Captain Lee Leaves ‘Below Deck’: Inside His Last Episode

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by editor Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

Crying While Watching Below Deck

It can be hard to empathize with reality TV stars. But I have never felt more in tune with anyone than I did with the cast of Below Deck, as they wept while Captain Lee said he was leaving the show.

Lee Rosbach has been at the wheel since Below Deck premiered in 2013. He’s the ideal version of a no-nonsense boss, who operates from a place of warmth; the reason he expects so much from his crew is because he loves them so deeply and believes in their potential for greatness.

While anyone who watches Bravo has differing opinions about their favorite shows’ casts, there is one thing that has always been unanimous: Captain Lee is the best. Now, it’s devastating to see him go.

I will never admit how often I cry while watching Bravo, but Captain Lee’s farewell episode ranks among my sobbiest viewings.

Since Season 10 of Below Deck premiered, Lee had been transparent about his health problems. He was struggling with nerve issues that affected his mobility. “My mind’s there. My heart’s there. My body just won’t cooperate,” he said on this week’s episode. “I never quit. But this time I have to.”

He showed incredible graciousness and humility as he made the announcement to his crew. “I probably overstayed longer than I should have, but I’m pretty fucking stubborn,” he said, berating himself in a confessional scene later for being a burden to their success.

As the captain of a ship, it’s clear that Lee is a father figure to the people he works with. But that extends to viewers, too. As he got choked up talking about his departure, you could hear everyone watching in real time wail, “Dad!!!”

As television, the sequence was beautifully produced. It was especially touching to watch Rachel, the season’s chef, and Fraser, its chief stew, sob into each other’s arms. In a previous season, Captain Lee had been incredibly generous with Rachel, as she battled some personal demons that could have gotten her fired, and it’s been so nice to watch her blossom after he gave her a second chance. Fraser is Below Deck’s first openly gay chief stew, and, watching the show, you could see how much pride Captain Lee took in giving him that opportunity. In their reaction to his departure, you could tell that they recognized these things, too.

It was also really lovely to see that Bravo brought in Below Deck: Mediterranean’s Captain Sandy Yawn to replace Captain Lee as he recovers. It lent a warranted sense of gravity to the moment. It didn’t just swap Captain Lee out for a TV-ready substitute who happened to be on-call. The network brought on someone as prodigious as he was, both on the waters and in the fan community, to take over.

It was such a nice episode and, I suppose, a fitting end to the year. I should have expected that I was going to end 2022 heavily crying while watching an episode of Below Deck.

The Daily Beast’s Obsessed

Everything we can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.

Edie Falco Is All of Us

This week, Edie Falco said what all of us were thinking: “Avatar 2 must have come out years ago, right?” The difference is, Edie Falco actually starred in the movie.

The fact that there has been so much time between when Avatar was first released 13 years ago and the sequel finally hitting theaters this month has been a long-lasting joke. It’s not so much a joke, though, as it is a reality. When the trailer played before a screening of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, my jaw hit the floor. It wasn’t just because the footage was stunning. It was because I couldn’t believe it existed at all.

Falco gets that. She appeared on The View this week to promote her role in Avatar: The Way of Water. During the interview, she revealed that she had shot the movie so long ago that she assumed it had come out already and flopped at the box office. “I thought, ‘Oh, I guess it came out and didn’t do very well,’ because I didn’t hear anything.” That, to her, was more believable than how long it took for the film to finally be released.

It was a perfect talk show moment. It was candid, self-effacing, and mocked Hollywood’s self-importance in a way that I suspect all actors wish they could. (Watch it here.)

The Week in Drew Barrymore

It is the greatest gift of 2022 that, on any given week, Drew Barrymore is in a new viral video.

The Drew Barrymore Show is the most wonderfully strange talk show, a perfect blend of entirely bonkers and movingly earnest that only works because it is so authentically Drew. These clips from her show go viral because they’re so bizarre, yes, but they are also shared out of pure love: We’re so grateful that she has this platform.

This week was a treasure trove for Drew fans. It began with a clip of Barrymore’s appearance on Ziwe, in which she was charmingly self-aware about her own battiness. As she trails off on about a dozen different tangents, Ziwe seems to zone out to the point of disassociation. Then, later in the week, came the clip of Barrymore interviewing White Lotus star Aubrey Plaza, who expressed her desire for Barrymore to be her “mommy,” while the host told her she’d love for Plazza to be in “my womb.”

Roughly 70 percent of my laughter this week has been because of these videos. I hope they have the same effect on you.

Name a More Iconic Trio

My Christmas present to you is this photo of Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, and Liza Minnelli hanging out together. Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone.

What to watch this week:

Living: After you inevitably watch Bill Nighy in Love Actually this week, watch his stunning performance in this film. (Now in theaters)

Women Talking: Easily one of the best movies of the year. Give it all the Oscar nominations. (Now in theaters)

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story: It’s finally on Netflix! Long live the Kate Hudsonnaisance! (Now on Netflix)

What to skip this week:

I Wanna Dance With Somebody: Do yourself a favor and just watch YouTube videos of Whitney Houston instead. (Now in theaters)

Babylon: Save your Margot Robbie stanning for Barbie. (Now in theaters)

The Daily Beast’s Obsessed

Everything we can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.

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