What do you do when you hate your second stew? There’s no denying the tension in the interior has been building for several charters now. And this week, all of that drama finally starts coming to a head. So if you’re Francesca Rubi, that means making a blatant power play to reassert your control over Elizabeth Frankini. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last eight seasons of Below Deck, it’s that the chief stew always demands respect and deference. And she’ll get it by laying down an iron fist. (Miss you, Kate Chastain!)
Last week’s episode ended with Francesca complaining once again to Captain Lee Rosbach about her underling. Because at this point, there’s nothing Elizabeth could do that Chess won’t find some issue with. I say that recognizing that Elizabeth has certainly made mistakes this season. But I can’t help but root for the underdog in this feud, and Francesca hasn’t exactly been a supportive boss. Last week, Captain Lee warned her that finding a new stew could bring a whole other rash of problems. So instead, she decides she’d rather keep Elizabeth on the boat and punish her another way.
After the guests return from their beach picnic, all eyes are on Chef Rachel Hargrove to deliver a ten-course French-inspired dinner. And no one’s watching like a hawk more than Captain Lee. Given that Rachel stormed off the boat in a huff hours before the charter, only to return with her tail between her legs the next morning, you can’t blame Lee for being wary. In fact, he pointedly remarks that the chef has roughly zero room for error with this dinner service. He even pulls a Captain Sandy Yawn and pops down to the galley to keep a closer eye on her as she preps.
And yet, even with 10 courses and 60 plates, Rachel pulls it off. In fact, I daresay she even thrives under the pressure. With the stews dressed in berets and one questionable wig, she turns out course after delectable course. We’re talking seared foie gras. Petit filet. Sous vide duck egg. Duck confit. Dazzling chocolate gardens complete with edible flowers. The over-the-top guests are blown away and shower her with well-earned praise. Captain Lee goes as far as to say later on that Rachel might be the most talented chef he’s ever worked with in his 35-year career in yachting. (However, I do feel the need to point out that, for anyone who didn’t watch last season of Below Deck Med, Kiko Lorran pulled off 72 plates with unexpected extra guests. So you know, Rachel’s talented but my personal #JusticeForKiko campaign lives on…)
Meanwhile, we learn that new deckhand Rob Phillips grew up a certified nerd, in the most adorable way possible. That tattoo on his arm is even of what he calls a “pega-corn” (half pegasus, half unicorn). It’s fighting some sort of orc on a giant dragon — I don’t know this is out of my wheelhouse. And not only is Francesca starting to admit she’s attracted to him, but he’s just the boat BFF James Hough has been waiting for. Seriously, I can’t decide who’s more smitten by the handsome new deckhand: Chess or James? James also continues flirting with Elizabeth, even broaching the topic of boat-mances in the galley. And Elizabeth isn’t afraid to admit that James provides just the escape she needs from the drama with her boss. Watch this space, folks.
RELATED: Below Deck Star Elizabeth Frankini “Felt A Lot Of Condescending Animosity” From Francesca Rubi
The next morning is the final day of the charter. And Lee and the deck team are tasked with a tricky, ultra-tight docking in Falmouth Harbor. It’s such a tight squeeze that the captain has to pull off a difficult Med tie, which Eddie Lucas describes as the “Super Bowl of docking maneuvers.” It somehow involves multiple anchors dropping at different times and the boat swinging around into position. The tension is high. The guests are watching the whole thing play out. Lee’s so stressed that he demands radio silence from the crew. And then, alarms start ringing for some reason. Definitely not what you want to hear when you’re docking a giant super-yacht in a crowded marina. But by golly, the Stud of the Sea does it. And honestly, I never doubted him.
The guests disembark with more effusive praise and even some tears of gratitude. Which is a lesson for Rachel: an ostentatious preference sheet does not always equal a nightmare charter. She’s probably feeling especially silly during the tip meeting, when Captain Lee reveals the guests left a whopping $25,000 tip for the crew. That’s $2,250 apiece, and largely given on the strength of Rachel’s food. She apologizes to the captain again, and seems to have earned a tiny sliver of his respect back. But has everyone on the crew forgiven her for abandoning them? Don’t count on it.
For the crew’s afternoon off, Lee has organized a visit to a local donkey sanctuary. Which I did not know was a thing until watching the episode. Apparently, Antigua is filled with donkeys (who knew?), and someone has to take care of the animals that can’t take care of themselves. So while Elizabeth, James, Rob, Izzy Wouters and Ashling Lorger head ashore with Cap, Francesca stays behind to concoct her plan for revenge. Oops, did I say that? I meant, pretend to stew and agonize over how to handle her issues with Elizabeth.
Once everyone’s back on board My Seanna, Chess calls a private meeting with her second stew in the sky lounge. Which basically is just an excuse to tersely reprimand Elizabeth, tell her she didn’t improve enough on this charter and demote her to third stew. Naturally, this comes as a shock to Elizabeth, who felt she put in extra effort this charter. But really, there’s just no pleasing Francesca once she has it out for you, sweetie. Ashling, possibly eager for a promotion, agrees with the chief stew’s move. But Elizabeth vents about the power move to Izzy, who’s not the biggest Francesca fan to begin with, and ends up loudly calling her a rather rude name that I won’t type here. (It rhymes with “swat.”)
Of course, Francesca overhears the discussion from the galley and suddenly plays the victim. (For her part, Izzy doesn’t back down, claiming she would call her old boss the same name to her face.) Chess feels like the whole crew just sees her as a mean, inhuman chief stew. She even gets teary in her confessional about it. But all I have to say is that, honey, if you’re going to go around demoting people, of course feelings are going to be hurt. People are going to talk about it. What did you expect?
Later, the crew’s night out starts off on a vulnerable note, with Izzy confiding in Eddie and Rob that she’d been sexually assaulted the year prior while working in Australia. I can’t imagine being so open about something so personal on national TV, and it’s quite amazing to see Izzy share a bit of that story to shed light on the topic and possibly help people watching who’ve been through something similar.
At dinner, Rachel promptly gets hammered, letting off steam after pulling off that ten-course meal. But all she does in her drunken state is manage to annoy Eddie. The bosun, it turns out, is definitely not over the chef’s temper tantrum from before the charter. If he were Captain Lee, he would’ve let Rachel cook for the charter out of dire necessity and then fired her the second it was over. Yeah…it seems Eddie may be holding a bit of a grudge. Don’t expect these two to become besties any time soon. (Also, am I the only one loving Eddie’s transformation into the cranky grandpa of the crew this season? His orneriness is endlessly hilarious.)
On the other hand, James and Elizabeth are getting closer than ever. After hitting the club, the crew heads back to the boat, where the pair go hot tubbing and finally admit their mutual attraction. Sparks fly in the Jacuzzi and before you know it, they spend the rest of the night hooking up and making out until one in the morning. The first boat-mance of the season has set sail, my yachties!
RELATED: Izzy Wouters Shades Below Deck Stars Ashton Pienaar, Francesca Rubi, Malia White, And Captain Sandy Yawn
TELL US – DO YOU THINK ELIZABETH DESERVED TO BE DEMOTED? WHO’S HOLDING A BIGGER GRUDGE: FRANCESCA AGAINST ELIZABETH OR EDDIE AGAINST RACHEL? ARE YOU SHIPPING JAMES AND ELIZABETH? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE MIDSEASON TRAILER?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]