As a certain TV city correspondent might say, This. Episode. Has. Everything: There’s drama on deck and in the interior, one of the show’s best dinners ever, our most fun guests yet, an actually entertaining docking, and a potential firing on the way. If this season of Below Deck hadn’t sold you yet, tonight was the night. Consider it a tasting menu of what this crew has to offer.
Rachel cannot find her fucking Petrossian caviar, but what the end of last episode neglected to mention was that she could always just, uh, call the provisioner who clearly messed up here. While the provisioner checks to see if it can send her the right caviar (Tsar Imperial Ossetra, if you missed Rachel saying it 500 times), deck crew puts away the slide for the first time, which is 400 pounds and needs a freaking crane thing to carry it onto the boat. And Eddie is trying to keep Shane as far away from the action as possible, despite Shane’s attempts to butt in. When Eddie heads off to pick up the steel-drum player for dinner, he even radios Eddie — his boss, who has worked on boats for years — to tell him the fenders were still out on the tender. This all prompts a fight between James and Izzy: James says Shane’s getting in the way because Izzy told him to step up, but Izzy says she wasn’t just going to let him fail. They’re kind of both right, aren’t they?
In better news, the provisioner can send Rachel the caviar, which prompts Rachel’s longest bleep ever. The only thing is Eddie has to go back to Jolly Harbour, right after picking up the drummer, to get it. That leaves Captain Lee to buy time with the guests, who want a tour of the whole boat for some reason. Personally, I’d much rather sit around and drink than hear about anchors and such, but what do I know? But Captain Lee can only buy so much time, so he and the guests are eventually sitting at the dinner, awkwardly, still waiting for that caviar. Don’t the stews have wine to serve or something?
The caviar finally comes at 7:28, and as if there hasn’t been enough drama around this single $622 tin of fish eggs, Rachel drops it and spills like $50 worth of caviar! But she’s finally able to serve it, and the guests predictably love it. Then we’re off to the races on dinner. There’s shrimp, there’s burrata, there’s local lobster bisque. It all looks decadent, and the guests love it. Rachel even pulls off an “astonishing” bone marrow with osso buco for the meat course. It can be boring to watch a Below Deck dinner go so smoothly, but, in this case, it’s entertaining to watch Rachel make it all look so effortless. Captain Lee even says he’s never had such a great dinner from a chef. Ever! We simply have to stan Rachel Hargrove.
So these hard-drinking guests have a tradition: On birthdays, they compete to pour porróns of wine directly into their mouths. However long you can drink translates to longevity, and however far away from your mouth you can pour translates to prosperity. It doesn’t take long for this to turn into chaos, of course — and with red wine at a white party no less — and it’s a riot to watch. Who knew these 40- and 50-somethings would be our rowdiest guests so far? They even have a “TIM IS 50” T-shirt for Lee to wear when it’s his turn to drink. He’s obviously no match for Tim, but it’s our first wonderful reminder of how much of a team player Captain Lee can be. (Also, not to be a snitch, but is he supposed to be drinking when he has a boat to captain? Malia White is shaking.) The guests end dinner with a lovely carrot cake, Tim’s favorite, and I file this episode as one of the best dinners we’ve seen on this series.
After dinner, Ashling calls her extremely loud mother on the phone. “Did you hear about the coronavirus?” Ashling’s mom asks. “Oh yeah,” you reply to your TV, “I think I have!” It’s our first mention of COVID for the season, and I’m surprised they’re getting it in so early — February 21! Ashling’s mom tells her to get a mask before she flies home, and Ashling tells us that she knew about COVID before she left for the season. “I’m hoping that it’s not as serious as people are making it out to be,” she says. How naïve were we! (At least Ashling is from Australia, which had a competent response to the pandemic!)
