I have a confession: When I got my screener for this episode, I skipped right ahead to the preference sheet meeting to see what the hell was up with Rachel. You can’t say you wouldn’t have done the same if that screener link were in your inbox. We’ll talk about Rachel in full when we get to the end of this episode — trust me, I have many thoughts — but I wanted to mention that up front, because once you know what’s going to happen, you notice the clues and details along the way. I mean, that’s the only excuse for the producers’ cheesy “36 hours later” teaser at the beginning of the episode, right? (And with this title, too?)
Anyway. First, we have to get rid of Shane, who gets one of the less generous firings we’ve seen on this show. Captain Lee and Eddie start listing off Shane’s transgressions, and this meeting is over before it even started. Shane is so nervous throughout the meeting, though, like he knew what he was walking into. Poor kid! He did make for some entertaining bits on this show. We also once again have to stan Rachel, who insists she won’t say goodbye to Shane because she doesn’t want to fake wishing him well and gives an iconic confessional in the process. “It’s not fun getting fired,” Shane says as he leaves, hoping to go to the beach with his girlfriend. I hope he got his little beach day before everything went to shit. He at least earned that.
Shane’s firing feels like Captain Lee’s warning shot to the rest of the crew, or at least James and Elizabeth. Shortly after, Eddie has a meeting with James and Izzy to tell them Lee “is only talking about deck crew” when he says the crew isn’t at the level it needs to be. Which isn’t totally true? Francesca, though, takes a different approach, praising Ashling in front of Elizabeth and then dismissing Ashling to tell Elizabeth that she needs to step up. Elizabeth tries to talk over her during the whole conversation, which doesn’t feel like a great choice, and then chalks their rift up to Francesca being a Gemini. “She has two sides to her, and I need to figure out how to please both sides,” she says. Hey, if it makes her get better!
Not to be left out of everything, Rachel misses her boyfriend, she tells Francesca over a break. Put a pin in this! Then, speaking of being sad, James later walks in on Izzy crying, after she’s taken Eddie’s meeting to heart. Poor Izzy! She does not need to be worried about getting fired, and honestly, I wish Eddie would’ve approached James a bit more directly about the whole thing. After all, if you’ve got one good deckhand left, it’s probably not a great idea to have them on edge?
Then we’re off to our night out, which quickly devolves into a total drunken blur. The drinks keep flowing, and before we know it, Elizabeth is a mess, Rachel is a mess, and James might even be working a sweat. Pretty soon, Elizabeth is flirting hard with James (and making everyone around them uncomfortable in the process) while Rachel is staring off into the sea, contemplating life and work and her boyfriend, and eventually crying. I know she said he’s her first landbound boyfriend, but I do have to wonder: Has she been on a boat for two weeks before?
On the way home, Elizabeth starts ranting about Francesca and her meeting earlier, which before long turns into Rachel ranting back at Elizabeth, telling her to be a better yachtie. Once they’re back aboard, Rachel is sneaking a bottle of Fireball into Eddie’s room and telling him how she wants to move in. She doesn’t want to be between the Elizabeth and Francesca (who we’ve all of a sudden started calling “Chess” now?) drama, and who can blame her? Eddie tells her to stay with Francesca, but he’ll help her out, and what a pure alliance we have forming! Then, on the topic of … alliances … Elizabeth is also hanging out with James on deck a bit. But alas, last episode’s teaser led us on, and they go to bed without even a kiss.
We wake up on February 23, which is yet another turnover day. We didn’t used to see so many of these in past seasons, did we? I don’t know whether it has to do with stretching things out because the season is going to get cut early or just having drama happen on off days, but I’m inclined to think it’s a mix of both. And there is drama! Beginning with Elizabeth having to bleach some clothes and not knowing how bleach works, which isn’t going well. How can you be a stew and not know this basic laundry task? The instructions are on the bottle! Eventually, Francesca gets dizzy, and it’s not just the hangover, so she calls in the lead engineer, Mario. “I smell something volatile,” he says, which is probably the worst thing to hear in that situation. Turns out, Elizabeth had mixed soap and bleach — and done it indoors, after Francesca specifically told her to go outside to bleach clothes.
Back to that in a second, but first, Rachel is crying again. She’s on the phone with her boyfriend, asking him if he can visit her in Antigua, and he tells her he might be under a COVID lockdown soon — because he lives in Italy, an early major COVID hotspot. From our 20/20 hindsight, this sure is ramping up quickly, isn’t it?
