Reality Bites: Below Deck
White, uptight, and outta sight.
Human beings occasionally do things that are bad for them. Maybe you're a diabetic and you find yourself eating a doughnut, or you're recovering from lung cancer and end up buying a pack of Marlboros. Recovered alcoholics sometimes relapse, and women still date guys with "tribal" tattoos. Some of us can't help making poor decisions.
With me, it's watching Bravo.
Despite serving as the cultural equivalent of a dirty bomb for the last ten years, I find myself returning to the home of the Real Housewives and various Kardashian-related atrocities precisely because the network provides such fertile ground to plow for "Reality Bites." So when I saw there was a new show about young folks working on a private charter boat, I made swift preparations. Namely, head-butting a wall to concuss myself and purchasing several quarts of finest malt liquor from the corner Shell station.
Below Deck's tagline might as well be, "Eight strangers, picked to live on a yacht." With the exception of the captain (more on him later) and his senior staff (who apparently - and wisely - told Bravo's camera dudes to piss off), the crew are as ethnically homogenous as your average Disney Channel sitcom. All serve aboard the Honor, a so-called "mega yacht" that cruises the Caribbean with wealthy passengers who are douchey enough to make you wish there were still pirates prowling the Spanish Main.
Sam (3rd Steward) is a former engineer whose only yachting experience consists of working on her parents' catamaran. She rebelled against the office life, which turns out to be a common theme. She figures to be a central character of the show, though all I can think of is how much she reminds me of Magic Mike's Cody Horn. That's not necessarily a good thing. Sam shares a room with CJ (2nd Engineer), who describes his relationship with his girlfriend as "open" when he's at sea. I wonder where this is going.
Kat (2nd Steward) is a good time Charleena who chafes at Captain Lee's "no drinking while on charter" rule. I feel the same way about my office prohibiting desk flasks. Adrienne, an eight-year vet, is on her first tour as "Chief Stew" and probably her 28th year of a massive inferiority complex.
I'm not really familiar with the luxury charter cruise industry, where trips can run $100-250,000 per week. My sole cruise experience was aboard a Carnival ship, and a reality show about that crew would've consisted overwhelmingly of Romanians complaining about the dollar-to-Euro exchange rate.
The first group of guests are a quartet of fa-laming fashion photographers, led by one Johnny Eyelash (yes, really) on their way to St. Bart's to pick up one of their models. Sam the rookie is a big hit, and Adrienne cannot stand it, going so far as to model black bikini bottoms for Johnny and company before they repair below decks to do some blow.
The quartet's drug use might have been nothing buy idle speculation on my part (and reinforced by the group wiping their noses and acting like giddy idiots), if not for Kat's discovery of their stash. She agonizes about turning them in, likely because she's annoyed at being unable to get drunk herself (I'm convinced she works on cruise ships because she wants to fulfill a personal quest to vomit on every Caribbean capital), while Eddie (1st Deckhand) is stuck babysitting a drunk Johnny into the wee hours, coming perilously close to breaking another of Captain Lee's rules: no socializing with the guests.
There's really no good answer to that question.
Kat tells Adrienne about the coke, who in turn tells Captain Lee, who turns the boat around. Look, I admire the man's efforts to keep the fashion industry drug-free (I was almost able to type that with a straight face), but there are two reasons people pay up to a quarter of a mil to travel somewhere instead of flying coach on Lesser Antilles Airlines: 1) because they can, and 2) so they can do drugs. If Bravo's cameras aren't there, no one - Kat the Drunk included -- gives a microshit.
What's even more hilarious is how the entire crew avoids telling Johnny and company anything about why they're suddenly going in the opposite direction, leading him to christen the Honor the "land of no information." That is, until Captain Lee drops the bomb and kicks the filthy druggies off his boat.
DEBRIEFING: everyone congratulates Kat on her brave stance against rich guys doing cocaine. Everyone except Ben (chef, nine year veteran), that is, who laments the loss of a potential $1K tip, and CJ, who explains how he would've helpfully returned the coke to its rightful owners. Captain Lee will be happy to hear that.
And in what's sure to be a hilarious continuing dynamic, Sam decides to take a nap on shift. CJ tries to cover for her (using the old chestnut: "She's got lady issues"), but the incident comes back up at the crew dinner that night, and Adrienne can't let it go. Everyone seems annoyed with the Chief Stew, while I was hoping for a larger discussion of the issue of using your "monthly friend" as an excuse to slack off. This is why you only make 77 cents to a man's dollar, ladies.
We'll have to wait until later episodes to see things like: Kat and Ben having sex; CJ and Sam having sex; fires in the crew galley; Captain Lee irrationally asking his crew to behave like goddamn professionals, etc. For me, the key takeaway of Below Deck is: the next time I cough up six figures for a luxury cruise, I'll be sure to share my cocaine with the crew first.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events