Watching these final hours of Deadliest Catch‘s sixth season will require a weekly gut check. But if last night’s episode was any indication, it’ll be worth it. For every image that knocks the wind out of you — like the ones of Capt. Phil lying in the ER of the St. Paul Island clinic, then being loaded on a flight to Anchorage so he could start receiving the proper medical treatment he’d been without for at least five hours after his massive stroke — there’s one that fills you with so much emotion that you want to tell people who make the blanket statement “I hate reality TV” that they are absolute idiots.
Josh Harris, Phil’s older son, had to decide between following younger brother Jake to Anchorage to be with their father and staying with the Cornelia Marie, his father’s legacy, to make sure it kept running the way Phil wanted it to run. You could tell that Samoan deckhand Freddie Maughtai was holding back something (other than tears) when he told Josh to go to Phil. ”Season every year… Crab every year… Dad, no,” he said, before finally admitting that he’d lost his father while he was fishing Opi with Phil. Arriving to find a dead body was the hardest thing he ever had to do, and he didn’t want Josh to live with that regret for the rest of his life. ”I love you, Josh,” Freddie said, as he left him alone in Phil’s chair to think. I teared up. I was so thankful Freddie was there to give him that advice. Just like I was so happy to see John Hillstrand waiting for Josh at the airport when he arrived that I literally talked to my TV.
Josh had phoned Andy Hillstrand on the Time Bandit to fill him in on Phil’s condition, and Andy phoned John, who’d been taking a midseason break, to tell him to visit Phil if he was flying back through Anchorage. I just love that John got there so quickly. It’s enough to make you want to hug him if you ever meet him. He told Josh it didn’t look good — they’d removed part of Phil’s skull to ease the pressure — but that “There’s millions of people praying for him right now.” He also told Josh that Jake needed him, which again made me grateful that John had been there until Josh could come and sit with his brother.
It seems Andy was given the job of informing the fleet, perhaps because he was able to hold it together the best. Sig tossed the radio, then a pack of cigarettes (which Josh has said are what killed his father), then he turned out the light above him so the camera couldn’t capture whatever he did next. Keith had the worst time trying not to cry. “Cut him some slack, big guy,” he said after hearing the news, his voice shaking. “Cut him some lack.” It took me a second to realize “big guy” was God, but when I did, my eyes became as wet as Keith’s. We also saw Andy and Sig tell their crews, and you got two opposite reactions: Mike Fourtner, fresh off laying his first gear as the Time Bandit captain-in-training and experiencing the stress of near empty pots (“I wanted to go to a butt cheek. I wanted to go to a butt cheek”), went silent; Jake Anderson, who’d worked on the Cornelia Marie earlier this season, wanted to talk. He remembered Phil as someone who treated him like a son and a friend, as a man who gave him the approval he’s always wanted from his Northwestern crewmates (“How did you know I was really good? I thought I only knew that”).
Jake Anderson also said he could understand what the Harris boys were going through, thinking about losing their father every moment. It feels like it’s time for Sig to send Jake home. Jake needs someone other than the cameraman to talk to about his missing father. He’s getting distracted on deck, not being able to see the big picture — like when a bridle snaps, you run. You don’t risk your life to save a pot when you could be dragged overboard by a rope or clocked by the hook hanging above your head. (Let’s hand it to him though. That composure was still impressive.)
As for the Kodiak, Wild Bill was dealing with his own mess this episode. After nailing his delivery count, he granted his crew shore leave but told them no shots and to be home by midnight. They failed him on both counts, and the captain was none too pleased. Somehow, obnoxious deckhand Clinton Bush, who’d gotten a talking to for berating the others on deck, came out smelling like a rose because he can hold his liquor and was able to work on one hour’s sleep. Yay him?
Your turn. What did you think of the episode? Did you feel the temperature change when Mike took the wheel of the Time Bandit wearing a long-sleeved shirt and no hat after coming inside from the five below weather on the ice-encrusted deck? Did you tear up? (Male bonding gets me every time. And how many times was “I love you” said this hour?) Did you think the shots of the Jesus statue outside Phil’s hospital were a little too much, or did you find yourself debating whether the snow on Jesus’ shoulders represented the weight Phil had carried or Jesus now carrying the weight of the fleet’s worry? Knowing how this story ends, will it be easier or more difficult to watch next week’s episode in which Phil makes enough of an improvement to have a real conversation with his boys and give them hope? We thought that man was tough last week when he told Josh “I ain’t leaving you yet” in the ambulance. I have a feeling we’ve seen nothing yet.
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