Below Deck Down Under Chief Stew Aesha Scott and Captain Jason Chambers

‘Below Deck Down Under’ Handled a Horrible Situation With Extreme Grace

** Content warning: Sexual assault is discussed below.**

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If you’re not familiar with the Below Deck franchise on Bravo, it has a very simple formula: There is a large yacht available for charters of mega-rich people who come on board for a quick trip and then leave. In between charters, the crew typically cuts loose, gets drunk, and has fun because this is a Bravo show, after all.

The cast of the show is also the crew of the yacht and consists of the interior stewards, who are typically female, who manage every aspect of a guest’s comfort during their charter and are responsible for keeping the interior of the yacht clean, and the exterior crew who are typically male, and are responsible for keeping the boat in working order and the outside clean. This is also a chef, who cooks for both the guests and the crew; and the captain, who is everyone’s boss and is responsible for everything on the boat. The captain rarely, if ever, goes out and drinks with the rest of the crew. The entire crew sleeps on board the yacht in rooms that are extremely small, two to a room, on stacked bunk beds. The only exception is the captain, who has their own quarters.

The entire show is based on the premise that the viewer is getting a slice-of-life view into the inner workings of a yacht charter crew and thus is predicated on the idea that the production staff are never seen or heard from. This is how Bravo reality shows operate in general. The cast doesn’t break the fourth wall and acknowledge they are filming a TV show, and the production similarly rarely steps in. Naturally, sometimes it happens and makes it into the show in a Housewife franchise or Vanderpump Rules episode, but for Below Deck, it doesn’t really happen. That is, not until the latest episode for the Australian iteration, Down Under, and for horrifying reasons.

In the episode, interior stew Margot Sisson had gotten drunk during a night out and gone to sleep it off in her room. Her manager, Cheif Stew Aesha Scott had helped her get to her room safely and intended to stay with her in order to keep her safe, but had to leave when the power went out on the yacht. Exterior crew member Luke Jones, who had also been drinking, decided to go to Sisson’s room and got into her bed while he was naked.

What was shown in the episode was the production crew immediately stepping in to get Jones out of Sisson’s room, and Jones refusing, at one point slamming the door in front of the production crew multiple times in order to be alone in Sisson’s room with her, telling the production to “f*** off.” He was finally escorted to his own room. Scott saw production escorting Jones away, alerted Sisson to Jones’ actions, and confirmed Sisson did not give Jones consent to be in her room. Sisson at one point remarks, “Oh my God. Ew, he was naked?” during the conversation. Scott stays with Sisson for a bit and then goes to wake up the Captain, Jason Chambers, to alert him of the incident on board.

Chambers immediately decides to remove Jones from the boat, insisting he stay in a hotel overnight. The following morning, Jones is fired, and the crew does not have to see him, saving Sisson from a horrendous interaction.

If you thought it couldn’t get worse from here, I regret to inform you the situation becomes more of a dumpster fire when interior crew member Laura Bileskalne is upset over Jones’ dismissal the following day and tells Sisson she would have welcomed Jones climbing into her bed, naked, without consent and that he was probably “only joking” and that Jones is a “sexual person.” If your skin isn’t crawling yet, it gets even worse, if that’s possible. Bileskalne is shown repeatedly throughout the episode having a problem with consent as well, consistently ignoring being told no by crewmember Adam Kodra, trying to climb into his bed with him the same evening Sissons’ assault took place, and forcing production to break the fourth wall and get her out of Kodra’s room as well.

Bileskalne is thankfully fired by Chambers at the end of the episode for behaving in such an egregious and insensitive manner towards her crewmate and she is escorted off the ship.

On the one hand, this was a horrific hour of reality TV. On the other hand, the way Jones’ actions towards Sisson were handled was an example of exactly what to do in a dangerous, awful situation. They immediately intervened when Jones began to act dangerous, removed him from the yacht, fired him the following day when he was sober enough to comprehend he was being fired, and insisted on a healthy, supportive environment for Sisson, going so far as to fire Bileskalne for failing to ensure that.

As someone who has watched Bravo reality shows for a very long time, I’m surprised. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of reality TV that dealt with sexual assault in such a direct yet supportive manner.

The following day after the assault, Sisson is repeatedly checked in on and given support from the crew, in particular, the female members. At one point, she remarks to Scott and Chef Tzarina Mace-Ralph about how stupid she feels over the incident because she had been drunk. Mace-Ralph voices what every woman knows to be true: that Jones is the one who should feel stupid and that “women should be able to be red-hot drunk if they want to be. We should be able to stand naked in a room and not have anyone do anything to us. You know, you were allowed to be drunk, you were allowed to be. It’s the other person’s problem.” Scott has spoken on camera before about her own sexual assault that happened after a night of drinking, remarking previously, “You should be able to get wasted and get home safe.” This is absolutely correct.

To see the two women band around Sisson and offer her unwavering support was phenomenal. The juxtaposition between Scott and Mace-Ralph with Bileskalne’s own egregious behavior only illustrates the complete lack of empathy Bileskalne had towards Sisson.

Additionally, Chambers, at one point, tells the remaining crew members that a closed door is a boundary that needs to be respected, “That door is not to be opened unless it’s consensual. To walk into someone else’s room without consent, indecent, is my limit” insisting that people’s rooms are “safety zones.”

What happened on this episode was horrendous, but the way Sisson was treated by nearly everyone was tremendous. I’m not so naive to think that this will change anything overnight, but in all my decades of watching reality TV, I’ve never seen an episode tackle this subject matter head-on and with unwavering compassion and support for the woman who was assaulted and a clear black-and-white take on consent. It’s my hope that Below Deck Down Under has just provided the blueprint for all reality shows going forward if a situation like this occurs again. Everyone has the right to have fun and expect not to be taken advantage of, just like everyone has the right to a safe workplace where their consent is held in high regard.

(Featured image: Mark Rogers/Bravo)


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Author
Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and reality TV in particular for six years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She is the co-host of the popular Bravo trivia podcast Bravo Replay, and her favorite Bravolebrity is Kate Chastain, and not because they have the same first name, but it helps.