[Editor's Note: This post contains spoilers for the Below Deck Down Under Season 2 premiere, "Yes, We Cairns!"]
Below Deck Down Under's second charter season has just begun, but the crew members have already encountered rough seas. In Season 2, returning stars Captain Jason Chambers and chief stewardess Aesha Scott face unprecedented challenges as they attempt to deliver five-star service aboard the oldest vessel the franchise has ever seen, Northern Sun, a converted fishing boat that first set sail in 1977. Making matters even worse, Jason and Aesha begin their first charter two crew down, and everyone must step up to keep their drunk, entitled guests happy. By the end of the premiere, "Yes, We Cairns!" the guests take things one step too far, and they find themselves on the receiving end of Jason's wrath when he discovers them swimming in shark-infested waters in the middle of the night.
Amid all this chaos, Jason and Aesha must rely on each other more than ever, but luckily, that comes naturally to them. "We just hit it off straightaway last year," Jason tells Primetimer. "Her energy is true. Her will to be very good at what she does is there." He adds that Aesha's bubbly personality is "very in tune" with his management style, as he aims to create an environment where "the guests get engaged with the staff and feel at one."
"She's very attentive to what guests are saying," Jason says of his chief stew. "She's right in, she's great conversation, she makes them feel welcome, and she's exactly what I try to achieve with all my crew."
The feeling is mutual: "I just love that man so much, and I couldn't imagine doing a season without him," Aesha tells us via Zoom. "He's just such a support to me. He's like my fourth stew. He's very ADD and he can't sit in the bridge, which is great because he'll be helping with plates, help[ing] me with the rubbish, help[ing] me with cleaning dishes ... It's almost like having my safety blanket there."
Jason and Aesha's close relationship is on full display in the Season 2 premiere when he asks her for help putting in his contact lens. While Jason says Aesha "was the only person [he] could trust" with the task — even if "she nearly put her whole fist in [his] eye" — she wasn't surprised by the intimate request. "Sometimes I feel like he's a little boy in a man's body," Aesha shares with a laugh. "I actually saw him in L.A. a couple months ago and I had to take [his contacts] out for him because he couldn't take them out, either!"
Aesha adds that her friendship with Jason — a rarity among Below Deck's captain-chief stew pairings — "played a key role in how the season turned out." Given Northern Sun's deficiencies, including the tiny galley, single-propeller steering system, and lack of stabilizers (something that will come back to haunt the crew this season, according to Jason), it was difficult to provide top-notch service, but they made up for it by prioritizing communication. "I kept Jason much more in the loop," says Aesha. "Where I fell short last season was I didn't fill him in on everything until it was at boiling point ... And that's not fair on a captain, but I was just trying to not be a narc or just trying to handle it myself."
"But this year, I was more in the mindset of, it's not me going to a captain and narcing — he's actually my friend and my partner," she explains. Aesha is careful not to reveal any spoilers, but she teases that there are "some really touchy and difficult moments that happen this season," and as such, transparency and effective communication are "so important."
Jason has also taken steps to address mistakes he made in Season 1. "Last year I was involved on deck a lot, which I had to be because it was a big boat," he says. This time around, he was careful not to "micromanage" his deck crew, which had a bit more experience than last season's team. "There were a few emotional moments where I had to pitch in on the interior, so I was probably needed more there than outside, anyway," Jason adds.
With his hands-on approach and habit of teasing his crew — fear not, the disco ball helmet is back this season — Jason is one of Below Deck's more laid-back captains, but he's not afraid to put his foot down, when needed. The first guests of the seasons learn that the hard way when they defy a warning from stew Laura Bileskaine and go for a night swim.
"You start to get a little bit worried because of how intoxicated they are," Jason tells Primetimer, adding that at the time, there was "a bit of current kicking up the water," which is incredibly dangerous. Not to mention, "it's only a matter of time" before someone gets attacked by a shark. "In Season 1 people were laughing about me [being] worried about sharks all the time, and I think it was the last charter, a nice, big, six-foot hammerhead came up to the surface and snatched a fish, and I said, 'There you go,'" Jason recalls. "It happens; they are there."
After he's woken up by a frustrated Laura, Jason gives the guests a chance to apologize, but when the woman insists she's the "captain" of her own vacation and can do whatever she wants, he declares that their charter will be coming to an early end. "My tolerance stopped," he explains of his shift in attitude. "I was over it. I'd said my piece. They were a little bit rude. And my next step– you'll see my next step."
The premiere ends before we see that next step, but fans can expect similar problems to follow the crew throughout the season. This won't be the last group of unruly passengers to step aboard Northern Sun: "There's a hell of a lot of drama with the guests," Jason teases.
The same can be said for the interior department. "There's definitely ups and downs," says Aesha. "There's going to be a lot of really surprising moments, good and bad." Trouble already seems to be brewing with Laura, who takes a leisurely break before lunch service, and then dismisses concerns about her absence. ("So what? Looking good for the job is important," she says in a talking head interview. "If it takes time, it just takes time.")
"It was hard because [Laura's] been a chief stew before, and that was a blessing and a curse," Aesha shares. "The blessing was that she was very capable — she did know what she was doing — but the curse was that she could be a little bit too opinionated." As a result, the Below Deck veteran made good on her promise of being "tougher" on her team: "I had to stay true to my word and be more confrontational this season — more firm but fair — and really make sure everyone knew their place."
Still, the drama with the guests and Aesha's department is likely to pale in comparison to the bomb that's set to go off later in the season. According to Bravo, this season will include "a shocking franchise crossover with the arrival of a polarizing familiar face," a description that's already stirring up excitement among fans. The stars are keeping the identity of the mystery crew member close to the vest, but Aesha reveals "it will be a juicy twist." She adds, "It's someone that I know and I'm very familiar with."
Jason, however, wasn't aware of this former cast member's exploits. "I didn't know too much about this person until I told some people, and then I got a full run-down of exactly who they are," he says. "I was like, 'What have I done?' So, we'll see how that turns out. There were a few crew that were just like, 'Oh my god, really?'"
Suffice it to say Jason regrets hiring this person to replace a fired crew member. (Who, exactly, gets the boot remains to be seen.) "I was disappointed that I had to let crew go this season, but I had to make a move that was better for the outcome at the end," he explains. "Just when I thought I'd made everything perfect, it went sideways the other way. So it's constant."
But even in the face of never-ending drama, fans can expect Below Deck Down Under to maintain its lighthearted energy, something the spinoff shares with Sailing Yacht. "Down Under is unique in the sense that it's just much more relaxed," Aesha says of the show's identity within the franchise at large. "We're still high-end, we're still five-star, we'll always give the guests everything they desire, but it's just much more fun. In a lot of the [other spinoffs] the guests leave feeling like guests, whereas our guests tend to leave feeling like we're all best friends."
That doesn't mean Aesha's down on Below Deck proper and Mediterranean, where she began her tenure on Bravo. In fact, with the flagship show celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month, the yachtie is pushing for a different kind of franchise crossover. "The ultimate thing I would really like to see happen is a Below Deck All-Stars," she says. "I would love to work with Fraser [Olender from Med] and Daisy [Kelliher from Sailing Yacht]; I just don't know who would be the chief stew. I would be happy to hand over the reins — they can be chief stew. We could all be chief stew!"
"There are so many incredible cast members, and I think the public froths over a crossover," Aesha insists. "So why not get all of the favorites and put us all together?" Your move, Bravo.
New episodes of Below Deck Down Under air Mondays at 8:00 PM ET on Bravo and stream next-day on Peacock. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.