Even if the show's producers actively cultivate drama with demanding guests, the new season kicks off with plenty of obstacles no one could have anticipated.
- ⛴️ While personality conflicts are already on the horizon, everyone seems likable so far — among the crew, anyway.
- ⛴️ Watching Mathew express his anxieties (or not express them) and Sandy find solutions feels like a study in workplace conflict resolution.
- ⛴️ It remains unclear how much drama the producers cultivate by enlisting terrible guests, but the group on the first charter crew is kinda awful.
This post contains spoilers for Below Deck Mediterranean.
If viewers experience a love-hate relationship with virtually all reality television, Below Deck and its spinoffs, Below Deck Sailing Yacht and Below Deck Mediterranean at least offer enough different dynamics to make them easy to love. First, there’s the locales, which cover an indefatigable series of beautiful landscapes that audiences wish they were visiting; then there’s the luxury of the vessels, which even at their smallest are fancier than anything ordinary mortals will get to sail on; and then there’s the wish fulfillment of being waited on hand and foot by a crew that will do anything possible to meet your every need, from food to watersports to the most elaborate and idiotic party ideas imaginable. Oh, and then there’s the soapy melodrama, the (literal) upstairs-downstairs conflict between demanding guests and harried blue-collar staff, the juxtaposition between deck hands and galley stewards, and inevitably, the personality conflicts and copious amounts of alcohol that exacerbate weeks of isolation in too-cramped quarters.
Season 5 of Below Deck Mediterranean offered all of this and more, including a mercurial chef and several misguided boatmances (both of which there almost always are), even before the creeping threat of Covid scuttled the end of Below Deck Season 8. Season 6 of Below Deck Med opens with Captain Sandy trying to kickstart the yachting industry in the looming shadow of the pandemic, bringing back Malia as Bosun but without Tom, the cranky chef she had to manage both personally and professionally. In his place is Mathew, a Rhode Island native who initially seems easy to get along with but quickly becomes the problem child after ordering too many provisions for the first charter and then injuring his knee while climbing the many staircases of the Lady Michelle, a 180-foot yacht that the crew will call home for the next several weeks. While Mathew’s disposition is much kinder than many of his predecessors, he simultaneously faces a crippling bout of anxiety while trying to assess his injury, leading to some quick thinking from Sandy and the crew that unfortunately does not meet the guests’ needs.
Kiwi Katie is the season’s Chief Stew, and it remains to be seen if her clear-eyed assessment of her leadership style will prove accurate, though as she and her team prepare the interior for their first charter, everyone seems to be getting along. Nevertheless, her subordinate Lexi, a former beauty queen from the Bahamas, admits that she prefer to be the one receiving drinks than taking orders for them. Meanwhile, Courtney, from Wales, cheerfully calls herself “queen of laundry,” a designation that may earn her more time washing clothes and linens than she wants. Working beneath Malia, there’s David, Lloyd and Mzi, whom she declines to rank until she sees them in action; Mzi is the resident greenie, with limited experience on a boat as big as the Lady Michelle, but the fact that he carries a notebook in hand to learn process and routines endears him to Malia, who four years earlier was the inexperienced crew member, again working for Sandy, so she’s excited to pass along her knowledge of super-yachting.
Docking for the season in Sibenik, Croatia, Sandy and the crew adjust readily to Covid protocols, and make a fresh start obeying the Number One rule on all iterations of Below Deck: no drinking while on charter. But after Mathew spends a sleepless night nursing his knee and worrying about whether or not he’s prepared for the first charter, he approaches Sandy to request an MRI. Their exchange highlights one of the other interesting elements of this show, which is, it regularly prompts the question, how would you handle this sort of interpersonal conflict? It’s slightly too early in the season to know anyone well except for Sandy and Malia, but if you were injured while the rest of the crew was depending on you, what would you do? And if you truly felt like you couldn’t do your job, how would you articulate that to your captain (or boss) with just hours before guests were set to arrive? It sounds comical to suggest, but this show feels sorta uniquely instructional in watching these workplace issues and learning how to resolve them — and somewhat predictably, how not to resolve them. By comparison, it feels like other shows are driven by the engine of the cast’s personalities, and inevitably this one is as well, but so much of the drama is concentrated because the entire location in the “workplace,” so it becomes more important than whoever might be ailing, or just an asshole, in the moment.
Speaking of “assholes,” there are of course the guests, who it seems reasonable to believe that the show’s producers cast and possibly encourage to be demanding and unpleasant. It’s by far the most consistent thread throughout all of the different series and, of course, different crews are better than others at handling the attitude and entitlement of the invariably extremely wealthy people who can book a luxury yacht for several days in a foreign country and expect to have every need met. For Charter Number One, it’s two couples, co-First Charter Guests Terez and Lee and Clint and Karry, the latter of whom wants to hold a wedding ceremony with their closest friends after postponing due to the pandemic. They are understandably disappointed to learn that their first day of charter will be without a chef, forcing the crew to wrangle a surf and turf dinner that none know how to make, even with the help of a sous chef from a neighboring yacht; but the dressing down that they give to Sandy after their dinner is terrible seems excessive given that they know the circumstances under which the crew of the Lady Michelle labors.
With no signs of whether or not Mathew will return — and in fact, Sandy’s expectation that he won’t — the first charter looks to be a rough start to the season. But the one thing that the crew of this ship does better than virtually any other (no matter who’s a part of it) is pull it together and keep trying, for their tip if not for the drama that it delivers to the show. And with a wedding ceremony set for the final day of the guests’ charter, drama feels like an absolute and irresistible guarantee.
Get the latest updates, reviews and unmissable series to watch and more!
Thank you for signing up to Whattowatch. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.