Below Deck's Captain Lee Explains How Season 9 Was Affected By His Mysterious Absence

screenshot captain lee below deck season 9
(Image credit: Bravo)

Amidst the drama of Below Deck: Mediterranean currently playing out on the air, its flagship show Below Deck dropped its highly anticipated Season 9 trailer last week. Bravo audiences were shocked to discover that the one and only (and grouchy) Captain Lee Rosbach was replaced for very mysterious reasons. Now the fan-favorite captain is explaining further how his absence threw a monkey wrench into Season 9.

Last season robbed fans of sufficient Below Deck drama, as well as Captain Lee's gruff no-nonsense leadership, with the rising threat of of COVID-19 at the time of filming causing charter guests to back out, thus causing production to subsequently wrap all too soon. Season 9 apparently then immediately started off on the wrong foot with Captain Lee making a very early departure due to an illness of some kind. Captain Lee shared to E! Online exactly how his absence affected the show, saying,

The timing was mainly screwed up. Because we have such a tight shooting schedule, it was imperative that the guests' charters start and end on time so it didn't have a domino effect and impact every charter after that.

As heard in the trailer, Captain Lee attributed his early exit from Below Deck's ninth season to a “condition.” But what condition that is, Captain Lee isn't willing to say just yet. He only conveyed that it wasn't COVID-19-related and that he is now “much better.” For anyone stricken by worries, Captain Lee does, in fact, return later on in the season.

In the telling of his origin story, Captain Lee was famously never supposed to be part of Below Deck in the first place. After nine years at the helm of the Bravo franchise, though, he's practically a reality TV institution nowadays. The show has become wildly popular in that time, too, and even earned its first two Emmy nominations this year, a major feat for the Bravo show. As for what’s in store for Season 9 viewers, Captain Lee teased that it was “totally unique” and he “really enjoyed it.”

Judging by the trailer, though, Captain Lee’s strange absence seems to be the most unique element in this season of Below Deck. Familiar faces return to wreak havoc in the drama department, including bosun-turned-First Mate Eddie Lucas and chef Rachel Hargrove. There are a lot of new recruits as well who seemingly keep up all of the standard Below Deck promises: power struggles, injuries, boatmances, etc. Nevertheless, Lucas recently told Vanity Fair that the dynamic between him and Captain Lee supposedly changes in Season 9. He said,

It’s a different dynamic between me and the Captain—I can kind of challenge his way of thinking and better understand his leadership style. No matter how long I work with the Captain, I keep on learning new things.

It doesn't normally bode well for most yachties to question Captain Lee on anything. But Eddie Lucas has managed to get in the captain's good graces after four seasons of partnership on Below Deck, culminating in his three stripes promotion last year. Still, I’d wager that Lucas doesn't really challenge Captain Lee as much as he’s hinting at, especially after the captain’s unknown absence from the boat. (Alum Kate Chastain, who retired from yachting in 2020, learned that trick to Captain Lee’s rapport early on in Below Deck.)

With Captain Lee missing for a chunk of time on Season 9 of Below Deck, let's hope that things don't devolve into total chaos onboard. …Or do we? The show premieres on Oct. 25 on Bravo at 9 p.m. EST. Be sure to check out all the other 2021 Fall TV shows hitting the schedule soon!

Lauren Vanderveen
Movies and TV News Writer

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.