Aesha Scott had no idea what she was walking into when she walked onboard The Wellington, the motor yacht at the center of Below Deck Mediterranean season 5.
"I just thought I was the first person to come and replace someone getting fired," the reality show stewardess tells ET via video chat. "I didn't really realize how many crew transitions there had already been. So, yeah, it was definitely a little bit of a -- whoa! to hear everything that had gone on before me. And it's actually been really interesting for me to go back and watch, because obviously, when I came onto the boat, I didn't wanna go around being like, 'What's happened? What's happened?' I kinda just tried to pick up on things, so now that I'm actually watching everything that happened I'm like, 'Holy s**t! This season's crazy!'"
Aesha joined season 5 late in the game, with more than half of the season's charters already completed and with half of the crew replaced. Original second stew Lara Flumiani quit after just one trip at sea, replaced by returning cast member Christine "Bugsy" Drake ("I, like, in all of my yachting career I've never seen a steward leave that quickly," Aesha quips). Then, Captain Sandy Yawn fired/came to a mutual decision with Chef Hindrigo "Kiko" Lorran that his time on the boat was over. Bosun Malia White's boyfriend, Tom Checketts, then joined the vessel as the new chef.
Shortly after that -- and a dispute over room assignments -- Malia reported chief stew Hannah Ferrier for having undeclared prescription drugs on board, leading Sandy to fire the show's longest-serving cast member, citing a breach of maritime law. Aesha found out about all of that by watching the episodes play out in recent weeks on TV, months after she had filmed the show herself.
"I just felt really sorry for Hannah," Aesha laments. The two women have remained close friends since they met on season 4 of Below Deck Med.
"I'm very protective of her, so just, like, seeing when she got called in to Captain Sandy's cabin and how vulnerable she looked, I just wanted to reach out and give her a big hug," Aesha shares. "I think it's just a shame, you know? She's been on the show for so long, it just seems, like, kind of a shame, like, that’s how it had to end."
Hannah herself said she was ready to leave yachting behind before season 5, but signed back on for one last charter season to make sure her decision was the right choice. Still, it seems safe to assume that getting fired was not how she wanted to go out. The 33-year-old is now back home in Australia, where she’s expecting her first child this fall.
"She definitely was ready to go, though, and I'm so happy for her," Aesha gushes. "She's been saying for ages that all she wants is a baby, she's destined to be a mother. So now that she's pregnant, it's just, aww! I'm just so happy."
In the wake of Hannah's exit from the show, viewers went after Malia, Sandy and even Bugsy -- a close friend of Malia's off the boat and Hannah's former on-show foe -- on social media, attacking them for conspiring to take down Hannah. All three women have denied that they concocted a plan to oust the show's longtime star, but that hasn't stopped the vitriol against them. Hannah did ask fans to stop going after Bugsy, but hasn't done much to put out the fire directed at Malia. Many online thought Malia secretly taking a picture of Hannah's prescription anxiety medication and turning that into Sandy was a petty attempt to get back at the then-chief stew for not wanting to swap rooms in order for Malia to bunk with her boyfriend, who was now a part of the crew.
"Malia's obviously just someone who is very, very passionate about her job and she’s a real stickler for the rules," Aesha says, staying neutral on the topic. "I guess that's probably why she felt inclined to take the photo and report, 'cause she is just so passionate about her job so, yeah, I don't know. I guess I see where she's coming from."
Bugsy shifted into the chief stew position after Hannah's exit -- and Aesha won't say whose management style she prefers -- but it's unclear if Bugsy will hold onto that title in future seasons. The Below Deck franchise is in somewhat of a transition phase, as the chief stews of both the flagship show, Kate Chastain, and Med, Hannah, are now no longer with their respective series. It takes a strong personality with the gift of gab to anchor the show, which actually makes Aesha a prime candidate for the job.
"I don't know," Aesha replies when asked if she’d be up for the gig. "I think if they asked me, it's definitely something that I would think about, but I think it's just a tricky one, because I do feel very checked out of yachting. I feel like that was a time in my life and it's just such hard work that I feel like I'm kind of checked out of that part of my life and I’m in a new part, you know? So, I don't know. If I didn't have to do yachting all around the year and I just did the show [season]? Maybe that's something that I'd think about."
