Below Deck Season-Premiere Recap: Can I Speak to the Manager?

Below Deck

One Step Closer to World Domination
Season 9 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

Below Deck

One Step Closer to World Domination
Season 9 Episode 1
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Bravo

After his first episode of Below Deck, my lingering image of Captain Sean is of him rearranging furniture. Once again, the Stud of the Sea is missing the start of the season for medical reasons (here’s hoping Bravo provides a good medical-insurance plan!), although this time, he won’t swoop in to save us hours later. Instead, Eddie — Eddie 3.0, mind you, after earning his first officer stripes at the end of last season — gets a call ahead of the season that Captain Lee won’t be able to make the first charter. So instead, we’re stuck with Sean Meagher, the yacht’s delivery captain who’s excited to stick around for his 15 minutes of fame. He’s clearly hamming it up for the cameras this episode, talking a big game about being “an explorer” and a bigger one about how he’s not afraid of firing people. But that’s talk, and it doesn’t take long for us to see what kind of captain he actually is: a micromanager who needs everything to be just so, from the pillows on deck on a windy day to the workout area I’ve never seen a guest use to the first beach picnic of the season. Don’t you miss Captain Lee already?

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though. We’re back aboard My Seanna for another season, and hopefully a full one, after the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic cut the last one short. And once again, we have a largely new crew, now all the way up to the captain. Joining Eddie and Sean is Heather — our third chief stew in three seasons, a fact that I’m not mad about after Francesca proved a bit boring last season. I can’t tell yet if Heather, a 25-year-old(!) who describes herself as the feeling of popping a bottle of Champagne, will fill Kate Chastain’s shoes any better. But someone else on our new interior team may be able to. After eight seasons of Below Deck, six seasons of Med, and two seasons of Sailing Yacht, the producers have finally hired a bitchy gay steward. His name is Fraser, he’s worked on one boat before, and he’s an avowed perfectionist. (And yes, I know he’s actually our second gay steward, but Josiah was one of the sweetest crew members this show has ever seen — not bitchy.) Upon boarding My Seanna, Fraser is quick to assess the Russian-style staircases; in his first confessional, he declares, between sips of espresso, “If I could have anyone serve me, it would be myself.” I’m already obsessed.

Filling out the interior team is Jessica, who’s worked as a solo stew on a few boats. On deck, we have Jake, who has good deck experience and better looks; Rayna, the first crew member to develop a crush on Jake (but far from the last); and Wes, who’s transitioning from sailboats to motor yachts for the money. With (nearly) everyone onboard, Captain Sean holds a quick crew meeting, in which he admits that he’s a bad manager — “I’m not very good at cracking the whip, but I am excellent at swinging the ax,” he says, a line he’s surely rehearsed ahead of this moment. Then Heather has a meeting with her stews, in which Jess admits she loves laundry, thus making Below Deck history and securing the position of third stew.

Then, there she is, walking down the dock, looking like a charter guest herself in all white and a sun hat: chef Rachel. If I didn’t make it apparent enough last year, she’s one of my favorite new additions to this show in a while, and her returning is my other dream come true of this season. Eddie perfectly encapsulates why Rachel is such a great reality-TV character: She’s “damn talented, batshit crazy.” And in her first confessional, she proves that little has changed other than her freshly dyed red hair. “I like short men — I like to play a game, like, ‘Where’s your penis, honey?” she says of Captain Sean, her temporary boss.

The crew spends the rest of the day and the next morning doing a lot of cleaning and not much else. Then we get our first charter, led by Nikki Foster, who works in “broadcasting” (but clearly isn’t a reporter if she can afford this vacation). Per her preference sheet, she and her friends want “fancy as fuck, rich-bitch shit only.” They arrive with fabulous hats but questionable tastes — specifically, the woman who wastes no time asking Fraser for a chocolate martini. At three in the afternoon! In the Caribbean! He (correctly) describes it as “a drink that I have only heard of in my nightmares,” but makes one that’s up to snuff with some help from Google. This is where Fraser’s problems start, once Heather notices he’s left the bar in disarray and asks him to clean it up. To be fair, he’s running food and drinks back and forth to the guests, while Jess is struggling to juice limes and Heather is somewhere. Something doesn’t seem right about the way the work is getting distributed here.

