What to Watch Verdict
Some lovely moments of humanity between the crew offset increasingly obvious realizations that some crew members — or one in particular — was not cut out for charter life.
Sandy's kindness to Lloyd reveals her true character, which has sometimes been obscured this season by erratic behavior
Despite being forced to participate in a "talent show" for their guests, the crew proves that it has some unique gifts
Katie's continued insistence she stands by her decision to go into the final charter one stew down seems like a good cause for reflection as a team leader
After a series of charters where the guests were entirely too appreciative and undemanding, the crew of the Lady Michelle ends its charter season with a group that tests their stamina and resilience. Katie chose to finish the season a stew down, and at the beginning of “Sleepless in Croatia,” Lloyd leaves the boat to get checked out by a doctor after displaying some distressing behavior in the previous episode. Sandy gathers the remaining crew members for a pep talk, but Malia is holding onto some feelings about her interior counterpart sending the cheerful if not entirely competent Delaney away.
Jemele and Ian are the primary guests, and while they get settled in Mzi and Courtney try to rally for the charter. Courtney is tasked with steaming the guests’ clothes — and Ian informs her “there’s a lot” — while the deck crew pitches in wherever possible. There’s something encouraging about watching David let go of his frustrations after the previous charter and step up to help Malia in exactly the way that she characterizes his aptitude and role within the team. Unfortunately, when chef Mathew serves family-style lunch as the guests’ first meal, they respond negatively, saying that his fish is bland.
While Katie attempts to figure out how to tell Mathew that the guests are unhappy with his food, Sandy receives a call from Lloyd’s physician, who informs her that he had a panic attack and nothing more, but should rest more before returning to the boat. Subsequently, Lloyd convalesces on shore while Mathew begins to implode, even as he steels himself for the dinner meant to celebrate Jemele and Ian’s anniversary.
Thankfully, when Mathew serves filet mignon with lobster, they love it — as much as anything because it’s the same meal they ate at their wedding, but at this point the crew has to take its victories wherever possible. But as the chef ends his night with ramping anxiety about the next day’s meals, Katie is still taking care of the evening’s drinks, and ends up staying up until after 4:00 a.m. while the guests play cards and hang out.
When a few of the guests rise much earlier than expected given their late night, thankfully Malia is there to help with coffees until Katie can resume her role as chief stew. As Lloyd returns to the boat, rain begins to fall, signaling another long day for Katie since the guests will have to stay inside for most of it. She does however get a break later when the guests decide to hit golf balls off the bow of the boat; they invite Mzi to join them in a spirited little competition, and it turns out he has a family pedigree and lots of personal experience on the links.
Not long after Lloyd resumes his duties on the boat, Sandy takes him aside briefly and tries to assuage some of the concerns that led to his panic attack, eventually offering her number in case he ever needs anything. On the other side of the ship, Katie begins to suspect that the guests are testing her as they order wave after wave of drinks with increasingly complicated ingredients, and decides to use the jolt of rebellious energy she gets from the challenge to fight through the afternoon. Of course, that’s before the guests request that the crew compete in a talent show where she joins Courtney to perform a rap about the Lady Michelle.
As a person without the resources to ever charter a boat like the ones on Below Deck, it’s almost incomprehensible to think it would be appropriate to demand that a crew perform for my amusement — and Malia rightfully points out in an interview that they are not there in that capacity. Nevertheless, Lloyd emcees a successful talent show, which Katie and Courtney win with their rap, although the recognition comes as little comfort since they still have to serve dinner later and provide the guests with drinks until who knows when in the morning.
Sandy joins the guests for dinner and loves the food, which features a tuna sashimi starter and chicken Milanese as the main course. One of the guests rejects the greens that accompany the chicken because they taste like beets, or perhaps have been in the vicinity of beets, and Sandy summons Mathew to explain where they came from; he reassures the guests that the greens are not beet-related, but later Googles the leafy greens he served and discovers that they were from the beet family, if distantly.
Even though the guests were placated by his explanation, Mathew proceeds to beat himself up about his minor failures, while Captain Sandy tries to avoid a further breakdown by categorically calling his food great. But just as he is heading off to bed at 12:45 a.m., the guests ask for a snack — “whatever they have back there” — so Katie takes it upon herself to prepare a plate of chips and other snack foods and let Mathew sleep. She once again goes to bed at 4:00 a.m.
The following morning, Mathew is still sulking about the mild criticism he received, and his enthusiasm does not build when the guests order a complicated breakfast. He further seems to slide into self-doubt when he has trouble with the eggs, whose yolks repeatedly break. But with one more day of the charter remaining that includes a beachside picnic, Katie rapidly reaches a crossroads on how to handle her mercurial chef, keep the guests happy and end the season on a positive note.
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.