Aesha is currently landlocked, living in Breckenridge, Colorado, with her boyfriend, Scotty Dobbo, who converted an ambulance into a tiny house/van house, in which the couple lives. The pair is currently figuring out what they want their next chapter, together, to look like, as they both approach their 30th birthdays. They're kicking things off with a three-month road trip around America. Aesha calls Scotty "the one."
"We actually went to high school together. So, yeah, we had a little, a little crush on each other in high school but my older brother was in his year, so I was off limits to every man in the bloody school," the New Zealand native shares. Scotty's mom is American, and he moved to the States for college and never left.
"We hadn't really talked until-- since school, and then we just started talking again through Instagram at the end of last year," Aesha continues, "and, yeah, it got to March and I was like, 'Well, I want to come over and see you and see if this goes anywhere,' and then we really hit it off, so happy."
Yes, Aesha and Scotty were long distance at first, but then she moved in with him -- into that tiny house van -- when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
"Obviously, this pandemic has ruined so many things and been such a negative experience for so many people, but in terms of me and him, it's been such a positive experience," she reflects. "Because I lost the job that I was gonna be doing in New Zealand until June … and he also, 'cause he manages a bar, so he also had his job shut down. So, it's kind of the perfect time for me to be like, well, I'll just come over and we'll just drive around in the ambulance for a while. So, I think if it wasn't for COVID, we wouldn't be as close as we are now."
While she may be done with yachting after Below Deck Med’s fifth season, Aesha would like to stay on TV.
"I'd love to do, like -- it's obviously, I know this will probably never happen -- but my biggest dream is to do some sort of Bravo travel show and just, like, put me in really bizarre situations around the world and just see how I cope with it," she says.
Aesha finds it easy to adapt to most any circumstances, but The Wellington proved trickier than expected. The second stew found it hard to bond with her new co-workers.
"I don't know what it was about the personalities on the boat, 'cause I join boats late all the time -- the last two years yachting, I was doing temp work -- and so I'm very used to coming into things late," she explains. "You're always used to meeting new people and all that kind of thing, so I find that really easy to slip into crews. But whatever reason this season, the crew I just found they just had the s**tiest banter and, like, I couldn't really have like any good back and forth with anyone."
Aesha's love language is shock talk. In her first season, she shared the story of not understanding where feces came from, so she stuck her finger inside herself to "track it." She also joshed about using a vodka-soaked tampon, a joke she made a callback to on one of her first season 5 episodes ("I've got shots up my box already," she announced). But the crass talk fell flat with her new batch of yachties. When she referred to Bugsy as a "s**t stain," a term of endearment in Aesha's eyes, Bugsy shut down.
"That's kind of like the way that I settle myself into a yacht, and because I felt like I wasn't really getting there, I definitely found it a bit harder to kind of find my place and settle myself," Aesha admits. "I think a big part of that was the fact that so much drama had happened and there was already, like, couples and all that kind of thing. … Everything was already so established."
The crew is very much coupled up at this point in the season. Malia and Tom are an item, as are Bugsy and deckhand Alex Radcliffe, and deckhand Robert Westergaard and third stew Jessica More. The show's remaining cast member, Pete Hunziker, has largely been edited out of episodes after racially insensitive social media posts came to the audience's attention at the top of the season.
Aesha confesses that she did get to a place where she could banter with some of the guys, but her brother-sister bond with Rob winds up rubbing Jess the wrong way.
"They're obviously just showing the stuff with me and Rob because it's relevant, but I was like that with all the boys that were on the boat. I'd say me and Alex had by far the most banter, but Bugsy wasn't jealous, so they're not showing it," she notes. "I had no idea that Jess was not liking it … until something happens, and then I find out. But for the majority of the time, I had no clue."
There is still a lot of season left to watch and judging by the midseason trailer, some of the most dramatic moments are yet to come. Captain Sandy appears near tears in one scene, her voice shaking as she warns the crew, "It's about a team. I want us to be champions, not at each other's throat. But there's a line. I'm your captain. I can't do insubordination.”
"She's had a really tough season," Aesha notes. "She's had so much crew coming and going. There's been tension, there's been drama and at the same time, she's got her health issues going on at home with her partner, and she was probably just feeling overwhelmed."
Captain Sandy’s girlfriend, Leah Shafer, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Leah is now cancer-free.
"You'll see how different dramas play out," Aesha teases. "It's gonna be drama in the galley, drama in the crew quarters -- lots more drama to come. It's gonna stay on brand with the season."