually connected to his girlfriend’s face. They go to their cabin to change and he pulls some pink pineapple-print trunks out of his luggage and says, “Should I come out HOT in pineapples? Party pants!”

Once the bathing-suited guests are on deck, things are exclaimed, because this group is always shouting like they’re at a concert. These exclamations include: “Fitness! In the house!” and “Hasn’t had a carb in two years!”

Then it’s 4:13 p.m., and Brian goes to his cabin to text Courtney, who’s also in her room. “So we haven’t spoken about what’s happening w us after the season ends… What are your thoughts?” Courtney replies at 4:13 p.m.: “Well… What are your thoughts?” Brian sighs and types, “We’re just having some fun right?”

This shatters Courtney’s world, which is surprising given that she never seemed that into Brian. But now that she knows she can’t take his attention for granted, and their relationship might really end – and soon – she’s not happy about this text at all.

She goes to the sink in the kitchen to do chores and tells Kate what Brian texted. Kevin hears everything Courtney says because he’s standing right there. “Awkward!” he says, like he’s on her side. Kate sends her off the boat on the cave excursion with the guests to take her mind off things, which backfires because she has to watch the primary suck her boyfriend’s face until his backward baseball cap slips off his head and down her throat.

Kevin goes to Brian as soon as he can to say that Courtney is talking about him with Kate. Brian is upset and says this is a side of Courtney he hasn’t seen before – one he doesn’t like at all.

After dark, the shirtless guests, now tinted red, return to the boat. Brian asks Courtney to talk, and she says she can’t because she has to work and doesn’t want to be emotional during dinner service. Brian then tells Ashton everything that happened with Courtney that day – which is the exact thing he got mad at Courtney about.

At the St. Patrick’s-themed dinner, the guests’ fashion statements include flashing green devil horns and a green T-shirt that says “ask me about my T-Rex.” Kevin pipes mashed potatoes onto plates and all I can think about is Kate’s earlier Vienna sausage comment. After dessert, the primary announces that she will go have sex in her room now.

Also planning sex are Kate and Tanner. Tanner can’t think of any conversation to have with Kate during their smoke break other than, “What do you think of hooking up?” Kate says that out of respect for Simone they should wait one or two days.

At 9:21, Brian and Courtney’s texting resumes. You shouldn’t have brought this up with Kate, he says. It’s going to be all over the boat by morning, he says. You took what I said the wrong way, he says.

Courtney again tells Kate what Brian said. As the primary has sex and Captain Lee discovers his bathroom has no fucking toilet paper, Courtney disappears behind her cabin door to cry. She thought Brian genuinely liked her, and she can’t believe that it all might have been a ruse for sex. I am finally riveted by this relationship. At the risk of ascribing this romantic subplot too much poignancy, this is the Sally Rooney novel Below Deck producers were born to bring to the small screen.

The next morning, the primary wears a shirt that says “Bod Fitness” to breakfast, where they inhale egg dishes and finish the meal with shots. After breakfast, Kevin crumples to the floor of the kitchen in back pain. A crew member who is not in the cast picks him up and gets him to a seat.

Brian finds Courtney in her bunk and tells her they need to talk. He says he likes Courtney, and wants to sort things out, and he doesn’t understand why she had to tell Kate about their relationship. Courtney says she’s sorry he feels that way, and he says that’s a shitty thing to say to your love interest. Courtney revises her statement to say she’s sorry that she didn’t know that Brian felt the way he did. Ashton calls Brian back to deck, and Brian tells Courtney they can talk more about it later. He asks for a kiss, and she whines that she doesn’t know if she should.

We all know Brian is not the man for Courtney. Courtney needs to pick up a Wall Street someone or other at Grand Banks, move to a suburb where all the ironing is done for you, and lie about her grand house, which will have a swinging porch bench and a gazebo and a dog she never has to walk herself.

But before we get back to all that, there’s the problem of Kevin, who is in so much pain that Simone has to rummage through his things to find his last painkiller. Lee knows there will not be a replacement here for Kevin, and commences freak-out mode. “If the chef can’t cook nobody eats,” he says. “And if nobody eats, we’re fucked.”

Next week: oh my god, I can’t wait, because everyone fights with everyone and Captain Lee leaves his bed, shirtless, in the middle of the night, to tell them all to shut the hell up.

Below Deck Recap: Gray Area