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Below Deck Down Under producers stop two attempted sexual assaults

Below Deck Down Under producers stop two attempted sexual assaults
Luke is told that Margo "said no" and angrily leaves her cabin on Below Deck Down Under season 2 (Image from Below Deck Down Under)

Bravo’s Below Deck franchise has had plenty of drunkenness and sexual interaction, and that crossed over into attempted sexual assault on Below Deck Down Under season 2. Twice.

Two crew members were ultimately fired after attempting sexual contact with other crew members who had not consented. (Sexual assault includes non-consensual sexual touching and contact with someone who cannot consent, such as a person who’s drunk or unconscious.)

Individual producers and crew members, however, intervened in both situations.

Thankfully, we’ve moved past Mark Burnett’s insistence that a camera operator who intervened to help someone “would have been fired on the spot”; from Bravo’s disgraceful treatment of abuse in its Real Housewives franchise; and from Survivor’s failure to deal with sexual harassment while it was happening, during which camera operators filmed and did nothing.

That doesn’t mean there’s been systemic change, but at least individuals were willing to help. And Below Deck’s presentation of the attempted assaults was straightforward, edited without music or an attempt to make light of what was happening. While the events spanned two episodes, Below Deck Down Under season 2 is airing two back-to-back episodes every Monday, so there was not a week-long cliffhanger before viewers found out what happened. Yet this was also not entertaining television.

A shirtless man with an angry look on his face with the subtitles "She said no. She said no."
Luke is told that Margo “said no” and angrily leaves her cabin on Below Deck Down Under season 2 (Image from Below Deck Down Under)

The events of the episode took place between charters and while the Northern Sun was docked. The cast, as is typical for Below Deck’s crew, went out and got drunk.

Bosun Luke Jones was hitting on third stew Margot, who was very drunk, including rubbing up against her while dancing. Margot passed out in Luke’s lap in the van back to the boat. Chief stew Aesha noticed—and was disturbed by Luke’s comments—and decided to make sure Margot got to bed.

After Margot passed out in her bunk, we saw Luke walking around wearing only a towel. That’s when the power on the ship went out. As others tried to fix it, the camera caught Luke climbing into Margot’s bunk.

A producer (or camera operator) said, “Luke. Luke.” He replied, “Yeah?” The producer said, “Come on out.”

Luke ignored the producer, and laid down in the bunk behind Margot, who was facing the wall. A crew member said, “Hey, hey! Hey, buddy. Hey!” and a producer walked into the cabin and slapped him on the back, saying, “Luke, we gotta get you down.”

Luke replied, “Thank you very much.” The producer said, “I gotta get you outta here because she wants to go to bed.” Luke tried to protest: “No, she…Margot?”

Margot said “huh?” according to the subtitles. Luke said, “Are you okay?” Then she said, “Yeah, sleepy time.” Luke asked her, “Are you a 10 out of 10 or a 9 out of 10?”

The lights on the boat came back on as Luke, completely naked, climbed down from the bunk and peeked around the corner toward the door. “Can you fuck off for a second?” he said, slamming the door.

A crew member said, “Did he shut the door?” and someone reopened it. Luke was standing, holding a towel in front of his genitals, and shut the door again. The producer said, “Open it. Open it. Open it.”

“Stop,” Luke said. A crew member told Luke, “We can’t, bro. You can’t do this. She said no. She said no.”

Luke finally stopped holding the door open and left the cabin, saying “Jesus Christ, mates,” as he left. “Fuck them.”

Laura asked him, “What did you do?” He said, “nothing, fuck them.”

Aesha entered Margot’s cabin to check on her, and asked, “Did you consent to him being in here?” Margot, now somewhat awake, said, “No, I was asleep. I did not invite that at all.”

Another crew member in a bed without consent

A person straddles and massages the back of another person who's lying face down and is shirtless; subtitles say "CAMERA OPERATOR: telling you to come down"
Laura massages Adam after he’s said no and Below Deck Down Under crew members try to get her to leave his cabin

At the same time, there was literally a second incident of unwanted sexual advances. It began in the hot tub, where some crew members were hanging out, and second stew Laura Bileskalne was once again hitting on deckhand Adam.

In an interview later, Adam told us, “she needs to stop that shit,” but she did not.

Laura offered to give Adam a non-sexual massage and followed him back to his cabin. He tried to close the door, and she still came in. “You’re not sleeping in here, dude. The door’s staying open,” Adam told Laura, and climbed into his bed, shirtless.

Adam laid down, facing away from the door and camera, and Laura stood on the lower bunk and squirted lotion on his back. She then climbed up into the bunk with him, straddling him and sitting on his butt.

The camera operator said, “Laura, I got a message from producers telling you to come down.”

“Okay, I’m coming,” she said, rubbing her hands all over Adam’s back instead of coming down. A crew member told Laura, “Hey friends. This is when you have to step down and go to your own cabin.”

Laura then kissed Adam on the neck at least twice, and the producer said, “Right now.”

Back to Margot, Aesha woke up the captain, Jason, and told him about Luke and the producers intervening. “I just kind of felt like Luke was kind of wanting to take advantage of Margot’s drunkenness a little bit,” Aesha said. “She was pretty out of it.” Laura reported that she saw “Luke is fucking running out of Margot’s bed naked.”

