Discovery Channel’s Emmy-winning reality show Deadliest Catch returns April 22, and as you’ll see in our exclusive first-look at the premiere’s cold open, which previews the landmark tenth season, there is no shortage of compelling stories. Josh Harris has the Cornelia Marie back crabbing, Sig Hansen has his 18-year-old daughter Mandy working on the Northwestern, boats are seen on fire and flooding, someone is heard yelling, “Man down! Man down! Man down!,” and both the Coast Guard and the Alaska State Troopers make appearances. “You, of course, want your tenth season to be awesome, like any other. But the deck is definitely stacked in our favor this year,” says Jeff Conroy, president and executive producer at Original Productions, which produces the show. “I jokingly, in season 3, said, ‘Look guys, my goal is to get to season 10,'” he recalls. “To imagine that it would be this now, I don’t think anyone could have predicted. None of these kind of workplace docs had done that, so it wasn’t something that you thought of. You thought, ‘Well, Friends goes nine seasons.'”
“Getting to a tenth season is incredible for any series, and this show is such an enormous undertaking and so difficult to produce,” Discovery Channel executive producer David Pritikin says, praising the men at women at Original who risk their lives filming it and continue to raise the bar. “Fans should expect bigger and better this season.”
Watch the cold open below. Then read 10 teases from Conroy and Pritikin about season 10. (There’s so much drama, the cold open barely touches on the return of Jake Anderson to the Northwestern! UPDATE: Read our roundtable with three of the captains.)
Ten teases for season 10:
1. The theme is “Be careful what you wish for”: “The captains are cementing their legacies and legendary status while the young guys are now trying to create their own,” Pritikin says. “Will they bite off more than they can chew?” That’s a fair question to ask, especially when you hear Conroy say he’s looking at a list of approximately “six different real emergency situations,” most of them involving the Coast Guard. “In a normal season you might have like one or two,” he says, “but there is a lot of huge moments. Moments that, I would say, in season 2 or 3 we might frame three episodes off of are now moments in an episode and that’s it. This season is definitely one of those seasons where it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, in case you forgot, it’s really, really dangerous.'”
2. You’ll see a new side of Josh Harris: If you literally applauded at the sight of the Cornelia Marie, you’re not alone. “I think all of America was cheering for that one,” Conroy says of seeing Josh back in the wheelhouse where his late father, Capt. Phil Harris, had sat for so many years. “Here’s a kid that has been trying to fulfill this legacy for years. If you look back after Phil died, it was like, ‘Oh yeah, this boat’s gonna be in the water forever. There’s never gonna be a problem. We’re gonna be able to do it.’ I think Josh, in many ways, learned the hard way how hard it was, what his dad had accomplished…. All that work to get here, the last thing he wants to do is blow it.” He’ll have a co-captain, Casey McManus, the son of Phil’s good friend Jim McManus. “The reason that Casey is there is that Casey is fulfilling a commitment that Jim made to Phil that he would always help out the boys,” Conroy says. “When it came time for Josh to get this boat going, Jim’s feeling was, ‘Who better than my son, who is a very experienced young captain, to give Josh every opportunity to be successful.'” Josh being the owner of the boat will make for an interesting dynamic: “There’s always that question of who’s in charge,” Conroy says. (And for fans hoping to see Josh’s brother Jake fishing again, Conroy said it could still happen, but he’s not expecting it this season. “We’re hoping,” he says. “I was out on the boat with Phil, and I knew Jake very well, especially that first year. Those of us who know him well enough are definitely rooting for him, but it just hasn’t seemed to work out yet. He’s battling some pretty strong demons.”)
3. You’ll also see a new side of Sig Hansen: As a father, Sig’s caught between wanting to keep his daughter safe and giving her the chance to learn lessons the hard way. “She is Sig: She has Sig’s drive, Sig’s attitude. She said once that she has a lot of pressure in her life that her father doesn’t realize: She’s isn’t a Hansen until she goes fishing. This is something she has to do. This is something she’s always wanted to do. And this is not prompted by the show. This is Mandy taking a rite of passage into her life,” Pritikin says. “So it’s impressive that an 18-year-old girl who’s got little hearts in her room, and pictures of her girlfriends, and dresses finds herself on the Bering Sea in a crab ship.” Mandy isn’t the first female on the deck of a vessel featured on Deadliest Catch, though it has been extremely rare.There is the superstition that women are bad luck, Conroy reminds us. “In fact, one of our producers in, like, season 1, when she came on a boat, they made her pee on the crab pots to turn back the bad luck. They’ve eased a little bit on that heavy superstition these days,” he says.
4. Jake Anderson may make you tear up again: “I have to believe he will. I think you can count on that,” Conroy says. “He’s one of the people I admire in the show more than most because unlike myself and unlike a lot of us, he’s able to admit to and be very open about where he’s not perfect. I think that’s really brave, and I think it’s pretty awesome. That’s why I love him…. He’s the most honest, sweet guy in the world. And earnest. He just wants to succeed.” After failing to log as much time in the Kiska Sea wheelhouse as he’d wanted, “he returns this year realizing that his family is on the Northwestern,” Pritikin says. Or, as Conroy puts it, “He kinda got his ass handed to him on the Kiska Sea…. So this season starts with Jake having to eat a very large portion of humble pie.” Edgar Hansen is back as the deck boss, so that’ll be fun. And Edgar again has a shot at the wheelhouse this season, Pritikin says.
