What to Watch Verdict
The show's lackadaisical structure this season makes watching the show feel less like superyacht escapism and more like actual work.
⛴️ The brief interlude paying tribute to Maureen the magical unicorn offered some levity the show needs more of.
⛴️ Katie's anxieties as chief stew continue to undermine the running of a clear-headed, strong interior team.
This post contains spoilers for Below Deck Mediterranean.
Check out our last review here.
Season 6 of Below Deck Mediterranean has consistently had an unwieldy structure that I think does not serve the show well, and this problem becomes more evident the further viewers get into the season. Although broadly it seems like the show is following earlier season structures of two episodes per charter, there’s just enough slack around that natural arc — starting with the arrival of a new stew, Delaney, at the beginning of “Burning Down The House” — that nothing feels quite conclusive. In short, it feels a lot like a regular job, and that’s not a good thing.
Delaney’s arrival spotlights one of two trends that seem to run recurrent in the resumes of prospective members of a boat crew: that they are either wildly overqualified, or woefully underqualified, for the job for which they’ve been hired. Delaney unfortunately fall into the latter category, although it’s not quite her fault; Captain Sandy brought her aboard knowing that she was primarily experienced as a deck hand, but more or less handed her off to Katie to shore up the ailing stew team. Katie is immediately nervous about her ability to do the job, but enlists Courtney to train her how to do the laundry, a perfect task for the uninitiated which, importantly, will actually help out a whole lot. Meanwhile, they assign her to share a bunk with Mathew, and she happily agrees.
Their latest charter is an all-female group that seems to be pretty well-behaved except for a woman named Danielle who quickly gets a little rowdy, but honestly doesn’t cross any lines in terms of being demanding or inappropriate. Mathew is extremely concerned about the guests’ preference sheets after many of them make very specific and particular requests that contradict one another; but after serving them a family-style lunch he’s pleased to discover that they love, he clumsily burns his hand on a dish that catches fire, quickly undercutting any confidence he may have built earlier. That said, after summoning Sandy to call a doctor to provide medical care, Mathew makes a point of emphasizing that he does not want to leave, and will try to work through his discomfort.
Mathew eventually learns from the physician that he has second degree burns, so he ends up cooking dinner with one hand in a bowl of ice while the deck crew attempts to assist him. But before the crew can breathe a sigh of relief for getting through a difficult charter with grace under pressure, Captain Sandy drops a bombshell: the charter company that owns the boat notifies her that same-sex cabin sharing is absolutely prohibited. What this means for Katie is that she will have to rearrange the sleeping arrangements for literally everyone on the crew, which proves to be a challenge too big for her to handle, at least emotionally.
This is kind of where the show inadvertently shines a light on the different personalities of managers, and the way those personalities are suited — or aren’t — for leadership roles. Katie is very good at her job, but she is extremely uncomfortable with conflict, and will avoid confrontation at all costs; but she also will project her own anxieties onto her subordinates, and then act upon them to relieve her stress whether or not they’ve actually been manifested in their behavior. And so, even after asking Delaney about how she’s doing as their resident laundry jockey, and Delaney shouldering the job with cheer (or at least ambivalence), Katie becomes convinced that her new stew is miserable, and it’s too much trouble to shuffle all of the bedding arrangements, and she therefore must let Delaney go.
If it tells you how unhealthily Katie carries this, she literally throws up while contemplating this fateful decision. But she also decides just to tell Delaney of her decision halfway through the charter, a bonehead move that certainly won’t inspire a subordinate to work harder. To everyone’s benefit, Delaney rightfully observes that it seems unfair for Katie to decide to let her go based on the interpretation that she is unhappy, despite telling Katie that she is perfectly happy, even if it means that the bunk situation will be slightly annoying down the line. But one of the virtues of Katie’s management style is that she backs down easily, so when Delaney prevails in their discussion, it more or less restores the original status quo, allowing everyone to get through the charter. Well, until a massive storm descends upon the boat, forcing the deck crew to re-drop the anchor, while Captain Sandy must decide if it’s safe to stay out on the open water…
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.