What’s the saying? As one ship docks, another sets sail? In the Bravoverse, that can only mean one thing: as the mizzen and main are furled on Below Deck Sailing Yacht, it’s time for Season 6 of Below Deck Mediterranean! The good news? We’re back in Croatia! Which longtime fans will remember as the setting for Season 2 — widely regarded as probably the show’s most iconic season ever. (Though this particular recapper is also partial to Season 3’s adventures on the Italian coast…)
The bad news? You may not be happy with some of Bravo’s casting decisions. Because, yes, both Captain Sandy Yawn and Malia White are back. Frankly, it’s just a baffling decision that makes absolutely no sense to me. Especially when you consider how much backlash they received from fans over how terribly they handled all the drama that went down with Hannah Ferrier. On one hand, I never expected Captain Sandy to go anywhere. But why on God’s blue ocean bring Malia back for another season as bosun? If we needed a familiar face to fill the void left by Hannah — and for the record, we do — why not keep Bugsy Drake as chief stew? Or promote Alex Radcliffe and make him bosun? Or better yet, both! Because I’m pretty confident that no one (and I mean no one) was asking for another season of Malia.
But that’s we’ve got, so let’s make the best of it, shall we? Like, at least Malia didn’t come as a package deal with Tom Checketts this year. And we’ve traded The Wellington for the much fancier-named Lady Michelle. Considering last season’s boat may have been cursed by all the bad vibes it endured, it feels nice to have a fresh start in a new, floating home. Plus, besides Malia, there’s an entirely new crew to get to know!
Hannah, Hannah…Katie? The new chief stew filling Hannah’s role this season is Katie Flood. The few things we know about her are that 1) she’s a native New Zealander. 2) She’s a hugger who’s totally not like other chief stews, OK? And 3) she once dated Season 4 deckhand Jack Stirrup, which may say something concerning about her general taste level. It’s clear from his short hair that her relationship with Jack was before his rather ill-fated boatmance with Aesha Scott. What a small world! (In fact, Katie’s the girl Jack got tattooed on his arm after 10 days of knowing her.) Katie’s stews are gorgeous Bahamian pageant princess and second stew Lexi Wilson and third stew Courtney Veale, who’s from Wales.
Meanwhile, Malia‘s choosing not to name a lead deckhand right off the bat, in an attempt to avoid what happened last season. She’s got a trio of newbies to choose from. (Seriously, we really couldn’t get an Alex return this season? Fans loved him.) There’s Italian-born blonde Brit David Pascoe, mustachioed Nicholas Cage lookalike Lloyd Spencer and and South African greenie Mzi “Zee” Dempers. And when I say green, I mean green: this is the very first boat Zee has ever worked on, inspired by two of his older siblings who work in the yachting industry. He’s so new that he basically spends the entire episode adorably putting the wrong uniform on at the wrong time and eagerly taking notes in his little black notebook.
As for the galley this season, we have Chef Mathew Shea, a smile-y, baldheaded Rhode Islander who comes to Lady Michelle with a resume filled with celebrity clientele. Apparently, he’s spent his career cooking for everyone from Hugh Jackman and Robert Murdoch to the family that owns Madison Square Garden. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years spent watching every single iteration of Below Deck, it’s to never trust anyone’s CV on these shows. So we’ll see what he brings to the table. Err, I mean kitchen, before making a judgment call. (Spoiler alert: he seems wonderful, but it does not start out great…)
Once introductions are made, Captain Sandy calls the first all-crew meeting of the season. And proceeds to hammer home her favorite word in the English language: protocol. Don’t think we didn’t catch the reference to prescribed medication being logged and “drugs,” Sandy. But let’s all just pray we don’t suffer through another repeat of last season’s horrendous debacle this year. Or ever again. Or that Courtney‘s hilarious assertion that Lady Michelle reminds her of the Titanic is any sort of harbinger for what’s to come this charter season.
