The 2010 Opi season is over. We, the viewers, share the crews’ overriding sentiment: Thank god. I wouldn’t trade the experience of watching these final episodes for anything (unless it meant the event that set them in motion, Phil’s stroke, wouldn’t have happened), but it’s been a workout. I thought I’d finally made it through an hour without tearing up, but the final shot got me: Seagulls, which are said to be the images of sailors gone, chillin’ on the Cornelia Marie. Initially, part of me wished it had just been one seagull, but then I realized Phil would, of course, be surrounded by friends, and it became comforting. Especially with Josh in the wheelhouse. (Anyone else’s stomach sink when the camera jerked to the left earlier in the episode as Josh worked on deck to reveal the relief skipper in Phil’s window above him? If that got to us – as did seeing Josh standing in Phil’s room onboard – just imagine what it was like for him.)
The hovering seagulls were a recurring theme as the captains filled their boats for their final deliveries. Wild Bill gambled $30,000 of gear to set pots near the ice. After an 18-hour soak, he won, pulling big numbers, which finally united his crew as they laughed their way through a 15-hour grind. (Even as the Kodiak raised its last pot, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop – that’s been their luck this season – but it didn’t.) The mood was equally as light on the Wizard, which overflowed with crab and good will, as Keith rewarded young deckhand Lynn Guitard for buckling down and finishing the season strong with the honor of throwing the final hook (which, okay, he nailed on the second attempt).
John’s return to the Time Bandit after standing by Phil’s boys during their dad’s hospitalization was as heartwarming as that smile on Josh’s face when he hugged Cornelia Marie deckhand Freddie at their reunion. You had to be grinning when Andy yelled “Brother!” (I was, ear-to-ear.) Andy told him it was like Phil was shining down on them – the sea had been calm for the last eight days. They hit big numbers, and Johnathan suited up to help the crew, which he’d missed, sort – and to raise morale by sharing pearls of wisdom like, the last thing you ever want to do is quit a job for a woman, unless that’s a really rich woman. It might’ve been nice if their story had stopped there, but it wouldn’t have been reality. Andy and John had to tell Mike Fourtner, who was still in a pissing match with John’s son Scott, that he hadn’t sealed the deal as captain-in-training. Mike later told the camera it felt like he’d been “kicked in the nuts” and almost cried. Andy and John have no idea who they’ll hand their boat over to when they retire.
Uncertainty was the take away from the Northwestern as well. Josh’s hospital heart-to-heart with Phil was the single most honest moment we witnessed all season, but that conversation between Sig and Edgar about the latter wanting to take a break from fishing is in contention for runner-up. There was a depth there that you rarely see on reality shows because they weren’t discussing a stupid staged situation (see: a visit from a pet psychologist), they were talking about Edgar’s life. He wants to be present for his wife and children and have a lifestyle that won’t just leave him with hospital and “mental ward” bills; Sig doesn’t understand why being there for his family when they really need him (like their father) isn’t enough and why Edgar needs to rock the boat that Sig has working so smoothly.
Edgar: When do you say when?
Sig: Who says you have to say when?
Edgar: Who says you can’t?
Both brothers seemed to think the other was being a bit selfish, but I believe after this season and the loss of Phil, viewers would root for Edgar to follow his heart even if it means breaking Sig’s. Sig told the camera he didn’t believe that Edgar was serious this time about leaving, but the way he jumped up when he realized Edgar was switching the crew’s jobs to see if the deck could run without him made me think deep-down Sig might. (To the camera, Sig also admitted he’d pushed Edgar hard over the years, and man, those pauses when he speaks can be powerful.) Clearly, Sig has a lot on his mind: Aside from the prospect of having to replace Edgar, he saw Jake Anderson off at the airport as the deckhand returned home to search for his father, who at that point had been missing for eight weeks. Sig was also having a hard time sleeping because he was thinking of Phil. He described a vivid dream in which he was at Phil’s place, but Phil wasn’t inside. It felt real, and it felt empty, Sig said. Sig honored Phil by having the crew throw out flaming hooks before raising the last pot, which came up plentiful. “Thank you, Phil,” Sig said.
Of course, this season was really about the Harris clan, and it ended with a look at where they were headed. Jake drove himself to a Palm Springs rehab center. He said he was nervous, but ready to think about what he wanted out of his life. He knew Phil was looking down on him, proud that he was following through on his promise to seek treatment. Josh was still onboard the Cornelia Marie, the last crab boat on the Bering Sea, which is where he knew his father would want him to be. It’s where Josh said he needed to be. And then there were those seagulls… probably smelling for crab farts.
We’ll miss you, Phil.