Regular old Below Deck is back, they’re terrorizing beautiful Thailand, and Kate Chastain continues to be the best motivational speaker the reality TV world has ever seen. She’s really missed her calling not doing infomercials or pioneering a QVC collection selling stain-proof table linens and clothing that is both practical for scrubbing floors and fish, while remaining reasonably cute, yet wrinkle-proof!
Captain Lee Rosbach has returned to steer Valor into battle, but the battle will inevitably, only, wage on board. Joining Kate and Captain Lee is Ashton Pieneaar, who has been promoted to bosun as a reward for almost dying on Captain Lee’s watch last season.
Captain Lee doesn’t seem entirely convinced of Ashton’s abilities in the bosun department. Or perhaps Lee’s way of motivating is to slather you with a heavy dose of skepticism, with an expectation to fail melted on top. Unlike with Captain Sandy there will be no babysitting, hugs, and pep talks followed by ice cream on Captain Lee’s boat. Thank god for small mercies!
I miss the steady, unwavering calmness of Ross Inia already!
And now for the newbies accompanying us to this unchartered continent – seriously the only place on earth yet untouched by Bravo? First up is Chef Kevin Dobson (and whoooo boy, have we gotten the ins and outs on this guy), the new stews Courtney Skippon, from Vancouver and Simone Mashile from South Africa, and a deck crew composed of Brian de Saint Per, also from South Africa, Tanner Sterback who is from NY and I already predict he will be talking about this a lot. Prepare yourselves.
And, of course, there is the obligatory green deckhand, who also happens to fulfill the crazy bitch quota, in the form of Abbi Murphy.
Ashton immediately starts having flashbacks to Rhylee Gerber and prays she’s not a redhead, but the devil is in a seafoam blue dress and also has red hair, thus thy name be Abigail. We know these types seem to be Ashton’s Achilles heel. And, oh, Abbi definitely seems to be fulfilling the cray cliche. Abbi abandoned a full scholarship to law school to move to Greece, on a whim, and become a sailor. “My gut is my best friend,” she explains. I wish Abbi would get a gut feeling about too much eyeliner. In this heat she’s gonna be looking like a Marilyn Manson backup gyrator pretty soon.
The best thing about Kate is that in the beginning of the season her hair starts out smooth, full, and blown-out to Elle Woods perfection but by mid-season it resembles nothing short of a chenille pillow purchased on clearance at Home Goods. It makes Kate relatable in her lack of immunity to humidity frizz and horribly frazzling people — just like the rest of us. Kate doesn’t need children, just second and third stews!
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Kate initially has tingling feelings towards Chef Kevin even though she also has suspicions that underneath his Hugh Grant smile he may have
a bald spot Crazy Yacht Chef Syndrome (see: Robinson, Ben). To me, Kevin’s crazy is peeking out of the clam shell right away as he lectures us about his high standards, which he expects everyone to match. After all, he is a super SUPER yacht chef who has cooked for some of the world’s foremost floating idiots important people. I do not see the appeal, but hey, Im not trapped on a boat with the man!
Of course, Kevin is not the only fish in this sea of wankers and fools. Kate proclaims, “Our crew is so hot that Ashton is like the least hot!” That means Captain Lee even outranks him. SUPER, MEGA, ULTRA burn like Ben’s hand on a defective Sirocco burner! Also, I do not agree with the hotness level unless one is talking about the actual heat. This crew falls into the ‘merely ok’ category.
Initially, all the stewardesses also seem, well, not totally annoying. Instead, they are totally incompetent and out of their depth. Kevin will be an asshole personified (and it will be coming out of both ends – trust), but he proves immediately that he can at least put the guests’ money where his mouth is in the cooking department.
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Meanwhile, Simone and Courtney… cannot carry a tray to save their lives. Simone was previously a third stew on what I assume was a Carnivale Cruise because she has no service experience, only housekeeping. Meanwhile Courtney just … hates… well, that’s pretty much the defining characteristic of her personality thus far.
Right away, Courtney identifies herself as not being used to “servitude.” As the spoiled only child to wealthy parents, she’s used to being served. Honey, pssst – some life advice: charter the boat, don’t work on it. Unfortunately, Courtney’s parents’ bank account apparently tapped out at paying for business school. So, now she’s serving others to pay off her loans. Unless she considers this Shark Tank?
What Courtney lacks in abilities she makes up for in complaining. She is disdainful of skorts, and the laundering of them, of the sea, of the sand, of the heat, of holding trays, of beaches, of ironing… In fact, the only thing Courtney seems to like and excel at is cocktails. And by like I mean she likes drinking them, not making them, but she’s drunk enough of them that she’s proficient at mixing them too.
Simone isn’t experienced with serving either. So I predict this season there will be issues galore with the stews. Per the usual. Kate always draws the short stick in this department! Simone at least seems sweet, and points out something that should be obvious after years of watching Below Deck: there are very few people of color represented in yachting! Especially in the interior. Simone has worked hard to get here and is excited to have the opportunity to move beyond the 3rd stew housekeeping position to learn more about service.
Unfortunately, since Simone can’t do basic bartending or service, she seems to be getting stuck in laundry and cabins a lot so far – even though she’s technically 2nd stew. I thought bartending was a requirement? Is this a Bravo prank? Man, Hannah had it sooooo good last season with her competent interior crew. Captain Sandy needed to shut-it!
The deck crew seems decidedly more skilled. At least so far. Tanner LOVES yachting! Tanner is a frat boy who lost his frat and found the floating fraternity house called deck handing. Brian, meanwhile, believes yachting turned his life around. He has a 5-year-old daughter named Mica. He used to a party a lot, then found the open sea, changed his ways and now is the best role model he can be from thousands of miles away. Yeah, parenting is a breeze when you do it for 15 minutes a month!