When provisions arrive, two things quickly become clear: Mathew drastically over-ordered by several pallets-worth of food, and the boat has a lot of stairs. Like, a lot. The walk-ins are two floors below the galley, down a winding staircase. And somehow, the chef manages to wrench his knee on one of his dozens of trips up and down. The first preference sheet meeting goes relatively well, however. Except for the fact that the co-primaries are requesting an intimate wedding at sea with Captain Sandy officiating. Plus a 40th birthday party, neon dance party and competing bachelor/bachelorette parties. Nothing like full-blown wedding festivities to kick off the charter season, eh?
With work done for the evening, the whole crew heads to bed to prepare for charter number one the next day. Well, all except Mathew, who spends the whole night stewing in a panicked spiral of anxiety over the coming charter. By the following morning, he’s a nervous wreck. Oh, and that wrenched knee? It’s come back to haunt him. He can hardly walk. Mathew tells Captain Sandy he doesn’t think he can do the charter on a bad leg, and requests to go ashore for an emergency MRI. This is, you know, four hours before the first guests arrive. He hasn’t even cooked a single meal yet, and the chef is already ready to bail. Hugh Jackman would not approve.
To make up for the chef’s injury, Courtney volunteers to act as a sort of sous chef. But no one else on board, including her, has any type of culinary expertise. And because of COVID protocols, bringing in another chef as an emergency replacement isn’t an option. This is bad. Mathew thankfully prepares lunch, but when the guests arrive, he stays on shore to go to the hospital. The crew is officially starting the charter season without a chef on board. When Captain Sandy breaks the news, the guests aren’t exactly understanding about the chef’s injured knee. The primary sarcastically “jokes” that the crew will have to tip them if there’s no chef, so…this is bound to be just lovely.
Both getting off the dock and lunch go smoothly, but the atmosphere on board is just nerve-wracked. Katie makes the first mistake of the season by instructing Courtney to take the obnoxious primary’s suitcase down to the laundry. In reality, the guest merely wanted her dresses steamed and pressed, but they’re already in the wash by the time the interior realizes their error. Oops. Anchoring off the Dalmatian Coast, the view is gorgeous, but there’s still no word from Mathew and no idea who’s actually going to cook the guests’ dinner. In an act of desperation, Sandy enlists a sous chef on a neighboring boat to come help, but it’s up to the crew to make dinner themselves…In the words of Malia, “we’re f–ked.”
Captain Sandy‘s genius idea is to do surf and turf. Because why make one thing you don’t know how to cook when you can double your problems and make two? The crew starts randomly grabbing whatever proteins they see. There are oysters and live lobsters and jokes about getting crabs. Oh, and steak. Good thing Chef Mathew left so many options to choose from! Poor David‘s tasked with learning how to kill all the lobsters via YouTube video. Except scratch serving them, because Duska the sous chef has no idea how to cook them. The poor lobsters died in vain and now David is traumatized.
It’s all hands on deck in the galley, Courtney and Sandy manage to throw together a meal complete with tacky table decor for the guests’ requested neon party. But don’t thank Duska too soon, because it takes one bite for the guests to realize the food is…terrible. The lobster tails look inedible. The oysters are grilled with nothing on them, for some reason. The steak is chewy. Duska doesn’t even know whether to put oil in the pan. As Katie says, “this is not yachting, this is surviving.” And the crew is officially dead in the water.
While Captain Sandy‘s downstairs ushering Duska off the boat, the guests are furious at the poor quality of their first meal. Zee is haphazardly trying to help Lexi with turndowns because the boat is in utter chaos. And the primary (who looks eerily like a Kelly Dodd doppelgänger) is headed in Sandy’s direction and ready to unleash. All together, the guests bombard the captain with their complaints. They didn’t get the neon party they asked for. Dinner was disgusting. Today was not a good day. Sandy recognizes she’s failed, and with that, the premiere is over. But something tells me the drama on the high seas is just getting started…
TELL US – WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE NEW CREW? DO YOU THINK CHEF MATHEW WILL RETURN TO THE BOAT? WAS THIS THE WORST FIRST DAY IN BELOW DECK HISTORY?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]