Welcome to Season 9 of Below Deck! If it seems like we just closed out a season of Below Deck Mediterranean, well, it’s because we did. Just last week. That’s the beauty of the franchise — as one iteration docks, another sets sail. And for the flagship series’ new season, we’re back in the Caribbean with a few familiar faces, a familiar boat, and one major surprise waiting for us.
We’re welcomed to St. Kitts by Eddie Lucas, who’s back on board for a fifth season. This time, though, he’s Eddie 3.0, having been promoted to the rank of first officer. Which makes him, officially, Captain Lee Rosbach‘s right-hand man. Except whoops, it’s not the famed Stud of the Sea who greets him as he steps on board MY Seanna. Apparently, Captain Lee has been delayed due to an unspecified medical procedure, so we’re starting the season with Captain Sean Meagher at the helm. Surely this is as jarring for viewers as it is for Eddie. Captain Lee is Below Deck. So seeing another captain on our screens — even it’s just temporary — simply doesn’t sit right. And it doesn’t help when it almost immediately becomes clear that Captain Sean is not going to run this boat like our beloved Captain Lee…
Besides Eddie, we have an almost entirely fresh crew this season. Newcomer Heather Chase is stepping in as chief stew, which is a bit of a surprise considering its the role most likely to carry over from year to year. It makes me wonder why Francesca Rubi isn’t back for a second season. Did fans not respond to her the way Bravo was hoping? Was she deemed not the right fit to succeed the truly irreplaceable Kate Chastain? Either way, Heather seems bright, bubbly, and…is only 25 years old. So she’s definitely the youngest chief stew we’ve ever had on any Below Deck franchise, but she does have five years of experience and comes with the backing of fan favorites Alex Radcliffe and Anastasia Surmava, so let’s give her a chance.
Heather’s interior team is made up of second stew Fraser Olender and third stew Jessica Albert. Immediately, Fraser seems like an absolute treat. We haven’t had another male in the interior since Josiah Carter back in Season 6, and it’s about time. The blonde Brit has only worked on one other boat, but he claims to be the king of detail and shoots judgy eyes over his espresso cup in his confessional, so I’m very much a fan on first impression. Jessica, meanwhile, is jumping back into yachting after spending a sabbatical in Florida caring for her elderly grandparents.
Eddie‘s deck team includes Jake Foulger, who’s giving off swashbuckler vibes (in a good way) with his rakish good looks and mustachioed facial hair; Wes O’Dell, who’s normally a sailboat captain in neighboring St. Thomas; and Rayna Lindsay, who’s the least experienced while proudly representing the ladies on deck. Personally, I love when the departments don’t fall along gendered lines, so I’d say this season’s crew is off to a promising start.
And last but certainly not least, we have Chef Rachel Hargrove returning from last season to take over the galley. Chef Rachel may be rocking a newly red shade of hair this season, but that seems to be the only thing that’s changed. She’s still crass and in your face, and honestly, after how polarizing she was last season, I’m kind of surprised to see her back. Not many crew members get away with telling Captain Lee to “eat my cooter” or walking off the boat four hours before charter and live to tell the tale. Considering how they left off last season, Eddie and Rachel are both more than a little wary of working together again. Could this be a ticking time bomb?
With Rachel, you never know…But we hardly have time to wait and find out, because the first charter starts in less than 24 hours. The chef is more excited for a clean slate with a chief stew who is not named Francesca, and immediately sets clear expectations to avoid the litany of issues she dealt with last year. Clear communication with Heather is going to be her first priority. Demanding there be an organized stew pantry comes in at a close second. Captain Sean calls Rachel, Eddie and Heather together for the very first preference sheet meeting, And surprise, surprise. The first group of guests is a girls trip. This is almost always guaranteed to be a nightmare. High-end pajama parties, here we come!
The next day quickly arrives, and it’s time to kick off the charter season! But first, Captain Sean has to criticize Eddie‘s organization of the laz. Despite Eddie’s insistence that there’s no way to make the area comfortable for the guests, the new captain rearranges all his work until he’s satisfied. Yikes. Red flags are waving giant circles in Eddie’s head. Come back, Captain Lee!
The entourage of women arrive in their best over-the-top resort wear, and the first charter is officially under way. Taking the boat off the dock goes relatively smoothly despite the marina’s topographical challenges (and Captain Sean correcting Eddie‘s ability to surmise 100 feet.) Anchoring in Whitehouse Bay, interior hits a bump when Heather has to ask Fraser to clean up the bar twice after he makes his first chocolate martini. Meanwhile, vibes are…tense between Eddie and Rachel in the galley. So yeah, we’re off to a great start…
The first night is going to be a lot of work. The guests have requested a Caribbean-themed dinner followed by a high-end PJ party. Which means lots of decorations and lots of demands. Oh, and costumes for the crew! However, Heather‘s managerial leadership is called into question when she puts Fraser on double duty doing dinner service and cabin turndowns at the same time. So while Rachel‘s seafood extravaganza looks incredible, the second stew is needlessly bouncing back and forth between serving conch fritters and cleaning bathrooms. His request for help goes unheeded, and he quickly falls behind.
The next morning kicks off with a breakfast of crab Benedict, but things take a turn for the worse when the primary requests Heather come to her cabin. It turns out, in his multi-tasking, Fraser accidentally left a bag of trash on the chaise in the primary’s room. Eek. Not a good look. At all. Particularly for someone who prides himself on never missing a detail. (If you need an example, just look at his bunk.) Heather calls it a “rookie mistake,” and now there’s definitely some tension brewing between the chief stew and her second.
Meanwhile, the guests have requested every yachtie’s favorite off-boat excursion: a beach picnic. For some reason, Captain Sean takes it upon himself to join Eddie, Rayna, and Jake in setting up for the picnic. Which quickly turns into him micromanaging the whole process and obsessing over pillow configurations. However, all of Captain Sean’s requests start piling up and leave the guests restless and impatient back on the boat. Literally to the point that the primary tells Fraser she wants to “shoot some people” while they wait. Yet Captain Sean insists they push the itinerary back another 30 minutes to perfect the beach set-up. As the new captain calls Eddie’s for the millionth time on the radio, the episode ends and we’re treated to the season supertease. When is Captain Lee coming back again?
TELL US – WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE NEW CREW? HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE CAPTAIN SEAN TO CAPTAIN LEE? ARE YOU SURPRISED RACHEL IS BACK FOR ANOTHER SEASON? WHOSE SIDE WERE YOU ON IN THE INTERIOR TIFF: HEATHER OR FRASER?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]