So Francesca tells Elizabeth she’ll need to go to Captain Lee about the bleach situation, which is when Elizabeth’s tone completely changes. She starts to apologize and explain that she’s seen chief stews on past boats bleach clothes like that with no issue. As has become the case with this girl, it is such a performance. But Francesca goes to Lee anyway, and you just need to see his face when she says she needs to talk about Elizabeth. The man fired Shane less than a day ago! Francesca asks if they can let Elizabeth go after that too, which Lee says won’t work because they have a charter coming on and can’t be down two crew members. I agree with that, and would also add that Elizabeth doesn’t have quite the, er, laundry list of offenses that Shane did. She deserves another chance, even if she did try to poison the crew (by accident), so Lee says they’ll reevaluate after the next charter. Francesca isn’t totally happy about this — she goes on about pulling more weight, but wouldn’t she be pulling even more if she were down a stew?
But this damn issue isn’t even over yet, because Elizabeth goes to Rachel to talk about Francesca. Rachel is over it before it’s started and tells Elizabeth to go to Lee, and as Elizabeth is replying, Francesca walks in. It’s pretty apparent that Elizabeth is most at fault here, which Francesca gets — when Elizabeth asks to talk afterward, she says no — but Francesca also says she’s “disappointed” in Rachel, who was trying to get out of the whole thing. All over a laundry issue! Elizabeth’s meeting with Lee is literally nothing: She asks him what’s going on, he tells her nothing. Francesca, meanwhile, says she trusts neither Rachel nor Elizabeth, so I hope Eddie is ready to be everyone’s sounding board next charter. (And on top of it all, could James have picked a worse time than after all that to ask Francesca where to put his laundry? Everyone is really at each other’s throats today!)
Then we’re finally at the preference sheet meeting we’ve been waiting for. Our primary is the esteemed North Carolina real-estate agent Bryan Guarnieri, who I immediately recognize as the bitch from the season trailer with the “I’m the Primary” T-shirt. Bryan “expects nothing but the finest service,” Lee says, and apparently this guy’s another guest who’s never seen the show, because his idea of “finest” goes above and beyond some of the Below Deck miracles I’ve seen. Along with some rainbow unicorn floats, here is a sampling of his requests, as Captain Lee reads them: “He wants a large breakfast. He expects meat, pastries, along with a giant fruit bowl. … Cream and caviar, seafood, scallops, filet mignon topped with crab meat, wild boar … authentic New Orleans cuisine, Maine lobster feast … American fine dining. Spanish, not Mexican. … A Vive La France-themed party with an elaborate ten-course dinner.”
As Lee, Eddie, and Francesca settle in for their three days of hell, Rachel says, “Eat my cooter.” Those three words change everything. “That’s disgusting. That’s despicable,” she goes on, saying the guests should just hire her as a private chef. And honestly, is she wrong? “Until then, I don’t play that game. So no.” She is really going to quit her job over one homosexual’s high-class fantasy! Lee suggests she talk to the guests and try to compromise, but Rachel is resolute. “Go fuck yourself,” she says, and it is directed at Captain Lee! (But in her defense, it’s pretty clear she’s talking about the guests.)
This all seemed pretty shocking and kind of silly when I watched it before the rest of the episode. But once I got there again, it made sense. Rachel misses her boyfriend, is tired of the bullshit fights, and has already had a few too many bad experiences in that galley, so why bother? It’s bigger than that preference sheet (but also, that preference sheet is pretty big on its own). And knowing all that, I still have to root for Rachel. She’s one of the only people on this show who’s willing to remind us that being a yacht guest (on a charter that is significantly cheaper than the going rate for the sacrifice of being on TV) isn’t a free pass to ask for anything in the world and put the service staff through utter shit. She’s also pretty damn entertaining through it all. Eat. My. Cooter! When can I get it on a T-shirt?
Lee tries one last appeal with Rachel, but her mind is pretty made up. (She even tells off — and flips off — the camera crew trying to film her packing!) And let’s be real: Lee cannot find a chef in 16 hours, even if Ben Robinson is still on Bravo’s speed dial. In a whirlwind, Rachel packs, says some terse goodbyes, and actually leaves the dock in a van. That’s farther than Kate Chastain got last season! Then we’re left with a big old “to be continued” without much more to continue on this plotline. Which also has me thinking back on Kate’s one-night exit. Clearly these guests will get their charter. Lee has sung Rachel’s praises on social media and in interviews. So is Rachel going to turn that car around, or have an airport change of heart? Maybe I’m in denial about losing our best new cast member (in a total blaze of glory, nonetheless), but I won’t believe it till next episode.
• I love Izzy and James, especially them being “practically” but “not happily” married.
• As Shane packs, Eddie asks James to get his surfboard. Are we surprised?
• Eddie introduces Izzy and James to Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda, and I want to try it too now. (James, of course, doesn’t like it because it doesn’t have alcohol.)
• News of Rachel’s quitting spreads throughout the crew like wildfire, mostly thanks to Eddie being a little gossip. Elizabeth is totally faking it for the cameras in the scene where he tells her.