To get things off on the right foot, Captain Lee calls his first all-crew meeting and basically the No. 1 rule is RADIOS ON (Yeah, June!). I do love a no-holds barred, fear of god, fired and brimstone Captain Lee lecture. He references Ashton’s accident last year and places a huge emphasis on safety. And in order to achieve this, radios must be surgically attached to everyone’s body like Captain Sandy‘s huggy hands.
The one thing we are learning about Thailand is that the heat, well, it’s criminal. Everyone is shocked by how hot and humid it is as they’re going through shirts by the minute due to sweat. Which means it’s only a matter of episodes before someone passes out from exhaustion and dehydration.
The first charter guest is Michael Castellano and his girlfriend Samantha. Michael requests a private candlelight dinner with a violinist for the second night, so it doesn’t take a genius with a wild imagination to predict that he’s gonna propose. That’s all well, good, and very cute but the only thing Kate is considering is the “advance-level service” that will be necessary to orchestrate two dinners. With two stews who don’t like service! Gird your loins Kate’s ferocious side is gonna start snarling early. Courtney can’t even iron!
At least Kevin is trying to be organized. After pouring all of his dry good into individual Tupperware he BROUGHT FROM HOME TO A BOAT he requests a label-maker from Kate who is like brah go finger your gameboy controller if you’re that bored. While Kate applauds Kevin’s efforts, she points out that it’s about T-8 hours until the guests arrive, ergo not the time for sticker making! Instead, Kate advises Kevin to open the containers and use his nose to smell things. And just like that Kevin and Kate – wrong foot.
While these stews can’t do basic table laying Kate observes that at least they’re “nice and respectful.” Which is refreshing – like the perfect mojito, Courtney, who can’t do service, prepared. Apparently being serviced is the best teacher for how to service others. Muddle on; muddle off… Courtney Skippon.
Finally, the guests are on board seeking self-flushing toilets (Kevin, Kevin, master stateroom John… ) and lunch. I must say the bedrooms are much more modern this season, so that is a plus! No more gaudy gold and tacky velvet in jewel-tones. No one wants a beach vacation inside the mind of a Real Housewife of New Jersey.
In fact, everything is going swell until Kate takes a little trip to her cabin to change her shirt. Oh brother… the guests are starving and a miscommunication means that Kevin was ready to serve at 1:30, but Kate didn’t know he was ready. All hell breaks loose when the guests start whining and Simone is stuck trying to mediate between Kevin’s rage and Kate’s absence. Simone knocks on Kate’s door with guests literally chasing her around begging for food.
Kevin is mortified to be perceived as a slacker chef on the first meal. When the guests are finally seated the stews are about to dump a boring-looking carrot slaw on their plates when they suddenly notice there actually are no plates! Lap Lunch! It’s because Kevin planned a family-style lunch, so Kate didn’t set table. At least the guests loved the food!
Kevin begins the length preparations of Thai food for dinner. In between, Ashton forgets to give the deckhands a dinner break until Abbi almost passes out. We also learn that Tanner has a thing for Kate because she’s an “older woman.” Kevin begins to die of a stomach virus, which I hope isn’t transmittable through food. Kevin was literally running from the galley to explode while crying for the patron saint of poop, Imodium AD. Which, although Kate investigated the first aid kit (slowly and with no sense of urgency at all) Imodium was nowhere to be found. You know Kate poisoned Kevin’s cornflakes after his diarrhea of the mouth because she changed her shirt during the critical time of his lunch.
Also, I love the close-ups of the mixer whirring and a spoon stirring brown stuff as Kevin informs Kate about his “churning stomach.” Good job, Bravo editors – Emmy worthy. Look, I applaud Kevin’s ability to persevere through the pain, but serving food in between poops is a total No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOO. Like however you say “No” in Thai, that too.
After dinner, the lead charter guest, Michael, sneaks into the galley to share with Kevin and Kate that the meal for tomorrow night is beyond critical because he plans to propose. Squeeeee…elch. Ergo not the time for terminal gastritis! “Kevin is about to cook the biggest meal of this couple’s life and I’m pretty sure he can’t do it from the seat of his toilet,” Kate muses, smirking. I mean, I dunno — it would be level upping Kramer’s shower cabbage roses (Yes, I still love Seinfeld!).
God did we really have to hear Kevin’s sound effects? I’m going to be hearing them in my nightmares for weeks, and these poor charter guests will flashback to this every time they look at their engagement ring.
The next morning, the devil is still inside Kevin — and it wants out via exorcism by bowel! Kate is unperturbed as she informs an equally non-plussed Captain Lee about Kevin’s condition. Lee is more concerned with monitoring Ashton’s ability to corral the deck crew and get the boat off the dock. And let’s face it Kate is more worried about the guests’ beach excursion.
Kate she sends Kevin to his room, aka the toilet, and sends her more annoying stew, Courtney, to the beach. She probably also sent Tanner as punishment for him calling her a lady of a certain age. And out there, Tanner will die on this 100,000 degree sand dune, listening to Courtney endlessly complain about how she’d rather be walking through 20 miles of garbage than here on this tropical paradise, getting a yacht tan from her polo shirt which will show the world she is not the served by the server, and how much she simply hates the beach. It sounds like Courtney is in yachting to achieve the Hannah Ferrier Degree: i.e. find a 68-year-old millionaire to marry you and keep the mimosas rolling until a younger model strolls along.
TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BELOW DECK SEASON 7 CAST SO FAR? SHOULD KEVIN HAVE STEPPED DOWN UNTIL HE WAS FEELING BETTER?
[Photo Credits: Bravo]