The producers either deserve a raise or a punishment for trying to elucidate the conflicts that erupt between crew members on this episode of the show.
- 🚢 Mathew time-bomb temper finally blows up, but it's remarkable how he's somehow less toxic to the team's cohesiveness.
- 🚢 The deck crew under Malia has cultivated a surprisingly heathy boys club this season, where David, Mzi and Lloyd are all appealingly thoughtful and compassionate.
- 🚢 Lexi seems like an accomplished person with some profound feelings of inadequacy that are probably not best explored in the powder keg of the charter season.
- 🚢 God love David for his peacemaking efforts, but the only thing more poorly timed than his overture to Malia is his attempt to comfort her in a fight where she clearly doesn't feel bad.
This post contains spoilers for Below Deck Mediterranean.
Check out our last review here.
With “Ship Happens,” it’s hard to know if the editors and sound engineers on Below Deck Mediterranean should receive a raise or some form of punishment. More happens in what appears to be an extremely short time frame on this episode than any other this season, perhaps in the show’s history, and almost none of it makes sense.
The episode opens as Malia, Mzi and the deck crew attempts to dock the ship at night while charter guest Roy Orbison Jr. drunkenly threatens to dive into the water. A line snaps in the process, but Mzi rebounds quickly, much to Malia’s admiration; she’s a good leader to the deck team, especially for Mzi, whose ability outpaces his confidence and requires some nurturing. Thankfully, Orbison’s intoxicated carousing marks the last charter-related incident, and the crew’s careful managing of the guests’ needs earns them a $21,000 tip, $1,750 each.
But if one overgrown baby was sufficiently cared for, another prepares to throw a tantrum: chef Mathew, already sensitive about any and every perceived slight, spirals out after Captain Sandy reminds him of his obligation to feed the crew after the charter is finished, a task he considers unfair and overbearing as he prepares the galley for the next charter. David affably assumes the role of peacemaker, while Malia takes a slightly more unforgiving approach by reminding him that feeding the crew — even on a “day off” — is indeed his responsibility. Nevertheless, the crew successfully turns over the boat for their next guests, and plan for a group dinner in Sibenik that evening.
After two charters, the deck crew has bonded rapidly, especially David, Lloyd and Mzi, all of whom seem like good-natured team players, but also work quickly and respectfully for Malia. But the interior crew — and more specifically, Lexi and to a lesser extent chief stew Katie — seem to be ignoring larger problems brewing beneath the surface of their thus-far playfully contentious work. Specifically, Lexi and Mathew fell at odds with one another almost immediately, but Lexi’s attitudes about what Mathew, Katie and the rest of the crew should and should not be doing, and how they should or shouldn’t do it, sets the rest of the episode up perfectly for the disastrous confrontations that unfold. Moreover, Katie’s strengths seem to fall more heavily in organization and coordination than personality management, and while she isn’t to blame for these developing conflicts, she either didn’t know or didn’t do enough to resolve them thus far.
And so, prior to going out for the night, Courtney has a mini breakdown during one of her interviews with the producers about her father, who has Alzheimer’s and she fears will soon start deteriorating to the point where he cannot recognize or remember others. Once they arrive at the restaurant, Mathew administers some self-care in the form of way too much alcohol, prompting a stream-of-consciousness rant about his pedigree, his reputation, his disposition, and his various sexual experiences (and current frustrations). Despite David’s attempts to once again calm him down, Mathew persists — to the point that it feels like there’s a shot of every other member of the team telling him in no uncertain terms to shut up. (This is where the events of the night begin to spiral out of control, and become hard to follow for the audience.)
After Mathew storms out, the rest of the crew resumes their celebration, leading Mzi to give Courtney a lapdance in return for the one she gave him on his birthday. Precisely how this leads everyone to start calling and facetiming their families is unclear, but a lot of unfiltered feelings are unleashed in the process, prompting Courtney and Lexi to hole up in a bathroom to commiserate about their respective losses — Courtney’s father’s illness, and Lexi’s father’s death — while the rest of the crew settles the check. This somehow prompts a confrontation between Lexi and Malia, as much to Malia’s surprise as anyone’s, and they decide to return to the boat for a group hangout in Lady Michelle’s hot tub. In the meantime, Mathew gathers his belongings on the boat, starts smashing cameras, and enlists a member of engineering to help exit the boat, spewing expletives all the way.
On the ride back to the boat, Mzi gets sentimental about his birth parents while Lexi and Courtney reveal their sad family histories to Katie, which she did not know. In other words, everyone seems primed for a big fight with one another where everyone involved is emotional about something else entirely. Although she may lack the delicacy (and probably sobriety) to express herself in the moment, Malia attempts to address their tiff at dinner, but Lexi, repeatedly calling herself “Satan,” rebuffs her, discusses the education and affluence that she seems to think makes her better than her fellow crew mates, and heads out to the jacuzzi.
A game of truth or dare unexpectedly escalates — yes, more than everything already has — when Courtney and Lexi grope Lloyd, who himself gets emotional, especially after Lexi calls him “a pussy.” After David and Mzi see to Lloyd, David tragically chooses this moment to shoot his shot with Malia, asking if she might be interested in pursuing something romantically. More or less before she can adequately consider his offer, and quite frankly, much to his benefit, Lexi basically explodes on David, on Malia, and anyone else who she decides is insufficiently deferential to what she considers her pedigree, her $8,000 high-rise condo, and her prospects. Malia eventually leaves to find Katie and encourages her to address her second stew’s hostility and insubordination; when Lexi tells her to “fuck off” while chewing out Malia, Katie finally snaps and instructs her to leave, go to bed, stop instigating problems. At this moment, Malia chooses not to be helpful, announcing she is draining the jacuzzi to protect Lexi from drowning after passing out, but also, it’s easy to understand both why she might be genuinely concerned about her colleague’s well-being, and unwilling to act upon that concern in a less petty manner.
Surely that was the end of it, though, right? Not a chance. David tries to reassure Malia before the deck crew gathers in the crew mess to decompress and admittedly ask “what the fuck just happened?” This of course is when Lexi chooses to roll through, and once again start attacking David, still for no discernible reason that a viewer can identify. It’s Mzi who stands up for his fellow crew members, trying to reason with Lexi long after that’s remotely possible; but when she lunges at him, David steps in between them to stop what may or may not turn into an actual physical fight.
Again, it’s hard to know if this episode evidences the producers’ extraordinary efforts to delineate these nonsensical conflicts and make them comprehensible, or their absolute failure to lay this bag of snakes out straight. What will be interesting is to see when Captain Sandy learns about Mathew’s departure and Lexi’s pugilistic disposition, what she does about them as the season continues. But one way or another, the thing that Below Deck Mediterranean needs now is a conflict-resolution specialist, possibly a fleet of therapists, and more than ever, a multi-channel sound mixer to separate all of these conversations out from one another.
Todd Gilchrist is a Los Angeles-based film critic and entertainment journalist with more than 20 years’ experience for dozens of print and online outlets, including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly and Fangoria. An obsessive soundtrack collector, sneaker aficionado and member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Todd currently lives in Silverlake, California with his amazing wife Julie, two cats Beatrix and Biscuit, and several thousand books, vinyl records and Blu-rays.
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