After an emotional and explosive episode of Below Deck Down Under, reality TV fans are praising the way a nonconsensual sexual incident on board a super yacht in Australia was handled by chief stew Aesha Scott and Captain Jason Chambers.
After a routine night of post-charter partying, the crew made their way back on board just before midnight. But sensing something was wrong, Aesha remained close to Margot, a third stew on the boat, expressing concern about the behaviour of an intoxicated male deckhand following an evening of flirtation.
“I just saw the way Luke looked at you and I’m feeling very protective,” Aesha said before the incident occurred.
The group had been out drinking and Margot was adamant about going straight to bed, despite Luke’s attempts to get close to her.
“All I want is water and bed. No Luke,” Margot said as she got ready to go to sleep.
Aesha laid in the bed with Margot, keeping a close eye on her. But when an alarm went off on the yacht and knocked the power out, she left the room momentarily. It was at that point that Luke rushed into the room, wrapped only in a towel, which he removed before climbing into Margot’s bed completely naked.
The production team immediately urged him to get out, with one producer rushing into the room, attempting to physically remove him from the bed.
“Luke, Luke. Come on out,” the producer said. “I gotta get you outta here because she wants to go to bed. We can’t do that. She said no.”
Luke cursed the production team, asking them if they could “f—k off for a second” and slammed the door on them. When Aesha returned to see only the tail end of what was happening, she rushed into Margot’s room to ask if she was okay. But Margot was unaware of what had transpired. Shortly after, an emotional Aesha went to Captain Jason’s room and explained the situation.
“Basically we came home tonight and it just felt like Luke was kinda wanting to take advantage of Margot’s drunkenness…she was completely unconscious,” she explained.
Immediately, Jason asked whether anything happened and if Margot was safe. Following a short conversation, he went to Luke’s room, waking him up out of his sleep and sending him to a hotel for the rest of the night. The next morning, he came back to get his things and was dismissed from the boat for good.
As this was all happening, Laura, the yacht’s second stew, was crossing the line with Adam, a deck hand on the boat who she had been making passes at for several days despite his consistent rejection. As the night was winding down, she followed him into his room before climbing into his bed after he suggested she should leave and attempted to give him a massage, an act a camera operator quickly shut down.
“Laura, we got a message from producers and you need to leave the room,” the camera operator said, to which she slowly obliged.
The day after, when Luke was fired, Laura expressed sadness to the crew that she didn’t get to say goodbye to him. She told Margot that she wished it had been her room Luke came into because she would’ve welcomed his advances, saying he probably only meant it as a joke and that he shouldn’t have been fired over his behaviour. Aesha relayed Laura’s insensitive remarks to Captain Jason and let him know that she was being inappropriate with Adam. She was fired immediately.
I’ve been watching reality TV since 2008 and this was the first time I’ve seen something of this magnitude unfold on a show. I’ve seen the table flips and the weave pulling and the affairs but never have I seen such a clear instance of sexual assault unfold in front of me in this way. And though I was so relieved at the actions that were taken and the immediate dismissal of these cast members, I couldn’t help but wonder about the lengths we go to for entertainment.
These nights of excessive drinking are typically the best part of the episodes. Yes, it’s fun to watch the crew pander to the needs of high-maintenance charter guests or lose their patience with their colleagues over poor performance. And when the cast gets drunk and they either fight or hook up consensually with each other, it’s peak entertainment. But this incident really highlights the dangers that exist for the very people who bring us that entertainment.
Back in 2017, Bachelor in Paradise experienced a similar scandal that brought filming to a screeching halt. Corinne Olympios was allegedly sexually assaulted while too intoxicated to consent. The issue only came to light when the show’s crew noticed what was happening, and one producer actually filed a complaint about the incident a few days after it happened.
When the complaint was filed, the cast was placed under lockdown and everyone was sent to separate rooms being monitored by production, before ultimately being sent home as it was decided the show would not resume for the rest of the season.
I’ve written before about how real reality TV can be sometimes, despite the environment being influenced by cameras, producers, storylines and fans. But instances like this highlight the very real experiences people have on these shows, and the impact these experiences have on them long after the cameras are gone. Statements made by both Corinne and Margot echo the same sentiment – it’s shocking and a lot to process.
“I feel like, disappointed in myself. Embarrassed, sad. I’m shocked and I’m processing it. But I just feel so loved. It’s a lot of different emotions at once,” Margot said in a confessional.
“I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened on June 4. Although I have little memory of that night, something bad obviously took place,” Corinne said in a statement to PEOPLE back in 2017. “As a woman, this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality.”
When the Bachelor In Paradise incident happened, the next season of the show introduced a two drink per hour limit on set (two drinks per hour is…a lot). But in recent seasons, it appears that drink rule has gone out the window, which makes sense, because drunken shenanigans are quite literally the backbone of ratings for shows like these.
But beyond temporary drink limits and the hope that the production team will intervene, what, actually, is in place to keep the stars and the crews of these shows safe? If someone is drunk enough to be on national television, cursing camera crews because they’re trying to prevent him from crawling into an unconscious woman’s bed completely naked, what makes anyone think that does not lend itself to other seriously dangerous situations?
Recently, Lainey and I wrote about how the ongoing strike may be the perfect opportunity for reality TV stars to make bigger demands of their networks. The production teams working on these shows have sounded the alarm about long workdays, low pay and unfavorable working conditions. But experiences like these pad the case for the show’s stars and crew to demand better pay and improved working conditions, too. Conditions that don’t wind up in situations like Corinne, Margot or Adam.