Below Deck Recap: The Last Duel

Below Deck

We Made It, Ya Slags
Season 9 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

Below Deck

We Made It, Ya Slags
Season 9 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Bravo

It’s easy to forget how much we’ve been through on this season of Below Deck (in large part because so much of it wasn’t included in the “Previously this season …” teaser). Remember when Jess quit? Remember that blowup with the bourbon-drinking charter guests? Remember Captain Sean?!? There’s no question this season was front-loaded with grade-A drama — we were spoiled! But where’d all that momentum bring us? To this finale, which manages to be boring, exciting, painful, and frustrating all at once. Like the crew members after saying good-bye to their final charter, let’s dive right in.

Everyone’s still mad about Eddie bringing the ice cream to the beach picnic early, but really, what can they do about it? Rachel wants him to take it all the way back to the boat; Heather, being rational for once, says they can just put it in the cooler. In a confessional, Heather says she’s “just trying to step back” while we’re watching footage of her bothering Rachel. Remember this because it’s pretty much the episode’s theme for her! Anyway, the ice cream ends up being fine, and the guests love it. When Eddie returns to pick the guests up, they’re still talking about his Alexander Hamilton appearance. “I heard he stopped by, yeah,” replies Eddie, ever committed to the bit.

The past few charters, combined with the ice-cream incident, seem to have shaken Rachel up, so she declares that it’ll be a “silent galley” for dinner service. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this show, it’s to humor your temperamental chefs as best as you can! Heather has clearly not learned this despite all her yachting experience, and she takes Rachel’s silence as a slight against her. She tells Fraser that Rachel is being “so short” when nothing about their previous interaction conveyed that from Rachel! As it’s felt for much of the season, it’s the world against Heather this episode.

During the first course (grouper crudo with olive-oil pearls), Rachel gives Heather a perfectly understandable explanation of her silence: “I’m tired, and I have a tendency to cut myself, fall into things.” Not even minutes later, Heather is back to once again ask Rachel if she needs anything and sniff around her plating. “Oh my God, just keep her the fuck away from me,” Rachel says under her breath. I love a moody chef.

Rachel follows up with a Kobe beef filet with hickory smoke, using one of her favorite tricks: cloches filled with smoke. It wows the guests, but she’s not done with the firepower yet. Dessert is a cherries jubilee with pistachio ice cream and flamed rum, somehow even more impressive. Rachel was going to make white-chocolate boxes, but she messed up tempering the chocolate, which she (and I!) chalks up to galley distractions. The guests don’t know what they’re missing — especially once they’re distracted by a duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr reenacted by Eddie and Jake for their pleasure. (I think Eddie has the most fun, though, getting to fake die.)

The final day of the final charter begins — how else? — with Heather lamenting to Fraser that Rayna wouldn’t talk to her in the galley last night. Fraser’s advice is “Don’t say anything if you don’t have to,” which should work well given that’s Rayna’s strategy as well. Rayna, meanwhile, does not seem to be thinking of Heather this morning, instead having a little cuddle with Jake before she clocks in.

The day also begins with Captain Lee excited to “pop Eddie’s cherry” — that is, have him dock the boat! Early into Eddie’s docking, he notices he doesn’t have any bow thrusters. I still don’t understand how megayachts work, but I do know that’s a bad thing. Lee takes over, but the engineer quickly fixes the problem, and Eddie is driving once again. Good, because I would’ve been just as disappointed as Eddie if he didn’t get to dock the boat! The docking goes well, thankfully, and the guests are in awe. They leave the boat with that same spirit, talking about how it was their best vacation ever. Now you wouldn’t have quite gathered that from their $17,000 tip, but the crew’s not complaining. They made it! After a dip in the water, they get ready for one final night out.

A pretty cool restaurant in the middle of the jungle is where the drama begins. Heather starts the night with a bit of an attitude after Rayna says Rachel “deserves” to be in the interior-team photo, which Heather somehow contorts into an attack on her. Then at dinner, fueled by champagne and lemon drops, Rayna says something to Heather that made me pause my episode. The crew talks about how great Kaylee is, and Heather says they shouldn’t have judged her before she arrived. Then Rayna adds that she was worried about Kaylee being like Heather: “We know you like to say n- - - -,” she says plainly. “We don’t want no other fucking bitch saying it.” And you can see the mood change at the table instantly! Eddie tries to lighten things up by jumping in the fountain on a dare as if things weren’t messy enough already.

As Heather buys Eddie a new (well-patterned) outfit, Fraser takes Rayna aside for a plea to “be civil” with Heather on their final night out. That’s how he puts it in his confessional, anyway; IRL, he tells Rayna she should cut down on her “negativity or aggression,” which are two words you shouldn’t say to someone in Rayna’s situation.

