Ahoy, yachties! Welcome to Season 8 of Below Deck, where the Stud of the Sea himself — Captain Lee Rosbach — is ready to take back the Caribbean. Wait. Captain? Captain Lee, are you there? Cap? The captain is not on the boat, people. I repeat: the captain is not on the boat.
This is what returning bosun Eddie Lucas discovers thirty seconds into the premiere when he boards My Seanna with his well-worn Cotopaxi backpack and is greeted by….no one. The gorgeous motor yacht we first met back in Season 6 is empty. And after making a quick call, Eddie discovers why: Captain Lee is in the hospital. But it’s not for a broken heart over Kate Chastain‘s exit from the series like you probably thought. No, turns out the invincible old sea dog slipped in the shower and smashed several ribs. We’re talking badly enough to be admitted to Mount St. John’s Medical Centre in Antigua.
Captain Lee‘s medical crisis starts the premiere off on a bizarre foot. Not only do we no longer have Kate but for a second it looks like we might not have our trusty captain either. It’s almost like all the kids showing up to summer camp with no counselors. And honestly, seeing the indomitable Stud of the Sea laid up in an Antiguan emergency room also has this recapper contemplating his own mortality. Captain Lee can’t be knocked down by anything, let alone a little fall in the shower. Like I said, he’s invincible. Right?
However, as in show business so it is in yachting, and the show must go on. As the brand new crew trickles aboard My Seanna, poor Eddie is left in charge of welcoming everyone while he’s surely panicking inside. First to arrive is new chief stew Francesca Rubi, otherwise known as the poor girl Bravo chose to replace Kate. She’s from Sydney, Australia and boasts about taking her job “a little too seriously sometimes.” She also has five years of working on yachts in the Mediterranean under her belt and a background in high-profile event management. So while she’s certainly no Kate, at least she seems qualified on paper.
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The interior is rounded out by Elizabeth Frankini, a second stew who’s very into energy, crystals and all things mystical, and Isabelle “Izzy” Wouters, a quirky third stew who claims to have worked both interior and deck crew jobs in the past.
Meanwhile, Eddie‘s deck team seems…pretty green, to be honest. Thankfully, he’s got shaggy-haired Avery Russell, who immediately gives off lead deckhand vibes. (He’s not, however, listed in the official cast or anywhere to be found in the promo materials for the season…) There’s James Hough, a British flirt who makes it clear that he’s on this season of Below Deck to have a lot of fun and maybe work a little. And then there’s Shane Coopersmith. Sweet, sweet Shane is a budding environmentalist with gorgeous blonde hair, a dopey grin and literally no experience yachting whatsoever. Needless to say Eddie seems to be in for a treat this season.
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A few hours later and just 19 hours before the first charter, Chef Rachel Hargrove finally arrives on the boat in a bit of a tizzy. It turns out, the chef’s purse was stolen at the grocery store within a day of arriving in Antigua. Complete with her credit cards, car keys and cell phone, the theft has understandably left her a bit on edge and not exactly on her A-game. However, given that just a few weeks ago Captain Lee called Rachel the “best, most knowledgeable chef [he’s] ever worked with on a yacht” during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, it’s safe to say Rachel will turn it out this season. (On the flip side, he diplomatically refused to compare Francesca to Kate out of fairness to his new chief stew.)
Finally (I mean, finally!) Captain Lee shows up from the hospital after provisions have already been loaded onto the yacht. He’s hobbling and clearly in pain. But in his own words, he’s ready to “suck it up, cream puff.” At the first all-crew staff meeting, the captain lays down the (maritime) law. He makes it clear there will be no repeat of last year this season. That means no physical intimidation. No screaming. No slamming doors in the middle of the night. And all I can say is thank god for that, because literally no one wants another re-do of Season 7. Let’s all pray we leave the toxic masculinity that grossly permeated last season aboard Valor.
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The first primary charter guest of the season is PR consultant Charley Walters, a three-peat returnee who last appeared on Season 6. Spoiler alert: he’s best remembered for being a total high maintenance monster. We’re talking endless demands. Condescending tone to crew. Egotistical nightmares for friends. And none of that appears to have changed three years later. The first night he’s requiring a multi-course international themed dinner complete with keto, vegan and other demands. Followed by a neon-themed carnival party on the second evening. This is going to be a lot of work.
Early the next morning, Izzy quickly proves to be the early weakest link of the crew. It takes her a grand total of 32 minutes to make Captain Lee‘s breakfast and deliver it to the wheelhouse. Which seems…insane for coffee and a bowl of Cheerios. Francesca has her antennas up about her slow-poke third stew and the first charter hasn’t even begun yet. The other early red flag is adorable Shane, who decides to spend the morning doing yoga on the bow rather than…you know, doing his job. I mean, he’s literally greeting the sunrise on his mat while James sprays down the boat around him. This is going to be an interesting dynamic on deck, for sure. How long do we think the laidback environmentalist will last?
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The charter guests arrive and right off the bat, they’re rude, demanding and come across as complete monsters. And just like with breakfast, Izzy takes her sweet time making their first round of drinks. So much so that the primary actually intercepts her, patronizingly stepping behind the bar to help out and pointing out that the crew is giving off an overwhelmed vibe. Which, like, true but also rude. As the afternoon progresses, Shane is more preoccupied with replacing the plastic straws on the boat with paper ones than working. And poor Eddie is doing everything he can to wrangle the quickly out-of-control guests.
However, tragedy strikes early in the season when Avery gets a message from his mom. Apparently, his grandmother is sick and has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. He’s not even sure if he can make it home in time, but the deckhand promptly tells Captain Lee he needs to leave. And isn’t sure he’s coming back. While surprised, Lee is obviously understanding that family always comes first. And just as soon as we met him, Avery rides off into the Antiguan sunset, leaving Eddie without a right-hand man and the deck crew down one member. Do you think Avery will be replaced by a newbie or a returning yachtie from a past season?
TELL US- WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE SEASON PREMIERE? CAN FRANCESCA LIVE UP TO KATE’S LEGACY? WILL IZZY AND SHANE MAKE IT THROUGH THE SEASON? WHO SHOULD REPLACE AVERY ON THE DECK CREW?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]