Quarantined, Below Deck

How "Below Deck" became my favorite quarantine show, as well as the best workplace drama.

“How has it been learning how to speak French?”

God, I wish someone asked me that question. Instead, that was the question I asked one of my friends that actually picked up new hobbies and activities during quarantine. I read an article a few months ago that focused on everyone that said they were going to spend the quarantine learning a new language, learning how to play the guitar, learning how to bake a banana bread from scratch (not from a box that had been sitting in the cupboard since 2018). The people in the article didn’t actually do any of those things. The Rosetta Stone box is sitting on the shelf, the guitar is collecting dust in the shelf, and the banana bread that was baked absolutely came from the box. The subjects of the article just never got to the things that they wanted to do. Instead, they were binge-watching television and basically doing anything to comfort themselves during a pandemic that has gone on much longer than we all expected. Well, except for some states, which believe that the pandemic ended last summer.

Finally, I feel seen.” Seeing other people not do anything new during the pandemic was definitely a comfort for me, as my biggest achievement in recent months was figuring out that tequila and cranberry juice actually tastes pretty good together. Despite not learning how to play the ukulele, I was able to watch the shows that dominated all cultural conversation. Yes, I watched Tiger King during the first two weeks of quarantine, when we didn’t know what the hell was happening in the country and we had no choice but to watch Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin stomp around their animal parks wearing Limited Too’s finest animal print. But, the show that really caught my attention during quarantine was a true Bravo gem- Below Deck.

Yes, Below Deck. You might have seen it because Bravo seemingly airs it every day, while sometimes squeezing in one of Kate Hudson’s 2000s movie classics. Somehow, was able to avoid seeing the show, or its two spin-offs (Mediterranean and Sailing Yacht). But, on the twentieth day of wearing the same sweatpants, I turned on the show and immediately transported from my bedroom to a super-yacht in the middle of the Caribbean. The three shows have the same premise- one captain and a their yacht crew work private charters for about six weeks while living together “below deck” in close quarters. One episode in, I realized that I was watching one of the best workplace dramas on television.

Finally, I felt like I was watching a show during the pandemic that felt removed from real life, without actually focusing on the pandemic. I mean, every show should feel removed from your life, especially escapist reality shows. But, Below Deck is unusual in the sense that these cast members pause their real lives to live and work on a yacht for a period of time. What makes this show different than The Real World or Big Brother? They are in the middle of the ocean. It was enjoyable to watch a group of people “quarantined” (in a way) together in the middle of the ocean, dealing with their personal dynamics and conflict with each other, while also living in this escapist lifestyle. In my own life, I went from working in an office with people that you see every day, to suddenly being with only your family. And suddenly, we communicated through virtual calls, Slack, and emails. Below Deck shows people working and living in one small isolated environment, and which mirrors the life we all began living when the pandemic began.

Over the course of a couple of months, I watched every episode of each Below Deck show until I reached the end. I had watched every chief stew get angry when the beds weren’t properly made. I also watched every stewardess spray what looks like Febreze on the sheets that the guests marinate in at night. I watched every chef with receding hairlines yell at their fellow crew members, as if the chicken they are cooking took over their souls to get revenge. I watched every hookup, breakup, makeup. And I watched the guests that stumbled on to the boat every charter. Always a group of friends that were looking for a good time, their own escape from their own worlds. It’s the classic reality television cycle: watching people go on their own escape for our own escape.

Below Deck has a blend of our “normal” lives and our “quarantined” lives. It shows people stuck together at all hours of the day and night, but it also shows people enjoying their time together, whether it’s the guests’ vacationing or the crew members partying between each charter. The show has a warped version of the life we have been living, quarantined with our families and seeing friends virtually. I am not working on a super yacht, but I can relate to the members of the crew (and there have been many) that call their friends and family from bed. They catch up with them, ask them how their lives are at home. And they ultimately think about how much time they have left during the charter season before they go home and resume their “normal” lives. At the same time, the show also has everything that I long for and miss during quarantine: companionship, creativity, connection. Similar to watching any shows or films that take place before the pandemic, I think about all of the things that I didn’t appreciate enough before we started to quarantined. And, I think about all of things that I want to do when this we are in the post-COVID world.

At the end of each season, I watched every crew eventually go home, and I would be excited to see the next crew that have to live and work together. While the crews rotated in and out every season, I was still at home. And I am still at home. Living and working in my pajamas, waiting for the moment that the world goes back to “normal” (whatever that looks like), and waiting for the time when I can go on a yacht in Mallorca for a vacation with friends. Ok, fine, I wasn’t able to afford that before the pandemic, and I still can’t afford it. So that won't be happening. But, as we carry on in the new world, I will pretend that Kate Chastain (the best chief stew) poured my glass of Prosecco. I will watch another episode, waiting for the day that feels different than the ones we have lived this past year.

Until that day comes… you can find me at home, living another day in paradise. And no, I will still not learn how to play an instrument or bake.