As an anxious homosexual myself, I feel for Fraser! He got to make out with an attractive guy, but all he can do the next day is worry he’s done something wrong. Who among us? While Jake is joking with the deck crew about how drunk he was, Fraser searches for his lighter “so I can smoke myself to death.” Not only does he feel bad for kissing Jake, his “straight” friend, he feels equally bad about being too drunk to remember it. Fraser eventually walks outside to teasing and excitement from the deck team and quickly learns that Jake does not care one bit. “I had the best fuckin’ time!” Jake says, adding that he’s “very proud” that he’s so open. “I’m straight, but I’ve kissed many guys,” he clarifies in a confessional (hence those quote marks above).
There’s no more time to dwell on Fraser and Jake’s makeout sesh because of the pressure on everyone this charter. Heather is moving Jess to service to see if that puts a bit of pep into her step (and accordingly, giving Fraser a break and moving him to laundry). And Captain Lee wants to depart at 10 a.m., rather than the usual noon so that the deck crew can have water toys set up by the time guests arrive. Eddie isn’t too happy about this, and it amounts to total chaos up until the minute before the guests arrive. Yet somehow, in a comeback from the last episode, the crew pulls it off.
Our guests include Michael, a breast cancer survivor who works for Anheuser-Busch in Colorado, and some family friends, looking to celebrate his cancer remission by playing in the water and drinking (and, in his daughter Nichole’s case, by complimenting Jake’s mustache). The decision to have the boat set up early is already a hit since the guests seem to hit the water right after the tour — and, well, cracking open some Bud Lights. You should not be surprised when I tell you lunch consists of sliders, hot dogs, and fries, and they love all of it.
Jess, meanwhile, is already not loving service. Before she even had any guests to serve, she was complaining. She texts her mom, “I just don’t like most of these people,” and that she wants to cry, presumably after Fraser was a bit shady to her about the messy laundry room (which he gets spotless and organized in a single afternoon!). I feel for her a bit when she can’t find things in the stew pantry because, well, she hasn’t had the time on service to learn where everything is. (Heather, as expected, is irritated.) Before dinner, she’s complaining to Rayna in her cabin about Fraser’s attitude toward laundry — which seemed pretty merited given the state of that room and how easy it was for him to fix it! “I don’t know that I have much more to give,” she says, stoking my suspicions that we may be building toward Jess quitting.
And that was all before she left the bar unattended before dinner, forcing the guests to fumble around for whiskey and beers. When Jess returns, she lets the guests make their own drinks, which Heather later reprimands. “Make your territory known, or it won’t be your territory at all,” Heather says, and I think she’s right on this one! But leave it to Jess to see a way out of doing more work and take it.
Dinner is celebrating Michael’s breast cancer survival: a perfect theme for Rachel, who’s dubbed the theme “titties a la carte.” Alexa, play Kim Petras’s “Coconuts”! The courses include a conch fritter served in a treasure chest and a steak with hasselback potatoes — middle-of-the-road fare for our primary who requested steak sauce with his filet, that Rachel “zhivadermed” up just a bit. The piece de resistance is a coconut cake in the shape of two breasts, topped with cherries for good measure. And unlike season seven’s tragically underappreciated penis cake, the guests are totally here for this confection. Even Captain Lee, who utters the word “discomboobulated.”
No, the biggest surprise of the night has nothing to do with boobs. After service, Heather actually pulls Jess aside to check in with her about her work ethic. “It’s coming to the point of like a last straw,” she says. I’m a little shocked that she’s point-blank telling Jess this since, at this point, it seems like it could convince her to quit rather than to step it up. Jess tells Heather she’s not mad, she just has “resting … face,” but come on — she’s mad. She again tells Rayna as much in her cabin and sounds like she’s planning to up and leave the next morning. She’s “not being nice no more,” she declares.
Except then, the next morning, she doesn’t. Jess has decided she’s not a quitter, and she’d rather see the season through. I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed, and I’m a little disappointed in myself for being disappointed. On the one hand, Jess’s discontent over these last few episodes was finally building toward something, and now it’s not, and she’s stuck dragging her feet around the boat once again. On the other, I tend to side against the trend from these last few seasons of Below Deck, where the show becomes a test of attrition and crew member departures become inevitable dramatic checkpoints. So what am I doing actually wanting Jess to leave? But at the same time, unless she miraculously stops complaining, what other way is there for Jess’s storyline to end without her leaving? To be fair, I don’t feel like her behavior has gotten to the level of firing-level offensive yet, even if Heather and Fraser seem to be having conversations along those lines in the preview for the next episode. But would Jess even care?
I digress, because by the morning, Jess isn’t the only one having some trouble at work. As the deck crew tries to blow up the slide for the morning, something bad happens (after many seasons of this show, I still don’t understand how that thing works), and Wes has to go down in a Jet Ski to fix a rope. Except he’s having trouble driving the Jet Ski and getting the rope, which then gets sucked up into the Jet Ski. Lee is pissed, Eddie is PISSED, and the guests enjoy a bit of post-breakfast entertainment. (Rachel made eggs Benedict and donuts!) “This is the Moe, Larry, and Curly Show on steroids,” Lee declares in a confessional. But he’s most mad at Eddie for blowing up in front of the guests. Eddie, in turn, is mad at Lee for both being mad at his deck crew and not letting Eddie manage his deck crew.
Oh, and Rayna is mad at Jake too. Yes, shortly after that deck debacle, the two are by the swim platform, and Jake makes some comment about Rayna’s wet clothing smelling that turns into a full argument — within earshot of the guests, who seem a bit more shocked than they were about the slide situation. We’re left with the twist that, next week, Jess may not be the only one getting disciplined.
• The night before pickup, Rayna and Wes are talking by the swim platform about being Black in yachting — a conversation this show has tiptoed around before but rarely been able to do justice until now, that there are two Black crew members. Rayna tells Wes she’s worked for racist bosses on yachts, which comes as a slight surprise to him after spending much of his career in majority-Black areas of the Caribbean. Rayna goes on to tell Wes about a time when she and a friend were beaten up by white people in an elevator — the “scariest thing I’ve ever went through in life,” she says, adding that it makes her question whether she wants to have kids who would also have to deal with racism. It’s a serious conversation, and unlike so many “time to talk about the social issues” moments on reality TV, it feels open and natural.
• Fraser’s time in laundry is going pretty well! Not only does he reorganize the whole space, he finally gets that compliment from Captain Lee he’s been gunning for. He also has much more time to talk to himself. “I stripped that laundry room from all of its sins,” he says, early into the first day. “I need to stop talking to myself actually; it’s getting worrying.”
• The Captain Lee-ism of the week comes from a chat with Rachel about the boob cake: “These conversations go south so fucking quick.”
• You must know that Rachel sings “Memory” from Cats in the galley and changes the line to “mammaries,” and it’s wonderful.