Is this really necessary? I have to admit that was my first thought as I sat down for the Below Deck Season 9 Reunion. It’s sort of how I always feel about a one-part reunion. How much can there really be worth talking about? Especially if we can fit it all into 44 minutes. And I wonder if Bravo’s feeling the same way. Because honestly, the network seems to be basically phoning the reunion in at this point. There was no trailer for it. No promotion of any kind. We didn’t even get the usual reunion look rundown ahead of it airing.
And yet, the gang’s (mostly) all here, beaming into the Clubhouse in their tiny Brady Bunch squares. Virtual reunions are thankfully a thing of the past when it comes to Housewives, but it seems they’re the new norm for the Below Deck franchise. Guess production decided it was easier (and cheaper) to trust that each cast member had a reliable wifi connection rather than fly them all to New York from all over the world, build a set, and everything else. Disappointingly, Andy Cohen‘s not even dressed in a slightly nautical-themed, striped sweater this time!
The first thing Andy wants to discuss are the season’s boatmances, throuples and first-ever boy-on-boy make outs. But considering Jake Foulger, whose mustache was integral to 90 percent of the trysts, isn’t in attendance, the topic is a little dead in the water. Everyone seems to agree that the lead deckhand’s off-camera engagement wasn’t for anything but a green card which makes the debate over fidelity and monogamy pretty much null and void. Fraser Olender‘s happy to report that he and Jake are still good friends, but slyly dodges a cheeky question about whether they ever ended up hooking up after the charter season wrapped. And Wes O’Dell sweetly chalks up his lack of game with Jessica Albert to wanting to make sure a kiss would be consensual.
Third Stew Blues
Time to talk about the drama in the interior. And a lot of that swirled around Jess. The third stew walking out midseason caused the majority of the chaos within the department. And now Jess is blaming her misery during filming on having anxiety with all the cameras being around. She claims she lost 15 pounds from the time she stepped aboard M/Y Seanna to the day she quit. And also points the finger at Heather Chase for setting her up to fail for putting her on service. Which is…weird because service is a key part of a stew’s job? Does Jess know that? But these days she’s left yachting, opting instead to work in sales and catering at a beach resort in her beloved southwestern Florida.
Kaylee Milligan also makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance for the crew to discuss the tension surrounding her arrival on the boat. In retrospect, Fraser recognizes that he was simply feeling out of the loop about Jess‘ replacement. Which on a team of two means that Heather was making the decision without even trying to consult or discuss with him. And he gets an apology out of her for that, admitting she should have come to him about bringing her bestie on board much sooner. OK, bye Kaylee!
A Galley Well Done
If anyone was Captain Lee Rosbach‘s favorite this season, it was Rachel Hargrove. And the all-star chef is treated to her very own package that covers everything from annoying guest requests and blended foods to all the magic she cooked up in the galley. Lee’s always quick to sing Rachel’s praises, especially considering how well she redeemed herself from last season. But the rest of the crew unanimously agrees that she’s by and large the most talented yacht chef they’ve ever worked with.
Now, that’s not to say Rachel was without her share of challenges this season. Despite one guest’s idiotic preference sheet demand, the outspoken chef is here to educate the masses that fish and shellfish mean completely different things in the culinary space. I mean, I don’t even eat seafood and I know that. She also forces the crew to relive the stomach-churning memories of the primary whose jaw was wired shut and required all of her food be served through a straw. Out of everything she blended up that charter, Rachel counts pureed oysters as the worst of the worst.
Debacles on Deck
Out of all the departments, however, no one struggled this season as much as the deck team. And when asked by Andy to point the finger, Captain Lee lays the blame on himself. Sure it was a hard transition for Eddie Lucas to jump from bosun to first officer. And Jake may have gotten a bit ahead of himself when he was first named lead deckhand. But ultimately the captain claims it was his responsibility to help solve the litany of organizational and common sense problems that plagued his deck crew. Considering he’s invested so much in Eddie, he’s not about to throw the future captain out to sea.
Interestingly, Rayna Lindsey‘s constant eye-rolling is addressed. But her feet aren’t really held to the fire over any of the problems she caused within the team. I personally would’ve liked to hear some explanation for all the tantrums and emotional breakdowns over being complimented and given any kind of responsibility. Later during the reunion, the junior stew says she has nothing but respect for Eddie, but it certainly didn’t seem that way most of the time she was at work.
Words That Should Never Be Said
Finally, it’s time to talk about the controversy no one really wants to discuss. The the never-ending n-word feud between Rayna and Heather. And since it hung over most of the season, Bravo dedicates a full 14 minutes of the reunion to the topic. Rayna mostly reiterates things she’s said previously on Watch What Happens Live. That she accepted Heather’s initial apology because she wanted to co-exist cordially in the workspace. And that she was hyper-conscious of falling into the trope of the angry Black woman in front of the cameras.
But then Rayna decides to drag a whole other slur into the conversation. She claims Eddie called her out for using the f-word multiple times while drunk in one of their heart-to-hearts on deck. The deckhand vehemently denies every saying such a thing. And though Andy plays the unseen footage of Eddie bringing it up, production couldn’t corroborate his claim after combing through the footage. In fact, cameras only caught the gay slur being used once, and decided not to air it. Lee also adds to the conversation by revealing that there was a full-scale investigation among the yacht crew and production about the whole n-word debacle, and that everyone just needs to move forward and learn from the gross moment.
One thing that hasn’t been resolved is Wes‘ hurt feelings over Rayna calling him “white” and “not Black” for disagreeing with her during her final confrontation with Heather. Poor Wes shrugs it off, saying he get accusations like that all the time for being mixed race. And infuriatingly, Rayna isn’t held accountable at all for it. Wes says he would rather talk privately off-camera, but Rayna doesn’t even offer so much as a simple “I’m sorry” for turning so viciously on her ally. Andy eventually gives the final word to both Heather and Rayna to put the issue to rest. And while Heather once again sincerely apologizes and Rayna accepts it, do we really believe her at this point?
Closing out the reunion, Captain Lee gives his gold star to Wes for having the best work ethic among the crew. And Fraser reveals he’s now working as a chief stew. So hey Bravo, maybe bring him back next season as the first male chief stew in Below Deck history? Just think about it.
TELL US – DID THIS SEASON NEED A REUNION? DO YOU BELIEVE JESS WAS MISERABLE BECAUSE OF THE CAMERAS? WAS LEE TO BLAME FOR THE DECK TEAM’S ISSUES? SHOULD RAYNA HAVE BEEN HELD MORE ACCOUNTABLE FOR HER TREATMENT OF WES? WHO DO YOU WANT TO RETURN NEXT SEASON?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]