Back in August, Below Deck Down Under was lauded for its handling of sexual misconduct on screen when Captain Jason Chambers fired Luke Jones, bosun of the deck crew, after he — while naked — attempted to get into bed with junior stewardess Margot Sisson without her consent.
The crew returned after a night of drinking in Australia where the season was filming and Luke tried to climb into bed with Margot even though she was asleep. In a rare move on Below Deck and in reality television in general, a producer appeared in front of the camera and broke the “fourth wall” to tell Luke to leave. Luke then got aggressive and tried to slam and lock the door shut before he was removed.
When chief stewardess Aesha Scott informed Captain Jason about the incident, he fired Luke. Stewardess Laura Bileskalne was also fired after she criticized the decision to get rid of Luke, blaming Margot and saying, “He’s a sexual person, I’m a sexual person, you’re a sexual person. We were joking, that thing was probably like, ‘Hahaha, we all drunk.’”
Opening up about the situation at BravoCon, Captain Jason tells Rolling Stone that it felt validating to watch the episode back because it confirmed that he made “the right decision” in letting Luke go.
“I acted on what Aesha told me and then what Laura responded with, those are the only things I can actually react off, so going back and seeing the episodes from another perspective just showed that I made the right decision and I stuck by Aesha’s feelings that night and moved in the right direction,” he says. “I’m still in touch with everyone and trying to make sure everyone learned from that moment.”
When the episode aired, fans and viewers reacted positively and expressed gratitude that a producer got involved and Captain Jason and Aesha moved swiftly to hold Luke accountable. Aesha, who has been open on the show about her own sexual assault, tells Rolling Stone “it was absolutely incredible” to see the conversation that started as a result of the way the incident was handled.
“The way everyone has responded gives me so much hope about the way that society’s moving because I feel like if this happened 10 years ago, people might not have cared as much,” Aesha says. “But now it’s like, no, we are actually going to say something and we actually are going to call people out. Even just the way that Jason responded as the modern-day captain is the way we should be going.”
When asked if he thinks their handling of the Luke situation could help set a new standard for the way sexual misconduct is addressed on reality television, Captain Jason says, “The standards for that were already there and they got broken. Obviously, people watching it now and other crew in the future will know that won’t be tolerated as well and the outcry was massive.”
While Below Deck Down Under was applauded for this moment, production members of Below Deck Sailing Yacht told Rolling Stone they experienced and witnessed sexual harassment and misconduct from cast member Gary King behind the scenes.
King, who sat out BravoCon in the wake of the story, declined to comment at the time but has since posted on his Instagram, saying, “It’s sad that people will do anything in their power to bring you down. It’s not about how you fall but how you get up. Luckily for me the fall was into a sea of daisies.”
A spokesperson for Bravo said in a statement, “Bravo is committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for cast and crew on our reality shows. We require our third-party production companies to have appropriate workplace policies and trainings in place and a clear process on how to report concerns. The concerns Ms. Suarez raised in July 2022 were investigated at that time and action was taken based on the findings.”