“I am madder than a pissed-on chicken” is not only one of my favourite Captain Lee Rosbach lines, it also sums up my feelings towards this latest charter season of Below Deck. The amount of obscenities directed at my TV, hands in the air and honest bewilderment, is more than I’ve experienced when watching a reality series. Which is saying a lot, as I have watched the majority of The Real Housewives franchises and Vanderpump Rules.
Throughout seven seasons, Below Deck has given viewers glimpses into the life of the crew and their guests aboard super-yachts, during a six-week charter season. The crew comprised of a Captain, Chief Stewardess, two additional Stews, Chef, Bosun and three Deckhands, tends to change from season to season. There are also a First Mate and Chief Engineer onboard but are rarely showcased.
For consistency, some crew will do a few seasons before handing in their epaulettes. However, Captain Lee and Kate Chastain, Chief Stewardess, have been on the show the longest. With basically a new crew every season comes unique personalities, sense of entitlements, conflicts and, of course, boatmances. All of these ingredients come together to form the perfect recipe for entertainment. Although, during this current seventh season aboard the Valor in Thailand, the show took a darker turn with the formation of the brü crew: Ashton Pienaar, Brian de Saint Pern, Tanner Sterback and Chef Kevin Dobson.
Smashton’s Out of His Cage
Returning from the previous charter season, deckhand Ashton is promoted to Bosun over a new deck crew, Brian, Tanner and Abbi Murphy. Fans already got a sample of Ashton’s arrogance and machismo during the previous charter season towards fellow deckhand Rhylee Gerber. His aggression only heightened after she rejected his drunken sexual advances in episode six. Regardless of his new promotion, Ashton wastes no time un-caging Smashton; his handsy alter ego when drunk and first sets his sights on Abbi. Once she breaks the news of her engagement, he shifts his behaviour towards her. He attacks her work ethic claiming she is distracted with her head in the clouds. Even fellow brü, Brian notices his aggression claiming Ashton, “Might be a little bit jealous.” Pattern much?
In episode six, after striking out again with Second Stewardess Courtney Skippon, Ashton walks over to an unsuspecting Kate, grabs her face and kisses her. Kate recoils and says no. He leans in for another uninvited kiss forcing her to say no for a second time. Fast forward to episode twelve, where it becomes uncomfortable to watch Kate literally sink in her seat to get away from Ashton’s mouth. Still not taking no for an answer, Kate confronts Ashton about how rude it is to kiss someone without consent. Ashton responds, “You should be so lucky, and I should be so drunk.” With a man like him, who needs romance?
One would think Ashton learned his lesson, especially as we are living in the #MeToo era. However, according to Ashton’s arrogance, respecting women doesn’t apply to him. Prime example, a sexually frustrated Ashton proclaims, “I wish we had, like, girls, that are just willing to fucking have fun and bang. Honestly, I’m fucking tired of working so hard to get my dick sucked. Think about it.” Trust me, Ashton, if we were thinking about it, the answer is still no.
If only he stopped there. As the van ride in episode twelve continues, a once again rejected Ashton becomes verbally and physically aggressive towards Kate after she asks about his mother. Both Kevin and Tanner intervene, preventing Ashton from physically assaulting Kate. Instead, causing him to take his unwarranted rage out by punching the van window.
The Sting of Thai Night Market Scorpion
Rhylee returns to fill Abbi’s vacant deckhand position, who left to follow her passion for sailing, reminding Ashton yet again of the bitter taste of rejection. Later in the season, with only six days and two charters left, Ashton goes to Captain Lee and requests to fire Rhylee. This guy. Underestimating Captain Lee’s professionalism, he informs Ashton of the management skills required to work with her. Yet, another important life lesson that goes over his head. Ahem, no means no Ashton.
The brüs escalate their misogyny and bullying, by forcing Rhylee to eat in her room after not making space for her at the crew table, referring to her as ‘a cancer’ and shutting down all of her practical deck ideas. Another act of Ashton’s excellent management. Jumping on the Rhylee bullying train, Kevin purposefully buys all the scorpions to prevent Rhylee from purchasing any for herself during an outing to the Thai Night Market. Class act. After gossiping like they are on the playground, Kevin and the other brüs reduce Rhylee to tears.
Rhylee wasn’t the only woman affected by the brüs insensitivities that evening. Brian and Courtney started a boatmance earlier in the season. So, when Courtney attempts to diffuse the situation between the brüs and Rhylee, Brian gets aggressive towards her. He believes his woman shows loyalty by being on his side at all times. In other words, how dare a woman have an opinion differing from his, setting an excellent example for his daughter. Brian’s brash behaviour causes Courtney to cry, which he ignores.
In the van, the unaffected men laugh while exchanging friendship bracelets solidifying their misogynist comradery. In case you hoped it ended there – it does not. During the ride home, Brian askes Tanner, “Are you still going to bang Kate, by the way?” Ashton chimes in, “I hope you’re gonna fucking give her a good fucking. Because a mediocre fuck’s not gonna do right now” before they start cackling like hyenas. Honestly, it’s like these jabronis don’t care about the cameras.
Sand in Your Eyes
Tensions between Kate and Kevin, self-proclaimed “God’s gift to cooking,” is ubiquitous from the first charter. Throughout the season, Kevin attempts to usurp Kate by directing service. After taking weeks of verbal abuse from Kevin, Kate seeks revenge in the form of an ill-timed penis cake delivery during the final charter. It was magical. Kevin, embarrassed and with a bruised ego, has an exchange of unpleasantries during the last crew outing with Kate.
Later, as Kate is sitting alone enjoying a cigarette, Kevin walks over and kicks sand in her face. Yup. Kevin, a grown man, a father to a young daughter, purposefully flicks sand in a woman’s face. Adding salt to the wound, when asked about the incident on Below Deck: After Show, he arrogantly asks if it was caught on camera. With the producer’s confirmation, it was, Kevin laughingly confesses, showing zero remorse. He is proud and feels justified in his actions. I wonder how proud his daughter will be of him.
Farewell, You Naughty Yachties
I, for one, am looking forward to watching this all come to a head during the Below Deck Reunion. Andy Cohen is not one to take this behaviour lightly – see The Real Housewives of Dallas Reunion, season four, when he confronts LeAnne Locken about her racist comments towards fellow housewife Kary Brittingham. Fun fact, Kary was a charter guest on Below Deck: Mediterranean in season two, episode eight.
In a sneak peek of the reunion, aired Monday, February 3rd on Watch What Happens Live, Ashton first questions Kate about the last time she “Worked on a motor-yacht in the real industry, in the real world” before turning the question onto Captain Lee. This pompous, arrogant little twit is so incredibly disrespectful. It doesn’t matter how long ago (four years for Kate and last year for Captain Lee), as Kate so frankly stated, “When [Ashton] was gyrating in a speedo for dollar bills [she] already worked [her] way up to chief stew.” Shots fired.
The Below Deck Reunion for season seven airs Monday, February 10th at 8:00 pm EST. Get your popcorn ready.