Jason asked, “She’s safe?” and then retrieved the key to Luke’s cabin, unlocked the door, and kicked him off the ship. “You need to go. You need to get off the boat tonight.” He escorted him to a car that took Luke to a hotel, saying, “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

All of this footage was presented in fairly straightforward fashion, with no music, until Aesha started talking with the captain.

Whether these events should have been edited into entertainment is a different question: Does it re-traumatize those involved to have those moments they don’t even remember broadcast on national TV and streamed forever? Does airing this educate people? Or does it just turn the events into tabloid fodder?

A naked man whose lower half is pixelated tries to close the door; behind him are two bunk beds, with a person sleeping and facing away in the top bunk
Below Deck Down Under season 2 bosun Luke tries to get the producers to leave him alone in Margot’s cabin (Image from Below Deck Down Under)

The next morning, Margot said, “I woke up feeling weird and I knew that whatever, like, happened, wasn’t okay. And I was like, am I going to wake up, and he’s still here, and I just have to act cool? But I’m glad that’s not the case.”

“I feel stupid,” Margot said. “I was so drunk.”

“Women should be able to be black-out drunk if you want to,” chef Tzarina tells her. “We should be able to stand in a room naked and not have anyone do anything to us. You are allowed to be drunk. It’s the other person’s problem.”

Yes, period, end of story, print that on a t-shirt.

Earlier, we heard from Aesha, who said that, had the producers not intervened, “We don’t actually know what would have happened. You don’t have the right to put someone unconscious into that position. I have had a drunken sexual assault experience before, and I never wanted it to happen to anyone else.”

(If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault and need help, you can speak with someone confidentially by calling 800-656-HOPE [4673] or chatting online with RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline.)

I think it’s important to note here that, while the show’s producers obviously did the right thing, and Aesha and Tzarina have articulated exactly why this kind of behavior is not okay, there were some crew members who had reactions that reflect rape culture.

First, Margot blamed herself. “I was probably being like, too, flirty,” Margot told her mom. Self-blame is a common response from survivors, but as RCEW notes, “although these kinds of feelings are common, this doesn’t mean they are true.”

After learning about what happened, deckhand Culver said, “This is insane. I have a little sister. I would kill somebody if she was in that situation.” While his intention is to be supportive here, there are many reasons why this sister/mother/daughter response is not helpful.

Speaking of not helpful: When the captain said Luke would be coming aboard to be fired and pack up, Laura asked, “Are we allowed to say goodbye?” Thankfully, Jason said no.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Luke told the captain. As he left, he said, “I’m sorry and I’m just so disappointed in myself.” Hey Luke: This is not about you.

Laura told Harry, “I’m sad.” He tells her, “You’re sad? That he’s leaving?” Harry said, “I feel really bad for Margot”—the correct response.

But Laura was not done. “Poor Luke,” she told Margot. “I should have just kept him happy. And if he comes naked into my cabin, I’d be like, Hello! Yes!” Laura complained, “We can’t say goodbye.”

In an interview, Margot said, “How are you pouting right now? It’s all fucked up. She’s fucked up.”

To illustrate how fucked up it was, Laura kept complaining that Luke was fired: in confessionals, to other crew members, and even telling Margot, “He wouldn’t rape you or anything.”

Thankfully, Laura got fired, too, as a result of her behavior. Aesha reported both Laura’s defense of Luke and Laura’s unwanted touching and advances, which the captain confirmed with Adam.

Adam told the captain, “I don’t want to be rude to her, like make her feel embarrassed. So I’ve been saying no, but in a playful manner.” Of course, anyone should be able to reject advances without worrying about the other person’s reaction.

Captain Jason told Laura, “Adam feels uncomfortable with some moments out, and he’s tried to say no. You have not listened to him and his boundaries.”

He added, “For you to go to Margot and say that just shows you have not listened to a word I’ve said about boundaries, and you showed little respect and empathy to Margot. I’m trying to move forward as a team.”

“Can you give me a warning?” She did not get a warning. Good. And good for Below Deck’s field producers who intervened. They didn’t wait around to call Bravo, or get permission, they just saw two situations that were not acceptable behavior, and stopped it.

Update, Aug. 9: Margot posted to Instagram, writing, according to TV Line, “There are, unfortunately a lot of captains who would choose to sweep something like this under the rug, I am grateful that Jason is not one of them. Thank you for repeatedly making me feel safe and supported. I wish every captain were just like you. Sending you so much love right now.”

Margot also wrote, “I believe it was vital to show because this issue is all too real and far too frequent. Perpetrators often escape accountability, and this is not OK. I was lucky to have Aesha and the producers intervene, but I’m all too aware that many women have not and will not be so fortunate, and it makes me feel sick to my stomach.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

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Happy discussing!

Mike b.

Wednesday 9th of August 2023

Captain Jason was great. Mass respect for his handling of this. And I cringed watching Laura from day one. Thank God she got the boot too. It feels Iike these crew members think they are following a below deck playbook, get as drunk as you possibly can and hook up.


Wednesday 9th of August 2023

CBS should take note of the transparency and how it was handled. it showed both incident and results taken from incident. If editing was done, i am sure it was for time constraints but not to manipulate the situation for tv purposes.

And for those seeing this unfold again and opening old wounds, unfortunately that comes with being filmed 24/7.. good and the bad. if our lives were filmed 24/7 i am sure there will be plenty of the good and bad that is recorded and potentially shown to others when thats the purpose of filming. ignoring it because it is bad, is ignoring that it happened... aka all the racist incidents of big brother and its history.