5. Junior gives new meaning to the term tough guy: Scott Campbell Jr., captain of the Seabrooke, was told by his doctors before this season started not to fish. “But Junior also realizes that he has a responsibility of making a living for himself and all of his crew, so he sucked it up and went fishing instead of getting back surgery,” Pritikin says. “You can imagine the pounding of waves sitting in the chair needing back surgery. It’s a testament of his strength, and his toughness, and his will to succeed. It’s incredible.” Adds Conroy, “If you think about it, as a captain, he’s at the highest point on the boat, the biggest swing of the pendulum as the boat is crashing through the waves. You can just hear it, and see it on his face to the point where he’s going to tears as he just tries to suffer his way through that pain…. It’s tough to watch at times.”
6. Capt. Keith Colburn goes to Washington: When the government shutdown grounded the fleet, Capt. Keith spoke to Congress on behalf of the fishing industry to get them back to work. “I think he said he was more nervous sitting here talking to Congress than he is risking his life at sea,” Pritikin says. The season started late, which ultimately made things more rushed and dangerous for the captains. “Their deadline to catch the crab and off-load is nearing even sooner than usual, and if they miss their delivery date, they lose half their crab price, basically, and their livelihoods,” Pritikin says. “What the government shutdown did was cause the guys to take extra chances that they wouldn’t normally take. It’s already dangerous, and this amps the stakes and danger even more this season being up against a ticking clock right off the bat.”
What’s interesting about the Wizard in particular this year, for Conroy, is what he calls “the rise of Monty”: “Poor Monty, we’ve seen him at the bad end of [brother] Keith’s rage, but I don’t know that we’ve really gotten to see him as a skipper in his own right,” he says. “All the skippers have the respect, but he has the recent respect of having been right there on the deck with [the crew] only a month earlier. It’s a new dynamic, and it’s also interesting to see how he does. He definitely makes some monumental mistakes, but he also has some amazing successes as well.”
7. The Time Bandit is an even bigger family affair: There are now three sets of fathers and sons on the boat: Captain Jonathan Hillstrand and deckhand Scotty, engineer Neal Hillstrand and deckhand Axel, and deckhand Eddie “Eddie Sr.” Uwekoolani Jr. and deckhand Eddie “Eddie Jr.” Uwekoolani III. With Jonathan and his Captain brother Andy always talking about retiring, there’s always the question of who’s gonna take over. “There’s always the plan, and then the new plan. So who knows?” Conroy says. Mike Fourtner is gone, which is a big loss for them. And like the other boats, “they have a lot of drama and a lot of action in big weather,” Pritikin says. There are at least three major storms that threaten the entire fleet, he adds.
8. Saga continues to be an aptly named boat for Capt. Elliott Neese: “He has his highs and lows, and his saga continues day after day, year after year, and we appreciate Elliott’s honesty and drive,” Pritikin says. “This season he really tried to push his personal issues aside and succeed out on the water, but again that always doesn’t go so smoothly.” (As the cold open suggests, there’s “definitely some police issues with Elliott,” Conroy confirms.) “At the end of the day, he’s a very intense version of the characters that we see in the world, especially now, as a young guy trying to make his way taking on a huge business. He’s got family problems,” Conroy says. “Sometimes you have one opinion of Elliott, and everything points toward him being this guy who’s just lost his course, or things are going so wrong, and then he does something amazing…. He’s just such an unpredictable character that he’s fascinating to watch, and this year he definitely delivers on that…. Just when you think you understand him, he does something completely opposite and amazes you.”
9. Capt. “Wild” Bill Wichrowski has another crew issue: “Of course he does,” Pritikin says, seconding our initial thought. “He takes on a new deckhand this season, and he has high hopes for him in the beginning, for sure.” (He wouldn’t confirm which boat goes up in flames, but it’s not the Cape Caution, he assured us.) Ten years in, Conroy says he’s still surprised every time someone arrives at Dutch Harbor underestimating how brutal life on the Bering Sea will be as a greenhorn. “Watch a few episodes and then think to yourself, ‘Well, I can do that.’ No. No, you can’t do that. Only, like, a couple percent can do that,” he says. “Certainly it’s great for me as a storyteller that there’s still people lining up and doing it, but I’m always amazed that someone goes up there and gets on a crab boat and thinks, ‘I can do this’ when so few people really can.”
10. We’ll get our pot shots: The suspense of pulling the first pot of the season or in any new fishing spot still keeps us on the edge of our seats, and Conroy knows it. “Believe me, even to this day, we’ll sit in the edit bay and we’ll be watching a rough cut, and I’ll be like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, you can’t cut away. You need to show me the whole pot come out of the water, over the rail, and on to the launcher. Like, I got to see it. That’s the way it works,'” Conroy says laughing. “Whenever we get someone new in that’s working with us, they always want to short-cut past that process. ‘Oh, I’d cut that. Cut here. Move to this.’ It’s like, ‘No. We like seeing our pots come over the rail. We want to know how many are in it, and we want to watch it.’ It’s weird, isn’t it? It’s like pulling that handle on the slot machine, and waiting, waiting, waiting, seeing what you hit.”