I know I’ve been a Rayna defender this season, and I stand by the claim that she had every right to be mad at Heather, not forgive Heather, and not want to be friends with Heather or work with her in the future. But here’s where she loses me. When everyone’s getting back into the cars, Rayna makes an offhand comment to Heather about how Kaylee likes hanging out with her and Jake better than Heather. Like Fraser said in his confessional, she’s clearly poking at Heather now. After some back and forth, Rayna gets out of her car, within inches of Heather’s face, to tell her, “I don’t like white people that say n- - - -, and that’s why I don’t respect you.” Heather is eventually on her knees, where Rayna says she can stay “because there’s no forgiveness there.” Eddie tries to diffuse the situation, but Rayna says he’s yelling at her; Fraser tries to comfort a crying Heather, which doesn’t sit well with Rayna, either. Back in the car, Wes reasons with Rayna, only for her to explode at him about how he’s “white just like your mother” and “not Black, though.” None of this is remotely entertaining to watch. “Uncomfortable” would be a generous assessment.

Rachel eventually calms Rayna down for what must have been the most awkward car ride ever. (Wes is right there in the back seat, for starters!) Bless Jake for joking, “Who’s up for anal?” as the crew boards the yacht. He doesn’t quite get that, but he and Rayna do spend the night together.

And that’s the note we’re leaving on! After the pandemic literally cut last season of Below Deck short, we’re once again left with an unresolved ending to the season. If we want to assign some blame, I’m looking at Captain Lee, who, despite being Heather’s superior, never confronted her despite his strong reaction to hearing that she said the N-word. I don’t know if that would’ve changed last night, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The crew wakes up, donning sunglasses and mixing Bloody Marys to help their hangovers so they can pack up. Before the exits begin, Rayna messes up a non-apology to Wes, still insisting he doesn’t understand her experience since he’s biracial. In an earlier confessional, he said Rayna’s comments were “painful” and deeply hurt” him,” and he’s left with that. Rayna blamed the blowup on alcohol, but the way she keeps the line the next morning with Wes feels telling.

Kaylee is the first to leave, and she’s ready to live her #vanlife. I welcome that because she was too boring on her short arc for me to want her back for a full season. Wes is next, ready to return to his sailboat, which he hopes hasn’t sunk. This season felt like a series of disappointments for him, from Jess leaving to struggling on deck to Rayna turning on him. I agree: I hope he still has his sailboat, too. Rayna follows after a dramatically long, absolutely meaningless hug with Heather.

Of course, Jake and Fraser leave together, ready for a little joint vacation in Miami (not without Jake giving Eddie a kiss right on the lips, though). Before they’ve even left the dock, I’m already dreaming of a season ten with Fraser as chief stew and Jake as lead deckhand (or even bosun!). With Rachel getting a bit more reserved this season, they were the two most entertaining, fun-to-watch crew members on the boat. Bravo would be stupid not to have them back. Don’t disappoint me! Next is Rachel, who, as Captain Lee marvels, has had one hell of a redemption this season. What a joy that was to watch too! I’ll watch anything with her on it at this point, whether it’s another season of Below Deck or a Bravo spinoff about the 40-foot Blue Bird bus she’s renovating. “I’m going to be in a parking lot near you,” Rachel threatens or promises.

Heather leaves with some comment about how she’s grown. Sure, you can think that! Rumors have swirled about Heather’s firing from Bravo after saying the N-word on one of their cameras, and I’ll be eager to see that cleared up at next week’s reunion.

And we end not quite how we began with Eddie and Captain Lee. Lee is once again proud of Eddie and wondering about the day when he takes over as captain. I’m not quite convinced he’s ready for that job between his mishandling of the situation with Rayna and Heather and his troubles managing the deck team. But hey, I’ll watch him try again next year.


• Here’s the most Rachel quote ever: “I’m gonna buy a 40-foot bus so I can hit everyone I don’t like with it.”

• After one awkward interaction with Kaylee, Wes says he might have a crush on her — or maybe just a thing for third stews.

• The Captain Lee–ism of the week is his take on Eddie and Jake reenacting the duel: “The only thing that would give me pleasure in seeing Eddie get shot is if I were the one doing it.” Bonus: “Do you want to be Aaron Burr?” Heather asks. “No,” Lee replies.

• And here’s one more Captain Lee quote for the road, on Rachel: “If you could crawl inside her mind, it’d be like a roller coaster, you know? It would just scare the hell out of you, but you’d like it.”

Below Deck Recap: The Last Duel