Back with the guests, Francesca tells Elizabeth to check in with the guests every ten minutes after dinner to make sure their drinks are full and such. Are you surprised Elizabeth does not do that? You shouldn’t be. Forty-two (!) minutes after her last check-in, Patton Oswalt (I told you it doesn’t look like him without the sunglasses, though) finds Elizabeth to tell her they need more alcohol. Tequila, red wine, Baileys, the works. And he tells her within earshot of Francesca, who rightfully reprimands Elizabeth — who says she thought Francesca was checking in on the guests after Francesca specifically asked her to. “They’ve had such a good time up until now,” Francesca says, which might as well be the “I’m not mad, just disappointed” of yachting. Elizabeth complains about Francesca to Eddie, which does not seem like the move given that Eddie is close with the other two department heads and has maybe never had a one-on-one chat with Elizabeth. Francesca, meanwhile, complains to a very dead-looking Rachel in their room, who agrees that she sees issues with Elizabeth.
But come on, no one’s a bigger problem right now than Shane. He’s on the early shift — meaning he got off early the night before — yet he wakes up over an hour late, and only because Eddie notices that he’s still in bed! His excuse is that his phone died after he left it on while FaceTiming his girlfriend. (If Shane somehow still has a girlfriend, I hope she’s not watching this show.) Eddie airs all of his Shane-related grievances to Lee just perfectly, and that’s a moment you need to see for yourself. I’m honestly not so interested in the question of whether Shane was a plant, because he keeps failing in such new and interesting ways. It’s both unbelievable that someone could mess up this badly and totally believable that Shane would. “I fucked up,” he tells Eddie later, for seemingly the millionth time.
Before we know it, we’re docking and into another difficult spot because these yachts can never get good parking for being on TV. And it’s not one of those “Oh, this is going to be bad [it turns out to be fine]” dockings, largely thanks to our friend Sunshine. Shane messes up with the fenders, the stern, and the lines, to the point where I’m no longer convinced he’s going to be fired but that Captain Lee is going to personally murder him. Lee hands it to the deck crew, then, after Tim and his friends leave (not without a final round of vodka-sodas after breakfast!), Shane is almost late to the tip meeting because he’s writing about his issue with the lines in his silly journal. Turns out his watch is off by two minutes, because this man is a walking collection of problems and excuses.
It’s a $20,000 tip, and most of the crew has totally earned it. Lee especially praises Rachel’s dinner but also adds, “There are some people here that are not performing where I think they should be at this point in time.” Coming from Captain Lee, that ought to strike some fear into Shane and Elizabeth’s hearts. Then Lee has a separate meeting with Eddie about Shane’s conduct, again. Eddie slips into defending Shane for just a second, saying he saw Shane trying to do better this charter, but then — psych! — he says Shane sleeping in undid all that goodwill and he’s “given him lots of chances.” Lee agrees that Shane isn’t adding much to Eddie’s team right now, and the writing’s pretty much on the wall at this point. But we’re going to have to wait till next week to know for sure, because right as Lee calls Shane up to the bridge (not without Shane missing the first call), the episode ends.
Just kidding! He’s not at the crew night out in the teaser for the next episode (although Eddie wearing a Hawaiian shirt did throw me for a loop). We’ll say our good-byes to Sunshine next week.
• Bravo usually brings it with the Below Deck episode titles, but there hasn’t been one to knock me off my feet yet this season. (Last episode’s got close.) But this week’s feels particularly phoned in, right? You could slap “Just Another Day in Paradise” on any Below Deck episode and it would make enough sense.
• I’m just loving the odd-couple friendship between James and Izzy — and praying it never becomes anything more than that.
• Let’s talk about that preference-sheet meeting teased for next episode. Eddie and Francesca look properly surprised by something about the next charter, while Rachel tells Lee it’s “disgusting.” Are we getting a controversial group of guests? (Republicans? Influencers??) Or does it have anything to do with that phone call we see Rachel having right before about COVID? And does Rachel, an icon in every sense, really tell Captain Lee to “go fuck yourself”? I will be thinking about this all week.