In the galley, Eddie and Rachel have one terse exchange that leaves me wondering where things stand between them after Eddie became Rachel’s No. 1 detractor last season. Are things going to stay quiet between them, or will their tensions bubble over eventually? (You know I’m hoping for the latter.) By dinner, things are already bubbling over on the interior. While Jess is, for some reason, on laundry during dinner service — for a seafood extravaganza, no less! — Fraser is left scrambling between turndowns and service. “There’s no plan right now,” he says in a confessional, and I think he’s right! Having Fraser on service and “housekeeping” and Jess on laundry and odds and ends isn’t working, which Heather eventually seems to realize and moves Jess to turndowns.

The guests spend the night enjoying the NSFW truth-or-dare Jenga game they requested for their pajama party, with truths and dares courtesy of Captain Sean and Eddie. Meanwhile, over some dishwashing, Jake admits to Rayna that he “fancies” her. And after an exchange with Jake in the galley, Fraser becomes the second My Seanna crew member to develop a crush on Jake.

The next morning begins with Jess’s longest bleep ever as she trips into the crew mess. For breakfasts, the guests enjoy crab-cake Benedict and French toast, except for one who ordered “just the crab Benedict, no eggs, so no real Benedict, just the crab.” However, Nikki isn’t enjoying herself quite so much after breakfast when she calls Heather to her suite to show her that Fraser left a trash bag behind during turndowns. In a confessional, Heather says that’s “such a rookie mistake,” which is true, but she still seems unaware of how much she had Fraser scrambling between cabins and service last night. Her solution? To ask Fraser, whose job as second stew is ostensibly to be on service, to pay special attention to the primary suite — without even telling him what the primary’s complaint was! “Puts me on housekeeping, then asks me to be on service,” Fraser says while he cleans. “Confused with your management skills, darling.” Same!

To his credit as an annoying twink, Fraser has no problem letting Heather know all of this. So he calls Heather to the primary suite to tell her that he’s okay with being on service (and the guests do seem to love him), but he can’t focus on that and housekeeping at the same time. “I can’t pick up the slack if there is any,” he says. Heather entertains his spiel, but then, in a confessional, talks about how she has “a bigger picture at play” and “there’s no room in yachting for mistakes.” But as I heard her say that, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is the real mistake the way Heather is managing her team? (In my expert opinion, yes!)

Which brings us back to that beach-picnic setup (which is actually on a pier by the beach, for some reason). There’s already an epidemic of bad management on this yacht, between Heather and Captain Sean too, who for some reason is leading setup for this beach picnic, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen a captain do before. He keeps radioing Eddie for more and more cushions because, in his words, “I think it’ll be a lot of fun” — except it’s not for the guests, who keep bugging Fraser about when they can get to the beach. They’re already 25 minutes behind, but Sean is asking Eddie for another half-hour and 20 more pieces of furniture. I can’t wait to see what Sean tells the crew when they get a shitty tip after this charter. More importantly, like Eddie, I can’t wait to see Captain Lee get back aboard this yacht and get things back in order. For now, we’re left with Captain Sean’s radio calls of “Eddie, Eddie?” echoing in our heads until next week.


• The V-necks in this season’s uniform are proving surprisingly controversial among the crew. “I look like a European pop star,” says Fraser.

• Why doesn’t Jake want the bottom bunk in his cabin? “Because people’s pubes fall on my bed.”

• Other reasons not to like Captain Sean: He tells Eddie, a first freakin’ officer, that he miscalculated the distance to a neighboring boat, and he utters the phrase “bada-bing, bada-boom” while talking about his own captaining skills.

• I can already tell Fraser will be a great cast member because he talks to himself all. The. Damn. Time. “This is grotesque,” he says while cleaning a guest’s shower.

• The most important detail from the teaser for the rest of the season, unless I fantasized it, is that Jake and Fraser kiss! A lot!!! But Fraser isn’t the only one fighting for Jake’s body and affection. “Jake is gonna be like the motor yacht My Seanna bicycle,” Rachel declares. “We’re all gonna get a ride.”

Below Deck Season-Premiere Recap