‘Below Deck’: Did Ashton Pienaar Want Rhylee Gerber Fired to Take the Heat off Himself?

Ashton Pienaar from Below Deck claimed to be at his breaking point with deckhand Rhylee Gerber. During the last episode, he urged Captain Lee Rosbach to cut Gerber loose and the team would end the season a “man down.”

Pienaar was never thrilled about Gerber’s return. When Rosbach told Pienaar that Gerber would replace deckhand Abbi Murphy, he looked like a deer in headlights. He shared in a confessional that he was concerned about her return, citing her confrontational manner. But when Gerber arrived on the boat, she literally started working while simultaneously changing into her uniform.

Captain Lee Rosbach, Rhylee Gerber
Captain Lee Rosbach, Rhylee Gerber |Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

She also is seen working all over the boat, polishing, washing and hauling equipment on deck. Gerber is also filmed working in the laundry room, going above and beyond her job scope. But Pienaar insists the deck team can’t work with Gerber and urges Rosbach to fire her. Although Pienaar greeted Gerber with animosity, why suddenly did he want her fired? Could it be to take the heat off of himself?

Pienaar aggressively attacked Kate Chastain

Only days earlier, Pienaar violently lashed out at chief stew Kate Chastain. The crew had been out drinking and on the van ride home, he was triggered when Chastain simply inquired about his mother. Chastain appeared on Colin Macy-O’Toole’s podcast Radio Check and said she was being authentic when she asked about Pienaar’s mother. “And I promise you Colin, I was legitimately being nice about his mom,” Chastain adds. “I thought because his mother had written us all a very nice email after his accident last year, and I at that time really loved Ashton and I sent back a response saying, you know, ‘You raised such a lovely son and thank you so much’ … like nice.”

But Pienaar, for some reason, lashed out and could have injured Chastain. “I’m just really thankful in a weird way that I was in the van with Kevin [Dobson],” she told Macy-O’Toole. “Because if it had been Simone [Mashile] in the front seat, I think Ashton would have made it over to the backseat. And I don’t know what would have then happened.”

“It took quite a bit of Kevin holding him back,” she added. “I don’t know what his plan was once he got over that seat. But it didn’t seem like it was to talk to me at a closer proximity.”

Pienaar’s memory of the night seems off

Pienaar acted like he had no recollection of what occurred in the van the next day. “He doesn’t remember punching the van, but he remembers you asking about his mom,” Macy-O’Toole said to Chastain. “In very explicit detail he remembers the tone, he knows exactly my intention,” Chastain responds.

“He has very specific memories about why I triggered him,” Chastain continued. “But the next episode aired, and he wakes up, which he hadn’t seen yet when he did your podcast, nobody had. And the first thing he says when he wakes up is ‘What happened? Why was I mad?” And then he asks Kevin, ‘What did she say?’ So it’s like I can’t believe that he remembers because he’s on film saying he doesn’t remember.”

Why did he suddenly want Gerber fired?

Suddenly after the van encounter, Pienaar can’t take Gerber any more. Pienaar also knew that Chastain had Rosbach’s ear and she made lowkey comments about his management style. When Pienaar blamed Gerber for a fishing trip flop, it was Chastain who reminded Rosbach that Pienaar should have been a better planner. She also offered her opinion of what was occurring between Pienaar and Gerber too. So perhaps Pienaar knew he could be headed for trouble, even though Chastain never revealed to Rosbach what really happened that fateful night in the van.

Before going to Rosbach, Pienaar meets with Gerber to discuss “her behavior.” While she remains measured and calm, he becomes angry with her and gets in her face when she tries to explain that the deck team won’t work or listen to her. At that point, he decides to ask Rosbach to fire her. He also continues to complain about her to his subordinates, which gets them fired up about having her removed from the yacht.

Chastain believes that Pienaar became emboldened after that night in the van because no one from production stepped in. “I was surprised that when we got back to the marina, that we didn’t just pause the shooting, everybody separate, no cast members talk to each other,” Chastain told Macy-O’Toole. “Maybe take Ashton aside. I was surprised and disappointed that that did not happen. Because it almost seemed to me like they knew what Ashton had done, and by not taking him aside, and being like, ‘You can’t do that’ or anything, they were kind of enforcing his behavior as okay.” 

So did Pienaar suddenly come for Gerber to deflect any heat that could have been coming his way? Chastain told Macy-O’Toole if she had gone to Rosbach, Pienaar likely would have been fired. Rosbach seemed pained at the timing as he reminds the bosun they only have six days left in the season. Stay tuned. Below Deck airs Monday night at 9/8 central only on Bravo.